I want to tell you a story about Leroy. You will meet his first wife, his mother and his last wife. Life has a way of bringing back what you give to it. “Raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will return to it” states the Bible. I don’t doubt Leroy was loved, but he wasn’t shown. He might have been raised in church, adored by all the members of the church, but being loved for who you are and being worshipped are two very different things in this life. A mother and Father determine the very important things in a child’s life. Sometimes there is only a Mother present, sometimes only a Father. Often the absent parent is the hero because as we know the grass is supposed to be greener on the other side. A Pastor, teachers, friends all play a part in our emotional makeup. How you live, the things you see and imitate determine how you think and feel about life and the role you play in life. It is only later in life that you make up your own mind about how you will believe and things you will accept. It is a sad day when you realize you are the captain of your own ship and your ship is way off course. Some people never admit they alone are responsible for who they are. They spend a lifetime playing the blame game.
13 year old Leroy sat in the front row of the church next to his mother Francis. He was the son of the only mechanic in town. His Father did not come to church. However, his mother was a regular at the Baptist church, every Sunday morning. She made Leroy come with her every time. His father did not participate in Leroy’s life.
Leroy didn’t believe in God. He just sat there obediently to please his mother. He learned early to sit still and pretend to listen. He would bow his head in prayer, knowing full well Francis was watching to make sure his eyes were completely closed. Francis would beat him like a stranger if he made one misstep, so he was careful to do what was expected of him. He was everyone’s darling, the perfect little gentleman. All the ladies loved him and showered his mother with praise for raising such a good son. You could already tell at his early age he would be a good looking man. He was honing his skills to impress the ladies even as a little boy. Leroy loved how they praised his every move! The attention made him seek out opportunities to get all those hugs and praises. He did not get many of those at home. Francis was very strict and not affectionate towards the boy.
One Sunday after services, Francis sent Leroy back into the church to get her shawl that she had forgotten from the Sunday school room. Leroy hurried into the room and saw the Reverend Marshall passionately kissing Loretta Glass. This would not have been an issue except that Reverend Marshall was married to Betty Marshall, not Loretta Glass.
Loretta was a 16 year old high school girl with huge breast and a behind like a barrel. The reverend’s hands were roaming all over her butt, squeezing it hard as he was kissing her. Leroy stopped quick and stepped out of the room. He bit his lip, unsure of what to do. His heart was beating hard at the reality of what he had just seen.
He couldn’t go back without that shawl; his mother would kill him…so he knocked loudly until someone yelled come in. The Reverend Marshall looked at him suspiciously wondering if he saw anything, “What do you need Leroy?” “My Mama sent me in to get her shawl she forgot in here sir. It is on that chair right there” pointing to the chair, trying not to make eye contact with the Pastor. The Reverend picked it up and tossed it to Leroy. “Well alright, hurry on back to your Mama and we will see yall next Sunday.” Leroy said “Yes sir” as he ran from the room. He thought about the situation on the walk home. He normally didn’t listen too much to the sermons. Seemed to him that all the Reverend Marshall ever told everyone how they were all going to hell. It was Sunday after Sunday of 3 boring hymns being sung, 35 minutes of the reverend yelling don’t do this and don’t do that, prayers, then the offering baskets would pass by and people would put money into it every service. Leroy thought about it for a minute longer.
He noticed that the Reverend only worked 2 days a week, perhaps 3, if someone died. It didn’t seem like a bad job. He drove a big blue Cadillac and his wife and kids were always well dressed in the latest fashions. They had a beautiful home and everything anyone could hope to want…now it even appeared the Reverend also gets to kiss and fondle the young girls in his congregation. Yes, it looked like an awesome job. Leroy was rethinking his career choices for his future.
People in town assumed that Leroy would take over the family business when he grew up; however, Leroy knew that was far from true. Number one there was no relationship with his father, and number two he had no interest in cars or machines. His brain didn’t seem to work like other people’s brain. He didn’t read too well and his math skills were really bad.
Even if he had wanted to learn his father’s trade, his father had no desire to interact with Leroy. He had made that painfully clear to the boy time after time. It was almost like not having a father. Leroy had quit feeling bad about it long ago. It was confusing for him when he was younger because everyone in the town seemed to admire his father so much. How could such a good man abandon his wife and only child? Leroy never could make sense of it. So he focused on being a good son to his mama. Leroy’s father, Frank, the mechanic, loved his work and had his own shop. It was the only one of its kind in town. He made a lot of money but he did not lavish it on his wife and son. He was a gambler and a drinker. Good at one, bad at the other. He didn’t misbehave in his own town though, he would drive 35 miles north to Clever Springs to give his half of his money to poker players and the other half to a waitress named Deena. He was considered a big spender in that town… had all his party friends call him Luke, instead of Frank.
Frank was a total failure in his family. He had abandoned his duties as husband and father after Leroy was born. His own Mother was so disappointed that they didn’t have a girl child that she didn’t want anything to do with her grandson because of her displeasure. “Boys just grow up and disappoint you.” his Mama had said looking through the nursery window at the sleeping child.
Frank couldn’t stand all the crying and screaming the kid did. He couldn’t get any rest, because Francis was up and down all night interrupting his sleep. Francis gave all her attention to the baby day and night, then had the nerve to say she was tired when he would come home. He finally washed his hands of the whole situation one day after going out of town to buy supplies. He had happened upon this little juke joint where he met the love of his life.
