by Sherryle Kiser Jackson
Damon Myers-Jones despised the awkward hyphenated name forced upon him at birth because it represented two things Damon would rather forget: his adopted father’s death and his real father’s absence. Now thirty years old, newly engaged Damon struggles with the constant tug-of-war with the women in his life.
His mother, Laverne Myers-Jones, who cloaked him with his name in the first place, wants to extend her influence to his choice of mate. Damon’s fiancée, Hope Daniels, can’t see beyond her longing to keep what she deems the perfect man and plans for her happily ever after.
In a desperate attempt to find himself, Damon impulsively sets out on a mission's trip to Haiti in search of his birth father where he experiences a shift that changes his world. Will his personal mission coincide with what God has in store for him?
Praise for Sherryle Kiser Jackson
Sherryle Kiser Jackson is to be commended for creating an emotionally authentic tale of redemption and one man's search for love. Fans of her other works will not be disappointed, and new readers prepare to discover your new favorite author.
--- Booker T. Mattison, filmmaker and author of Unsigned Hype and Snitch.
He boarded first at Shady Grove station. She boarded six stops later at Bethesda. They rode another six stops together. She exited before him at DuPont Circle. He held his spot until Judiciary Square. The red line of the Washington, DC Metropolitan area subway system—or Metro, as it is called—represented the vein of their relationship—a mastery of timing and schedules. A twenty-eight-minute ride, five times a week that became thirty-three minutes the midst of rush hour, was the delicate tissue that covered that vein. It provided a great quantity of quality time for their relationship.
Today was the beginning of a typical workweek for them, but it felt like anything but to Damon Myers-Jones. He glanced down at a text message summoning him and his teammates to a mandatory meeting, which would take place first thing this morning. Ever since the previous evening, when he first spotted the text, he’d tried to figure out what the meeting could be about. His preoccupation seemed to throw him off, to swirl in the nauseating abyss that immersed his life nowadays.
Damon missed the opening and closing of the doors, and his fiancée, Hope, entering the subway car, with her carefully rehabbed right leg, encumbered by a slight limp, moving toward him. He had muscled his way to a seat when he boarded, and used his bag to save the vacant seat beside him for her.
“What, no bagels?” Hope Daniels said, as she shifted his bag and plopped down beside him, wearing a waist-length leather jacket and a Wrangler satchel strewn about her body to tie together her outerwear.
“I’ve got that meeting,” Damon said.
“Yeah, that’s right, the mystery meeting,” she said. “Well, at least we both got seats.”
Staring at him with one arched eyebrow, a jutted chin and a smile begging him to smother her with his lips, a peck was the best he could do. He had too much angst for anything else. He had not always been reluctant to participate in the public displays of affection she craved. Now engaged, and although the ring had unlocked chambers and doors, a big part of his reluctance was because it didn’t get him any closer to the vault of physicality, the war chest of sex that he craved from her. A smaller portion of his reluctance was also due to the guilt he felt that he had not yet told his mom of the seriousness of his relationship with Hope, and that her little boy had taken the ultimate big-boy step. For that, he felt as if he were being watched, and the lookout would report the ring size, cut and clarity of the diamond directly to his mom before he had the chance to tell her himself. Still, a fraction of that guilt was reserved for the itch of an impulse that he kept a secret from both his ladies. So, as far as he was concerned, and with all he had going on, Hope’s engagement ring and Facebook profile would have to suffice her need to flaunt their upgraded relationship status right now.
Leaning forward, he rested his arms on his thighs amongst the butts and guts of passengers forced to stand in front of them. Once again, he checked his text message, as if it had changed in the last ten minutes.
“Damon, stop obsessing,” Hope said, stroking his back with her right hand. “Wait, look, I got something to show you.”
Damon watched her pull out a stack of papers with a section of the New York Times on top. He determined that if she started in on him about moving to New York again he would exit the train at the Van Ness station, leaving her alone, and connect with another train there.
“You know the extra credit vocabulary I like to assign from the crossword puzzle each week? Well, guess who came up with the right answer this week?” she gloated. She began shuffling through the pile of corrected papers. “A six-letter word that means spread dirt on someone crossed with a thirteen-letter word meaning the race for the highest office in a state, each starting with the letter G.”
