Sherry’s Story

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I want to tell somebody but who will believe me?  Who will believe that the man who uses me for a punching bag is one of New York’s finest?  I’m just a former exotic dancer who had the misfortune of getting hooked up with the wrong man.  I guess I was flattered by the attentions of a veteran cop whose face has been plastered in the newspapers numerous times for his exemplary work, cleaning up crime and cracking down on drug dealers.  He has had the most arrest records and commendations than anyone else on the force.  He is a hero in the communities, feared by the criminal element and admired by his colleagues.

Yeah, who would believe that this man of the law was beating me up?  When we first met, I thought he was a real decent guy.  He used to come and watch me dance.  One night after I finished my number and was at the back of the club about to smoke a cigarette, he joined me.  He lit my cigarette and asked me my name.  I told him.  He didn’t introduce himself.  He didn’t need to.  I knew who he was.  To tell you the truth, I was surprised that he was talking to me.  There were other dancers that I thought were more up his alley.

“What are you doing here at a strip club?” I asked him.

He lit his cigarette, took a few drags before he answered.  “I’m off-duty,” he said.  “So, what’s fine looking woman like you doing in a joint like this?”

I shrugged.  “To make money.  Besides, I like to dance.”

“Do you have a man?”

I shook my head.

“How much money do you make?”

“There’s a man who comes in every night and he pays me $2000 to dance for him and then we would spend the  rest of the time talking.”

“Is that the man I saw dressed in the expensive suit and wearing a hat?  He reminded me of JR Ewing.”

“Yes, that’s him.”

“He’s married, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“I bet his wife doesn’t know what he’s been up to.”

I finished my cigarette.  “I’d better be getting back.”  I turned to leave when he caught hold of my arm.

“How about you dancing for me this time?”

“Sure.  Whatever you want.”

“And afterwards, we go back to my place.”

“Sure.”  We went back into the club.  I danced for him and then we drove to his place.

He lived in a nice neighborhood.  After his wife died and their kids moved out, he Tiriansold the house and moved into a penthouse apartment facing the Hudson River.  I stood at the window looking out.  He fixed the drinks and brought mine over to me.  In person, he was a very attractive man.  He looked younger than 55.  His hair was dark with touches of grey at the sides.  His brown eyes met mine.  For a long time, neither of us say anything.  In the background, soft jazz played.  And then, he suggested,  “Let’s go over to the sofa where it’s more comfortable.”

I followed him over to the sofa and we sat down.  We talked for a while and then he took my glass and set it on the coffee table next to his.  While he placed on hand on my thigh, he leaned over and began to kiss me.  I didn’t resist.  I was attracted to him.  The kisses became wild and passionate and we ended up having sex on the sofa.  After I got dressed, I was going to phone for a taxi but he insisted in giving me a lift home.

He dropped me home and there weren’t any plans to see each other again.  I was disappointed but then I asked myself, What did you expect?  He’s a cop and you’re a stripper.

I didn’t see him for a while and then one night, he showed up at the club.  He saw me with the rich married man.  I was sitting on his lap, talking to him.  After he left, my cop friend came over to me and told me to meet him outside for a smoke.  I got dressed and went outside.  He was waiting for me.  I walked up to him and was about to say something when he grabbed me roughly by the shoulders.  “You’re quitting your job right now.”

“But I need the money,” I protested.

He struck me hard across the face.  “You heard me.  You’re quitting.  Now, let’s go.”  He gripped my wrist tightly and dragged me behind him to the parking lot where his car was parked.  He opened the door and shoved me in.  I cringed when he slammed the door.  I sat in the passenger seat, holding my face, shocked as we drove off.

We went to my place and as I stood there, still in shock, he said, “Sherry, honey, I’m sorry I hit you.  It’s just that the thought of you dancing for other men drives me crazy.  I’m sorry.  I promise I won’t hit you again.  Forgive me?”

I nodded.  “Yes, I forgive you.”  He looked and sounded so sincere.  I wanted to believe that he would never hit me again.

He pulled me roughly against him and began to kiss me.  I kissed him back.  We ended up in bed.  He spent the night and left early the next morning.  I went to the club and told the manager that I quit.  He was understandably livid, especially since he knew that one of his best customers was the rich man who always asked for me.  I had no idea what I was going to do now that I was working at the club.

My cop had it all figured out.  Several weeks later, he asked me to marry him.  It didn’t seem to bother him what other people would think of him marrying a former stripper.  We got married and I moved in with him.  I wanted to find another job but he refused to let me.  So, I became a housewife.  I felt like a prisoner in our home.  I couldn’t go anywhere without him.  If I needed to go to the supermarket, he took me on Saturdays.  If I needed to go to the salon, he took me.  I don’t know how he managed to get away from work just so he could take me where I needed to go.  I guess when you’ve been with the force as long as he has, you can pretty much do whatever you liked.

We stopped going to the policeman’s ball because he felt that I was too friendly with the younger officers.  Two years ago, after we got home from the ball, he beat me because he said I was flirting with the desk sergeant, a young Nigerian man.  It wasn’t true of course, but my husband was blinded by rage and jealousy.  I was black and blue and had a black eye.  Once when I was in really bad shape, he took me to the Emergency but never left me alone with the nurse who tended to me.  And he answered all of the questions and as soon as the examination was over, we were out of there.

We went home and I was laid up in bed for a few days in bed.  He took care of me.  He apologized for what he had done and brought me flowers.  He told me that he loved me so much it drove him crazy to think that I would leave him for another man.  And as usual, he promised that he would stop hitting me and get help.  I stopped believing him.  I stopped hoping.

We hardly had company over and when we did, I had to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms.  There were times when I could hardly move because I ached all over.  During the day, it was a struggle to do the chores and I was always so exhausted.  At night, I lay there in bed, long after we had sex, staring up at the ceiling, wishing I could just go to sleep and never wake up.

