(Listen In All Retrospect)
It had been a month since Erica attended church. She and Sister Jones had a disagreement, and she hadn’t been back since. She decided today she would show up. She entered the sanctuary, looking gorgeous as always, and all heads turned. Erica ignored the stares and spotted her best friend Jennifer. She held her head high as she walked in the direction to where Jennifer was sitting. As she strutted, Sister Jones cut her eyes at her and Erica ignored her.
Erica and Jennifer embraced, and Erica got comfortable in her seat. She glanced toward the pulpit and realized there was a new face sitting in Pastor Gilbert’s chair. When the stranger got up to preach, Erica was mesmerized by his deep voice and his eye catching appearance. She’d made up in her mind she had to meet him. After service a line quickly formed to greet him. Erica was determined but didn’t want to appear anxious. She timed it perfectly as she started to stroll right by him casually. She felt a strong hand on her shoulder along with a shock that jolted through her body. She slightly shivered and prayed it went unnoticed.
“Excuse me sister. I see you’re in a hurry, but I don’t recall ever meeting you.”
Erica smirked then turned around. “No, we haven’t met.”
“I’m Nelson Scott, the new intern pastor.”
“Nice to meet you Pastor Scott, my name is Erica Peterson.”
“Ohhhh sister Peterson; I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Erica instantly felt uncomfortable. God only knew what rumors had spread about her in her absence. She quickly regained her dignity.
“Well Pastor we can’t believe everything we hear, now can we?”
Pastor Scott released a slight chuckle.
“I heard that you were a great asset to the youth ministry, is that not true?”
Erica felt embarrassed for responding so hastily and defensively. At that moment Sister Jones rudely interrupted their conversation, and advised him he had a visitor. Pastor Scott extended an apology to Erica, gave her his business card, and requested for her to contact him. Erica placed the card in her purse and walked in the opposite direction.
She called Pastor Scott a week later and he immediately insisted she call him Nelson. Their relationship transitioned from talking about youth programs to intimate dinners at fancy restaurants where the topic of the Youth Auxiliary rarely came up. One month later and Erica felt maybe she’d finally met The One, but then there were times when things felt odd. She really didn’t know that much about him. Nelson revealed he was divorced and once lived in Atlanta. The keyword was divorced, and Erica sensed he was a God send.
One sunny Saturday afternoon Erica and Jennifer were shopping in Manhattan. They stopped and dined in a quaint cafe’ for lunch. The host led them to a small booth in the corner of the restaurant. The faraway look in Jennifer’s eyes revealed there was something on her mind.
“Okay girl spit it out. All afternoon you’ve been distant.”
“Hunh, what are you talking about?” Jennifer smiled trying to make light of the situation.
“Come on, we’ve been friends too long. I know when something is wrong.”
“What’s going on with you and Pastor Scott?”
“Well Nelson and I are taking things slow.”
“There’s something about him.”
“Something like what?”
“I just sense that he’s hiding something. Do you know anything about his past?”
“Girl you know how you are, working for the police dept., makes you skeptical of everybody. Besides you know the Board of Deacons did a thorough background check before hiring him.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I have to stop bringing my work home.”
The waiter returned with water and hot buttered rolls and the ladies enjoyed their lunch.
Erica kept thinking about the conversation with Jennifer. It was true; she really didn’t know much about Nelson. She decided tonight she would ask a few more questions. Erica sparked up a conversation as they were driving out to Long Island for dinner.
“Do you and your ex-wife have children?”
Nelson peered at her like she was a stranger. “Ex-wife? I’ve never been married.”
“Didn’t you mention you were divorced?”
“No, I’ve never been married.”
“So how long did you live in Atlanta?”
“There you go getting your facts wrong again. I’m not from Atlanta, I’m from North Carolina.”
Erica was now majorly confused. When they’d first met, Nelson clearly stated he was divorced and lived in Atlanta. He glanced at her with those hypnotizing hazel eyes and gorgeous smile and all concerns ceased.
