Singsationby Jacquelin Thomas
Deborah Anne Peterson knows that her singing voice is a gift from God. But her success exacts a steep price, and with every one of her beliefs challenged, she will come to realise the true purpose of her gift.See more details below
Deborah Anne Peterson knows that her singing voice is a gift from God. But her success exacts a steep price, and with every one of her beliefs challenged, she will come to realise the true purpose of her gift.
- Grand Central Publishing
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- Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt
Being on stage was exhilarating. The oval-shaped Mecca was choked beyond capacity with screaming men and women chanting her name. Like a sponge, she soaked up their adoration, then granted them a single smile.
A hush fell over the stadium and anticipation thickened the air. Deborah ran her right hand along her purple sequined gown, and waited for just the right moment.
With just a single, undetectable twist of her hand, the orchestra played the first note and Deborah spread her arms. The applause was deafening, but not enough to drown out her voice. Wrapped in a silken cocoon of euphoria, the notes flowed from deep within her soul.
Closing her eyes, she sang the final note, holding it for several seconds as the crowd roared. She stood still, not moving a muscle, allowing the moment to settle. Then, she opened her eyes.
A ray of sun sprinkled through the Madonna stained glass window and hit Deborah Anne's eyes. She squinted through the polite applause and let her eyes wash through the congregation of the seventy-nine parishioners who sat on the wooden benches of Mountain Baptist Church.
She was still standing, stuck in place, and it took an indiscernible nod from her mother before Deborah Anne returned to the choir stand.
A moment later, Deacon Miller stood. "Please turn to Psalms 90:17 for today's scripture reading."
As Deborah Anne flipped through the worn pages of her burgundy bible, she scolded herself. "I don't know why I do that," she whispered under her breath. She often let her mind wander too fardaydreaming of stadium-packed audiences, thrilled to hear just a single notefrom her. She shook her head. She had told herself many times whatever God had in store was good enough.
With the church bulletin, she fanned her face, hoping her heart would stop racing. She could hardly keep her attention on Deacon Miller's reading of the scriptures.
As the Deacon read the words aloud, Deborah Anne peered into the faces in the sanctuary. Her eyes scanned the pews, through the familiar faces of family and friends who had all attended Mountain Baptist Church for as long as she had walked the earth. Her eyes moved to the second row, and she smiled at Mother Dobson.
Alfreda Dobson, who everyone called Motherwas the oldest woman in the churchand in all of Villa Rica for that matter. Mother sat with her petite frame, held tall, like a queen on her throne.
Mother Dobson smiled and nodded, ever so slightly, before Deborah Anne looked at the young man sitting next to her. She frowned, not recognizing the face. When the young man's lips spread into a wide grin, Deborah Anne coughed, and let her eyes fall to the bible in her lap.
The Deacon was speaking, "In each of us is a talent that comes from God above. How we express this varies from person to person. But the most important thing is that we can never forget the source. Some people think that they are free to do what they want without thinking about God at all...."
Slowly, Deborah Anne lifted her eyes again, but dropped them quickly when she saw that he was still looking at her. She turned slightly in her seat, pretending to focus on Deacon Miller, but from the corner of her eye, she glanced again at Mother Dobson and the man who was obviously her guest. He was handsome cute really, with his chestnut-colored skin and baby-face features that made him look barely twenty-one.
A few seconds later, she stared at him outright, realizing who he was. Triage Blue.
Everyone in Villa Rica knew Triage Blue one of the most successful rappers in the country, and now a big screen star. But most importantly, Triage Blue was one of Mother Dobson's thirty-two grandchildren and Mother Dobson bragged about him every chance she got.
"My grandson performed for the President at the inauguration." Mother Dobson had proudly called everyone in the sixty-page Villa Rica phone book to tell them about that.
Deborah Anne glanced at the young man again. That was definitely Triage Blue. She'd seen enough front pages of tabloids, to recognize him. Mother Dobson had also reminded her recently that she had actually met Triage many years before his rise to success. It was one summer about twenty years ago when they were both about seven or eight when his family visited from Chicago.