Relieved, Damon sat up and began pointing at his fingers, as if he were counting. She punched him, and he smiled. “You got me. I’m the numbers man, remember?”
When Hope found the paper she was searching for, she bent the corner toward her so Damon couldn’t see the name. “Gossip and gubernatorial are the answers. Challenging, right? Guess who got the answer correct?”
“Dumb Donald,” he ventured, guessing Donald Hendricks, one of her notoriously off-tasked students at the high-priced prep school where she taught.
There was a pause. He noticed Hope get suddenly solemn and scrunch up her face in disapproval.
“Why would you say that? I have never called him dumb, Damon. I would never call one of my students dumb.”
They were only a month and a half into the school year, and she talked about Donald all the time. Donald and his cronies’ antics were the reason Damon would find himself stopping off at her job on the ride back in, coaxing her off the emotional ledge and into a nearby happy hour spot to unwind before seeing her home. Anything for Hope.
“Dumb Donald is a character; you know, from Fat Albert,” Damon said.
A blank stare replaced the animation of anger on her face.
He tried again to jar her memory. “You know, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids?”
“You mean the Cosby Show?”
Who didn’t know Fat Albert? Damon desperately tried to explain. “It was before the Cosby Show, before our time, really, but you could catch it on cable. It was a cartoon. They remade it as a movie,” he paused, feeling defeated. “Never mind.”
She looked away from him, but not before looking at him as if she had somehow disappointed him. Damon didn’t know if she was even aware of the look of contrition she sometimes gave when she didn’t get a cultural reference of his, especially when they first started going out. He knew in those moments she didn’t feel good enough for him, almost as if she worried about being “Black” enough. The fact is she wasn’t Black.
He didn’t plan to fall in love with a white woman. She didn’t look like anyone he had previously found aesthetically pleasing enough to date. Pale-skinned, thin-lipped, and brunette, she was ultra-cool, mega-smart and what he considered hella-sexy. Along with those features, she stood out to him in another way. She was not another conquest or female “friend” he hung out with on the outskirts of his real life until it became both ridiculous and mundane to continue to do so. It was her principles and the way she communicated them, and her passion that caused his curiosity and ultimately their connection.
They sat shoulder-to-shoulder, and he bumped her playfully just to get her eye again. He felt them both sigh heavily, but silently.
“Bill Cosby is from New York, right?” She picked up her copy of The New York Times, folded back to the daily crossword and waved it in front of him.
Oh, now she is a Cosby expert, he thought.
“I’m definitely in a New York state of mind. I just think the time is right. We should plan to move next fall after the wedding. My place is cozier, but your place is bigger and farther out. It would solve our dilemma of where to live if we start fresh across the board.”
He pursed his lips. “Oh my gosh, what a weak segue! I knew this was coming. I knew it.”
“You act as if we’ve never talked about you working in the Financial District. Remember Wall Street? I can teach anywhere, but there is nothing like the vibe there, the art and theatre. I can get a dog and run through Central Park. C’mon Damon, admit it; New York was always a part of our discussion of settling down. Well guess what?” She wiggled her left hand in his face. “We’re settling down.”
“Chill, will you?” He looked around for his mom’s lookout. “There are some things that can’t be discussed on the Metro. I’m so serious right now. I’m trying to mentally preset for this meeting.”
He was relieved that she left him alone with his thoughts, as scattered as they were. It gave her time to shove her papers back in her bag and stand instinctively as the subway car came to a halt at the station before her stop. He almost reached out for her hips to help steady her, but she grabbed for the nearby pole, held by several others, taking her slightly out of his reach. She was preset.
“Should I bring something to your mother’s this weekend?” Hope asked casually as she looked at her cuticles on her free hand.
She looked at him incredulously. “Food, Damon, duh?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said absentmindedly until he thought about how his mother would somehow misconstrue Hope’s kindness for smugness. When his mom cooked, she covered all bases. With the bombshell they were going to drop on her, he didn’t want to give his mom an additional excuse to find contempt for his future wife. “Uh, you know what? On second thought, no. I don’t think that will be necessary.”
