Devastated, Annette won't let her family go without a fight, but she also knows she must prepare for the worst. Because one lesson she's learned all too well is that when life kicks you in the teeth, you have to come out swinging.
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God Ain't Through Yet
By Mary Monroe
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2010 Mary Monroe
All rights reserved.
Richland, Ohio, 1997
My husband was the last man in town that the people in our close-knit circle of friends expected to have an affair. Why he didn't cheat was as much of a mystery to me as it was to them. When I mentioned to one of my female friends that I was married to a man who didn't cheat, her only question was, "What's wrong with him?"
It saddened me to hear that some people thought that there was something wrong with a man who didn't cheat on his wife.
"There is nothing wrong with my husband. He's as normal as any other man," I told that friend.
"Ha! If that's the case, he's not normal," that friend told me.
Maybe she was right. If it was normal for a man to cheat, then Pee Wee was not normal.
Despite the fact that I had cheated on my husband just a few months ago (yes, I'd cheated, but I'll get to that later) and had accused him of being unfaithful on numerous occasions, I knew in my heart that he had not slept with another woman since he married me. However, one of my concerns was the other women who were dying to get their hands on him.
"If you ever break up with Pee Wee, send him to me," another female friend had jokingly suggested. "He's perfect."
When I told my mother what my friend had said, she told me, "Girl, as brazen and desperate as women are these days, I'd be worried if I were you."
Even after my mother's comment, I didn't worry or complain because I felt secure and comfortable. Looking back on it now, I realize I was too comfortable. That was my first mistake. I had a ringside seat in the eye of a major hurricane, but I was so comfortable I didn't realize that until it was too late.
The day that Pee Wee, my "perfect" husband, abruptly and cruelly left me for another woman had started out like any other day. It was the middle of March, and still a little too cold for my tastes. I'd been a resident of Ohio for over forty years by this time, and I still hadn't adjusted to the weather. When I was a child growing up in Florida, I used to run around naked in our front yard in March. Kids doing such a thing in Ohio, in March, was unheard of.
I had crawled out of bed during the night and turned up the thermostat. When the weather was nice enough, Pee Wee slept in the nude, and I usually slept in something very skimpy. Right after dinner the night before, he had slid into a pair of flannel pajamas. I'd wiggled into a pair of purple thong panties, a matching Wonderbra, and a snug cotton nightgown. I'd slid my freshly pedicured feet into a pair of nylon socks. Large pink sponge rollers covered every inch of my head, individually wrapped around my thick, recently dyed black hair. A rose-scented, wrinkle-busting, white gel, one of the many weapons that I used to fight Father Time, covered my face. We looked like we were made up for a Halloween party, but it had been a night of raw passion. I had peeled off my socks and that snug gown like a stripper. He'd helped me remove everything else. Within minutes I had his handprints on parts of my body that hadn't been touched since my last physical exam. And I had assumed positions that I hadn't been in since I gave birth to my daughter. Afterward, I fell asleep in his arms. But when I opened my eyes the next morning, I was in bed alone.
Pee Wee had already left the house by the time I got up and made it downstairs to the kitchen. That was odd, but it wasn't that big of a deal because he didn't do it that often. He usually waited for me to fix his favorite breakfast: grits, biscuits, scrambled eggs with green bell peppers mixed in, and beef bacon. And when I didn't get up in time to cook, he strapped on an apron and did it. The last time he had prepared breakfast, he had served it to me in bed.
For some reason, Pee Wee had not made breakfast this particular morning. He'd left the small clock radio on the kitchen counter on to some rap station (how many people listened to rap music this early in the morning?) and a mess on the kitchen table, which included the morning newspaper folded with the pages out of order, his empty coffee cup, a Krispy Kreme donut box, and an ashtray with the remnants of a thick marijuana cigarette piled up in it. I made a mental note to scold him about leaving a roach in plain view. It was hard enough trying to hide certain things and activities from our inquisitive eleven-year-old daughter, Charlotte, not to mention nosy relatives and friends who dropped in at the most inconvenient times. One day my mother went snooping through my bedroom closet and stumbled across an XXX-rated VHS tape that I often watched with Pee Wee when our sex life needed a shot in the arm. She took me aside and quoted Scripture nonstop for twenty minutes. By the time she got through with me, I felt like I knew every harlot in the Bible personally. She'd "excused" Pee Wee and "reminded" me that men were too weak, stupid, and horny to know better.
Pee Wee and I had shared a good laugh over that. Our life together was so idyllic at times that my meddlesome mother's antics and crude comments didn't bother us. I had the best of both worlds. He was not just my husband; he was also my best friend.