We didn’t have any children because he didn’t want to have any.  He already had two from his previous marriage.  “Besides, I want you all to myself,” he said and then, he would take me into the bedroom and have rough sex with me.  Sometimes, he liked to pretend that I was under arrest so that he could hand-cuff me to the bedpost while we were having sex.  There were other kinky things that he liked to do to me  and wanted me to do to him.  I went along with it because I loved him and he was my husband.  He told me that he never  wanted to do these things with his first wife but he wanted to do them with me because I was beautiful and exciting.  I brought out the animal in him, he said.  And he was like a wild animal in bed.   Sometimes it was thrilling and other times it was terrifying.

Then he started to blame me for the abuse.  “I never hit my first wife.  In fact, I never hit a woman in my life until I met you.  You make me do it.  There’s something about you that drives me so wild with jealousy that I lose control and I hit you.  Do you think I like hitting a woman?  It’s your fault that I do it.  I love you so much it makes me go crazy just thinking of you with another man.  I swear if you ever leave me, I’ll find you and kill you.”

I began to hate him and wish that something bad would happen to him but I always felt guilty afterwards.  I couldn’t go on the computer because he was afraid that I would go into those chat-rooms and pick up men.  I had the Bible which my grandmother had given to me a long time ago when I was finished with the household chores, I sat down and read it.  It gave me comfort.  I quit smoking.  I began to pray every night when he was sleeping.  I asked God to help me.  I claimed His promise, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

My help came through a neighbor who was out of sugar and she came by to borrow some from me.  After we exchanged pleasantries, she followed me into the kitchen.  As I reached up in the cupboard for the bag of sugar, the sleeves of my shirt moved back and the bruises on my arm were exposed.  As I closed the door and turned to face her, I saw her staring at me.  Her expression was grave.  “How did you get those bruises on your arm?” she asked.

“I bumped into stuff,” I lied.

“I’ve seen bruises like those before and I know that they are not from bumping into walls or doors or from falls.  He’s beating you, isn’t he?”

“Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sherry, you need help.  It will not get better.  It will only get worse.  Do you have family or friends you can go to?”

“I have family and friends but I’m too ashamed.  And who will believe me?  He’s a cop.”

“I’ve known women whose abusive husbands are cops, doctors, professors and even judges.  And I’m sure someone in your family will believe you, especially when they see the bruises.  If you prefer, I can take you to a shelter where they will take care of you.  All you have to do is pack what you need and I will drive you there myself.”

“All right,” I said.  Maybe this was God answering my prayer.  I got what I needed and I walked out of the apartment.  I didn’t leave a note or anything.  When my husband came home that evening, he would find me gone.  My neighbor and I went to different shelters but I was turned away because they were full.  As I tried to figure out what to do next, I remembered Lucy.  Lucy still worked as a waitress at the strip club where I used to work.  She and I were good friends.  I let her stay at my place when she walked out on her cheating boyfriend.  She always told me that if I ever needed anything, not to hesitate to call on her.

I couldn’t remember her phone number off hand so I called the club and asked Bill, the bartender for it.  He seemed happy to hear from me.  It was he who got me the job at the club.  I called Lucy and she told me to go right on over.  My neighbor dropped me.  She hugged me and said, “Take care of yourself.  When you’re ready, get help.”

I thanked her and watched her drive away before I went into the apartment building.  Lucy was standing at door when I showed up and she hugged me tightly.  “It’s so good to see you,” she said.  “Ever since you got married, you’ve been a stranger.  Come in and tell me everything.”

We went over to the sofa and sat down.  I told her everything and showed her the purple marks on my arms.  “I had to leave him,” I said.

“Yes, you did.  The brute.  He thinks because he’s a cop, he’s above the law.  The first thing you do is to report him.  He belongs behind bars.”

“Who will believe me?  I’m accusing my husband who is an exemplary cop of abuse.  No, going to the police is a bad idea.”

“All right.  We won’t go to the police.  You don’t have to make any decisions right now.  You’re welcome to stay here for a long as you need to.  Whatever you decide to do, you have my support.  Are you hungry?  I’ll fix you something before I head off to the club.  When I’m gone, please make yourself at home.  Call me if you need anything.”  She got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to fix me some supper.  I wasn’t hungry but I forced myself to eat.

“I should be home around 2.  I have a spare room.  You can put your things in there.  See you later.”  She hugged me and then she was gone.

It was a nice, modest apartment and quiet.  It was in the heart of Soho.  After I finished eating, I washed the plate and went into the living-room to watch some television.  I rested my head against the back of the sofa.  I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes the room was dark.  I got up and turned on the floor lamp beside the window.  I stood looking out at the street below when I heard the key turn in the lock.  I glanced at the clock above the fireplace.  It was ten-thirty.  Lucy said that she would be home by 2.  Perhaps, she decided to check on me or she wasn’t feeling well.

I called out to her but there wasn’t any answer.  Puzzled, I started for the foyer when I froze in horror.  My husband stood there.  Fear and panic gripped me.  “What are you doing here?”

He came into the living-room.  “To take you home, my Love.”

“How–how did you know I was here?”

“A little birdie told me.”

“You’re lying.  Lucy wouldn’t have told you that I was here.”  And I knew it couldn’t have been my neighbor who brought me here either.

“Who said anything about Lucy?”

Then it hit me.  It was Bill who told him where I was.  He was the only one beside Lucy who knew I was here and I had begged him not to tell anyone that I had called.  He had promised to keep his mouth shut but somehow, my husband had gotten him to talk.  “Where–where did you get the key?  Did you steal it from Lucy’s bag?”