Once again, Hope painted on a blank stare. “I can’t show up empty-handed. That’s tacky.”
He leaned forward and raised her left hand. “This is not exactly empty-handed.”
She held on to his hand, although it was a stretch for him to hold on. “So, six tonight? We can just do dinner somewhere.”
“I don’t want you waiting around, especially not knowing the outcome or ramifications of this meeting. If you get a text from me that says ‘I’m at O’Donnell’s,’ just know that it was bad.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing but another asinine project that’s due right away. Have you heard talk that they’re laying more people off? I mean, lay-offs are preceded by rumors, right, like the time they let that Chuck guy go?”
He added her last comments and her safety to his worries. “Get home as soon as you can. I’ll call you.”
Releasing the pole, Hope stepped forward to stand without assistance. She was testing him—testing that leg. He rose and took her by the arms. His body served as a buffer, as the train slowed and then surged forward to a stop at DuPont Circle. She smiled as if they both had passed the test. Before departing the train, she returned his smack from earlier in the middle of his lips.
Damon immediately noticed a woman, who wasn’t a regular on their commute, staring at him as if he were a suspicious package she should report. He would have thought she was his mother’s lookout, but she was white with even whiter hair. He never really noticed the subtle stuff like stares, which he imagined were rare, when he and Hope were in their own little bubble. He chose to ignore this one. He sat for the rest of the ride, choosing to obsess rather than getting preset for his meeting.
( Continued... )
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Intimate Conversation with Sherryle Kiser Jackson
Multi-published author, wife, mother and teacher, Sherryle Kiser Jackson strives to be a fresh voice in Christian Fiction. Born in Prince Georges County, Maryland, Sherryle went on to get a degree in Elementary Education from from Salisbury State University. Her triumphant debut novel, Soon and Very Soon (2007) was followed up by her sophomore release, The Manual (2009), Soon After (2010), Taylor- Made (2011), Land of Promiscuity (2012) and Path to Promise (2013) for Urban Christian Books. She lives in Maryland with her family.
BPM: What topics does your latest book address? Why?
I started with what it meant to be a missionary. My sister is the President of the Missions Ministry at my church and has been on several missions’ trips. We’re so different in that respect. To be real, I know I am not selfless enough most of the time to shed my comfortable existence to the degree where I can be of service.
My question when starting this novel became can servants also be self-serving in the process of helping others. I thought wouldn’t it be interesting to see a totally selfish person try to navigate that landscape. I mean, imagine your most self-absorbed friend or high maintenance family member leaving their cell phone, tablet or priceless wardrobe pieces behind for the barest of necessities.
My main character sets off on a mission’s trip to Haiti with the goal to find his birth father. He’s a fatherless child trying to answer a lifetime of questions about the man that helped conceive him. In the midst of that struggle I layered an interracial love story and all the issues that brings. I’ve connected with some great people on Pinterest who support the missionaries in their lives and found a community dealing with the absentee of loved ones similar to that of military families with a loved one on a long deployment.
BPM: Did you conduct alot of research for this book, Submissionary (Seek. Find. Release)?
Yes! Have you heard of Symbaloo? It's like a dashboard of websites all in one place. Some might find it interesting to see the sites I used to get insight into pre and post quake Haiti. Check it out: http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/submissionary
BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to?
I write personally poignant and hopefully impactful and uplifting literature. It’s my version of Christian fiction that is neither preachy nor compromised. My goal is never to write a salacious story. I think many equate that with being a really good story. In reality most of us don’t live on that extreme. With storylines centered around the root of my character’s decisions and the impact on their relationships, my literary work speaks to women and Christians specifically. I call it my brand of soul satisfying reads.
BPM: You believe strongly in:
I believe strongly in showing faith in action which is not an elaborate Hollywood set washed in white light, full of one-liners and magic tricks. I am also on a mission to take the dirty laundry off the clothes lines of our community, sweep the streets clean of other people’s business and bring virtue back.
