"You know I don't like being there, Mama."
"This is no time to be thinking about the past. I need you to come home," Ruby yelled into the phone.
"What do you need me to do that I can't do from right here?"
"I told you...I'm finally going to turn this house into a bed-and-breakfast so I can make back the money Slick Rick stole, and I need you to help me get this house in order so I can hang my shingle out front."
"Oh, Mama." She and her father had stayed up late many nights talking about things they could do to the beach house in order to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast once she graduated college, but her father died during her first year of college, and everything changed after that.
"Your daddy would turn over in his grave if I lost this house."
And there it was. Hope could not, would not let the house her daddy built with his calloused hands end up in the smooth, unblemished hands of a banker. This week was the worst time for vacation because they were preparing for the board meeting next week, but Hope didn't care anymore. She had over a month of vacation saved up, and she was headed back to Hallelujah.
She was going back to the place where her heart had been snatched out of her chest, thrown into the ocean, then dragged out of the water as a stampede of thoughtlessness ground it into that sandy beach of a place she'd once called home.
Faith Phillips was over it and wanted a divorce. If looking at the Facebook post of her husband standing way too close to some random woman, who was making kissy faces into the camera wasn't enough, then the fact that Chris hadn't made payments on the home equity loan he took out on their house was definitely strike two.
Standing in front of the bank teller as the stranger broke the news that her business account was now twenty thousand dollars lighter, Faith crooked her neck, staring at the woman like something was wrong with her.
The clerk shook her head. "No, ma'am. The money was taken out last week. I can give you a printout of your transactions if you'd like."
Faith took the printout from the clerk, looked at it, then took her cell phone out of her purse. Like her mother says, three strikes is out no matter who is doing the counting.
Nostrils flaring like a bull seeing red, Faith didn't make it out of the bank before calling Chris. He answered on the first ring, like he was waiting on her to call and check him for his trifling behavior.
"I'm at the bank," she exploded. "Where's my money?"
A few customers turned to stare as she pushed open the door and headed to her car.
"Now, baby, calm down."
"Don't call me baby. Where is my money?" She pulled out her key fob, unlocked the door to her three-year-old white-on-white BMW and got in.
"I got behind on the flip project I'm working on, but we just sold the house, so I'll be putting the money back this week. Just trust me, okay? I did it for us," he told her.
She poked her forehead with her index finger once, twice, thrice. How could she have been so stupid as to put his name on her bank account? In hindsight, she felt like a fool, allowing her husband access like that, but when she started her interior design business, no bank would give her the loan she needed, so Chris gave her ten thousand dollars. It just seemed right to attach his name to her bank account. But she was over being grateful now.
"There is no us, Chris. I want you to pack your stuff and get out." "Waaaaait a minute, babe. We promised we would never threaten each other with those get out words. I know things haven't been great between us lately, but maybe we need to talk to Pastor Green about counseling."
"Maybe you need counseling to learn how to keep your hands off things that don't belong to you, but you can leave me out of that because I'm done."
"What about Crystal? You can't just make rash decisions like this without thinking about our daughter. She needs both of us, Faith."
"Were you thinking about Crystal when you were taking selfies with some woman on Facebook?" Faith didn't wait for his response. She hung up the phone and threw it in the passenger seat. Her hands covered her face, and she cried angry tears. She wanted out of this marriage, but their daughter was very much a daddy's girl.
The sad truth of the matter was that Crystal just might want to live with her father. Faith didn't know what that said about her as a mother. But in these last few years, she and Crystal had not seen eye to eye about anything. Not the clothes she wore, not the grades she brought home, not the text messages Faith read on her daughter's phone.
A text message popped up on her phone from Chris: 'Baby, please don't do this. I messed up, but I know we can work this out.'
Rolling her eyes heavenward, Faith started the car and drove away from the bank where her account now had just seven hundred fifty- two dollars and thirteen cents.
She and Chris met during her sophomore year in college. His wavy black hair, honey skin tone and those light brown eyes of his trapped her in a vortex of what she thought was love. When he looked at her with those sexy eyes, she felt all the love he promised to give. Thought he would be the one to unbreak her heart, so she married him. Only to discover that she was still broken.
She dropped out of college and moved to Atlanta with her new husband and all his pipe dreams. She had truly thought he loved her, but how could love hurt this much?
Faith's phone rang again. The number on the display unit in her dashboard was unfamiliar. She had been waiting on a call from a potential client, so she tapped the accept button on her phone as fast as her finger could reach it.
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the paperback edition.
Monday, November 28th, we begin the book Landscape of Shadows by Kevin Doherty.