Chapter 1

 

Wanda Boyd strutted through the Savannah/Hilton Head Airport refreshed after a much-needed getaway.  She wore a V-neck, backless maxi dress offering a view of her cleavage, and the silk fabric rested perfectly against her firm backside.  Wanda hid behind dark shades, gloating as lustful stares attested to her undeniable beauty.

She and her lover, Ron Phelps, had just returned from a weekend rendezvous in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Ron’s best friend, Pete Myers, and his fiancé, Casey Howard, had vacationed with them.  Although Wanda was skeptical of them coming along, the couples had a blast.  Ron and Pete splurged, making the trip unforgettable.  They lodged at the luxurious Venetian Hotel, and the ladies were pampered with a personal masseuse and gourmet meals, and they spent hundreds of dollars at the gambling casinos.

The trip was intended for Wanda to escape family problems.  Two weeks earlier, she’d learned her parents were getting a divorce.  Wanda was devastated by the news.  She’d never fathomed that after twenty-nine years of marriage her mother and father would call it quits.  She was hopeful they’d reconsider and begged them not to choose such an extreme resolution.  However, they informed her, the decision was final.  Knowing her parents as well as she did, Wanda realized their issue was serious.  She assumed it was infidelity.  Wanda wasn’t sure who did what, but she couldn’t think of anything else that could shatter such a grounded relationship.

After learning their fate, tears burned her eyes every time she thought about her parents living separate lives.  Wanda had always known them to be such a great team.  Their marriage was a testament of opposites attract—her mother was loving, soft spoken, and kind while her father was dominate, opinionated, and bold, yet they complemented each other.

Wanda remembered admiring them while growing up.  No matter how hard she or her siblings tried to divide and conquer, their efforts failed.  There were occasional arguments as with any other couple, but her parents had always seemed to be on one accord.

As Wanda approached the baggage claim area she noticed the luggage hadn’t arrived.  In the meantime, she turned on her cell to check for new messages.  There were three, but she focused on the one from her mother saying to come over once she’d arrived back in town.  Wanda dialed her number, curious what was going on.  The phone rang until she was prompted to leave a message at the beep.  Instead she hung up, dropping the BlackBerry in her purse with intentions to try again later.

Then she looked up, making eye contact with Ron who was standing across the room with Pete and Casey.  They shared a smile.  Although Wanda had traveled with him, while in Savannah they were cautious of being seen together because Ron was still a married man—even if his wife was missing. 

Before long, the luggage appeared.  Wanda stepped closer to the carousel and waited.  After grabbing her suitcase, she headed for the parking garage.  Once inside her car she started the engine then dialed her mother’s cell number before trying the home phone.  Again her calls went to voicemail.  Why isn’t she picking up?  She normally always answers, Wanda thought. 

In the mood for easy listening, she slid in Anita Baker’s Rapture CD.  The sounds of “Sweet Love” filled the air.  Moving to the beat, Wanda proceeded to pay her parking fee.  When she veered onto I-95 South she increased the volume and accelerated up to eighty miles per hour within a matter of seconds.

  Twenty minutes later, she parked in her parents’ driveway, baffled that both cars were there yet no one had answered the telephone.  “Oh, Lord.  I hope Daddy hasn’t done something crazy,” Wanda said, feeling nervous.  Her heart rate quickened as she raced toward the house.  Wanda banged on the door, calling out for her parents, wishing she had a spare key.  She prayed, pleading with God not to discover a murder-suicide crime scene.

Finally, her father answered.

Wanda sighed.  “Thank God.  What’s wrong, Dad?  Why didn’t someone answer the phone?” Wanda fussed, walking inside.

“Everything’s fine,” he replied, closing the door.  “Your mother and I were having a discussion so we ignored the telephones.”

“What if it was an emergency?” Wanda complained.

Then she took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled, calming herself.  When she looked in her father’s eyes, she saw his pain.  “Dad, is there any way you and Mom can work this out?  What happened?” Wanda questioned, wanting specifics.

