Shantell Woods is haunted by her nightmares but is still devoted to counseling women every day at a local clinic. When she is asked to facilitate a grief support group, Shantell reluctantly accepts; she has a dark secret buried deeper within herself.
Sara Proctor joins the support group knowing she has been successful in every aspect of her life except one. Once married to the man of her dreams, she longs to have a child. But she has just uncovered her late husband’s infidelity, sending her down a heartbreaking path that challenges her faith and everything she has ever known. Meanwhile, Autumn Green, who is battling breast cancer and grief over recently losing her parents in a car crash, is pregnant. With no room in her life for a baby and desperate for solace, Autumn offers Sara a precious gift she never expected. As Shantell slowly helps the two women work through their issues, no one realizes that she is not who she says she is.
Promise Fulfilled is the poignant story of three women dealing with love, loss, and betrayal who must learn to find hope in their faith and each other as they each embark on a journey of self-discovery.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Theresa Jones-Bryant
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Theresa Jones-Bryant
All rights reserved.
SHANTELL SCUTTLES DOWN THE "picturesque" cobblestone streets of Society Hill in search of refuge. She darts down a back alley, looking over her shoulder, stumbling and regaining herself. The shadowy figure with a revolver gets closer. Her breathing becomes stifled as tears trickle down her cheeks. Shantell squeezes her eyes shut and begins to pray. She's panic-stricken when she hears the frantic steps of the stranger approaching. He comes closer and discovers her crouching behind a Dumpster. The tall, dark man straddles his body over hers and puts the barrel of a nine millimeter so far down her throat she begins to gag.
Shantell's mind is racing a step ahead of the blood pulsating through her veins as she battles to move each limb of her lifeless body. She's paralyzed with the rhythm of her heartbeat pounding in her ears. Her constricted airway causes her to gasp for air. The drumming of her heart grows louder when she hears someone calling out to her in the distance. She's trapped somewhere in the parallel world between the conscious and the subconscious, struggling to open her eyelids. Her screams for help are muffled, lost in the cloudiness of her thoughts. Shantell breaks free from the bondage of her subconscious, letting out an excruciating shriek.
Shantell is screaming at the top of her lungs when she awakens in a pool of sweat. She's disoriented and panting; she can still taste the metal of the gun in her mouth. She tries to regain her composure as her eyes search the room for something recognizable. The pounding of her heart is so loud that it vibrates the walls. She soon realizes that the banging isn't coming from inside her chest but from someone knocking at the door. Shantell gets up, goes to the door, and looks through the peephole. Her neighbor Nicole is standing there with a frying pan. She takes a deep breath and slowly exhales as she opens the door.
"Girl, where's he?" Nicole asks. "I heard you screaming."
Shantell sighs audibly. "You mean the ghost that's been chasing me in my dreams? Girl, he's gone."
Nicole shakes her head in disbelief. "Oh, child, you need to get some help with that. Can't somebody at that clinic you work at help?"
"Thanks for your concern, Nicole, but I've got to get ready for work. I'm sorry if I woke you," says Shantell as she guides Nicole out the door. She hurries to the shower, reciting the Lord's Prayer aloud. Shantell dresses and rushes out the door to work.
The clinic is a madhouse. Shantell's first client of the day is Carla, a thirty-seven-year-old whose husband has left her for another woman. Carla is so entrenched in getting even with her estranged husband that everything else has fallen by the wayside.
"You know he had the audacity to ask my children to call her 'Aunt Debbie'!" Carla exclaims. "Aunt Debbie? She's young enough to be their playmate. I've forbidden them to speak to her. If he wants to see the kids, then he should see them alone. I mean, it's his time with the children. Why should she be there? Do you agree, Shantell? Shantell? Are you even listening to me?" Carla asks.
"Of course I'm listening, Carla. Isn't that why you pay me?" Shantell tries adding light to the situation, considering she's been half listening and she's sure she had a distant look on her face. "How I feel about Sean seeing the children with Debbie isn't important. What concerns me is that you're spending far too much time and energy worrying about those two and not enough focusing on yourself. When is the last time you had your hair done, had a fill or a pedicure? Carla, you're a beautiful woman, and it's Sean's loss. You need to start loving you. Your children need you, and, girl, the people at Tipsy Toesies Nailery need you." Carla and Shantell both laugh.
Sighing contently, Carla states, "I just hate what he's done to me and the kids, and besides, I still love him. I just wish he'd get over this madness and come back home."
"Carla, I know you love him. It's hard to walk away from twelve years, but you need to start loving yourself again; that's the first step to healing," explains Shantell. "I can only imagine how hard it is for you." She pauses as Carla looks at herself in her compact.
"Damn, I didn't realize how much new growth I had," says Carla as she pushes up her kitchen area at the back of her neck. "I need a complete makeover. You know, you got a lot of nerve talking about me," says Carla, looking at her nails.
Shantell smiles and asks, "Should I schedule you for next week?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Carla says sarcastically. "You know, you're really unconventional; the last therapist I had would've never said those things to me."
"You mean I'm not your first? Just trying to keep it real, girl. I'll see you next week."
