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The Heart of a Man

The Heart of a Man

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The Heart of a Man

Länge:
190 Seiten
3 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Apr 2, 2013
ISBN:
9781301198061
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Handsome, smart and in control of his life is how those who know him would describe 42 year old Atlanta businessman, Conrad Bydon. He is CEO of a successful commercial real estate conglomerate, husband to the infamous Gennifer Davenport-Bydon, an Atlanta socialite, and father to Marvin, a rambunctious sixteen-year-old. But in the shadows of his life he is plagued by nightmares of his deceased mother and the horrid death of his friend Tommie. His childhood memories of the rough, poverty-stricken South Atlanta neighborhood he grew up in force him to face the harsh realities of what he sacrificed to obtain the wealth and notoriety he struggles to hold on to. Coupled with his decaying marriage and a barrage of trouble lurking just beneath the surface of his career, Conrad’s journey to self-discovery leads him towards an unpredictable path of adultery, financial ruin and ultimately, suicide. But through the grace of God, Conrad’s life becomes a testament of His love.

Freigegeben:
Apr 2, 2013
ISBN:
9781301198061
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

The Heart of a Man is Jackson’s first novel. Her writing career took root in the late 80s during her mid-teens as a participant and winner of several essay and poetry competitions. She was selected to participate in the University of Alabama’s Multi-cultural Journalism Workshop sponsored by Dow Jones Newspaper Fund in 1990 and went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University. While attending school she wrote for the UA College of Arts and Sciences Society of Fine Arts Newsletter and worked as a copywriter, columnist and ad designer for Tuscaloosa Times Newspaper. She also wrote for The Heritage News and Fairfield Times. She is currently a contributing writer for The Mount Christian Lifestyle Magazine and blogger at 1stmorningthoughts.wordpress.com.

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The Heart of a Man - Michelle D. Jackson

The Heart Of A Man

Michelle D. Jackson

Published by Michelle D. Jackson at Smashwords

Copyright 2010 Michelle D. Jackson

This book is available in print at most online retailers.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please go to Smashwords.com to purchase a copy. Thank you.

Chapter 1

Conrad paced the floor frantically, retracing the past six months in his mind. Recoiled in his own feelings of fear and desperation, he wrestled to break free from the web he’d spun to capture his prey, but had now captured him instead. Remnants of unspoken apologies and now unspoken goodbyes left him choking away the tears. He knew that too much time had passed for any reconciliation, but he still wanted to take control, to hold on to just one relic to remember his old life by.

He was in hiding, not physically but metaphorically, not bound deliberately, but removed from what his life had become. Admitting that he was never truly there, never a real participant, instead, he was merely a stand in, a body double, someone playing the role of Conrad but never fully committing.

After walking around the office vigorously at first and now in a slow precise pace, sweat beaded on his shoulders and neck. The collar of his pastel polo button-down was damp as if the sun was rising inside of him. Tired, he sat on the edge of his desk with both knees cradled like a child. He hung his head in the palm of one hand, confused. He hadn’t felt so weak, so alone, since the day Millie died. The cold, still intensive care hospital room, the stinging smell of bleached floor tile, and the nurse’s hairspray came to him. How could he forget her last breath and her fight to live? That day sought an ending and this day, a second death.

The pain of leaving his wife and son hovered overhead preparing to wash over him like rushing waves over the ocean’s shore. He was not ready, although he’d invited this moment into his life, sent the most elaborate invitation, and even anticipated its arrival. Now, the moment was here and he had to decide.

He took the pistol from his desk drawer.

Guilt rang his ears like a room filled with screaming children. Hush! he screamed neurotically, grabbing the side of his head and nearly sending the gun crashing to the floor. When the metal hit the wood cabinet, it startled him. His eyes widened and his shoulders rose in fear. He watched the barrel spin, like a drunken game of Russian roulette.

He needed to think.

The control he normally wore like an Armani suit got too tight, too uncomfortable. So, he shredded each layer, piece by piece. He was now naked, standing before God, wondering if heaven would take him in, and wondering what everyone thought of him at that very moment. Did Gen remember the day he proposed, and the day they brought Marvin home? Did Marvin remember how he cheered him on at his baseball games? Or, are they still lost in the pain, smothered by his failure to live up to their expectations?

He needed to come to this moment convinced that his decision was the right one. He prided himself on being a man of action, but now, he’s not so sure. There was no absolute certainty about his position although he was convinced that something had to be done for the sake of Gennifer, Marvin and Nora, those he’d hurt because of his heartlessness.

