Don't Make Me Wait
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Amari Christopher stopped searching for her one true love after her heart was broken five years ago. Her chronically single status is no problem, though, since her job as an entertainment reporter affords her the opportunity to meet plenty of truly great lovers in the music industry. When her ex-boyfriend is tragically killed in an accident, Amari starts to rethink her party-girl lifestyle. Facing forty and determined not to be the old chick in the club, she trades in her little black book for a leather-bound Bible and starts attending church. That’s where she meets Mandrel Ingram, a stable, God-fearing man who shows her that real love trumps meaningless romps. Mandrel Ingram retired his player card when he found the Lord. After two years of celibacy and praying for God to send him his mate, he thinks he may have found her when he meets fiery, beautiful, smart Amari. While he’s attracted to her free-spirited nature and charm, he wonders if this wild-child can ever be turned into a suitable housewife. He might have cause to wonder, as Amari becomes bored with their G-rated dates and starts to miss the thrill of romance in her life. When Amari interviews up-and-coming singer Apollo Rison for an article, his no-strings, live-for-moment attitude intrigues her. Already sexually frustrated and desperate for a new adventure, Amari propositions him for a one night stand. What starts as a casual fling morphs into a complicated situation, as Amari’s rendezvous with Apollo become more frequent and her feelings for him intensify. Before long, she is burdened with guilt and torn between Mandrel, who nurtures her spiritual side and makes her a better woman, and Apollo, who feeds her creative side and provides the passion she craves. Caught between the man she wants and the man she needs, will Amari turn to God for guidance?
Release date: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Urban Christian
Print pages: 288
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Don't Make Me Wait
Her therapist, Dr. Diane Nelson, flipped back a page from the legal pad that she was balancing on her knee. The word-of-mouth reviews verified that she was a thorough but approachable mental health therapist, and Amari’s own experience with Dr. Nelson had proven that the fifty-year-old straight shooter could not be easily swayed or beguiled. After all, Amari had unsuccessfully tried to convince Dr. Nelson that a woman with Amari’s good looks, money, and connections didn’t really need therapy, which provoked Dr. Nelson to inquire, “Then why are you here?” Amari’s façade immediately crumbled, and her bravado gave way to a hysterical crying fit that lasted half an hour, during which she blubbered about everything from her first love to guilt over cluttering the environment with her incessant use of water bottles. Summarily, Dr. Nelson promptly scheduled Amari for a minimum of three follow-up counseling sessions.
Surviving the first counseling session didn’t completely put Amari’s mind at ease, nor did it alleviate her doubts and reservations about the effectiveness of therapy. How could this person, a woman known only as a licensed therapist and her brother’s prayer warrior, who knew nothing about Amari, understand? Amari glanced down at the scuff marks slashed across the toe of the therapist’s right shoe. She shook her head. The bland, rounded-toe flats, the outdated mushroom wig that framed the woman’s stoic face, and the pathetic, cerulean wrinkled flea-market pantsuit her therapist was wearing possibly were all telltale signs. A woman this fashionably challenged couldn’t possibly understand the delicate intricacies that wove the never-ending soap opera that was now Amari’s life.
Dr. Nelson cleared her throat. “For the majority of our first session, you talked a lot about how fabulous your life is with all of the lavish parties and entertainment industry events you get invited to. You said you loved your job writing for the magazine and that you have finally found the true love of your life. According to you, your life is close to perfect. To be honest, I couldn’t figure out why you thought you needed therapy until you were overcome with emotion—”
“You mean my meltdown, don’t you?” inserted Amari. “It’s okay; you can say it.”
“Well, there’s a difference between feeling overwhelmed and having what I’d describe in clinical terms as a nervous breakdown. Nevertheless, even before that, something led you to seek out therapy.” Dr. Nelson put her notes aside, maintaining intense eye contact with Amari. “So tell me, Miss Christopher, why are you here today?”
Amari weighed the question in her mind. Having accepted that her sanity was on the line, Amari decided to undergo therapy as a last-ditch effort to make some sense of what her life had become. It was true that she had all of the tangible trappings of a good life: a fulfilling career, an enviable shoe closet, and her choice of bedmates any given night of week; those things were nothing more than accessories covering a life that was nearly in shambles. There was only one bright spot left in Amari’s life, and it was her love for him that led her to therapy. As much as it pained her to ask for help or show any signs of weakness, Amari knew that Dr. Nelson’s counseling sessions may be the only way to save herself and the one relationship that had come to mean everything to her.
