You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Avon A (August 25, 2009)
Angela Benson’s numerous novels include the Christy Award-nominated Awakening Mercy, the Essence-bestselling The Amen Sisters, and Up Pops The Devil. Currently an associate professor at the University of Alabama, she lives in Northport, AL. www.angelabenson.com
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Avon A (August 25, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I know you hate it when I call you that, but if you’re reading this letter, I guess it’s okay since I’ve gone on to glory. I picked up the pen to write this letter right after you left my apartment, the one you bought for me, on Tuesday, November 15, 2006. I had to write it because I couldn’t tell you all the things I wanted to say. Somewhere along the line I became one of the people in your life who received money but very little else from you. I don’t know when it happened, but today I realized that in the process I had stopped being your mother and had become your dependent.
You’ve done a lot for me, Sonny, and I appreciate it more than you ever know, but I don’t think I’ve been a good mother to you. It was much easier when you were a boy and we had so very little when it came to material things. My job then was to keep you off the streets and out of trouble, to make sure that you went to school everyday and that you got your homework done each night. I cheered you on when your team won and encouraged you when they lost. I went without so that you might have the little extras that most kids took for granted – a new pair of off-brand sneakers or a new CD. I celebrated your every accomplishment and always told you that the world was yours if only you worked hard.
And you made me so proud. When I sat in that auditorium at that fancy Ivy League school and watched you walk across the stage, I knew I had done my job and done it well. A single uneducated mother with only her faith in God for support had reared a son who had not become a statistic – dead or in-jail before twenty. I thanked God because I had done my job so well. I even took a bit of pride in what I had done. My pride increased with each of your accomplishments. That’s my boy, I would tell folks, and watch their eyes widen in surprise, as though they couldn’t believe it.
You went beyond what I’d prayed when you started keeping the promises you’d made to me. One of these days, ma, you’re going to have a big house in one of those fancy neighborhoods. Ma, you’re gonna have one of those foreign cars. I’ll make sure you get a new one every year. Once I make it big, ma, you’ll never have to worry about money or work again because I’m gonna take care of you. You’re gonna visit the places in those travel books, ma, just you wait and see. Every promise you made to me you more than fulfilled.
So why am I writing this letter? Because today I realized that I had failed you. Somewhere along the line I forgot to warn you to take care of your heart. Sonny, I fear you’ve lost it in your quest to make money, to fulfill the promises you made to me and yourself. I worry that money and power have become your gods.
I tried to tell you some of this today, but you didn’t hear me. I realized that it’s been a long time since you’ve heard me. I’ve become another check that you write each month. Oh, how I wanted more for us than that! But it’s too late for us. I realized that today.
But it’s not too late for you. While in many ways, you’ve been a wonderful son, you’ve also been a disappointment. I blame myself for not providing you with a male role model who could show you what it meant to be a man. I tried to show you, but I failed. All you learned from me was that a man provided for his family. You didn’t learn that a man also cherished his family. Maybe you mistook providing for cherishing. But they’re not the same. Not by a long shot.
You’ve got some housekeeping to do, Sonny, and it has to start with Leah and those kids. Yes, I know about them, have known for years, but I never said anything. I kept waiting for you to say something and you never did. I have two grandchildren that I never got to know because I was too intimated by you to challenge you on your decisions. A good mother would have challenged you and made you do the right thing. A good mother would have welcomed her grandchildren even if her wayward son didn’t. God help me, but I haven’t been a good mother in a long time.
I love you, Sonny. No mother could love a son more. But I want more for you and expect more from you than you’ve shown. I want you to know love, that sacrificing kind of love that a poor single mother shows her only son. With all your money and all you’ve achieved, I don’t think you know that kind of love. How can you? Everything and everybody in your life have been second to your work and your goals.
I hope to be a better mother now than I was when we were together. Know that I’m watching from heaven and looking for you to become a better man than you are. You know where to start. Take that first step. God will lead you the rest of the way.
Your always loving mother.