In spite of all my shortcomings and flaws, I looked at matters of the heart from a realistic point of view. I knew that no man, or woman, was perfect, and that anybody could make a mistake. Me jumping into bed with that low-down, funky, black devil that I got involved with last year was one of the biggest mistakes I'd ever made in my entire life. It had been such an intense and passionate affair that it had me acting like a fool. I had done things for him that I had never done to please a man. I'd told lies to be with him. And I'd given him money. It had begun gradually, but when I realized I was "paying" for some dick, I got real concerned because that went against everything I believed in. When I refused to continue paying for my pleasure, the relationship ended in a violent confrontation. Luckily, I had escaped uninjured—at least physically. But I had "paid" a very high price for my mistake. I was so disgusted with myself that for a long time it was hard for me to look in a mirror without flinching.
My husband had reluctantly forgiven me, and we had moved on. "Annette, you ain't the first woman to cheat, and you won't be the last. I'll get over what you done ... I guess," he told me, cracking a weak smile to hide some of the pain that I'd caused.
I could not have been more repentant and humble if they'd revised the Bible and included a psalm in my honor. "Honey, I swear to God, something like this will never happen again," I assured him, with reconstructive ideas about how I was going to repair my marriage swimming around in my head.
Once that was behind us, I began to focus on the only intimate relationship that mattered to me now. But I was no fool. I knew that if I could fall into the deep black hole of infidelity, anybody could. However, since it was usually the man who acted a fool and got involved in an affair, it was more important for me to focus on what my husband might or might not do. I believed that if he ever did cheat on me, I had to look at the situation from an overall point of view: Would I be better off without this man? Does he no longer love me? Is he worth fighting for? Is this marriage dead? Has he become such a slimy devil that he is no longer good enough for me anyway?
Had any of that been the case, the bombshell that my husband dropped in my lap this morning wouldn't have caused so much damage. Because when he informed me that he was having an affair, I could not have been more stunned if somebody had told me that the Easter Bunny was a pimp.
He had committed the granddaddy of indiscretions: a torrid, ongoing, "I'd rather be with her than you," sexual relationship with a woman whom I had called my friend. To me, that was the worst kind of affair. If I couldn't trust my husband and a woman I called my friend, who could I trust?
To make matters even worse, I was probably the last person in our circle to hear about his affair!CHAPTER 2
Pee Wee was self-employed, and he took advantage of his position. He usually moseyed on over to the barbershop he owned, which was located a couple of miles from our house, whenever he felt like it. Some days he didn't go in at all. He had dependable people working for him, so it wasn't necessary for him to be on the premises all the time.
He spent his time away from work fishing in some of the many lakes and rivers in the northern Ohio area or just hanging around the house enjoying the lifestyle of a successful, self-made man. Lately, he'd been taking off days so that he could do special things for me. One day last week he took off so he could shampoo our carpets and prepare dinner. Now that might not sound so romantic to most people, but when he did that, it was because he wanted me to be extra nice to him. That was one of my easiest jobs. Pee Wee didn't have to do much to get me to be nice to him. I never told him that, but it was a win-win situation. The more he pampered me, the more I pampered him.
I didn't think anything about him going in early that Friday morning and then coming back home about an hour later, until I heard the red Firebird he drove pull up and stop in our driveway. I knew it was his car without even looking out the window. He had done one of those stupid things that men do to the motors of their cars so that it now had such a distinctive sound I'd know that Firebird was in the vicinity immediately, even without seeing it.
Right away I assumed he had forgotten something, or that maybe he had decided to take the day off so he could do something special for me. Since we had been trying to repair the damage to our marriage that my affair had caused, he initiated sexy little activities like calling me at my job and ordering me to meet him at a nearby motel for a quickie.
One day last month he'd sent a stretch limo to my job to bring me to a romantic hotel suite that he'd reserved for the night. By the time I got there, he had already ordered a candlelit filet mignon dinner and a dozen red roses. The last time he'd called me at work— interrupting my weekly staff meeting—it was to tell me to meet him in an alley behind the Grab and Go convenience store so I could give him a blow job in his car.
I was the one who had cheated, but he was the one who was bending over backward to keep our marriage alive. That was the kind of man he was. Just thinking about my passionate relationship with my husband generated a wicked smile that spread across my face like a knife wound. There was just no telling what he had up his sleeves, or in his pants, for me this time.
