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I hated when Daddy hit Mommy. When he drank, he became an absolute monster. Someone I didn't recognize. Nothing like the sweet doting father and Pastor he allowed everyone else to see. Like right now. I could hear them arguing. Their voices escalating. The same argument every time.

“Look, I worked a twelve hour shift today and I don't feel like having this conversation, Earl. Take your drunk behind to bed!”

“Oh so you're just going to throw your job in my face huh? Like I don't want to work?!”

“God, I wish you would stop with this woe is me crap. I've had it up to here with your self-pity. God spared your life in that car accident but all you can do is talk about what you can't do anymore.”

About a year ago, Daddy and Mommy had been on their way to a church banquet in Arlington when a truck had run a red light and not only hit but totaled their car. They'd both survived but Daddy’s hand had been pinned in the driver’s side door and it hadn't been the same since. He couldn't work because it was his dominant hand that had been smashed. And he blamed Mommy for what happened. He blamed her for everything. I thought it was so unfair.

“You wanna repeat that Patrice?” I heard Daddy say. I could tell he was about to snap.

I heard her sigh, like she was just tired of this merry go-round. “Nothing…just nothing.”

“Say it again!” He roared at her and I jumped. My heart began beating frantically and my palms began to sweat. God please don't let him hit Mommy! I prayed. I prayed hard because once he unleashed

his wrath on her, I would be next. I heard his big feet move and then my mother yelped. Then I heard her scream as he pushed her into the door.

“I hate when you spew that God spared me crap!” Slap.

“Stop Earl!” Mommy screamed

“I’ll stop when I'm good and ready! You don't run me! I'm the man of this house, not you!” Daddy bellowed. Slap. Soon after I heard the doorknob being turned and I hightailed it up to my room and locked myself in my closet. Putting my hands over my ears, I prayed again. “Please God. Don't let him hurt me. I’ll be a good girl. I promise.”

“Sky! Where are you?!” Daddy roared.

“Leave her alone Earl!” My mother screamed

I heard his heavy feet trudging up the steps and tears seeped out from the corners of my eyes. He's going to find me. He always finds me. I kept praying though. I refused to stop calling out to God. My closet door slammed open but I didn't open my eyes. My daddy yanked me into his arms and shook me.

“You heard me calling you girl! Got me looking all over this house for you, Sky! I'm gonna beat your butt!”

“No! Daddy please!” I sobbed.

“Shut up your blubbering girl!” I opened my eyes to see his hand lift to strike me but before he could Mommy struck him in the back of his head. With what, I wasn't sure. I was just relieved that he hadn't hurt me. I fell down on the floor and he fell beside me. Quickly, I scampered away from him. Afraid he would grab me again.

“Are you okay, baby?”

“Yes.” I whimpered.

“I'm so sorry I let this go on for so long. He will never hurt you or me again.”

My eyes grew big as I saw her point a gun at my Daddy. I began to tremble at the thought of never seeing him again. I didn't want him to die but he's hurt us and he would keep doing it. “Mommy…”

She glanced over at me for a second. “No, Sky. I know you're too young to fully understand but your Daddy is not going to stop hurting us. I've tried to get him help but he won't take it. I can't live like this anymore.” Tears seeped from her eyes and her hand shook but I knew she was serious. How did we end up like this? I wondered.


I jumped at the loudness of the gunshot. She'd shot my Daddy in the head. I began to cry hysterically and ran over to him. “Daddy! Daddy, wake up!” I shook him as best as I could with my small hands but he never moved.

One, single gunshot changed my life forever. I was only seven when my father was taken from me. I was too young to understand the consequences of what had just happened… what God had allowed to happen…


Present Day (2016)

I gasped loudly and sat up straight in my bed. My pajamas were drenched from what I assumed was sweat. I lifted my hand to my face and felt the trickle of my tears. I'd had one…again. The same reoccurring nightmare of how my mother had taken my father’s life. Witnessing this very act had undoubtedly damaged me but at the same time I had felt relieved. At the time it was so confusing and I felt absolutely horrible for having felt that way. Someone knocked softly at my door. I knew it was my grandmother.