“I’m afraid not,” he replied, sadly.  “Honestly, I was just as shocked as you to learn your mother didn’t want to be married anymore.”

Wanda pitied her dad.  She lowered her head, pursing her lips, trying to remain composed.  “I’m so sorry,” she said, consoling him.

“Don’t be,” he replied, forcing a smile.

They continued into the den.  “How are you doing, Momma?” Wanda asked, walking in her direction.  She was sitting on the sofa.

“I’m okay.  Your father’s moving out,” she said.

“How do you feel about him leaving?” Wanda asked.

“Well, I’m not proud of it.  I hope one day you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me, Travis.  I really am sorry,” she said to her husband.

“So am I,” he replied.  “I have everything.  I’m going to take off now so you two can talk.”

“Don’t leave, Dad,” Wanda insisted.

“I think I’d better.  Call me later,” he said.

Wanda nodded before following him to the front door.  When she returned, Joyce was wiping tears away.  “Don’t cry, Momma,” she said in a comforting tone.  It was tearing Wanda up to see her parents so broken.   

“I never intended to hurt your father,” Joyce said.  “It kills me to see him so sad.” 

“What’s the problem, Momma?  I didn’t see any of this coming,” Wanda replied.

“I’ve strived to be a good wife and mother, but now I’m in a different place.  It’s time for me to enjoy myself and do the things I want to do,” Joyce said.

“Why can’t you enjoy yourself with Dad?  I thought this was the time in life people lived for,” Wanda stated.

“Yeah, that sounds good.  Realistically, your father has grown to be old and boring.  We’ve argued about it for months.”

“Momma, y’all can fix this.  I think counseling would be better than a divorce.” 

Joyce lowered her head.  “It’s too late,” she said.

“It’s never too late, Momma,” Wanda replied.

“Yes, it is.  I have a boyfriend.  I’m in love with another man,” Joyce said.

Wanda gasped, trying to process what she’d just heard.  “A boyfriend?” she questioned.  She hopped off the sofa and paced the floor, refusing to look at her mother.

“Sit down, Wanda,” Joyce ordered. 

“Naw, Momma.  What have you done?  What have you done to our family?” she rambled, continuing to pace. 

Joyce got up and stood in her path.  She looked Wanda directly in the eye.  “I said sit down,” she repeated authoritatively.

“How could you?” Wanda asked her, frowning.

“This is my life,” Joyce shouted. 

Wanda stepped away, facing the opposite direction.  “I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” she mumbled, getting angrier by the second.  Wanda became so frustrated she didn’t know what to do.

“I’ve planned a cookout for Saturday, here at the house,” Joyce continued, demanding her attention.  “I’ve already told your sister and brother.  I’d like to introduce Michael to all of you at once.  Will you come?”

Wanda turned around in slow motion.  “You’re bringing another man into my father’s home?  Momma, you’re not even divorced yet,” she complained.  “I never thought I’d have a conversation like this with you.”

“You’re absolutely right, Wanda, I’m not divorced yet,” Joyce snapped, “but I have moved on.  You need to accept that fact and deal with it.”

“I see.  Well, let me be perfectly clear.  I don’t approve of what you’re doing and I will not be at the cookout.  I couldn’t care less about meeting Michael,” Wanda sassed. 

“Get over it,” Joyce said.  “The sooner, the better.”

Wanda rolled her eyes and shook her head in utter disbelief.  “I’m done,” she said before storming out of the room. 

Once in her car, she sat weakened by disappointment.  Before driving off, she dialed her father’s number.  “What’s gotten into Momma?  Do you know she has a boyfriend?”

“Unfortunately,” Travis replied.

“Who is this person?  How long have y’all had all of this drama going on?” Wanda questioned.

“For months.  We kept our problems kinda quiet, trying to work through them ourselves.  When I found out Joyce had an affair, that was it for me.  The marriage was over.”

