Faith opened her eyes and sat up slowly. She hadn’t imagined being able to rest so peacefully. After being so resistant to the idea, she now regretted not accepting sooner so she could have gotten an extra thirty minutes. Whether it was the hot water from Sister C’s shower that seemed to melt away much of the filth she hadn’t been able to mentally escape the last few months, or how she was reminded of old trips to the laundry mat with her mom because the towels and blankets had the same Bounce fresh smell, at least for this morning, she was at ease. And in this instance, the pleasant aromas didn’t stop at the comforter and pillow cases.
“I fixed us some breakfast.” Sister C set the plate of French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar, crisp bacon, and scrambled eggs with green pepper and onions on the bed next to Faith. “You must have been passed out! I tried knocking a couple of times, and finally just went ahead and used my key to make sure you were still even here.”
“I really don’t know how to thank you,” Faith said, almost embarrassed. “For the last few months, I had to sleep with one eye open. I haven’t been able to be so comfortable since I left my aunt’s.”
“And why did you leave your Auntie?” The change of demeanor on Faith’s face was blatantly apparent, so Clara quickly redirected her questioning. “Never mind that for now. You hungry? Let’s dig into this breakfast.”
“You’ve already done enough. I couldn’t.”
“You wouldn’t want to hurt the chef’s feelings now would you? Go ahead. Grab your plate and dig in.” Clara sat down on the edge of the small bed.
The first forkful of the delicious, warm food transported Faith to a magical land of breakfast. Tree trunks were made of thick bacon that you could bite from, and pieces of triangular French toast hung down from the branches low enough to pick and eat. There were bushes of fluffy eggs everywhere, and a golden stream of syrup ran through the middle of the woods. Faith grabbed a piece of the French toast and ran over to the stream to dip it in. It was so warm she stuffed the whole thing in her mouth.
“Slow down, honey.” Clara giggled. “That plate ain’t goin’ nowhere but the dishwasher when you are good and through.”
“I’m sorry. I just−”
“No need to be sorry. I take it as a compliment. Since my son left for the Navy last year, I haven’t had a chance to put my culinary skills to use. He set this whole room up, you know? Said I was cramping his game in the house, so I let him stay out here his whole senior year of high school. He’s a good boy. He’s at the Naval Academy studying to be a pilot.”
Faith was so consumed by the delectable food, she had no clue what Sister C was rambling about, so she just nodded and smiled to be polite.
“You know, God doesn’t do crazy or coincidence.” Clara took a bite of a piece of bacon that splintered into little pieces it was so crunchy. “Of all the possible careers, Pastor Thompson just happened to become a pastor, and his community outreach just happened to extend to the holding cell you just happened to be in that particular night. Of all the churches God could have led me to, it just happened to be Fellowship Christian Center ten years ago. And of all the times I could have had another one of those dang blasted nicotine fits, it just happened to be minutes prior to you running out.”
“And now we’re having breakfast,” Faith cut in.
“Exactly. Having breakfast talking about God. Were you talking about God with Brian? Were you talking about God in the foster home or in school or out on the street?” Clara had set her plate down near her feet and was now deadlocked on her young guest. “Taking all that into consideration, the years and situations that all led to this exact moment, isn’t it kind of hard to dispute that God is trying to get your attention?”
“Kinda. I mean, I don’t know.” Faith looked down at her almost empty plate. She was worried if she said the wrong thing she might mess up her chances of getting another meal. Over the last twenty-four hours or so, she had nearly eaten as much as the previous week combined.
“Ok,” Clara continued. “Sure. Let’s keep it simple. You came to the church and got breakfast and lunch. Then you came here with me and got dinner and breakfast.”
“But I didn’t ask for any of this. I−”
“That’s my point exactly.” Clara patted Faith on the knee. “When you’re out there doing it your way, you have to scrape and scrap for every penny just to eat. When God is reaching out to you, you don’t even have to ask! He makes sure his children are taken care of, and you are his child, my dear.”
“I know God created us all and everything, but it just seems like, I don’t know. Why do some people have it harder than others? Maybe God doesn’t care about everybody?”
“It’s not that he doesn’t care about everybody. It’s that everybody won’t focus on him. Even a lot of so called Christians aren’t committed like they should be.”
“But Pastor Thompson said we have free will. How free is it when not doing what God wants means we have to have a crappy life?” Faith scooped the remaining contents off the plate and shoveled them down.
