You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Outskirts Press (October 24, 2012)
***Special thanks to Paulette Harper Johnson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
This a story based on true events. Two best friends who were separated during their childhood. The spotlight then zooms in on Hadassah; during their adult reunion, she divulges the painful moments of the sexual abuse, murder and death that occurred in her life during her adolescence. It is a story about an ordinary person faced with extraordinary trauma and how she came to forgive and learned to embrace wholeness.
List Price: $19.95
Paperback: 138 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (October 24, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Hadassah and I planned our reunion. It was in August when we reunited over the phone at Casey’s house. We had not yet seen each other, because both of our schedules were crazy busy. We decided to do a four-day cruise touring Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico; this way we were close to home, but far enough away to spend some uninterrupted high-quality time together. We desperately wanted to see each other, and we did not want to wait until the following summer, so we planned our cruise for October during the off-season.
We agreed to meet at the Long Beach pier, where we were to board our cruise ship. It was a beautiful sunny morning, which was quite rare weather for the middle of fall. As my ride was dropping me off in front of the building at the pier, Hadassah was getting off the shuttle bus. This would be the first time that we saw each other in thirty-two years. With great anticipation and excitement, we looked for each other. As soon as our eyes connected, we immediately recognized each other. We instantly left our luggage to run and embrace. Our faces beamed with jubilation. We could drown from the tears that flowed from our eyes.
The day was like a dream come true for the both of us. We kept hitting each other to confirm that we weren’t dreaming. It was true! We were really together again. The last time we saw each other, we shed tears of sadness. On this day, though, we shared tears of pure joy. Hadassah looked at me and said, “Let me help you with your carry-on bag.”
“Oh, no, let me help you with yours,” I said. We both burst into laughter. It was like we were kids again, fussing over each other.
“Oh forget it, Hadassah said. “I’ll just carry yours, and you can carry mine.”
I agreed, and we switched bags. We nervously walked up the pier as we tried to grasp the reality of the moment. In our hearts, it was as if we had never lost touch. We turned to enter the building and check in. I kept looking at Hadassah and thinking, Wow, what a beautiful woman she grew up to be! I didn’t remember her being so attractive. I guess as little girls we didn’t focus much on outward beauty. Hadassah didn’t look her age at all, but I could tell she had matured. I finally said, “Hadassah, you are simply beautiful, girl!”
“So are you, Sylvia.”
After we had checked in and received our information packets, we proceeded toward the ship. Cruise photographers were constantly snapping pictures of tourists, but we had our own cameras. We asked a few people to take pictures of us. We also took pictures of each other. As we were boarding the ship there was yet another gentleman at the entrance taking pictures of tourists. Hadassah said, “C’mon Sylvia, let’s take an official cruise picture together.”
I said, “Okay.”
That photo captured the very essence of the moment, our internal happiness. I had not felt that depth of absolute joy in a very long time. It was like being a child all over again.
By that time it was around 12:30. We were directed by attendants to the luncheon buffet on the eleventh floor. When we got to the eleventh floor, there was music playing. People were drinking, dancing, and eating. The buffet was out of this world! There was every kind of food imaginable for lunch, but we weren’t hungry. We were still caught up in the moment. We walked around chitchatting, observing and meeting people for about an hour and a half. Finally the alarm sounded, letting us know that it was okay to check in. We received our cabin number and were directed to our room. By the time we got there, our luggage had already been placed inside.
“Um, tight, but nice,” Hadassah said as she leaned her back against the closed door of the cabin.
“Yes, and clean,” I said as I quickly surveyed the room. “Wow, look! The bathroom has everything we need.”
“I’ll let you choose first, Sylvia; which bed do you want?” asked Hadassah.
“I want the bed by the window,” I replied.
“Good, because I don’t want to get sick looking at the motion of the ocean,” Hadassah said jokingly.
We both laughed, because we remembered how I used to tease Hadassah about how much of a scaredy-cat she was when we were younger. Making fun of the small closet space, Hadassah said, “Girl, we should have brought some more clothes to put in these big ole closets.” We started laughing again as we looked around the small cabin. “How much do you think this bottle of water costs?” Hadassah teasingly asked as she picked up the complimentary bottle that was on the shelf.
“I don’t know, but I’m not gonna open it to find out.” We laughed and laughed. It seemed like everything was so funny.