Peering helplessly at the gun, he stood and slowly moved closer, and then closer. With every step, he convinced himself that it was the right thing to do. Just as he reached for the handle, he heard a knock on the door.

Chapter 2

Six Months Prior

Nightmares

Conrad waited patiently in his study for Gennifer to drift off to sleep. He quietly peeped in around 10, then again at 10:30 before his wife shrugged her shoulders for the second time, settling in for the night. But he didn’t enter then. Instead, he waited a little longer until the full moon cautiously peeked through the French pinch-pleat drapes. Then it was time.

He tidied the room quickly, stacking books and papers in a tray on his desk. He was anxious and exhausted, more from the avoidance of Gennifer than his tedious workday. He powered down his laptop, organized his belongings, and turned to leave the room. He could hear Gennifer snoring softly as he made his way towards the door. When he reached to turn off the lights, he saw a crumpled newspaper lying on his desk chair and the innocent, smiling face of a young girl standing in front of the Southside Community Center, a place he knew all too well. Fatal hit and run accident, he read. She was only sixteen.

Conrad felt exasperated. Another young life ended, snuffed out for no apparent reason at all. Placing the newspaper neatly in his desk drawer, he took out his Blackberry and sent an email to Aundrey, his accountant. "Two checks this time, he typed, one for the center and one to start a scholarship in the young girl’s name." He ended the email with "be anonymous, of course."

With that done, he turned off the lights and slowly crept into the bedroom, while softly whispering a prayer for just one night of peaceful rest.

Five hours later. . .

Con, what’s wrong? Wake up, wake up! Gennifer screamed, as he kicked and flung his body uncontrollably. Still very toned for a man in his 40s, he was propelled by the smoothness of the satin sheets. His arms flapped like eagle’s wings, up then down, and then up again. His wild demeanor and thrust scared Gennifer more than his cries for help. In ten years, she’d never seen him so uninhibited, so filled with meaningless aggression. For a quick moment she watched him wishing to be the cloth beneath his fury.

Reaching for the lamp with one hand and forcefully shaking his swinging arms with the other, she’d now received two, no, three whacks from his tightly-clenched fist. She was growing worried (and a little angry!).

Catching hold of his shoulders she screamed his name, Conrad! He woke surprised to find his wife crouched down over him.

What, what happened, Gen? Are you all right? What happened?

She released his arms and rolled over to her side of the bed. This was the third nightmare in a week.

You were acting like an animal, she scolded, then quickly calmed. She didn’t need to embarrass him anymore than he already was. Are you all right… another bad dream?

Yea, Conrad said, still out of breath. Feeling a twinge of embarrassment, he untangled himself from the sheets and sat on the edge of the bed with his back to Gennifer and his hands covering his face. The room was spinning, so he gathered his composure, and then forced himself to speak.

Did I hurt you? His voice was saturated with concern.

We all have nightmares. Go back to sleep, she said.

Gennifer turned off her lamp and continued her journey into slumber.

The moment was awkward. He desperately wanted to swat her looming frustration from hovering overhead. He needed to explain.

I dreamed I was at the community center—you know the one I told you about, the one my mother took me to when I was little. She was teaching me how to swim, but I couldn’t. I called for help, but no one came. He turned to gauge Gennifer’s reaction but there was none. Instead, her coldness steamed the bedroom windows, hiding the comfort of the glowing moon.

I can’t sleep! Conrad yelled.

Gennifer was startled.

This is not the end of the world, Conrad. Just try again.

No, it’s not the end of the world, but I’m a grown man with more important things to worry about than this. I’ll try again later. He started getting dressed. I need to check on Marvin. We probably woke him.

He left the room in search of fresh air and clarity. Walking aimlessly for a while, he was disgusted and humiliated. For the first time, he contemplated calling the doctor, but quickly talked himself out of it. He was too old to struggle with nightmares.

He stumbled down the long, dark hallway, then the marble stairs to the second floor. As he cracked the door of Marvin’s room, the metal Do Not Disturb sign swung vigorously. Marvin was sound asleep, so he stood in his doorway watching the same way he’d watched Gennifer just hours before.

He detoured to the kitchen for a drink of water. The usual thoughts were taking up space in his mind. He was troubled. More than the nightmares, more than avoiding Gennifer and Marvin, something else was desperately wrong. How could this be? For the first time in years, his life was good; the company was thriving and he’d bought Gen her dream house, a 17,000 square foot abode, sitting on 50 acres. He was a long way from the Taylor Tanner Trailer Park on the Southside of Atlanta.

