Read an Excerpt
'Til the Last DROP
By Marquis Boone
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Marquis Boone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneYear 2000Febuary 12th
Arthur walked backward and entered the room filled with kids. He carried a beautiful white and pink cake for his daughter's twelfth birthday. He turned around with the biggest smile on his face as he glanced at his wife, Valencia. He signaled to her with a nod to come alongside him as he started to sing "Happy Birthday." As they approached the table, the room filled with the voices of innocent adolescents singing off-pitch. As the singing concluded, Arthur said, "Happy birthday, Lindsy. Make a wish, baby girl." Lindsy smiled and closed her eyes really, really hard.
The candles were blown out, cheers and handclaps resounded, and the telephone started to ring in the distance.
Valencia turned and kissed Arthur, grabbed a few of the dirty paper plates off the table, and headed to the kitchen to answer the phone. Arthur's eyes followed her into the kicthen.
"Hello," she said as she threw the plates in the trash can. "This is she." Valencia turned around smiling as she looked into the party, one hand holding the phone to her ear and the other hand on her hip. She blew a kiss to Arthur as his eyes continued to stay glued on her.
Arthur saw the smile that just moments ago had graced Valencia's face fading away like the sun as it sets in the evening. Whatever was being stated on the other end of the phone seemed to worsen by the second. Valencia's eyes started to fill with tears as she whispered the words, "No ... no ... no." Her whisper turned into a heart-wrenching scream. The room went silent as the phone fell from her ear onto the hardwood floor.
Arthur ran to the kitchen, on his face a look of disbelief. He knew deep inside who was on the other end of that call and what had been said. He was frozen, unable to move, like a parked car. What Arthur and Valencia didn't want to believe had just been confirmed.
Six months later
A soft light reflected on Valencia's face as she sat in bed working on her laptop. Arthur rolled over, Valencia panted with desire. Her husband's kisses caused her skin to become flush and her pulse to quicken. His hands cupped her face. Love and desire radiated from his eyes. Sadness crept into the look they exchanged. He lowered his hands.
"Valencia, it has been six months." Arthur closed his eyes. "If you dread going to the doctor alone, I'll go with you."
She hung her head in shame as she closed her laptop and placed it on her bedside table.
She thought, Not much frightens me more than going to doctors. Hospitals and medical procedures are the only thing that frightens me more than doctors.
None of them had stopped her mother's recent premature death. Each specialist promised new developments, state-of-the-art treatment, and breakthrough studies, and none of them delivered. Her mother's death, which happened despite paying every charlatan and specialist from coast to coast, taught Valencia one thing: don't see doctors.
"This is not the same thing that happened to your mother, Valencia. I know you're not over her death yet. But ..." Arthur caressed her face.
She lowered her eyes and turned a deep shade of bitter.
"I know you, sweetheart. I know you're tired and afraid, but call and make the appointment." Arthur kissed her temple.
Trepidation replaced the passion that had pumped through her veins moments earlier. She thought, What would my mother do? Pray. Valencia struggled to find the right words.
Now I lay me ... no ... that was a bedtime prayer.
God, you are grace and ... no ... that was the dinner blessing.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not ... what? I can't even remember the rest of the prayer. The words from the prayers mom taught me are memories and unused habits.
Valencia's soul cringed. How would my mother feel knowing her firstborn daughter did not know how to pray?
"Help me, Lord. Help me, please. I'm so afraid," Valencia mumbled under her breath. Her eyes lit up with the memory of her mother teaching her the components of prayer. "Help me ... in Jesus's name."
* * *
He looked to His Father and smiled.
"Father, it's time. Valencia has begun to realize something is happening. She prayed. How would you have me respond? I know she'll come to full healing, but she is so scared. My heart is breaking with the pain and fear she is feeling."
Wisdom rested on His brow. The beauty of eternity etched in the details of His brilliant eyes. Love shone in His eyes as He turned to His Son in whom He was well pleased.
"Your compassion for your brothers and sisters has always pleased Me. All is well with her in the end. Do what you know will help her make it to the end of this trial, where she'll find her wholeness. The Enemy believes this will be unto her death and demise, but her mother's prayers have laid a path of victory for her. Send her comfort and remind her that she has not been left or forsaken. Her faith is weak because she has neglected Us for so long, but the prayers of the righteous have carried her far."
The Son nodded.
The Father smiled.
Pain and hope filled His being.
The Son wanted very much to take the fear, pain, misery, and sickness from her in the immediate instant she whispered for help. But He knew her steps were ordered before the foundation of the Earth. Archangels descended to Earth with the answer to her plea for help. He looked to His Father once more with a silent plea for mercy and immediate healing.
"Everything will work for her good, Son. You know that. Tell the Spirit to begin her journey so she will be led into all truth. He will comfort her; that is why We sent Him."
The Son nodded.
* * *
Three months laterNovember 13th
Heavy steps announced Valencia and Lindsy's return home as the phone started to ring. "Hello, honey!" Valencia said.
