Olivia’s dreams have finally begun to come true, as she marries the man who’s held her heart for twenty years. Her beauty salon is prospering, and she has begun rebuilding her team, after seeds of discord were sowed and bonds were broken. Everything is beginning to look up, or so she thinks. When a scandal is leaked to the media, Olivia’s dream of expanding is in jeopardy. She must step up and play hard ball in a game with which she’s unfamiliar.
Nikki had dreams of building a beautiful family with a loving husband. But after looking at the shattered pieces of her broken life, she is losing hope and desires more. She wants more than the shame of barrenness, and more than physical abuse from his drinking binges. One phone call gives her courage to escape the deadly clutches of her husband. Yet, when she finds strength in another’s arms she finds herself spinning more lies. Nikki’s web of deceit is going to cost all those who are close and it could just cost her, her life.
When deception is the name of the game, who all will have to share the pain?
“Mrs. O, can I talk with you for a moment?” she asked, hesitantly stepping into the kitchen.
“Sure,” Olivia said, washing a knife in the sink. She had just prepared a fruit salad for a late night snack. She set the knife back into its place in the knife block on the marble countertop. Grabbing the bowl of fruit, she took two black glass bowls out of the overhead cabinets and walked to the table.
“Come on and have a snack,” she offered, placing the bowl before Nikki.
“I wanna thank you for all that you’ve been doing for me. I haven’t told my mom about the episode at the reception yet,” she stated somberly.
“How come?” Olivia asked, ladling fruit from the large mixing bowl into the bowl in front of Nikki.
“Thanks,” Nikki grabbed her spoon and speared a pear and twirled it around in the fruit juice at the bottom of the bowl. “Well, as you can probably guess, my mom and sister don’t really like my husband.”
“I’m sure they don’t dislike him, Nikki. They probably just do not like what he puts you through. That would have to be tough on any family.”
“I know, but it makes it hard for me to go and talk to them. I feel like they’re judging me every time I do, and the only thing they can say is, leave him.” She popped the pear into her mouth. Staring off into space, she thought of the last conversation she had with her mother about Carlos, which didn’t go over well.
“Have you shared with them how it makes you feel when they do that?” Olivia asked.
“Uh-uh,” Nikki replied, swallowing the last of her pear, “it don’t matter. They won’t listen, anyhow.”
“I see. I think you want them to just hear you out and keep their opinions to themselves, support you, right?”
“Well, that would be nice. But anyway, like I said, I wanna thank you for being here for me. But my time is up now,” Nikki stated as she stared down into the bottom of her bowl, refusing to meet Olivia’s eyes.
“What do you mean, your time is up? You know I told you that you were welcome to stay for as long as you needed. If you want to get help, I’ll do that; if you want to move out into your own place, I will help you with that, too. I don’t want you to feel rushed into anything, or like you have a time limit on you, because you don’t. I just—”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that, Mrs. O, it’s just…it’s time for me to go home.”
Olivia raised one eyebrow and swallowed past the lump in her throat before speaking. “Home?” she asked in a shocked tone, as if she didn’t know there was such a place.
“Yes. Home. I’ve been gone long enough,” Nikki stated, “and Carlos and I talked, and he thinks we can work this thing out. He’s apologized so many times. And I miss him, you know?”
“Mm-hmm,” was all Olivia said. She placed her fork into her bowl and clasped her hands under her chin.
Nikki turned away from the look of disappointment that she saw reflected there. She could take anger, attitude, rejection, and even sorrow. But disappointment, she could not handle.
“Look, I’ve been gone from home for a while now. I’ve stayed with Rory a couple of nights. Then I stayed at my sister’s one night, until I couldn’t take her pressing me about why I had left home. Then I came here with you. I’ve never been gone from home this long before. I think he realizes how serious I am.”
Receiving no response from Olivia, Nikki scooted her chair back from the table. She took her bowl to the trash receptacle, emptied it, and washed it out. The entire time she stood at the sink, Olivia sat quietly at the table eating her fruit salad.
As Nikki walked to the entrance of the kitchen, Olivia finally spoke up.
“Nekana,” Olivia called. Nikki stopped in her tracks. No one except her mother called her by her given name. “You don’t have to bask in it just because it was given to you.”
“Huh?” Nikki turned around with a scowl on her face. She had no clue what Olivia was talking about.
“Your name. Surely you know it means ‘sorrow.’ But you don’t have to carry that weight on your shoulders, anymore.” Olivia released a weighted sigh before going on. “Baby girl, when you turn it over to the Lord, He delivers you and gives you peace and joy. His word says: ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ Nikki, it’s time for you to hold your head up and stand strong. Reclaim your life. Do what you must do to be the strong, beautiful woman that you are. Trust in God, and stop fighting this battle you call life. I’ve known you for five years now, and you’ve been sad every one of them.
“Where is your joy? Where is your strength? Where is your courage? Stand up for Nekana Vincent, because no one else is capable of doing it but you. You’ve got Wesley running around here, trying to protect you. You’ve got Carlos acting a fool and taking you through hell over his drinking and jealousy. Then you’ve got your mama and sister trying to dictate every step of your life and placing their expectations on you. And if you let any one of those people down, you’re scared you will fail. You’ve already failed, because you’re trying to please too many people. Stand up for one person…you. Stop being the victim, Nikki. Fight! Fight! Damnit, fight for your life!” Olivia had come to a stand behind the table and was hitting the table with her fork with every sentence she said. She stood trembling with anger.
ABOUT CHELLE RAMSEY:
An original Georgia Peach, Chelle Ramsey is the author of five published and several waiting-on-the-shelf contemporary fiction books, with a focus on women’s fiction. Many of her stories are based in her birthplace of Atlanta or her husband’s hometown of Cincinnati, where readers can relate to local hot spots and events. Chelle wants people to become empowered to rise above life’s adversities, with faith in God, and belief in themselves. She sprinkles words of encouragement and inspiration throughout all of her real life fiction novels.
Chelle holds an MBA in Human Resource Management, which she puts to use in her property management role by day, while she writes her fiction novels by night. Her most important roles are those of a wife and mother of three. During her “me time,” she loves listening to music, and becomes enraptured with the enthralling stories of Terry McMillan, and Nora Roberts. She especially enjoys trying to solve the engaging mysteries of James Patterson and Stuart Woods, while eating a bowl of butter pecan ice cream. Chelle resides in a rural community of Atlanta, GA and enjoys writing, family time, ministering through dance at church, and watching NBA games with her husband.