{Excerpt} My Soul Then Sings by:Michelle Lindo-Rice

My Soul Then Sings by Michelle Lindo-RiceChapter One

Five years .

For five whole years Ryan Oakes had kept a secret, but he knew it was confession time.

“Today,” he said, gripping the steering wheel, “I’m telling Patti the truth, today.”

Ryan pulled his cream-colored Lincoln Navigator in the driveway of his five thousand square foot Brick Georgian Colonial home in Garden City, Long Island. He put the car into park but kept the motor running.

Ryan tapped the wheel. He had been saved for all of six months now, and someone had forgotten to tell him that salvation came with a Conscience—with a capital C—that prodded him to fess up and tell his wife and son what he had done.

The car sat idle as he vacillated. No, he could not do it. The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that there were some lies that should remain in the past. God had forgiven him and tossed all of his sins in the sea of forgetfulness. He would hold on to that.

Ryan sighed. He was forgiven, but if only he could forget. He leaned back into the leather seat and hit the back of his head several times against the padded headrest before closing his eyes. Determined, he shook his head and groaned, “No no no,” but that did not erase the guilt gnawing at him.

There was no other option. He had to tell the truth. He knew it.

Patricia “Patti” Oakes opened the front door and poked her head out. Ryan’s eyes raked her five-ten slender frame, olive skin, and flowing auburn curls. One look at her sultry smile and pouty mouth and Ryan switched gears. Anxious, he undid the locks and crooked his finger.

She ambled toward him with a seductive sway of her hips. Patricia was a neurosurgeon, which meant she was a heady combination of smart and sexy.

Ryan hid a small smile. He knew what she was thinking, and he liked that idea. He waited for Patricia to open the passenger door and watched as she swung her long legs to hoist herself into the vehicle. As soon as she was settled, he placed his hand on her left leg and inched upward. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered. “As I sat in business meetings all day, I only had one thought. Coming home to see your face.”

“I’ve missed you too.” Her skirt hiked higher. “I didn’t expect to be in surgery all night, and by the time I came in this morning, you’d already left.”

He heard her plaintive voice and knew what she needed. Ryan reached for the seat adjustment and slid his seat backward. In a swift move, he lifted Patricia like a rag doll and positioned her so she straddled his lap. He drew her close to him and sniffed. She smelled like lavender. “I can’t wait,” he said, while his lips and hands proved his point.

“I figured as much,” Patricia groaned.

He was going to have her here and now. Ryan shifted the car in drive and curved his head around her body so that he could see. Then he pressed the garage door opener and pulled into the huge space. He did not care about being discreet, but if Brian, their only son, pulled up and saw them in such a compromising position, he would have their heads.

Ryan and Patricia loved each other almost to the point of obsession. Their consuming passion had made them oblivious to all, including Brian. For most of his formative years, Brian had felt ignored and unloved, which had led to his acting out, truancy, and aberrant behaviors. Ryan and Patricia had not known how Brian felt, and if they had not met Tiffany Knightly before she passed, they would have lost their son.

Tiffany had taken Brian under her wing as a surrogate mother. She fed him and encouraged Brian to quit smoking, get his act together, and improve his grades. Thirsty for love, Brian had clung to her and flourished under her attention.

It was because of Tiffany—and later her daughter, Karlie—their son was now in college and on the right path toward becoming a contributor to society. Brian, Karlie, and her boyfriend, Jamaal, attended New York University.

“I can’t wait, honey,” Patricia moaned. As soon as the garage door closed, she undressed.

Ryan eyed the tempting display and smiled. He was all too willing to comply. After almost twenty-five years together, Ryan still found her desirable and insatiable, and he loved that about her.

“Me, either, honey,” he whispered. He kissed her with passion before tearing his lips away. “Patti, we’re behaving like teenagers when we have a king-sized, four-poster bed inside the house.”

“I don’t need a bed,” she pouted. “I just need you.”

Patricia made a valid point. Throwing caution to the wind, Ryan made love to his wife. Afterward, when they exited the vehicle, they did not make it past the living room. Ravenous, Ryan and Patricia clawed each other with unbridled passion. He knocked over one of the $300 Murray Feiss lamps from an end table. Both ignored it.

Fortunately for them, Brian had not decided to pay them a visit that day. As they lay on the carpet in each other’s arms, Ryan cradled his wife’s head and played with the tendrils of her hair. Her skin glistened from the effects of their passion. Again, his conscience pricked him.

Tell her.

