Please look out and spread the word about my new book. Also look out for special giveaways and discounted prices in the Summer.
Now without further adieu, The Preacher's Daughter.
“May the Lord be with you,” my father said to crowd of no more than 50 people. 54 if you count my mother, my two brothers and me. This was a good Sunday morning turn out compared to the usual 12 faithful churchgoers who haven’t given up on my father, Pastor Donald E. Carlisle. Our church, Bible Baptist Church, had over 600 members 8 years ago, before Deaconess Michelle Johnson filed a lawsuit against my father. Deaconess Johnson was known to flirt and hit on every man, married or not, who would give her the time of day. She wore these tight little pants suits that left nothing to the imagination, squeezing her 5’ 6” 180 pound frame. She always wore her hair up in a bun with one long curl hanging in front of her plump face. When in deep conversation with the opposite sex she would twirl that one curl around her finger so tight that over the years her hair started to recede.
Deaconess Johnson was the president of the trustee board and often spent a lot of time alone with my father going over the church budget and deposit slips. Rumors started to spread about the pastor and deaconess Johnson having a secret affair. They both denied everything. I mean after all why would the pastor, a holy man of God, cheat on the First Lady? That’s what we all thought until one night after revival Mrs. Johnson claimed my father touched her in the finance room and offered her money to sleep with him. Of course there was no truth to that or so my father says but there was no convincing the rest of the congregation. My mother, Patricia Carlisle was devastated but stood by her man. Divorce was not an option, that’s what the bible said. With half the congregation gone we had no choice but to downsize.
With all of the drama behind us, my father decided to move forward with his ministry and purchased a small little black and white church off Dyre Avenue in the Bronx that needed a lot of work. The Lord told him that we needed to get out of Queens and start ministering to the people of the Bronx. I doubt the Lord said all of that but we went along with his master plan and relocated. To say I hated it would be an understatement. The dim lighting and dingy stain glass windows in this new church creeped me out. This church didn’t have pews like our last one, just those hard metal folding chairs that gave you frost bite when you sit on them for too long in the winter. The air conditioner didn’t work and the repair man had to come three times to fix the leaky boiler. I remember my poor mother spending hours scrubbing the windows and repainting and oiling those chairs but come Sunday morning the chairs still squeaked and the “white” dove with the olive branch depicted on the windows still looked like a pigeon with a Slim Jim in its mouth.
“And also with you,” the congregation replied as they quickly scurried out of there trying to avoid being trapped into going to service number three which was starting in thirty minutes. Yes that’s right, my father has three services on Sunday and I’m forced to sit through all three. Even when there’s only eight people in church, again four of which being my mother, my siblings and myself, he still would hold service. To keep myself awake I pretended to go to the bathroom and then quietly snuck off into my father’s office to check my MySpace messages. Just like the rest of the church, his office was dimly lit and smelled like he sprayed the walls with eight bottles of cologne. Holding my nose I ran over to his computer and hit the power button. With all the virus Spyware ads, pass code log on prompts and daily scriptures that popped up on the screen it seemed like it took a whole ten minutes for his Dell laptop to finally come to the home screen. I knew I had to move fast before my mother came looking for me. I quickly typed in my MySpace user and password and impatiently waited as my profile uploaded. Five minutes later my message icon flashed and sure enough Michael Coleman, or Mike as his friends called him, had responded to my message. I’ve had a crush on this boy since the third grade, Mrs. Child’s class in P.S. 41, and now almost seven years later I’ve finally got the guts to tell him, well sort of.
We were both in Ms. Smith’s homeroom class at Evander Childs High School. The first day of class he walked in wearing a black and blue Rocawear hoodie shirt with Ecko jeans, a pair of black and blue Air Jordan’s sneakers and a diamond earring in his left ear. All eyes were on him and they should be. I mean who could resist those hazel eyes, curly hair and perfectly straight teeth thanks to the braces he wore in the 6th thru 8th grade. Every girl in the room quickly moved their book bags off the seats next to them they were reserving for their best friends to make room for him. My heart stopped for a minute as he came right over and sat next to me. Considering the fact I was the only one he knew in that class I shouldn’t have been surprised. From all the eye rolling, teeth sucking and gasps heard around the room, everyone else was surprised.
“What’s up Jess, how was your summer?” he said smiling, flashing me those pearly whites. I swear my insides got all warm and tingly just at the thought of him being so close to me.
“It was cool; I worked at my dad’s church.” I said exaggerating the truth a little. I didn’t really work there; I was forced to go and sure as hell didn’t get paid for it either.
“Oh that’s right, church girl working in a church. It suits you.” He laughed “So how many Hail Mary’s did you do?”
He stopped laughing when he realized I didn’t join in with him. “Calm down I’m just joking. Look my uncles a pastor so I know what it feels like to spend every day in church.”