Shantell closes the door behind Carla and returns to her paper-cluttered desk, sitting down wearily in her distressed upholstered chair. There's a knock at the door.
"You got a minute?" the clinic's director asks.
"Sure, Brenda," replies Shantell.
"A friend of mine is conducting a study on trauma, grief, and loss among African Americans. Dora was a very essential part of President Obama's first campaign. She'd like us to run two groups, and I was wondering if you'd consider being a facilitator?"
"Well, Brenda, I'm pretty busy with my caseload and don't quite know if I'll have the time," says Shantell, nervously biting the side of her bottom lip.
"Shantell, this is a chance of a lifetime; my friend's presenting her study to the president's cabinet. We'll be asked to testify on Capitol Hill once it's published. And by the way, I wasn't really asking you. I was just letting you know I suggested that you'd be perfect to facilitate the group. I'll talk to you more about it later," says Brenda as she turns to leave Shantell's office.
Shantell sits at her desk almost hyperventilating. A million thoughts are racing through her mind, and she begins thinking aloud. "She can't possibly be serious. I was just beginning to like it here. I don't think I can withstand another move. Lord, why are you doing this to me? Why have you forsaken me? I just can't move again, let alone end up on Capitol Hill." Shantell lifts her head off the desk when the intercom startles her.
"Shantell! Shantell!" the receptionist calls out over the intercom on the phone.
"Your next client is here. I've been buzzing your line. Are you okay?"
"Yes, just give me a minute." Shantell straightens out her very snug Ann Taylor skirt and steps into her shoes. She takes a deep breath, exhales, and recites the Lord's Prayer as she walks out to meet Vicki. Vicki's been referred by her county worker for individual counseling. She's twenty-seven years old and has five children who are all in the custody of the state. Vicki has suffered from a severe case of postpartum depression after giving birth to her fifth child. Shantell always dreads her sessions with Vicki. Despite the fact that she has five children and is a single mother, she literally picked herself up by the bootstraps and made a life for herself. She grew up in foster care, completed high school, and went on to become a radiation tech. Her boyfriend of seven years and father of her children was killed in a motorcycle accident two weeks before the birth of her last child. There's so much tragedy in her life; it takes every bit of Shantell's energy to muster up some hope and inspiration in their sessions.
After the last session of the day, Shantell is drained. She wonders aloud, "Is anyone happy?" She sits doodling at her desk. She writes, "Why was I spared? Go back and face the consequences." She immediately scratches her writing out and begins talking to herself. "Who am I fooling? I can never go back. I wish I could relive that one day over. If only I'd done things differently. It didn't have to happen."
"Excuse me," Brenda says as she tries to bring Shantell's attention back to earth. "Are you talking to yourself?"
Shantell almost jumps out of her seat. "Oh, I'm sorry, Brenda. I didn't hear you come in. I'm just sitting here trying to process today's sessions. I'm sorry."
A very well-dressed woman in a two-piece Dolce & Gabbana suit with some sharp Carlos Santana stilettos extends her hand to Shantell. "Talking to yourself is okay as long as you don't answer back," says the woman.
"This is the friend I've been telling you about. Dora McGowan, this is Shantell Woods," says Brenda.
"Very pleased to meet you, Shantell. I've heard so much about you."
"Nice to meet you too. So tell me about your study?" asks Shantell, redirecting the focus off of her and the fact that she was out of order for sitting at her desk talking aloud to herself.
Dora gives her a brief synopsis of why she's focusing on trauma, grief, and loss among African Americans. Ms. McGowan impresses Shantell with her extensive knowledge and genuine concern for the plight of her people.
Shantell stands in awe of the woman, thinking, Now this is someone back in the day I would've gravitated toward. But right now, I just need to stay out of the limelight. Lord knows I done had enough trauma, grief, and loss to complete my very own publication. "Well, it's really nice meeting you, and I look forward to working with you." After her meeting, Shantell rushes out the door to catch the train back home.
By the time she reaches the Hyde Park section of the city, the sun is setting. Shantell opens the door to her sparsely furnished apartment and immediately kicks her shoes off. She hasn't been in Chicago long. Shantell rarely ventures outside the confines of her apartment except for work and groceries. She doesn't know anyone except the people from work and her neighbor Nicole. Life in Chicago is very different from the life Shantell was accustomed to. Shantell liked to luxuriate, running up quite the retail bill back in her day. Her pay at the clinic would be negligible if she didn't still have $450,000 left from her stash. She rarely shops anymore because she's trying to maintain a low profile these days. So to keep herself occupied, she eats. She's blossomed from a size 10 with bumps in all the right places to a voluptuous 14 in a matter of months. Her lackluster third-floor apartment holds all the architecture of an old warehouse. The towering brick walls are bare, and her bedroom consists of a queen-sized bed and an armoire, which holds a thirty-two-inch flat-screen and Bose wave music system. Shantell grabs the remote from the box on the coffee table. She surfs her XM until she stumbles upon the Quiet Storm. The sweet sounds and crispness of Al Green serenading her with "Let's Stay Together" fills the open space. She's in the mood for stir-fry. She takes some red onions and an assortment of peppers, shrimp, and Andouille sausage from the refrigerator and lays them on the counter. While preparing her ingredients, she polishes off a corner of wine left from the night before. She adjusts the heat as the oil in the pan begins to sizzle and opens a second bottle of Moscato. Before realizing it, she's consumed three glasses. The beeping of the smoke detector is evidence to her that her dinner has now been reduced to a bowl of Special K. Shantell puts out the small fire, which is contained in the pan upon the stove. She eats her cereal and finishes off the rest of her wine.
