July 30, 2023
Gayle opened the box labeled Pictures and Memories and sank into the abysmal puddle of her own making. First thing out of the box was a picture face-down bearing the date July 30, 2022, exactly one year ago today.
The picture displays the man Gayle loved and still loves on his wedding day to another bride. A picture of two friends, moments before he said, “I do.”
Gayle didn’t want to be there and opted to stay away, but as her beloved said to her, “I can’t get married without you. You have carried me through so much and I trust you. After all, you are one of my closest friends, and my friends come in such small numbers. You wouldn’t join my wedding party; therefore, it was only fitting that you coordinate my wedding. I won’t get married without my friend, my confidant, my beloved administrative assistant, my esteemed wedding planner.”
Gayle remembered giving a tepid smile as she imitated happiness. All Gayle ever wanted for Maurice was his happiness, well, partaking in his happiness. Maurice and Gayle might’ve remained a wonderful couple if their communication skills were better, and fear had not overtaken her. She bawled as she reflected upon the other pictures of she, Maurice, Daniel, and Mattie, and the youth of the church, and just random pictures of them.
September 28, 2021
Gayle’s friendship with her former beau, Tristan, came near a brawl when he interrupted her dinner with atrocious antics.
They all gathered for a family dinner, Gayle’s birthday dinner, and Maurice, Daniel, Mattie, and a few friends were invited to the table. Convenient how Celeste placed Maurice beside Gayle. Hmmm. Maurice appeared with a floral arrangement embellished with blues, whites, and yellows, and Daniel presented Gayle with five red roses. Tristan arrived, late as always, with a gift bag and a smile that turned into a scowl. Tristan glared at Gayle. He texted her and vied for Gayle’s attention. To no avail, Gayle enthralled herself in Maurice’s conversation and Daniel’s antics. When Tristan imbibed of that fourth drink, Gayle knew something was wrong, but continued unfazed.
Later that evening, Mattie took Daniel home while Maurice escorted Gayle home. The two conversed on her sofa and laughed more than at table. Maurice massaged Gayle’s hands and replied, “I do hope you enjoyed your birthday, despite that young man’s negative actions.” Gayle chuckled and asked, “Who? Hmmm.” Maurice smiled, “Don’t be coy Gayle, you know who. Let’s discuss him.” Shaking her head, “Negative, sir; I’d rather discuss you.” Maurice pulled Gayle toward him and wrapped his arms around her. “Gayle, three things: one, please don’t lie to me; two, trust me like I trust you; and three, please don’t ever call me sir again. We’re dating, right?” He paused. “Ma’am, are we dating?” Gayle’s face turned three shades of crimson. “Yes, si…,” she cleared her throat and continued, “Yes Maurice, we are dating. I won’t lie to you, for you, or on you; please know truth will always emanate from these lips. I trust you more than you’ll ever know.” They stared into each other’s eyes while he held her. “Maurice, I’d prefer not to ruin a good night on Tristan. But judging that look in your eyes, I might lose you if I don’t tell you, and I won’t lose you for Tristan.”
Gayle’s words to Maurice:
Tristan is someone Gayle should never have allowed into her mind when she entered his bedroom. And that’s all Tristan was, a bedroom acquaintance. Gayle was no whore, but every woman has needs every now and again. When Tristan showed Gayle that she was nothing more than his available piece of a**, Gayle cut bedroom ties with Tristan. As much as she would have cut all ties with him, she could not because of their mutual acquaintance. Tristan and Gayle were like family; not blood, thank God, but close enough. For this, Gayle and Tristan should never have explored the bedroom possibility. And yet, they remained friends.
Maurice’s response to Gayle:
Would Gayle cut ties with Tristan if Maurice asked her? Wait a minute; did Gayle say, Available piece of a**? Is Gayle still Tristan’s APOA? Is Tristan going to be a problem that requires solving? If Gayle is no longer Tristan’s APOA, what caused Tristan’s actions tonight? Why does Gayle have fifteen missed calls and twenty-two texts messages from Tristan?
