Just When Things Were Going Right…
All I Ever Did Was Love a Man
It wasn’t easy being a single mother. Sabrena worked hard to make her daughters happy, to give them a solid, secure home. Getting away from her cruel and abusive ex-husband was almost easy—compared to making ends meet and balancing a job with single parenting. But, finally, at long last, Sabrena felt her life was coming together. She had a good-paying job at a department store, two beautiful daughters who were growing up with love and security, and a wonderful friend, “ Rach” who was more like the sister she never had. Even better, Sabrena had a man, Steve, in her life that she loved with her whole heart and dreamed of finally being complete with him at her side.
Except for one thing. Steve said he loved her, but he was unreliable, a liar and in her heart she knew that he was not 100% hers. There were countless nights that she was left sitting by the phone, waiting, worrying, praying and crying over the man that she loved. She freely gave love but where was the love that she desired in return, something just for her and her aching, broken heart.
She knew that Steve was no good. But when Sabrena was in his arms and he looked at her with his melt-on-the-spot chocolate brown eyes, all the problems, the half- truths, the lonely sleepless nights, the broken dates, were forgotten and her heart could not let him go.
Sabrena’s world is turned upside down by a simple visit that ends up leading her on a frightening and unfamiliar path. She finds out what really matters to her the most and secretly still longs for unconditional love which now appears to be impossibility. Sabrena faces her challenges with courage and fear; tears and isolated bursts of joy, heartache and love for her daughters, anger and faith, and holds onto a thread of hope that somehow she can make it through despite the odds. Despite monumental challenges, she must courageously revisit her past in an effort to find the answers to looming questions that haunt her.
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All I Ever Did Was Love a Man
Sharon Denise Allison Ottey
All I Ever Did Was Love a Man
All I Ever Did Was Love a Man
Sharon D. Allison-Ottey, Author
Once again she was waiting, seemingly her new state in life—waiting for Steve to pick her up for another apology date. She’d caught him in yet another lie and worse yet, checked the voice mail on his cell phone and heard another woman thank him for a great weekend. The weekend that he had told her that he was going to a mandatory training session in Atlanta; he had even bought the girls back t-shirts. Steve had of course denied it, even said that it must have been a prank—after all he only loved her. Sabrena was sick of it all. She felt as if she’d wasted the last three years of her life on yet another worthless man. Unfortunately, she couldn’t simply let go. Each time she tried he drew her back into him only to disappoint once again. Sabrena thought she was in love but lately, she wondered if it really were love for Steve or just the fear of being totally alone.
“If he doesn’t get here in 10 minutes, I’m not letting him in,” Sabrena swore to herself. “I’m not calling him again; he should be waiting on ME!” She paced the floor and looked out the window. The kids were at her friend Rachel’s and she’d prepared for quiet time with her man. She loved her girls but she needed a break every once and awhile. As she thought of Renee and Deena, she smiled. They had asked if “Uncle Steve” was going to be their new daddy—over and over again. They adored him, and who wouldn’t? That man could charm the panties off of a nun. He would enter the room, grab them and twirl them in the air, putting them down gently with a gift or candy pressed into their little hands. The worse his crime against Sabrena, the better the treatment of the girls. So, as hurtful as it was to her, she couldn’t find it in her heart to stop him because these moments were priceless to her girls whose father wasn’t in the picture.
Steve was a charmer; they had met at the grocery store where he was the manager. It was an embarrassing moment for Sabrena in that she didn’t have enough money to pay for her groceries and was trying to decide what to put back. Her daughters couldn’t understand and looked at her with pleading eyes as she put back two of their treats but they all had to sacrifice. Even the family cat had to trade in his treats for generic dry food. But that still wasn’t enough so she looked for more to put back.
“May I help you?” She heard this tall, chocolate brother ask as he appeared out of thin air. She was too embarrassed and mumbled some excuse about not having her checkbook. Sabrena could barely look at him but noticed his nicely polished shoes and the perfect cuff on his pants. He raised his voice a little but still gently he asked, “May I help you, Miss?” He smiled and lightly touched her hand.
“No, I don’t think so” Sabrena responded, “I didn’t bring enough cash or my checkbook but I’ll work this out.” The nice man whispered something to the cashier who pointed to the register and answered, much louder than was necessary, “She’s $38.72 short and I need to go on break.” The fine looking man stuck out his hand and smoothly spoke to Sabrena, “Hello, I’m Steve Wilson—the store manager and you’re?”