The dream was different tonight. Millie wasn’t alone. There was a young boy treading alongside her. Oddly, their bodies moved in synch, hands flying high while the water danced around their excited fingertips. They were playing in the water like old friends and calling for Conrad to come join them.

But they were not real, he convinced himself. Joining them felt like an ending, instead of a beginning.

Conrad, you can do it. Come on! they screamed. All eyes were on him.

He kicked and stretched his arms, sending the water parting in both directions; then he kicked some more. He was going nowhere fast. He could hear the other kids laughing and making fun of him, but his mother’s voice eventually drowned out their taunts. Splashing and struggling, he eagerly wanted to reach her, to feel her embrace just one more time. As his body moved closer he began to fear reaching her more than drowning. He knew that to feel her once more meant to never leave her side again. Something was calling him over, but life refused to let him go.

You can do it, Conrad!

As the dream played in his mind, tears poured from his eyes like wagons racing down a steep hill. He brushed them away with the palm of his hand and stood motionless in the cold, dark kitchen. Flashes of his mother’s funeral fluttered in the air like butterflies. He sat the bottled water on the neatly arrayed kitchen island and became lost between the dream and his mother’s face. He refused to think about the little boy with her, it was too much to bear. The tears began to drip from his scruffy beard onto his chest, burning an unfamiliar mark, reminding him that he had not shed one tear since the day she died 24 years ago.

These dreams meant something but he couldn’t deal with it. He was no longer the 18-year-old boy forced to watch his family dissolve in just one day. The boy who crawled into the tattered blankets arrayed on his mother’s bed for weeks after she had died, crying and wishing it was him instead. He was no longer the college grad with dreams of changing the world one good deed at a time, or the young man that audaciously left Princeton to coach basketball at the Southside Community Center because he was convinced by his mother that the way to sheer happiness was by helping others. He believed that then, not now, so he thought. He was now someone different, someone well-defined. His mother’s death and the community center were memories of the distant past. He wanted to forget them all.

Conrad, standing in the oversized kitchen, wearing nothing but silk pajama pants and bedroom slippers, decided long ago to turn away from his naive ambition. He embraced a nobler life—the big office, the even bigger paycheck, and the most elaborate home, in the most exclusive neighborhood in Georgia. He’s a CEO, husband to the infamous Gennifer Davenport-Bydon, an Atlanta socialite, and father to a rambunctious sixteen year old. He could not stop to understand every emotion that invaded his mind and screamed for attention, especially now, just months away from the second major test of his career.

Uncontrollably, his thoughts traveled back to a time when he was different from the person he ultimately became. He remembered Minister Brady, the short, dark-haired pastor with Coke-bottle framed glasses and a distinctive Midwestern drawl, and the small storefront church that was stuffy and hot. The entrance was cracked and dust from the street blew in during the service. The minister’s notes were swept off the pulpit twice, before he confined them with an empty drinking glass. Five straight nights of thunderstorms came to an end, offering solace and grace for the day but the downpour inside did not cease.

Conrad was just a boy.

The plain, brown wooden box his mother was buried in was covered with bundles of handpicked flowers tied with pink, yellow and orange satin ribbon. Conrad placed a large picture of Millie taken the day she lost her hair from the chemo, on an easel next to the casket. She was surrounded by her five closest friends. Her bald head covered with red lipstick kisses - one from each friend who promised to stay by her side. It was her favorite photo and the best way to honor a strong warrior who even in the midst of fighting an unwinnable battle against breast cancer, found time to enjoy life with those she loved the most.

The day felt surreal. Before him was a box holding all his life’s dreams, his future and his past. There was no father to rescue him from his dismay or siblings to share the profound heartbreak with. She was his only family. And although the overflowing church reminded him of how loved she was and how many lives she’d touched, it could not stop the pain he felt. She was gone and he would never see her soft blue eyes and big bright smile again.

The same misery that tore away at young Conrad’s heart 24 years prior compelled a renewed and steady flow of tears as if time had stood still. Even with the grandiosity of his new life, immersed by all the things he sought to make himself happy, he longed to be back in the comfort of the trailer park with his mother. Was this normal, he thought. Maybe it was time, maybe he needed to allow these emotions to beckon the dark so they would never come to light. So, he wept. Sitting at the table in his beautiful home, he gave in to emptying himself so he could get on with his life.

*     *     *

Gennifer woke at 5 a.m. every morning to take the horses out. Rolling over to kiss Conrad on his forehead, soft enough not to wake him, she sprung from the

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