Gayle’s words to Maurice:
Maurice. Reverend. Pastor. Gayle will contact Tristan in the morning and cut ties, if that is to be Maurice’s request. Yes, Gayle said, Tristan’s APOA; and No, Gayle is definitely not Tristan’s APOA anymore. When Tristan let Gayle find out he was still dating his former while pretending to court her, Gayle stopped answering text messages and calls. Tristan will not be a problem; I will take care of it. I am as confounded as you and the others. He’s never reacted in that manner toward me before tonight. I’ve seen him treat others like that, but never me. Maurice, after tonight, Tristan will not be a problem!
Maurice’s response to Gayle:
Any man who glares at a woman and calls and messages said woman the way Tristan did tonight loves the woman and/or has unresolved issues with her.
Come let me out.
Maurice kissed Gayle’s forehead and then her cheek, and then her neck.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Gayle ran to the door thinking it was Maurice, but she knew better. Gayle noticed his vehicle parked at the end of the complex when she arrived home. She stood there, arms folded. His brusque voice met her ear, “You gon let me in, or are we gon do this out here. What the f*** was that about tonight?! Who is that n****?” Tristan attempted to push past her and she shoved him. “You’re drunk, Tristan. I’m tired, and I’m not doing this with you. But you will not call him another n****, he has a name!” The door swung open, he threw her on the sofa and locked the door. After she gathered her thoughts, they tussled. She trying to remove him from her home and he trying to forcibly reason with her. “So, when you gon tell me what’s going on here?” “Damn you Tristan, I have no intention. I don’t owe you any explanation! I don’t belong to you. You don’t see me in public. Calls and texts after 10:00 at night; ain’t nothing open but legs that time of night! I am nothing more to you but your available piece of ass, and that’s only when you want it! I’m the idiot for allowing you to degrade me to those lack of standards, and for allowing it to happen for this long. How dare you embarrass me, embarrass yourself at my birthday dinner! Why would you do that to me? Are you that effin selfish?! Are you that unhappy?! What is your problem?”
Tristan walked towards Gayle and attempted to kiss her. Whop! “Get your hands off of me; I am done with you! You need to leave, now!” Gayle walked towards the door and he was on her heels, half-naked. Groping at her hips. He pulled her into a kiss. As he continued to grope her and she continued to fight him off, he said, “Tell me you don’t want me, and I’ll stop. I love you, and I know you love me. You never could resist me. So, stop fighting me. Stop fighting yourself.” With his clothes in hand, Gayle pushed him away again and shouted, “I Love Maurice. I do not want you! You need to leave.”
Although Gayle informed Maurice of Tristan’s visit, their dating relationship fizzled off before it could ever get started. Their professional relationship grew stronger and so did their friendship. Gayle honored Maurice’s requests, even the one of cutting ties with Tristan even though he didn’t require that of her. So, what happened?
Adrienne happened. Those ole’ dusty deacons brought Adrienne in to be the next first lady of Harmony Baptist Church. They kept saying it was unnatural for their pastor to be unmarried and unattached. Maurice never was one to allow outside forces to rule him, but these conniving tricks happened overnight. Maurice was angered by Tristan’s actions and Gayle’s willingness to let Tristan get that close. He wasn’t too angry to stay away from her, but Gayle allowed lack of esteem to raid her mind, and fear to raid her heart which eventually pushed Maurice into Adrienne’s arms. Even when Maurice questioned Gayle for her opinions of Adrienne, Gayle wouldn’t reveal what she knew to be true. She didn’t fight for Maurice, and he was joking around, initially.
By March 2022, Maurice proposed to Adrienne, and so began those dreaded wedding plans. Mattie and Jean, Maurice’s mother, approached Gayle after a church function and after that proposal. Mattie said, “Lil girl, so, you just gon let him marry that trash?” Before Gayle could answer, Jean replied, “Gayle, talk to him. Truthfully. Are you really going to help your deacons make a spectacle of your pastor and your church? You know his sense of humor, and yet you’ve pushed him away. Maurice loves you, but he’s blinded by lust. You’re the only one who can right this wrong. Daniel can’t stand her. I can’t stand her, and she doesn’t like us. He’s come to you and begged for your words that you won’t give. You worked mighty hard to gain my son’s affections because he’s a hard egg to crack. My grandson loves you. I love you. Don’t allow yourself to shut down and sink so low that you’d destroy my family like this.” Mattie sighed. “Lil girl, when y’all went to dinner and didn’t talk to each other, I told you your opportunity might’ve left you. It didn’t. Y’all found your way to each other, and then you let that fool mess it up. Now, you’re about to let another fool take your place. You’ve worked too damn hard for this place with him to foolishly let someone take it from you. Get your head out your ass. Pick yourself up and fight for your man before you lose him.”
