TITLE: A Woman's Strength
By Jaye Murphy
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Marley lied on the sofa cuddling with her five year old daughter, Madison, who had already fallen asleep wrapped within her protective arms. God I love my baby so much Marley thought to herself. She felt Madison, along with her sixteen year old son, Justin, currently living with her mother, were the reasons that she fought as long as she did. She had been tired for so long. Mentally drained and emotionally beaten, tattered and torn – from the inside out. She just felt utterly broken to the core.
God didn’t hear her cries of desperation, pleads for mercy. She felt alone. She felt abandoned. She just felt beyond damaged, past despair, and now afar from saving. She was worthless to everyone who used to depend so heavily on her, even her children. It seemed pointless for her to continue what she considered a useless existence.
She hummed softly within her daughter’s ear one of their favorite tunes of Kirk Franklin’s, “Imagine Me”. Her eyes had begun to get heavy. She had been trying to fight the sleep for a little while now, but it knowingly became so that she wasn’t going to be able to fight it very much longer. As she continuously hummed, she tried to put herself within the lyrics of the song. She started to imagine her own self in a different way. She tried to imagine herself feeling free from all her struggles – her emotional and internal pains, her past mental breaks. She tried to imagine the strong person she used to be and tried to see herself still being such.
She tried to imagine her kids being better off without the worry of trying to take care of her or trying to be there for her in a way that they were incapable of or even aware of themselves being. She had actually come to terms with the fact that they were there for her more so than she was for them. They were the reason she sustained as long as she had.
She had an imagery in her mind where she was no longer a burden to her already over-burdened mom or an added stressor for her best friend, Amelia, who already had her own stressors within life. In her imagery, there was so much peace and so much freedom. That’s all she wanted – just a little bit of peace, that type of peace that was not disturbed by the circumstances that surrounded her. She was so tired. She needed endless rest from everything that had consumed her over the past years.
Her chest started to feel heavy, like something on the inside of her was trying to shut down. There was a lot of pressure on the inside, in her sternal area. It didn’t hurt, but it was persistent, ongoing, determined not to stop until it had thoroughly done what she had set out to do. She wasn’t trying to fight or push against it anymore. It was okay. It really was.
It would all be over in just a little while. This was her way of letting go and letting God. That’s what they always told her – to let go and let God. She had prayed for so long, endlessly and tirelessly. But God wouldn’t take it away. Everything just intensified. It just kept increasing to the point where she was finally drained. The battle is not yours… So she made the decision to end the battle. It was His now. It was her simile of letting go and letting God.
She left a note. It was there on the table, right there in front of her. She wanted to explain things as she was never really was good at verbalizing her self-expressions, but she was wonderful at putting pen to paper. They never listened. They never understood. She tried to tell them all for so long that she was so weary, increasingly and conceptually exhausted to the point of being discombobulated. But they wouldn’t heed or perhaps just wouldn’t or couldn’t hear her. One or the other. Hopefully, her son would read the letter. He was exceptionally gifted in written word himself. What most people didn’t or couldn’t understand about her, her baby boy did.
Too, she called her mom. But she waited until she felt the effects of all the pills that she had taken. She took the entire bottle. Shoot… Just one of them would knock her out for the entire night, so she felt if she took the entire bottle that would definitely do what she needed to get done. She didn’t want her baby to be there alone, as people close to Marley knew that when she was “going through” she would normally isolate and push people away for days. For that reason alone, she thought her daughter would be there secluded without aid for however long without anybody having enough perception to check up on them. She felt this too was her fault.
Therefore, she methodically planned to take the pills at night when it was time for her and her baby to go to bed. That way they would sleep together, but only one of them would wake up. Marley felt she thought this out thoroughly. Madison wouldn’t be alone. She wouldn’t awake scared because mommy wouldn’t wake up. She would be with her grandmother.
