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Authors: Yolonda Tonette Sanders

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BOOK: In Times of Trouble
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“Hey, shorty, what's up? Baby, I hope you didn't get in too much trouble Saturday.”

“This must be Kyle,” she said accusingly. If they were only “friends” like Chanelle had stated, then why in the world was he calling her baby!

“Who 'dis?”


This
is Chanelle's mother.”

“Aw man, my bad. . .for real.”

“How old are you, Kyle?”

“Seventeen.”

At least Chanelle had told the truth about his age. “I assume you're aware that the legal drinking age is twenty-one, right?”

“Um. . .can you just tell Chanelle to hit me up later?”

“I most certainly will not. I never want you calling my daughter again. Do you understand me?”

Lisa listened a few seconds for Kyle's response, then she noticed that he had hung up. Furious about his lack of respect, she tried calling home again. Still, no answer, but this time she decided to leave a message. “Mama said you were home. Why aren't you picking up? I want you to know that I just answered a call from your
boo.
The little hoodlum hung up on me. I meant what I said, Chanelle. I don't want you ever talking with or seeing that boy again! Oh. . .and by the way, I'll be home late tonight.”

CHAPTER 6
A Different Perspective

L
isa and Minister Freeman decided to drive to a park after dinner. As they strolled through the walkway, her hair blew in sync with the light spring breeze flowing through the air. Lisa gently kicked pebbles along the way, finishing her soda. If she had been with Olivia, she would have slurped the last few drops of liquid from between the ice with her straw. But, while in the minister's presence, she chose the more lady-like option and threw the cup in a nearby trashcan. She immediately began shuffling through her purse.

“What are you looking for?”

“This.” She pulled her lipstick out. “I saw most of it on my straw so I'm guessing it's time for a refresher.”

He grabbed her arm gently, just as she was about to apply it. “I think you have a beautiful natural smile. Don't hide it with that stuff.” He took a handkerchief from his back pocket and tenderly wiped the remaining residue from her lips. “Sister Lisa, I don't think I've ever been this close to such a gorgeous woman.”

Had Lisa been just a few shades lighter, she would have turned bright red. Flattered, she put her lipstick away and the only thing she could think to say was “Please, just call me Lisa.”

“Okay,
Lisa. . . .
I hope I'm not being too forward. That wasn't a come-on line. I do think you're beautiful.”

“Thank you, Minister Freeman.”

“It's okay to call me by my name. It's Eric, in case you didn't know.”

She laughed suspiciously. “Have you spoken to Olivia anytime recently?”

“No, why do you ask?”

“Just wondering. . .Are you sure you don't mind being on a first name basis with me?”

He frowned. “Why would I? It's not like being a minister makes me any better than you. You asked me to call you Lisa, so I'm asking you to call me Eric.”

“I don't want to be disrespectful.”

“Look, some people get ordained and it goes to their heads, but I'm not on any kind of ego trip. Minister Freeman sounds so Sunday morning-ish. I never understood why brothers and sisters in Christ feel the need to be so formal with one another. We're not taking titles with us to Heaven, so why do we press the issue down here? Besides that, I want you to get to know me—Eric Freeman—and not be stuck on the fact that I'm a minister. You do want to get to know me, don't you?”

Oh, yes! Of course I do!
Lisa prayed those words wouldn't slip from her mouth. “Yes, Eric, that would be great,” she said as though she was trying the name out.

“Then that settles it.” He took Lisa's hand, sending an adrenaline rush through her veins as they continued their journey through the park. “So. . .how's planning for your daughter's graduation party coming along?”

“Fine. The big day is just a few weeks away.”

“Am I invited?”

“I. . .um, didn't think you'd be interested in coming.”

“Are you kidding? I'd love to be there. It would give me a chance to get to know Chanelle outside of church; and of course, I'm looking forward to meeting your mother.”

“I don't know. . .a graduation party isn't really a good setting for you to get to know them well.” Lisa wasn't intending to invite him. RJ would be there and it would be awkward enough avoiding him on her own. She didn't want to drag Eric in the middle.

“You're right; perhaps I can come over for dinner one night soon. I'll still come to the party, but if we're going to tell them about our relationship we should do it before then. Don't you think it's time they knew about us.”

“Okay. . .” she said cautiously. She didn't know that they had officially become an “us.” Part of her thought Minister Freeman—Eric—was moving way too fast but, then again, perhaps it was simply her fears taking over. Though she may have entertained one or two dinner invitations after her divorce, they were nothing really serious. Getting involved in a relationship had always been the furthest thing from her mind. RJ was her first everything! They'd known each other since junior high and eloped within weeks of graduating high school. After years of thinking that she knew him and then having his true colors show, really put a damper on Lisa wanting to trust anyone else. But, somehow Eric had caught her attention. Even if she wanted to, Lisa couldn't suppress the magnetism drawing her towards him.

It wasn't as much a physical attraction as it was a spiritual one. His barely average appearance wasn't anything she'd brag about. Men in their early forties with spots of gray and receding hairlines were a dime a dozen. He wasn't excessively tall or ridiculously short, nor did he have a muscular, mouth-watering physique. He was, in all meanings of the word, “okay.” He wasn't someone
that would cause a woman to do a double-take but because they worked so closely together on the Pastor's Anniversary Committee, Lisa got a chance to observe the way he carried himself. There was no doubt that Eric truly loved the Lord, and that alone made him more desirable than anyone named on
People
magazine's list of “Sexiest Men Alive.” Eric genuinely walked according to the Word, unlike RJ who had been a wolf in sheep's clothing.

