Waters - May 2017 | Anointed Vision
the story about?
Still Waters is a poignant story about a once-loving husband who has lost his way…and his spiritual wife who grows weary hoping and praying that she can keep her marriage intact.
When Laurie married Greg, she was certain they would live happily ever after. Greg was charming, loving, and everything Laurie thought she’d ever need. Now twelve years have passed and the couple has six sons to show for it. Supporting such a large family is tough on Greg’s graphic designer salary, but the Wrights make do---until the stress of living so close to the brink takes its toll. Laurie doesn’t know how much longer she can cope with Greg’s moods---or if she even wants to try.
Overworked and underpaid, Greg is itching to reach beyond his dead-end job and give Laurie and the boys everything they deserve. But Greg knows he can’t thrive at work when he and Laurie barely talk anymore. When Laurie gets a job to help make ends meet and snatches a bit of independence, Greg feels like he’s losing her. All she wants is for Laurie to love him the way she once did. But when things go from bad to worse, Laurie and Greg’s marriage will be tested as it’s never been before. The crossroads they face will be lined with many choices, most of which leads them down different roads. Unless the couple can cling to a shred of faith, their happily ever after will be a mere memory.
“I don’t want a divorce,” Laurie cried out.
Mrs. Williams didn’t flinch in response, not so much as a whimper. If the thought of divorce was offensive, she didn’t let on.
“I didn’t get married to end up divorced. I don’t want to be one of those women who end up alone, and I definitely don’t want my kids to grow up without their father, but I’m tired. I’m just tired of trying to make him happy. If he would just act right, everything would be fine,” Laurie said as three of her sons came running up the aisle. “Junior, wait in the lobby for me and watch baby Rick. I’ll be right out,” she told her preteen before turning back to the church mother. “That two-year-old of mine is a handful.”
“I know six boys and a husband are bound to keep you busy. How do you find so much time to spend here at church?”
“To be honest, I look forward to being away from Greg, especially when he’s in one of his moods like now. That’s why I’m in no rush to get home.”
“Men need their space, that’s all,” Mrs. Williams said patting Laurie’s hand.
“Space? I’m the one who needs space. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, but six is a lot. I’m done, no more.”
Mrs. Williams laughed openly. “You’re still young, Laurie. How are you going to stop another child from entering this world if that’s the plan God has for you?”
Laurie had stayed in the marriage believing it would settle down and get back to the way it used to be, back to when they were happy. If they were to have a chance, Greg had to get his anger under control. The more explosive he became, the more difficult staying became and the less interested she was in concealing their issues from outsiders. In the meantime, she couldn’t allow another child to sneak into the household, not through her womb. She had a plan, and it was to keep avoiding Greg’s intimate advances until her body said the coast was clear. With menopause far off, avoidance was the best she could do for now. However, there was a good chance that Greg’s frustration wouldn’t hold out much longer. With no backup plan in sight, fear whisked in.
“Got to take the good with the bad, honey. Marriage isn’t easy but stick it out and let God get the glory.”
Laurie thought it was easy for a deacon’s wife to make such a claim having been married forty-five years. Mrs. Williams wasn’t married to Greg Wright, a man whose moods riveted like a roller coaster—fast, slow, up, down, winding, scary, and at other times sprinkled with sheer exhilaration. Those were the times Laurie was drawn to Greg, like when they first met. Back then they couldn’t stand being apart for more than a day. Now it was hard being around him for more than an hour. Something had to change. She knew it and hopefully God did, too.
Greg sat at the table nestled between two booster seats. His troubles swirled around, unbridled. Cheek resting on his tightly clasped fist, he plopped the paystub and a few bills on top of the chipped veneer tabletop. Jolted back into reality, his body stiffened for a fleeting moment when the garage door opened. Greg knew he’d have to work hard in order to stay calm.
A millisecond was the only separation between keys jiggling in the back door and a stream of kids filing through the laundry room, making enough noise to put a stadium of sports fans to shame. Greg eased to his feet but was overcome with a flood of Sunday school drawings thrust in his face.
“Daddy, see what I made?” six-year-old Keith said pushing the paper into his father’s view followed his seven-year-old brother.