“No, I can’t.” He uttered the words in a low tone of voice, but Patricia heard him. She turned her body toward him and kissed him on the neck. “Can’t what?”

I can’t tell you the truth . Ryan rubbed his nose in her hair. Mmm. He smelled apricots. “I can’t have you again, though I want to.” It wasn’t a complete lie. He wanted Patricia all the time.

“Oh, Ryan, I love you,” she sighed. “How did I luck out with such a good man?” She took his face in her hands and kissed him gently on the lips. “I hear women at work gripe about their husbands, boyfriends, and baby daddies, and I consider myself blessed that I don’t have any worries like that. You’re a rare breed of man, Ryan Oakes, and I love you always.”

Ryan gulped, and his conscience gave him a swift kick in the gut. He closed his eyes because he knew that he did not deserve that trusting look on her face. Not anymore. But, he could not bear to see Patricia’s trust turn into disgust. What was he going to do?

Nothing .

“Wake up, sleepyhead.” Patricia poked him in the chest.

“Lord, help me,” Ryan prayed. He pried his eyes open.

His wife misunderstood and chuckled. “Yes, He’s going to have to help you because of what I’ve got planned . . .”

Ryan felt her body shift and knew what she intended to do. Tomorrow. He would tell her tomorrow. Never mind that he said that yesterday—and the day before that. He would keep his word this time. Tomorrow would be the day.

Chapter Two

“What do they mean my sound is too sweet?”

Karlie Knightly swept her shoulder-length curls out of her face. She crisscrossed her long legs on her king-sized bed in the Marlton Hotel.

Karlie had wanted to rent an apartment, but her adopted father, Neil Jameson, convinced her to live in the hotel. That way she would not have to cook or worry about housekeeping with her coursework load. She had stepped into the luxurious building resplendent with rich burgundy undertones and had fallen in love. Though the rooms were small, she loved the crown moldings, brass fixtures, and the private marble bathroom. The onsite restaurant and café added to its appeal.

She clutched a printout from a quack blogger who was gathering clout. Her debut song, “How Great Thou Art,” had released to not-so-stellar reviews. According to this twit wannabe reporter, Karlie’s voice was nothing like her “dearly departed mother’s.”

In fact, Brenda Northeimer called her sound “too sweet, saccharine, and filled with fake sentiment to grasp the raw emotion needed for a song like that.”

Try losing your mother and see how you would feel.

Karlie grabbed several tissues from her nightstand and blew her nose. She knew she could not sing like her mother did. She was not trying to. She was her own person. Karlie crumpled the paper and tossed it against the wall. It landed on the herringbone wood floor with a thud.

Karlie strolled in her bathroom to throw out the soiled tissues and wash her face. She looked in the mirror at her almond-shaped face, so much like her mother’s except Karlie had honey-colored eyes and slightly fuller lips.

Brenda Northheimer did not know what it was like to be left alone because cancer had reared its head and torn her life to pieces. Five years had passed, but that did not stop Karlie from wetting her pillow at night for a mother who she would never see again.

Neil and his wife, Myra had taken her into their home and hearts. Their daughter, Addison, Addie for short, whom she adored, was the sister she never had. But Karlie missed her mother. Tiffany Knightly was irreplaceable.

Karlie’s cell phone buzzed. She jumped to retrieve it from her computer desk, hoping that it was her boyfriend, Jamaal Weathers. She had texted him earlier, but he still had classes, and then had step rehearsal after that.

It was not Jamaal. It was Brian.

Let me in.

Ugh, why didn’t Brian ever give her advanced notice? He just popped in whenever the mood struck. Karlie wiped her face. Since she lived on the second floor, she knew he would be at her door any minute. She scrambled to make her bed and picked up the crumpled paper. She was about to throw it into the trash can when she heard the knock.

Holding the paper in her left hand behind her back, Karlie opened the door. “Hey, Brian.”

“Hey, yourself, Sweet Cheeks.” He squeezed her cheeks and entered her small space.

Trying to be discreet, Karlie tossed the paper into the trash can, but Brian zeroed in on her action.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s nothing,” Karlie replied, shooing her hand and moving away from the can.

Brian squinted his eyes. He was not buying her act. He bent his six-foot-five frame and pinned his light brown eyes on her face. “Your eyes are puffy. Have you been crying?”

“No.” She shook her head.

Brian studied her before walking over to the trash can. He reached in and picked it up.

Karlie lunged toward him to get the paper out of his hands. “What’re you doing? You can’t just come in here and rummage through my trash!”