Frank was smart enough not to give up his clientele. He made a fortune cheating folks out of good car parts. Even if nothing was wrong he would find or create something. They trusted him completely. It was pretty sad actually that grown men could be taken advantage of so easily. It was bad enough the defenseless, helpless women could be conned but even the men who didn’t want to get their hands dirty paid dearly at settling up time. But Frank figured, their loss was his tremendous gain. Not only did he replace good parts, he sold the extra used ones or reused them, still charging everyone high prices. The community didn’t realize Frank was a pig, a true swindler and con artist. He took advantage of every single customer that came to his garage door. He was not discriminating; he cheated them all, equally.
To survive, Leroy’s mother Francis took in wash for the local boarding house in town and did seamstress work . She also baby sat 2 children for working parents 5 days a week and was paid to fix meals for the elderly couple that lived next door. Their daughter had approached Francis one day and asked her to keep an eye out for them. “I am concerned for my folks but I have a life too” the daughter complained. Francis knew she rarely saw the daughter there. “My Mom looks so frail; I don’t think she remembers to eat.” “Well I understand you don’t have time to come very often. I would be willing to help you look after them but you’d have to pay me $40.00 a week” Francis stated. The girl looked relieved and said “Oh yes, yes! That would be great!” Francis thought she may have not asked enough money because of the girl’s excitement so she added “But for that price you will have to buy the groceries and still pay their bills.” The girl’s forehead wrinkled and said “Let me talk to my husband about how much more we can afford to pay.
But honestly any amount would be better than me having to come to town to check on them all the time.” Francis nodded but didn’t smile. “Tell your husband for $53.00 a week I will take care of both of them, that means buying their groceries and writing out their bills and taking care of the house and laundry. My boy will cut the yard.” The girl nodded and said “Thank you so much. Here is $43.00 to get you started and I will get you the rest on Friday if that is okay?” Francis smiled. She wanted to dance in the street.
She would be able to give up two of her other jobs with this extra money coming in.
Everyone thought she was just helpful and had a benevolent heart. They didn’t realize she wasn’t volunteering her time or talents. In a time when women didn’t work, Francis was working 4 jobs to keep her and her son eating. Her husband paid the mortgage but gave her no other money! So she had to get creative to find money to buy groceries and clothing and shoes for Leroy. She loved her son but didn’t smother him with affection because she didn’t want him to get soft, and she also didn’t have the time. Frank had abandoned the family once his mama died. The day he stepped out of their lives, Francis found a dime on the street. She picked it up and put it in her pocket. From that day she collected dimes. Once she got a dollar’s worth she would cash it in for a dollar bill, then five ones for a five dollar bill. Once she saved to a $10.00 bill she would sew it into a quilt that she had. No one knew the money was in there except Francis.
She walked everywhere she went because Frank had the only car and would never allow her to drive it or even ride in it. When he went out of town on Thursday evenings, he did not return until she had left for church on Sunday. The one time she confronted him many years ago, he slapped her so hard it busted her mouth open. She never asked again. Leroy saw the entire thing. He wanted to help his mama but his father had picked up a hammer and said “Come on boy, I’ll smash your ugly melon head in before you can reach me.” Leroy bowed his head, and then knelt down to help his mama off the ground. He was 7 years old.
Frank’s Mama was hopeful the second child would be a girl. She was in bad health and was living with them and Francis was taking care of her.
Frank quit having sexual relations with Francis after she got pregnant the second time. He had overheard a conversation Francis had with his mama. Francis had stated “This baby may be a boy too. You should love your grandchildren. They are part of you. Don’t be so mean.” Frank was furious for her talking to his mama like that and didn’t speak to her for 2 days. When Francis was in her second trimester she told her Motherinlaw, “I really feel like this one is going to be another boy. He is pressing on my side like Leroy did!” Later that night Frank pushed Francis down the stairs on purpose causing her to lose the baby. He told the doctors they both were at the top of the stairs and he had felt dizzy, lost his balance and accidently fell into her. The doctors never called the Sheriff about the incident because the husband said it was an accident. The baby was a girl.There was no funeral for the baby. Francis never told anyone that Frank actually smiled at her before pushing her down the stairs.
After that “accident” was when Frank’s Mother died in her sleep. Immediately Frank discovered a new life in Clever Springs. He could be a big man in another town! Even though he was barely 5’2, people there looked up to him. All the money he threw around bought him popularity and friends. He was free to drink and laugh. There was no one to argue with him. As a matter of fact, he believed he loved Deena, a sweet little waitress. She absolutely refused to run away with him. He loved buying her expensive gifts and she was so grateful when she received them. Deena was beautiful unlike that homely moose looking woman at his home. He shuddered to think of Francis. She was a cold fish. The day his Mother died she had fixed a huge meal as if she was celebrating and she had the nerve to smile and be almost giddy; that was the day he knew he hated her. His mother had lived with them and yes Francis had taken care of her to her last day but that’s what wives are supposed to do. He still wasn’t sure if Francis had helped his mother to die. He had a nightmare the night of the funeral that she put a pillow over his defenseless mother’s face and smothered her to death. It could have been a message from his mama, from the grave. After that dream he never trusted Francis again, couldn’t stand the sight of her. If he had wanted to have sex with her it would have been just to punish her and “of course the cow would probably get pregnant again on purpose” Leroy thought to himself. Just the thought was revolting enough to make him despise her.