“Skylar, baby, are you okay?” MaDear asked as she came into my bedroom without me inviting her in. I was okay with that though. That's just what she does. She doesn't believe in closed doors even though she lives with me.

I smiled. I wasn't sure if I was but I didn't want her to worry. MaDear, my dad’s mother, had taken me in after that fateful night. My mother had been taken to jail despite the fact that she had made several reports to the police about the abuse before things had come to a head. She is currently serving a thirty year prison sentence at Dempsie Henley State Jail. I was heartbroken I had lost both my parents at the same time, but I'm still here standing strong or at least trying to be. “I'm fine, MaDear.”

“I heard you scream. Ain't nothing fine about that Skylar Jae.” She said in a sassy tone of voice.

I sighed heavily. Even though MaDear was seventy years old, I still couldn't get anything past her. She was still sharp as a tack and knew anything and everything about anybody. I use to wonder if God only gave her the insight into everybody’s business. “I had another nightmare about that night…” I admitted to her.

“Oh, my baby. I don't understand the reason you won't go see someone.”

I shook my head hard. “No one can help me with this. We've had this discussion before.”

“Yes, someone can. If you won't go to God about it, then talk to someone. What could it really hurt?”

It could hurt a lot. That's the problem. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go exploring my feelings about this with someone I didn't even know. “MaDear please let this go. I have made up mind. Now, I need to get some sleep before I have to get up for work. Please.” I pleaded with her.

“Oh alright.” She ambled over to my bed and placed a soft kiss on my forehead. “Just so you know, we aren’t done talking about this. Get some rest.”

I sighed and snuggled back under my plush white down comforter. “Okay. Night.”

"Good night, my child.” She said as she walked over to the door and then closed it behind her. As soon as I lay back down, I knew I wouldn't be going back to sleep. My mind was too wired and I wondered for the millionth time…God, why did you let this happen to me? Why couldn't my life have been different? And like always, I didn't hear anything. No response. Nothing.

Beep! Beep! Beep! I bolted upright in my bed as my alarm went off. Jesus! It scared the heck out of me. I guess at some point I must have dozed off. I didn't feel well rested though and knew it was going to be a long day. Nevertheless I had to go to my job. Otherwise, I couldn't afford this $1000 loft near Downtown Dallas amongst my other bills. Dragging myself from my comfy bed, I hopped in the shower. As I washed my body, I tried to get my head together. I didn't need to be focused on my past while trying to do my job as an Administrative Assistant. I said a quick prayer as I did every morning before I started my day and got out of the shower.

As I slipped on my undergarments and then my black and white blazer with my cream colored dress pants, I checked my iPhone. I did my best not to roll my eyes when I saw Deidrick’s name five times under my missed calls list. He'd called five times in less than an hour. I am really starting to regret ever having dated him which was all of two months. Deidrick was one of those men that pretended he was about something but was still living with his parents. Major turnoff. I wished I had caught on sooner that he was mooching off his parents. Every time I mentioned us doing something together, he always said “I have to check with my mom first,” and dumb me just said “Okay.” I thought he just took care of her or something. It wasn't until he invited me back to his so called place that he let slip that his parents were upstairs sleep and we had to be quiet. I left that house in a hurry and never looked back. I was really feeling him but I am too old to be dating someone who is living with his parents and didn't have a steady job although he had told me otherwise. Those days were over. I blamed that time in my life as a moment of weakness.

Slipping on my black Christian Louboutin heels, I gathered my iPhone and purse and made my way out my room and to the front door. The moment I stepped out my bedroom, the smell of bacon assaulted my nostrils. My mouth watered just thinking about biting into it. MaDear knows she is wrong for this but there is no way I am passing it up. I made my way to my stainless steel kitchen and saw she had also fixed some biscuits with gravy. Lawd have mercy. MaDear was humming what sounded like ‘This Little Light of Mine’ and had her back turned to me. I saw the bacon by the stove and tiptoed over there or so I thought.

“I already made you a plate, Skylar Jae,” She said just as I lifted the bacon from the plate. I frowned and put the bacon down. How does she do that? I wondered.