That’s why she made sure to call her mother. She simply planned to wait long enough so that her mom wouldn’t have time to intercept her disposition. She knew this would hurt her mother. She knew it would on some level break her down a bit, but her mother was so much stronger than she thought herself to be and would always, as she always had done, step in and take matters into her own hands and make sure above anything else that her kids were provided for and would fight to the death of her to keep them with her. Her mother loved her children as her own, and they felt the same in return. There was no one Marley trusted above her mother to look out for her children’s best interest, sadly not even their fathers.
Her thoughts started to become a bit muddled. Yeah… by the time Ma gets here, it will all be over with, and Madison will never even know. She’s so young. She’ll have little to no memories. She’ll just go and live with her grandmother and big brother. Both my kids love her so much. They even call her mama. Yeah… That’ll work. Ma would take care of them. She always had and always would, as long as there was breath in her body.
Just after she took the pills, she discarded the bottle so that no one would know what she had taken. In her mind, it would probably aid them in reviving her. She didn’t want to be revived. She wanted to go to her place of peace – simply and quietly, effortlessly.
She had already talked to God about it. She told him to take her somewhere, nowhere close, far away from all the chaotic confusions, the utter defeats. She prayed that perhaps this was her destiny. He didn’t seem to listen to her in life, perhaps He would hear her in the afterlife as she sought only to be closer to Him. He would bring her the peace she so desperately pursued with so much passion.
She almost didn’t say a last prayer. After all, God hadn’t listened to her in years. She felt why should He now. Especially when she prayed about her husband. Instead, he let the one man in her life that she knew with everything in her would never lie or deceive her, but he did. He hurt her in every area of her being and then abandoned and discarded her as though she was nothing and never mattered. He used her for everything that he possibly could, then left her to raise their daughter, her son, as a single mother….again. Never looking back.
God didn’t protect her from that crappy situation, nor did protect her from him – all the physical, mental and emotional abuse for all the years she was married. Her entire self being was wrapped up within this man, that marriage, a supposed man of God, and destroyed her in the same matter. Now, she was being defamed as if she brought this on herself and was being told by her husband’s account of things. God didn’t come when she called. He left her alone.
Maybe, just maybe, He’ll come now. Perhaps He will see the ultimate despair that she had come to and would meet her somewhere in the light – the light people always talked about when they were near death.
I’ll see Him in the light. He’ll be there. I may have not done everything right here on earth. Possibly that’s why He’s been trying to call me home, for my sins. I have to account for them, right? The consequences of… He’ll be there when I get there though.
Her eyes closed. She couldn’t open them, even though she tried. She heard banging at what she presumed to be the door… perhaps the windows? Was somebody knocking? Somebody trying to get in? She heard her name being called from a distance over and over again. Her chest had shut down… so heavy, so much weight, compression. No fight left in her.
I can hear you. But can anybody hear me? I’m trying to talk. Am I talking aloud? I’m trying to tell all the voices I’m hearing I’m okay. Just get my baby and let me be. Make sure Madison is okay and goes home with my mama.
There was an almost immediate destructive sound. Had somebody broken her door down? Wow… Didn’t she put the chain on? She was no longer sure, nor did she really actually care. She was so light, feathery in fact, and unbelievably so free – floating. No worries. No concerns. Free beyond the definition of such. She could hear people talking incoherently to her, male and female voices, but she couldn’t understand or answer back. Ma? Amelia? Oh, hell… It doesn’t matter at this point.
Marley was at a point that she hadn’t been in for such a long time. There was no feeling like this in world. Not even the pills or the alcohol made her feel this type of ease, this the type serenity. She would be taken care of. God would take care of her. He would take care of her children, too. In her mind, she held on to the lyrics of “Imagine Me”. “It’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s all gone. It’s gone. It’s gone. It’s all gone…”
The Wings and Things Bar and Grill was quite crowded for the normal midday hour. Marley wiped the honey mustard sauce that dripped along her fingertips from her chicken wings with a napkin and took a sip of what they called an over-the-top long island iced tea. She had ordered a double. This was unusual for her as she wasn’t much of a drinker, except for social occasions or to calm her nervousness at stressful times. She peered in the saucer-style plate for another wing amongst the bones, Blue Ranch dressing and celery sticks. Dang… She must have been hungrier than she thought. She just ate ten wings in approximately ten minutes.
