Sunday, October 19, 2008
KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER - Sharon Oliver
KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER
by Sharon Oliver
Publisher: Urban Christian Books/Kensington
Genre: Christian Fiction - Mystery/Humor
Copyright: 2008 Sharon Oliver
Published date: July 2008
Where it can be purchased: www.amazon.com; Barnes & Noble; Borders and other bookstores across the country
Keep Your Enemies Closer is a humorous yet thought provoking tale about folk in a fictional South Carolina town who must learn how to deal with life’s interruptions and deceptions without falling apart or killing one another. When a pastor skips town with money from the church and Charlotte Morley’s conniving twin cousins mysteriously vanish right along with him, her much anticipated summer vacation takes a sudden shift in course.
Charlotte came to Turtle Island to get some rest before starting her new job duties as a staff counselor at her new church home. Charlotte joined Greater Faith Center a year ago, after months of searching for a new church and after having left one that frowned upon female preachers. She didn’t appreciate being treated as some sort of she-devil just because she wore her hair in twists. Many staff members at her former church, Truth in Love Tabernacle, frowned upon her hairstyle. Members of the ministerial staff, particularly the men, looked at her hair as if it represented the devil’s horns and treated her as such. The fact that she was going through an ugly divorce at the time had also earned her looks of disapproval.
As soon as Charlotte found out that her now ex-husband, Anthony, was “fellowshipping” with one of the “sisters” from the church, she filed for a divorce. Throughout their entire four-year marriage, rumors and evidence of Anthony’s bed hopping had been surfacing. The entire church, including children, knew of his blatant affair with the young usher. And as if the pain and embarrassment caused by this illicit affair weren’t enough, one day the pastor pulled Charlotte, not Anthony, aside for a little talk. Pastor Brown emphatically told Charlotte that she should concentrate more on being a virtuous woman instead of bucking so hard for a place in the pulpit. He suggested she curtail the amount of time she spent at church, advising that she should spend more time ministering to her husband.
Point well taken and she agreed it was applicable and sound advice. However, while informing Pastor Brown that Anthony was never home for her to minister to in the first place, Charlotte also suggested that perhaps he should also have a little talk with her husband as well, right after he took his religious foot off of her neck. She politely pointed out that if Anthony would control his roving eye and strong urges to unzip his pants, the divorce would not be happening.
Furthermore, she wanted Pastor Brown to know that she was a virtuous woman and she was not bucking for a position on the pulpit. Although she longed for a chance to teach, she did not wish to take over his position as leader. She only came to church to learn, worship and serve. Anthony, on the other hand, attended church to lust, conquer and be served some human flesh. Charlotte also pointed out that she was insulted by Anthony’s decision to add salt to the wound by sleeping with a member of her church. Scandalizing scoundrel didn’t even try to go undercover with his mess.
Once Charlotte and Anthony officially separated, he and his girlfriend stopped attending Truth in Love Tabernacle. Two months after the divorce, Anthony phoned Charlotte to express his regrets. He told her that he had made a mistake and wanted her to give him another chance. Charlotte poured out her regrets also and calmly informed her cheating ex that she regretted marrying him in the first place and he could squash the idea of a second chance. The relationship between Charlotte and her pastor also deteriorated after their finger-pointing conversation and she left Truth in Love not long after that. Sadly, because of Pastor Brown’s dry and repetitive sermons, half of the parishioners also exited.
Charlotte looked in the rear-view mirror again to see if her cousins were nearby, but saw no sight of them or their rental car. It would be just like them not to go straight to the house in order to get out of helping with dinner. Despite stories that most twins are somewhat kindred spirits, everyone in the Morley family knew that Tina and Terry were not. In fact, the two had a nasty habit of competing against one another and now they were on the island acting as if they were soul sisters? Whenever the two siblings did act as if they were on one accord, history proved otherwise. The last known stunt that Tina and Terry pulled had the entire Morley family talking for months.
A few years ago, Tina somehow managed to convince Terry that they should celebrate their high school graduation by taking a trip to Hawaii, unbeknownst and at the expense of their well-to-do parents. One day their mother, Francine, received a bill on purchases made at a trendy boutique in Maui, a place she had not visited. Tina and Terry had nearly bought out the store with one of Francine’s cherished platinum credit cards. Francine was livid! She didn’t even know the two had gone to Hawaii. In fact, Francine was under the impression that the twins had celebrated their graduation in Virginia Beach that particular weekend. Tina would later claim that the whole idea of going to Hawaii and going on a shopping frenzy was Terry’s.
