Wednesday, February 27, 2008

EXCERPT: Deeper Than Love

Deeper than Love
by Linda Wattley

What could be deeper than love?

Leona Tillard is a molested angel who has grown up and now facing the world on her own. She joins the U.S. Army in hope to have a new beginning in life. Soon she learns love can mean so many things to people. She meets Nate Watkins. He falls head over heels in love with her and protects her from others including her self. But he is not the only heart she wins in the game of love; others are charmed by her touch. Nate’s love has a price, a price Leona is not willing to pay. In the end he teaches her: There is nothing deeper than love; forget what momma told you. You belong to me now.

Deeper Than Love reveals the complexity of understanding love in a world not sure of its meaning. You will find our souls wrestle with its reality as we face people that face us not knowing where either of us been. In the midst of searching for love without considering trust we discover there is something deeper than love and it owns our souls. What is it and what does it want from us. How do we shake it loose? For sure only God Almighty can free us from its clutches. Deeper than Love reveals a reality we deny; yet we face daily. Who would admit we are lost? The characters share what the world has given them in such a way, the readers will wonder how they knew our inner and deepest thoughts. Healing the foundation of our souls begins when we understand, we are not alone.

Chapter Nineteen

The next morning, I woke in a hospital bed. I wanted to go home, but I had to wait for the doctor to release me. Since it was so early in the morning, the nurses were busy with their paperwork and changing shifts. I slipped out of my impromptu room and went to see Bruce. He had been moved out of the ICU and into a regular room.

Bruce was sitting up watching TV. For the first time, in a long time, I was afraid of him. I stood in the doorway debating whether I was going to see him as Bruce or my Father.

“Come here, baby,” Bruce said as he reached his hands out to me.

I slowly made my way across the room and nervously checked to make sure my gown was completely closed in the back.

“Come here, I’m not going to bite you. I can’t blame you for feeling uncomfortable. You got to remember one thing. I’ll always love you, Leona.”

I didn’t say anything. I just sat on the edge of the bed.

“Thanks for coming to see me,” he continued as if we were having the friendliest conversation in the world. “I knew you would. You’re my little savior. The doctors tell me I died. You believe that?” He shook his head incredulously.

“Yeah, I was there when they brought you back.”

“Do you know why I’m here? I’m here because you broke my heart. My life was never the same when you left me. Sarah is good to me, but she can’t take your place. Leona, I don’t want to live without you.”

Suddenly I felt like I had just rolled in mud.

“Please don’t go there. I see you’re still a sick man. I can’t deal with this today,” I said as I started to leave the room.

“Don’t go. I’ll spare you my grief,” he said sarcastically as he slumped down in his bed.

“That was a nice letter you wrote Dennis. How did you know what to say?” I asked as I tried to change the subject.

“I told him what I knew was right. He didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t want him to end up hating himself like I did all my life because my Father didn’t understand me. I have to be honest with you; I found those words in a book my Mom gave me before she died. She told me to read it one day. Well, I saw a chapter called, ‘To My Son.’ When I read it, I thought about Dennis. I wouldn’t know how to talk like that to anybody.”

“So, you are telling me, you could have done things differently?”

“Baby girl, we know what is true and right. Whether we use it or not is up to us. We do what we want to do, and sometimes we don’t care about the price.”

“Bruce, are you telling me you knew you were wrong for what you did to us?”

“How did I become ‘Bruce’? I’ll always be your Father. Don’t take that from me.”

“Fathers can’t be little girls’ lovers too.”

“It depends on the individual and what he or she believes. Some places in this world, it is accepted. I don’t feel bad about what I shared with you. I gave you all my love. When I touched you, I was touching you with all the love I had.”

“Did you ever think about what you took from me?”

“I didn’t take anything. I gave you everything. You were the first person I ever loved. Everybody else took from me; they never took time out to understand me. You gave me everything I needed.”

“You took my right to be a virgin!”

“A virgin? That’s what you’re mad about. You can’t be serious. Why would you let a stranger take it when I was right there to do it right?”

I crossed my arms against my chest. “I thought you admitted you were sick all those years in Dennis’ letter?”

“I said what is expected and necessary when a man is dying. I wanted him to have peace about almost beating me to death. I thought that was the least I could do.”