That reminded her… Marley glanced down at her watch and noticed that her lunch date, Amelia, her closest friend for fifteen years, was already fifteen minutes late. She gazed around the crowded bar and grill to see if she could spot her walking in or around. After all, she specifically told her she would be sitting at the bar waiting for her. While visually probing the room, Marley couldn’t help but notice that she was catching quite a few eyes. This, she was actually used to. However, after all these years of such, it still made her very much uncomfortable.
Marley was essentially used to walking into a room and grabbing the attention of most men, and oddly enough some women as well, that engaged the space within. She used to enjoy the responsiveness. It told her – when she couldn’t tell herself even though it had been expressed by many almost her entire life – how very attractive she truly was. Her almond shaped eyes, high cheek bones, full lips, smooth, caramel skin, and that hour glass figure often gained her the praise of looking like she stepped out of a Vogue magazine. Though, she didn’t look as though she had purposely been skipping meals. She had long, dark brown hair that flowed down her back, but she would almost always pull it up in a ponytail or bun. And she didn’t like to brag, but she was a successful woman that didn’t need a man to take care of her. She made and had her own.
Marley fidgeted with the napkin that lay next to her empty plate, giving her something to focus on aside from the gawking patrons as she waited, then took what was her last sip of her over-the-top long island iced tea. She uneasily anticipated Amelia’s arrival. Where was she? Amelia knew Marley had only an hour for lunch and then had to get back across town to her job where she worked as an interior designer for one of the top design firms within the city. In fact, she was one of the lead designers. Not many decisions were finalized without her nod of approval.
The bartender approached Marley with another beverage – the same that she had already drank. She politely smiled and shook her head. “I didn’t order another. Thank you.”
The bartender smiled flirtatiously and said, “No ma’am. The gentleman sitting at the end of the bar sent it over.” He nodded towards the bar’s end and Marley’s gaze followed where she made eye contact with what she deemed a chocolate version of Shemar Moore flashing some pearly whites her way. Dang, he was fine she thought. Again, with a bit of hesitation this time, she graciously shook her head and declined the drink. At that point, she looked towards Mr. Chocolate Shemar Moore and mouthed a “no, thank you”. He smiled, nodded, and shrugged his shoulders as to say, “Hey, I gave it a shot.”
The ingestion of the alcohol was starting to take its effect. She started to feel a bit more relaxed, trying to understand why she was feeling so anxious in the first place. She and Amelia had been best friends for what seemed like forever. She should not feel so much angst in delivering what she perceived to be wonderful and exciting news. Though she felt Amelia could be a little critical and a lot judgmental at times and perhaps just too darn blunt, Marley in retrospect felt her news would not be perceived in the manner she intended it.
After all, she really couldn’t blame Amelia for feeling such as she herself knew she had a history within her life of making emotionally-based, impulsive decisions – especially when it came to men. She glanced down at her empty glass. Shoot… Maybe she should have taken the drink after all, but then thought better of it. In any case, she needed to get back to work in about a half hour – and not inebriated – relaxed but not plastered.
Marley glanced down at her watch again noting that Amelia was now pushing towards being twenty minutes late and figured on a short encounter with her friend not leaving them enough time to discuss the matter that she so desperately wanted to confer on with her. She picked up her cell phone which lay on top of the bar next to her glass filled only with melting ice and began to speed dial Amelia’s number. Within that moment, she was startled by a familiar voice directly behind her.