“Do you honestly think I don't know when you enter the room? I smell that Vicky Secret or whatever it's called all the way over here.”

"I didn't even say anything yet.”

She turned around to face me and chuckled. “Yeah, but you thinking it. Aren't you?”

Her laugh was infectious as always so I joined in too. “Yeah, okay. You got me.” I crossed the small space between us and hugged her. I pulled back. “Are you going to be okay here while I'm gone or do I need to call the recreation center over to come get you so you won't be lonely?”

“Chile, I will be just fine. I'm never lonely because God and I have a good ole time every day. So you just stop your worrying, alright?” She swatted my behind before moving to get my plate. “Now you gotta get going.”

“Ow! Thanks MaDear. I love you,” I said as I grabbed the plate from her and she gave me my keys.

“I love you too suga. I prayed for you already so you have a good day. Remember God hears and knows all,” She said as she winked at me.

“I know Ma. See ya later,” I replied as I closed the door behind me. I power walked down the hall to the elevator and pressed the down button. Hopefully, it came quickly. Traffic on I-30 is bound to be a mess like it always is Monday through Friday. The elevator doors swooshed open a second later and I hopped on. The elevator went down six floors before I reached the lobby. The doors swooshed open again and I rushed out without looking. Instantly, I smacked into something hard and teetered backwards. I tried to catch my balance but failed. Shrieking loudly, I tried to prepare myself for the fall, but before my butt could hit the pavement, someone caught me. I looked up into a pair of gorgeous amber eyes. They were…mesmerizing. All the air felt like it had left my body the longer I stared into them. A man had caught me. A very gorgeous man. I took in his chocolate skin, full eyebrows, lips, and bald head and felt an instant awareness between us. My eyes moved to the arms that held me and they were big. I could tell he

worked out. I gulped and did my best to break the connection or whatever this was but I was stuck. Skylar, you have to go to work, I reminded myself but even that didn't get me moving. His lips were moving but it took me a minute to hear the words.

“Are you alright Miss…?” He asked with concern. His baritone voice causes a shudder to pass through me and I know he is dangerous. Dangerous to my psyche. I had to stay away from him. Did he live here? I wondered. I had never seen him before today.

I cleared my throat and stood to my full height as if doing so would return my sanity. It did. Kind of. “Um, yeah. I'm fine. Thank you.”

“Are you sure? I wasn't paying attention.” It was then that I realized he still had his arms around me. Quickly, I disentangled from his embrace which caused him to pause mid-sentence.

"I think it is me who wasn't paying attention. Sorry. I have to go. Thanks again,” I replied and rushed to the door. I had to get away from this fine man before I did something foolish.

“Wait! Is this yours?”

I quickly turned back to face him and realized I had dropped my breakfast. It was still in the plate. Thank God! “Yes.” I replied softly as he handed it to me.

“Can I at least know your name before you run off again?”

"It's Skylar.”

“Skylar. Pretty name for a gorgeous woman.”

I blushed profusely. "Thanks. I gotta run. You know, work and all.”

“Ah. I understand. I'm Zyon. Maybe I'll see you around.”

“You live here?”

He nodded. “I'm moving into loft 709.”

“Oh. Wait, did you say 709?”

“Yeah why?” He inquired

This gorgeous man is moving in next door to my loft. Oh boy. I'm in trouble. “ reason. Welcome to the neighborhood. Bye,” The words rushed from my mouth as I tried to hightail it out of there.


I stopped mid-step when he called me. He'd already shortened my name. If I wasn't attracted to him before… “Yes?”

He stepped closer to me and I took a deep breath to stop the butterflies from fluttering in my stomach. “I hope I'm not being inappropriate but I don't really know anyone here. Maybe we can have coffee sometime? You could show me around Dallas maybe?”

I think my jaw dropped open from shock. Why would he ask me, a woman he barely knows, out for coffee? I wondered. Why not you? A soft voice whispered. God? “Do you normally do this? I could be a serial killer for all you know.”