He laughed.  “Of course not.  I showed the landlord my badge and told her that I had a warrant to search this apartment.   If she had bothered to check she would have seen that the paper I showed her was the lease for my apartment.  Now, get your things, we’re going home.”

I backed away from him, shaking my head.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.  I want a divorce.”

His expression darkened and he grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me.  “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let you divorce me so that you can run to another man,” he muttered through clenched teeth.  “I would kill you first.”

Although this wasn’t the first time he threatened to kill me if I left him, I was really frightened because of the look in his eyes.  I felt as if I were staring into the eyes of the devil himself.  I wanted to run for my life.  I shoved hard against his chest and managed to get free.  I headed for the door but he grabbed me back the hair and dragged me back into the living room.  He shoved me face down on the floor and raped me.

When he was finished, he stood up.  I lay there for a while, trembling and crying.  Then, I slowly got to my knees.  My back was turned to him.  He yanked me to my feet.  “Clean yourself up and get your things because you’re coming with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.  You raped me.”

“How can you call it rape when I took what is lawfully and rightfully mine?” He demanded.

I was shaking so much that I could hardly stand.  “You’ve beat me and raped me for the last time.  I’m going to file for a divorce and get a restraining order put on you.”

“Over my dead body.  You’re my wife, Sherry and the only thing that’s going to separate us is death.”

Then, I saw him pull out his gun and point it at me.  I screamed and then everything went black.

When I came to I was lying in a hospital bed.  I learned that the bullet caught me in the shoulder because I had moved.  If I hadn’t it would have gone straight into my heart.  My husband shot me and then he shot himself.  The police were called to the apartment when a neighbor reported hearing two gun shots.  The landlord told the police that my husband had shown up and told her that he had a search warrant for Lucy’s apartment.  The landlord believed him because she knew who he was.

I told the police about the years of abuse I had suffered at the hands of a man whom they had respected.  When they asked me why I hadn’t reported him, I told them that I didn’t think that they would have believed me.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I stayed with Lucy and went for counseling and psychotherapy which really helped me.  A couple months later, I decided that I had had enough of New York.  I sold my condo, packed up and left for Lisbon, Portugal.  Years ago at the strip club where I worked, I met a visitor from Lisbon.  He was a very nice man who gave me $1,000 each time I danced for him during the three weeks he was there.  I always promised myself that if I were to go and settle anywhere in Europe it would be Lisbon.

Lucy and I are in touch.  She is dating a guy she met on the tube.  I told her to bring him to Lisbon the next time she visited.  I’m not dating at the moment.  After being in an abusive marriage, I’m not ready for another relationship.  The men in Lisbon are very attractive but I want to remain single for a while.  I’m working at a boutique and love it.  I have become a member of an English speaking church where the members are like family.

I love living in Lisbon.  Sometimes, I wish that I had come here when I first thought about it and then I wouldn’t have met my husband or been a victim of domestic violence.  Then, I tell myself to forget about the what ifs and be thankful that I’m still alive.  My life could have easily ended that night in Lucy’s apartment if it had not been for the grace of God.   I was a victim of domestic violence and now I’m a survivor.  I have survived to tell my story.  Other women have not been so lucky.  I think about them often and that’s why I want to join in the fight against domestic violence.

There are times when I meet couples who are still madly in love with each other after thirty or more years of marriage and I’m filled with a heavy sadness.  That could have been my husband and me.  I sometimes ask myself why couldn’t he have loved me the way the Bible says a man should love his wife?  And I wanted to love him the way the Bible says I should but how could I respect a man who beat and violated me?  How could I submit to his violent and controlling ways?  He claimed he loved me but his love was was cruel, selfish, demanding, easily provoked and abusive.   I believe that if he really loved me he would have gotten the help he needed and our marriage would have survived.

Today, I’m speaking fluent Portuguese and am a volunteer at a Domestic abuse treatment center here in Lisbon.   God spared my life and I want to use it to help women who are going through the same thing I did.  It is my earnest prayer that one day very, very soon, domestic violence will be eradicated.  Marriage between a man and woman who love each other the way the Bible teaches could be a very beautiful thing.  Love shouldn’t hurt.  It shouldn’t kill either.

March 7, 2019 was a national day of mourning for victims of domestic violence in Lisbon.  Portugal’s Cabinet went out into the street to observe a minute of silence as part of a day of national mourning it decreed for victims of domestic violence.  According to police, 12 women have died this year in domestic violence incidents — the highest number over the same period in 10 years.  On the eve of International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that domestic violence is “a collective challenge” for society as a whole – National Post

Sherry’s story, though it is fiction, it is the reality for many women.  Some have survived domestic violence and others have not.  There are resources for women who are in abusive relationships and for the abusers as well.  Here is a list:

Victims of abuse often feel guilty as if they have done something to provoke their abuser or that they somehow deserve the abuse they receive. Abusers are often skillful at making their victims feel responsible. But no one deserves to be abused by another, and abusers are responsible for their own choices and actions – Bible Info

Join the fight against domestic violence.  If you are a victim, please seek help as soon as possible.  Your life depends on it.  Be a survivor not another statistic.  If you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive marriage or relationship, please reach out to that person.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Take action today for the many women who feel trapped in the vicious cycle of abuse and feel that there is no way out for them.  Domestic violence affects all of us.

Sources:  Huff Post; Bible Gateway; Bible GatewayTVO

Folani’s Story

photo-1553394951-efd4b4aadd2bMy name is Folani.  At the age of 16, I was forced to marry the man who raped me so that I wouldn’t bring shame on my family.  He wanted to marry me but after I rejected him, he raped me.  I told my my mother what he had done to me and she insisted that if he still wanted to marry me that I should consent.  “No other man is going to want you,” she told me.  “Be grateful if Mr. Adebayo still does.”

“But, Mama, he raped me.”

“And whose fault is that?”