Brian held his arm above her head.

Karlie jumped to get the paper. “Brian, give it to me. You’re so juvenile.”

He swayed it out of her reach. “Considering it’s the only thing in the garbage, I wouldn’t say that was rummaging. In fact, I was only searching for a piece of paper to stick my gum in.”

“You’re such a liar, Brian Oakes,” Karlie said. “You don’t have any gum in your mouth. You’re being nosy as usual, and this is a severe breach of my privacy.”

“Whatever.” Brian unrolled the paper.

Mortified, Karlie tromped over to her bed and plopped down, not the least bit comforted by the plush Duvet covers.

Brian’s head moved from left to right as he read the contents of the article. With a frown, he walked over to sit in the chair by her computer desk.

She saw his brow furrow and his lips curl and knew that he had gotten to that part.

“Who writes this trash and gets away with it?” In a fit of rage, Brian shredded the paper and hurled it back into the trashcan. “I hope you don’t believe any of that filth written solely to gather a following of people who have nothing better to do with their time.”

Karlie’s eyes widened. Brian was so articulate. He had an artful way of manipulating words. He would make a great journalist, or was it attorney? He had changed his major four times already.

He jumped to his feet and in two strides sat next to her on her bed. With a gentle touch, he placed one large hand under her chin. “Karlie, I hope you didn’t let that get to you. Fat Brenda is just doing her job. She’s stuck doing that because she’ll never have your figure, your finesse, and your future.”

“Great alliteration,” Karlie said with a smile. She shrugged. “She wasn’t the only critic though—and she’s not fat. Other reviewers said I had no right singing ‘How Great Thou Art.’ They said I hadn’t been through anything. I have a silver spoon in my mouth. Blah . . . blah . . . blah . . .”

“Let them talk,” Brian said. “Karlie, they don’t know you. They’ve forgotten your pain of losing your mother. Because they don’t know better, they feel your being stinking rich is the solution to all your problems.”

Karlie winced. It was true that she didn’t have to struggle financially, but it didn’t mean that she didn’t have struggles. When Winona Franks had approached her about launching her singing career, Karlie had fought tooth and nail. Winona had been her mother’s friend and longtime manager. Winona was a business whiz and under her guidance, Tiffany had made more money than she knew how to spend. Winona was ready to take Karlie under her wing.

Karlie agreed to do the well-known song as a trial to get her feet wet. Never had she imagined how much the rejection would hurt. Never had she realized how much she wanted it. She wanted to sing.

“Come on.” Brian stood. “Grab a jacket. Let’s go get you some ice cream.”

“I don’t know if I feel up for ice cream. Why don’t we just go downstairs to the Espresso Bar or even Margaux?” She especially loved Margaux’s alcove. The floral hangings gave the place cozy warmth.

Besides, she had another reason why she wanted to stay close. Karlie didn’t want to miss Jamaal if he decided to check in on her.

“Why? Is Jamaal coming over?” He raised his eyebrows.

Brian could be so astute at times it was scary. Karlie gave him a playful slap. “Shut up. It’s not what you think. Get your mind out of the gutter, Brian. We’re saved. You know that.”

He looked heavenward. “Yes, I know. But you guys have been dating since you were fifteen. That’s a long, long time for a couple to be abstinent.”

“And your point is?” Karlie arched her eyebrow.

She and Jamaal vowed to remain celibate until marriage. It was difficult, but they knew they could do it—with God’s help.

“You mean to say Jamaal hasn’t tried anything in all these years? And you’d better not lie to me because I’ll know.”

Karlie squirmed, not wanting to stretch the truth but not wanting to confess either. Instead, she attacked. With her nose in the air, she said, “Not every man behaves like a Neanderthal like some people.”

“Ouch.” Brian grinned and stepped back. He held up his hand. “Take it easy, young one. I meant no harm.”

“Don’t call me young one. You’re only two years older than me. Twenty-three is not old.”

“Yes, but I’ve been through a lot.”

That was true. Brian had grown up with two parents who made him feel as if he did not matter. As a result, he had been a juvenile bordering on delinquent until Karlie’s mother had rescued him from himself.

Karlie touched his arm and gave him a squeeze. “Yes, Brian, but you’ve turned your life around.”

He looked at her with a penetrating gaze.

For the first time in their six-year friendship, Karlie felt awkward. This strange tension had been happening between them of late, and she could not explain it. Not that she was trying too hard to figure it out.