We began unpacking our belongings, organizing our things, and settling in. We worked smoothly together. We were both neat freaks. It was just like old times. After that, we were called to participate in the ship’s emergency drill. This took about forty-five minutes. I then looked at the agenda and saw that Hadassah and I were scheduled for the first seating for dinner, which was at 6:00. We were happy to be scheduled for the first seating. After all of the excitement of the day, we were both ready to eat; afterwards we could briefly check out the surroundings and return to our room to relax.
This was my first cruise of any kind. I was never interested in being on anyone’s water. I heard people share their stories about motion sickness, and I had no desire to experience it. On the other hand, some of my colleagues had spoken favorably about cruises, so my thoughts were, Why not try it for the first time with my friend and make memories? It was recommended that I purchase medication to take with me in the event that I got seasick.
I found out later that it was Hadassah’s first cruise as well. She had the same thoughts about being on the ocean and getting sick; she had purchased medication also. We had more than enough medicine for several people on the ship, including ourselves, if needed.
After organizing our belongings, we decided to do our own self-guided walking tour to kill some time before dinner. We located the spa, where we planned to have full-body massages while on our cruise. We also located a couple of the discos on board; we heard there were three of them. We returned to our room, washed up, and headed for the dining area.
The dinner setup was amazing. The waiters entertained us with singing and dancing. There was a beautiful ice carving on one of the main tables. The spread resembled artwork; dinner was scrumptious. I had prime rib, a wonderful vegetable medley, a myriad of salads, and all the water and Shirley Temples I could drink. Hadassah had a seafood medley with salmon, scallops, shrimp, and oysters, not to mention dessert. The delectable dessert table was endless. We ate until we could hardly move. After dinner we were so full we had to go walking. We simply could not retire to our rooms in our bloated condition.
The ship was large; it had twelve floors. It was like a little city on water, and we planned to explore every inch of it, but that night, we only wanted to walk up and down a couple flights of stairs for about ten to fifteen minutes to get relief from feeling so stuffed. Although we still had much excitement within us and did not really want to retire to our cabin, we realized that fatigue was taking over, so we decided to go to our room to get ready for bed.
“Did you bring any music?” I asked.
“Did you?” she asked.
We both looked at each other, smiling and started laughing. It was almost in unison that we spontaneously blurted out, “Of course, I did!” We were definitely still two peas in a pod. I had packed my iPod with my cradle and miniature speakers, and so had she. We both had downloaded onto our iPods an accumulation of all the childhood songs we used to sing and dance to. Hadassah plugged in her speakers and iPod and began playing songs like “I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “Boogaloo Down Broadway” by Fantastic Johnny C, “We’re A Winner” by The Impressions, “The End Of Our Road,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and other artists, such as Jr. Walker and The All Stars, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, and many more.
Hadassah did some of the old dances we used to do, as she moved from one song to another on her iPod. “Remember this?” Hadassah taunted as she was doing an old dance we called “the freak.” She was always the better dancer.
“Of course I do,” I said as I joined in and danced with her. We danced and danced the rest of the night away. We were having so much fun. We fell onto our beds laughing as we reminisced about the times we spent together as children at the record shop. We lived the moments of our first evening together caught up in the memories of our childhood.
“Whew! I needed that,” Hadassah said as she fell across her bed from exhaustion.
“I know. We ate entirely too much. Thank God for exercise!” I said.
“Yep, if I can just get my lazy self up and jump into the shower, it will be all good,” said Hadassah.
“I totally feel you, girl. Well, you go first, and I will be right behind you,” I said as I lay across my bed.
“Nah…you go first, Sylvia. You’re not slick; you just want to get a little nod in while I’m in the shower, but no nodding for you,” said Hadassah.
“And what’s wrong with a little nodding?” I asked.
“Nothing, except I want to get my nod in too, so you can go on ahead and get in the shower. I’ll be here when you get back,” Hadassah said, laughing.
I dragged myself up and went to take a shower, hitting Hadassah with a pillow on my way to the bathroom.
After we had taken our showers and put on our pajamas, we sat on our beds and talked for a couple hours. We shared our feelings about the day and how much our reunion meant. I shared with Hadassah a few stories about experiences that had occurred in my life since our separation from each other. As I shared highlights of my teen years, which included graduations, proms, friends, and boyfriends, Hadassah smiled appropriately, but I noticed how intently she listened. I guess I expected her to chime in about similar events during her teens, since we had so much in common; however, she just listened to what I said with excitement, but without adding anything. Knowing Hadassah the way I thought I did, I found this behavior a little peculiar, so to get her to talk about herself I asked, “What high school did you attend, Hadassah?”