Clara held her head up for a second. “Freedom of choice shouldn’t mean freedom from facts, truth, or good, ol’ fashioned common sense. It’s simple, if you know better, you gotta show better. But at the end of the day, no one has to have a crappy life, you can make your destiny with or without God however you want. There are unsaved billionaires and there are saved people on welfare. But most of the time, what we end up blaming God for, is really our own decisions that didn’t have the results we anticipated. Understand?”
Faith nodded in agreement.
“I’ve been on both sides of the tracks, Faith. On one side you have a bunch of people making excuses, on the other you have a bunch making judgments. Women like you and me, we stay true to what we do. I want you to promise me a couple of things, okay?”
Faith appreciated Sister C’s honesty. Aunt Paulette had made her go to church, but they never talked openly like this. Her aunt was always trying to act like things were better than they really were.”What is it?”
“You didn’t have to, but you shared a lot with me last night. And I promise you, that I will never violate the trust you’ve given me. Ever. But I want you to promise me, that you will never blame God for what happened to your mom, your aunt, Brian−”
“I don’t know, Sister C. I mean−”
“Hear me out, Faith. I’m not trying to be an old wench. I wish someone would have told me sooner what I am telling you now. It’s tough, but it’s right, sweetie. And if you can handle it, I promise your life will change for the better starting today!” Clara took both Faith’s hands into her own and looked her right in the eye. “There are millions of men on this planet, but your mom chose to stay in that relationship with Joe. Your aunt, she could have decided differently, but she didn’t. You? Even Brian, as convincing and charming as he was, couldn’t force you into that car. You exercised your free will.”
“No buts. No Fear. No excuses. No doubts. No guile.” Clara shook her head. “If you can embrace that, God will embrace you like a mother does her newborn. Look, he’s already trying to get you off the street before it’s too late? Those four to five months you’ve already been out there can quickly turn into four to five years! And no matter what they say, some women fall so deep they never climb out.”
“What’s guile?” Faith asked with a strained look on her face.
“It means…No B-S. Just real. Like you youngstas say, straight up.”
Faith looked down, then over at the chair where her shoes and ripped clothing was folded. She thought about all the talk she heard from the veteran women on the street. From bed bug rashes in cheap hotels to crabs, herpes, and pregnancies; even the scare of this new disease, AIDS, was killing closer to home. She reflected on the lewd comments the policemen paid to protect and serve made about ‘having a turn’ before they booked her. She thought about sleeping in random parks and hotels where the Johns didn’t have the luxury of paying hourly. She felt her lip to see how swollen it was. “How do you know God will care enough to change my life?”
Clara smiled and a tear fell from her eye. “Because he changed me and Pastor Thompson’s lives, so we could one day help change yours. That day could be today, Faith. He’s already brought you here, right?”
Faith took a deep breath and bit her bottom lip. She felt a tingle across her whole body just under the surface of her skin, and then a rush of guilt for every decision she made against the urging of her moral conscience. She thought about her mom willing to kill Joe for her well being, and Sister C’s words about how God wants better for his children. “It’s my life, Sister C.”
Clara’s face carried the weight of failure. Her jaw dropped as if she was going to speak, but she sat silent.
“It is my life,” Faith stated. “And that means I should care about it at least half as much as God, my mom, my aunt, you, Pastor Thompson, or anybody else. I want better. I want God.”
To read previous Chapters click on the links below:
Rickey Teems II is an acclaimed author, but that probably wasn’t too difficult to figure out since this is, well, a publishing website for books. What you may not have known is that his creativity spans all age groups and he has won awards and received recognition for both his children’s books and fiction novels. Teems obtained both his Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy with honors, and actively works with adolescents in mentoring and counseling programs in South Central Los Angeles. Teems is an Air Force veteran, active church member, and father to two beautiful daughters.
His award winning and faith filled works for adults include: Regression, The Healing of Love and Laughter, Fighting for Glory, Unshakeable Faith and Can I be Frank. His young adult and children’s books are: Keep it 100: Real Talk on being a Real Man, You Can’t Eat Toes for Breakfast and Why Can’t We See God (book 1 in the Harry and Sherry Discovery Series). To contact Rickey, be sure to visit: www.noguilebooks.com or find him on FaceBook and Twitter and say 'what's up.'