I couldn’t believe how unfeeling and uncaring she was.  I wished my father were still alive.  He would have had Mr. Adebayo arrested and charged.  I wished I had older brothers who would make Mr. Adebayo pay for what he did to me.  I wouldn’t want them to kill him, of course.  There are other ways to make a person pay for what they have done without taking their life.

I got no sympathy from my mother or my step-father and when Mr. Adebayo asked their permission to marry me, they consented.  I know he wanted to marry me because he wanted to avoid punishment and prosecution.  He was a government official and he had his “reputation” to think about.  I had no choice but to go along with this.  I had brought my family into disrepute and the only way to preserve my family name and avoid a life of sexual shame was to marry the man who raped me.  This was the only way to prevent the social stigma of pre-marital sex.

The night before the wedding, I cried bitterly.  I didn’t want to marry this man.  I didn’t want to stop going to school.  I had dreams of becoming a doctor but now those dreams were squashed.  I lay in my bed curled up, wishing I could die.  Death would be better than the future.

I married Mr. Adebayo and we lived in his big house on the hill.  He was abusive to me, demanding his rights as my husband.  He struck me when he tried to touch me and I pulled away.  Night after night, I was raped.  I became pregnant but I miscarried because of repeated domestic violence.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of the physical and sexual abuse, my husband suddenly died.  I could have run away and left him there in the floor but I called the police.

It turned out that he died from cardiac arrest.  After the funeral, his sister and mother threw me out of the house.  I didn’t return home to my mother and step-father.  I went to my paternal grandmother who let me stay with her.  When I told her all that had happened to me, she cried and prayed over me.

While I stayed with her, she read the Bible to me and told me about God and Jesus.  I listened.  I missed going to school but my grandmother couldn’t afford to send me.  One night, I got down on my knees and asked God to help me.  I couldn’t give up my dream of becoming a doctor one day.  The next day, someone from Camfed came to my grandmother’s house.  They had heard about my situation through its network of former students who had been supported through their education program.  The charity offered to pay my school fees, and provides books, uniforms and sanitary protection.  As my grandmother and I listened, I knew that God had answered my prayers.  Thanks for Camfed has enabled more than two million girls like me to go to school has made my dream of becoming a doctor a reality.

After I graduated from school, I went on to university.  I chose to live on campus but visited my grandmother every weekend.  I thank her for telling me about God and I thank God for coming through for me.  I wish I had run away from home and gone to live with my grandmother instead of marrying Mr. Adebayo but I was afraid that I would bring shame on her.

When I told her this, she reached for my hand and gently squeezed it.  “You wouldn’t have brought any shame to me, Folani child.  What happened to you wasn’t your fault.  A wicked and evil man violated you and to avoid what was due him, he, your mother and step-father forced you to marry him.  You’re free of him now that he’s dead and you are free to live the life God has planned for you.  Now you can become a doctor–the first in your community and family.  Your father would be very proud of you.”

With tears in my eyes, I hugged her tightly.  “Kutenda, Ambuya.”

Folani’s story is fiction but there are true stories of girls who have been forced into marriages because of poverty, economic hardships, difficult circumstances and protection from sexual violence.  Advocates for rape-marriage laws argue that they shield the victim and her family from the shame of rape.  This isn’t true.  This law benefits the rapist and the girl’s family.  The girl has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the man who violated her.  She is forced to drop out of school and forsake her future which only education could make possible and be in a marriage which more often than not is abusive.

I urge you to help Camfed which is changing the lives of girls through education; Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential; Girl UP which believes that Girls are powerful. Girls have limitless potential. Girls can change the world. And yet in certain places around the world, girls continue to lack access to opportunities; CARE which is working towards gender equality, women’s empowerment, champions among men and boys, and an end to violence against women and Forward, the African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls.

Marriage is a choice not something to be coerced into.  Education not marriage should be a girl’s priority.  Marriage is between an adult man and woman not between an adult and a child.  And girls who are raped should be protected by the law and their families and not forced to marry their rapists to save him persecution and jail time or to safe the family face.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.

Take action to help girls like Gloria, who was forced into marriage at 12 and a widow twice by the time she was 17, to have an education and a future.  Help them to fulfill their dreams.

Sources:  Wikipedia; UN Women; BBC News; UNFPA

Claude’s Story

I’m sitting in the cafe that I frequently go to because I love their Latte when I can feel that someone is staring at me.  I turn my head and my eyes meet those of a very beautiful African American woman.  As we lock eyes for what seemed like eternity, I debate whether or not to walk over there or simply walk out.  It hasn’t been that long since my marriage ended after I found out that my wife was cheating on me.  Her betrayal still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  Relationships are the last thing on my mind right now.

The owner of the cafe, a jovial man walks over to her and she looks up at him.  He leans over and says something to her.  She grabs her handbag and immediately leaves.  The owner comes over to me and says in a low voice, “I saw her making eyes at you,” he said.  “I don’t want her business in here.  I told her that if she came here again, I would call the police.”

I stare at him, confused.  “What do you mean?  What kind of business is she in?”

He looks around to make sure no one could hear him.  “She’s one of them ladies of the night.  Seems like she likes to go into reputable businesses and find customers.  Well, she’s not use my cafe for her sordid business.”

“But, she didn’t look like a…”  I couldn’t even say the word.

“No, I don’t suppose she does but I know her kind.  I see her  hanging out on the street, trying to solicit and now she has the gall to come into my cafe.  I told her not to show her face around her anymore or else I’ll set the police on her.  I think I scared her off.  I don’t think she will come here anymore.”