She drew a deep breath and grabbed her sweater from the back of the chair. Maybe going out would not be such a bad idea. “I’ve changed my mind. Let’s go to Yooglers. I’ll text Jamaal and tell him where to meet us.”

Yooglers Frozen Yogurt was located on 791 Broadway and was a quick seven-minute walk.

He smiled. “Yooglers sounds good.”

Karlie noted Brian’s pearly whites and felt a small shift. What was happening here? How come she never noticed that Brian had such a beautiful smile before? In fact, he was fine. Super fine.

Confused by her sudden thoughts, Karlie distracted herself by putting on her sweater. They exited her building on Eighth Street and walked toward Broadway and made a left.

She shoved her hands into the pockets of her jean jacket. The March air felt nippy. Spring was taking its time arriving this year. She and Brian made small talk but concentrated on navigating their way through the busy streets of Manhattan. It was a few minutes shy of nine p.m. when they arrived.

Brian held the door open, and Karlie breathed in the smell of cookies, candies, chocolate, and syrups, not to mention yogurt. She rubbed her hands together in anticipation.

“What are you having this time?” Brian asked.

Every time Karlie went to Yooglers she tried a new flavor. So far, she had had seven of their forty-six different flavors, ranging from Cappuccino to Snickerdoodle.

“I think I’m getting the Fudge Brownie Batter this time,” she said, wrinkling her nose. Glancing around the orange and green establishment, she was glad there were only a few customers.

Brian headed toward the huge cow on the wall, near the entrance to the play area.

“Don’t even think about touching those balls. They were meant for six-year-olds not a six-footer.”

He executed a U-turn and grabbed a container. Brian chose the French Toast yogurt before trailing after her to get toppings. He piled his cup high with brownie bites, crushed chocolate mints, cheesecake bites, and marshmallow sauce.

Karlie stuck to just the yogurt. They strolled to the counter to weigh their yogurt and paid for their treat before finding a table.

Brian scooped a large spoonful of his concoction and popped it into his mouth. After he licked the spoon, he said, “As much as I hate to admit it, Karlie, I think Brenda what’s-her-name has a point.”

Karlie plopped her half-eaten yogurt on the table and glared at him. With careful enunciation, she asked, “What do you mean ‘she has a point’?”

“Whoa. Hear me out.” Brian held both hands up. “What I mean is that your voice is beautiful, but it lacks an edge—it lacks the haunting tone of someone who has experienced some things.”

“You’re contradicting yourself,” Karlie replied. “What about all that talk back at my place, when you said . . .” She looked around and lowered her voice. “What about when you said that losing my mother is tough and all that.”

“Yes, but you’re the quintessential poster girl.” Brian took another scoop of his treat. He pushed Karlie’s yogurt back toward her.

After a couple seconds, she dug in. “What’s wrong with being a good girl, Brian?”

“Nothing, but it’s boring,” he said. “No one cares about the good girl. You’re a yawn. You’ve got to get some edge. Do something crazy—out of this world—you know, let more people notice you. Get to know you. You’ve got to get out of your mother’s shadow. You can’t be Tiffany Knightly’s daughter. You’ve got to be you—Karlie. Who is she anyway?”

Karlie’s mouth popped open. She did not know how to answer. She was still searching for her identity. “I’m—I’m me.”

Brian yawned for effect. His point hit home.

Karlie used her spoon to flick a dollop of frozen yogurt toward his left cheek.

He laughed, swiped at it with his thumb, and tasted it. “You need to do some crazy stuff and post it to YouTube. You know like Miley Cyrus twerking all over the place.”

Twerking was the name of the dance move where young ladies jiggled their rear ends in a sensual, suggestive manner.

Karlie splayed her hands. “You can forget about that. I’m not twerking or doing all that crazy nonsense. I’m a church girl, and I like it.” She folded her arms in stubborn protest.

“I didn’t mean for you to shake your booty and post for the world to see—although, I would like to see that.” Brian grinned.

Karlie wasn’t amused.

He hoped to redeem himself. “Karlie, all I am asking is when are you going to stop being and start living?”

Karlie knew her eyes were wide. “I am living.” She slid her chair away from the table.

Brian leaned over. “You need to try things—mudding, parasailing, snorkeling—you know, atypical adventures for a black woman.”

“That sounds crazy. I’m not trying to kill myself. You should know me better to even suggest that.”

“I do know you better, which is why I’m suggesting you step out of your comfort zone. You won’t be killing yourself. You’d be living. And stop looking at me as if I have horns on my head.”

