When it comes to marriage nothing is guaranteed. Not even when you marry your best friend, the one person you’ve known and been able to talk to all your life. Just ask Jolene Walker. She is disenchanted with her nearly seven-year-old marriage, but her husband, Mosiah doesn’t know how she feels.
As Jolene measures the ebb and flow of her love, and manages her life as a wife, mother, full-time teacher, part-time graduate student, older sister, daughter and choir member; her world is turned upside down when she receives news about a problem she never expected.
The revelation forces her to evaluate everything and everyone around her as she tries to hold on to her sense of self and not the image of the woman her family wants her to be.
If I were honest, I’d be divorced right now.
The words jump off the page in front of Jolene’s eyes. Her truth is startling, even to herself. She puts the inky pen back to the paper of her gold lined journal and writes.
It’s not that what we have is bad, it’s just the same. The same old routine. The same old jobs, the same old sex, the same old arguments. The same old “I’m sorry’s” after so we don’t go to bed mad. It’s the same. If I had known monogamy was synonymous with monotony, I would have never signed up for this. Never said “I do.” But who am I kidding? I was thirsty to get married. Being a single parent was hard enough; might as well let somebody else carry this burden with me. And I guess that’s the thing that keeps me here. Still in Jacksonville. Damn near in the same neighborhood I grew up in, with the only other person that’s ever really cared about me besides my family. I just don’t know how long I can keep hoping, wishing, waiting, praying, for that spark to come back between us. But, Mo has always been good with Toussaint. Always treated him like his own son, even when Jemarcus was in the picture.
Even right now, I can hear them downstairs. I’m supposed to be in the tub, but sometimes I just need to sit down and gather my thoughts without doing anything else. Including bathing. I’ll wash eventually. But just sitting here, listening to them downstairs, Mo helping Toussaint with his homework, with Lydia yelling “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” every five minutes, he’s determined to get that boy through Algebra. That’s better than I can do. I barely passed that class myself. All those y’s and x’s and numbers together, might as well be Wookiee. I don’t understand it. I didn’t when I was in school and I still don’t. I teach history. It never changes. We just have to learn from it.
“TeeTee, you got it?”
Jolene hears Mosiah ask Toussaint as he comes up the stairs to their bedroom.
“Yeah, I got it,” Toussaint answers.
“Then I’m a take a shower. Keep an eye on your sister.”
Jolene braces herself against the bed pillows. Her head is laid back against the upholstered headboard the color of red wine. She drops her pen in the journal and closes the soft leather book. I’ll finish this later, she promises herself. She closes her eyes as Mosiah comes into the room. She can feel him looking at her in the doorway.
“I thought you were getting in the tub,” he says.
“I am. I just needed to unwind first.”
“You know the kids are hungry? Elmo’s only going to hold Lydia for so long.”
“I know. I’m coming. I needed a minute.”
“You’ve been up here for an hour.”
“Okay, I needed an hour,” Jolene snaps. “I’ll take a shower and go cook.”
“You know we can just order in.”
“Yeah, I know, but I went grocery shopping. It’s cheaper to feed the four of us from what I gave the store than anything we have delivered.”
“I was just trying to help you out,” Mosiah says, coming toward the bed.
“You did. You helped Toussaint with his math homework. For that I’m forever grateful.”
Mosiah holds out his hands to Jolene. She swings her feet off the bed, takes his hands and stands up. She stumbles into his arms.
“Woah,” he says, wrapping his arms around her back. “You alright?”
“Yeah. I just got dizzy on the way up.”
“Lay your head down, I’ll hold you as long as you need me to.”
Jolene nestles her head into his neck. She inhales his scent. The smell of industrial disinfectant and Clinique aftershave clouds her senses. She turns her head away from his body and sees the abstract artworks they bought from a Home Goods store to add a level of maturity to their bedroom. She stares at the tan canvases with splashes and splotches of vibrant paint until the reds bleed into the yellows, the browns into the greens, and the purples into the blues. Her gaze lingers until her level of dizziness increases and she stumbles even more into Mosiah, nearly knocking him over.
He catches his step and holds on to her even tighter.
He says, “Baby, what’s wrong?”
“I’m just tired.” Jolene fakes a yawn. “But I’m alright. Let me jump in the shower and clear my head, then I can get dinner together.”
“I can do it,” Mosiah offers.
“You’ve had a long day too. We both have. I got it.”
Jolene steps out of Mosiah’s arms and walks into their small closet. She begins to take off her clothes. She pulls the purple split-neck blouse over her head, messing up her long, straight hair along the way. She smooths the sides back around her face before spinning her black pencil skirt around her waist to take it off. First the button, then the zipper, and she still has to pull it inch by inch away from her hips and down her thighs, until it falls from her knees to the floor. Jolene runs her fingers through the silver hooks of her waist trainer until it falls away from her body. She puts her hands on her hips and exhales deeply.
Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy award winning news producer and author. She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and attended The Florida State University where she graduated with a B.S. in Communication: Mass Media Studies and Honors English Creative Writing. Nikesha’s debut novel, Four Women, was awarded the 2018 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Award in the category of Adult Contemporary/Literary Fiction. Four Women, was also recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists as an Outstanding Literary Work. Nikesha lives in Jacksonville, Florida, but you can always find her online at Facebook.com/NikeshaElise or @Nikesha_Elise on Twitter and Instagram.
Question and Answers
- What inspired your new novel Love Never Fails?
My husband inspired the novel. He suggested I write about a couple that says, “I love you,” before going to bed every night. And while that’s all well and good, I couldn’t find a way in. However, I heard a statistic while in my newsroom at work and that allowed me to find a crisis to put the couple through, and then build on the theme of enduring love.
- You say build on the theme of enduring love, but the opening line of the book is, “If I were honest, I’d be divorced right now.” That’s very far from enduring love.
It is. But anyone who’s been in love, or married, or with a partner for an extended amount of time knows that it’s not easy to stay there. Love is a choice. Love is an action. And even though my character feels disenchanted, bored, over it, she’s still choosing to love as she sorts through the feelings in her head.
- Then what sustains the relationship?
Without giving too much of the novel away, the driving force is the way her husband loves her. He has always seen who she is no matter what she’s going through. I think we all need someone in our corner who loves us and all of us and sees us in ways we can’t always see ourselves
- Does your husband do that for you?
In ways, yes.
- “Love Never Fails” is a big departure from your first two novels, “Four Women,” and “The Appeal of Ebony Jones,” was that intentional?
Yes. Four Women and The Appeal [of Ebony Jones] were really dark and really heavy, and rightfully so due to the subject matter being domestic violence, and stand your ground, and so much more. For Love [Never Fails] I wanted to do something light. I didn’t want to be so heavy. I wanted to tell a simple love story. Okay, maybe not so simple. But a love story.
- Does that mean you’ll be trying your hand at romance in the future?
I don’t think I’m cut out for romance. I don’t really like to categorize my work in the genre system. I know it helps readers find what they like, but as a writer, I don’t like the limitations of the categories. When people ask me what my books are about, I say, “My books are about life.” That includes the good, the bad, the ugly, the steamy, the sexy, the erotic. I talk about it all. I’m not sure the rules of romance would allow me to do that. But I’ll never say never. We’ll see.
- What’s next for you?
My next novel, Adulting, comes out on Labor Day.
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