“You mean to tell me you didn’t mean a word of it?”

“At the time, I was dying. I was trying to do the right thing by my son. I meant it as far as giving him peace of mind. It worked. At least, I hope it did.”

“So, you admit you were wrong?”

“I was scared, Leona. You know I don’t deal with fear very well. As those sick days went by, my Mom’s voice kept me alive. I began to remember every word she told me about God and life. It changed me. I guess I thought I was riding my Mom’s skirt tail to heaven.”

“You should be a new person.”

“Yeah, I’m a new person. I now know God accepts me just as I am. I don’t have to be scared anymore.”

“I thought I hated you,” I mumbled looking down at my hands. “It wasn’t until you practically died I realized I still loved you.”

“Come here,” he pleaded. “I’m not going to do anything. I just want you closer to me.”

“I’m good right here,” I said as I scooted farther away from him.

“You’re mine, Leona.”

“I heard enough.”

I got up off the bed and walked out the door. Just when I was turning out the doorway, I bumped smack into Dennis’ broad chest leaning against the wall and he didn’t look happy.

“I heard every word he said. I hate him, Leona,” Dennis said as he ran down the hall far away from me and his lying Father.

I held my head down and walked to the elevator. I felt like my whole world was closing in on me. I was the only person on the elevator, so I allowed the walls of the elevator to hold up my now weak body. Fortunately for me, my parents were coming to see me. When they saw me getting off the elevator, they helped me walk back to my room.

As soon as I hit the bed, I fell asleep.

The doctors were concerned about my blood count. I had to stay another night in the hospital. I was ready to go back to Fort Sill. I was beginning to feel like I was contaminated. All I could hear was Bruce’s voice over and over in my head, “You belong to me.” The sound of it made me want to throw up. In the back of my mind, I wondered where Dennis had gone. He didn’t come see me. I fell asleep that night with a frown on my face.

A soft hand holding my hand as it dangled out of the bed awakened me. When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see who it was.

“You’re finally awake. Your parents just left. I had to come see you. I missed you so much,” she cried as she stood up and put her arms around me.

It was Sarah. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how much I missed her over the years. She was the one I shared my innermost thoughts with when I needed to talk. We always understood each other. She didn’t let me go for a long time. I held her even tighter as I saw I needed her a lot.

“I’m sorry I hollered at you. I was so scared,” Sarah cried.

“It’s okay, and you know that.”

“Scoot over and let me lie next to you.”

I scooted over and she climbed into bed with me. It was just like the good ole days when we used to sleep in the attic together. I didn’t feel well, but I wasn’t going to tell Sarah. I wasn’t telling anybody about my baby.

“How are you feeling? Why are they keeping you?”

“They were worried about my blood. I have to stay for observation.”

“Yeah, right, you’re pregnant, Leona. When are you due?”

“Excuse me, but I didn’t tell you I was pregnant.”

“You didn’t have to tell me. I’m your sis, remember? Besides I was pregnant before, I see it all over you.”

“Okay, you’re right, but you better not tell anybody,” I said vehemently. “My baby’s Daddy was killed in a car accident.”

“Sorry to hear that. You’re keeping your baby?”

“What kind of a question is that? Of course, I’m keeping it.”

She chewed her bottom lip. “I had a baby too. Bruce wouldn’t let me keep it,” Sarah said with her head hung down.

“I have to be honest, at first I thought I wasn’t going to keep it but in my heart, I knew I couldn’t kill my baby. It’s a part of Doug and me.”

Sarah looked up at me and smiled.

“When I was pregnant, I felt so special. I was carrying life inside of me. I was my own little creator. I wanted our baby so bad. I was going to have somebody to love and love me. I couldn’t wait to see it grow. I was going to be a good mother. But Bruce wasn’t happy about it. He took me out of town to a place like a clinic. They gave me some gas, knocked me out, and took my baby. I woke up in the car as he was driving us back home. I cried for days. I felt robbed. I almost killed myself. That was the first time I ever hated Bruce.”

“He did it to protect you. You would’ve been a public shame.”

“That’s nothing new. At least, I would’ve had love in my life.”

