Brenda is the youngest of Deacon John Wilson’s four children. He tries to keep them all on the straight and narrow, but his strict, religious practices only ignite a pattern of rebellion for Brenda. The day she loses her virginity, she conceives a child. The problem is she is sixteen and pregnant out of wedlock, an issue a 1968 society uses to reject young girls. Her dreams of someday becoming a wife and mother, living happily-ever-after are diminished when the father of her unborn child rejects her, the church shuns her, and her father’s words, “You are ruined!” send her on an emotional tailspin.
Her quest for love, acceptance, and validation leads her on a journey of poor choices in men, friends, and indulgence in drugs from marijuana to heroin. Her tumultuous trek takes her from the church house, to the dope house, to the whorehouse, and eventually the jailhouse.
Will this good girl lost find her way? Will she redeem herself and her faith in God? Will she realize her worth is not based on the judgment of others? Will she recognize true love when it crosses her path or will she keep running from her pain?
Maureen nearly dropped the dish she was washing when she heard her father’s loud voice yell from his bedroom. Kadie tried to calm him, but it was obvious that he was extremely angry.
Maureen dashed up the stairs and stormed in the bedroom.
“What in the world did you do?” she asked. Her face was flushed. Brenda ignored her. “Answer me! I heard Daddy yelling your name. What did you do to make him so mad?”
“Brenda, get down here!” Deacon Wilson shouted.
“Oh, God,” Brenda whined. Tensed, she clenched her fists and walked slowly toward the staircase. Maureen followed behind her, anxious to know what was going on.
“Speed it up, girl, before my shoes scrape the skin right off your ankles,” Maureen said. Brenda continued to ignore her and kept walking slowly, hesitantly anticipating the showdown she knew she would encounter once she was face-to-face with Deacon.
“Have a seat, Brenda,” Deacon Wilson said in a stern tone. He sat at the head of the dining room table. Kadie stood catty-corner in the doorway while Maureen stood guard with her back against the wall, her hands resting on her hips, eager to find out what Brenda had done.
Shaking, with her head down, Brenda pulled the chair back and sat down. Her eyes focused on the green linen placemat that sat neatly on the table in front of her. She placed her sweaty palms flat down on the placemat, hoping the linen would help absorb the sweat that seemed to pour from all over her body. Deacon Wilson shook his head a moment before he spoke. The silence drew a lump in his throat.
“Em, em, em,” he said, his disappointment obvious. The anger and hurt were visible in his eyes and in his wordless expression. He stuttered, trying to find the right words to say. “W-why, how could you let this happen?” he asked. “How could you do this to us? You know what the Bible says about fornication and you done got yourself pregnant!”
Brenda cringed. Maureen gasped, and her mouth drew wide open as she covered her lips with both hands.
“Well, she didn’t get that way by herself,” Kadie interjected.
“Em, em, em,” Deacon repeated, shaking his head again.
“Maureen, you can excuse yourself while we deal with Brenda,” Deacon Wilson said. In silence Maureen stepped out of the room, to where she was out of sight, but nearby so she could still hear the conversation. She stood with her ear near the door.
“You’re just sixteen. You know what they call babies of unmarried women? Bastards, that’s what they call ‘em!”
Brenda cried, breaking her silence. “Daddy, I’m…I’m sorry. I could go to one of those places to have an a … abor…”
“Abortion?” he yelled, cutting into her words. Kadie hung her head.
“Lord knows I am very disappointed in you. You are ruined. You will never have what your mother and I wanted for you. You’re not about to get any lower by having an abortion. Abortion is murder, and one sin can’t cover another,” Deacon responded. Deacon’s words penetrated deep in Brenda’s stomach, she felt the need to rush to the toilet to vomit, but she held it in. “The Bible says thou shall not kill, and that we won’t do. You also won’t have a bastard child.” He pounded his fist on the table, startling Kadie and Maureen who stood outside the door.
“We gone have to let God deal with you, and I’m gone deal with … what’s the boy’s name, Brenda?”
Brenda was crying so hard she couldn’t speak.
“Karl, Daddy,” Maureen answered from the other room. She rushed back into the room. “His name is Karl, right?” she added, turning to ask Brenda. Brenda nodded her head and rolled her eyes at Maureen. Maureen heard Brenda and Cheryl on the telephone talk often about Karl, and she saw them walking together at school. “Karl Hamilton,” Maureen added, handing Brenda a few tissues from the box that sat at the other end of the table. Brenda let the tissues drop on the table. Her hatred for her sister’s meddlesome ways was apparent.
“Maureen?” Kadie said, eyeing her daughter.
“You have five seconds to leave this room and not return. Stop being so nosy. This does not concern you.”
The room remained quiet as Maureen shuffled her feet and left the room.
“I’m going to see this Karl and his daddy,” Deacon said. “I want to know what they gonna do about this.” Brenda’s eyes widened as she lifted her head with concern. “Where about does this Karl live?” he asked, curling his lips and gritting his teeth.
Brenda was too stunned to speak. Finally, she muttered, “Down on Jackson Street near Bonbright.”
“Don’t you go down there starting no ruckus, John,” Kadie said.
“What do you mean? That little …” Deacon caught his words. “Done got my baby girl pregnant. It’s only gone be ruckus if he don’t do something about it.”
“Well, what you suppose he’s gone do now?” Kadie asked.
“Marry her! That’s the only way,” Deacon spoke firmly.
