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Meanwhile, Monét is playing with fire in the form of a romance with a suave politician. Belinda is adjusting to motherhood while her own mother is fighting cancer. And Paula is dismayed to find herself pregnant and convinced her husband is having an affair.
When a women's discipleship group draws Zora together with these women they gradually drop their masks and learn to draw strength from each other and God. And Zora learns that whether she finds the truth about her parents or not she's never alone.
Three months later
Rays of the June Maryland sun poured through the glass patio door of Zora's townhouse. Its natural light warmed her face, even in the coolness of the air conditioning. She took a sip of her cranberry juice, then sat the glass flute in the middle of the breakfast table. Her eyes caught the corner of the envelope sticking out of her wedding planner notebook. Zora pulled out the envelope, then the letter.
She read it again. The questions far outweighed the answers. She'd folded and unfolded it so many times over the past three months that the creases had nearly worn the paper thin. She leaned closer to the page and rested her forehead on her palms, fighting to postpone her tears until she was alone.
Preston had seen her break down too many times over the past months. He'd suggested they postpone the wedding. It would give her time to heal and sort things out, he'd said. Zora refused. She knew her parents would want her to press forward. To be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord.
Zora brushed away a single tear. Why had they held her adoption a secret. Why?
Zora had dealt with the disbelief of the situation a month ago, only to have confusion and anger follow. Now there was just hurt.
But I'm more than able to heal.
Zora tousled her hair and let out a deep sigh. She lost her thoughts amidst the Weed Eater humming outside where Preston was tending to the small yard in the back. She'd bought her home two years ago, right before they'd met. It wasn't long before he'd taken on the responsibility as her official lawn caretaker. The act had won him high marks with her father.
In Zora's quiet neighborhood in Bowie, the brick-front townhouses were clustered in threes, and her two-story home sat nestled between two ranch-style homes. Although the townhouses in the subdivision shared the same architectural design, each owner had taken care to add a bit of his or her own personality to make the home unique. Zora and her mother had planted purple hostas between the bushes and added a gold framed storm door to accent the brick front of the home. This year, her father had planned to fence in the backyard, claiming it would up the resale potential once she and Preston married.
Zora looked out the sliding glass patio doors at Preston. The mere sight of him brought a smile to her face. His countenance was peaceful, though it seemed a man with his angular features would naturally wear a stern expression. The sun heated his dark cocoa complexion, and sweat glistened on his face. She wondered what he was thinking.
As usual, her mind dwelled on the option of looking for her biological family.
Preston looked up to meet Zora's glance and blew a kiss with his free hand.
She stretched across the table and pretended to catch the fleeting kiss, pressed her hand to her cheek, and then returned one of her own.
In his usual playful manner, Preston held up the Weed Eater in defense and pretended to ward off her affections, before turning it off and making a run for the door. He ducked and dipped with ease, showcasing his athletic prowess. Preston squeezed through the small crack he opened in the door, bringing the smell of fresh-cut grass inside.
"Hey! Watch the shoes," Zora said before he could take another step. "That grass'll be everywhere."
"My bad, baby," Preston said. He pulled off his shoes and went outside to beat the soles on the concrete patio.
Zora slid the letter back into the envelope and into her notebook's pocket. Preston had said she brooded over it too much lately, bringing mental anguish on herself. On one hand, she knew he didn't understand the depth of her pain. But on the other, he was right. Besides, she had work to do. It was six months and counting until the wedding. Time was of the essence.
Her wedding notebook was divided into labeled sections for planning every imaginable aspect of their big day. Zora flipped over the last tab of her notebook just as Preston scooted back inside wearing socks but no shoes. He wiped his sweat-drenched face with his T-shirt and sauntered over to the kitchen table. He stood over her, blocking the warmth of the sunlight.
Zora tilted her head back and closed her eyes. The image of Preston's face still floated behind her lids—his deep-set eyes, the thin goatee he'd started wearing over the last month. Even the small scar between his right brow and bridge of his nose was clear—the result of a lost fistfight with his older brother when they were kids.
"Gimme a kiss," Preston said, pinching her chin.
Zora fluttered her eyes open and said, "I seem to recall a certain person who was just dodging my kisses a few minutes ago. And now that person wants a taste of these lips?" Zora folded in her lips and gummed, "I don't think so. Plus you're sweaty. That's gross."
"Come on, baby," Preston said, squeezing her nose so she'd have to breathe through her mouth. "I only dodged your kiss because I wanted the real thing."
Zora closed her eyes again. She knew he was studying her. She could feel his breath tickling the side of her cheek as he bent closer. He kissed her eyelids. She opened her eyes to catch a glimpse of him before accepting a soft peck on her lips.
"Whatcha working on?" Preston asked, stretching out on the floor by her feet.
"Wedding stuff," Zora said. "I'm going to dinner with Monét down at the Harbor so we can work on a few things."
"I hope you pay this much attention to me after the wedding."
