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Monday, April 14, 2008

CHAPTER EXCERPT: Watercolored Pearls

Watercolored Pearls shares the story of three friends at different places in life, looking to God and each other for the keys to happiness. Serena is a former executive struggling with motherhood, Erika can't break ties with her once-abusive spouse, and Tawana's shameful past threatens to taint her future. Join these characters as they explore whether God can use their less-than-perfect circumstances to create something beautiful.


Watercolored Pearls

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

(An Excerpt – Chapter Two)


Erika Tyler Wilson stared at the unopened greeting card and debated her options. If she tore it up now, Aaron would be watching and want to know why. If she waited, she might actually be tempted to read the romantic musings scripted by the card manufacturer, as well as the handwritten message she knew Elliott had neatly penned—again.

She shifted in her seat and continued sorting through the mail while she waited for the pasta to cook.

Aaron sat across from her and colored a worksheet his preschool teacher had given him as homework. When she sighed heavily and picked up the card again, he looked up.

“What, Mommy?”

She laughed and tweaked his nose. “Why do you want to know, little man? Are you going to handle this for me?”

“Yes,” he said with a straight face. “Tell me so I can fix it.”

He had just turned four, but Erika regularly informed anyone who asked his age that he was going on forty. He was what her friend and surrogate mother Charlotte called an “old soul,” and Erika agreed—he was wise beyond his years.

“Nothing for you to worry about, sweetie,” Erika said. “Mommy’s just reading the mail. Finish your homework.”

She rose from the table and went to the stove to stir the marinara sauce in one pot and the pasta in another. She zoned in on the circular motions and tried not to be angry because of the letter. Every two weeks, she went through the same emotions.

Memories of the fear, the beatings, and the sickness of loving someone who hurt her rushed forth.

She thought about Naomi’s Nest, the shelter she had called home for nearly a year. Kodak-like images of that period flashed through her mind: the joy of giving birth to Aaron; the anguish of handing him over six weeks later for Serena and Micah to raise; interning at D. Haven Interior Designs to learn the craft from senior designer Gabrielle Donovan and the company’s owner, Derrick Haven. Falling in love with God for the first time. And eventually, with. . . .

Erika laid the wooden spoon on the stovetop and abruptly walked away. She returned to the kitchen table, still lost in her reflections. Aaron was so engrossed in coloring images that began with the letter Y that he didn’t notice.

“Look, Mommy! All done now and ready to eat!”

He gripped the paper, stood up on his chair, and leaned toward Erika to hand it over.

“Good job, Aaron,” she said and smiled. “Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”

She grabbed him around the waist and lifted him across the table, into her arms. Erika hugged him tightly and planted a loud kiss on his soft cheek.

She sat back in the chair and smiled at her son. Despite the darkness of her days as Elliot Wilson’s wife, God had created something magnificent from the best of the both of them. Aaron had been graced with their similar honey complexions and thin frames; he was the perfect combination of both parents.

When he spent time with Elliott during supervised visits, no one doubted that the two were father and son. Yet put the boy next to Erika and there was the same effect—he looked just like his mom.

He was still young enough that the life that had been crafted for him was the only normal he knew. It made sense to Aaron that the bedroom he slept in every night used to be Aunt Serena’s when she was a girl, growing up in this North Richmond ranch-style house.

“Doesn’t everybody have someone like Aunt Serena and Uncle Micah?” he once asked Erika, when a friend at preschool told him he was moving into a new house his parents had built.

Erika snuggled with her son until he squirmed away.

“What’s in here, Mommy? A birthday card?”

He had noticed the pink envelope that bore Elliott’s Chesterfield County return address. Thank goodness he couldn’t read.

Before she could dream up an appropriate answer, the doorbell saved her. Erika walked to the living room and stood on her tiptoes to peer through the front door’s peephole.

Gabrielle was just in time for dinner. She opened the door and headed back toward the kitchen. “Had to work later than usual?”

“Yeah,” Gabrielle replied. “Had an evening meeting to finalize the papers for the Mitchell deal. The spaghetti smells good.”

Gabrielle lived two hours away, in Northern Virginia, where the main office of D. Haven Designs was located. When the interior design firm that also employed Erika opened a Richmond office two years ago, Gabrielle began traveling to the capital city twice a week.

Erika worked full-time in Richmond and insisted that Gabrielle stay in the extra bedroom of the house she was renting from Serena and Micah.

The arrangement worked well, for a number of reasons. Among them was that it meant she didn’t always have to do “Elliott watch” alone.

Gabrielle took her briefcase to the guest room and returned seconds later. She strolled to the kitchen sink and washed her hands with the antibacterial soap perched on the window ledge. When Aaron leapt from the table to find the tennis ball a neighbor had given him earlier that day, the stack of mail caught Gabrielle’s eye.

“Another card, huh? Wonder what he’s saying this time,” she said softly, mindful that Aaron would return in a few seconds.

Erika shrugged and set three plates on the table, including a miniature one, with an image of Scooby-Doo on it.

“I see him at church, serving as an usher. I know he provides free legal counsel on small cases for members who can’t afford representation.

“But I don’t trust him. He says he’s giving me space, but these cards keep coming,” Erika said. “Like clockwork. On the first and fifteenth of every month. The day of the month we met and the day of the month we married.”

Gabrielle shook her head and scanned the hallway for Aaron. “I hope you’re keeping them. For evidence.”

“Most of them, unless I get frustrated and rip them apart,” Erika laughed sheepishly. “That’s happened a few times.” She picked up the envelope and fingered it.

“Why not read it? I know I’ve heard it all before.”

She tore open the card and sighed at the cover: “‘If love had another name, it would be yours . . .’” Her eyes widened when she read the message inside.

“What?” Gabrielle asked.

“He says he’s found someone else. He wants a divorce.”

© Do not copy or reprint without permission from Baker Publishing Group.

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