Happily Even After

Happily Even After

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by Marilynn Griffith

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I marry a gorgeous executive, have a baby, lose all the weight (most of it)—and move to a fine house in the suburbs with a welcoming new church. Wait—did I say welcoming? One teeny waaah! and new mothers and their crying babies are exiled to a separate room. At least there's some enlightening conversation. Like about my husband and issues I didn't


I marry a gorgeous executive, have a baby, lose all the weight (most of it)—and move to a fine house in the suburbs with a welcoming new church. Wait—did I say welcoming? One teeny waaah! and new mothers and their crying babies are exiled to a separate room. At least there's some enlightening conversation. Like about my husband and issues I didn't even know about! And then there's my aptly named mother-in-law,

Queen Elizabeth, who can't stand me.

I'm about to lose my mind! So it's high time for a visit to the Sassy Sistahood for some much-needed advice about men, marriage and motherhood!

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Steeple Hill Books
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Steeple Hill Cafe Series
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All hail the Queen!

My gold dress drapes the floor as I approach, taking my seat beside the King of all creation. He's called me forward, invited me into His throne room. I'm blessed and embarrassed. I haven't seen Him all week. With only a slight tiara adjustment, I stand before the King and step onto a tiny, tiny scale….

"Tracey! Don't you hear this baby crying out here? You've been in that bathroom for, like, an hour! And now you're in there screaming? What's that about?"

The heavenly throne room faded. My velvet gown became a pink terry-cloth bathrobe. The toilet in my secret bathroom, the only one of the six lavatories in my home far enough away from my bedroom for me to feel safe enough to step on a scale, was no longer my throne. The overhead fan, which usually drowned out my screams when I stepped on the scale, must have finally failed. It was my favorite and most dreaded day of the week.


Church with my mother-in-law and weigh-in day wrapped into one morning. And after months of escape in my purple bathroom, my husband had found me out. Was nothing sacred?

"Coming!" I grabbed my throat, realizing that I was still speaking in my regal tone. I paused in front of the mirror and removed the plastic crown my friends gave me for my last birthday. No time to remove the face paint or the body glitter, though. Oh well. After almost two years of marriage, Ryan should know that I'm a little crazy by now, shouldn't he?

Armed with a wet washrag, I scurried out of my secret room, scrubbing my face like a dingy wall as I went. By the time I reached my bedroom on the other side of the house, my husband was snoring, with Lily, my baby daughter, resting on his chest. Isighed with satisfaction at the sight of them. As I tiptoed back to my retreat, though, I groaned at the sight of myself in the hall mirror. Despite my spa treatments, not much had changed.

I'm no queen. I'm not even a princess. I'm just Tracey Blackman, a fat girl from Illinois.

Stop it. You are not fat anymore.

Okay, well, I used to be a fat girl. Sometimes I feel like I still am, like I'm one Oreo away from inflating into a balloon and floating out my window.

I wondered if my husband would notice.

Probably not.

My baby girl would notice, though, since I'd be taking her favorite sources of sustenance, also known as "the girls," which were currently overflowing my nursing bra, with me. (I like that word, sustenance. It's so…purposeful. Don't you think?) Since I've got the booby juice and because I know that Ryan really loves me, I'll forgo the Oreo and settle for my life as a slightly lumpy postpartum person. I read that in a parenting magazine over the weekend, that men can get postpartum depression too, so the term should apply to "post-partum people." I canceled my subscription after that, though the laughing fit did keep me from finishing a pint of ice cream that I hadn't realized I was even eating.

That's how I became a fat girl, silently polishing off the ends of cartons and bottoms of boxes like an efficient little machine. My grandmother taught me not to waste anything. Perhaps I internalized that message a little too deeply. I wish she'd lived long enough to see me at this size, let alone the size-six wedding dress packed up in the attic.

I felt like a fake that day in that itty-bitty dress. I still feel like that sometimes, though a lot less often since my dress size has doubled to a twelve. I walk around thinking that any minute somebody is going to find me out and scream, "fat girl undercover!" Once I was on the elevator and a big girl got off and a lady started joking to me about how overweight the woman was. I felt like some kind of spy from the fat side. After several attempts to say something nice without becoming physically violent, I explained that I thought the girl was beautiful. That was one quiet elevator ride. About as quiet as it is in my bathroom now.