He didn’t know she would survive the push he gave her down the stairs. It was just dumb luck that she lived. A concussion, a broken leg and broken arm was all she got for probably killing his poor mama.
He had to keep the mechanic shop open to pay for his other life and he so slept on a cot in the shop. He could never be unfaithful to Deena, not even with his legal wife. He cringed at the thought… he wouldn’t touch Francis with another man’s tool. She disgusted him. Besides, Deena gave him everything he needed. She was a real woman and knew how to make him feel like the only man in the world! They danced to the local bands, ate the finest food. It was pure magic. He hated to leave her but he had to come back weekly and make his money. This arrangement worked out for Deena too, as she had family she spent time with while Frank was away. As long as Frank paid the $39.00 mortgage on the house, Francis managed to get by so he never questioned her. And she kept his secret that he had disengaged from his family years ago and was living a double life. Frank knew it wasn’t love that made her keep his secret, it was fear. Fear of the community discovering she was a murderer. He just knew in his heart, she had probably killed his mama.
Sometimes Frank wondered if old moose face had a man on the side. He hadn’t handed her money in years, yet the lights stay on, there was always food on the table, and she and the kid were always dressed nice. He would walk thru the house on Sundays while she was a church just to see if anything was missing, but nothing was ever out of place or unkempt. Sometimes he would look through papers and look for photographs anything to prove she was cheating on him so he could beat her, then divorce her. But there was never any sign of anything in the wrong. When guilt would creep into his mind, he would just remind himself of his poor Mama, and the hatred for Francis would return.
If Deena ever agreed to be his wife, he would file for divorce and move to Clever Springs. He had been saving for years, waiting on Deena to give him the go ahead.
Francis and Leroy were alone most of the Leroy’s life. Frank didn’t speak to or interact with them when he was home. He would get a plate of food and take it to the shop to eat, or sometimes never come inside, and then go to sleep on a cot at the garage. He had a television and a radio in the shop and a bathroom, so he had no desire to come inside. He had never seen a report card for Leroy, a light bill for the house, nothing about that house interested him. He had 3 more years and the house would be paid for. Hopefully Deena would agree to marry him before then.
Leroy could not become the man of the house. He was not smart and learned slower than most. However, he had a charismatic personality and learned early to be a charmer.
His teachers at school would always choose Leroy to run errands to get out of class. I guess they didn’t realize by pampering him they were all depriving him of an education. If he said he didn’t feel well, usually on test days, he was excused to the nurse’s office, no questions asked. The nurse would let him lay down in a dark room until his illness passed to go to the next class. He could convince most women to give in to him. He learned that at any early age. He just didn’t know what he wanted yet.
Leroy’s life had been centered around church but he considered it a chance to show off his singing talent. He still didn’t believe in God but he could perform and sing worship songs that would make people throw themselves at the altar and give their life to Jesus. He put on a great show, just as he discovered Reverend Marshall did. “There was no way Reverend Marshall could believe all that stuff he preached and be kissing a 16 year old girl” Leroy thought to himself with a grin.
At 16 he really began noticing girls and noticed that they made him feel stupid and awkward. One girl in particular Claire Smyler caught his attention. He carried her books and brought her flowers that he picked for her nearly every day for a month. He liked her but something inside him wanted her to be his girlfriend.
Claire was liked by everyone. She was friendly and easy to talk to. She had a younger sister and her mother and father both worked long hours at a local print shop that they owned. Claire was involved in all types of extra activities at school and church. She enjoyed staying busy and helping other.
Leroy went out of his way to get her to notice him. He would bump into her on purpose, apologize then smile that beautiful smile. She liked his looks instantly.
His blue eyes were piercing and his brown hair was dark. He was quiet handsome. It wasn’t long before they were boyfriend and girlfriend, to the dismay of other teenager boys who loved her from a distance and many teenage girls who secretly liked Leroy.
Claire talked so much and Leroy had to pretend to listen so he could kiss her. He loved kissing her. His body would react to the kisses, making him feel funny, in a good way. It took almost a year, but eventually she made him promise he would marry her if she let him explore her body. He agreed to anything and everything just for a chance to become a man. Claire was beautiful with hair so blonde it looked white and huge green eyes. If he had believed in angels he would have thought she was one. He wasn’t in love with her; however, he was obsessed with having her near him. Only he had the right to touch her body and she let him boss her around and make decisions for them both. They had spoke of their future. He wanted to be a Reverend and she wanted to work at for a dentist.
The first time they had sex, she hadn’t meant for it to happen. She thought he would stop or she could stop him; but he was a like an animal and did not stop, forcing himself inside her. It hurt but it was over in a minute. That first time was a doozey. Two months later, on his 17th birthday Claire announced that she was pregnant. Leroy was so angry. She had wrecked everything! Not only did he have to face her family, he had to face his mother and oh crap what a nightmare that would be. Leroy looked at Claire’s face, all red and swollen from crying. “You look like a monster! You are so ugly. Why would I want to spend the rest of my life with you? Why would you try to trick me into marriage like this? I hate you. It’s probably not even mine. Who else have you been fooling around with Claire?” he said coldly. After staring at him in shock and disbelief, Claire ran home wailing and sobbing.