That actually made me smile a little, knowing that someone as popular as Mike was also into church. It was weird to me because I also attended church but was never a part of the “cool” crowd. As strange as it may sound, my parents forbid it. They would always say “Jesus wasn’t popular. He did his own thing and people came to him. Live holy and people will flock to you.” That may have been true during the biblical times but now in 2005 it didn’t work out so much for me. The kids usually tease me calling me “Church Girl” and “Holy Roller” and made fun of how I dressed. Everyday my mother would make me wear these hideous skirts that stopped mid-calf, a button up or high collar shirt that didn’t have a designer label stitched on it and my hair pulled back in a ponytail. I also wore my mother’s old wide framed glasses that didn’t really help gain me any cool points, just more jokes at my expense.
When I entered high school I begged my parents for contacts or at least some name brand glasses but being the high and mighty Christians they were, they denied my request. “Jesus didn’t wear contact” they would say. He didn’t wear glasses either I thought to myself but dare not say out loud or else my mother’s backhand would come flying across my face. My mother was known to discipline her children in public. I remember when I was eight years old the choir director finally gave me my first lead song. I was soo excited that I stayed up the night before my big performance practicing my solo in the basement. To say I was tired the next morning would be an understatement. I tried my best to keep my eyes open during service but the Sandman got the best of me and I fell asleep right before the choir got up to sing. Waking up just in time, I walked over to the microphone and accidentally yawned loudly as the organist started to play His Eye is on the Sparrow. Right after our musical selection, my mother signaled for me to come down from the pulpit. I thought she was going to tell me how good I did or even give me a hug. As soon as I got next to her she patted the pew, motioning for me to sit down. Out of nowhere she plucked me right in my mouth. I swear the whole church must’ve heard it. A few people mumbled and some even praised her saying “That’s what she gets for sleeping in church.” Now fast forwarding, my parents still believed in “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.” At the age of 16 back talking them would still get you smacked.
As the school year went on Mike and myself got closer, but not the closeness I hoped. During lunch and in the halls between classes he would give me a quick wink or the infamous one handed hug, you know, the same hug you give the old deaconess that smells like Ben gay cream and pocket mints. I would always blush and feel special during our brief encounters until I look over his shoulder and notice one of the cheerleaders or whichever girl was in rotation at that time waiting in the stairwell for him. Although we had each other’s numbers Mark never called me and I never called him. I’ve picked up the phone many times and dialed the first couple digits of his number then fear took over and I hung up.
One night I searched his name on MySpace after hearing him talking to Carl in homeroom about it and sent him a friend request. That was a Friday night. I waited all weekend and still no acceptance from him. My nerves got the best of me so Monday morning before school I logged on with the intentions of deleting my request and there it was: Michael M-Dog Coleman has accepted your request. From that moment on I was hooked. Every day after school I would run to the family room before my parents got home from work, log on to my page and “cyber stalk” Mike. It became an obsession, I couldn’t control myself. I wanted to see who he hung out with, who he was dating, how he spent his weekends and anything else I could dig up on him. The night before Valentine’s Day I followed my usual routine: dinner, shower, meet in my parent’s room for our nightly prayers then detour past my bedroom and head downstairs to the family room to stalk Mike’s page. I was dying to see who would be his valentine. My heart dropped when I logged on and saw he had another woman as his profile picture. Tears began to flood my eyes; an uncontrollable stream burned my face as I jump up from the computer and screamed to the top of my lungs “Mommy! Mommy!”
I knew the woman in the picture very well; she was a member at my father’s church in Queens, Mrs. Coleman. My mother, followed by my father and brothers Anthony and James came stumbling down the stairs. “What’s the matter Jess? And why are you still up, its way past your bedtime?”
“Look” I said barely above a whisper as I pointed to the computer screen.
My parents read what I was too scared to say out loud “RIP mommy, you fought a good fight. God gained another angel tonight. Keep my spot in heaven warm for me. Love always your son, Mark.” My mother’s began to blink more than normal, fighting back tears. After a long moment of silence my father finally spoke
“Mrs. Coleman fought cervical cancer for many many years. I hate to see her go but I’m relieved that she’s with the Father now, pain free. We’re going to the hospital, Jess keep an eye on your brothers.” I nodded my head, logged off and as soon as I heard the car pull out the driveway I ran to my room and cried myself to sleep. Yes I was hurt by the sudden news of Mrs. Coleman’s death but I was more hurt that my Mark was in so much pain. Mark didn’t come to school for the rest of the week. After the funeral he stayed home for another week. I volunteered to bring his homework to him so he wouldn’t fall behind and often sent him inspirational messages through MySpace. Even after he returned to class I continued sending him messages and helped him with class assignments, anything to get closer to him. A couple weeks later I was following my usual nightly routine, checking MySpace but this time when I logged on I damn near choked on the gum I was chewing, I had a message from Mark! After all this time he actually wrote me back:
Jessica I just wanted to let you know that I’ve received and read every message you’ve sent me. They’ve been a big help with deal with my mother’s death. Sometimes when I start doubting God I just read your messages and the pain in my heart lightens up a little. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Thanks for being a great friend! If there's anything you ever need don’t hesitate to ask.