Mitchell, who was the second oldest, bypassed the bombardment and went straight to the refrigerator. He was tall for a nine-year-old, particularly with a short mother and a father of average height. But tipping the scale at 175 pounds nullified any statuesque presence Mitchell might have commanded.
Junior stood at a distance.
“Boy, get out of that refrigerator. Get upstairs and get your clothes changed,” Laurie yelled, lugging her purse, book bag, and the toddler.
“Okay, boys, I’ll look at everybody’s paintings one at a time,” Greg said, sorting through the papers, trying to put them in some type of order. “I can see that you’ve all done a really good job,” he said to his pack of budding artists. He sealed the accolades with a tight group hug, not wanting to let go. This was his paradise, the family he’d created. They were the morphine that kept him going. “I’m proud of you.”
“Are you going to take mine to your work again?” one son asked.
“He’s not taking yours,” Mitchell echoed, gulping down a kiddy box of juice. “If he takes one, it will be a real picture that I made, not some little finger paint thing you did at church.”
“Mitchell, I said get upstairs,” Laurie shouted. “That mouth of yours is going to get you into more trouble than you can handle.”
“Stop yelling at the boy all the time. He didn’t mean anything by it,” Greg roared.
Silence rolled into the eat-in-kitchen like a Caribbean summer shower—brief, noticeable, and just enough drizzle to put a harmless damper on the festivities. Laurie bent over to set the baby down. Her eyes screamed back at her husband as their gazes met before she stomped out the room.
Anger swelled in Junior. He caught up to his brother on the stairs, bumping him hard. “You’re always starting stuff.” He bumped him again. “I’m sick of you. Why don’t you just leave?”
“You talking to me, Junior?” Mitchell said with voice cracking.
“Who else you think I’m talking to? You don’t see anybody else on the stairs, do you?”
Mitchell shrugged his shoulders and kept quiet.
“Maybe I hate somebody else around here, too or maybe I don’t.”
You hate me, Junior?” Mitchell whispered with tears forming.
“Nah, now get out of my way and leave me alone. Just stop starting stuff, then I won’t have to hate you and I won’t have to hurt you, too.”
Mitchell ran to his room.
The fight on the stairs didn’t stop the laughter and playing going on with the younger boys in the kitchen until Greg made everybody go upstairs to their bedrooms.
He carried Rick to the top of the stairs and handed him over to Junior and said, “Take off his suit and put that outfit on that your mother laid out for him this morning.”
“What outfit?” Junior asked, mad inside that he got asked instead of somebody else.
“Boy, what’s wrong with you? You saw that outfit lying on his dresser this morning.”
Junior swallowed hard and sighed loud enough to feel retaliation but low enough not to let his father hear. “Come on, Rick. Let me help you get your clothes changed. You’re the only one who doesn’t get on my nerves around here,” he whispered.
Before Greg walked away from Junior and Rick, he added, “And get that room cleaned when we get back from your grandparents. That’s too much mess for a two-year-old and a twelve-year-old to be making.”
Two brothers per room swallowed the 2,200 square-foot house, which was a nice size eight years ago for the young family. That was before the boys started coming and wouldn’t stop. But there was always room for one more child according to Greg.
His son, Junior, didn’t share the same sentiments about expanding the family to the point where his room had to be shared with an infant.
The age difference was a consideration at first, but it hadn’t made sense to switch the other four boys around since they were already adjusted. The situation could be worse. Greg was pleased that at least every one of his sons had his own bed. Not bad for six boys.
Greg opened the door to the master bedroom and found Laurie undressing. His eyes danced over her as he pushed the door shut, tight.
Laurie kept silent.
“What do you think about another child, a girl this time?” Greg caressed her bare shoulders.
Preempting his hands from clawing at her any further, she jumped up. “We need to get over to your parents. You know how mad they get when we’re late.”
“Forget my parents,” he said, flicking his hand in the air, then breaking its force and letting it fall like a feather onto her shoulder.
She dipped her shoulder and let his hand fall off. Laurie covered herself hoping that signal would get him moving along another line of thinking. “Please let me get dressed so I can help the kids get ready.”