“Hey, girl.” It was Amelia. Marley hit the end button and placed her phone back on the bar. Amelia went on in an attempt at an explanation. “Know I’m late. Sorry. Crazy traffic.” She took off her jacket revealing the scrubs that Marley had become accustomed to seeing her friend wear as she was a licensed nurse practitioner, and took the next barstool beside Marley.
“Hey,” Marley responded. “I was just about to call you. You know I only have an hour.”
“Yeah, I know,” Amelia responded contemptuously and motioned for the bartender to come over. “Me too. And with me being late, we actually got even less time. So talk to me. What’s going on with you?” The bartender approached both ladies, again flashing a coy smile – this time towards Amelia. “Can you get me a Sprite, please?”
“Sorry, Beautiful,” he stated. “Would a Sierra Mist be okay?”
Amelia, being the matter-of-fact lady that she was in essence known to be, quickly waved him off and said, “Yeah, that’s good.” She herself was a very striking woman – dark-toned skin and big bright, enchanting, almost hypnotizing eyes that said so much with just a glance and not an utterance of a word. Amelia was tall and had a natural figure that most women would sweat it out in the gym for, and most men would say and do anything to get close to, even if it’s just for an up close and personal view. Unlike Marley, she was confident in her beauty and she reflected such, almost as though her presence commanded everybody’s attention within a room as she entered – even in her scrubs.
“Would you like a menu?” the bartender asked while preparing her beverage.
“No, just the drink. Thanks.”
Marley felt most times that Amelia didn’t know how indifferent and often times rude she could come off to people, but then again, if she were to tell her – as she had on occasion before – it really wouldn’t matter. It really was just a part of Amelia’s character that made her up to be who Marley in fact knew and grew to love – and actually envied on some level. Marley often times felt herself to be a go-along-with-the-flow type person, often times too accommodating, whereas Amelia was cut-to-the-chase or get-out-my-face type woman and could actually be quite animated when being such. She said what was on her mind and made no apologies for it. In fact, she said what most people were thinking and wanted to say but wouldn’t.
The bartender placed Amelia’s beverage of choice in front of her on a napkin and gently reminded her to let him know if she needed anything else. Amelia gave him a flippant glance and looked towards Marley and said, “Okay, like I said, we don’t have long. And I know you. You wouldn’t have called me out here for lunch and you definitely wouldn’t be drinking in the middle of a work day going back to work all liquored up if it wasn’t important. So… What’s going on?”
Marley inhaled then exhaled, glanced down at Mr. Chocolate Shemar Moore who seemingly was no longer paying her any attention, then turned to Amelia and blurted without prudence, “I’m getting married.”
Amelia casually picked up the straw that the bartender later placed next to her drink, pushed it through the plastic and inserted it into her glass. After taking several sips with no facial expression, literally no emotion behind Marley’s captivating eyes, simply and calmly asked “To who?”
“Seriously, Amelia?” Marley’s irritation grew. “I give you some of the biggest news of my life and you sit there and sip on a soda with no reaction? Really? Too, how many men do you think I’m seeing?”
“Don’t get it twisted, sweetie.” Amelia took another sip and placed her glass back on the bar top. “I know you are currently seeing only one man. I also know you just ended a relationship with another about a month ago that you actually cared a great deal for. So my question to you is did you double back to the dude that you gave a crap about or are you settling for the dude that you think gives a crap about you.”
Although this was the reaction that Marley drank and prepared for, however, she was still quite vexed. She had never been married before and for her to deliver this type news to her best friend who was facetious and short in return really annoyed her. “First of all, let me correct you,” Marley began. “It was not a month ago. It was a month and a half ago when my relationship with David ended. And as far as who I’m marrying now, no it’s not David. That’s over with. My life is with Jeremy now. And don’t act like this is some newly formed relationship. I’ve known Jeremy almost my entire life. Our families have been connected since way back in the day before either of us was even a concept.”