He threw his head back and laughed boisterously. I swear it was the best laugh I had ever heard. “No, I don't. You could be but I doubt that,” He replied after he finished laughing at my retort.

His eyes stared unwaveringly into mine and I swear he could see right through me. I looked down at my phone to break the connection between us. It's 7:32 a.m. Oh snap! I had to go. “Okay, coffee would be fine. I have to leave for work right now or I will be late. I will stop by your loft later. Bye.” My heels carried me out the door as fast as they could. I didn't have time to wait for his response. It didn't matter anyway. I didn't have any intentions of seeing him again. As fine as he is, I know he has to have a girlfriend, wife, or something. There was no way he wasn't involved with someone. And I wasn't looking to date or have a relationship with a man. I am fine with being by myself and on my grind. Little did I know that I would be seeing him soon.


I’m not sure how long I stood there after Skylar left my presence. She was like a breath of fresh air for me. Her beautiful Goddess braids, chestnut skin, brown eyes, and her full lips were intoxicating. I couldn't stop staring at her nor did I want her to leave, but I couldn't hold her hostage even though I wanted so badly to. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to remember the reason I am here in the first place. Alexis. She's the reason I had to leave Georgia. The reason I had to uproot my life and start anew. She was my former fiancé and I had thought up until a month ago, that we would be together for the rest of our lives. Little did I know that she was thinking something entirely different.

Of all the lowdown things she could have done, she'd slept with my best friend who also happened to be the Pastor of the church I had attended. Not only did I attend the church, but I was also the associate pastor of Tabernacle of Faith Church of God in Christ in Buckhead. I had been for the last five years, but after the scandal that took place with Alexis, I could no longer call that place my church home. I could not tolerate being humiliated in front of everyone there so I left and somehow ended up here in Dallas, Texas where not one single person knew me. And that was fine with me. Some might call what I did, running from the problem, and in some way, I am. At the same time, I see it as my way of healing. Seeing them every day would have just made me angrier. It was enough just catching them in the act. No matter how much I tried to forget it, I couldn't get the visual out my head.

It was a Friday night. I’d had a long day at work and was eager to get to my home and relax for a little while. Lexi had called and left me a voicemail telling me she would be staying in that night. That should have tipped me off right there but it didn't. Usually she would like to go out and paint the town. She always wanted to be in the limelight. I didn't mind. At the time, I wanted to show off the love of my life. I was glad that men were envious that I had the woman they could never get. Alexis is a gorgeous woman, with skin the color of cinnamon, long black hair with blonde streaks, big, brown eyes, and thick with curves in all the right places. In my mind, she was the epitome of perfection.

Instead of going straight home as originally planned, I took a little detour to her home in Buckhead. When I pulled up to her driveway, I immediately noticed another car there that looked a lot like Calvin’s silver 2016 Mercedes Benz GLK. Of course, I thought nothing of it. He often did home visits to some of our members, especially if they needed prayer. In most instances, I was usually with him. I smiled thinking I was going to get to see both of my favorite people today. I knocked on the door because Lexi didn't like the doorbell. She'd often complain that it was too loud so it didn't surprise me when she

didn't come to the door right away. Good thing she had given me a key so I unlocked the door and stepped inside. As soon as I stepped inside, I saw clothes and shoes strewn everywhere. A frown marred my features as a funny feeling settled at the pit of my stomach. I made my way down to her bedroom and my heart began a staccato beat within my chest as I saw the love of my life on top of my best friend, riding him like she didn't have a care in the world. Like she didn't have a man that worshipped the ground she walked on. Anger engulfed my entire being and from that point, I couldn't think clearly. Before I knew it, I was making my way over to her bed.

“Alexis!” I shouted and yanked her off of him. She screeched and scrambled off the bed.

"Zyon, baby…I-"

“I know you're not about to sit here and try to explain this! Really?”