He tried to sound sarcastic, but Zora knew it was all an act. She closed the notebook and joined Preston on the floor. She sat cross-legged on the carpet and leaned back on her hands.
"Baby, I'm only doing this one time, so I want to make sure everything is exactly how I want it," Zora said. "How we want it."
She pulled a playful but tight grip at the neck of his T-shirt. "And if you decide to act up down the line, then we'll either elope or go to the courthouse." She mumbled under her breath, "Or I'll be by myself."
"I hate to break it to you, but you're stuck with me. From the time we say 'I do' until forever. You're never getting rid of me."
"That might be the case in six months, but right now I'm ditching you so I can get to the Harbor. I'm going to hang out until you meet me there. You didn't forget, did you?"
Zora knew he hadn't, considering she'd reminded him about the annual waterfront concert series every week for the past two months. He'd finally surrendered to her mission to show him that there was more to experience in Baltimore than sporting events.
"Is that the kind of treatment a brother gets?" He rolled over on his side. "Work a man like a dog and send him on his way?"
"Ruff, ruff." Zora rolled out of Preston's reach, then got up and straightened her khaki shorts and pink tank top. She threw her tote bag over her shoulder and reached down for Preston's hand, attempting to lift his dead weight off the floor. Instead, Preston gave her a slight tug, pulling her down to the floor and cushioning her fall with his own body.
"Ewwww ... come on baby." Zora slid the spaghetti strap of her tank back onto her shoulder. She looked down at her clothes, making sure he hadn't stained her shirt from grass or his sweat. "That's nasty. Go home and take a shower."
Preston ignored her plea. "Who's got jokes now?" He tickled Zora until she could barely squeak out an apology between gasps for air. "Ruff, ruff? What's all that about?" His fingers showed no mercy.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she pleaded.
"Say I'm the man," Preston said.
"You're the woman," Zora said, setting herself up for another tickling episode that lasted until she finally followed his commands.
The laughter rolled from her belly again long after Preston walked her to the car and she'd hit the BW Parkway on the trip from Bowie to Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
She'd originally settled in Bowie after landing a job as a high school guidance counselor in nearby Glen Burnie. Though it was still close to her job, Bowie was far enough for her to escape from the reminder of her students' problems when she needed a breather. She tended to weigh in on some of their disorderly home lives as much as their academic endeavors. She was grateful for the summer break. Her own issues were enough to handle.
Should she search for the life she would have lived? If two people could forsake their own flesh and blood, then they didn't deserve to know their daughter. And she didn't want to know them. Maybe. Maybe she needed closure.
Zora could picture the church pews filled with an adoring family—parents, maybe siblings, on her wedding day. Cousins, perhaps a few nieces or nephews, doting aunts, and proud uncles. Would they all share her soft shoulder-length hair that frizzed up at the slightest smell of rain? Would anyone else have almond-shaped eyes and one deep dimple in her left cheek?
Zora turned off the AC and rolled down the window of her Toyota Camry. She cruised down the BW Parkway as her thoughts sped through the different scenarios that could play out if she ever had the chance to meet her parents face-to-face. Her parents. It was almost strange to refer to them that way. No doubt she would be overtaken by emotions.
"Lord, I know you've heard this from me so many times before, but I'm so confused."
Zora spoke out into the rushing wind, as if the breeze would carry her prayer to heaven quicker.
"I know You're a God of perfect timing, and You'll reveal all things in Your time. So I pray for my patience, and above all else, I accept Your will for my life."
By now Zora was nearing the Inner Harbor. She passed by the Baltimore Convention Center and inched her way through the crowded streets.
"This is ridiculous," Zora said, whipping down Pratt Street and into one of the packed parking lots. She fumbled around in her purse for her cell phone to call Monét and connected her hands-free unit. "Hey. Where are you?" she asked when her best friend answered the phone.
"Down near the waterfront looking at the exhibits. Where are you?"
"Looking for a parking space. Have you been here a while?"
"Girl, please. You know I have."
"I know. I don't know why I even bothered to ask," Zora said. "Meet me in ten minutes near that brick wall where that mime performs sometimes."
Zora circled around the block another five minutes before spotting a couple who looked as if they had reached their quota of crowds and fun for the day. Each held a child, limp with sleep and clearly past the age to be carried with ease.
She crept behind them until they reached their minivan and dumped the rag-doll children in the backseats. Zora swung in as soon as they cleared the parking space, stuffed her purse into her tote bag, and trotted toward the festivities.
Even in her haste, Zora noticed a young boy one row over who was standing too close to the passing traffic. The red cape tied loosely around his neck flapped as he swung his arms wildly in the air. In his young naïveté, he wasn't aware of the danger he was in with cars whizzing by, but instead was engulfed in his own rendition of the fighting tactics of a superhero.
As Zora got closer, she realized he was not alone, though not under a watchful eye. Barely three steps away, a lady whom Zora assumed was his mother was leaning against a black luxury SUV, her head buried in the crook of her elbow.