Leroy sat there fuming. His mother asked him what was wrong and he didn’t answer her. “Something about that girl aint right Leroy. You best leave her alone.” Francis said as she went back inside. In less than an hour, Claire’s father came busting through the front door. He didn’t knock nor announce his presence. Francis came rushing in to see what was going on. Claire’s father stood there glaring at Leroy then in a barely audible voice that huge man said, “Get your coat son, you have a wedding to attend!” Francis threw her hand up in protest but then as if the silent facts had slapped her in the face, she dropped her hand and looked at the floor. She didn’t even get her own coat, just removed her apron, picked up her purse at the door and followed them out to his car. They rode in silence. The justice of the peace was already at Claire’s house. He was her mother’s brother, Claire’s uncle. He was there for dinner but available for emergency weddings.
In a matter of minutes, they were pronounced man and wife. Claire’s mother brought her suitcase in with her clothing packed. “You can come back later for the rest of your things.” she said not looking at her daughter. There were no tears on her mother’s face, just a disgusted frown.Claire’s father did not give them a ride in his car back. After the quick ceremony, he walked over in silence to the front door and held the door open for them to leave. There would be no rice thrown, no punch, no cake, not even a single word of encouragement for the new life they were starting together. They all three walked the 1 ½ miles back to Leroy’s parent’s home. Claire was clutching the marriage license in her hand that her Uncle had signed. It all happened so fast, she felt like her head was spinning. Leroy’s mother started yelling at her. It was hard to focus; but she thought she heard her say, “You will have to quit school immediately Claire and take over the washing and cooking. I can’t afford to feed another person without help. I refuse to let Leroy quit school and ruin his life because of a jezebel like you.” Francis said sternly. “You will be responsible for cleaning the neighbor’s house and doing their laundry.”
Claire just said yes ma’am. She had loved Leroy so much and he had convinced her after nearly 12 months of begging and pleading that he loved her and that a man had “needs”. It was when he hinted that another girl would take care of him if she didn’t, that she finally gave in to him and his needs. Immediately, she got pregnant. He was the one who told her she couldn’t get pregnant on the first time! She should be angry with him, yet He was treating her like she did something wrong. He wasn’t speaking to her and his mother screamed at her every time she looked at her. It was like being in prison. Two days later, Leroy’s father Frank came home. He and Leroy got into a terrible argument.
He told Leroy he was a loser and would never amount to anything, then he said for them to get out of his house. Francis spoke up for the first time and said “Absolutely not! My son lives here, you don’t. He is welcomed to stay here as long as he wants.”
Frank drew his hand back to hit Francis and Leroy grabbed his father’s hand in mid swing, and stopped him. Frank looked at both of them, then walked out of the house. He was too hung over to fight a man and he refuse to lose to a kid. Frank got back in his car and left. He drove back to Clever Springs. Claire’s heart was beating out of her chest. Her father had never struck her mother and the whole scene was so scary for her. She felt a little sorry for Leroy and tried to talk to him, to comfort him. He pushed by her and then said “Every bit of this is your fault. You make me sick Claire. I wish you were dead. You‘ve ruined everything.”
Leroy went out that night and didn’t come home until the next day. He reeked of alcohol and perfume. Francis didn’t say anything to him and when Claire tried to talk to him Francis intervened, pushing her backwards, and said “You are the cause of his stress girl, just mind your business!” When Claire tried to speak up for herself, Francis threw a book at her; hitting her in the side of the head. No one had ever struck Claire in her whole life and she was stunned. Her mindset was to march home and tell her Daddy that someone had struck her in anger! She knew her family would be appalled once she explained how she was being treated and now she had be struck in anger. Her parents would never tolerate this! Claire walked all the way to her parent’s house but her mother still wasn’t ready to talk to her. She sent her sister outside to tell her to go away. “She will contact you when she can look at you.” her sister spitefully repeated “She’s so embarrassed Claire. She now says she knew you’d be the one to turn out bad.” Claire was devastated. She knew that her baby sister was just repeating what she had heard her Mama say.
Claire knew her sister loved her. Suddenly her sister slipped her a pink envelope which she recognized as her own life savings. In all the turmoil she had forgotten about the money she had been saving all her life. She thanked her but her sister closed the door without saying anything to her. Her sister’s eyes had been wide with fear and confusion. “I love you Sissy” Claire yelled thru the door, but there was no response. Claire’s tears began to fall. Her family had turned their back on her, deserted her and she had nowhere to go. Absentmindedly she started to walk, turned down the street away from Leroy’s house and continued to walk. To herself Claire wondered aloud, how could her life have turned out like this? She was always a good girl, made good grades in school, went to church, and was on the pep squad. She never smoked, or cussed. Everything had been so good until she met Leroy. He had ruined her. Her belief in him had ruined her too.
Now she was alone, abandoned, mistreated. Leroy hated her, his mother hated her, her own family hated her. She felt empty like there was no baby inside of her. Claire continued to walk. She had 43 dollars to her name. It was birthday, Christmas, babysitting and allowance money she had saved for all her life.
She walked out of the city and down the roads. A family picked up her up and drove her about 20 miles outside of the city. They bought her some food at a diner but they left her there when she went to the bathroom. They left a note and a 5 dollar bill on the table for her, “We figure you ran away from home. Go home sweetie. It will work out”
She had noticed the help wanted sign in the door when they entered so she asked the waitress about it. The waitress laughed at her and said, “No one is gonna hire you sugar, you are obviously pregnant.” “But just a few months” she protested.
“Yes but its a few months too many!” the waitress responded. Claire got up to leave and the waitress handed her a bag of chips and a sandwich to take with her. “Go back home honey.” the waitress said.