Towering over her at five-foot-eight, his body easily nudged her until she fell back onto the bed. His slim physique with no hint of muscles sprouting from any region followed suit, completely covering her size sixteen plus body, compliments of her back-to-back pregnancies. “You never spend any quality time with me anymore,” he said, stretching her hands out above her head and kissing her neck. “What happened to us? We used to be all over each other when we first got married. Now I can barely touch you without you pulling away.”
Look around here, she wanted to tell him. Instead she said, “Greg, we’re not twenty years old anymore. I have more to worry about, like the boys and taking care of the house. By the time I finish with my list of stuff to do every day, I’m tired.”
“It’s always the kids, the house, your church, your family, or something.”
“Don’t blame the church. You complained so much about me being involved over there that I stopped pretty much everything except Sunday service. So you can’t blame God. I don’t spend much time with Him either thanks to you.”
“Okay, so you eased up on church, but you’re always busy with the kids. You don’t have any time left for me, and I’m your husband. I should come before the kids.”
She didn’t make their kids alone but wouldn’t dare broach the subject.
He continued lining the ridge of her body with tiny smooches, despite her frigid response.
“Greg, please, let’s go. I really don’t want to be late.”
“Shoot, come on, Laurie, what’s the problem now?” He snapped to his feet.
She watched the blood vessels in his temples swell like a cresting river, then recess.
“What’s wrong with you? You act like you don’t want to touch me half the time. News flash, woman, you’re my wife, which means I’m committed to you and you’re committed to me. That includes everything. What do I have to do to get some affection from my wife?” he howled with temples pulsating.
Laurie eased off the bed, careful to keep away from the brooding storm. Speaking up was good, but at what price? Fumbling to get her clothes on, she said, “Greg, why do we have to go through this? I’m not saying I don’t want to be with you like that.”
“Like what, Laurie? Like a husband and wife should be, as one, connected? You act like it’s a bad thing,” he screamed, taking a step toward her.
She compensated by taking a step back and rushed to pull the shirt over her head, leaving her view impaired for only a brief moment. “Greg, the kids can hear you.”
“So what, those are my kids. They know Mommy and Daddy have disagreements. Don’t worry about them; this is about us.”
She knew he was approaching the red zone; the place on the thermometer where overheating was inevitable; the spot where the hose burst, sending molten liquid spurting everywhere and painfully burning everything in its path. “Greg, please,” she said, slapping her hands against her thighs, “can we go to your parents? Then when we get home tonight, I’ll do whatever it is you want. Okay?”
He scratched his head with eyelids closed. “My goodness, you make it sound like I’m an animal. I’m not trying to force you to do anything. This has to be something you want, too. Don’t do me any favors,” he said, slamming the door on his way out.
Laurie breathed a sigh of relief. It hadn’t been pretty, but the little thunderstorm had blown in and out without any major damage. Thankfully she’d preserved sufficient energy to handle the second half of the storm—dinner at the Wright’s.
Chatter resonating from the boys in both of the back rows in the minivan bridged the canyon looming in the front seat. The van wasn’t new, but it came in handy when Greg purchased the vehicle right after their now seven-year-old Jason was born. Laurie had wanted the van desperately with two children already crowding their Nissan Sentra. Greg had finally gotten the job he wanted, but the pay was on the low side. After squeezing both car seats and a kindergartener into the car for a few weeks, Greg decided a van wasn’t a luxury. It was a necessity for his growing family. The fact that they’d purchased a fairly new home the year before with a steep mortgage hadn’t deterred his decision. “We’ll have to tighten up our budget and make it work,” is what Laurie remembered Greg telling her years ago when they dreamed together, when life was predictable, desirable.
Greg turned onto his parents’ property and scooted through the gated fence, which was wide open.Their van crept up the long semicircular driveway and eased to a stop about 100 yards before the pavement curved back around and headed back out toward the street.
At least Sunday only came once a week. A reasonable person could endure three hours of just about anything, barring concentration camp torture, which was the closest analogy Greg could render for the weekly pilgrimage to his parents, the almighty Mr. and Mrs. Wright.
The kids were eager to get out. Greg laid his head back on the headrest and gripped the steering wheel, staring at his younger brother’s brand new convertible two-seater Mercedes-Benz parked a few car lengths ahead.
