A House Divided by Kimberla Lawson Roby
Life is close to perfect for the Reverend Curtis Black and his wife, Charlotte—except their son Matthew and his girlfriend, Racquel, are about to become parents at the tender age of eighteen. Even though Curtis and Charlotte wish Matthew could focus on Harvard instead of fatherhood, they are determined to welcome their new grandson with open arms. But for Charlotte, welcoming her future in-laws is another story. Try as she might, Charlotte can’t stand Racquel’s mother, Vanessa—and the feeling appears to be mutual.
When the tension between Charlotte and Vanessa finally erupts, the stress sends an already-fragile Racquel into early labor. Everyone is quick to blame Charlotte, including Matthew and Curtis. Of course, this infuriates Charlotte—the idea that her husband would side with someone else—and it strains the relationship she and Curtis have only recently been able to repair. Her one ally, though, is Racquel’s father, but that brings problems of its own.
While Charlotte schemes against Vanessa, Curtis is consumed with his own concerns about Deliverance Outreach. A mysterious figure from his past has been sending Curtis cryptic messages threatening to take away Curtis’s coveted position as senior pastor and destroy everything he has worked so hard for. But who could hate Curtis that much? And how can he fight an enemy he can’t even name?
Times of trouble are descending upon the Black family in more ways than one. Will they be able to overcome their challenges and stand together against someone who could take it all away? Or is the Black family finally out of miracles?
A HOUSE DIVIDED by Kimberla Lawson Roby
As soon as the automatic ER doors opened, Curtis, who was dressed casually in a black turtleneck, black pants and a black leather jacket—perfect for the mild January temperatures they were having—quickly strutted through them. Charlotte left everyone in the waiting area, rushing toward him. She hugged him as though her life depended on it, and wished she never had to let him ago—she prayed this nightmare wasn’t actually happening.
“So is there any news?” Curtis asked. “I got here as fast as I could, and I called Matt while I was driving. He’s worried to death.”
“I can only imagine, and no, so far we haven’t heard a thing. Vanessa and Neil are in with Racquel, though.”
“Well, we may as well have a seat,” he said.
Charlotte really didn’t want to, not with some of Racquel’s relatives and her mother’s friends still there. They’d been gawking at her and whispering the whole half an hour they’d been there, and not one person had tried to console her. She could tell they blamed her and not Vanessa, and that they didn’t care how she was feeling. They acted as though they hated her.
But since there was nowhere else to go, at least not where they’d be able to receive in-person updates about Racquel and the baby, she went along with Curtis and sat back down in the waiting area. Curtis said hello to a few of the women, and Charlotte wanted to slap two of these Jezebels because of the way they were staring at him. Women. They knew full well who Curtis was and that he was very married, but that certainly hadn’t stopped them from smiling at him like teenage school girls. Charlotte almost laughed out loud, though, because neither of them could hold a candle to her in the looks or class department, and what she wanted to tell them was that Curtis would never have either one of them; not even if he was single and desperate.
Another half hour passed, and Curtis’s phone rang. It was Matthew.
“Hey son,” he said. “No, not yet…I know, but everything is going to be fine. I’ve been praying like never before, and I already called some of my staff members. They’re praying and they’re going to ask for everyone else’s prayers. It’s Saturday, and no one is working this afternoon at the church, but Lana is going to ask one of our administrative assistants to post it on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. A lot of the members follow them, and I know everyone will be praying for Racquel and the baby.”
Charlotte looked on as Curtis tried to calm their son and reassure him that everything was going to be okay and while she loved Matthew, she was hoping he didn’t want to speak to her. She didn’t want to have to answer the kind of questions she knew he would ask.
“Your mom?” Curtis said, looking at her, and Charlotte swallowed the lump in her throat. “She’s right here. Hold on.”
Charlotte hesitated but then took the phone. “Hi son, how are you?”
“Not good, Mom. What happened? Why did Racquel go into labor? I’ve been trying to call you.”
Charlotte knew he’d been trying to call, but she’d pressed IGNORE each time his number had displayed. She’d wanted so badly to hear his voice, but she just hadn’t been able to do it.
“Honey, I don’t know,” she lied. “One minute Racquel was opening her gifts, and the next she was screaming out in pain and her water had broken. It’s all a mystery, and I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too, and if I don’t hear something soon, I’m taking the last flight out of here.”
Charlotte had known this was coming, and she had to talk him out of it. “Sweetie, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I mean, I know how worried you are, but you just started your second semester. You really don’t need to miss any classes this week.”
“But what about Racquel and the baby? They really need me, Mom. They need me to be there.”
“Your dad and I are here, and your grandparents will be, too. Plus, we may be worrying for nothing because there’s a chance that Racquel and the baby will be fine. Babies come early all the time with no problems.”
“Still, I really need to be there. I’ll bet Racquel is terrified.”
“Why don’t you just wait until we hear more,” she said, trying to appease him. “Then, if you still think you need to come, we’ll make a reservation for you.”
“Whatever, mom,” he said. “I just don’t understand this, though. Because with the exception of Racquel’s blood pressure being a little high, she’d been doing fine, and so was the baby. I just don’t get what went wrong.”
Charlotte didn’t say anything.
“Can I speak back to Dad?”
“Of course, and honey, I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Charlotte handed the phone over to Curtis.