Claire shook her head sadly and said “there is no one to go home to.” and she left and started walking again. A young sheriff’s deputy picked her up and took her to edge of the next town; there she hitched a ride with another family that was traveling east. They were nice and fed her and let her ride over 125 miles with them. It wasn’t long before Claire was over 300 miles away from everyone that hated her.
She was sick to her stomach and began vomiting on the side of the road. Apparently some stopped to help her and then took her to a hospital, when she woke up the nurse was sitting next to her bed. “We need to know your name so we can contact your family dear” the nurse said sweetly. “My name is Angela Cole. I have no family.” she answered. The nurse patted her hand and said “Bless your heart! It will be alright Angela. Don’t you be scared. We are taking good care of you!”
The doctor came in and talked to her. He was very kind. “I understand you don’t have any family.” she nodded. “What are you planning on doing about the baby Angela?” she looked at the doctor and tears stung her eyes. “I don’t know what to do about either of us sir. Can you help me find a home for the baby once it gets here? I can’t take care of a baby. I don’t even have a job to take care of myself.” The doctor smiled at her and said “Angela are you sure you don’t have anyone we can call?” She shook her head no. The doctor sighed and said for her to let him make a phone call. He knew some people that might be interested. Within a few minutes he came back smiling and said that the Dake family would be in soon to see her. They must have raced over to the hospital because they got there quick. They explained that they couldn’t have children and they wanted to adopt. They asked about her situation and she told them the baby’s father died and that she had no family.
They were so moved by her story that they offered her to live with them until the baby came, then they would give her money to relocate in faraway city so she could make a fresh start. She didn’t even need to think about it. She agreed immediately. The next day she was released to the Dake family. They had a beautiful home on a lakefront.
Their cook fixed her anything she wanted and the Dakes treated her like family. It was a relief to have some peace. Sometimes she missed her mama but then she remembered what a disappointment she was to her family and she decided to shut the door to her past. Mrs. Dake taught her how to paint, how to write calligraphy, how to appreciate music, Bach and Mendel were her favorites. She exposed her to poetry and the writings of many famous playwrites. An entire new world opened for her. The chef taught her how to cook and how to shop for food. The maid taught her how to cut hair since she cut Mr. and Mrs. Dakes hair monthly.
It was a complete education that would stay with her forever.
The baby was born 6 months later. She did not know if it was a boy or girl. She didn’t want to know. It was a pretty horrible experience for the young girl. The pain was too awful for words, then when she woke up it was over. She recuperated for 4 days at the hospital then a car, with a private nurse, was sent for her to take her to the airport, then on to her new home nearly 375 miles away. The ride on the airplane was scary but thanks to the nurse, she slept most of the way. Her new home was an apartment on the 10th floor in Fairbank, Connecticut. The Dakes paid for the nurse to be with her for 6 weeks during her recovery time. They had also paid off the mortgage on the apartment. It was paid for in full, completely in her name. Much like the marriage license she had held less than a year earlier. However, this time the paper gave her a different new life and new name. Angela Cole owned a 3 bedroom 3 bath, living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry room and pantry. It was a huge apartment. All she would have to do was pay the electric bill and buy groceries.
The Dakes had provided a hefty bank account for her so it would be a year before she would even need to look for work. She was sad to see the nurse go but she knew it would be the start of a new life for her.
The first thing Claire did in her new life was to go to a hair salon. They cut her hair short and died it black. A local sandwich shop hired her to work in the kitchen in the afternoons. She enrolled in technical school to learn to be a secretary. The classes were 3 mornings a week. She embroidered Angela on all her shirts so that she could remember not to call herself Claire, and people would call her Angela. She joined a large church where eventually she taught Sunday school to teenagers and did volunteer work in the food pantry. Her Pastor’s wife had helped her get a soup lunch started for the homeless. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they would have soup and sandwiches for the homeless. It broke her heart to see so many hungry people. Angela made it her duty to tell everyone that they should all pull together to help feed the hungry.
She volunteered to cook and serve if the they would buy the food. The congregation rallied behind her and donated all of the ingredients. Many women joined her to help cook and serve. On Thursdays she would give free haircuts to the poor.
Many men over the years tried to get to know Angela but she flatly refused to have a boyfriend or husband. She spent her life taking care of others and doing good through out the world. Angela moved forward; living her life to never look back, with no regrets. A high school teacher she had admired quoted something that stuck with her “Always help if you can and certainly do no harm.” So she grew up with that mindset to “do no harm.”
Had her parents supported her in the crisis she had found herself in, her life may have turned out differently. Perhaps, she would have stayed married to Leroy and lived miserably with his mother and had a few more kids. But in reality, her leaving and starting over helped hundreds of thousands of poor, hungry, homeless people and then she witnessed to them about Jesus. She remembered in the Bible it said you can’t talk to people about salvation if they can’t hear you over the rumbling of their empty stomach! Angela spent her life giving and taking care of God’s children.
Angela volunteered to go on a missionary trip to New Guinea in 1970. The trip was to take medical supplies, food and Bibles to missionary’s already there. She replaced another woman that lived there as a missionary and lived the rest of her life in New Guinea teaching others about Jesus, and helping meet their needs.
No one in her hometown ever knew what became of Claire. The sheriff talked to Leroy but no report was ever made. The sheriff told her parents she probably ran off with the baby’s real father. After a year, the Sheriff interviewed everyone again but the case was classified as a runaway and basically closed.
