H O W A R D   U N I V E R S I T Y

Faces & Voices 5
An Anthology
of Verse and Prose

the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

E. R. B

Faces & Voices 4


Follow My Lead
By Andrea Williams
Major: International Business
Hometown: Hilton Head Island, SC
E-mail: qwest77@hotmail.com

        It was late in the afternoon when she came in from her cousin’s wedding. Just thinking about what had occurred that day made her reflect upon her own marriage. She had been married twenty years, and those years were amazing. She could not have thought of anything else she would have done with her life. Yet, it made her wonder what had made those years so enjoyable. Yes, she loved her husband (or so she thought), but it was the children who gave her true joy. The children were the reason she got married, the children were what kept the marriage together in ‘89, and it was the children who made the house a home.
        If only the kids were here now, then she wouldn’t be going through this. Sitting here alone in her room (and yes, it was hers due to the fact that her husband stopped sleeping in it five months ago). She was looking through an old scrapbook with a worn cover, dog-eared pages, and pictures yellowed with age. It was full of all the memories the family cherished: birth certificates, pictures of pre-school graduations, baby teeth lost long ago, and pictures of the children attending their high school proms.
        With the turn of every page came an overwhelming flood of emotions. First came a light-headed giddiness, followed by a feeling of nostalgia, and then a sickening emptiness. No matter which page she turned to, she always ended up feeling empty. It wasn’t always this way. There were times in her life when she was in a state of bliss, but now her life felt void of something.
        Flipping through the scrapbook was bringing nothing but a wave of depression. Besides, she had to get ready for tonight. It was almost as if she were a puppet. She went through the motions of showering, meticulously putting on make-up, and selecting the perfect evening dress. All of this seemed to be done subconsciously and with almost no effort at all. Some other force had taken over her body making her go through with her “plans” tonight.
        She really didn’t know why she was going out tonight. It wasn’t her birthday or anniversary that she could think of. Yet, her husband insisted that she not make any plans for this particular evening. It seemed more of a joke than anything else. How could he ask her to clear her schedule for tonight, yet he would never show up for dinner at home? They now act as if they were strangers living under the same roof. They barely speak to one another, they never see each other, and they sleep in separate rooms.
        When the children were here, they had a reason to interact with one another. The more she thought about it, the more she believed that her children defined her marriage. It was the absence of the children that caused her to feel empty inside. There was no longer anyone to depend on her, to talk to her to love her unconditionally. Because of this void in her, this depression had taken over and begun to run her life. The situation she faced seemed so bleak that she stared at her purse in which she held divorce papers from her lawyer. She obtained them three months ago, but they remained in her purse while she waited for the courage and the opportunity to present them to her husband.
        “Are you ready yet?” A husky male voice shouted to the top of the stairs.
        “Almost. Just wait one more minute” she answered in an almost pleading tone.
        She grabbed her purse and examined herself in the mirror one last time before she left the room. When she got to the stairwell, she glided down it just as her daughter did the night she attended her senior prom. As she descended the staircase, she noticed her husband gazing at her very intensely and it sent shivers up her spine.
        He opened the door and led her to the passenger side of the car. As he pulled out of the driveway, she noticed that her pulse was quickening and her blood was running hot. She felt as if she were a teenager on a blind date, and with the way things had been going for the past three months, it might as well have been.
        On the way into town, it began to rain. It fell so hard that it seemed as if the earth would be washed away. She was on the verge of turning on the radio when the car stopped. She looked up to see that they had parked in front of the local McDonald’s fast food restaurant.
        “What’s wrong?” she asked in a timid tone. She was afraid and did not know what to think
        “We’re here” he responded, not seeming to notice the concerned look on his wife’s face.
        “What do you mean here? I thought we were going out to dinner.”
        “We are. This is where we’re eating,” he said as he got out of the car. Before he was able to reach the passenger side of the vehicle, his wife had already opened the door and proceeded to run down the street in the rain. He grabbed the umbrella and went after her. He finally caught up with her in front of a closed shoe repair shop.
        “What’s wrong?” he asked.
        “What do you mean ‘what’s wrong’?” she responded out of breath. “I don’t understand what you’re doing to me. What do you mean by this? Are you trying to make me feel like a fool? I just don’t get it.” Tears were streaming down her face causing her make-up to run. “Why are you doing this to me?”
        “I’m sorry, I didn’t you would be upset by this. I actually thought that you would appreciate this.”
        “Appreciate what, you making me feel foolish? I can’t take it anymore. I don’t understand this. I don’t even understand you. This is just too much for me” she screamed out in anger. Before she could stop herself, she reached into her purse, pulled out the divorce papers, and shoved them in his face. “I’ve decided,” she started, “that this would be the best thing for me, for us. I’ve been defining our marriage by our children for the past twenty years, and now that they’re gone there’s no reason for me to stay.”
        They stood together in the narrow storefront doorway, the crippled umbrella providing inadequate shelter against the rain; together, yet from the rigid posture of their bodies, and by the way in which they avoided looking at each other, miles apart.
        “So you’ve decided?” he asked, his eyes directed to a nearby playground where a group of youngsters, barechested in the rain, was engaged in a noisy basketball game.
        “I’ve decided” she answered, the words barely audible, her chin thrust forward aggressively.
        “Yeah. Right. So what about me? Don’t I have a say in any of this?” Now she turned to face him, but could not bring herself to look at him. “So it was only about the kids? Never me?” He waited for a response, but didn’t receive one. “I thought it was more than that. I thought it was about us. That’s the reason we’re here tonight.”
        He paused to collect his thoughts. “Twenty-one years ago on this same exact date was when my life changed forever. I remember that I was working as a custodian at the local McDonald’s that year. It had been raining hard all day, and it seemed to storm harder as the night passed by. I recall that it was 9:58 P.M. when this awkward looking girl came into the restaurant soaking wet trying to find shelter from the rain. Even though the restaurant had been closed for an hour, I agreed to let her stay until I finished my duties. That night, I fell in love with the most beautiful woman in the world and promised myself that I would not stop at any lengths to have her. And even though she stands before me right now crying like a fool in a soaking evening dress, still, I keep my promise.”
        His wife seemed as though she would choke on her tears.
        “But that’s the problem” she said. “You claim to love me, but I can’t remember what I felt before the children or before the marriage. What do we do now?”
        “That’s easy” he replied. “We’ll just start over.”
        “What do you mean?”
        “We’ll wipe the slate clean. Take away the past twenty years and start fresh.”
        “How?” she asked. She couldn’t believe what was happening. It was almost as if she were being given a second chance at love.
        “Simple,” he answered, “just follow my lead.” He extended his hand to her and said,
“Hello, my name is Curtis Williams. Please to meet you.”
        She stared at his hand and then took it in hers to shake it. “Hi, I’m Barbara Driessen. Likewise.”

*This one’s for you Mama and Daddy. Love you*

© 2001 Andrea Williams

© 2001 Howard University.
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse and Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2001. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
HOWARD UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, 500 Howard Place, NW, Washington, DC 20059.  Phone (202) 806-7234.