Later that night she couldn’t fall asleep. The discrepancies in his story plagued her and she tried to come up with a reason as to why he would lie, but nothing made sense. Erica prayed a simple prayer asking GOD to reveal anything to her that would be harmful to her life. After the prayer, Erica dozed off. Around 2:00 a.m. she was awakened by the sounds coming from the television. America’s Most Wanted was on. They were in search of a forty-five year old black male preacher from Atlanta, named Neal Samuels. The pastor had scammed his previous mega church out of thousands of dollars. One of the deacons knew of his wrong doings and threatened to expose him. A week later that deacon was found dead in his home and the Pastor had disappeared. The Pastor didn’t know that the deceased deacon had told someone about the scam, and now that person was revealing the story. Erica watched intently. At the end of the show they showed a picture of the preacher. He was brown complexioned, dark brown eyes, black rimmed oval glasses, bald head and clean shaven face. He had a distinctive scar in the back of his head in the shape of a horseshoe from a childhood accident. He was diagnosed with Bipolar and Personality Disorder. The host of the show specified he was armed and dangerous, and if anyone knew of his whereabouts to not approach him, but to notify local authorities immediately. They flashed one last photo of him with his wife and child. Erica instantly felt a connection and thought of Nelson, but he looked nothing like this Neal Samuels, matter of fact their physical appearance was exact opposite. Nelson was approximately six-foot-three inches, fair complexioned, no glasses, hazel eyes, goatee, and a small fro. Erica dismissed the eerie feeling and dozed back to sleep.
As time passed, Erica was starting to feel uneasy about their relationship. Nelson at times was cold and very distant. Erica recalled another time when she attempted to learn more about him and his reaction startled her. She’d simply asked him why he didn’t have any photos of friends and family in his church office. Nelson lashed out at her in anger practically yelling, saying he told her before he didn’t have any family and what did he need pictures around for? The gaze in his eyes scared her. He repeatedly balled his hands in fists and released. Erica feared that he was going to strike her. Ever since that incident Erica felt uncomfortable around him at times, but those hazel eyes always seem to hypnotize her right back into his arms.
It was a Friday night and Nelson was scheduled to preach an out of town revival, so they were spending some quality time at his condo. Erica didn’t normally indulge, but Nelson persuaded her to drink one glass of wine which quickly turned into three or four glasses, she’d lost count. After the wine took effect, Erica was tipsy or better yet, drunk. The last thing she remembered was Nelson leading her to his bedroom and removing her clothing.
A few hours later a buzzing noise woke Erica out of her sleep. She lay in the bed for a few moments feeling guilty about her act of fornication. She got out of the bed, slipped on Nelson’s robe and made her way to the bathroom in the dark to investigate the buzzing sound. She stood in the doorway, unnoticed. She glanced over to Nelson’s carrying case. The items confused her. She noticed skin lightening crème, a pair of black rimmed glasses, and three inch shoe inserts. She spotted an ID, the man in the photo looked familiar, but it wasn’t Nelson. Where had she’d seen that man before, she thought. Nelson still hadn’t realized she was in the doorway. While cutting his hair, the clippers slipped and cut a patch in the back of his head, instantly appeared a scar in the shape of a horseshoe. Erica gasped and put her hand over her mouth. The episode of America’s Most Wanted came to mind. Nelson dropped the clippers and glared at her through the mirror through dark brown eyes that turned into slits. Erica felt like she was staring into the eyes of Satan.
Meanwhile Jennifer had been calling Erica all night. She couldn’t dismiss the feeling that something was off about Pastor Nelson, so she did some investigating and learned that Pastor Nelson Scott was a fraud. His real name was Neal Samuels and he was wanted for embezzlement and murder.
About the Writer: Denise Ann Kelley, who also goes by the pen name D. A. Kelley, is a freelance writer who has written a number of short stories, poems and Christian plays. Denise’s debut novel entitled 70×7: The Road to Forgiveness was released in 2014. Denise has a short story featured in The Motherhood Diaries 2, by National Bestseller, Mrs. ReShonda Tate Billingsley, which also was released in 2014. Denise has also been selected as a contributing author in an upcoming anthology entitled Bruised but not Broken. She is also a writer for a local magazine in her community called The Focus. This magazine can also be read throughout the world by downloading an app called Issuu. Denise has appeared on numerous internet blog talk radio shows discussing her debut novel, as well as other inspirational topics. Denise is now in the process of preparing for the release of a novella in the very near future.
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