Marley sighed deep, trying to take it all in – Amelia’s reaction. “Jeremy loves me. He asked me to marry him. And you know what, I accepted. Jeremy doesn’t come with the baggage of crazy baby mamas, commitment phobias, old-school mind games, or ‘I’m just going through some things’ issues.”
“Maybe not, Marley. But he does come with two ex-wives. Count them…” Amelia held up two fingers. “One…two. He also comes with three children between the two that he has virtually no relationship with unless it’s at his convenience or monetary-wise, which, by the way, he has to be made to pay by the man. And, also, be mindful that this is information I only know through you, stuff you’ve vented to me about, matters that have bothered you apparently up to this point. So, what makes you think he’s going to be this knight and shining armor for you? Wife number three?”
“I never said he didn’t have any issues. But you just don’t know his heart. He’s a great man, and he loves me. He wants to take care of me.”
“Okay,” she exhaled clearly a bit peeved. “With such a great heart and so much love that he seems to pass around so freely as he told you he was just ‘in love’ with another woman a couple of months ago, why is he moving on to wife number three so soon? Didn’t he just divorce wife number two a little over a year ago? Been ‘in love’ twice since then? Both women left him, along with his ex-wives. He apparently falls in and out of love very quickly, Marley. That says a lot about his instability and mind state. Don’t you think?
“And what happens if you two don’t make it and you have a kid or two or perhaps three together? Because he does seem to like to make babies but when things with he and the moms go south, he dips and leaves the mothers to be a single mom – all on their own – struggling to make ends meet, darn near begging him to be a part of their kids’ lives and not just monetarily so. Is he still going to be this great man with this great heart that he has so freely extended to his ex-wives and his other kids and anyone else willing to accept it? Is he still going to take care of you on a security guard’s salary – an annual four-, maybe five-, figured income annually compared to your six? Really?
“Plus, “Amelia continued as her voice raised an octave. “You know him in a sense of friendship that has been out of touch for years and now you want to marry him? Really, Marley? Do you know him like that? You’ve seen the ugly just as well as whatever good you claim to be seeing, and I’m sorry, but so far, the ugly outweighs any of the good that you’ve spoken of to me.
“Or could this possibly be just another of your impulsive decisions to settle because you don’t want to do the dating thing anymore? You’re pushing thirty – you remember? The time-frame you gave yourself to get hitched? Are you in love even? Have you dated him long enough to be in love? Or is this just a reaction to the breakup between you and David? My God, Marley! What about Justin? Your son?”
Marley became increasingly overwhelmed with the retort that she received from Amelia. She didn’t expect Amelia to be one hundred percent on board with her new choices within life, but she did not expect to be bombarded with question behind question that she either didn’t know how to answer or just didn’t want to answer. The only thing, she could find to say within that moment was, “Jeremy is a good man. I think he is misunderstood by many and lied on by others. And yes, Justin knows about this. He was the first person I spoke with, and he said he’s okay with it.
Justin was Marley’s eight-year-old son. The day before, Marley had sat down with Justin and talked extensively about her decision to marry Jeremy. He gave his mother the okay. He seemingly liked Jeremy as he had known him to be a consistent figure within the household for the past few weeks. Granted, they may have gotten along so well because Jeremy was pretty much a big kid himself who related to children quite easily, but what Amelia failed to understand was that she would not go along with this if her son – her reason for breathing – did not accept Jeremy within their lives.
Marley sat stoned-faced for what she gathered to be about a minute. Nevertheless, Amelia continued. “Is this because he is the assistant minister at New Harvest Baptist? Do you think because he’s a ‘preacher man’,” Amelia used air quotes, “that he will not or cannot hurt you? Is that why you’re marrying him? He’s a safe choice? Because if it is, you are so deluding yourself, sweetie.”
“You know what?” Marley was now beyond exasperated. “I wanted to tell you because I wanted my very best friend who’s like a sister to me to be one of the very first persons to know. I wanted you to be happy for me. But clearly, you are not.”