Leroy’s mother died 3 years after Claire disappeared, leaving Leroy on his own. His father did not even come to the funeral. Frank had closed up shop and quietly disappeared, selling the house just as quickly. Leroy discovered he was homeless by the sign in the yard that said “SOLD”. He went to Reverend Marshall who took him in. For several months
Leroy tried to apprentice under Reverend Marshall, who was sick to tears of Leroy. He couldn’t make him understand that even though they both believed the same, they could not let the congregation know or their cover would be blown. Leroy was reckless and weak. Reverend Marshall considered Leroy a boil on his butt and encouraged him to enroll in bible school and to even find a different church. He couldn’t stand the lazy boy. All he did was eat and loaf around. He wouldn’t even help around the church for his keep. The reverend finally told him he needed to go away.
Leroy was fuming after their talk, he was walking down main street when he saw Brenda, through a window at a soda shop where she was sitting alone reading a book. He slid into her booth and prepared to destroy her life.
Brenda James married Leroy out of pity, more than love. She knew his wife had disappeared probably either dead or as everyone said runaway. It was never disclosed that she was pregnant. Brenda knew from Leroy that his mama was very sick. Brenda’s family had moved away leaving her with a great aunt. Times were hard and they had too many mouths to feed so they dumped her on her great aunt under the pretense of leaving her to help her aunt. She didn’t have much of a life in this small town, just school and home. Her great aunt let her go to church once in a while but not often. She loved school because it gave her an insight to another life that she dreamed of. Adventures, fun, laughter…all the things her aunt could not and would not allow her.
Brenda’s great aunt jumped at the chance to marry her off. None of her family came; it was a simple as Leroy’s first marriage.
Leroy and Brenda were living in a cottage behind someone’s house, The Kings (a family from the church) had offered them a place to stay until they could get on their feet.
Leroy had wanted to give his mama another grandchild. The grandchild she asked about before her death. She also mentioned a quilt several times, but Leroy didn’t know what in the world she was talking about. He just covered her up with the quilt. She still kept trying to say something about that quilt but he assumed her mind had just left her. Once she died he burned that quilt. He could never have used it after it covered his mother’s dead body. Just the thought made him ill. He hated that quilt anyhow. She was always working on it and the damn thing was so heavy. He shook his head just thinking about it. The filler must have been good cause it burned like it was full of money.
Brenda was so much like Leroy’s Mama. She did everything for him, pushed him thru Bible College, did his homework for him, and worked 2 jobs while he basically goofed off. He was a C student and that was pushing it.
The day he got his certificate, it was Brenda who felt like she had graduated from 2 years of Bible College. She had written all of his papers, made cheat sheets for his test and read all the books and told him what they said. Brenda always made excuses for Leroy. He just needs a helping hand, she would think to herself. He just needs to catch a break; only to find out, he was lazy and wanted everyone else to do things for him. He loved to act like an awesome, amazing person, but someone else was always doing all the work and he would find a way to get the glory.
They got their first job at a small church in Texas. The church provided a parish and a small salary. The conditions were that Brenda had to clean the church, play the piano and watch the kids in the nursery on Wednesday night service.
Apparently everything was big in Texas including the breast on many of the women in the church. Leroy had his choice of loose women and he plowed right thru them. He was charming as he gave each sermon, reading thru the notes that Brenda had composed for him. Smiling largely, hesitating at the points that Brenda had written “Pause for dramatic affect”
or laughing when Brenda had noted “insert laugh here”. Leroy was able to follow Brenda’s clues and hints to perfection. He was so personable and convincing. The public loved him. Men wanted to play golf with him, their wives wanted to have sex with him.
The offerings were large and many curious people came to see the new handsome Pastor. In less than 3 months, 2 deacons came to the front door to tell the Pastor he was fired and to get out of the Parish by morning. He had been fooling around with both of the deacons wives and the women had gotten into a cat fight downtown square in front of everyone! It was a huge embarrassment to the town and the church.
As appalled as she was, Brenda couldn’t leave him, she was pregnant.
The next town they wound up at was about 35 miles away. It was a pretty large town. The Pastor of the Baptist church was very old and had been trying to retire for years. Leroy had explained to him that it was a huge misunderstanding at the first place and they wouldn’t even let him explain that all he had been doing was counseling the ladies. The Pastor laughed and told him it was hard to fight jealousy and that he himself had been run off from a few churches for “counseling the ladies.” Leroy began working as an assistant Pastor for him, the plan was to gradually take over and allow the reigning Pastor to retire. The people took to Leroy quickly and he tried hard to stay away from the females but temptation overwhelmed him and he found himself again involved with several females, one just 16 years old. Brenda had their first daughter in January and the 16 year old announced her pregnancy in March. Leroy, Brenda and the new baby left town in the middle of that same cold March night. The next morning was the first time Leroy ever hit Brenda. She demanded that he stop acting like he had a lust demon in him and be a real husband and a real man of a real God.
