Welcome to Sunday Sips. I hope you enjoy this sample of Fixer Upper Love.
Madeline blew out a shaky breath after she hung up the phone. She glanced at the sterling silver clock on her desk, a gift from Nancy, to see how long she had before her next client arrived for counseling.
Slowly rotating her neck to work out the kinks, twenty-five minutes should be enough time to get herself grounded. All was going well until she picked up the phone to call Garrison Lawrence. Several months ticked by without her holding a conversation of significance with the male species. The last being the mechanic at Pep Boys who did her oil change. And she preferred it that way.
Out of her forty-eight years on this earth, Madeline engaged in only two serious relationships. Her ex-husband, Vance and ex-lover Philip. Pregnant two months before her eighteenth birth, she and Vance did what they believed was the right thing to do. They rushed into a marriage neither of them were prepared for. By twenty-two, she was divorced and raising her child on her own with the assistance of monthly child support that barely met their needs. What could she do? Vance was a full-time grad student working part-time jobs to pay for tuition and his living expenses.
Determined her child would have a good life, she temporarily lived in public housing, worked as a secretary and went to college in the evenings majoring in social work. Attending classes throughout the year, Madeline obtained her bachelor’s degree in six years. Degree in hand and an entry level job, she was able to move to a safer neighborhood in a better school district.
Furthering her education would give her the means to provide her child with things beyond the necessities. And give her the tools to expand her practice as a social worker. By the time her daughter was thirteen, she was self-sufficient and capable of being alone for a few hours in the evening without getting into trouble. It gave Madeline the opportunity to start her graduate studies.
It was a blessing and years later, Madeline would come to acknowledge a curse. It wasn’t long after she began her studies that she met adjunct engineering professor, Philip Smallwood, in the campus cafeteria. A man who would turn her life upside down.
Ten years. Ten long years it had taken her to escape the web he’d spun, trapping her like a helpless insect. The treatment she tolerated from Philip; she should’ve known better. Desperate to be loved, she ignored red flag after red flag. Or what she thought was love, turning a blind eye to the abuse that had meandered down the road of subtle disrespect to full-fledged in-her-face disrespect. Plain insanity. With all the training and continuing education on coping strategies, mindfulness, and self-awareness, Madeline had equipped herself with to help her clients, she was incapable of helping herself. Because she was paralyzed by counterfeit love.
By the time she extracted herself, and it wasn’t easy, Madeline was traumatized. Beat down by the decade long experience she’d become asexual. Or so she thought.
“This is all your fault, Little Bit,” Madeline murmured, referring to her daughter. Nancy was supposed to call Garrison, but instead pleaded with her to make the call because of a last-minute errand she had to run.
The second she heard his voice Madeline should’ve hung up the phone. Baby girl, that was Philip’s pet name for her when they first met. Back then he was the perfect gentleman and the endearment was flattering.
It triggered her. For a moment she felt nauseous and every ill feeling in the core of her being bubbled to the surface. It wasn’t until Garrison explained that he’d thought she was one of his daughters calling that the feeling of disgust rolled off of her.
Although the conversation lasted under ten minutes, Madeline was intrigued by Mr. Lawrence and it blindsided her. There was something in the tone of his unpretentious speech that appealed to her. Unlike Philip’s flare for the use of superfluous vocabulary meant to make others feel inferior.
Or perhaps it was that Garrison was the first male she felt at ease talking to once she got over the baby girl hiccup. Or that he was willing to accommodate her and Nancy on such short notice.
Whatever it was, Madeline reminded herself that she couldn’t afford to let her guard down. Come Thursday, if she and Nancy decided that the home would work for them, the extent of her involvement with Garrison Lawrence would be landlord-tenant. Nothing more.
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