Karlie propped her elbows on the table and rested her head in her hands. “I’m looking at you that way because your idea is borderline certifiable. How do you propose I do all these adventures? I’m in school, or did you forget that pertinent fact?”

Brian finished his yogurt. He reached for hers and ate it. “Like the use of the word pertinent, by the way. But, I digress.” He tossed the empty containers into the trash receptacle. “I’ve already thought of that, and I have a quick and easy solution.”

Karlie leaned in to hear his option.

“You need to take a semester off.”

Her mouth hung open. “You must be out of your mind. My dad would hit the roof if I fixed my mouth to tell them that. He’s not like your dad who was cool with you taking a year after high school to backpack through Europe. He has plans—I mean, I have plans for my life.”

“Aha. Your own words betrayed you. You are operating off everyone else’s plans and expectations.” He waggled a finger at her. “You, my friend, are a people pleaser.”

Karlie wondered what was wrong with doing the right thing. Brian made her sound boring. “I’m not pleasing anyone but myself.”

Brian waved his hands dismissively. “You’re in denial, Karlie. You’re all about making everyone happy. You need to do this and shake things up a little. Neil would be fine with it—eventually. We both know you’ve got him wrapped around your finger, just as your mother did.”

Neil and Tiffany had been best friends. Tiffany trusted him with all her secrets and with her past pain. He had been the last person to see her mother alive.

Karlie could not believe she was even continuing this conversation with Brian. Nonetheless, she asked, “And what about Jamaal? There’s no way he’s going to take time off from school, and I’m not about to do this by myself. So, noway, nohow.”

“Yes, way. And I’ll tell you how. I’ll take a leave myself. I’ll be with you.”

Karlie narrowed her eyes. “And what about Charlie, or Nikki?” She hid a smirk.

Brian shrugged. “They know the deal. I have a no-commitment clause with all my women.”

Karlie shook her head at Brian’s dismissive tone. “I don’t understand how you manage to convince two adjunct professors to date you at the same time without pulling each other’s hair out.”

He patted his stomach. “It’s my duty to spread love in the world.” Then he got serious. “Say the word, and I’m all yours.”

Chapter Three

“What will I do while you’re gone?” Charlotte Hollingsworth moaned before kissing Brian’s chest. Her light British accent tingled his ears.

He swatted her on the butt. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“I know I won’t,” Nikki Thatcher pouted.

Spooned between two voluptuous women, Brian lay on his back on his king-sized bed in his spacious one-bedroom apartment. While other students had to share suites, Brian’s parents had hooked him up in style.

One auburn-colored head and another dark-haired head graced each arm. He crossed his legs. What a place to be. “I’m sure neither one of you will suffer with your choice of men. Besides, I’m not going anywhere until the end of May.”

Nikki’s hand grazed his body. She gave him a sly smile. “We’ll keep you busy till then.”

“How did I get so lucky to have both of you?” Brian mused, bobbing back and forth between the two of them. Honestly, if he could merge the two of them into one being, he would have the perfect woman. Knowing him, however, he would still find something wrong. The problem was they were not a certain someone, who would remain nameless.

“It isn’t luck,” Charlie said. “It’s called skill. This has been one of the most satisfying eight months of my life.”

Nikki kissed his cheek. “I agree.”

“I need to help Karlie,” Brian explained for the third time.

Nikki shifted to rest her head in his arms. “What does she have that we don’t?”
Before he could answer, Charlie stood. “I’ve got to use the bathroom and head back to my dorm. I have papers to grade.”

“She’s my best friend,” Brian said to Nikki, once Charlie closed the door to the bathroom. “Karlie is like a sister to me.” He swallowed.

Brian ignored the inner voice. He wasn’t ready to delve into those emotions.
Nikki snorted. “Please. I don’t believe you two never smashed.”

Brian turned to face her. “We’re friends. It is possible for a male and female to be platonic.”

Charlie opened the door and caught the tail end of the conversation. “What are we talking about? Let me guess, Karlie?”

Nikki sat up, unashamed of her nakedness. Eyeing her, Brian knew she had no reason to be. Her body was well toned from hours in the gym. “Yes. He’s trying to convince me, or rather himself, that they’re just friends.”

Charlie wiggled into her jeans and searched under the bed for the rest of her clothes. Though the lights weren’t on, the moonlight provided enough light to help in her search. Nikki dressed as well.

“You’re leaving too?” Brian asked.

The Puerto Rican beauty faced him. “I have a practicum at five-thirty in the morning and two classes to teach in the afternoon. I need my rest because you wore me out. I can’t be next to that soft butterscotch skin and not want more.”

