Emily . . .
What My Heart Desired
hat do you do when you know right from wrong, and you know that what you're about to do is dead wrong, but you decide to do it anyway?
That was my predicament. My name is Emily Eloise Snow. It's an old-fashioned name for a young woman, and I guess that's the way my life had always been . . . something that wasn't quite what it seemed.
Actually, I wasn't surprised that I was stuck in this conundrum because Ms. Marabelle had predicted it several months ago, before I set out on this journey.
“Emily, you been waitin' a mighty long spell, and now it's time fo' you to follow yo heart,” Ms. Marabelle had said to me in her low, raspy voice. “It ain't gon' be easy, and the road ahead's gon' be rough in some spots, but you got to ride it out 'cause love is waitin' on you.You finally gon' be happy, chile.”
Marabelle Jackson, by my estimation, was at least ninety years old, and the tiny, gray-haired woman's mystical powers were well known and trusted in my small, tight-knit community. Ms. Marabelle had what people called
She foretold things that eventually would come to pass. She forecasted floods, tornados, and other natural disasters months and sometimes years before they happened, and accurately predicted prosperity as well as devastation for those who sought her out for personal readings. I had always tried to stay as far away from Ms. Marabelle as was humanly possible. She scared me with her haunting prophecies and cryptic visions, not because they were astonishingly accurate, but more so because they were usually full of gloom and doomâat least for me.
Now that Ms. Marabelle had finally told me that something good would unfold in my life, her prediction was tainted by the promise of hardship on the horizon, a rough road ahead, and I knew exactly what that meant. Her words sent me into a free fall of emotions that haven't stopped since they rang in my ears.
As I pondered my fate, I tried to concentrate on the road ahead because I was driving in unfamiliar territory, knowing that my final destination could very well be a place somewhere between virtual happiness and a living hell.
All my life, I had always tried to do the right things.
She's so nice. You can always count on Emily. She's a good girl.
That was how people in my neighborhood, school, church, and hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, described me. Growing up, my mother used to say I was the kind of child that every parent wished for, smart, kind, obedient, and loving. As I matured, I grew into the kind of young woman who men wanted to take home to meet their mothers, and who mothers wanted their sons to marry. And as more years passed I became a responsible, levelheaded adult, dependable and solid in characterâqualities that had been part blessing, part curse.
I tried to treat people with the same respect and courtesy I'd want in return because that was how I was raised. I put careful thought and consideration into my choices before I made them, and I pretty much played by the rules. But therein was my problem, presenting the troubling quandary that held me in its grip for the last few months. It was the delicate balance between exercising good judgment and throwing caution to the wind so I could finally have what I wanted, however risky it might be.
As I eased off the gas pedal, making a sharp right turn onto another busy street, my car sputtered and ambled along, just like my state of mind. I wasn't good at city driving, but like many things in my life, it was something I'd have to get used to. So I continued my course, navigating through the congested streets of northwest Washington, DC, my stomach rumbling and turning with the thought of what awaited me once I reached the red brick colonial on Sixteenth Street.
I kept telling myself that I couldn't give in to the warm sensation that had been keeping me up late at night because it was much too dangerous a proposition. But I couldn't help it. With each mile I traveled, I inched closer and closer to the man who'd been holding my heart hostage for the past eleven years. He was what I both passionately loved and desperately feared.
It had been seven months since I'd last seen him, and unfortunately, that occasion had been one of great sorrow. I'd been in a haze, barely able to enjoy the sweetness his presence usually brought when he was near. I had searched for him among the small gathering of friends and visitors who surrounded me that sad, dreary weekend.
“God will see you through this, Emily,” mourners whispered to me in somber tones, offering hugs of condolence for the loss of my mother. I appreciated the kind words and genuine show of affection that friends and church members had offered, but I'd been much too numb to really absorb them. Those days whizzed by like blank flash cards. But when I looked up and saw him through the sea of faces gathered at the church, it was the first time in a week that I hadn't felt dead, too. And even though our encounter was brief, as most of them had been over the years, it was, as always, meaningful.
After my mother's funeral, my world moved slowly, limping along in a crooked groove. Losing her devastated me. I lost my father when I was ten years old. One evening he went to the corner store for a carton of milk, despite my mother repeatedly urging him not to go. “It's too late to be out this time of night,” she had said. She told him that she and I could have toast and fruit for breakfast instead of the corn flakes we both loved to eat every morning.
But my father wouldn't hear of it. “I'm gonna get my two favorite girls what they want,” he told my mother before heading out the door. He was standing at the counter, ready to make his purchase when two thugs shot and killed him for the $21.34 in his pocket. It was my indoctrination into shattered hopes and stolen dreams.
I was an only child, and both my parents had been as well. Mom and I were all each other had left. Even though I was blessed with a small but close circle of friends, nothing could replace the inviolable bond of maternal flesh and blood. To lose your mother, your first connection to the world, is a hard thing to wrap your mind around.
I thought about Mom and sighed as I came to a stoplight at yet another confusing intersection. “Where in the world am I?” I mumbled aloud, glancing down at my iPhone's screen. The GPS app I'd downloaded had frozen yet again. I tried to gather my bearings as I recalled what my mother used to say whenever she got turned around in an unfamiliar part of town. “I'm not lost, I'm just exploring,” she would announce with conviction. I smiled, remembering her remarkable optimism. I could really use her help right now.
Although it had been seven months since I buried my mother, I still couldn't believe she was gone. I had braced myself for her death because she'd been sick for so long, and because like other sad things in my life, Ms. Marabelle had predicted it. Mom battled multiple sclerosis until the degenerative disease eventually won the long war it had raged against her body. But when death finally came to claim her, I hadn't expected the magnitude of grief and emptiness that followed.
Thank goodness I had my ace, my best friend, Samantha Baldwin. Samantha was the sister I'd never had, and she was a lifesaver. She comforted me and helped me to cope with the heartache and pain I suffered after Mom's funeral. Samantha was also part of the reason why I was driving through a maze of Friday-afternoon rush-hour traffic, headed straight toward what could either make me whole or tear me into tiny pieces.
Samantha had talked me into moving here to DC, which was her hometown; Chocolate City, as she affectionately called it. She said that DC would be good for me, that it was the perfect elixir I needed to help me get on with my life and make a new start. “DC will bring you your heart's desires,” she told me just a week ago when I was packing boxes.
I literally shook in my sandals when I heard my best friend's words. I was petrified of what my new start could possibly bring, and I felt that way because I knew what Samantha didn't. I knew deep down that if I got what I wanted, what my heart truly desired, it could not only change the course of my life as I had known it, it stood to disrupt the foundation of loyalty and trust on which we had built our rock-solid friendship and sisterhood.
The raw, naked truth was simple. What my heart truly desired was the man I had been in love with for the better part of my adult lifeâand that man just happened to be Samantha's father.