God's Gifts excerpts

Book 1: Couple by Christmas 

Derek Washington would be the first to admit he had been a jerk, but his ex-wife, Robyn, beat him to it. It didn’t help that his own mother agreed with her.

Maybe it was the holidays or their son’s upcoming sixth birthday on Christmas Day that had him re-evaluating his life. Lately, the what-ifs plagued him every time.

His divorce from Robyn had been ugly, mean-spirited, and anything but Christ-like. Their antics in the courtroom had caused the judge to decree they communicate through TalkingParents.com—a service designed to document their conversations—in case they returned to court for more litigation.

According to the parenting plan, the judge thought it best that they exchanged custody of Tyler at either of his grandparents’ homes. Most of the time, Robyn’s mother’s house was the drop off and pick-up spot.

“It’s not your child that needs adult supervision, but the adults who are his parents,” Judge Wilson had reprimanded them.

Sitting behind his desk, Derek couldn’t keep his mind from drifting to that fateful day when he kissed his marriage goodbye. As a quality improvement manager for a Fortune 500 company in West St. Louis County, he had plenty of projects to keep him busy, but he lacked concentration.

At one time, he and Robyn had everything going for them; they were the epitome of a Christian couple at their church, Holy Ghost Temple. People complimented them as an attractive couple. They had the support of their respective in-laws who welcomed them as one of their own, which explained why his mother, Lane, and her mother, Sara, sat unified on the front row in court, giving both of them a disapproving glare once their marriage was dissolved.

It had been two years and he still had past regrets. Did Robyn?  

“Stubborn people are fools,” his mother stated on more than one occasion when he would drop by with Tyler. Of course, she made sure her grandson was distracted before she lit into Derek. “I know you still love Robyn or you would have moved on by now. Talk to her before shemoves on. Don’t repeat the same mistakes your foolish daddy did. Now, he’s miserable with that other woman. Hmphed,” she scolded him as if he were eleven years old instead of thirty—almost thirty-one.

Somehow, he made it through the day, operating on autopilot. Hours later, he hurried home to change before picking up Tyler for his weekend visit. He was almost out the door when he received an email alert from TalkingParents.com: I got Tyler from kindergarten instead of Mom. You can pick him up from my house.

Her house—formerly their house. Derek grunted. It had been months since they crossed paths. Their greetings were nothing more than cordial. Would time eventually heal the wounds between them so they could hold a civil conversation and not play the blame game? 

After parking in front of the two-story, three-bedroom suburban house, he sat staring at the starter home they had purchased. Neighboring houses were lit from the porches to the trees. Not Robyn’s. Besides the massive holiday wreath on the red door, the only other decorations were battery-operated candles that were displayed in all six front windows.  Living in an apartment, his decorations were scarce too. Be nice,he prepped himself as he stepped out of his car, then strolled up the pathway and knocked. 

“Daddy’s here!” he heard Tyler scream from inside.

He grinned. At least someone was glad to see him. 

“Get your hat and coat,” Robyn said as she opened the door.

Rocking on his heels, Derek stayed rooted in place. The few times they had to alter the arrangements for pickups, she never invited him inside, so he never crossed the threshold—rain, shine, or blizzard. 

She didn’t make eye contact with him, but that didn’t stop Derek from noticing everything about her. She was one pretty lady, which was what attracted him to her in the first place. Robyn still maintained her beauty. Her goldish-brown hair shone under the hallway light, and her skin glowed. 

There was something else he noticed while she multi-tasked, bundling up their son and slipping her arm in the sleeve of her coat. She was fast, but not without him catching a glimpse of a Red Lobster uniform. Robyn was an executive assistant, so what was going on? 

“You’re working a second job? Why? I don’t mind adjusting my child support amount,” he offered with a frown. Money had been the source of many arguments. His wife loved to shop. He liked to save. But he wasn’t going to be accusatory, not this time, not ever again. He had no say in her financial affairs unless it affected their child. What else was going on that he didn’t know about?

“You’re more than generous with your child support.” She dismissed him when she knelt and opened her arms to receive a kiss and hug from their son. She stood again. “You can drop him off at my mother’s.” She guided Tyler outside.

“Bye, Mommy.” He waved before latching on to Derek’s hand. As they spun around to take the steps, he glanced over his shoulder. Robyn slowly closed the door without looking his way. He would give anything to earn her smile, a sparkle in her eyes, or her alluring tone when she used to tease him. Instead, he got nothing—no emotion. 

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Book 2: Prayers Answered by Christmas 

March, three months later...

Marlon Washington scanned the packed banquet room at the Drury Inn in St. Louis for the second wedding anniversary gala. The whoopla was for his younger brother, Derek and his wife, Robyn, who had been divorced, then resolved their differences. They decided to re-marry on the anniversary of their divorce date. At least someone had a happy ending in their life.

At thirty-eight, and the oldest of four boys—two lived out of state—Marlon should have been the one leading by example when it came to marriage—no, that honor should have fallen on their father. Marlon grunted. Tyrone Washington had divorced his mother and was working on marriage number three. Their so-called “male role model” had failed to showhis sons what a happy marriage looked like. His church-going mother made peace with her ex after the divorce and urged her sons to do the same. Allfour of them had, but they weren’t strong father-son bonds.

Now, Marlon reigned as the sole second generation divorcee since Derek and Robyn were once again husband and wife. They were the family’s success story, so it made sense for them to go overboard on the festivities: live music, food, and colorful decorations.

His heart twisted tighter than a head full of microbraids when he overheard Mikaela praying for another mommy for herself and Alyssa—who barely remembered her mother.

“Hey.” He felt a nudge before he blinked. Whenhad Robyn and Derek made their way to him? How long had he been in a daze?

“Why are you being anti-social?” Derek grinned with no cares in the world.

“I’m not. Just thinking.” He thought he was doing a good job of being his daughters’ “mom” and dad, but Mikaela’s prayer revealed he was missing the mark. Marlon folded his arms and shared what was on his mind.

“If that’s the case, there are a couple of single sisters that would love to keep you company.”

“I’m not interested—not yet anyway.”

“Hmm-mm. But it’s coming. You may not have caught a garter, but somehow, you did get in the line of fire when I threw my flowers after our courtroom ceremony. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that,”Robyn teased, then laughed. “A man catching the bouquet.’

“Funny.” He slipped his hands in his pants pockets, then on second thought loosened the bow tie that all the male guests were asked to wear, not for a wedding, but a celebration of their two year re- marriage anniversary.

“Okay, so you aren’t ready to get hitched again, but it could be worse.” Derek snickered. “Youreight-year-old could be getting a jump-start on praying for her prince-charming.” The couple laughed. Marlon didn’t see the humor.

Catching the flowers at their renewal had been a fluke. It had no sentimental value to him. Thatcoveted prize was for the ladies. That’s what he got for walking by on the way to escorting Mikaela to the bathroom. Realizing what he had, he passed it to the person beside him who happened to be Mikaela, so he snatched it back.

“She won’t be cashing in on that until she’s at least forty-something. As for me—” he shrugged—“Ithought I was done until I heard that prayer. Maybe I should settle like Dad to get a home-cooked meal every day and a mother who will love my two littlegirls as her own.”