So she’s backslidden, huh? Seems like I read somewhere that God is married to the backslider, Chandler thought, doing as she asked, though his appetite was almost nonexistent.
He ate and listened in silence as she revealed how at the age of nine, she saw a billboard about a Person named Jesus Christ who had died for the sins of man. So affected by what she read, she begged her mother to let her attend one of the neighborhood churches so that she could meet this Jesus Person in person. Uzuri agreed, but only if she took her sister with her.
“Kali and I went unaccompanied the following Sunday, not just because the church was within walking distance and didn’t have any major streets crossing it, but mainly because Mama saw it as an opportunity to get us out of her hair for a few hours,” Inaya shared with a frown.
Chandler frowned also. He was rapidly developing a strong dislike for Uzuri and he hadn’t even met her yet.
“We had so much fun in church. I loved everything about it. As soon as we returned home, Kali would pretend to be the choir, singing every song she could recall from worship service. I would follow with a rousing recap of the sermons, preaching them almost word for word to Mama and anyone else that would listen. At the end, I’d give an altar call.” She smiled.
“Did anyone ever answer that call?”
“A few kids and a couple of adults did. Mama never did. But I didn’t let that stop me from serving God. I continued to serve Him wholeheartedly throughout my formative years. Going to church and reading the Bible comforted me whenever Mama treated me and Kali like distractions, hindrances, and spoilers of her fun. Our extended church family made sure we had plenty of positive activities to do and plenty of safe places to sleep when we needed to escape our mother’s wild weekend parties and the equally wild crowd that she ran with.”
Chandler just shook his head. The more he heard about Inaya’s childhood, the more he realized why she was such an advocate for children. Her testimony also made him treasure and appreciate the Edenfields even more.
“Everything changed when I turned seventeen. That’s when I fell in love. And with a white guy of all people, despite my mother’s protests against interracial relationships.” By now she had stacked all the muffins on the cooling rack.
“Aww…man! I wanted to be your first white guy,” Chandler teased, trying to lighten the mood as she took a seat across from him.
Inaya chuckled. “Unfortunately, Joe beat you to the punch.”
Chandler wanted to ask what Joe’s full name was so badly, but he refrained. That wasn’t important right now. Instead he asked, “Did your teenage romance interfere with your relationship with God?”
“Not at first. It did when my hormones started to get the better of me. I stopped going to church so much and reduced my church-related activities. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. Yet I still prayed every day. My personal relationship with God ended completely the day I willfully lost my virginity,” Inaya shared. “That’s the day that all hell broke loose in my life. My boyfriend abandoned me, then one of my mother’s boyfriends…” She paused, took a deep breath, and blew it out slowly.
“He didn’t...rape you, did he?” Chandler tightened his grip on the knife and fork in his hands. He felt murderous for the first time in his life.
“Almost.” Inaya squeezed her eyes closed, took another deep breath, and blew it out. “In any case, Mama turned against me because of that man and our relationship hasn’t been the same since. I haven’t been the same since.” She opened her eyes and looked at him, allowing him to see a glimpse of her pain before she blanked it away. “Nor have I had sex since then. Well…until last night.”
At those words, Chandler put down his utensils, then got up and gave her a comforting hug. He wanted to probe deeper, but he could tell this wasn’t the time to do so. Not only had Inaya closed up again, but based on the clock on her commercial sized stove, they had run out of physical time as well. It was time to head to their day jobs.
After helping Inaya tidy up the kitchen and pack her baked goods, Chandler led the way outside. Though she was still somewhat reserved, it was not like before. She even held his hand as they walked to her car.
Maybe there’s hope for us after all, he thought, longing to go the distance with her – in marriage.
“So you’re Chandler. We’ve heard so much about you,” Mrs. Ferguson said as she and her husband paused in front of Inaya’s car. The elderly black couple had been walking their Pomeranians again. They always walked their brown dogs just before dawn due to Mrs. Ferguson’s multiple sclerosis and sensitivity to the sun.
Inaya felt heat rush into her cheeks. Oh no! He’s going to think I talk about him to my neighbors, she thought, feeling Chandler’s inquiring gaze upon her as he closed her trunk full of baked goods. She didn’t talk about him to anyone, not even Kali, so she had no idea how her neighbors knew his name.
“Or rather we’ve heard your name repeated often over the last twenty-four hours,” Mr. Ferguson clarified with a wide grin.
Inaya’s blush deepened. She bowed her head. They heard us. How embarrassing!
Chandler cleared his throat. “I see. Well, sorry for disturbing you. Have a good day, sir and madam.”
“You too, Chand-ler,” Mrs. Ferguson said, smiling with approval as they waved goodbye and went on their way.
“I’m so embarrassed,” Inaya said, keeping her gaze at ground level.
“Would you be embarrassed if we were married?”
She jerked her head up. Is he for real? She searched his eyes for sincerity and found it. I guess so, she thought as a fresh wave of desire coursed through her veins.
“No, things would be very different if we were married,” Inaya replied. Her voice sounded husky to her own ears.
“Good.” Chandler smiled. “I’ll have to see what I can do about that. In the meantime, no more sex for either of us. Okay?” he added in a husky whisper.
“Uh…okay.” Inaya nodded with a shudder of excitement.
As she drove to work, she kept replaying the last part of their conversation. She kept trying to figure out what she just agreed to. Marriage? Or no more fornication before marriage? Maybe both.
Either way, it looks like I’m in a relationship, Inaya realized. Though she had mixed feelings about it, she was now at least willing to see where this new road took her. She just hoped this relationship wouldn’t end up cursed like the last one.
© 2014 by Suprina Frazier