July 30, 2022 – The Wedding Day
Mattie and Jean conversed about this wedding, this marriage, that would soon be in shambles. Gayle still had not said anything to Maurice. If this is what he wants, then who I am to stop it?
The bride showed up drunk to the church two hours late. Daniel refused to put on his tuxedo. The bridal party members were drunk too. Maurice was in his office praying. Adrienne slurred words at Gayle. “You you you know. Wait. Gayle? Gayle? Hahaha, Gayle? I’ve seen the way you look at him. I’ve seen the way he looks at you. He doesn’t look at me that way, but alllllll that’s gon change soon. I will make him forget about you. Hahahaha. Forget you, forget you. For for for for forrrrrrrrr get you. You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. You know you can come get the boy after the wedding because we’re not having children. Now, get me something to dr dr dri drink and help me put put this dress on to marry your your, no, my mann.”
Deacon Taylor approached and pulled Gayle away. He whispered, “Pastor’s looking for you. You’re needed in his office Sister Gayle.” Gayle allowed quick tears to rush from her face as she walked to Maurice’s office.
“Unless you are Sister Gayle, please do not enter.” “Pastor, I’m told you’re looking for me.” “Come in, and close the door behind you. We need to talk.” He’d noticed the tears and wiped her face.
“I’ve talked to God, and he’s instructed me to talk to you. You once told me you wouldn’t lie to me, for me or on me. So I beg you, please tell me the truth now. Are you okay with this? Advise me? Is Adrienne the right woman? Is she the next first lady?”
“Well, she will be the next first lady when you marry her. You told me we could not be. I have no choice but to be okay with this. How do you feel about Adrienne? Does she make you happy? Is Daniel happy? Is momma happy?”
“Gayle, I asked the questions of you. Be my friend and confidant and tell me!”
“Maurice, what do you want from me? I’ve backed off, and I’ve stayed away; about as much as you would allow me. I don’t like it, but I am okay.”
“You still won’t talk to me. You’re not being straightforward. Are we done? Am I losing my friend? Or have I lost you already?”
Gayle did something that shocked him. She kissed his forehead, and then his cheek. She then whispered in his ear, “Get dressed. We are fine. Let’s get you married.” Before he could say anything else, she scurried away.
Present Day – July 30, 2023
Weeks after the big move Gayle realized how much she accumulated in her apartment. Transitioning from a two-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom home displayed how much space she required for comfortability. Now as a published author with two books consecutively on the best sellers list, Gayle required office space and not an office corner. Although she was still teaching and writing, and still working for Pastor Maurice, it was necessary to step up her game into finer womanhood. For, this quaint little cottage-style home was exactly what Gayle needed to advance on her dreams and desires. Everything was in place; shelves and cabinets stocked, linen closets full, bedrooms complete, and all boxes except one, unpacked. “Imagine what once took months and even years to complete only lingered for weeks this time around.”
This last box was Gayle’s procrastination box. Surely there was a reason this one box remained unpacked. For, the box labeled Pictures and Memories would serve a purpose. The walls were bare; not one picture adorned the walls of the cottage. Gayle couldn’t say time wasn’t on her side because she purposely scheduled her vacation time around her moving date. As she sat there, the door opened and closed. She didn’t move from that spot in the middle of the living room floor. He stood over Gayle and helped her rise. He removed the tear-stained photographs from her hands. “My dear, why do you still have this?” As she kissed his cheeks, and then his lips, she replied, “It’s the memories that make us who we are. I love you, Maurice.”