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If looks could kill, Lester Adams would definitely be pushing up daisies.
Rachel glared at her husband and silently played her mantra in her head: Do not act a fool. You are a strong, mature woman who has left those childish ways behind you. Whatever you do, do not act a fool.
That had been Rachel's theme for the last five years, and had helped her out of numerous situations. It wasn't working today.
This fool must be on crack. Rachel inhaled deeply. "What did you just say?"
Lester got up and began his usual pacing as he tried to explain to his wife the reasoning behind his decision.
"It's not like this is something I just want to do on a whim," he said.
Rachel massaged her temples. She had done so well at walking the straight and narrow since she'd tied the knot. Marrying Lester had been the best decision she had ever made. He kept her grounded. No, he wasn't the most handsome thing, but he loved her unconditionally, and that love had made her want to be a better woman. But what he was saying now was absolutely insane.
"I talked this over with your father and he's pleased with the decision," Lester added nervously.
Rachel remained at a loss for words. She stared at her husband. The red pimples were gone from his sandpaper-colored skin thanks to Proactiv, and she'd convinced him to shave off the red mop that had sat on his head for years. Now he wore a closely cropped fade. Right about now, though, she wished she could grab that head of hair and shake some sense into him.
"Baby, I know you don't understand this." Lester sat down next to her. She immediately stood up. It was her turn to pace their spacious three-bedroom apartment.
"You're right. I don't," she said. "I don't believe you're standing here telling me this."
"Come on. You act like I'm telling you I had an affair or something," Lester tried to joke.
"I think I might be able to handle that better than this." Rachel shot him a look to let him know she wasn't joking.
Lester sighed. "Rachel, when the Lord calls, He calls. This is my destiny. You know how I've been telling you I was tired of insurance and felt I had a greater calling. Well, this is it."
Rachel spun on her husband. "A preacher, Lester? You want to be a preacher? Even worse, you want me to be a preacher's wife?" She stared at him as if that was the absolute craziest thing she'd ever heard.
"That's exactly what I want, Rachel."
Rachel cocked her head in confusion. "What makes you think those people at Zion Hill -- 'one of the most prominent churches in Houston,' as they like to boast -- will let you be their preacher anyway?"
"Come on. After Reverend Wright got arrested in the pulpit, I think the board wants someone safe like me."
She could understand that much. That whole situation had been a fiasco. Deacon Wright had finally gotten his wish a year ago when Rachel's father, Rev. Simon Jackson, had stepped down as pastor of Zion Hill. The deacon was able to get his nephew, Milton Wright, in as the church's new preacher. The only problem was that Reverend Wright never informed anyone of his outstanding warrants for hot checks -- more than fifty thousand dollars' worth.
The police had come and arrested him right in the middle of Sunday morning service. Wright had taken off running right in the middle of the sermon with the police chasing him all the way down the street. It was a nightmare that took Zion Hill months to live down.
But what Rachel couldn't understand was why her husband had to be the replacement. "Since when did you even want to be a preacher? Besides, you haven't been to theology school or anything."
Lester sighed in frustration. "Not every minister is trained in the Word. For some, it's just a calling."
"You really think those people at Zion Hill will let somebody with no experience be their preacher?"
"I've been a member of that church since I was born, Rachel. They support what I'm doing wholeheartedly. They know me and they don't have to worry about any mess like what happened with Reverend Wright. And it's not like I'll just jump in the pulpit. Your father has agreed to mentor me. I can also take part in a six-week theological seminar. And I'll work closely with the deacon board."
"Lester, this is insane." Rachel tried to reason with him. "You can't possibly want this. Is this some early midlife crisis or something? If so, go buy a motorcycle or get a tattoo."
"Rachel, if you half paid attention to me you'd know that I have always felt something was missing in my life! I've been praying on it and meeting regularly with your father about it," Lester said. "I've even preached a couple of times at different churches in the city already."
"What? When did this happen and why didn't I know anything about it?" Sure, she was wrapped up in her own little world most of the time, but surely she would've known about her husband having a desire to preach, let alone actually having preached somewhere.
Lester cast his eyes downward. "You never show an interest in what I'm doing. I didn't want to hear you try to talk me out of it, so I didn't tell you what I was doing."
Rachel shook her head as she continued walking back and forth across the room. She looked at the family photo of her, Lester, Jordan, and Nia. Both of her kids loved Lester to death. For Nia, he was the only father she'd ever known, since her real daddy didn't half fool with her. Jordan's father, Bobby, was in his life, but the nine-year-old still loved him some Daddy Lester. Rachel couldn't believe she was about to lose the happy home she'd worked so hard to build. But that was what was about to happen because there was no way on earth she would ever be a preacher's wife. She wasn't as buck wild as she used to be, but she definitely wasn't first lady material and didn't care to be first lady material. "This is too much," she said. "This is just coming out of the blue. Are you sucking up to my father, trying to be like the great Simon Jackson?"
Lester jumped to his feet, his frustrations becoming evident. "It's not like that at all. This is not a decision I've made lightly."
Rachel put a finger in the air and began wiggling her neck. She had been doing so well in keeping her ghetto ways at bay. But so much for that. "Decision? So you've already decided?"
He lowered his voice, obviously trying to remain rational. "Rachel, please understand..." He reached out to try and take her arm. She snatched it away.
"I'm not understanding anything!" She leaned in and pointed her index finger in his face. "You understand this. I ain't trying to be a preacher's wife. I spent my life as a preacher's daughter. I hated it growing up. The church always coming first in my family. My daddy never being around. Those holier-than-thou people watching my every move and passing judgment on me. It was horrible! But I didn't have any choice then. I have a choice about this!" She was fuming and was not about to back down. She had to let him know she meant business. Lester was a softie when it came to her. Always had been. She had to make him see this idea wasn't remotely feasible.
"What are you saying, Rachel?" Lester looked like he wanted to cry.
"What does it sound like?" Rachel stared defiantly at her husband.
"It sounds like you're giving me an ultimatum: either you or the Lord."
Rachel didn't budge. "You can make it sound as horrible as you want, I'm just telling you, I ain't trying to be a preacher's wife. Let me rephrase that. I'm not gon' be a preacher's wife."
Lester inhaled deeply before speaking. He looked her in the eye. "And I am telling you," he said, his voice taking on a strength she'd never heard, "I give you everything you want and then some. I cater to your every need, your every wish. But this is something I'm not wavering on. This is my calling and if you don't like it, you can leave." With that Lester turned and stomped out of the house.
Rachel was shocked. In their five years of marriage Lester had never so much as raised his voice at her, let alone issued her an ultimatum. But he had to be confused if he thought his little temper tantrum would change her mind. He was just going to have to find another "calling," because there was no way in hell she was going to be a preacher's wife.
Copyright © 2007 by ReShonda Tate Billingsley