And that was the start of our cyber fling. Mark would message me sweet little Good Morning / Good Night messages but in school he wouldn’t pay me any attention. I started saving up my allowance and brought a tight pair of jeans and a low cut shirt that showed my 34 C cup cleavage. I stuck them in my book bag and changed my clothes in the bushes around the corner from the school. Determined to get Mark’s attention in person I strutted past him in homeroom, chest out and head held high but all I got from him was “Nice shirt!”After two weeks of changing my clothes Mark still seemed uninterested although it did get the attention of a few boys here and there. The school year was coming to an end and I was desperate to get Mark’s attention. I just wanted him to say everything that he messages me on MySpace in person. I want him to proclaim his love to me. I want to make every girl that’s ever called me “Church girl, gospel geek or Jesus junkie” envious and die with jealousy every time they see me and Mark walking down the hall holding hands together. I want him to be my first. After sitting up all night dreaming about how my first time with Mark would be I couldn’t take it anymore. I tip toed past my parent’s room, down into the family room and logged on my MySpace page. I clicked on Mark’s page and my hands suddenly got all sweaty. Come on Jess it’s now or never. He might be feeling the same way and is just too scared to say it. I took a deep breath and without thinking just let my fingers do the typing.
My father’s laptop seemed to be moving at the speed of dust. I felt a panic attack coming on as I waited for Mark’s reply to upload on the tiny screen. What if he turns me down? What if I just ruined our friendship? Just then I heard someone walk past the office door. I quickly closed the computer and saw my 10 year old pain in the ass brother, James running toward me.
“Oooooooowwwwww, I’m gonna tell dad your playing on his computer!”
“I’m not playing on his computer, I’m…..umm…. making up the schedule for next week’s bible seminar.” I said knowing he didn’t believe me, hell I didn’t even believe myself.
“Well hurry up! It’s not fair, you get to hide in here and miss service while me and Ant are out there bored to death.”
“Yea, yea, yea now get out!” As he turns to walk away I quickly opened the computer. Damn! This dumb computer went on sleep mode!
“Oh yea, mommy’s looking for you” James shouts from in the hallway. Great, she’ll probably come back looking for me in the next five minutes. I have to move quick. The computer finally decided to awake from its beauty sleep. I clicked on my new messages and held my breath as I read Mark’s reply:
Umm, wow! I really don’t know what to say. I love you Jess just never knew how to say it, especially now without sounding too vulnerable. But are you sure this is what you want? I’m not shooting you down, just making sure you know what you’re getting into. You only get one chance to be a virgin and if you want me to be the one you share your first time with then ok.
I love you J,
The biggest grin crept across my face. I was on freakin’ cloud nine. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. All my insecurities went out the window. I felt beautiful. I was beautiful and more importantly I was in love and Mark was too. “Get ready girls, daddy’s gonna enjoy rubbin’ on you two,” I said grabbing my breast and lightly squeezing them. I spun around quickly in my father’s chair still grinning from ear to ear when suddenly the smile vanished and I felt something knock the wind right out of my chest. I hit the ground and when I looked up I saw my mother reading not only Mark’s message but the original one I sent him. My ears started to ring, my chest started closing up on me. I couldn’t breathe. The room began to spin. My eyes got heavier and heavier. Then I blacked out.
It took me a minute to figure out where I was. I definitely wasn’t in my father’s office anymore. Fear flooded my heart as I recalled the last thing I could remember: my mother sucker punching and slapping me before I hit the ground. Then I remembered why she hit me in the first place, Mark’s message. I felt along the sides of the wall for a light switch and turned it on realizing I was in my room. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. My left eye almost swollen shut and I had a small cut on my left ear. It was Monday morning and I knew I wasn’t going to school looking like this. I laid back down on my bed and cuddled up with my pillow and cried. I went to grab tissue to wipe my eyes and I noticed a small green, white and yellow pamphlet on my night stand where my box of tissues use to be. I wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my shirt and opened the pamphlet. A note fell out that said:
Welcome to your new school, your new home, Saint Francis Academy. Your stuff is already packed, you leave on Wednesday.
Also, we deactivated your MySpace account and disconnected your phone.
-Love Mom and Dad
- Look out for The Preacher's Daughter, coming Summer 2014