Sabrena was becoming more embarrassed by the moment and felt her face flush as she meekly stuck out her hand to meet his. She noticed how nice his hands looked and particularly noticed that there was no wedding ring. “I’m Sabrena… Sabrena Collins.” The man wouldn’t let go of her hand and she felt something in her palm, she quickly retracted her hand and found two folded twenty dollar bills. She was speechless, and as she looked up, Steve winked at her knowingly okay. She pretended to look again in her purse and told the cashier that she’d “found” the rest of the money. The cashier couldn’t have cared less as she took the money and completed the sale.
Sabrena looked up to find her rescuer walking to the back of the store. She hadn’t even have time to tell him thank you. Renee and Deena were getting restless and already pulling their goodies out of the bags. Sabrena had decided to just leave the store but she whispered a thank you to God and warmly smiled as she thought of the tall, handsome, kind man.
Steve Wilson, Gosh, he was fine with that dark chocolate skin and piercing deep brown eyes with flecks of light in them. His hand was strong, smooth and his lips— mmmm his lips were perfectly full and the ends turned up as he smiled. He had smooth skin – Sabrena only glanced at him but she didn’t see any razor bumps or any flaws for that matter on his face. He had a dimple in his right check; Sabrena thought she’d never seen someone with a dimple in one cheek and not the other. Sabrena guessed that he was in his early 40s; he looked mature with just the right amount of gray at his temples. She also noticed his body—it was tough not to. He certainly was in shape and Sabrena guessed he was about 6’2” and probably worked out several times a week.
For Sabrena though, it was his kindness that struck her most and she was thankful. She decided to send a thank you card to him at the store and she made sure that she put her phone number and address in it—not expecting him to call or anything but just being sincere in expressing her thanks to the decent brother who saved her from embarrassment and from that ghetto fabulous clerk. She knew that a man like that wouldn’t be interested in her; but she felt she at least owed him a card.
“Hmmph, that was years ago…and that $40 cost me hundreds of hours of misery. I should have never fallen for this player,” Sabrena thought as she began to undress and settle down with a bowl of Breyers Butter Pecan ice cream. She felt tired, disappointed and angry, mostly angry with herself for once again believing Steve. She wondered what it would be this time--- worked late? Caught in traffic? Mom sick? Oh, there was the “fire in the store” a few weeks ago that of course was a lie. Steve treated her like crap and she continued to take it--- Why?
Sabrena knew that she was attractive; she’d been told that she was “pretty”, even “beautiful”. She didn’t’ know about all that but she was certainly not ugly. She always felt that beauty was really only skin deep and faded quickly; she’d met very pretty women whose personality was so evil that it overshadowed any semblance of attractiveness. Sabrena tried to keep herself together, despite having two kids, she’d maintained her figure. She was medium build, like her mother, and stood five feet seven inches in her bare feet. Her weight fluctuated depending on the time of the month and how many Krispy Kreme doughnuts she ate the week before but she was usually about 140 to 145 pounds although she felt like she may have lost a few pounds in the last few months. She rarely got on the scale but used her clothes as a measure of where she was with her weight; she was usually a perfect size 10, before Renee was born she was a size 8.
She wasn’t too big but not skin and bones and she noticed that most men looked at her twice. She kept her face up with just a little eyeliner, powder and lipstick on most days. Although she had gone through several “makeovers” during her lunch hour at the cosmetics counter, she liked simple makeup unless she was going out and even then not too much. Sabrena touched her hair; she had her mother’s hair which was naturally curly and at times hard to manage. She was too busy to fuss with it so she wore a nice bob just at her shoulders that complemented her round face. Sabrena glanced at herself in the mirror in her living room, her eyes were red. Her Momma had always told her that she had the “eyes of an angel,” although she didn’t see anything special about her too big brown eyes. She held the rare compliment from her mother close to her heart.
Sabrena had two girls with no father in sight so she lived on a tight budget and couldn’t afford to spend money on herself. She did her own hair, except for her perms, and bought maybe four or five outfits a year for herself. She was grateful for her Bloomingdales employee discount and advance notice of sales which allowed her dollars to stretch further in taking care of her girls. Sabrena believed that Renee and Deena shouldn’t have to pay for her bad choices in men so, as long as their was no daddy in the picture, Sabrena was responsible enough to save money for a rainy day but also tried to spoil her babies at least a little bit.