“Son, don’t worry,” he said. “We just have to trust and believe that God is going to protect Racquel and the baby. We have to stay prayerful.”
Curtis chatted with Matthew for a few more minutes and then told him he’d call him back as soon as they knew something. Charlotte phoned her mom and dad, her friend, Janine, and then her Aunt Emma to let them know what was going on. Curtis had dropped their daughter, Curtina, off at Aunt Emma’s before heading to the hospital, so Charlotte had wanted to check on her, too.
Finally, after another twenty minutes or so, a thirty-something nurse walked into the waiting area. “Hi, I’m looking for the Anderson family.”
Racquel’s Aunt Laura spoke up. “We’re the Anderson family.”
“And the Black family, too. We’re the baby’s other grandparents,” Charlotte said matter-of-factly, but when Curtis glanced at her disapprovingly, she regretted it.
“It’s good to meet all of you,” the nurse said. “I’m here because Racquel wanted me to let you know that she’s fine, and that she just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.”
Everyone blew a sigh of relief, and tears streamed down Charlotte’s face. Everyone hugged the person sitting next to them, and Charlotte squeezed Curtis as tightly as she could. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord,” she said.
The nurse smiled at everyone. “Okay, well, I just wanted to give you the great news, and Dr. and Mrs. Anderson will be out shortly.”
“Thank you for the update,” Curtis said.
“No problem. We all love Dr. Anderson here, so we sort of feel like little Baby Anderson is our baby, too.”
You mean little Matthew Curtis Black the Second. Charlotte wished she could yell those words out loud for the whole world to hear, but she knew Curtis wouldn’t like it, and that it would likely infuriate Vanessa’s friends and family members, so she didn’t.
“We really do appreciate everything you’ve done for my great niece and great-great nephew,” Aunt Laura added.
“You’re quite welcome. You all take care now,” the nurse said, turning and leaving.
Curtis pulled out his iPhone, preparing to dial Matthew. “Wow, God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”
“One of Vanessa’s friends—one of the “ugly teenage school girls” who’d spoken to Curtis when he’d first walked in—said, “You are so right, Pastor, and I just know it helped having a true man of God like yourself praying the way you were. A man like you must have the absolute best relationship with Jesus, and I’m sure that’s why He answered your prayers so quickly.
Curtis smiled, and Charlotte was glad Matthew had answered his phone on the first ring because had this woman continued her flirtatious looks and comments, Charlotte would have had to set her straight and the scenario would have been worse than it had been between her and Vanessa. Charlotte hated feeling this way, but she just couldn’t stand it when women blatantly came on to her husband, letting him know they wanted him and that they didn’t care whether he had a wife or not. This woman acted as though, Charlotte wasn’t even sitting there.
“Hey, son,” Curtis said. “Great news. You have beautiful little boy, and Racquel is fine, too….yes, they’re both doing well. We’re just waiting for Racquel’s parents to come out to give us more details…no, I really don’t think you need to come, unless you maybe just want to fly in tonight and then right back out tomorrow. That way you won’t miss your classes on Monday…yeah, that would work, too, so just let me know what you decide once you speak to Racquel. I’m sure you’ll be able to talk to her soon…Okay, I love you, too, son.”
What did he say?” Charlotte said. “And why did you say, ‘that would work, too’?”
“Matt was saying that since Racquel and the baby are fine, maybe he’ll just wait and miss class on Friday only. That way, he can fly home Thursday night and stay until Sunday.”
“He really shouldn’t miss any classes at all.”
“I know, baby, but he has a new son, and I totally understand why he wants to see him. He’s a father now and if I were him, I’d want to get here right away, too.”
“I realize that, but Matt worked hard to get straight As all the way through high school. I just don’t wanna see him ruin his scholarship. It’s not every day that any child receives a four-year academic scholarship to Harvard University, and the last thing he needs is to be missing classes. Not to mention jeopardizing his grades.”
Charlotte looked over at Aunt Laura, along with the hussy who was still gawking at Curtis, and wished they’d mind their own business. They’d been listening to her and Curtis’s entire conversation, and there was no doubt they would take every bit of it back to Vanessa. They’d twist and exaggerate Charlotte’s words and have Vanessa thinking Charlotte didn’t want her own son to fly home to see his new baby, when in reality, all Charlotte wanted was what was best for Matthew and her grandchild.
After an hour had passed everyone started to get worried, and finally Vanessa and Neil came out to the waiting area and led them all to a large executive conference room. Charlotte assumed since Neil was on staff there, he could use whichever room he wanted.
“Everyone, please have a seat,” he told them. “Overall, Racquel and little MJ are fine. But I figured it would be better to speak to everyone in private instead of disturbing the other families.”
Little MJ? Charlotte kept her mouth shut, but if she’d said it once, she’d said it a thousand times. Her grandson’s name wasn’t Matthew Jr., it was Matthew II. Matthew…the…Second. Matthew…Curtis…Black…the…Second.
“The reason it took us a while to come out here,” Neil continued, “is because little MJ stopped breathing two different times, and they had to intubate him, start and I.V. and place him in an incubator.”
Charlotte covered her mouth with both hands. “Oh no.”
Curtis shook his head with sadness, and everyone else’s spirits dropped dramatically.
( Continued… )
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