"Now before we turn to Pastor Duncan," Deacon Miller began, "I would like to acknowledge our visitors."
After a nudge from his grandmother, Triage stood and smiled shyly.
"Well, well." Deacon Miller beamed. "I believe we have Mother Dobson's grandson visiting with us today. Brother Waters is here from California."
Triage nodded as the congregation clapped. Before he returned to his seat, he looked at Deborah Anne again and smiled.
"We welcome you back to Mountain Baptist Church and want you to know that we're all proud of what you do. Now I can't say that I'm one who knows all of your music, but my girls can't get enough of you."
Deborah Anne held back a giggle, as she watched Deacon Miller's three teenage daughters slide lower into their front pew seats.
"Keep making us and your grandmother proud, Brother Waters."
Deborah Anne lowered her head to her chest, but strained her eyes to continue watching Triage.
It wasn't until Pastor Duncan's bass voice rang through the small church, that Deborah Anne allowed her eyes to return to the altar. She hadn't even realized that the pastor had taken his place.
"Today's sermon is taken from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew," Pastor Duncan boomed, and took a handkerchief to wipe the sweat that dripped from his brow even though he'd only uttered ten words.
"From the fourteenth to the thirtieth verse the parable of the talents."
Deborah Anne sat up. One of her favorite stories.
"A talent in Jesus' time was a sum of money that was worth two years wages. But it is no coincidence that term for money, is what we use today to describe the gifts that the Lord has given us. Whether it is a talented singer or athlete, a talented businessman or even a preacher man...." Pastor Duncan sang. He paused until the chuckles faded.
"Whatever the talent is," Pastor Duncan continued, "it has been given by God, not to be wasted...."
Deborah Anne ran her hand along her throat.
"But the gifts that God has blessed you with cannot be used in just any old way. No! Your gift must be used for His purpose. Your gifts must be used for His glory. Your gift must be used to serve Him...."
Deborah Anne closed her eyes and let Pastor Duncan's voice fade into the background as she prayed. Lord, help me to know how I'm to use this gift you've blessed me with, she prayed silently. Show me what you want me to do.
Pastor Duncan continued talk-singing and strutting, admonishing them all to take inventory deep inside. "Most of you know what gift He gave you. Some of you will be wondering to your graves. But, if you pray for wisdom, God will be faithful and just. He'll answer you. He'll show you the way!"
Pastor Duncan slid into his seat and Deborah Anne joined the rest of the congregation, rising to her feet applauding through shouts of Amen and Hallelujah.
Closing her eyes, she vowed to do exactly what Pastor Duncan urged. She knew her gift, but she was going to find how she should use it. In prayer, she'd find her answer. She opened her eyes, and the first face she saw was Triage Blue, still smiling at her.
Deborah Anne gathered up her Bible, then lifted her choir robe, preparing to step from the stand. But before she could get down the five steps, Deacon Miller stopped her.
"Sister Deborah Anne, that was a fine song you lifted to the Lord today. Mighty fine."
She smiled. "Thank you, Deacon."
"I know your mother and father are proud of that gift that God has blessed you with."
Deborah shifted from one foot to the other and looked over her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, am I keeping you from something?"
She whipped her head around. "Oh no, I...was just looking for my mother."
"She's at the front door...talking to Mother Dobson."
"Thank you," Deborah Anne said before she carefully stepped down and walked slowly down the aisle toward the front doors. She paused every few steps, smiling and kissing people who praised her at every turn. Though it was just a few minutes, it seemed like an hour passed before she finally made it to the door.
"Baby, you did good today." Virginia kissed her daughter, and handed her her coat. "I'm so proud of you."
"Yessiree, sugar," Mother Dobson added in. "You have the voice of an angel."
"Thank you, Mother Dobson." Deborah Anne leaned over to kiss Mother Dobson's weathered cheek. Over her shoulder, Deborah Anne could see a group of young girls, squealing as they circled Triage.
"Would you look at my grandson?" Mother Dobson tisked. "And look at those fast girls, all over him." With a single turn and one tap of her cane, she called, "Milton, can you come over here?"
