Rachel awoke drenched in sweat. She should not have slept in her clothes. Ugh, she felt gross! At least her headache seemed to be receding. Perhaps a little hair of the dog that bit her would help clear her head. Rachel wrestled out of the damp sheet that had somehow wound itself around her and staggered over to her closet.
She was rooting through her secret stash when the memory of the hospital visit came flooding back. Rachel randomly snatched up a bottle and took a bigger swig than she intended to, hoping to blot out recall of the humiliation she felt having her problems trotted out in front of her siblings.
Sometimes, I really hate that woman! She could have talked to me in private. How would she like it if I aired her dirty laundry? She likes to act holier-than-thou but everybody has done something they’d like to forget. I wonder what the skeletons in her closet look like?
On a whim, Rachel went to her mother’s room and switched on the light. Maybe she could find a little dirt that she could throw into her mother’s face during their next confrontation. It chafed at Rachel when her mother made it seem as though Rachel didn’t care about her husband and daughter.
Despite her protestations and bad behavior, Rachel really did love them. It’s just that she accustomed to being catered to. She never had to do anything she didn’t want to do. Rachel always said and did exactly what came to mind, relying on her good looks to soften the blow.
As a child, people said she was spunky. The church elders got a kick out of her boldness. In Rachel’s teen years, it was dismissed as a phase. Everyone put up with her mood swings and laughed off her escapades. She was the center of attention and assumed that it would always be that way.
Now that she was set in her ways, no one had the patience to deal with her childish behavior. Timothy had hung in there with her the longest but even he grew weary of her constant demands and mood swings. He left her the day she lost her temper with her daughter and hit her a little too hard.
Rachel bit her lip as she suffered through the painful memory. The hurt expression on her daughter’s face was heart wrenching. She hadn’t meant to do that to Shelly. It was just that sometimes when she had a little too much to drink, she couldn’t exactly control herself.
Rachel didn’t drink all of the time. Just when she needed to take the edge off, in the dark moments when she felt herself sinking into the depths of some bottomless well of depression. Those were the days when she couldn’t seem to find the strength to get out of bed and face the day without a little nip of something.
Admittedly, she didn’t appreciate Timothy and Shelly before they left. Rachel resented having to attend to them when it meant putting her own wants and needs on the back burner. She kept petty resentments to herself, allowing them to fester until even alcohol couldn’t minimize them.
Rachel was unfazed the day Timothy left with Shelly, certain that he would come crawling right back. Days turned into weeks and it slowly dawned on her that not only could he survive without her, he had no intentions of ever coming back.
When alcohol failed to keep her sufficiently numb, Rachel began using drugs. At first, she only used them when she was in a bad way. Even then, she used them sparingly when the sadness became unbearable. By the time she realized things had spun out of control, their joint bank account was empty and the first eviction notice had landed in her mailbox.
There just had to be some way to get back together with Timothy. If her mother would only loan her the money to replace what she drained from their bank account, Rachel was sure she could convince him to come back. She could stop the drinking and the drugs any time she wanted to.
Her hopes were dashed after that speech at the hospital. She was fairly certain that her mother was not going to loan her any money. Rachel took another long sip from the bottle and was struck by a sudden jolt of inspiration. Maybe if she could unearth something that her mother would rather keep hidden then her mother might be motivated to give her the money.
Rachel went over to Reverend Mother’s closet and rooted around on the shelves. Finding nothing of interest, she turned her attention to the dresser. She was amusing herself by trying on her mother’s jewelry when she discovered a false bottom in the jewelry box.
Rachel dumped the jewelry out onto the bed and pulled up the lining. There were papers hidden underneath. She could hardly contain her excitement as she opened the first envelope. It contained a copy of Reverend Mother’s deed to Sermon on the Mount Baptist church which she let fall to the floor.
Next was a copy of her deed to the house. Rachel cast it down as well. Rachel opened the last envelope and opened the folded slip of paper inside. A birth certificate. Why would her mother hide this? Rachel looked down at the paper and her own name jumped out. She froze. Wait a minute.
Rachel kept reading. Everything was exactly the same as on her copy. Name, date of birth, her mother’s name, father…Derrick Watkins! Rachel felt her knees grow weak and stumbled over to her mother’s bed slowly shaking her head. Rachel could not believe her eyes. She didn’t know whether to scream or cry, to be angry or hurt.
Memories of the father she knew filled Rachel’s mind. She smiled momentarily. He was her first love. Gabriel always made time for his little sunshine. She fondly recalled the pride she felt walking beside her daddy, the renowned Reverend Williams. The church elders treated her like royalty. Had it all been a lie?
Things that had always baffled her began to make sense. Now, Rachel understood the pain that often visited her mother’s eyes when she looked at her. It was guilt. Rachel turned and looked at herself in the mirror. As a child, she noticed that Joshua looked just like Gabriel.
Her hazel eyes, pale complexion and sandy hair didn’t seem to come from either parent. In fact, Rachel didn’t look like anyone in their family. She turned away from the mirror in disgust. Why hadn’t her mother told her about this? Turns out the one person she thought could be trusted completely had perpetrated the worst betrayal of her life!
Categories: Valley of Shadows (Novel)