"How did everything go at the specialist's?"
The spirit of sorrow placed arms around her.
"No change, Arthur."
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I will see you when you get home this evening."
"Okay. Love you, Valencia."
"Love you too, Arthur."
Arthur's support, love, and pledge to walk with her through every appointment, ache, and pain offered solace as the condition worsened.
Some days I wonder if I would die worrying about the loss.
It had been nine months since that phone callthe phone call that took the life out of her, out of her family, and out of her passion. Replaying that news in her head, she grunted. The pain of missing her mother filled her. Her mother's lack of siblings meant no family history to reference. Did she have cousins somewhere, a great-grandmother, a great-great aunt to ask how to outsmart the confusion racing through her veins? No one even knew it was possible to menstruate for nine months. The primary-care physician was baffled when three months on birth control offered no regulation for the condition. Each new prescription offered hope and ended in an extra layer of despair.
Intimacy with her husband seemed a distant memory. The frustration in their marriage began to show in the way Arthur avoided coming home at night. The temptation to wallow in self-pity hovered around Valencia.
Later that night the house alarm sounded. Arthur's sigh crept into her space through the half-open bedroom door. Weeks had passed since the last time she could convince him to hold her. Her worrying and thinking about the condition created a chasm between them. The isolation and lack of physical touch in their marriage tore tiny holes in her soul. It's hurt so much. Loneliness attempted to consume her some mornings when her husband crept from the bed.
The warmth and love that once occupied the space around them was replaced with disappointment and neglect between them. Occupying the same address without living together in it was a foreign concept to Valencia, after watching her parents share a beautiful union for thirty-eight years.
Tears slid down her cheeks as she looked at the ceiling. "God, what have I done to deserve this?"
Chapter TwoYear 2001
Working with other wives from Arthur's office had been the highlight of Valencia's early September activities for the previous four years. There was something she failed to put her finger on at their last meeting. She promised herself she would leave the medical and marital issues at home and focus on helping to raise money for the cause. Promoting health in low-income families warranted more of her attention. Hosting the luncheon in her home gave her a level of comfort she hoped would alleviate the feeling that these ladies knew something she didn't.
The doorbell chimed.
Valencia checked her reflection in the mirror over her antique buffet in the front foyer. Every hair in place. Makeup perfect. Three deep breaths and a smile. Valencia strolled to the front door. These women were her friends; she felt foolish for her nervousness.
"Welcome, ladies." Valencia's smile faltered as she opened the door. A cold wind blew past her as several of her husband's partners' wives entered her home. They stopped in the foyer.
"We'll be in the main library." Valencia waved her hand toward the library door. "Make yourselves at home while I grab the refreshments."
The women nodded and made their way to the library. An odd moment mirrored the energy she tried to convince herself wasn't present at the interest meeting the previous week. No eye contact. Uncomfortable body language. They must've found out about the illness. Hypermenorrheathe medical term for prolonged menstrual bleeding. The doctor informed her that it was not a contagious disease but a traditionally hereditary disorder. She wanted to yell it at them.
Valencia took a deep breath before retrieving the refreshments. These women are my friends.
As she returned, the drinks and hors d'oeuvres on the platter shifted to one side. She placed them on the table outside the library. As she paused, she could hear the women speaking.
"Do you think she knows?"
"I don't see how she couldn't. According to Howard, Arthur is trying to help the girl but doesn't feel equipped because Valencia is so consumed with her disorder. I'm praying for them. They were such a great couple before this all happened."
"I don't think she even wants us to know she is sick."
"She doesn't have to know that we know she is sick."
Valencia corrected the items on the tray. She cleared her throat more loudly than necessary and opened the doors to the library.
"Ladies, forgive my delay."
They turned to her with a nod.
"Of course, dear. Take all the time you need." Howard's wife, Nancy, smiled at Valencia. "I should've offered to help. I don't know where my manners have gone."
A thousand pithy replies about where they could all go flew through Valencia's mind. A smile lighted her lips. "No need. I appreciate it, but you're guests here. Let's focus our minds on these amazing children this year's event will benefit. Sometimes I believe working on their behalf helps me more than them. I learn so much from each fundraiser."
A chorus of agreement lifted in the room. Tears gathered at the corners of Valencia's eyes with each voice. There is no pain like the betrayal of one you believed to be a friend.
* * *
Arthur eased through the door from the garage after midnight. His careful hands hung the car key on the ring next to the door. He slipped his shoes off and walked silently toward the kitchen. Valencia inhaled his scent for a moment before she flipped the light switch next to the breakfast nook.
"I worry when you don't call, sweetheart." Valencia blinked back tears. "Sounds of sirens and emergency rooms fill my dreams until I feel you beside me. Forgive me if I startled you, but I was worried about you."