“Oh, my God,” Wanda whined.  “I can’t even imagine how this has happened.”

“Our relationship took a turn for the worst after she joined that women’s social group,” Travis pointed out.

“Why?  I thought mingling with women her age was a good thing,” Wanda said. 

“I did, too, at first,” Travis replied, “but, you know how ladies talk.  She probably learned about the other women’s lives and felt she was missing out on something in her own.  I don’t know.” 

“Wow.  I guess that’s possible,” Wanda said sadly.

“She told me she’s in love with the guy.  Apparently, he’s giving her the attention she wasn’t getting from me.  Your mother did attempt to get me out more, but we’re older now.  We can’t do all that stuff we used to.”

Wanda held the phone in silence, searching for the right words to say.  “Well, Dad,” she began, “just because you’re older, that doesn’t mean you can’t add spice to your life.  It was just you and Momma.  Y’all could’ve been chasing each other around the house butt naked if you wanted or had date night once a week or once a month.  Man, I wish I would’ve known what was going on.  I could’ve helped you plan a trip or do something to let Momma know she’s special. There’s no doubt about it, Dad, women want to feel loved.  Without that connection a relationship is doomed.”

“If I could do it all over, I’d definitely make some changes.  I love my wife,” Travis admitted.

“Would you take her back?” Wanda asked.

“I can’t.  Not knowing she’s been with another man.  It’s over.  She made her choice,” Travis replied regretfully.

“No one could’ve ever told me my parents would be getting a divorce.  Never,” Wanda repeated, thinking out loud. 

It was hard for her to accept what was happening, but clearly there was nothing she could do about it.

“We’ll get past this,” Travis encouraged.  “Let it go for now.  We’ll talk soon.  I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Wanda replied.

When she made it home, she unpacked her bags and took a long, hot shower.  After speaking with Ron for a short while, she dialed her boyfriend, Malcolm’s number.

“Hey, baby.  How was the trip?  Do you feel better?” he asked.

“I did,” Wanda replied.  “Leaving Savannah for a few days was just what I needed.  Now, I’m back to reality.  My parents are definitely going through with the divorce.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Malcolm said.  “I’m not too far from your house.  Do you mind if I come over?”

“Of course not,” Wanda replied.  She realized it was necessary to make time for Malcolm to keep him happy.

Moments after she hung up with him, she received a picture message from Michelle showing off her pregnant belly.  She’s getting big, Wanda thought, staring at the photo.  She closed the flip phone, excited to share Michelle’s joy.

While she waited for Malcolm to arrive, she selected an outfit to wear to work the next day.  Afterward, Wanda walked into the living room and noticed headlights in the driveway.  She peeked out of the window, making sure it was Malcolm before disarming the security alarm.

“Hey, it’s good to see you,” he said once she’d let him in.  “Are you okay?”

“I will be,” Wanda replied, accepting his embrace. 

Malcolm kissed her.

“I’m happy you stopped by.  Where are you coming from?” Wanda asked, following him to the sofa.

“I just left the sports bar.  I played a couple games of pool with a guy from work.  Tell me about your weekend,” Malcolm said, putting his arm around her.

“There’s nothing to tell,” Wanda lied. 

“You didn’t do anything exciting?” Malcolm inquired.

“No.  I just needed relaxation and a change of scenery.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re back at home.  Do you think you’ll be up for dinner tomorrow after work?” Malcolm asked.

“Sure,” Wanda replied.

“Great.”  Malcolm kissed her on the forehead.  “I know you’re tired and you have a lot on your mind so I’ll go and let you get some rest.  Call me tomorrow,” he said, standing.  Malcolm pulled Wanda to her feet and pressed his lips against hers.  “Don’t worry yourself too much.  Everything is going to be fine.  I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Wanda said. 