“Can we get out?” a voice asked from the back.
“Yes, but”—Greg turned around to face his six boys in the back—“you all know how to act when you’re in Grandma and Grandpa’s house, right?”
No one responded.
“Right?” Greg reinforced in a stronger tone.
“Yes, we have to say thank you and please ma’am and no pushing each other,” a little voice spoke up.
“Anybody pushes me, they’re getting pushed back,” Junior said.
“Try it and see if I’m playing,” Greg responded. “Nobody better show out in there. I don’t feel like dealing with any more mess today.”
Laurie cut her glance his way, knowing he was subtly throwing her a message which she was in no mood to receive. She let his comment fly out the window with not even so much as a sigh of acknowledgment.
Rick tried to get out of his car seat. “Junior and Mitchell, get out first, and then help the boys get out, too,” Greg instructed.
“What a surprise,” Junior uttered.
“Boy, I don’t know why you’re trying my patience with that mouth of yours. You have some kind of chip on your shoulder, and I’m not going to let too many days go by without knocking it off. Now straighten up your attitude before you go inside that house. I’m not going to have you embarrassing me in here when you already know how to act.”
Junior acquiesced and helped Rick and his little brother Larry out the car seats as Mitchell watched. The children hovered around the van, knowing not to take another step near the door until their parents were leading the way.
“You still mad?” Greg asked.
Laurie wanted to say, “What do you think?” but realized it would be a waste of four good words. Besides, why expend energy on a sore spot that couldn’t heal? Might as well save her positive vibes for the giant residing on the other side of those double doors. “I’m not mad, Greg.” She ran her fingers through her hair with head slightly tilted toward him but not allowing her eyes to focus on him. “I’m just tired.”
She cracked the van door open. “Somebody keep Rick away from those rocks, and Larry put that twig down before you poke somebody in the eye,” she shouted, hoping her four-year-old would settle down. “Mitchell, take that stick from him.”
Laurie was annoyed. It might as well be school recess for the boys because Greg paid no attention to them roughing it up outside the van, and she knew why. His discipline was directed at one person only—her.
“Well, if you go in there with a funky attitude, you know my parents will pick up on it, and I really don’t feel like dealing with that right now. I have a lot on my mind, with the job, the bills, you know, a lot of stuff.”
Laurie rolled her tongue around the border of her teeth and looked away from Greg in the direction of the children. She’d already heard this story before.
“You don’t have to worry about me embarrassing you in front of your perfect parents.”
“See what I mean? Can’t you just leave your sly comments at home? You have to let everybody and their brother know what’s going on. I really don’t want them knowing our business, so you need to get it together.”
“Like I said, don’t worry. I won’t embarrass you, and I definitely won’t let them know anything you don’t want them to know.” Filled with her lecture for the day on marital etiquette, she exited the van before he had time to toss in an addendum. She rushed to the back of the van, opened the storage area, and grabbed a carrying bag stuffed with pull-up diapers and toys.
When Greg came around the van, everyone moved in unison toward the door. “Can I ring the bell this time, Daddy?” Larry asked, jumping up and down. “Can I please, can I?”
Before Greg could give the okay, Mitchell rang it.
“Now, why did you do that? You’re just being mean at your little brother’s expense. You’re really asking for it,” Laurie told her son.
Junior waited to see if that was the end of it, or if his mother would have to get yelled at by his dad because of something Mitchell did.
The massive wooden door opened and Mrs. Virginia Wright, a woman slightly taller than Mitchell, opened the door wearing a silk blouse accented with a pair of linen pants. Her nails were short and buffed to such a high natural gloss that it would take three coats of top shine for Laurie to get the same look. The woman’s silky jet-black hair, which didn’t show a hint of new growth, was pulled back into a tightly crafted bun. A Rolex watch, a pair of diamond stud earrings, and a sparkling tennis bracelet were the only items of jewelry gracing her body outside of a wedding ring.
“Here are my grandbabies,” Virginia Wright greeted with her palms up and elbows tucked tightly into her side. “And it’s a bunch of you, too,” she said, shifting her glance slightly upward from the children.
“Why, Laurie, it’s always good to see you. Come on in.”