I realized there was no need in my talking now. Sarah was caught up in the memory of losing her child. I couldn’t believe Bruce got Sarah pregnant and then took her baby. He was pure evil. Because of Bruce, I was in this hospital and no telling where Dennis was.

A muffled cough and shuffling of feet drew my attention to the door. Tony stood there for a moment looking embarrassed.

“Sorry, I’ll come back later.” He turned and walked away.

“No, wait, don’t leave,” I insisted as I gently lifted Sarah’s head off my shoulder. I attempted to jump out of the bed to run after him, but he kept walking.

“Sorry, Leona, I just couldn’t help myself. Between Bruce and talking about the baby, I lost it. It’s my fault he left.”

“It’s okay. He left because he wanted to leave,” I said sadly, knowing I needed to talk to him. I needed to know why he abandoned me.

“I didn’t know you and he were still seeing each other. He looked good with his fine self.”

“We’re not. I don’t know how he found me.”

“He knows about the baby?”

“No, I’m not telling Tony anything. He would hate me for it.”

“Thanks for coming, Leona. I owe you one. I’m going to check on Bruce.”

“All right, take care of yourself, Sarah.”

After Sarah had been gone for a while, Tony came back. I turned my head away when he stopped in the doorway. All of a sudden, I felt naked. It seemed like I had gained ten pounds; my face felt swollen like a water balloon. I was ashamed of myself for some reason. Something about Tony always made me look at myself critically, and the result was usually not good.

“Why did you turn your head away from me woman?”

“You come walking in here like you’ve been keeping in touch with me. When was the last time, I heard from you?”

“Every time I called you, they told me you weren’t there. You never answered any of my letters. What else was I supposed to do?”

“I never got any messages or letters.”

“I’m not lying. There were times this Duchess chick told me she would tell you. I gave up trying. I got my pride, you know.”

I sat up in bed, not believing what I was hearing.

“I thought you forgot about me when I didn’t hear from you. I tried to hate you,” I said as the tears rolled down my face.

“Baby, listen, why do you think I’m here? Warren called me and told me you were here. I got here as soon as I could,” he said as he sat on the edge of my bed with his arms opened wide to hold me tightly in his arms. His hypnotic cologne, strong embrace, and soothing voice made me feel like a young woman again. I relaxed and melted into his arms. I didn’t want time to take us away from each other again. He allowed me to hold on for as long as I wanted.

“What are we going to do, baby? I want to marry you and have a family together,” he whispered in my ear as he held me.

The next thing I knew I was wetting the side of his face with my tears. Those were the tears of the secret life I lived. He was very gentle with me as he waited patiently for my answer. Unable to hide in the dark any longer, I pulled myself away from Tony. He looked at me wondering what was going on with me.

“Tony, give me your hand,” I asked as I reached for it. I placed his large hand on my stomach and held it there. I took a couple of deep breaths and proceeded to tell him the truth. “Tony, remember when I told you about Doug?”

“Yeah, he was killed in a car accident.”

“I’m having his baby.”

Tony dropped my hand and turned away from me.

Tony stood up and paced back and forth several times, visibly struggling with his anger.

“Wait a minute; you’re telling me when we made love you were pregnant with another man’s baby? That’s dirty Leona.” He struck the wall with his fist.

“I didn’t know. Doug had just died, and I didn’t know how to accept that. I didn’t know I was pregnant yet. I was confused, and you made me feel like that was okay. I just took the moment. I’m sorry.”

“You’re good at keeping secrets. I got to think about this,” he said as he kissed me on the cheek and walked out of the room. I slumped back in my bed and let the tears flow.

The next day, I checked out of the hospital. Tony didn’t come back to see me or call. “Are you going to see Bruce before you leave?”

“No, I just want to get out of here.”

A man in a hospital security uniform approached us accompanied by a man who was clearly a police detective.

“Excuse me, are you Leona Tillard?”

“Yeah,” I answered.

“We need for you to come to the security office to answer some questions.”

“I’m her father,” Dad said, stepping between me and the rent-a-cop. “She isn’t going anywhere until we know why.”

The real cop spoke up now.

“Sir, there has been an attempted murder. We have reason to believe Miss Tillard may be a suspect.”

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