I thank him and finish my Latte.  I get up from the table and leave.  Outside, I stand on the sidewalk and look in both directions.  I spot her standing at the corner.  I hurry towards her.  This is crazy, I think to myself.  I shouldn’t get involved.  But, I can’t let an opportunity to reach out to someone who needed help pass me by.  She turns her head and sees me.  I can see the surprise on her face.  “Hi,” I say when I reach her.  “I was hoping that you hadn’t gone far.”

“Why did you come after me?” she asks.

Up close she is very beautiful.  “I wanted to talk to you.”

“You’re not a cop, are you?”

I shake my head.  “No.  I’m a lawyer.”

“You think I need one?  Did the owner press charges against me?”

“No.  Why would he press charges against you?”

“Because I’m a hooker and I was on his premises.  I thought I was trying to solicit?”

“And were you?”

“No!  I was in there like any paying customer when I saw you.  I can’t help that you’re a very attractive man.  I was just admiring you.  I wasn’t going to solicit you or try to pick you up.”

“If he hadn’t told me what you were, I never would have guessed.  You don’t look like a…”

“Prostitute?  Well, during the day, I’m a regular person, doing regular things but at night I get picked up by all sorts of men.”

“Why do you do it?”

She shrugs.  “I got laid off a year ago.”

“So, why can’t you try to find another job or go through a temporary agency?”

“Listen, why should I settle for another nine to five job when I can earn $120. a customer?  I make more money having sex with rich, white businessmen?”

“You don’t have to do this.  You can make that kind of money without selling yourself.”

She stares at me.  “How?”

I think about it for a moment and then I say, “A former client recently told me that if I had any favors to ask of him, don’t hesitate.  I can call him and see what he can do for you.”

“Why are you doing this?” she asks.

“I’m a Christian lawyer.”

“Oh.  Wouldn’t your church have a problem with you helping me?”

“No.  As Christians we are supposed to help others.”

“I used to go to church a long time ago but stopped going because the members were judgmental.  I got pregnant out of wedlock when I was 17 and they treated me like I was the devil himself.”

“So, you’re mother?”  I can’t believe that as a mother she would sell herself.

She shakes her head.  “I was.  I lost the baby.  It was a stillborn.”

“I’m sorry.  What about the father?”

“He was one of the deacons.  That’s why I left the church.  They were a bunch of hypocrites judging me when the baby’s father was a man they all respected and treated like he was a saint.”

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience and you were judged instead of shown love and mercy but not all churches are like that.”

“I guess not but I’m not interested in going back to church.  How do you think they would treat me if they knew that I was hooking?”

“Unless you told them, how would they know?”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Listen,  I have to run.  I have to meet a client.  Is there a number where I can reach you?”

“Sure.  Do you have a business card and a pen?”

I fish in my breast pocket and hand her a business card and a pen.  She takes them.  I watch as she scribbles something at the back of the card before she hands it and the pen back to me.

I look at the card before putting it and the pen back in my pocket.  “Thanks for writing your name too, Danica.”

“What’s yours?”

“Claude.”

She holds out her hand.  “Well, it was nice meeting you, Claude.”

I shake it.  “Likewise.”

She withdraws her hand.  “Well, don’t let me keep you from your client.”

“Do you have any plans for tonight?”

“Yes, the usual.”

“How about having dinner with me tonight instead of…”

“Is this you being charitable again?”

“No.  I just you would spend the evening having dinner with me instead of with a complete stranger who’s only interested in you for one thing.  You’re a beautiful and smart woman, Danica.  You deserve much more.  Stop selling yourself.  It wouldn’t bring you any satisfaction or happiness.”

“Okay.  You don’t have to argue your case, Counselor.  You’ve talked me into having dinner with you.”

“Good.  Where do you live?”

She tells me.  “What time should I be expecting you?” she asks.

“I’ll be there at seven.”

“Okay, Claude.  I’ll see you at seven.”

I smile and then, I walk away.  I could feel her watching me.  I find myself looking forward to seeing her tonight.

At promptly seven o’ clock I show up at her apartment.  She looks amazing in a black dress with a V neckline and three quarter long sleeves.  She’s wearing her hair up, giving her an elegant appearance.  We go to one of my favorite restaurants where we enjoy a sumptuous meal and a very engaging conversation.  When I take her home, I ask her to have dinner with me the following evening.  By the end of the month we are seeing each other regularly.  She’s no longer soliciting. My friend and former client was able to find her a well paying job at a PR firm.

I’m taking her to church where she feels warmly welcomed.  What impresses her is that there’s a ministry for former drug addicts, drug dealers, alcoholics and prostitutes.  She sometimes can’t believe that a church is willing to minister to such people.  After her baptism and becoming a member of the church, with my encouragement and support, she has become a part of the ministry.  And now she’s helping prostitutes to leave the streets and they receive counseling and job training.  Many of them have joined the church.

I never imagined that I would get married again but that was before I met Danica.  We got married last year and are expecting our first child in the summer.  I thank God that I was in the cafe the same day she was.  I went there as usual for a Latte and found love.

Addie’s Little Adventure/Invitation #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Everyday after school, I took a shortcut so that I would walk past the mansion where the English couple lived. And every time I paused to peek through the gates which were always ajar and stare at the strange faces on the posts. Behind and above the gates was foliage which swayed from the gentle summer breeze. Mama used to work there before the Mistress fired her. She accused Mama of stealing. Mama denied it, of course. Mama said that the Mistress didn’t like her because she was black. The Master was away when Mama got fired. The Mistress told her that if she showed her face at the mansion again, she would report her to the police.

Mama was sorry to lose the job because it helped to take care of my sister and me but she didn’t have a choice. For months she couldn’t find a job because the Mistress refused to give her a reference but the Master gave her one. Mama said that he was always very kind to her. That’s why I’m fixing to meet him so I could thank him for being good to my Mama.