Greg was the only one who greeted his mother and followed it up with a kiss on her cheek. “I keep expecting Lily to answer the door.”
“You know the only work she does on the weekend is Sunday dinner. She’s not here to answer the door for you anymore,” Mrs. Wright said with a hint of pleasantry as she beckoned for the children to come in. “As a matter of fact, we haven’t let anyone work weekends since you left for college sixteen years ago.”
“I can’t believe it’s been so long ago since I left home for college.”
“August fifteenth, a day your father will never forget.”
“And won’t let me forget it either,” he said, with an edge.
Before tension claimed another soul in the Wright mausoleum, Laurie found an out. Lifting Rick, she said, “I’m taking the boys into the kitchen and get them situated.”
“That’s fine,” Mrs. Wright said without making a move in the direction of the kitchen. “Lily has made their favorite, chicken with macaroni and cheese. She’s waiting for them in the kitchen.”
As approvals poured from the boys, Laurie steered her men to the food, not looking back, glad to be moving toward fresh air.
Greg watched as his world walked away and braced himself for dinner.
The room emptied leaving Greg, his mother, and tension lingering from the comment he’d made about his father.
“We want the best for you,” his mother said, letting her palm rest on his cheek.
“What I want and what Dad thinks is best for me hasn’t matched in years.”
“Well, there’s always tomorrow. For today, let’s keep the air clear and stay away from topics that might steer us down a rocky path.” She patted his cheek and released her tight jaws long enough to formulate the semblance of a smile. “Okay, will you do that for me?”
“Anything for you,” he said, covering her hand with his.
Mrs. Wright opened the French door leading into the dining room. “Look who’s here?” she said, cutting through the merriment oozing from the room.
“What’s up, Greg,” Sterling Jr. greeted. Greg reciprocated, followed by an acknowledgment to his father, who was positioned at the head of a twelve-seat dining room table sitting on mahogany legs about the size of Rick.
“I was wondering if you were coming.” Sterling Sr. continued placing the triangular-folded linen napkin in his lap. “Boy, you’re going to miss your own funeral. I don’t know how you hold down a job.” No one dared interject. “You’re never on time.”
“It’s good to see you, too, Dad.”
“Where’s Laurie and the boys?” Sterling Sr. asked.
“In the kitchen getting the boys situated.”
“They need to get in here and say hello first. What kind of manners are you teaching those boys? I don’t know why your mother lets Lily make two different meals. Those are a pack of thick, healthy boys. They can eat what we eat. I know that big one can eat at the table with us.”
“You mean Mitchell, right, Dad? His name is Mitchell.”
“I know what my grandson’s name is.”
Laurie had the boys situated in the kitchen with Lily. She shuffled toward the entryway, letting time and distance rinse her thoughts clean—agitation didn’t sit well on an empty stomach. She sliced through the dense tension without interrupting the conversation in progress.
“Let’s eat.” Mrs. Wright grabbed the back of a chair preparing to sit. “The kids will be fine for now. Let them eat and you can see them later.”
“So how’s the convertible running?” Greg asked Sterling Jr.
“Like a dream, big brother. You should treat yourself to one sometime soon. You’re a hardworking man. Treat yourself to some real luxury. I know my wonderful sister-in-law will let you buy a big boy’s toy, right Laurie?”
She let her facial expression answer.
“Come on now. He’s not a Yale man like us.” Sterling Sr. pushed back in his chair and pierced his gaze on Greg. “You know he can’t afford a convertible sports car drawing cartoons. Your Mercedes is a man’s car and requires a man’s job, not some part-time hobby that you’re pretending is adequate to support a family you weren’t ready for.”
“Dad, geez, can’t we start on a good note? Can I please, for once, come into this house with my family, have a nice meal, decent conversation, and leave feeling like you haven’t rolled over me with a semi-truck. Just one time, is that too much to ask?” he said in a raised voice, which quickly trailed off to slightly above a whimper.
“Excuse me, I’m going to check on the kids,” Laurie told them. For a house to be so big, it felt tight, choking, smothering, and to think, this was the place where Greg grew up.
“Ah, Pops, why are you so hard on my big brother? He’s a settled family man. Nothing wrong with that, right, Mom? You’d be happy if I got married as soon as possible and added a few more grandkids to the list, right?” Sterling Jr. added.