It was half-past eleven, and Brian cracked a self-satisfied smile. Another satisfied customer. He looked at Charlie. Or, rather, two satisfied customers.
His cell rang. Karlie’s face flashed on the screen. Brian sat up and swiped to answer. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

Brian waved off the two women who blew him kisses. His mind was now preoccupied with the other person on the line. He swung his legs to the floor and switched on the small bedside lamp.

“It’s almost midnight, so this is not nothing.”

“Did I disturb you?” Karlie asked. “I didn’t even think that you might have company.”
He heard the slight hesitation in her tone and quickly reassured her. “I did, and they’re gone. Get on with it. What’s on your mind?”

Karlie sighed. “I can’t sleep. Winona called me. The record label isn’t sure they want to back my next project after such lackluster reviews.”

“That’s why I told you to start a YouTube channel. Once your stunts go viral, that will all change. Believe me.”

Another dramatic sigh resounded through the line. “I guess.”

“Where is your faith, Christian woman?” Brian asked. “You’re always telling me about God, and how He can do anything. Why can’t He do this for you?”

Karlie chuckled. “Not you voluntarily bringing God into the conversation. I’m usually the one trying to convince you to trust Him.”

Brian smiled. “Well, He must be growing on me.” He stood. Ugh. His lower back hurt. Uh-oh, he knew what that meant. While Karlie rambled about telling Jamaal and her parents about their plans, Brian ambled over to his closet. It boasted a huge mirror so he could investigate what was on his back. Sure enough, he saw the beginnings of an outbreak. Brian groaned, knowing what was coming next.

“Brian? Are you listening to me?”

Huh. What did she say? His brain couldn’t recall. “I got a little distracted for a second. Repeat your last sentence.”

“I said that I’m meeting up with Jamaal tomorrow to talk. I told him about my taking a semester off, and he wasn’t too thrilled.”

“Yeah, I saw him at the gym, and we talked about it. I tried to persuade him to tag along, but he shut me down.”

Brian wandered into his bathroom and opened a drawer. Rummaging around, he searched for his topical cream. It had been months since his last outbreak, and he had foolishly believed that he had been cured.

“I . . . Maybe this isn’t a good idea . . .”

He could almost visualize her playing with the bridge of her nose. That was her habit whenever she was deep in thought or unsure about something.

Brian put the phone on speaker and unscrewed the cap to his prescription ointment. “Karlie, there’s a time when you have to be decisive. The last thing you want is to look back at your life and have regrets. Consider this an adventure before you and Jamaal settle down to the proverbial white picket fence with two-point-one children.”

Karlie’s laughter echoed in the small space. “Thanks for being a good friend to me.” She emitted an unladylike yawn. “I’d better get some sleep. Professor Stewart does not tolerate tardiness. Her words, not mine.”

Brian saw The end sign flash across his screen. He twisted his body to get a look at the red blister on his lower back. With deft maneuvering, he applied the ointment. Then he washed his hands and trudged over to his bed. He lay on his stomach not wanting to soil the five hundred-dollar linens Patricia had insisted on purchasing when she decorated his space.

Psoriasis. How he hated the disease. He’d been twenty-one when he had suffered his first outbreak. At first, Brian had thought it was a rash or an insect bite, but then debilitating pain followed. That was when he had called his mom. Patricia referred him to a dermatologist who slapped him with the diagnosis. He had researched for hours to learn more about the incurable immune attack.

To make matters worse, Brian had psoriatic arthritis, which is why he felt such pain. Besides his lower back, his feet flared up sometimes. Lucky for him he could hide it. And he did.

No one except his mother knew about his psoriasis. None of the women Brian had been with knew, and he planned to keep it that way. The condition was not contagious so he was not worried about spreading it to anyone. But he was afraid. Afraid of being scorned and rejected.

Brian touched his lower back. His fingertips told him that this was a small flare-up. Relief seeped through him. That meant he would be able to function. He would know in a few hours if he would make it to his eleven o’clock class.

Sometimes, the pain would become so unbearable that he cried like a baby.

Brian curled onto his side. He took deep breaths to relax his body and mind. He knew from experience that he needed to rest. With quiet determination, he closed his eyes.

“Lord, please,” he whispered into the night.

No one knew he prayed. It was always just those two words, but Brian prayed. When it came to his condition, he had no other choice.

Copyrighted (c) 2015 by Michelle Lindo-Rice

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