“I think I need help,” she finally admitted.
“Help,” repeated Diane Nelson, then pushed her thickly framed glasses up the bridge of her nose. “That’s a very broad statement. Can you narrow that down for me? Why do you think you need help?”
Amari released a slow breath; her eyelids fell with the weight of the secrets she had been harboring, many of which were unconfessed truths about herself. Finally, she was ready to face her demons. Demons, she discovered, weren’t pitchfork-carrying imps who lived in the bowels of the earth, but were invisible monsters who lived inside her head.
“I need help because I’m self-destructive,” she admitted. “I destroy every relationship I get involved in, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I can’t.” Her eyes bounced from the floor to the person a few feet behind her. “I love him too much to screw this up.”
“Why did you want him to sit in on the session today?”
“I thought you said it was okay,” voiced Amari. “He’s not going to say anything or be disruptive.”
“It’s fine for me, but I don’t want his presence to be a distraction for you. We get into some very personal, intense issues. You need to be in a situation where you feel comfortable to open up and be honest.”
“That’s why I wanted him here. I want things to be different this time around. I know he may not understand everything I’ve done or why, but I think that it’s important that he knows who I am. I don’t want to keep secrets from him.”
“Very well. Let’s start with what you said earlier. Why do you think you self-destruct in all of your relationships?” posed Dr. Nelson.
Amari glared up at her, thinking, If I could answer that question, I probably wouldn’t be in therapy! Nevertheless, not even Amari could deny that it was a legitimate question and one that Amari had asked herself after every failed relationship. She didn’t have an answer for her therapist any more than she had an answer for herself.
Amari shrugged. “You’re the one with all of your degrees plastered all over the wall. Why don’t you tell me?”
Dr. Nelson sat upright and scowled at Amari like a parent admonishing a cantankerous child. “I won’t tolerate sarcasm, Miss Christopher,” she issued sternly. “Now, we have two options. I can politely show you to the door or we can talk, and I can make an honest assessment about the situation and, with the Lord’s help, guide you into taking some positive steps in your life. Agreed?”
Amari nodded and attempted to smooth the strands of hair easing out of her messy upswept bun.
“So I’ll ask you again. Why do you think you self-destruct in all of your relationships?”
Amari slouched down in the chair. If she could’ve sunk through the leather seat cushion and the mahogany wood floor in the good doctor’s badly lit office, she would have, but as she learned during her first session, that would’ve been another form of escapism, a tactic Dr. Nelson was trying to get Amari to move past. Sarcasm used as a defense mechanism was another one.
“Miss Christopher, did you hear what I said?” Dr. Nelson asked loudly, jolting Amari back to life.
Amari wasn’t ready to respond. Her self-destructive nature was still a sensitive subject and one that she was hoping to avoid for at least two more sessions. She looked down at her knee. It was shaking uncontrollably. She glanced at Dr. Nelson’s cherry-finish grandfather clock in the corner of the office, secretly hoping that her second hour-long therapy session was soon drawing to a close. Seeing as how there were at least fifty-eight minutes left, Amari knew it was pointless to try to run out the clock by stalling.
“I think my track record speaks for itself,” she muttered at last.
“Relationships can end for a variety of reasons. How can you be solely responsible for a situation that it generally takes at least two people to create?”
“Because I’m the common denominator.”
“That’s what we’re here to talk about, right?”
Amari’s pulse quickened. She knew that she was mere moments away from having her life and ego ripped to shreds by the doctor’s analysis. Amari exhaled and counted to ten slowly. “I apologize. This is really hard for me, especially when I know that Armand’s made me out to look like some kind of oversexed Jezebel. He’s in no position to talk, you know! I can’t count the number of women he ran through before his so-called spiritual rebirth.”
“Your brother never said anything like that, just that you were lost and confused, but his version is just that—his version. The only version that matters right now is yours.”
Amari had longed to tell someone her side, to make people understand that she was just as much a victim as anyone else involved. But no matter what scenario she spun, she feared that she would still come out looking like the villain.