If Eric didn't push for things to go to the next level, Lisa would probably keep things like they were and continue finding creative ways to tell the truth to her mother and daughter without actually lying. Like tonight when she categorized this date as a “meeting.” It wasn't so much as she didn't want them to meet Eric, but rather she was hesitant about him meeting them. She, her mother and Chanelle weren't exactly the Huxtables. If Dysfunctional were a last name, it would likely be theirs. The nerve of Chanelle getting drunk! And then—

“Yoohoo. . .Earth to Lisa,” Eric called out, waving his hand in front of her face.

“I'm sorry; did you say something?”

“Yes. I
said
we are very blessed to be part of one of the greatest churches in the city.”

“Um hmm. . .”

“Abundant in Christ is virtually incomparable to any other church in Columbus. Pastor Ross is really doing some great things. One of my dreams is to start my own church and be a shepherd of God's people.”

“Um hmm. . .”

“Am I boring you?”

“No, it's not you. I'm sorry. My mind is elsewhere.”

“Would you like to talk about whatever is troubling you?”

“Thanks, but I'll pass.” Eric was a single man with no children.
The last thing Lisa wanted to do was scare him off with horror stories about her daughter. “There's no need to burden you with my concerns. I'm sure you have more important matters on your mind.”

“Currently you're the important matter on my mind. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to bear one another's burdens and as a servant of the Lord, your problem is my problem. Being concerned about you is one of my obligations.”

“Thanks, but I really don't feel like talking right now.”

“That's okay. Do you want to continue this evening another time? It's obvious that I've lost your attention.”

“I'm sorry; I feel horrible.”

“Don't. I'm not offended. You probably just need a little quiet time. The best thing you can do right now is talk to our Father. He'll definitely have the solution to your problem. As a matter of fact, would you mind if I prayed with you before we leave?”

“No, not at all.”

Right there in the middle of the park walkway, they turned and held hands while Eric proceeded. “Father God, I ask in the Name of Jesus that you be with Lisa. Lord, let not her heart be troubled. Whatever is concerning her, deal with it and take the burden off her mind. Give her peace about each and every situation in her life. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. . .Amen.”

After the prayer, they walked silently back to their cars, still holding hands. “I'm glad we agreed to have dinner at your place next Monday. I'm looking forward to it, but I hope I don't have to wait until then to see you again.”

What in the world was he talking about! Lisa didn't recall such an agreement. He must've mentioned it when she'd drifted off mentally. Lisa imagined that she said something like “Sure, okay,” without really paying attention to what she was answering. Lisa
wasn't ready to take this step, but Eric was standing there with a wide grin on his face and Lisa didn't know how to politely cancel without offending him.

• • •

It was a little after nine when Lisa got home. She walked in to find her mother and daughter at the kitchen table playing cards. “Hey guys. . .”

“Hey, how was the meeting?”

“It was great. Chanelle, are you going to speak?”

“I said hi when you walked in.”

“I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.”

“UNO!” Chanelle shouted.

“Nuh-uh. . .” Hattie smirked, throwing a Draw Four card on the table.

“How was school today?” Lisa asked.

“Fine. . .”

“I tried calling to let you know I'd be late.”

“I know. . .”

“Why didn't you answer the phone?”

“Because I'm on punishment. . .I'm not supposed to talk on the phone, remember? You took away my cell phone for that very purpose,” Chanelle said with such a snide attitude that Lisa could've smacked her.

“Go to your room!” she ordered.

“Why?”

“C'mon, Lisa, we're in the middle of a game,” her mother jumped in.

“I don't care, Mama. She's not going to get smart with me.”

“I can't say or do anything around here!” Chanelle ranted, smashing her cards down on the table and storming out of the kitchen.

“Say something else and see if I don't come upstairs and hold your butt accountable for your smart mouth!” Lisa yelled after her.

“Why are you always threatening that girl?”

“Mama, don't start with me. I'm not in the mood.” Lisa slumped into Chanelle's chair and began rubbing her aching feet.

“Don't you think you were a little harsh?”

“No, I don't.”

“She's almost grown. When are you going to start cutting her some slack?”

“You don't seem to think Chanelle should get in trouble for anything. You're always taking up for her and making excuses when she's wrong.”


I am not,
” Hattie said defiantly, gathering all the UNO cards. “I see things from a different perspective and I'm trying to get you to understand that every offense doesn't necessarily deserve punishment.”

“Living in this house it does; especially when lying is involved.”

“Fine, Lisa. I've said all I have to say. No one can tell you anything. I raised two children already, but apparently you know more than I do, so I'll just leave you be. But, if it were my child—”

“Chanelle's not your child; that's the whole point! The sooner you realize that
I'm
her mother and
you're
her grandmother, the better off we'll all be.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“I'm just saying, Mama. You need to let me raise her, even if you don't agree with the decisions I make. Whether I'm right or wrong, Chanelle needs to obey me. It'll be much easier for her to do so without you always undermining my authority.”

“So are you saying that I somehow contributed to her going out and getting drunk Saturday night?”

“No. Chanelle is no angel, but things have never been this bad.
Things seemed to have gotten worse since you moved up here.”

Her mother stood up with her hand on her hip, cocked her head to the side and looked at her like she was crazy. “Let's remember that you are the one who begged me to move up here. I had a home and was just fine with my living arrangements.”

BOOK: In Times of Trouble
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