Charlotte grew more and more suspicious about the presence of Typhoon Tina and Tropical Storm Terry. She had briefly considered spending her summer vacation relaxing on the white sands of St. Croix. But for some reason, the pull to go to Turtle Island had been stronger. It was almost as if there was some sort of urgency that required her presence. Charlotte forced herself to stop thinking about her cousins and turned her focus back to her grandmother’s conversation with Sista.
“You know, Sista,” Mattie Mae began. “I was just thinkin’ the other day about how Esau and Betty done such a good job raisin’ Charlotte. Look at how she turned out. I’m so proud of her. She got rid of that husband the devil sent her and now she’s a minister. I sho’ do hope I get to hear her preach some day. Now as for Tina and Terry, I don’t know what to say about them two wit they little fast behinds. Ever since they’ve been here, they been stickin’ to each other like glue and always whisperin’ about somethin’. They hardly say anythin’ to me and Edmund or even Charlotte since they been here. And we raised Terry! And raisin’ Terry was like tryin’ to break in a mule, let me tell ya’. That gal is so stubborn and downright stiff! I just don’t know, Sista.” Mattie Mae sounded exasperated. “Me and Edmund done all we could, but it seems as though every time Terry is around Tina, she act like she ain’t got no sense.”
“Mattie Mae, I know they is yo’ grandchiren, but I used to always tell you them two is as crack as a sidewalk, ‘specially that Terry. Tina don’t half speak to nobody and Terry talk so proper, I don’t half know what she be tryin’ to say.”
“I know it, but Terry didn’t act so crack until she left from here,” Mattie Mae defended.
“Mattie Mae! Terry been crack ever since she first come here as a chile,” Sista corrected.
Charlotte struggled not to laugh out loud at Sista. She had always admired Sista for her bluntness. No matter who you were or what you thought about her opinions, she was going to let you have it, like it or not.
“It ain’t their fault, Sista,” Mattie Mae began to explain. “And it sho’ didn’t help that Charles and Francine was half-raisin’ them gals, lettin’ all kinds of folk in their house like that. Maybe if I had both of ‘em here wit me, things would’ve turned out different. I tell you one thing though, God sho’ got His hands on Charlotte. I can see that. And she can pray up a storm too.”
“I can remember when she was just a little bitty thing runnin’ around here,” Sista said, stretching her eyes as if she just remembered something. “Oh yeah, I forgot to ask you if you heard ‘bout Lucille’s chile bein’ on drugs? Just throwin’ her life away. These chiren sho’ know how to put a hole in a mother’s heart.”
“I did hear about that. It’s such a shame.”
“I don’t know why that gal got herself hooked on that stuff. I tell ya’ the truth. She ought to know better. You know they buryin’ Annie Nettles’ son tomorrow afternoon over at Macedonia. He wasn’t but twenty-two years old and they tell me he was on that stuff too! These young people droppin’ off like flies. They don’t realize they can leave here just as quick as us old folk can. Anyhow, I’ll talk to ya’ later on today.” Sista spotted her son, John Edward, arriving to pick her up and walked over to his car. “We gotta keep prayin’ for the chutch too,” Sista shouted back as she opened the passenger door. John Edward waved at Mattie Mae before driving off in his turbo-charged Mustang.
By this time, Edmund was seated inside the truck and had asked Charlotte what she thought of today’s sermon. Charlotte shifted to the middle of the seat to make room for Mattie Mae. She dreaded admitting to her grandfather that she slept through most of the service and was saved from doing so when Mattie Mae instructed Edmund to hurry up and drive, prompting a minor road trip spat. Edmund drove off of the gravel-covered parking lot muttering about Mattie Mae’s bossiness. After all, it was she who kept them waiting in the first place. Then like bats out of Hades, Charlotte could see Tina and Terry tailgating them in Tina’s rented BMW.
Edmund and Mattie Mae argued up until the time they arrived at the house. Edmund parked his truck on the side of the wood-frame house, running over a gardenia bush load with flowers. This careless act cost him a stern tongue lashing from Mattie Mae as she squirmed and wiggled out of the truck.
“Didn’t we just leave the church? Apparently, there wasn’t anything in the message about keeping peace,” Charlotte said to herself as she slid from out of her seat. Sensing Mattie Mae’s irritation had little to do with Edmund, Charlotte asked the Lord for insight, and in a still, small voice, she heard the words, “watch and pray.”
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