Leroy beat her severely, blackening both her eyes as he broke her nose and the bones under her left eye. Her hearing in her left ear also was now gone as were 3 teeth on that side. He had come completely unglued; telling her he would kill her if she ever tried to leave. She knew she couldn’t leave, she was pregnant again already. Leroy wouldn’t leave her alone. She never even had time to heal from the birth of their first child before he was at her again. It wasn’t love, it was control. Leroy was scared if she left, he couldn’t pull off the sermons. At least she was good for that. He constantly complained to her that she couldn’t do anything right but she knew it was just a form of his abuse. He called her fat and ugly. But unless she was pregnant, she was always the same 98 lbs she had always been when he met her. If she left a cup in the sink he called her a filthy pig, he constantly berated her cooking and cleaning skills although every place they lived she had made as clean and beautiful as she could. Brenda quit making excuses for Leroy after he started beating her. She knew there were no excuses for how he was treating her. Brenda had read about other women who had been abused and she recognized nothing she could ever do would please Leroy. He was a miserable person and wanted her to be that way too. Brenda worked extra hard to be a good wife and mother to his children. The women of every church they had worked at came to her and told her how lucky she was to be married to a saint. At least she didn’t have the same problems they did because she had a good man, a godly man. She would smile and nod her head. “Lord if they only knew!” she would say aloud when she was alone. It was a full time job running behind him trying to make Leroy look good, or trying to clean up his messes. Once at a church get together, the men were having a theological discussion, when suddenly a visitor started questioning Leroy’s career and Brenda saw Leroy seeking her help with a look across the room.
Brenda grasps her bulging belly and cried out “Husband Please I think I need to go. I have a pain!” Leroy rushed to her side and several of the people helped her to the car. Leroy explained this had been a delicate pregnancy and he appreciated their help.
As soon as they left Leroy flew into a rage. One of the men thought he had recognized Leroy from a church down South and he was trying to question him to see if it was him. Brenda’s reaction saved Leroy’s face. He was able to use the situation to gain sympathy until things smoothed over. However, once again Leroy was his own undoing and they had to leave. His high sex drive coupled with unlimited supply of available (married, single, widowed) women got him hot water again.
Year after year they traveled across the country and back again; going from church to church, town to town, city to city. It was exhausting and Brenda was so tired.
Finally when it seemed they had worked at every Baptist church, they happened upon a town that had a Methodist church that was looking for a Pastor. Leroy had explained that his wife had been involved in a terrible car accident that she had caused by driving irresponsibly. She had ran a red light, causing another car to hit her. (He told her what he had told the deacons that hired him because he had to explain her facial injuries. He couldn’t very well say he beat her stupid ass.) She heard Leroy talking to the deacons outside of the car “Of course he understood that she couldn’t been seen in public until she healed up, he completely understood and yes she would still clean the church and keep the grounds cut and clean. And of course take care of the Parish” Brenda could see them all shaking hands. How many times had she seen that hand shake. The handshake that confirms we have entered into a deal. How she wished just once Leroy would be honest and tell the deacons “I will be your leader and you will be my congregation until I literally screw your women and you run me off.” Brenda’s heart was grave. She could feel the heaviness in her chest as she sighed and thought “Here we go again.”
The Parish was filthy; the last resident had left in a huge hurry and left most of his belongings. Brenda had to box up their things and clean before she could unpack their own things and set them up. She worked for nearly 3 days straight, dare not sleeping, to get things in order and to keep Leroy from getting upset and beating her again. The beatings made Leroy feel powerful. Of course once he realized she let him get away with doing it, he did it more often. Ultimately he learned to hit her where it would not show, the bruises were to her ribs and back and thighs. He was growing meaner and meaner as they went from church to church. The last beating nearly killed her. He choked her so hard and long that she passed out. He was afraid he had killed her, when she came too he beat her again for scaring him.
After their 4th child, Leroy began to abuse the children, slapping their little faces, pushing them down, cussing at them. Little Victoria got in trouble at school because the teacher asked what her mother’s name was and she said “My daddy calls her bitch, but I call her mama.” The teacher paddled her and then sent her to the office for another spanking before they called Brenda to come pick her up. It was then that Brenda knew she had to get away from Leroy to save her children. The girls were so sweet and emotional. They had watched their father beat their mother so many times that they were terrified of him. They were so traumatized, so nervous, not knowing if all hell would break loose every single night. Brenda would put them to bed immediately after dinner to keep them out of Leroy’s way. She taught the girls to pray, when Daddy did bad things to Mama.
The job at the Methodist church seemed to be going well. Brenda had studied up on what Methodist believed and was able to write sermons that ministered to the congregation. Leroy’s eloquent presentations were received beautifully. As a matter of a fact almost in appreciation of her hard work and loyalty, Leroy gave her a present! One month after they arrived at the Methodist church he gave her…a sexually transmitted disease.
Brenda took the girls by bus to a neighboring town and was seen by a doctor who charged her $25.00 to explain she had a sexually transmitted disease. The doctor told her if she was going to be a whore she should be more careful. She didn’t bother to tell him she was the loyal wife of a husband that couldn’t keep his manhood at home. She didn’t bother to tell him Leroy was the only man she had ever been with. She just took the lecture and accept the man’s opinion of her. Brenda was horrified but at least he gave her a prescription to help rid her of the disease. On the bus ride back home Brenda was calm. She stopped by the grocery store to pick up some groceries for dinner. Fortunately she made it home before Leroy did and had dinner on the table when he got home.
Brenda had arranged for the 3 older girls to spend the night with the McKenzies. The baby was being kept by Mrs. Odell one of the church ladies. The standing rib roast was beautiful and all the vegetables turned out perfect. This was Leroy’s favorite meal. What an amazing anniversary dinner this would be! Brenda had candles lit, the good china she had borrowed from Mrs. Odell was on the table. It was stunning!