After the weigh-in trauma, I was usually in here getting my praise on with Donnie McClurkin or Fred Hammond, but this morning it was just me, God and my scale. And one of us was saying the wrong thing.

Maybe I wasn't standing up straight. Right. That was it. I looked around my royal bathroom for a good laugh, taking in the purple-and-gold decor and crown furnishings. I keep it locked all week and far as I knew, my husband didn't come in here. I sure hoped not. This place was for praying, pampering and fighting the digital dragon also known as my scale.

The whole thing started with collecting princess decor for my daughter's future bedroom. Every little girl wanted to be a princess, right? Then one day I found myself crying after a tongue-lashing from my mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (yes, that's really her name). I decided to claim a throne of my own. Sure it's a gold-plated toilet seat from eBay (it had never been opened, don't worry) but I'm so glad I did it.

Not wanting to take the chance of Ryan waking up again, I locked the door and took a deep breath before climbing on the scale one more time. I leaned forward, looking past the belly my La Leche League leader promised would be gone by now ("Nursing really burns those calories, you'll see!"), so that I could see the numbers, numbers that I never thought I'd see again.


There it was in bright red numbers, making a fool of me. Before I got skinny and got married I would have celebrated a scale that showed me those numbers (it'd probably have a bathroom to itself) even though it would have been defective. But now, a hundred pounds and four karats later, those LCD digits scare me silly, especially with today being Sunday. Though this scale is accurate to the pound Queen Elizabeth (I call her Liz to annoy her) can size me up to the ounce.

"You're almost one-sixty, you know. About a quarter pound from it. You'd better push back from the table, baby. You can't blow up like you did before. You have a family now," she said to me last Sunday on her way to the sanctified section at the front of the church. I'm surprised nobody heard the air hissing out of me, she deflated me so fast.

All that air must have followed me home from church last week and puffed me back up, because despite little sleep, little food and more exercise than I've done in I don't know how long, I gained weight. Again. And what scared me most was that I was starting not to care. When that happens, watch out, because Queen Liz hadn't seen anything yet. I can blow up faster than an air bed when I put my mouth and my mind to it.

I paused for a moment and closed my eyes, picturing myself exploding out of the tiny skirts my mother-in-law keeps buying me and splattering a crowd of people. I guess it's like being an alcoholic or something except I'm faced with the reality of my food addiction at least three times a day.

Though my husband thinks I'm kidding, I've told him more than once about the binge that could be around the corner. It could happen at any moment if I'm not careful. And I'm not usually; careful, that is. Counting things—calories, points, carbs, pick your poison—makes me nervous after a few months. I just have to believe that my thinking has changed at this point, even if I am little jumpy most of the time.

I was a much calmer person when I was fat, even if a cardiac event was imminent. Though the pictures of me back then are pretty shocking, I never really felt as fat then as I do now. Looking down at the numbers on the scale, I feel something that I'm not familiar with—desperation.

Last week, I overheard a woman in the grocery store blaming her belly on her son. He was the twenty-year-old pushing the cart! My daughter is six months old and I'm running out of excuses. After hearing that lady, I vowed to lose at least a pound. Instead, I gained two.


Before Queen Liz shrunk me down (or blew me up) to size, I'd actually thought I was looking cute last Sunday at church. This week, I look a hot mess…and I know it. Seven nights of a colicky baby crying paired with two server crashes for my Web design clients leave a sistah looking a little tired. Not that Queen Liz will accept that as an excuse. To hear her tell it, all I need is a good hair relaxer, better use of my college degree and of course, one good round of Jenny Craig.

"We don't have to mention it to Ryan or anything. It'd be just between us girls. You can rip off the labels on the meals and tell him that they're TV dinners. By the time he figures it out, you'll be too cute for him to care!" my loving mother-in-law typed above the forwarded e-mail with the latest Jenny Craig special. She'd tucked a Weight Watchers gift certificate in the diaper bag she bought me months before.

Since I never mentioned the gift certificate and obviously didn't use it, the Queen moved on to Jenny Craig, citing a friend's success with the program. "That girl was big as a house before."