Brenda collapsed her upper body right down on the table and let loose a whirl of tears and moans.
“Oh Lawd,” Kadie exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. She slipped on her shoes and grabbed her purse. “I’m going with you. You’re gone get yourself in a world of trouble going to folks’ house like this.”
Deacon snatched opened the second drawer of the China cabinet and pulled out his shotgun shells then disappeared to the basement. Kadie rushed behind him.
“John, we’re not down south. There’s a better way to handle this. Don’t you go getting that shotgun.”
“You just hope I don’t have to use it,” he said, making his way back to the dining room carrying his double barrel shotgun. Shooting an angry glare at Brenda, he said, “Come on. You’re showing me where this boy lives.”
Telishia Berry is the author of the Christian fiction novel, The Baptist Junkie. and the publisher of Courageous Woman Magazine, an inspirational online publication that highlights the accomplishments of extraordinary women. She is also the founder of WRITE Chicks, an organization that unites African American Authors and playwrights that promote HIV/AIDS Awareness.
As a playwright, Telishia has numerous stage productions to her credit including gospel musical play “Wake Up”, which starred Carl Payne Jr. known for his role as “Cole” on the TV show, Martin, gospel music artists Deitrick and Damita Haddon, and the late Ron Banks of the R& B group the Dramatics. Telishia also wrote the follow up production, “Wake Up 2” which starred gospel artist, Antwaun Stanley and American Idol finalist, Lakisha Jones. ” The shows earned her a “Woman of the Year” Award from Just for Her Magazine, and a Resolution Award from the City of Flint, Michigan. Telishia also wrote the comedy musical play, “Hair Weave.” The cast included several comedians, including Mike Epps, Zooman, and Foolish.
Telishia began acting and performing as a child and has performed and traveled around the country with musical productions. That love for the arts also influenced her children. After teaching drama and starting a youth drama troop her son, Kendre’ that got the acting bug and wanted to pursue it as a career. At age 11 Kendre’ placed in the top 5 out of 10,000 kids in Nickelodeon’s search for the “Funniest Kid in America” competition. Shortly after, the family moved to California. Within two weeks Kendre’ landed a role on a TV show and she became a stage mom. Kendre’ has played in several movies, TV shows, and is best known for his role as “Jabari” on the hit TV show “Girlfriends.”
Currently, Telishia is preparing to launch CW Magazine in print and produce an independent film. She believes that all things are possible to them that BELIEVE and have FAITH. “There is NOTHING in life, you can’t HAVE, DO, or BE. You just have to go for it no matter what anyone else says or thinks.”
Get to know Telishia Berry:
1. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I became fascinated with writing when I was a little girl. My mother use to have shelves full of books by African American authors. One of my favorite authors was Donald Goines. His stories were so vivid with memorable characters. I said one day I want to be a writer, and since I was involved in theater arts I started writing plays. I wrote my first play in my 7th grade English class.
2. Your book cover is very dramatic. Who decided the concept and design?
I decided what the concept would be based on the story line of the novel. I wanted a strong “eye catching cover.” The photography and cover was designed by Keith Saunders of Marion Designs. He has done covers for many bestselling authors. I was a big fan of his work for years and said when I was ready to publish my book I wanted to work with him.
3. What do you wish to accomplish with this book?
Because I have taken some time to focus on family, developing my son’s acting career, getting my two oldest daughters off to college, and a marriage transition, I wanted this book to serve as a re-launch of my life and my writing career. It’s been awhile since I have produced a play. I have grown as a person and creatively. I want the book to be good enough for the readers to want to keep up with me to see what’s next.
4. What female authors have influenced you? I have read lots of books and enjoy the work of so many female authors, they all influence and encourage me to put the pen to paper, but to narrow down the three that influenced me the most, I’d say Victoria Christopher Murray, Kim Lawson Roby, and Reshonda Tate Billingsley. I admire the work and writing styles of each of these ladies.
5. Describe the plays you’ve written and produced and if you plan on producing a play based on your latest novel? I’ve produced three plays that traveled and starred well-known actors, singers, and comedians, an anti-drug gospel musical, Wake Up, The follow up to that play, Wake Up 2, and a comedy musical, Hairweave. I am considering doing a play based The Baptist Junkie, but right now I am working on the screenplay for it.
6. Is your book a true story? The book is fiction, but it is based on a lot of real events and people I know and members of my family. I wanted the story to be real and relatable, from the church folk to the street thug characters. Most people who have read it say the characters are like people they know or like people in their families.
7. Describe the magazine you publish and what motivated you to publish it?
Courageous Woman Magazine is an inspirational online magazine that highlights the accomplishments of extraordinary women. I am often inspired by success stories of women who have achieved phenomenal success and triumph over tragedy stories. CW Magazine features these types of women and stories that motivate and empower women to go for their dreams no matter how far-fetched it may seem to others. I am working doing a lot more with CW Magazine, including a talk show.
8. What other things are you working on? I actually have my hands in numerous projects. I am working on taking CW Magazine from online to print status, as well as other book projects, two film projects and I started a non-profit organization, WRITE Chicks. It’s an organization that unites African American Authors to promote HIV/AIDS Awareness. I am also an event planner, working on a World AIDS Day Affair.
9. What would you say to other inspiring writers and women in general?
I would say write, write, write, start writing that novel that has been in your heart. Write what you feel. You will never know the outcome if you don’t start. I would say get focused on self, being mentally, spiritually, and physically well. When we feel good, we do good!
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