They were good girls and they were going to have a life better than she ever did. They were very smart, quick to learn anything and absolutely beautiful girls, not just cause they were her babies but they were really pretty. She smiled as she remembered that when they were very small, people would stop her and go crazy over her girls. Even now when they went out, people commented on how well behaved and pretty they were. Sabrena’s pride was wrapped up in her daughters; she’d vowed that no matter what she was going to take care of them. Deena was the oldest at seven and was definitely a “girly-girl. She loved playing with her dolls and in Sabrena’s makeup. She had mocha skin and jet black hair that was soft and easy to braid. She loved ribbons in her hair and took pride in keeping them all together. Deena had Sabrena’s eyes—big and questioning and a bubbly personality. Deena never met a stranger and Sabrena had to always try to keep her from being too friendly. Deena was old enough to just barely remember when Sabrena left her dad. She used to ask Sabrena where her daddy was but one day she just stopped asking.
Unlike Deena, Renee was usually quite around strangers and at school. She needed time to warm up to people and was very clingy to both Sabrena and her big sister. But just like her sister, Renee was a beautiful child; she had honey colored skin and brownish hair that was hard to manage but once Sabrena pressed it was thick and strong. Renee’s eyes looked like those of old woman— big deep brown saucers full of wisdom. Renee was quiet and loved to just be near Sabrena. Even at age six, sometimes she still cried in the morning when she had to leave her mommy. She’d just learned to walk when Sabrena finally left Carlton.
Sabrena was still amazed that it had taken her so long to leave Carlton. Their years together were filled with insults and verbal abuse and he had actually hit her once in the heat of an argument when he said that she disrespected him. She’d been shocked and afterwards begun to pack her clothes and those of her babies. He ran after her, was apologetic and actually called her mother. Her mother talked her into staying and brought up the fact that this would be her second failed marriage but now she had two kids. Sabrena had stayed and for awhile things actually got better. She stayed for her daughters. Carlton was a good provider and although he wasn’t home a lot, in his own way she believed that he loved his family. Most days Sabrena figured that he was stressed at work and that was why he put her down all the time, always telling her that she was lucky to be with him and that she was stupid. The end came actually not because of what he said and did to Sabrena but rather when he began to yell at the girls. Sabrena made up her mind to leave, feeling that even a homeless shelter was a better place to raise her girls than in this loveless, hateful environment. Not long before they left, Carlton had come home from work and three year old Deena ran to show him a drawing from daycare. Carlton paid no attention to her and when she pulled at his arm, he jerked his arm away and called for Sabrena to come get Deena. “I don’t have time to be bothered with this nappy head girl today. That’s your job--- get her away from me,” he said with a huff. Sabrena saw Deena’s tears form in her eyes and although she probably didn’t understand all that he said, she knew that her daddy didn’t want her around.
Something changed in Deena after that. Although she was just a little girl, she was very astute and she went back to not wanting to be around him at all. It was almost like the fire had gone out of her and Sabrena saw her bubbly personality change after that episode. Sabrena would also see Deena listening in a corner when Carlton was berating her mommy. Once Sabrena had gotten sick of being called stupid, a whore, a failure and she went into the living room and just started crying. She didn’t know that Deena had followed her and she just kept whispering, “Okay, mommy, okay mommy, okay mommy.” She rubbed her leg gently and said, “Bye, Bye, Bye Daddy.” Sabrena looked at her baby and decided that she couldn’t let them see her like this ever again. Further, she couldn’t risk having them grow up in a house without love, only arguments and bitterness.
Sabrena would have to make sure that they had it better than she did and she began to plan to leave. For months she took a few dollars a week from the grocery and bill money—Carlton watched every penny like a hawk. However, she wasn’t as dumb as he thought she was. Sabrena knew enough to go to the bank and ask for a list of all of the accounts and found that he had a savings account whose statement was being mailed to a P.O. Box but had both their names on it. Sabrena figured out the statement dates and asked for a copy of everything. The one account never had withdrawals from it and seemed to be a little “nest egg” for Carlton. Sabrena opened an account with the help of Rach, used her address and began to look for an apartment or house. Rach lived about two hours from Sabrena and that was perfect.
After a few months, Sabrena had stashed away over $7,300 and had gotten two credit cards with high limits on them in Carlton’s name. She’d also convinced him that they needed to make extra payments on her car so that he could get the BMW that he wanted sooner rather than later. He had agreed and put most of his bonus check towards paying off her car and began to look at BMWs. Sabrena knew that looking for the new car would create a diversion for him and that he would never suspect that she would leave or that she was strong or smart enough to take money. She told him little lies like daycare was increasing by $50 a week for both girls. Sabrena called and asked for an increase on their credit card limits and with the overdraft protection linked to their checking account. She was very careful with the timing, the new bills wouldn’t come before she left and Carlton was none the wiser. She got two blank receipt books and began to make up little bills that were $20 here and $100 there which all added up to a nest egg of her own.