I turned off the radio. Now I was so turned on, I practically collapsed back into my seat at the table, settling into it like a jaybird claiming its nest. I spread my legs open as I waited for Pee Wee to come in the house. It got so hot between my legs I had to spread my thighs so I could cool off my crotch.
I was anxious and curious to see what he was up to. I hoped that it was something that we could do quickly, because I had a lot of work on my desk at the office and I wanted to get there at a reasonable hour, hopefully before noon. That was mainly because I had plans to do lunch with a sister friend from the Baptist church that I attended from time to time. That poor woman— she had just found out that her husband was fucking his ex, so she needed some advice. Advice on what, I didn't know. I was surprised that a woman with a cheating husband would want advice from a woman with a man like mine. What in the world did she think I could tell her? I certainly could not tell her what to do to keep her man from cheating. It was too late for that. But I was also known as a good listener, and I had two very nice shoulders for people to cry on. I was pretty sure that those were some of the things that made me so appealing to my husband.
My office hours were from nine to five; but as a senior manager for Mizelle's Collection Agency, I had a lot of flexibility. Some days I went in an hour or so earlier than I was supposed to, some days I stayed an hour or so late, and some days I worked from home. I didn't even have to get out of bed or my nightgown on those days. I just propped up a few pillows in my bed, kicked back with my legs crossed at the ankles, and perused a few files. I even enjoyed a few glasses of wine while doing it. It seemed like I was literally getting paid to "kick back." What more could I ask for? But since I loved my job and I loved getting out of the house, I preferred going to work to staying home.
Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was a few minutes past eight. I was already dressed and my office was only a short drive from my house. I figured I'd get there early enough to finish most of the work on my desk and address any issues that required my attention before I went to lunch with Sister Scruggs. Since it was casual Friday, I wore a fairly short denim skirt and a yellow Bob Marley T-shirt. It was a "youthful" outfit, but I was a youthful middle-aged woman. It was also one of my favorite outfits. I had been a fool for Bob Nesta Marley since his "I Shot the Sheriff" days. Before my recent 100-pound weight loss, wearing T-shirts or skirts or dresses with hems above my ankles was something that I could do only in my dreams.
The bathroom scale was still my worst enemy. When I stepped on it this morning, it claimed I had gained eight pounds back, and here I was smacking on my third Krispy Kreme glazed donut in the last twenty minutes! I laughed out loud; then I glared at the donut, hating it for what it represented. Just thinking about all the compliments I received about my drastic weight loss, and the proud way my husband looked when we went out in public, brought me back down to earth. I put the rest of that third donut back into the box and brushed the crumbs off my hands. "Now," I said with a mighty belch, proud that I still had some self-control and discipline.
I had sent my daughter off to Reed Street Elementary School, which was only a few blocks away. I still had time to have a couple of cups of coffee before I left the house. And if Pee Wee had something else in mind for me to do, there was time for that, too.
Despite all the problems that we had encountered in our eleven-year marriage, Pee Wee and I still had it good.
Life was so good to me.
I was happy. My husband was happy. I had everything I wanted. My proverbial cup was not just running over, it was falling over.
I never would have guessed in a million years that I was about to lose that cup and everything in it.
I looked at my watch again. I listened and waited. The longer I listened and waited, the more anxious I felt. The wind was howling like a wounded animal. Normally, it was one of the sorriest sounds in the world as far as I was concerned. It didn't bother me much this time, though. The wind was also blowing hard. It made the tree branches on the cherry tree that leaned toward the side of my kitchen rattle the window above my sink like a clumsy burglar. It seemed to be taking a long time for Pee Wee to get out of the car and into the house. But then he was not as spry as he used to be. Like with me and most of our friends, intruders such as arthritis, gout, excessive gas, incontinence, and other ailments associated with age had become some of his most frequent visitors. He was still in good shape for a man his age, but he had slowed down considerably over the years. However, he wasn't that slow. Several minutes had passed since he pulled up in our driveway!
I rose from my seat at the table and was about to trot over to the window above the sink so I could look out into our driveway on the side of our house. I wanted to check and make sure he had not stumbled on a rock, or stepped on a pop top and landed faceup on the ground like old man Kelsy next door did from time to time. Before I could reach the window, I heard his car door slam. A second later, I heard a second car door slam. That was odd, but I didn't go to the window to investigate. I scrambled back to the table and sat back down, trying not to look too excited.
As soon as Pee Wee opened our back door and entered the kitchen, I knew that something serious was about to unravel.
Excerpted from God Ain't Through Yet by Mary Monroe. Copyright © 2010 Mary Monroe. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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