Signing one last church bulletin, Triage took quick steps toward his grandmother and the Peterson women.
Before Mother Dobson could say a word, he extended his hand to Deborah Anne. "Hello, I'm Triage Blue." He squeezed her hand in his.
"I'm Deborah Anne Peterson," she said forcefully, though her knees were weak. Triage Blue is holding my hand, she screamed inside.
"Boy, you ain't in Hollywood now. Your Mama named you Milton. Leave that Triage stuff back there. Anyway," Mother Dobson said, shaking her head and introducing Triage to Virginia. "This is Deborah Anne's mother, Mrs. Peterson."
"Nice to meet you, Ma'am."
"Mrs. Peterson used to watch your mama when I worked for the Wilton's." Mother Dobson paused, and a frown spread across her face. "Or was I working for old Mrs. Mattie King back then?"
Virginia took Triage's hand. "When you speak to your mother, please tell her that I asked after her."
Triage nodded and glanced again at Deborah Anne.
"Well, come on, honey," Virginia nudged Deborah Anne. "I know your Daddy is waiting in the car and it's a bit chilly out here."
Virginia took Mother's elbow and helped her down the stairs. Deborah Anne and Triage followed, lingering a few steps behind.
"Forget that Milton stuff call me Triage," he grinned, but kept his voice low.
Deborah looked at him sideways. "I guess you look like a Triage more than a Milton. How did you get that name Triage, I mean."
Triage chuckled. "During college, I worked in the ER at Cedars-Sinai because I wanted to be a doctor. But, I still needed to make some extra money. So I did a little rapping on the side at nightclubs and at parties and things. The music took over my life, and I decided to name myself Triage for all that it represented. And Blue, well, that's not so interesting. That's just my favorite color." He laughed.
She smiled up at him. His six-foot frame towered over her by at least four inches. His closely cropped hair made him look boyish and it was hard to believe that he was a year older than she.
"So what are you doing in town?" Deborah Anne asked.
"Just spending time with my grandmother. I have a concert in Atlanta next weekend. I love coming here, not that many people know who I am."
"It doesn't look that way to me," Deborah Anne teased, as she nodded toward a group of girls, still standing by the church giggling and pointing toward them. "Are you enjoying your vacation?
"What vacation?" Triage raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "I've whitewashed a fence and painted three rooms. I get up every morning before dawn to feed the chickens. Hanging with Grandma is no day at the beach."
Deborah laughed. "You may never come back."
"Oh, I'll be back." He gave her a long glance. "Girl, you know something. You can sing! I've heard a lot of people tackle 'His Eyes Are On the Sparrow,' but you tore it up."
She grinned widely. A compliment from Triage was worth more than all the accolades she received in church. "Thank you."
"Ever thought about singing professionally?"
"I think of nothing else. But I don't know what to do to be discovered in Villa Rica."
"Maybe you don't have to do anything. Maybe I just discovered you."
"Yeah, right," she said, kicking a gravel stone as they got closer to the car where her parents were chatting with Mother Dobson.
"I'm serious. I have a friend who's auditioning in LA right now for a back-up singer. Lavelle Roberts. You've heard of him, right?"
She stopped. "Please don't kid me."
"I'm serious," he said, stopping next to her. "All you have to do is send him a copy of a tape with a note that I recommended you. You have a tape?"
She nodded. "My cousin, Bubba, has a friend with a studio so, I've got several tapes."
"And, you've got the voice."
"Do you think he'll like me?"
"If he has an ear, he will. You sound as good as the singers he has now. Anyway," he said leaning closer to her, "it's about who you know in this business, and now you know me."
Deborah stopped in front of her parent's car. She shoved her hands deep into her coat pocket.
"Well, come on, Milton." Mother Dobson tapped her cane twice and Triage took her elbow.
"Thank you, Triage," Deborah said sincerely. "I really mean that."
"It's no big deal." Just as Mother Dobson and Triage stepped away, he said, "Deborah Anne, maybe I'll give you a call while I'm here?"
"I'd like that." She grinned.