In moments Arthur held Valencia in his arms. "I'm fine, darling. You know I'm working with Howard on this new client. The boss is throwing around words like 'senior partner' if we nail this campaign. My ambition overrode my good judgment. Forgive me for causing you extra worry."
Shame filled Valencia. He sounds like the man I married and pledged to love through sickness and health. She recalled that moments before she dropped the veil over her face, her mother had admonished her to stay healthy, because a healthy wife made a happy life. The desire to trade a few words of advice with her mother fought to intrude on this moment with her husband.
"Arthur, I think we should go to counseling," Valencia mumbled.
It was as if Valencia hadn't said anything, because as quickly as his arms had encircled her, they were gone with him toward their bedroom, with no response to her statment.
Her thoughts returned to her mother, and she found herself in her library and study. Many years ago, she'd placed her mother's most prized possession in a beautiful keepsake box. Never did I believe I'd be pulling this out, trying to garner strength from the wisdom and knowledge you found in these pages, Mom.
The edges of the Bible looked less fragile to her adult eyes. Memories of sitting in her mother's lap caused a dull ache in her heart. As she read around the notes and scribbles in the edges of space above and below the passages, her heart filled with peace and sadness. Now she hoped to find a word or two left from her mother's gentle hand to help her with the condition of her mind and her marriage.
Valencia sat in her executive chair. The light on her sensor lamp went from dim to a soft glow. She mumbled to herself, "Lord, it's been so long, I don't even know where to begin."
The worn covers of the Bible reflected the light from the bulb. Her fingers caressed the aged leather. She couldn't recall the last Sunday she'd attended a church service. The old neighborhood had seemed so far away each time she'd driven there during their first year of marriage. They had agreed to look for a church closer to the home that Arthur had owned before they'd purchased their current estate. Between late nights and loving mornings, Sunday became a day of rest at home, instead of a day with the Lord.
Valencia couldn't number the times her mother had admonished her to read her Bible and pray. A tear slid down her cheek. I wish I could call Mom to ask her what to do next.
"Mom, is everything going to be okay?" Lindsy asked as she peeped into the doorway of her mother's office.
Valencia sat with her head laid back against the headrest of the chair, her eyes closed. She replied, "Yes, go back to bed, baby."
As Valencia opened her eyes to stand, a scriptural verse in her mother's handwriting caught her attention: Proverbs 1:7. "Reading one scripture can't hurt ... I can't imagine how things could be worse."
* * *
The following week a smile spread across Valencia's face as she approached her younger sister's table. The only good thing to come from this medical crisis was the way it brought them closer. Before the diagnosis, Arthur occupied all the space in her world. No one mattered in the outside world once he arrived home from work. Valencia couldn't count how many times she'd declined movies, plays, and social invitations from her sister before the illness.
"Sissy!" Ericka said. "You look great. Our show starts soon. We need to grab something light, because I have an Arthur-sponsored surprise afterward."
A moment of angst passed through Valencia. The atmosphere in their home had resembled that of a mausoleum since the day the wives had visited to plan the fundraiser. "I've been thinking about Mom a lot lately. Do you think she's in heaven?"
"Of course. She was extraordinary even until her last breath. I pray I'm able to have a relationship with God that is half as fulfilling as the one she and Dad talked about before he died. They were like some unstoppable trio. Where are those questions coming from?" Ericka nodded at the server, who placed a drink on the table next to her elbow.
"Nothing. Everything. I'm not sure how to deal with the stress that this problem is causing for Arthur and me. Nothing seemed able to shake the bond we shared, and now it seems we're unable to share a few sentences in the same room for even two minutes. I miss him more than I'd believed possible. And on top of that, I think he wants more kids, since his coworker Howard has a son on the way."
"What has your pastor said about it? I'm sure someone is available to help you through this situation. You're not on a remote island; you live in Jacksonville, Florida, in Queen's Harbour, and they've written articles about how your community thrives despite the recession. Google it!"
"I know where I live, Sissy, and we haven't been to church in so long. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I'm too embarrassed to return to the church we visited with intentions to join yet never attended more than once a month."
"Start there. Go to church with me this Sunday. Don't join. Just come enjoy the praise and Word. You know what Momma used to say."
"Ain't no situation bigger than God in the midst of praise," Valencia and Ericka said in unison.
Chapter ThreeYear 2002January
Valencia absorbed the hope in the air and crossed the threshold of the RL Women's Holistic Health & Wellness Center with renewed resolve to find the solution to her problem. None of the hormone therapies worked or even attempted to make a change in the steadiness of menstrual flow. With each prescription, she felt renewed hope only to meet disappointment. She hoped this center for women held the key to unlock healing.
Ericka told Valencia about the facility after a coworker talked about how changing her diet and taking herbs healed her from fibroids without a medical procedure. The website included video testimonials from women of every age for every female-specific and reproductive medical issue. The clinic posted so many, it took her a week to watch them all.
Excerpted from 'Til the Last DROP by Marquis Boone Copyright © 2013 by Marquis Boone. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.