“I’m sure you’re going to believe his side, though,” predicted Amari. “Everyone else does. Armand has a way of getting women to believe and do exactly what he wants them to. Just ask his wife or his mistress.”
“Is that what happens to you in your relationships with men? Do you feel like you’re manipulated into doing or believing things that go against what you want?” Amari didn’t say anything. Her therapist leaned back in her chair. “I’ll tell you what, Miss Christopher. Why don’t you just start talking, and we’ll go on from there.”
Start talking? Asking her to do that was like asking her to start constructing one of the Seven Wonders of the World. She had no clue how to begin. “Where do you want me to start?”
Dr. Nelson skimmed over her notes. “Toward the end of our initial session, you mentioned someone named Roland. You said he was your first love. You also said he was your first mistake. Why don’t you tell me a little more about that?”
Roland. Simply hearing his name invited a variety of emotions. Some were positive; some could be the impetus for an attempted suicide. Roland, being her first serious boyfriend, had taught her everything she knew about sex and love and, later, rejection and heartbreak.
“You want me to talk about Roland?” She cocked her head to the side. “Are you sure we can’t talk about someone else? My boss or my last boyfriend maybe?”
“Positive.” Dr. Nelson jotted something down in her notebook.
Amari closed her eyes, retracing every moment that led to her sitting in a therapist’s office that July morning instead of in her own office at Rhythm Nation magazine, where she served as an entertainment editor. No matter how she tried to spin it, all roads inevitably led back to her college sweetheart, Roland Harrison.
“Yes, the first man to break my heart was Roland Harrison,” she confirmed. “I’m sure you’ve heard of him or at least know his type. He had it all: looks, intelligence, money, charisma; a real charmer. And so sexy!” She sighed, almost in a dreamlike state. “Being with Roland was like . . . I can’t even describe it. I still get chills just thinking about him.” She shook her head bitterly. “I should have known that any Negro that fine was going to be trouble. But it would be petty of me to put all of the blame on Roland. He proved he had a wandering eye, in addition to his wandering penis, when we first began dating during my sophomore year of college.”
Amari closed her eyes and let her mind drift back to that previously closed and locked chapter in her life. Strangely, however, she didn’t think back to when they met, but rather when she kissed him good-bye for the last time.
“Roland was every woman’s nightmare disguised as every woman’s fantasy,” Amari went on. “He’s the reason for me being the mess I am today.”
Roland Harrison was no stranger to controversy or to being the center of attention. The handsome NBA player turned award-winning sportscaster was a magnet for gorgeous socialites, athletes, A-list actors, actresses, and of course, swarms of groupies, who somehow always managed to sneak their way past security. Roland was rarely without the company of beautiful women, and today was no exception as Atlanta’s most influential and elite denizens gathered at the historic Biltmore Ballroom for a celebration in Roland’s honor.
While throngs of ladies fawned over him, Amari waited for what seemed like an eternity for her moment in the spotlight with Roland. She glanced over at him, decked out in a crisp designer suit with dark subtle waves cradling his skull and his goatee trimmed to perfection. His customary smirk was plastered across his face. It was the kind of grin that let a woman know he was nothing but trouble while simultaneously making him impossible to resist.
At once, the crowd’s attention was diverted from the man of the hour to two ladies, presumably spurned lovers of Roland’s, who were engaged in a verbal altercation. It appeared that a woman in a ridiculously short red dress thought that the female in the ridiculously tight black dress was lingering around Roland too long, and a shoving match ensued that had to be broken up by menacing men in dark suits. Amari couldn’t do anything but shake her head and smile. After knowing Roland for almost twenty years and dating him off and on for many of them, she’d seen it all before. Nothing about this scene was unusual.
Nothing . . . except that this was Roland’s funeral.
Once the commotion died down, and the women were ushered out of the room, screaming obscenities at one another, the line of mourners waiting to see the body proceeded forward. Within minutes, Amari was face to face with her dead lover.
She felt a combination of disbelief and crushing heartache. Seeing him this way was surreal. Roland, with his swagger and confidence, had always been so full of life. He possessed the uncanny ability to change the energy of a room simply by walking into it. He had the same effect lying dead in it.