Before Deborah Anne got into the backseat of the Lincoln Continental, she could hear Mother Dobson muttering, "What was Deborah Anne thanking you for?"
Deborah Anne smiled. If Mother only knew.
"Deborah Anne, what did you do with the lace tablecloth?" Virginia yelled from the kitchen.
"It's in the bottom drawer of the buffet, Mama," Deborah Anne replied as she entered the dining room. "I'll get it."
Virginia was still wearing the gray knit suit she'd worn to church, but Deborah Anne had already changed into her favorite tee-shirt and denim overalls and had pulled her thick black hair into a ponytail.
"Mama, why don't you go change?" Deborah Anne said as she spread the tablecloth across the dining room table. Even with the large oak table set for twelve, they'd still have to set up a couple of card tables along the wall to accommodate all the relatives who came by every Sunday. "People will start arriving soon." Deborah Anne had barely finished saying it when she heard voices on the porch. "See, I think that's Aunt Bird and Uncle Moses now."
As Virginia scurried down the hall to her bedroom, Deborah Anne opened the front door.
"Girl, you sure sounded good in church this morning," Aunt Bird drawled. "One day, somebody's going to come and suck you away from us."
Deborah Anne only smiled, knowing that she had to wait for the right moment to tell everyone her news. Before she could close the front door, her cousins Willetta, Pauline, and Maxine arrived.
Though they were first cousins, Willetta and Deborah Anne were also best friends. Born only four months apart, they'd grown up together, living next door to each other all of their lives.
"Girl, get in here. I've got something to tell you." Deborah Anne grabbed Wiletta's hand and pulled her into the dining room away from groups.
While the living room filled with loud talk and laughter, Deborah Anne kept her voice low.
"Help me set the table," she said, handing Willetta the brown case holding the Sunday silver.
"So what's the big news?" Willetta whispered back.
Grinning widely, Deborah Anne gushed, "Girl, you missed it in church today. You'll never guess who was there." Before Willetta could respond, Deborah Anne announced, "Triage Blue!"
Willetta's mouth opened wide and Deborah Anne laughed.
"Oh, no," Willetta groaned. "How could I have missed that? Did you meet him?"
Deborah bobbed her head. "I met him and Mama and Daddy did too!"
Maxine sauntered into the dining room. "What y'all whispering about?"
Willetta was still holding her head in her hands. "Deborah Anne just told me that Triage Blue was at church this morning." Willetta glared at her sister. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Maxine's eyes grew round and wide. "He was at our church?"
"Yeah, girl." Deborah Anne laughed. "That's what you get for sneaking out before Pastor Duncan had a chance to begin his sermon."
Pauline plopped into the chair next to her sister. "I love his music."
Deborah Anne said, "Me too. I love that he's so popular, even though he doesn't use profanity, or bash women like some of those others."
"Yeah, and if you listen to the words, he's really talking about taking care of family and being true to yourself," Willetta said.
"Ooohhh!" Pauline moaned. "If I had stayed in church, I could've told everyone in school tomorrow that I met Triage Blue!"
"I bet that's the last time you'll be sneaking out." Deborah Anne laughed.
The cousins continued laughing and talking about Triage Blue as Virginia and her sister-in-laws started moving the food onto the buffet table. Twenty minutes later, all eighteen Petersons were standing around the table, with Elijah Peterson at the head. Even as the smell of the macaroni and cheese and fried catfish wiggled under their noses, Elijah, the oldest of the four Peterson brothers, made the family wait until every hand was held and every head was bowed.
"Heavenly Father," Elijah finally began. "We thank you for this food that we are about to receive. We thank you for the many blessings that you have bestowed on each of us and we want you to know, Lord, that we take none of it for granted...."
As her father prayed, it took everything in her for Deborah Anne not to scream out her secret right then. But she knew she had to wait, and she was grateful when Elijah finally said, "Amen."
It took another twenty minutes for the Peterson clan to pass through the buffet and pile their plates high. It took only moments for the conversation to turn to Triage Blue.