When Leroy came home and sat down to eat dinner, he asked why it was so quiet and where were the rest of the bitches. Brenda told him she wanted to be alone with him. He snorted nearly spitting his bourbon out and said “Don’t be a acting like a slut Brenda. You are all used up and you know I only come to you if noone else is available.”
Brenda ignored his statement and ate dinner as he ate. When he finished he shoved his plate away as usual. She asked if he wanted some peach and cranberry cobbler and he said yes. He did love her peach cranberry cobbler. Leroy had always demanded a desert with every evening meal.
He was saying something about her getting his notes ready for the Sunday sermon but she didn’t hear him clearly. She came back into the room with his cobbler and poured him some coffee. He tore into the mound of cobbler like a kid in an ice cream shop, it was all over his face. Suddenly, he looked at her and said “Why do you look so different?” “What do you mean?” she asked sweetly. He said “Well for one thing you are looking me in the eye, you never do that anymore. You look like you have a secret? What have you got to feel so damn cocky about?” Brenda went and sat back down in her seat, then she smiled a big smile and said in an cheerful voice “It’s no secret Leroy! I am finally free of you. No more beatings, no more cheating, lying, stealing, no more abuse of any kind from you Leroy.” She let out a long sigh and said “I’m free of you Leroy”. He burst out laughing and said “In your dreams whore. I have already told you if you ever try to leave me I will kill you. Kill you dead! They will never find your body. I promise they will have to look in all 40 states to find all the pieces of your body!” Then a scowl came on his face, “ I guess you just need a beating Brenda! Why do you make me do this to you? Why? Do you enjoy tasting your own blood? Do you enjoy making me beat the shit out of you?” Brenda didn’t answer immediately.
Then calmly she said “Today is our anniversary Leroy. 10 years ago today I married you believing I could help you. I thought all you needed was a good woman to help you realize your dream of being a preacher. I didn’t know then that you didn’t believe in God. But Leroy there really is a God and you are about to meet him.”
Leroy stood up, unbuckled his belt and reached to take it off as he usually did to start the beatings, but as he turned to pull his belt a pain hit his right side. He looked at Brenda and said “What have you done?”She looked him in the eye and peacefully said “I have killed you Leroy. I have saved my life and my children’s lives and the lives of all the people in the world that you will ever come in contact with and try to destroy! You probably should talk to God and tell him you were wrong about Him and try to make amends while there is still time.” Leroy’s face was red with pain and rage, “You Bitch! You can’t kill me. I will make you pay for…” then he sat down in the dining room chair and died. She heard the death rattle, the last breath leave his body about 5 minutes after he died.
Brenda sat there with him for hours to make sure he was dead. She got up and tidied the dishes at the table, leaving Leroy’s plate and glass in place, and then cleaned the kitchen, she had time so she swept the floor and finished the laundry.
She then went to Leroy’s study and wrote a long letter to the church, from Leroy.
In the letter, He expressed remorse for all the pain and embarrassment that he had caused his wife, 4 children and the church. He explained that he knew that he had committed adultery more times than he could count but that he had truly only loved his wife. He explained in the letter that he had stolen thousands of dollars of the churches money that was supposed to be used for bills. He stated the money was used so that he could pay off some naughty women and buy their silence, you know with him being a preacher and all. He apologized to all of the Deacons except for Brother Smith. He had never messed with his wife, because she was older than he preferred his lovers to be. However, he did apologize to Brother Smith for using his money to buy a hotel room with Brother Raegle’s wife. He apologized to the Sheriff for deflowering his 17 year old daughter but denied ever touching his son. Last but not least he asked all of them to be checked for sexual diseases as someone had given him one and he was concerned for the population of the church. Leroy said in his letter that his conscious would not let him live with himself and he hoped they would find a way to forgive him. He asked them to help his wife and children find a new life without him.
Brenda signed the letter, just as she had signed everything for him, written every sermon note for him, everything. No one ever challenged the fact that Leroy had written the letter.
Brenda went to bed as usual and when she woke up, she called the Sheriff to let them know her husband was at the dining room table dead.
Embarrassment kept the church or the Sheriff from disclosing the letter, but good old Doctor Corak got a lot of business and antibiotics were flowing thru the town. The coroner said it looked like a heart attack or suicide. However, for the public’s knowledge, it was called heart attack. On the other hand, the Sheriff and the Doctor who pronounced him dead knew that most heart attack victims didn’t leave notes.
Brenda and her 4 children were quietly relocated to another town about 100 miles away. The deacons had found her a house and paid the rent on it for a couple of months and moved her belongings for her.
She refused their money, as she had thousands of dollars that her dead husband had already stolen from them. Leroy was buried in a deserted cemetery outside of town and not even given a head stone. There was no funeral. The church handled the situation with a stunned silence.
Brenda finally got that job at Sears she had always wanted. She started as a stock clerk working the midnight shift but quickly moved up the ranks to floor supervisor. Brenda became the first female manager in their area.
She remarried another man 3 years after Leroy’s death. His name was Tucker Brine and he worked at a tire manufacturing company. He was a good decent man and loved Brenda and the girls.
From the front porch of their home, Brenda watched Tucker spraying the laughing girls with the water hose she looked at her new life and she thought of Leroy one last time, “You always said I would get what I deserved Leroy. I guess you are finally right.”
She looked up in the sky towards heaven and sighed, and then shaking her head, she looked down at the ground towards hell and smiled… “There is no way you made it to heaven Leroy. Not if you got what you deserved.”