She walked Malcolm to the door.  After seeing him out, she reset the security alarm then returned to her room and snuggled in bed.  Wanda regretted cheating on Malcolm because he was such a sweet person.  However, he didn’t fulfill her needs.  He was romantic in spurts, and his sex drive didn’t compare to hers.  Wanda had tried, but found it nearly impossible to be faithful.

Next, her mind drifted to her parents.  She remembered her father saying he couldn’t take her mother back because she’d slept with another man.  She wondered how Malcolm would react if he learned about her and Ron’s affair.  Wanda believed he’d forgive her but understood why her father felt so betrayed.  Her parents had been together for more than thirty years.  They’d dated for almost two years prior to marriage.

Finally, Wanda drifted off to sleep.  At 1:40 the telephone rang, waking her.  “Who in the hell is this?” she complained, reaching for the receiver.  She was shocked to see her mother’s name and number on the ID screen.  Her intuition said something was wrong.  “Hello,” Wanda answered, hesitantly.

“Wanda, your father’s been rushed to the hospital,” Joyce managed to say between sniffles.

“What?  What happened?  Which one?” she asked, frantic.

“He had a heart attack.  He’s undergoing emergency surgery at Candler,” Joyce replied.

“Oh, my God.  I’m on my way,” Wanda said.  She threw down the phone, hopped out of bed, and scrambled around the room trying to get dressed.

Wanda hurried to the hospital, joining her mother, younger brother, Tony, and sister Tina, in the waiting room.  She spoke and accepted an embrace from her siblings, then started in on her mother.  “This is all your fault,” she lashed out with a pointed finger.

“Come on, Wanda, let’s not start the blame game,” Tony said, calmly pushing her away.

“She’s responsible.  Are you happy now?” Wanda blurted in her mother’s direction.

Joyce didn’t respond.

Tony forced Wanda into a seat at the other end of the room.  “Calm down, sis.  We have to stick together.  Trust me this is just as hard for Momma as it is for us.  Leave her alone,” he whispered. 

Wanda frowned.  She cut her eyes at her mother, pissed at all the confusion she’d caused the family.  She pitied her father most.  Although he’d put forth a macho image, Wanda knew his heart was aching. 

During the lengthy wait, she impatiently anticipated an update while Joyce comforted Tina as she used an entire box of Kleenex and Tony sat quietly twiddling his thumbs.  When the surgeon finally notified them that Travis was in recovery, they all exhaled a sigh of relief.  The doctor said the nurse would allow a short visit once Travis was settled, but warned he needed to get plenty of rest.

At last, the family made it in to see him.  Travis was sound asleep.  They stayed for a few minutes, holding his hand and leaving kisses along his face, before heading home.

Later that morning, Wanda stopped by the hospital on the way to work.  Her father was still resting.  She continued on to her job at the Chatham County Courthouse, exhausted, but kept busy to keep from worrying so much.

Wanda and her siblings visited their father daily and his elder sister, Cathy, a registered nurse from West Palm Beach, Florida, took leave from her job to be with him.  They were all very supportive and strived to keep Travis’s spirits lifted during his recovery process.

Whenever Joyce showed up at the hospital, there was always a confrontation.  Cathy also blamed her for Travis’s condition.  However, because they were still legally married, there was nothing she could do to keep Joyce away.

On Thursday evening, while visiting with her dad, Wanda was surprised to hear from Pete’s fiancé, Casey.  She stepped out of the room to take the call.  Casey shared how much she enjoyed hanging out with her while they were in Las Vegas.  Wanda assured her the feelings were mutual.  When she asked to keep in touch or if they could get together sometime, Wanda invited her to the River Walk club the following night.  Although she had a lot going on, partying allowed her to escape the pressures of the real world.  Casey accepted Wanda’s offer and they made plans to meet up before ending the call.

Wanda’s mind drifted to Ron.  They’d spoken on the telephone but hadn’t seen each other since returning from the trip.  Wanda smiled, remembering their adventure.  “That was the best vacation ever.  Ron, you’re one hellava sugar daddy,” she bragged.

 

Trouble In My Way