The gates were ajar. After glancing around me to make sure that no one was around, I pulled it open so that it was wide enough for me to pass through. I pushed it in behind me. I looked around me. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The grounds stretched endlessly in all directions. They looked like a giant green lush carpet rolled out. The sweet smell of roses and bougainvillea filled the air as I walked between them, my heart racing. I was on private property. I could get into trouble for trespassing. What if someone caught me and took me to the Mistress. That thought alone stopped me in my tracks. Maybe coming here wasn’t such a good idea. I’d better get out of here NOW.

I turned and started to head back to the gate when I heard a man’s voice behind me. I froze. I was afraid to turn around. I stood there. I don’t know for how long before he came and stood in front of me. He was tall and very attractive with black hair and grey eyes. He was dressed as if he had been out riding. For some insane reason, he reminded me of Mr. Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility. His gaze narrowed as he studied me.

“Have we met before?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No.”

“You look familiar.”

“I’m—I’m Mabel Brown’s daughter, Addie.”

His expression brightened. “That’s why you look so familiar. How is your mother?”

“She’s doing well. She got another job.”

“I’m happy to hear that. I was sorry to lose her.”

“That’s why I came here. I wanted to thank you for giving Mama a reference.”

“It was the least I could do after what my ex-wife did.”

“Your ex-wife?”

“Yes. We’re no longer married.”

“Is it because she fired Mama?”

“It was the last straw.”

“I’m glad she’s no longer here. I was afraid that if I got caught I would have to face her.”

“You don’t have to worry about her anymore, Addie.”

“Is she back in England?”

“Yes. Are you in a hurry to leave?”
I shook my head. “I was but I’m not anymore.”

“How would you like a tour of the grounds?”

My face brightened. “I’d like that very much.”

He smiled. “Come along then. You came all this way to thank me. The least I can do is to show you around.”

As we walked, my eyes drinking in my surroundings, I thought of Mama and what she would say if she were to see me now, walking on the grounds of the fine mansion where she used to work. She was right about her former employer. He was a really nice man not to mention, very attractive. I was happy that he was no longer married and it wasn’t only because I disliked his ex-wife. Stop filling your head with romantic notions. He’s a grown man. He’s not going to be interested in a school girl.

“How old are you?”

We were standing by the fountain and I was watching the water as it cascaded when he asked the question. I turned and faced him. “Seventeen.”

“I’m twice your age.”

“You look much younger.”

He smiled. “I have my father to thank for that. He too appeared to be much younger than he was.”

“Are your parents still alive?”

“Yes. They are living in Marseilles where my mother was born. Are you dating anyone?”

I shook my head. “I’m not interested in any of the boys at school.”

My answer seemed to please him. “If I didn’t have to attend to business now, I would invite you to stay and have tea with me. Are you free tomorrow afternoon, say around the same time?”

Heart racing with excitement, I nodded eagerly. “Yes, I’m free tomorrow.”

He smiled. He had such an amazing smile. It made his eyes twinkle and my stomach flutter. “Good. Tomorrow afternoon, then.”

We walked back to the gate. As we stood there facing each other, I held out my hand. “Thank you for the tour.”

“You’re welcome, Addie.” He shook my hand and when he released it, I could still feel where his fingers had been. The skin tingled. “I’ll be waiting here for you tomorrow afternoon. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” I waved before I turned and walked away. Halfway down the street, I realized that I didn’t even know his name. Not to worry. I’ll find out tomorrow.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Invitation at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Claudette Colvin

She was the original Rosa Parks.

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Dubbed the original Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin was arrested in 1955 at the age of 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded segregated bus.  The incident began when the bus she and her friends were on filled up and there was a white passenger standing in the aisle between them.  The driver wanted all of them to move to the back and stand so that the white passenger could sit.

“He wanted me to give up my seat for a white person and I would have done it for an elderly person but this was a young white woman. Three of the students had got up reluctantly and I remained sitting next to the window.” She informed the driver that she had paid her fare and that it was her constitutional right to remain right where she was.  Of course, the driver didn’t see it that way.  He continued driving and when he reached a juncture where a police squad car was waiting, he stopped.  Two officers boarded the bus and asked Claudette why she refused to give up her seat.  She was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the bus all the while shouting that her constitutional right was being violated.   She was initially charged with disturbing the peace, violating the segregation laws, and assault.  There was no assault, of course.

Instead of being taken to taken to a juvenile detention centre, she was taken to an adult jail and spent three hours in a small cell with nothing inside of it except a broken sink and a cot without a mattress.  Her mother and pastor bailed her out.  Her mother, well aware of Claudette’ disappointment with the system and all the injustice they were receiving, said to her, “Well, Claudette, you finally did it.” 

After she was released from prison, her family feared that their home would be attacked, so armed with a shotgun, her father kept a vigil just in case the Klu Klux Klan showed up, while members of the community were lookouts.  Claudette was first person arrested for challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation policies and her story made a few local papers but nine months later Rosa Parks did the same thing and her story could worldwide coverage.

Claudette knew Rosa Parks very well. “I became very active in her youth group and we use to meet every Sunday afternoon at the Luther church.  Ms Parks was quiet and very gentle and very soft-spoken, but she would always say we should fight for our freedom.”

Claudette was one of the plantiffs in the court case of Browder v. Gayle during which she described her arrest.  “I kept saying, ‘He has no civil right… this is my constitutional right… you have no right to do this.’ And I just kept blabbing things out, and I never stopped. That was worse than stealing, you know, talking back to a white person.

On June 5, 1956, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a ruling declaring the state of Alabama and Montgomery’s laws mandating public bus segregation as unconstitutional. State and local officials appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the District Court decision on November 13, 1956. One month later, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider, and on December 20, 1956, the court ordered Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation permanently.