Wow, Mom. That makes me feel good, I remember thinking. Yeah, Mom. As evil as she can be, that's what the Queen wants me to call her. The sad thing? I want to call her that. Getting a wonderful husband would have been enough, but getting a mother seemed too good to be true.…

It was.

This probably would be easier if I had more memories of my mother or if my grandmother was still alive, but I don't and she isn't. I thought I'd worked through all my "Are you my mommy?" issues until I got married and had my own baby girl, my sweet Lily. She looks a lot like my mother, same cinnamon skin and upturned nose. Nobody else recognizes it though since my mother isn't around. What people do notice about Lily is Ryan's eyes and laughing mouth, everything from him, nothing from me. Sometimes my husband works so much that the most I see of him is in Lily's eyes. Except for Sundays.

Sundays are the days when my husband turns off his phone for a few hours and leans into me, whispering funny things in my ear. Sundays are the days when we sit in the pew knee-to-knee, arm-to-arm. Together. A family. So, fat or not, I've got to get moving. Jesus is waiting by my prayer stool, calling me to put on my battle gear, to settle my soul—

"Tracey! What are you doing in there? Didn't you hear me before? Lily's hungry. She doesn't want me."

Oh well, so much for soul settling. Duty calls. Ryan had stayed up too late working. I could hear it in his voice.

Lord, don't let it be one of those Sundays.

"Sorry, honey. Here I come." One kick sent the scale back under the sink (which felt good even if it hurt my toe). When I stepped into the hall, they were both there, my husband and my baby. They both looked happy to see me.

Ryan held a finger to his lips and shook his head when I reached for Lily. "You know what? She's okay. Sorry for yelling. I had a long night. Do you forgive me?"

I nodded and caught my breath, surprised as I often am by how good he looks, even in the morning. He is what my friend Dana calls "carelessly handsome," so good-looking that he doesn't even seem to be aware of it. Every woman in the church is aware of it, though, especially me.

He kissed Lily's forehead before kissing me lightly on the mouth and looking me up and down, pausing at all the parts I was trying so hard to hide. "You look so pretty this morning that it doesn't make sense. I'm supposed to be thinking about God, you know. It's the Lord's day. You do know that you're beautiful, don't you?" He took my hand and led me—us—to the baby's room where he put her in her crib.

Words didn't seem adequate for the moment, so I ran a hand up my husband's arm instead, thinking of how good he was to me, even before I lost the weight. His mother would have flipped if she'd seen me then. Ryan saw me, though, all of me. And he looked at me then just like he was looking at me now. Words came to me in a rush as we headed back to our room. "You look good this morning, too. Maybe we should take a few minutes to thank the Lord for what He's made."

Ryan opened the door to our room and pulled me inside. "I think that's a wonderful idea."

"Babe, can you do something with Lily? I can't drive with her screaming like that. Seriously." Ryan switched lanes and took a back street before stealing another glance at his watch. Late is not in my husband's vocabulary. Unfortunately, when you look up that word in the dictionary, you'll find my face beneath it. Though abstract concepts come easily to me, I'm often easily confused by the basics, like the location of the only skirt I can currently fit into. It's a cute skirt, thank goodness, but since we lingered too long over our thanksgiving for one another this morning, Ryan's probably done with me for a while. At present, he's a man with one mission—getting to church before his mother.

He didn't have to worry about me fighting him on this one. For once, I had his back. I prayed like crazy on the passenger's side, all the while reaching back to comfort Lily in her car seat. Things seemed much easier when she was tiny and still facing the back. I guess there's a limit to how much black leather a kid can look at, because she always fell asleep in spite of herself. Now, with a whole blaring world in front of her, there was a lot to be fussy about.

Her daddy seemed to think so, too. "Oh, come on. Get out of the way. That's not even a parking space. What in the world is wrong with this guy? Can't he see that I'm trying to get around?" Ryan honked the horn and hung his head in disgust.

I did the same, minus the honking. When Ryan's like this, there's no room to give, not a second to spare. If he could, my husband would leave the car right here and sprint to the sanctuary just to keep from being a few minutes late for service. Knowing how painful this is for him and that's it's pretty much my fault, I touched his elbow, made him an offer. "Sweetheart, I'll park and bring the baby in. You go on ahead."

