Monday, December 11, 2006

EXCERPT: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
By Patricia Haley

Jealousy, gossip, betrayal, marital woes, and dark secrets, crush unity and laughter from the Reynolds family, leaving damaged remnants. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie tugs at the heart of human frailty and dysfunction, questioning whether faith and unconditional love can enable the unthinkable to be forgiven and the painful sting forgotten.

His office, slightly larger than a walk-in closet found in luxury homes outside town, was crammed with stacks of books and mounds of papers, quite a departure from the meticulous order he’d come to appreciate in boot camp forty years ago, a period of his life he labored to forget. An empty spot was hard to find. A five by seven photo with his wife and daughters, Angela and Sylvia, sat next to the picture of their only son, the one who had followed in his father’s military footsteps against his mother’s protest.
The walls followed the motif of the room – crowded, covered, concealed, except for the images of his family. They were his reason for living, the force driving him to excel at his job. Maple, oak, fake-wood, and gold trimmed metal frames containing two degrees, awards, accommodations, and honorable mentions plastered the room like wallpaper. A dozen ‘Educator of the Year’ plaques filled the room, with a few on the wall and the rest piled on the credenza. Success was abundant, but nothing was more prominently displayed or gratifying than the eleven by sixteen family photo -- his favorite. The picture represented the last time he, his wife, and all three of their children were together for a picture, not to mention he was fifteen years younger at the time. Every now and then, the dream of returning to that time in his life was the refuge he sought, void of mistakes and before the secrets became a key ingredient for his survival. He knew too well the man he was, but his family didn’t have to. He gazed around the room, reflecting on who he was today, reaffirming that the past was behind him. No room for dwelling on what was or for getting organized. Another impressionable teen entrusted to his care had found her way into his office requiring personal and immediate attention, the kind he was an expert at giving.

“Latoya, I can’t permit drinking on school grounds.”
“But it wasn’t mine,” she responded, standing in front of the desk with the timidity of an elementary school student and the body of a high school senior.
“Latoya, I’ve been more than fair with you, but I can’t keep letting you slip past the rules, otherwise the other eight graders will feel like I’m showing you favoritism.”
“I don’t care what they think,” she said in the sultriest voice a fresh new teen wanting to be an adult could muster, while leaving her seat and sauntering around the corner of the desk. She approached the chair with her age eighteen year old-looking hips following behind. He knew how to handle her type.
“It’s my job to care, I’m the principal.”
“I know but give me another chance,” she said not backing away from his chair.
He didn’t budge, wasn’t the first time he’d found himself in this situation, and most likely wouldn’t be the last. He knew exactly what she was after. Staying alert was key. “No more chances Miss Scott. You’re suspended for three days.”
“What, three days, my mother will kill me.”
Sultry turned to a boldness, sure of herself, but he was still determined to let her know he was in charge and meant business this time.

There was no doubt in Latoya’s mind. Her mother wasn’t going to put up with another problem. She’d made that clear. What if her mother finally kicked her out like she’d threatened to do two or three other times? “Please don’t suspend me. I can stay after school and do my homework, or clean the classrooms, or anything you want, please anything. Just don’t suspend me.”
They were all the same, boys, men that were so-called daddys, teachers, those at the church, babysitters, and even family. He was the principal, but she was convinced they could work this little situation out. She’d heard rumors about the principal anyway. He wouldn’t be any different, just like all the rest, once she made it easy.
“I’ll do anything, anything for you.”

“Anything?” he repeated, leaning back in his chair remembering why work and home occupied separate and not so equal spaces in his life, with rarely the two worlds crossing. He’d learned the ability to compartmentalize the thinking, feeling, and loving family man that he was from the machine programmed to survive in the war. What happened in ‘Nam, the drips of good and the craters of tragedy, stayed in ‘Nam. His family didn’t know that man, had never met him and that’s how it had to be. Daily he had to make decisions affecting the livelihood of many young students and his family needn’t be exposed to the fall out. Looking at Latoya and contemplating his options, he knew what happened at school would stay at school.

Chapter 1

Block out the painful sting of reality and concentrate on creating a night of fun, laughter, and a good time -- an oasis away from the damaging attack she and Reese were undergoing. Angela grabbed the shopping list from the seat of her SUV and placed it neatly in her purse. She would concentrate on her parent’s anniversary celebration, pushing past the cold reality that there wasn’t much worthy of praise in her marriage. If she let go of the party, she’d have nothing positive to hold on to. An hour at the party store was the spark she needed to jumpstart a festive mood, hopefully lasting a few weeks until the next sprig of hope surfaced. Angela pushed a cart down the first aisle, pausing to pull the list from her purse and get a plan of attack established. Invitations were the priority. The event was in four months and family coming from out of town needed plenty of notice.
The rickety, hard to manage cart strolled awkwardly down the aisle under Angela’s control. Mayhem and dysfunction were becoming staples in her life. Catching a glimpse of the invitation sign hanging from the ceiling located in the back corner of the store, Angela hurried the cart along, struggling to manage resistance from the disfigured wheel along the way. Without warning, she slammed into another cart crossing the aisle at the intersection, sending the infant into an instant screaming fit.

“Oh, I’m,” Angela began to say, and then let her voice go drop.”
“Angela, I’m sorry,” the woman said extracting her big infant from the cart and drawing him close to her bosom.

Could life get any worse Angela wondered? Couldn’t she have an hour at the party store to herself, one hour to try and put the pieces of her life back together? So what if planning the anniversary was a farce, she wanted, no deserved a moment to have what his deception had stolen, a taste of unprecedented happiness. At least the taste she desired wouldn’t be a price anyone else had to pay.

“Felicia, I didn’t expect to run into you here,” or anywhere else she wanted to add but caught the words before they escaped. Standing this close to her wasn’t easy. She was trying to be the good Christian wife, daughter, and sister, but it was proving to be more than she could handle. Forget about religion. Reese was relying way too much on her dignity, the part preventing her from going off on him and Ms. Felicia, the woman who was now standing right there in arms reach. She could just strangle her right here and close out that ugly, painful, dark spot in her life.
Felicia wouldn’t make consistent eye contact, but continued rubbing the baby’s back as he kept both arms tightly wrapped around her neck. “Junior’s turning one next month.”
A year already, it seemed like only yesterday to Angela when she’d found out about the child, on the other hand, it seemed like an eternity. She struggled to hold her rational thinking together. No matter how much the words sliced to her core, Felicia would never enjoy the benefit of seeing Angela crushed. She was the wife, sitting in the place of dignity and Felicia would never know different. Angela could probably wish the boy a happy birthday. Besides he was an innocent child, who hadn’t contributed to the fiasco of events surrounding his birth. Regardless, she couldn’t do it, wish Felicia and her baby a happy birthday. Why should she? The two of them, Felicia and the baby, Reese too for that matter, had made her world unbearable this time last year, questioning her worth as a woman and wife and especially her decision to wait a few more years before starting a family. Pretending had its place, looking the other way had it’s time too, but lying to this woman, wasn’t a farce she cared to engage in. She had to accept reality some time, and this felt like one of those moments.

1 comment:

Wanda D. Hudson said...

Oh my...if that man lays with that child...whew!

You have gotten my emotions jumbled! I love it! I saw your book in a promo somewhere and I saved it in my inbox. After reading this, I have to have the entire novel.


Wanda D. Hudson
Wait for Love: A Black Girl's Story

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