"Zy, man. We didn't mean to hurt you.” Calvin said as he sat up on the bed. My head swiveled to face him. Not one ounce of remorse was on his face. In fact, he didn't even try to explain what happened which led me to believe that they had been sleeping together for quite some time. I didn't believe anything that came out of his lying mouth. I was done with both of them. This betrayal was unforgivable. Instead of responding, I lifted my hand which I had balled into a fist and hit him in the face. Blood spurted from his nose but I didn't care. “To hell with both of ya’ll!” I said and left both of their adulterous behinds in her house.

"Zyon! Please. I love you. Not him." Alexis screamed as I left out of her bedroom

“Zy wait!” Calvin shouted to me as I swiftly walked to my car. I can't believe this fool is still trying to talk to me. I wasn't trying to talk much less see him.

“Get away from me Judas.”

“Look, we need to talk about what we are going to tell the church members. Alexis wants to be my wife…soon.”

A sarcastic laugh left my lips before I could stop it. Married? Wow. “Now you want to think about the church members? You weren't thinking about them when you were balls deep in my ex-fiancé. Miss me with that bull. Tell them whatever you want. I'm done with you, her, and Tabernacle of Faith. Consider this my resignation and the end of a twenty-year friendship.”

“Don't do this man.” Calvin pleaded.

“It's already done,” I replied curtly and got into my car. I sped off in my car feeling like the biggest fool in the world. After that day, I never saw them again. Although they'd called, texted, and came to my home before I relocated, I never answered. That chapter of my life was closed. Yeah, that wasn't one of my best moments. Shaking my head, I made my way upstairs to my new home. As I entered the elevator and pressed the number for my floor, my eyes strayed to the spot where I'd incidentally met Skylar. My heart began beating wildly beneath my chest as I recalled being near her and those eyes…they had already captivated me. They were the color of honey with a sprinkle of green in their depths. They told a story of their own. I wasn't sure what kind of story but I am curious and eager to be in her presence again. Is this a wise decision God? I wondered. I don't want to be hurt again or set myself up for failure. What if she's not even interested? I questioned. This is crazy. I'm not ready anyway. Keeping my distance from her is the best thing for both of us.

The elevator dinged and the doors swooshed open. I was eager to get to my loft and rest for a while. I had been moving all weekend and now my aching muscles were protesting. Before I could reach my door, something caught my eye. Turning to my left, I saw an older lady just standing at the end of the hall like she was lost. I sighed and went to her. I couldn't just leave her there. Well, I could've, but that's not something I would do.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” I ask from a distance so I wouldn't startle her. She slowly turns to me and blinks a few times. She smiled as if she was glad someone came to her aid. She couldn't have been more than seventy or so.

“Um, I've seemed to have gotten turned around. Do you live here?”

“Yes ma’am. I do. I live in Loft 709. Do you know which loft you stay in?”

“I think so. It's 707.”

"Okay. Well let's see if I can get you there.” I held out my arm for her to grab a hold of. She beamed and eagerly wrapped her arm around mine.

“I see you're a gentleman.”

“Yes ma’am. I’d like to think so.”

“We need more gentlemen like you around. I swear this new generation is just backwards. It's like the parents just don't even try to teach right from wrong anymore. They let the kids do whatever they want now. In my day, you couldn't get away with what these kids get away with now. Such a shame.”

I chuckled and patted her hand gently. “You're so right about that. Thank you for the compliment. I'm sorry; I didn't get your name.”

“Everybody calls me MaDear but you can call me Sandra, handsome,” She flirted and winked.

I threw back my head and laugh heartily. “Well Sandra, it's nice to make your acquaintance. I'm Zyon. It looks like I've found your place here.”

She looked up and let out a sigh of relief. “Indeed you have, young man. Thank you for helping an old lady.”

“Old? Where?” I asked as I pretended to look over my shoulder.

Sandra blushed profusely. “That's sweet of you to say. Have you eaten today? I can whip you up some breakfast for helping me.”

“I haven't, but I don't want to intrude.”

She scoffed. “You aren't intruding. I invited you. Now come on,” She insisted as she went inside her loft. Seeming like I didn't have a much of a choice, I followed her inside. I stopped short when I came upon a picture. The beauty I had met this morning…Skylar…she is smiling in this photo…This is her place? Well, so much for keeping my distance.

My cup runneth over preview