Following her life of activism, Claudette gave birth to a son who was light-skinned, leading many to believe that his father was White.  She left New York in 1958 because finding and keeping work was difficult because of her participation in the Browder v Gayle case which overturned the bus segregation.  After her actions on the bus, she was was branded a troublemaker by many in her community.  She had to drop out of college and struggled in the local environment.

She and her son, Raymond lived with her sister in New York.  She got a job as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home in Manhattan and worked there for 35 years.  In 2004, she retired.  She had a second son who secured an education and became an accountant in Atlanta, where he married and had his own family.  His older brother, Raymond died in 1993 in New York from a heart attack at the age of 37.  Claudette never married.

In 2017, the Montgomery Council passed a resolution for a proclamation honoring Colvin.  March 2 was named Claudette Colvin day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mayor Todd Strange who presented the proclamation said of Colvin, “She was an early foot soldier in our civil rights, and we did not want this opportunity to go by without declaring March 2 as Claudette Colvin Day to thank her for her leadership in the modern day civil rights movement.”  Claudette could not attend the proclamation due to health concerns.

Councilman Larkin’s sister was on the bus in 1955 when Colvin was arrested. A few years ago, Larkin arranged for a streetcar to be named after Colvin.  According to her sister, Gloria Laster, “Had it not been for Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith there may not have been a Thurgood Marshall, a Martin Luther King or a Rosa Parks.”

Notes to Women celebrates this unsung heroine who didn’t get the recognition she deserved for being instrumental in the fight against the Montgomery bus segregation by refusing to get up from her seat which she believed was a violation of her constitutional right.

“I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on.”

“I’m not disappointed. Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.”

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail.”

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; BBC News

Teenage Dating Violence

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My husband and I are watching Greenleaf, the Oprah Winfrey series on Netflix.  I think that if you were to look up the word, dysfunctional in the dictionary, you would see a photo of the Greenleaf family.  They give new meaning to the word.  There are so many issues and skeletons in that family that it makes you appreciate the family you have.

The issue I want to address is teenage dating violence.  One of the Greenleafs, Zora, is dating a pop singer named, Isaiah.  It turns out that Isaiah is abusive.  He flies off the handle and gets verbally and physically abusive.  He got angry with Zora when her mother found a condom in her drawer.  Her arms have bruises which she hides by wearing long sleeve tops.

Whenever he gets physical with her (grabbing, pushing, slapping), he apologizes and promises never to do it again until the next time.  It was the usual cycle in an abusive relationship.  You have the “I’m sorry.  I won’t do it again”, “You make me act like this” and “I love you so much.”  What is sad is that the victim keeps forgiving the abuser and things continue to get worse.  He continues to abuse her and she seems powerless to do anything about it.  He tells her he loves her, makes promises and she believes him and continues seeing him.

No one knew about the abuse until Zora’s cousin Sophia saw Isaiah hit her.  Sophia went and told Zora’s father, “I just saw Isaiah hit Zora.”  Immediately, Jacob went to find Isaiah and punched him.  Zora was angry with Sophia for telling her Dad.  What do you do when you see a friend or loved one being abused?  Do you keep quiet because speaking up could jeopardize your relationship or do you put the welfare of the person above your relationship?  Did Sophia do the right thing?  In my opinion, she did.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Zora runs off with Isaiah but is found, thankfully.  We don’t know what became of Isaiah.  I hope he gets help.  As for Zora, she needs counseling.  She needs to understand that love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, not selfish or rude or demand its own way (like pressuring her into having sex) (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, TLB).  If Isaiah loved her, he would treat her with respect.  He wouldn’t bully or try to control her.  He would respect her family as well.  Every family has ground rules and Zora’s was no different.  There was one occasion when Zora’s father found Isaiah and her in her bedroom.  After the father dealt with him, he had to leave.  Sophia’s boyfriend and Isaiah are as different as night and day.  Sophia is enjoying a healthy relationship while Zora was dealing with an abusive one.  

How can you tell if your teenager is in an abusive relationship? Here are seven signs:

  • Your child’s intimate partner is extremely jealous or possessive to the point where your child stops spending time with other friends and family. If someone questions your child about this, the response might be something like, “She thinks my friends don’t like her, so she doesn’t like spending time around them,” or “She thinks they’re a bad influence on me and she’s just trying to help.”
  • You see unexplained marks or bruises on your child.
  • You notice your son or daughter is depressed or anxious.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular or other interests like gaming or even shopping.
  • Your child begins to dress differently. One example: he or she wears loose clothing because the partner doesn’t like him/her to “show off” his/her body or attract someone else’s attention.
  • Your child worries when he or she can’t text or call the partner back immediately, saying that the partner might get upset.
  • Your child expresses fear about the way his or her partner might react in a given situation.

What do you do if you suspect that your teen is in an unhealthy (abusive) relationship?  Here are 11 steps:

  1. Be observant and look for signs.
  2. Calmly start a conversation with your teen.
  3. Be supportive of their situation.
  4. Focus on the unhealthy behaviors.
  5. Keep the conversation friendly, not preachy.
  6. Don’t place the blame on them.
  7. Allow your child to make their own decision.
  8. Offer solutions to them.
  9. If there’s any risk of danger, call the police.
  10. Expect more conversations in the future.
  11. Don’t get discouraged if they refuse to talk to you.

I see that in season 3 of Greenleaf, Zora will get back together with Isaiah.  But, hope is on the horizon.  It looks like she will come to her senses and dump him for good.

If you have a teenage daughter, let her know that she is precious and of great value and that she deserves to be with a guy who can appreciate her.

Sources:  National Domestic Violence Hotline; Grown & Flown

Simón’s Temptation

And he took the path to her house  In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. – Proverbs 7:8, 9

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“Man, you have to be crazy to go over there,” Felipe told Simón.

“Her husband’s out of town.”

“So what?  You shouldn’t be going with her.  She’s trouble.”