BPM: Faith allows you:
Faith allows me the freedom to hope and face life’s challenges, to call out inconsistencies in the world, but particularly, inconsistencies in my life that are contrary to what God ordained and promised. I suppose ( in fact, I know) I can get as arrogant, self-absorbed or ratchet as the next person, BUT, something reminds me to, “act like I know.” I have to act like I know Him, and that I am profoundly different because I know Him. Yep, I preach to the choir. It’s characteristic of my brand. I am the one that gives you the gentle reminder - Seriously, you better act like you know!
BPM: Criticism makes you:
Criticism makes me reassess. I’m sure it depends on the spirit in which the criticism is given. I can’t say I am one with great discernment of people’s motives. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I receive it in love. I get my feelings hurt sometimes. Ultimately, I know what to take from criticism and what to discard.
BPM: Do you consider yourself a role model:
Everyone is to a certain degree. I mean, I am a teacher as well, and not just by profession. I am keenly aware that we have a role to edify one another. So when I see people follow my RSS feed, or on social media, I am conscious of the message I put out.
BPM: When you are afraid, you will:
When I am fearful I become unproductive. Fear is something I work to get under control right away. Besides the fact that the Bible suggest that fear is a fabrication because the Lord hasn’t given us the spirit of fear, for that reason, a wise woman once said, “I aint got time for that.”
BPM: What surprised you the most about becoming a business owner?
It surprised me that it is completely different from my natural, creative being. Although, publishing yourself can both work to lessen and add to your stress. You have the leeway to let a story unfold organically, but you have the added pressure to put out a quality product and be responsible for all parts of the product. You have to take note of the persuasions in society to be seen and heard among the rhetoric of the day.
BPM: The greatest threat to literary freedom are:
The greatest threat to literary freedom are those that try to silence the story tellers Choked out of major and mom and pop bookstore shelves alike that are closing by the dozens, we fail to recognize the soul and essence of who we are. We feel all our stories must somehow have to be the same. We sometimes become divisive in our pursuit to compete with each other for readers. It is important that our work be as diverse as we are. It is also important that the authenticity of our stories, and not solely money or notoriety be the aim of the storytellers.
BPM: How has your writing evolved:
I now know I don’t have to hammer every point. Readers desire a distraction not constant direction. I am a wordsmith that can sometimes get happy in the turn of a phrase, but I’ve learned I cannot forget my audience.
BPM: Do you view writing as a gift or a career:
A career may be the hope, writing is a definite gifting. It’s cathartic. You may hear some writers speak of the words to a story just flowing at a point in their process. I think this is an accurate account of what gifting truly is. There is a natural ebb and flow to things. When you are working in your gifting there is a point you can tuck into the flow and the story comes out naturally.
BPM: Advice you would give a new author:
Read. Write. Be brave and find your own voice.
BPM: Your greatest accomplishment as a writer:
Besides the seven novels, and one anthology, I am most proud of my offerings to my church magazine, Kingdom Living Magazine. In one edition I wrote an article called, “What is Special Needs” that highlighted those differently-abled members of our congregation and their caregivers. Many family members came to thank me for the recognition the article garnered them.
BPM: What you know for sure:
I know for sure that God’s Word is true. Do I understand every part of the Bible? Do I understand why people don’t get along and most of us have to suffer great pain in our lives? No. The Word says, now, we only know in part like looking through a glass darkly, but one day we will know as we are known. Deep, I know.
BPM: Life's greatest teacher is:
Life’s greatest teacher is experience
BPM: Success means:
You attempt to live out your purpose.
BPM: Your writing educates, illuminates or entertains:
If I am successful it will do all three; educate, illuminate and entertain..
BPM: Will the printed book ever become obsolete:
The printed book may become obsolete, but a well-written story doesn’t lose its potency if you engage the mind of the reader.
BPM: What legacy do you wish to leave future generations of readers:
My literary legacy will show that words live beyond the pages if they are true and authentic.
Purchase Submissionary by Sherryle Kiser Jackson
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Books by Sherryle: http://www.amazon.com/Sherryle-Kiser-Jackson/e/B004G1X9HU
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