Her first intention was to keep walking, but Zora's compassion got the best of her. She approached the car with caution.
"Excuse me, are you all right?" When the lady didn't respond, Zora took another step closer. She thought about touching the woman's shoulder, but changed her mind. She spoke a little louder. "Is everything okay?"
The woman brushed the layers of her jet black hair out of her face and seemed to take a moment to realize her whereabouts. When she caught sight of the small boy, she snatched him out of harm's way.
The woman's forehead furrowed in anger, then softened when she noticed Zora. "I didn't even realize—" She seemed to shake the thought from her head. "Thank you," she said, grabbing a small Sesame Street backpack from the rear seat. She clutched the boy's arm, slammed the back door, and rushed away.
* * *
The city's annual Waterfront Festival was the event of the year to celebrate Baltimore's waterfront and its maritime history. Modern and traditional Chesapeake Bay boats dotted the waters around the Inner Harbor. There were plenty of maritime exhibits, live bands, children's activities, and contests to keep families entertained for hours.
Even in the bustling crowd, Zora immediately spotted Monét. They had a sixth sense for each other—almost like twins. And why not? As children they'd played in the same sandbox, lost their first tooth during the same week, and spent summers at camp together. Since her parents' death, Monét's parents—Zora's godparents—had naturally stepped in as her surrogate family. Zora considered herself part of the Sullivan clan along with Monét and her older sister Victoria.
Zora waved over the crowd's heads at Monét, not surprised at the Afrocentric look she'd adopted for the day. Her blue tunic top was embroidered in gold around the sleeves and neckline. The pants followed the same pattern, with the trim running down the seam. Her recently auburn-streaked hair was slicked back into a low tight ponytail, and her slender face was framed by gold hoop earrings the size of bracelets. Her outfits and style changed like a chameleon, and Monét was never timid about exploring her fashion options.
With Monét's natural flavor, planning expertise, and insight into the Baltimore area, there was no need to hire a wedding consultant. Monét worked as an event coordinator for one of the city's cultural arts centers. Her job events were usually evening soirees meant for fund-raising purposes, but she loved events of all kinds and took advantage of any and every chance to immerse herself into the city's culture and opportunities. She was Ms. Social and Ms. Cultural Events all wrapped into one. Zora knew Monét could handle being her part-time consultant and full-time maid of honor.
"What's in there?" Zora asked, once she made it to her friend. She peered into a small bag Monét was holding.
"Accessories," Monét said. She pulled out a necklace and matching bracelet made from wooden beads and turquoise and held them out for Zora to admire. "I'm gonna wear it with that jazzy white linen number I have. That is, whenever you give me back the jacket."
"I need to hit the stores myself. You can't be cute by yourself," Zora said, sliding the bracelet onto her arm. "Remind me later about the jacket."
"Oh no, sticky fingers," Monét said. "Bracelet back in the bag."
"Fine." Zora wriggled her wrist out of the bracelet. "Lead me to that shop." She slid her arm through Monét's and pulled her toward a row of stores.
"Oh no," Monét protested. She unwrapped Zora's arm from hers. "I'm starving. Let's get something to eat first. No food, no shopping. Much food, much shopping."
"Well, fill 'er up then," Zora said. She cast a side glance at Monét when a group of men passed by.
One of them, as chocolate as the night is long, made it no secret that he was eyeing Monét. He slowed his gait and looked at her as if she were the only person at the Harbor. As they passed each other, he and Monét exchanged pleasantries, but continued walking.
Zora looked back and saw the admirer had stopped, as if he hoped Monét would do the same. His eyes beckoned for conversation.
"Monét," Zora said, nudging her friend, "you've got eyes on you."
Monét didn't miss a step as she made long strides in the direction of a line of eateries. "I'm not interested in some random brother gawking at me on the street." She didn't bother to take a second look.
"You know I met Preston when he walked up and just introduced himself to me."
"One-in-a-million blessing. I'd rather be introduced to a man by somebody I know so he can at least vouch for his character."
Too bad for him, Zora thought, leaving the brother behind with his dashed hopes. "Well, Preston can vouch for Jeremiah's character," Zora said, bringing up her fiancé's best friend and best man.
"No long-distance love," Monét said matter-of-factly.
Excerpted from Zora's Cry by Tia McCollors, Angela Brown. Copyright © 2006 Tia McCollors. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 20, 2014
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I enjoyed the book. The idea of a group of Christian women of various ages and stages of life coming together and actually growing and getting to know each other with integrity and with the spirit of God always in the midst of all they were doing was refreshing. All the women of the book has serious issues, but they also had been blessings. The author left some issues un finished and resolved like the main characters interactions with a guy that she met on-line while she was searching for her birth parents. Read it and know you are not the only one facing challenges no matter how much you know God or how old you may be or how long you have been living the Christian life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.