“No, she’s not!”

“Amigo, she’s married!  You shouldn’t be getting mixed up with her.”

“You’ve seen her, Felipe.  She’s hot.”

“Yes, and you can get burned.”

“Whatever, Man.  You’re just jealous.”

“I’d rather be a living jealous fool than an dead one.”

Simón looked daggers at him.  “Leave me alone, Man.  It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want.”

“Suit yourself, Bro.”  Felipe turned and walked away.

After he was done, Simón sat down on the steps, mulling over what his friend had said.  Maybe he was right.  He should know better than to be in this mess because he grew up in the church.  His grandmother would be bitterly disappointed because she raised him to do whatever the Bible taught.  He had been doing pretty well until he met Alisa.

They met at the track opposite his school.  After running a couple of laps, he sat down on the bench to take a breather and to drink some water when she joined him.  She was dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt and spandex leggings.  She looked amazing.  “You looked really good out there,” she said.

He flushed.  “Thank you.”

“Do you run here often?”

“Yes.”

“I run here too but I never noticed you before.  I guess until today, we were running at different times or days.  Do you live nearby?”

“No, but I go to that school,” he said, pointing to it.

“Sophomore?”

“No, senior.  I graduate in June.”

“What’s your name?”

“Simón.”

“Pleased to meet you, Simón.  I’m Alisa.”  She held out her hand.

He grasped it in a firm handshake, his eyes meeting hers.  His face felt very warm and he knew it had nothing to do with his running.

“So, have you decided which college or university you want to go to?”

“I have my mind set on Cornell.”

She smiled.  “Good choice.  I know a few people who go there.  I went to New York University.  Do you have a major?”

“Yes, Electrical Engineering.”

She looked impressed.  “Good for you.”

The sun was beginning to set.  He had to get going before his grandmother started wondering where he was.  “I have to go,” he said, apologetically.  He would have rather stayed and continued talking to her.

“Don’t let me keep you, then,” she said.

He put his water bottle in his knapsack.  He stood up and she did as well.  He towered over her.  “It was nice meeting you, Alisa.” He said, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.

“It was nice meeting you too, Simón.”

He knew he ought to walk away right then and there without a backward glance.  She was married.  His heart had sank when he saw the ring.  He should have known that a woman with her looks would be taken.  Every instinct told him to leave but he couldn’t seem to move.  “When can I see you again?”

She smiled.  “We can meet here tomorrow at the same time.”

“All right.  See you tomorrow.”  He turned and walked away.

The next day when he showed up to the track, she was there.  They met every afternoon after that until one afternoon she invited him back to her place.  He was hesitant.  Being out there in the open with her was one thing but being alone in her apartment was quite another.  “What about your husband?” he asked.

“He’s out of town.”

“I really shouldn’t…” he protested weakly.  She was wearing a summer dress with spaghetti straps and her hair fell in thick waves over her shoulder.  He wanted her so badly.  It was all he could think about these days.  And here was his opportunity.  It was within his grasp.  All he had to do was take hold of it…

“But you want to, don’t you?” she murmured.  “What we both want to do we can’t do out here.  Let’s go back to my place and enjoy each other.  It’s something we’ve both wanted since the day we met.  It’s no use denying it, Simón.  I can see it in your eyes and I know you can see it in mine.”  She took his hand and led him to her parked car.

She and her husband lived in an upscale low-rise building.  Their condo was on the fifth floor.  It was beautiful and spacious.   It was obvious that both of them had a big income.  He barely got time to admire the place before she took him to the spare bedroom where after closing the door, she started unbuttoning his shirt.  And as she dragged the shirt off, she bent her head and pressed her lips against his bare skin.  He stood there, his heart pounding and his chest heaving as he fought for air.  Soon they were both naked and she pushed him onto the bed.  He reached up and pulled her head down so that he could kiss her.

They made love there in the room and afterwards, he took the subway home.  They had other such trysts.  He hang around the library or somewhere until it got dark and then he would go to her place.  She buzzed him in and he took the elevator up.  Most of the time, hardly anyone was around which suited him fine.  No one knew about their affair, except Felipe who warned him that he was playing with trouble.  He sat there now, pondering whether or not he should end this now.  Then, his cell rang.  It was her.  “Are you on your way?” she asked.

He could say no and tell her right then that it was over.  “Yes, I’m on my way.”  He ended the call and got to his feet.  It was no use.  He was hooked.  He was in over his head and didn’t know how to get out of this.  And he wasn’t sure that he even wanted to although he knew that there was no future here.

He took a shortcut to the subway and had his head down so he didn’t notice the two guys approaching him until it was too late.  The first blow sent him flying on the hard sidewalk, knocking the wind out of him.  Then there were more blows and kicks, he tried to fend them off but he couldn’t and then he passed out…

When he regained consciousness, he was lying in a hospital bed.  He had gotten a severe beating but aside from a cracked rib and cuts and bruises, he was going to live.  He was the victim of a random attack by a couple of lowlifes.  Someone witnessed the attack and called the police.  He was lucky to be alive.  His grandmother and Felipe were there.  After she spoke to him, she went to speak to the doctor about when he could be discharged.

Alone with Felipe, he said, “I was on my way to see Alisa when they jumped me.”

“I’m glad that you’re okay, Man.  Sorry about earlier.”

“You were right, Felipe.  I should have listened to you.  I think that this happened to me for a reason.  It opened my eyes to what could have happened if her husband found out about us.  I could be worse off than lying here in a hospital bed.  Once I get out of here, I will call her and tell her that it’s over between us.”

Felipe grinned.  “Good.  Finally, you got some sense knocked into you.”

Simon smiled weakly.  “Somehow, I knew you’d say that.”

What happened to Simon was done out of evil but God used it open his eyes to the truth which set him free.