Carlton had crossed the line and no matter what she thought of herself, she couldn’t let him mess up her daughters’ lives. Sabrena also knew that once she left that he would be as mad as a pit bull. Under it all, he was very insecure and only put her down so that he could feel better but he was still tough enough to really hurt her.
She planned her escape well. He was working on his company’s Annual Report and had to travel out of town for three days. She told him that she needed to have the carpets cleaned and to get both the cars tuned up while he was gone so she would need some extra money, told him cash would be better for the mechanic as she could probably get a discount. He agreed which surprised Sabrena because he was tight with the dollars, although he made a good salary. He constantly reminded her that he was the only one who really worked and that whatever they bought with her money was a waste. Sabrena did work as well but of course, she made nowhere near the money that he made and in his eyes it was more of an embarrassment than anything. That’s okay, she thought. That embarrassing job was helping her get her girls away from him. Sabrena was sick of it all and she waited for the perfect time to leave.
She remembered the day well. She’d taken him to the airport, even kissed him goodbye. Unfortunately, the night before he had wanted sex and so she had to endure yet another 90 seconds of unenthusiastic huffing and puffing. He didn’t even look at her; never kissed her and would roll over and run to the shower afterwards. She didn’t know how she’d ever gotten pregnant—he was definitely NOT a Casanova and deep down Sabrena believed that he had been a virgin when they started dating, he just didn’t know how to touch a woman. Years ago she’d resolved that this would never be a good area for her and Carlton and she would have put up with it if he had been good to her girls. But being a horrible lover AND a horrible father was just not going to get it.
Once she’d dropped him at the airport, she took the girls and met Rach halfway, she had to pack and get moved. She could always count on Rach to help her when she was in trouble. She met the movers at the house and took some of the furniture—just the living room, a guest bedroom set, the girl’s beds and dressers and the kitchen dinette. She left the expensive artwork and stuff that she knew Carlton loved to show off to his friends. She sent the movers on to her new home and she went directly to the bank.
Sabrena had planned this for months, took all of the money, except for $100 to keep the account open from the private savings account. Sabrena couldn’t believe that he had put close to $10,000 in an account that that she didn’t know about. She also took all of the money out of the other savings account and $11,600 out of the checking account, with a little help from their overdraft line. She didn’t want to leave Carlton without any money but she needed enough to pay rent and bills for at least eight months. She took the maximum advances on all of the credit cards and sold her wedding ring. She also put some clothes that he had bought for her, which she hated, into a consignment shop in Rach’s name and address. Fortunately, the car was only in her name and was now paid for in full. And she hadn’t told a complete lie; she did get her car worked on with a tune-up, brakes and a full inspection that she charged to his credit card before she left.
It took Sabrena two days to get everything done and to pack up the clothes that were left. She wrote Carlton a note and gave him the number to the divorce lawyer that she’d found. She’d been smart enough to find a lawyer and to tell her everything her plan. She also told her that she didn’t want anything else from Carlton as long as he gave her sole custody of the girls with no visitation. She’d paid the lawyer with their American Express card and hid the bill, he would find it soon enough. When Sabrena walked out of the house, she had over $78,000 in cash and $22,000 in certified checks that she immediately put into her new bank account. She figured that she could make it for awhile on that money, and get started again without bothering anyone including her mother. She didn’t even call her mother to tell her this time that she was leaving, let Carlton call her again.
For the first night in the new house, she’d left the girls with Rach so that she could everything set up. She eventually just sat in the middle of the floor in the living room and cried—not tears of sadness but those of freedom. She looked around and felt lonely but she knew that she’d done the right thing. Sabrena had pulled her girls out of an environment that would only hurt them, they needed to know and feel love. Sabrena would give them enough love for both a mother and a father, no matter what the cost.
Now, as ever, Sabrena loved her girls and wondered why being a mom wasn’t enough. They were the center of her life, but she felt that she needed something just for her. She wanted to be in a relationship with someone, a man unlike Steve or any of the other men she’d known before. Steve, when he was around, made her laugh and made her feel beautiful; he treated her differently than Kevin or Carlton. He knew how to work her, and a piece of Steve was better than nothing at all. Did she love him? She guessed so but that wasn’t enough. This part-time love wasn’t enough for someone who loved so much. She wanted a man who loved her as much as she loved him.
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