Four months later
You can’t buy me,” Deborah Thomas told the distinguished grey-haired man seated across from her in Justin’s, P. Diddy’s trendy Atlanta restaurant. The previously tasty salmon she’d been eating settled on her stomach with a thud. She met her lunch companion’s eyes. “Or my love,” she finished as she put down her fork. She picked up her white linen napkin and blotted her lips, fighting ball the bile that threatened to spill out. “Neither is for sale.”
She put down her napkin and was about to push back her chair when his hand grasped hers. She looked down at his hand and then back up at him, making sure her displeasure was evident in her glare. The mirth she saw in the eyes that met hers only added to her rising ire.
“I’m glad you find this humorous,” she said. She attempted to pull her hand away but he only held it tighter.
The mirth still in his eyes, he said, “You remind me so much of my mother. What you see is not humor, but joy. You have no idea what it does to me to see my mother’s face in your face, to know that her spirit lives on in you. She would have loved you so.”
Deborah snatched her hand away, remembering the contradicting emotions of joy and pain she’d felt the day he’d shown her pictures of his now-deceased mother. “And whose fault is it that she never had the chance? Whose fault is it that I never knew my own grandmother?”
He sobered then and released her hand along with a deep sigh. “I’ll go to my grave regretting the mistakes of the past.”
Good, she thought, but she didn’t voice the words. The sincerity and pain in his voice stopped her from taking any pleasure in his regrets. A part of her was glad he felt remorse because it meant that he cared a little, maybe. For so long she’d never dared to hope for his caring, couldn’t even dream that he loved her. His absence from her life all these years had been too much evidence for a young girl’s wishes to overcome. He didn’t love her. He never had.
“I’m not trying to buy you or your love,” he said, his gaze holding hers. “But there was a time when that would have been my strategy.”
Deborah didn’t respond.
“Look,” he said, leaning towards her. “I made you the offer because I think you’re right for the job. If nothing else, I’m a business man. I don’t take the future of any of my company lightly. Even though Walk Worthy was a steal and brings needed diversity to my existing publishing holdings, I admit that I had you in mind when I bought it.”
Lord help her, her heart beat faster at his words. She felt like the little girl she’d once been, the one who longed for a daddy to make her hurts go away. “I have a job that I love,” she said, overstating the truth a bit. “Why should I even consider your offer?”
That sparkle returned to his eye. “You might love your job, but I’m offering you your own imprint. Will Prisom Publishing do that for you? Though you’ve been in and around the publishing world since you were in college, you’re young yet, only twenty-eight. You’ll have to wait years to get your own imprint there and you know it.” He reached for her hand again, squeezing it lightly. “It’s a great offer, Deborah. Think about it. Walk Worthy is established enough that it has name recognition in the marketplace so you wouldn’t have to start at ground zero, yet it’s new enough for you to make your own mark both on it and with it.” He gave her hand a quick squeeze, released it, and sat back in his chair. The twinkle in his eyes was gone.
Deborah tried to stare him down, but his eyes had turned to that innocent pleading that reminded her so much of her older brother when he wanted her to agree to one of his schemes. She looked away, toward the piano where a balding man strummed the keys to a jazz oldie.
“I’m not trying to buy you or your love, Deborah,” he said, causing her to turn back him. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you these last few months. I know it’s too late for me to play daddy to you but I hoped we could at least become friends.”
Friends, she thought. I have enough friends. I could still use a father, she admitted to herself. How she hated that weakness! “So you want me to work for you so that we can become friends?”
“I want you to work with me so that we can continue to get to know each other. I’d also like to think that you can learn a few things from an old fossil like me.”
Deborah couldn’t help but smile at that comment. Abraham Martin had been described in a lot of ways -- an entrepreneurial genius and a publishing trendsetter are two that came to mind –but never had anyone referred to him as an old fossil.
“That’s better,” he said. “I love it when you smile.”
Deborah could feel herself being swept back under the spell he’d begun weaving around her since the first day they’d had lunch together four months ago. “We can’t go back, Abraham,” she said. “It’s too late.”
He shook his head. “It’s not too late. Not as long as you have breathe in your body and I have breath in mine. We’ve lost a lot of years, all my doing,” he said. “But we don’t have to lose another day. You’re my daughter and my business is your business. I’m not offering you a job, Deborah. I’m offering you your rightful place as my daughter.”