“Baby girl, this isn’t about me being happy or unhappy. It’s about me caring enough about you and knowing you the way that I do to make you confront honesty within yourself.” She sipped the last of her Sierra Mist, snapped her fingers at the bartender, even though he was with another customer, and almost shouted, “Can I get another, please?”
Marley sighed again. Disappointment cultivated within her. Yet, Amelia continued. “Do you love him?”
“Yeah,” Marley said frustrated. “I’ve known him forever.”
“Marley, this ain’t about you knowing him forever. It’s about the capacity of how you know him. You guys haven’t been involved long enough. Hell, you didn’t give yourself time enough to heal from your last relationship before you jumped into this one – which, ironically you never do. You have a tendency, a pattern – and I’m saying this with love – to move from one man to the next hoping he will heal that broken heart or fill that void that the last man left. And now, you’re getting married. Are you even in love?”
Marley looked away, not wanting to deal with what was presented to her. Amelia asked again, only louder this time, “Are you in love with the dude?”
Marley hesitantly said looking downwardly, “I’ll learn to love him like that.”
It was Amelia who was frustrated and annoyed at this time. “That’s just some bull… You don’t marry someone that you’re not in love with. You don’t marry someone you don’t feel as though you can breathe without. You don’t marry someone that you like a whole lot with the hopes that the real feelings will come eventually. That’s just lunacy.” Amelia took several gulps of her beverage, this time without the straw, and bellowed, “I’ve got to get back to work, sweetie! You know I love you and only want what’s best for you. If this is what you think it is, I’ll support you. If it seems like I’m jumping down your throat, it’s just love from me to you talking – that’s it. And that’s all I’ve got to say about it.” She grabbed Marley’s left hand and held it up. “By the way, where’s the ring?” She dropped her hand, air-kissed her, pulled money from her purse laying it on the counter to pay for her drinks, then left.
Marley sat there considering everything that was just said in those few moments. A lot of what Amelia said she admittedly thought made a little bit of sense, but she had already made up her mind. It was her responsibility to do what she felt was best for her and her son at that point. She wanted a husband and her son needed a father-figure. Was Jeremy the best financial support – probably not. Aside from being an assistant minister, he worked as a security guard for the local hospital within the small town that they both were initially from – a town a step up from being Mayberry with black folks – Gaines, Alabama. Would she bring in most of the income? No doubt. But she had a vision. Jeremy would soon become a prominent pastor as the current one was considering retirement and looking for his predecessor.
He treated her like no other man had ever before done. He was considerate of her feelings at all times. He adored her child and actually wanted to get to know him and be a major part of his life. It’s almost like he knew the simplest things were what mattered the most to her. And what most people didn’t get about Marley, it was those simple things that ultimately and in the long run mattered the utmost.
Was she tired of the dating scene? Yes. But that wasn’t why she felt she was marrying Jeremy. Jeremy showed the type interest in her that she wished so many men before had shown. He showered her with attention and made her feel as though she was placed upon a pedestal that she had never before known existed. But now that she knows of its existence, she felt as though she deserved to be placed there. In fact, she was the one who apparently always gave her entire being to a man to get only a third, if that much, back in return. Jeremy may not have had much materialistically, but he was real, and he was honest. And Marley knew not a lot of people will agree with her decision – especially her mom and brother who were paradoxically two of the closest people in her life, but she knew what they didn’t know.
Jeremy had a great heart that no one could or would see because of his past failures or misunderstandings. These things didn’t exist to her. She saw and felt him better than anyone else in his life would allow themselves to. She would be different. She would be a great wife and mother for her son and their potential unborn and would eventually prove all the naysayers wrong.
Nevertheless, Marley had to get back across town and back to work – very relaxed at that. She gave Mr. Chocolate Shemar Moore a glance back as she turned on the barstool to leave. His attention had turned to another long-haired, caramel-colored lady – just as pretty as she, but not prettier she felt. She grabbed her phone, purse and keys then headed out the door.
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