His head snapped up. "You sure?"

Meet the Author

Marilynn Griffith is a wife to a deacon, mom to a tribe of seven and evidence that God gives second chances. When not chasing toddlers, helping with homework or trying to meet her next deadline, she makes soap, blogs and reads. To book speaking engagements or just say hi, drop her a note at: mary@marilynngriffith.com.

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Happily Even After 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MichelleSutton More than 1 year ago
Great mom lit! Marilynn knows how to keep a story moving. I loved this sassy tale of friendship and church ladies, love and despair, hope and frailty, forgiveness and commitment. Great stuff! I felt so bad for Tracey for the first two thirds of the book. I truly felt her pain. But I also enjoyed the drama and the tension between her and her man over his mother. Great stuff. Wait - I already said that. Anyway, this book is engrossing and entertaining and has enough twists to crimp your hair, but not your style. Okay, so that was a bit corny. Seriously, if you love sassy sistah lit with a smattering of spiritual nourishment, this book is one you'll enjoy. And the humor about her weight was pretty hilarious and realistic, too. Did I mention the romantic element was divine? I loved it!
Deborah_K More than 1 year ago
I had said before that I thought If the Shoe Fits was my favorite Marilynn Griffith book. Well I have now changed my mind. This was her best book yet. The story is great, the characters multi-dimensional, and a plot that will make you mull over about for days later. I really liked Tracey's character. She's a great mom and she keeps trying to be a good wife and daughter in law but no matter what she does it's not good enough. I would have been totally frustrated if I was her. I loved her scenes in her bathroom. It's nice to read there are others who like to escape reality every now and then to help themselves relax. Ok I will not lie. I hated Queen Elizabeth's character at first. I know that there are some mother in laws that have difficulties with their only son marrying, but seriously she was way out of whack. It hurt every time she criticized Tracey especially about her weight. I wanted to applaud the doctor who told her to get out of the room because she was hurting the baby with her words. And I hated that Ryan would not stand up for Tracey. It really bugs me about guys who let their mothers control them and will not protect their wives. Why get married in the first place if you want your mom to keep taking care of you? But when you find out why everyone acts that way, it brings a whole new light to the story. I'm glad though that while Tracey does forgive, it doesn't end with her being the one that apologizes. I hate books that end where the character that gets abused is the one that has to 'learn to love and forgive.' This was way more realistic. I also enjoyed the tidbit about church politics. It's always interesting to see how people sometimes forget the real reason why they go to church. It shouldn't be about who's better than everyone and where everyone sits. I'm really sad the series is ending. I would have loved to read more about the Sassy Sisterhood. I wish there had been a bit more interaction with the other women, and in this book Austin barely got mentioned at all. I think it would have been fun to read her story as well. However, this is just a really great book to read. It's mom-lit that you can relate to. And even if you're not a mom, a wife or daughter in law you'll find something about this book to enjoy. HIGHLY recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking for a book that looks at married love with a touch of sass? Then Happily Ever After is the book for you! Marilynn Griffith¿s latest release, this book is an honest and hilarious look at the challenges of maintaining love in marriage while establishing some badly needed boundaries. The latest installment in the Sassy Sistahood, this book focuses on Tracey. Married a little over a year to a busy executive with a six-month old baby and career to balance, Tracey¿s feeling a little lost. Where did she go when all these changes came into her life. She reacts in real, though less than perfect ways, to her husband who seems to value his mom more than her. Then there are the ladies at the new church she¿s attending who all seem to want to mold her into their image. And don¿t get her started on her mother-in-law. This book is written with so much heart that I laughed, cried, groaned, and smiled my way through it. The characters change and evolve as the book develops. Each is unique, and yet each of the women in the church reflected a stereotype that we easily fall into. As the characters develop, Marilynn sprinkles deep truths in to the mix, but in a way that it doesn¿t slow the pace of the book down at all. The book is also layered with conflict. Everywhere Tracey turns something else is happening. And she maneuvers as best she can, struggling to find a way to walk through the challenges with her husband. While part of a series, this book does a great job of standing on its own. You don¿t need to read the others to understand what is happening here. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can¿t wait to read another by Marilynn.