“Oh, I attended three high schools, Sylvia,” she responded.
“Three?” I asked.
“Yes, three. I attended tenth grade at Green Valley High, the eleventh grade at Lakeside High, and I graduated from Solano Senior High,” Hadassah said, matter of factly. From that statement alone I knew that Hadassah’s and my life had been very different. I attended one high school, Lincoln High, which was the school Hadassah and I had planned to attend and graduate from together when we became teenagers. Now she was telling me that she had attended three schools during her high school years.
As children, we often talked about our high school and college dreams. I knew attending three high schools was not her dream.
“I know, Sylvia, not exactly what we dreamed about when we were girls, right? A lot has happened in my life since we were little girls. My life was never the same after my mom and I left Los Angeles; been through a lot of grief and pain.”
“Pain?” I asked.
“Yes, girl, some serious pain, but looking at it now, I know I would not be who I am today, had my life been different. I would not want to repeat it, but I thank God for it. Once I learned how to navigate through my pain, I began to gain an understanding of who I was. When my identity took form, I was able to place things in my life into proper perspective. It has taken much prayer and practice in applying God’s principles, but the harmful effects from the weapons of mass destruction that were launched against my life have been reversed. I love the person I have become. As a result, I have been able to assist and comfort others in their hard places.”
I had a deep longing to know what had caused my friend so much pain and what made her the person she had become and why she referred to the harmful effects as “weapons of mass destruction.” I found this description very interesting. Oh, how I wished I could have been there for her, maybe things would have been different. “Do you mind sharing more?” I asked.
“No, Sylvia, I don’t mind sharing more with you at all. Although we’ve been apart for so long, you’re still my good friend. My question to you would be this: are you sure you want hear about it while we’re on our cruise? It may be a little heavy, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the cruise for you. I can share my experiences with you another time.”
“Absolutely, I want to hear it. What better time than now?” I exclaimed. “I have not found a friendship that compared with ours as children, and although we are adults, I can sense there still remains a special bond in our hearts that hasn’t been broken. I’m sure that I want to hear whatever you are willing to share with me about your life.”
“All right, girl, but would it be okay if we continued this conversation tomorrow?” Hadassah asked as she repositioned herself under her blanket. “My eyelids are heavy.”
“Of course we can,” I replied.
A combination of excitement and exhaustion had taken its toll on our bodies. It was definitely time to go to sleep. As we were lying in our beds, Hadassah asked, “Sylvia, do you pray?”
This was the first time Hadassah asked me about prayer or anything religious. I was a little surprised at the question. We never prayed as children, and our parents were not very religious. We didn’t attend church when we were growing up, except for the time or two that we went to vacation bible school at the neighborhood church during the summer. “Yes, sometimes I do,” was my reply.
“Good. Would you mind if we pray together tonight as I thank God for this awesome day he has blessed us with the privilege to see and enjoy?”
“No, not at all, Hadassah,” I said while I waited for what was next.
Hadassah asked, “Do you mind if we sit up for a moment and hold hands?”
“Sure Hadassah, no problem.”
We sat up on the edge of our beds so that we were facing each other. Hadassah extended both her hands toward me to grasp my hands, and I reciprocated as she prayed, “Heavenly Father, thank you for making this a dream come true. Thank you for Sylvia, and thank you for keeping us alive and safe over the years while we were apart. Thank you for our precious friendship, which has remained in our hearts. You smiled on us today with your love and grace, and I’m grateful. Keep Sylvia in all that she does; protect everyone that she loves. Imprint this time together on our hearts and let us add them to the many memories that we already have and cherish. Thank you for loving us and for sending your son to die so that our sins may be forgiven and that we may have abundant life. I give you honor, I give you glory, and I give you praise. I love you, Father, and I love Sylvia also. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.”
“Amen,” I whispered.
We silently sat still for a moment, continuing to hold hands. Talk about an experience! There was such a transmission of love from Hadassah to me. This simple heartfelt prayer had generated a power surge that I had not known before.
“Goodnight, Sylvia,” Hadassah said while hugging me with an emotionally warm embrace.
“Goodnight, Hadassah.” I laid my head on my pillow wondering what the rest of our time together would be like. What a lovely time we had our first day on the ship! We walked, talked, ate, laughed, and danced ourselves into exhaustion. I fell asleep with thoughts of Hadassah on my mind.