"I can't believe I missed Triage Blue!" Deborah Anne's cousin Bubba said, as he stabbed his fork into a chicken leg. "If I'd known that he was going to be there, I would've been in church myself."
"Is that the only reason you can find for going to church, Bubba?" Elijah asked. "You know when the Lord comes back, some of his people, gonna be in real trouble. Now, I ain't calling no names, Bubba...."
The room filled with laughter as Bubba lowered his eyes and grinned. "I know, Uncle Eli, but I still wish that I'd seen Triage Blue," he said sheepishly. Then he raised his head. "Did you get to meet him, Deborah Anne?"
She nodded and took a deep breath. "Not only did I meet him, but he told me that he might know of a singing gig. Lavelle Roberts is looking for a back-up singer and I'm going to send in a tape." She stated this matter-of-factly, even though her heart was beating furiously.
An electrical shock seemed to sear through the room, silencing them all. Only the tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the living filled the air. But, it was the smile that fell from her father's face that Deborah Anne noticed the most.
Willetta was first to break the silence. "Deborah Anne, you didn't tell me that! You're going to sing with Lavelle, I love him!" Willetta held her hand over her chest.
Deborah Anne's heart continued to pound, but she kept her voice steady. "I don't have the job. Triage just suggested that I send in a tape and I'm going to do it."
To Deborah Anne, it seemed like the room parted like the Red Sea. On one side, her excited cousins jabbered about how their cousin was going to be famous. But, her Aunts and Uncles, remained silent, following Virginia and Deborah Anne, and waited for Elijah to speak.
Finally, Deborah Anne picked up a biscuit and slowly spread butter across the top. "So, what do you think, Mama and Daddy?"
Virginia took her time wiping her lips with the corner of her napkin. "That sounds interesting, baby." Virginia's words came slowly. "But, we don't know anything about it. Where exactly is this job?"
"In Los Angeles."
"Girl, you're going to Hollywood," Bubba bubbled. "I wanna go!"
"That's a long way from home," Uncle Moses said, eyeing Elijah who remained silent, though his eyes hadn't left Deborah Anne's.
Deborah Anne smiled. "I'm just sending in a tape. We don't know what's going to happen. There are lots of talented women out there."
"None as talented as you, Deborah Anne," Maxine piped in. "My cousin is da bomb!"
"Well, nothing is going to happen until I talk it over with you and Daddy, Mama. And, I'm going to pray about this... a lot."
"Wouldn't that be exciting?" Aunt Bird smiled. "Our little Deborah Anne, a big-time singer."
Deborah Anne smiled at her aunt, grateful for the support and hopeful that the sea was beginning to close. "Remember everyone, I'm only sending a tape."
"Well, all you can do is just wait and see what happens," said Virginia as she patted her daughter's hand. Then she changed the subject. "Has anyone heard about that big company that's supposed to be opening an office right here in Villa Rica? All the nurses are talking about it. People are saying there's going to be lots of new jobs, but a lot more traffic." Virginia spoke to no one in particular, but it was enough to take the focus from Deborah Anne who exhaled, finally taking a bite from the biscuit she'd held in her hand.
She leaned back in her chair and let her mind drift. This was going to be her first real chance at her dream, but it was going to be a tough sell to her father. Though, Deborah Anne knew that Elijah would never try to stop her. She was twenty-six years old 'grown folk', as her father was fond of saying. But still, she wanted to please him and she wanted to please God even more. As Pastor Duncan had said this morning, everyone had to use the gift God gave them. This was how she'd use hers.
When she heard her father's voice, she looked up. He was smiling, deep in conversation with Uncle Moses. Deborah Anne smiled, knowing she'd jumped the first hurdle.
"Girl, I am so happy for you," Willetta whispered and took her hand under the table. "You're going to get this job. I'm going to be praying for it. You know what the Bible says about when two agree."
Deborah Anne only smiled, but she didn't need to say a word for Willetta to know that she would be praying for exactly the same thing.
Deborah Anne squeezed her cousin's hand. "Thanks, girl. I'm going to need you on my side."
"Don't worry about me," Willetta said. "You've got God and He's all you need."
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