“He looks like himself,” she murmured, looking down at his lifeless body.
“Thirty-nine and shot down in the prime of his life,” lamented an older woman standing in line behind her. Amari sighed, tempted to correct her. According to her sources, it wasn’t the bullet lodged in Roland’s chest that killed him. Rumor had it that Roland’s live-in girlfriend strangled him with the thong she found tangled in their bed sheets before actually shooting him. It was a plausible story. Roland had always been a sloppy cheater. However, with his grieving mother sitting within earshot, Amari decided that this was not the right time or place to mention it.
Amari crooked her neck to kiss Roland’s forehead before placing a rose in his casket. Her rose had plenty of company. It was apparent that his other courtesans and concubines had the same idea. He was practically bleeding rose petals.
As Amari said her final good-byes and walked away, Roland’s mother, seated in the front row, reached for Amari’s hand. Carolyn Harrison had always been kind to Amari. Although Carolyn was in utter denial about the piece of crap excuse for a man she raised, Amari’s heart still went out to his mother. Roland had not only been her baby, he was her only child.
Amari stopped and hugged her. “How are you holding up, Miss Carolyn?”
Carolyn nodded, clutching a ball of tissue and fighting back tears. “It’s hard, Amari, but it helps knowing that my Roly is in heaven with the Lord now.”
Amari gently squeezed Carolyn’s hand, thinking, This poor thing is still in denial.
Carolyn moved in closer and whispered, “Out of all those women, I think my son loved you most of all.”
Amari smiled politely and clasped Carolyn’s hand before returning to her seat. As she pressed her way through Roland’s myriad ladyloves, Amari wondered if she should’ve been honored that out of the women Roland was fooling around with before and while they dated and the harem he sheltered afterward, she, apparently, was the one who he loved most of all. She thought maybe if he’d “loved” her a little less she could’ve avoided those embarrassing trips to the gynecologist to be treated for Chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis, and some other impossible-to-pronounce communicable disease that few people outside of the medical community had ever heard of.
Once she was seated, Amari’s mind began flooding with memories of Roland. She recalled falling for him as a college sophomore. When they met, Roland was a junior and the pride of Georgia Tech’s basketball team. It was a massive boost to Amari’s ego when he asked the shy copy editor of the school newspaper to be his date at his fraternity’s founder’s day bash. The blow to the ego was equally massive when he dumped her for a sorority princess six months later. Once that fling fizzled out, Roland was back at Amari’s doorstep with apologies and roses. A few drinks and well-placed kisses later, he was back in her bed, where he remained until a bevy of unchartered freshmen arrived on campus; then he was gone again. Once he lost interest in chasing them and she grew tired of acting she was no longer in love with him, they found themselves coupled up once more.
One thing Amari had to give Roland credit for was not pretending to be something he wasn’t. Though he professed that his heart belonged to Amari, the rest of his body was community property. The fact that he referred to her as his “main girl” as opposed to his “only girl” should have clued Amari in that Roland was not interested in fidelity, but at age twenty she was still both optimistic and delusional enough to believe that she could change him.
College graduation brought with it a job at a small publishing company for Amari, a spot on a struggling NBA development league basketball team for Roland, and Roland and Amari’s third breakup. Within a few years, Amari parlayed her job as the acquisitions editor’s assistant at the publishing company into a highly sought-after position as an entertainment editor for Rhythm Nation, a magazine dedicated to music and pop culture. By then, Roland Harrison was a shining star in the world of sports as a point guard for Atlanta’s professional basketball team and a mainstay in the tabloids, known as much for his exploits with models and video vixens as he was for maneuvering his team’s defensive plays. Because their worlds often collided, Roland and Amari never lost touch. As adults in their thirties who’d long gotten over their youthful romance, they discovered that a friendship between them could be mutually beneficial. He gave her access to pictures and exclusive quotes. In exchange, she made him look good in the press. For the past seventeen years, he’d been a part of her life. Now he was nothing more than a memory and last week’s magazine headline.
The woman who was behind Amari in line took a seat next to her, but Amari was too wrapped up in her own thoughts to notice. She didn’t want to cry; Roland wouldn’t have wanted that. One thing . . .
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