It's 6:00 a.m. when Shantell awakes to the sun peeking slightly above the buildings. She looks forward to a new day, and before placing her feet on the floor, she thanks God for granting her a night free of nightmares. She reads her Bible for twenty minutes and then rushes to get ready for work. Shantell's client, Mrs. Jenkins, greets her with a cup of java at the door. Mrs. Jenkins keeps her grounded in an odd kind of way. She's a woman of wisdom—a God-fearing woman. She raised her three grandchildren following the death of their mother, who died during childbirth with the youngest, who is now twenty-five and strung out on crack cocaine.
"Shantell, you know what I told that heifer? How dare she smite the sacrifice of my child by throwing her life away! I told her, her mother knew she'd be jeopardizing her life if she had another baby—but she said if it's God's will ... It sent her lupus haywire. The doctors did everything to save her, but she just couldn't pull through. And this is how Semira repays her? She named her Semira because she said it means 'God's promise' in Swahili. We call her Promise. She almost lost her twice. Linda wanted so much to give Buster a son and was willing to try one more time. And I haven't seen that fool Buster since the funeral almost three decades ago."
Mrs. Jenkins is feeling guilty because Semira has three children who are in the care of Child and Family Services. She goes back and forth on spending her life's savings to hire an attorney to fight for the children to be placed with her. But she knows in her heart she's too old. She prays daily that someone in the family will come forward and take those "poor babies."
"Gina had the nerve to refer to them as crack babies!" says Mrs. Jenkins. "I couldn't stand to hear her call her own nieces and nephew that. They all said Semira would never get herself together, and she'd just continue to have babies and expect her family to fill in. Can you believe it? My own flesh and blood told me if she wanted children, she would've gone off and had her own. I can't help wondering what those babies must think." She throws her hands up in frustration. "I raised three very stubborn and selfish girls. Just imagine if I put them in foster care and let some strangers raise them when they momma died. Don't they know, 'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord'? Now that's Proverbs, and this poor is their own flesh and blood. I won't sleep until someone go get them babies."
"Mrs. Jenkins, I'm sure your grandchildren are being taken care of. There are some good foster homes out there."
"Shut your mouth, Shantell. Can't nobody love you like family," says Mrs. Jenkins. "Besides, they don't even have them placed together. The two younger ones are separated from the oldest. Promise—I mean Samira—probably goes to see them once a month, and I've got to fight to see them on a regular basis. What type of Child and Family Services is that? A great-grandmother has to fight to see her grandchildren. Makes me wonder what type of world I'm living in. This whole thing has sent my pressure sky high."
"Have you spoken to your minister? Maybe there's a family in your church that could provide care for the children."
"Ain't nobody at the church want to be bothered with Child and Family Services coming in their home inspecting every aspect of their life. And besides, lately, the church has been filled with a lot of young people that done had a few problems of their own. If only Promise could get it together. Them babies could have a home."
"Where's the father?"
"Promise's father? That hoodlum hasn't been seen since we buried my Linda. I think he done married, got himself a new wife. I hate him," Mrs. Jenkins says furiously.
"Mrs. Jenkins, I never heard you speak this way about anyone, and I wasn't referring to Promise's father."
"I know it ain't the Christian thing to say or feel. I pray the Lord will help me forgive the man that murdered my baby, because that just may be the one thing that keeps me out of heaven. I never wanted her to marry him. I always said it, you know. I'd say, 'Linda, that Buster Monte Jones is going to be the death of you.' When she was a young girl, she'd sneak out the window to meet Buster. He was older than my baby. He'd come in front of my house and honk his horn. Robert, Linda's old boyfriend, told my husband and me that Buster sold dope and had Linda hold it for him. Lord knows we went through it with those two. Sitting up all night, worrying when she gonna come home. All the arguments sent James into cardiac arrest. Buster been killing off members of my family since the onset. He ain't nothing but the devil, and I hate him. Lord knows it ain't nothing wrong with having the devil as your enemy."
"Mrs. Jenkins, it sounds like you have a great deal of anger toward this man that you've identified as the source of an insurmountable level of grief and loss in your life—"
"I know it may not sound Christian-like, but you just pray for me, you hear? I do believe my time is up. See you in two weeks, sweetie."
Shantell walks Mrs. Jenkins to the door. She's never seen her so worked up, but when she's ready to go, she doesn't want to hear much else. Shantell tells Mrs. Jenkins she'll pray for her as she shows her out.
Excerpted from Promise Fulfilled by Theresa Jones-Bryant. Copyright © 2013 Theresa Jones-Bryant. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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