“There’s nothing wrong with raising a family. It can be a very rewarding experience if you manage to make the right choices.”
“Mom, don’t you start in too or I’m out of here,” Greg said, consciously not letting his voice dip down this time. He kept telling himself not to say anything that might be regretted later. He had to tough it out. He’d done it before, hundreds of times, and he could do it again.
“You know I didn’t mean anything by it. You’ve done a phenomenal job providing for your little army at such a young age. I would have preferred for you to be established before buckling down with so much pressure, that’s all.”
“This was my doing.”
“And you say it so proudly, like going to law school for two years and then dropping out to take some penny-ante position in a no-name, second-tier company is a mark of success. Man up and admit it. You’re in this predicament because you simply couldn’t control your hormones. It was bad enough that you settled for a part-time night school program, which I was willing to accept, realizing you’re not Ivy League material. A pseudo-law program was more suited for you. I get that part. But after you had the second child, you up and quit.”
“Dad, if I’m happy and not asking you for help, what does it matter?” He wanted to scream at his father but knew better. Disrespect and aggression weren’t tolerated in Judge Wright’s courtroom or in his house. In both places he was the law, and violators were punished mercilessly.
“It matters that I wasted a lot of my money on your childish pursuit of an education, one that could have gotten you off poverty row and into a more refined lifestyle.”
“Dad, when are you going to get over the fact that I dropped out of law school because I didn’t want to be a lawyer? I never did. That’s what you wanted me to be. I tried to follow in your footsteps, but it’s just not for me. Can’t you be satisfied that at least one of your two sons did finish? Sterling Jr. is the lawyer and I’m happy for him.”
“Leave me out of this, bro. This is between you and Pops. I don’t want to be anywhere near the middle of this. As a matter of fact, I’m going to hang out with my nephews in the kitchen. Excuse me.”
“You don’t have to leave, son.” Judge Wright pleaded with Sterling Jr. to stay.
“Where are you going?” his mother asked.
“To get my wife,” he responded, slinging his lap napkin onto his empty chair.
“Sit,” she ordered. “Let’s eat before the food gets cold. This discussion can be tabled for another time. Today is family day. Let’s try to act normal, even if it kills us.”
MAKES YOU GO HMMM!
Now that you have read Still Waters, consider the following discussion
It doesn’t appear that Greg hit Laurie. Did he deserve to go to jail for what happened? Do you agree or not with the police getting involved?
How do you label Laurie’s internet relationship: platonic, harmless, intimate, inappropriate or dangerous? Her brother Drake called it adultery. Her sister Danielle didn’t. What do you think?
Depression is serious, encountered by many and often suffered in silence. Greg’s led him down a dark road late into the night with a shotgun. Were there signs that he was reaching his breaking point?
Laurie was a stay-at-home mom. Was her role valued by Greg? By Virginia? By Laurie? How can you tell?
Greg was broke, unemployed, stressed, and depressed. Was taking the Chicago job the right decision?
Many couples claim to stay in a failing marriage purely for the kids. Are children generally better or worse off?
Why didn’t Greg and his father get along? Did it matter to Greg that as the oldest son he wasn’t named Sterling, Jr.? How can Greg and his dad foster a better relationship?
What was the issue between Virginia and Laurie? Did Greg handle the riff between the two women adequately?
Given there were concerns about domestic violence, should Drake and Danielle been more or less involved?
Describe the marriage of Judge Wright and Virginia. Why is there underlying tension? Given a choice, would you prefer wealthy and unhappy or broke and happy?
Early on, Laurie is in a tough relationship, yet she stays. When is it justifiable to leave a marriage? What would drive someone like Laurie to the point of contemplating killing Greg as opposed to just leaving?
Laurie went from victim to aggressor. How did the job, internet, and weight loss contribute to her independence and rejection of both the marriage and God? Was the job a positive, negative, both, or neither?
Greg works hard but isn’t valued on the job. How does this affect him at home? Do you know anyone like him?
In the last chapter, what did you think Greg Jr. was going to do to his father? Why?
Note: Still Waters originally released in 2005 with a revised edition in 2017
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