Better Late Than Never
Release Date, July 31, 2018
Curtis Black is no stranger to scandal. Throughout the decades, he has done much in the public eye, both good and evil. But what most people don’t realize is that Curtis has been hiding an abusive childhood that has affected him in horrifying ways.
Sadly, when his estranged sister becomes alarmingly ill, his buried past returns without warning, and his youngest daughter, twelve-year-old Curtina, becomes the kind of problem child he never thought she could be…and this is only the beginning. Worse, all the public scandals they’ve experienced over the years now seem like mere child’s play compared to the turmoil they are facing in private. And who could have known that their deepest wounds would come from within?
Curtis was a nervous wreck. He and Charlotte had just parked in his sister’s driveway, gotten out of his SUV, and walked up to the beautiful brick home. Charlotte grabbed Curtis’s hand, squeezing it tighter than usual, and Curtis rang the doorbell. During the drive there, he’d said a number of silent prayers, trying to calm his thinking and uneasiness, but now his heart beat faster and faster, and he took a couple of deep breaths, trying to regain his composure.
Charlotte looked up at him. “Everything is going to be fine. You did the right thing by coming here.”
Curtis continued holding Charlotte’s hand, still attempting to calm his nerves, and finally his brother-in-law, Jason, opened the door.
He smiled. “I’m so glad you made it. Please come in.”
Curtis hugged Jason, as did Charlotte, but then he saw a young man in his mid-twenties walking toward them. He knew it was his nephew, Eric.
“It’s good to see you, Uncle Curtis.”
“It’s good to see you, too, son.”
Curtis hadn’t known how either of Trina’s children was going to react when they saw him—especially when they’d known for years that their mom had wanted nothing to do with Curtis—but here Eric had even called him uncle.
Curtis looked at Jason. “So, does she still not know about me coming?”
“This morning I told her that she was going to have a surprise visitor this afternoon, but that was it.”
“Well, I just hope that seeing me doesn’t upset her too much. Because we all know how she feels.”
“I know,” Jason said, “but things are different now. And she’s different…because of what she’s going through.”
Curtis nodded, and then he, Charlotte, and Eric followed Jason down a long, shiny wooden corridor and around a corner. They stopped in front of a door that Jason lightly knocked on and eased open. A beautiful lady in her early thirties stood up from a recliner, and just as Curtis had known right away who Eric was, he knew this was his niece, Amber. She was the spitting image of her mother, and Curtis had to stop himself from crying.
“Is she awake, sweetie?” Jason asked his daughter, and then he looked over at his wife, lying in the king-size bed, propped against two pillows.
Amber walked closer to where all of them were standing. “She is.”
“How are you?” Curtis asked her.
“I’m okay, Uncle Curtis,” she said, with sad eyes and hugging him. “I’m so glad you came.”
“Me too,” he said, and once Amber hugged Charlotte, Curtis moved closer to the side of the bed and saw Trina watching him. Her skin was a bit pale, dark circles outlined her eyes, and
although her hair appeared soft and curly, it wasn’t longer than half an inch. Curtis guessed that as a result of her chemo treatments, she had likely cut it. Because from the time she’d been a child, she’d had gorgeous thick, wavy hair.
Curtis half smiled at his sister, still not knowing what to expect. “I hope you don’t mind our coming to see you.”
To his surprise, Trina smiled back. “I don’t, and it’s good to see you, Curtis. I mean really, really good to see you.”
Curtis had never felt more relieved about anything than he did currently. He’d been so prepared for his sister to turn away and ask him to leave, yet she’d done just the opposite.
Curtis leaned down and hugged her, and she held him as well. Then she and Charlotte embraced.
“Thank you for coming, Charlotte,” Trina told her. “I really appreciate it.”
Charlotte smiled. “Of course.”
Curtis wasn’t sure what to say next, and apparently no one else did, either, because the room fell silent.
But finally, Jason spoke. “Why don’t you both have a seat? And can we get either of you something to drink?”
“No, I’m fine, but thank you,” Curtis said.
“I’ll take some iced tea, if you have it,” Charlotte added.
Amber smiled. “Well, hopefully my baby brother hasn’t drunk all of it. Because that’s what he usually does.”
“Whatever, girl,” Eric said, laughing. “You just made a huge pitcher of it this morning, so who could drink all of that, anyway?”
“You,” she said, and everyone laughed.
“Well, for your information, there’s plenty left.”
Amber playfully punched her brother on his shoulder and then looked at Charlotte. “I’ll pour you a glass now.”
“Why don’t I come with you?” Charlotte said, already following Amber. “That way Curtis and Trina can spend some time together.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” Jason added, and he and Eric followed the two women out of the room.
Curtis continued standing, just wanting to look at his sister. She stared back at him, but since neither of them seemed to know what to say, Curtis asked her a question. “Do you mind if I pray for you?”
“No, not at all.”
Curtis held Trina’s left hand with his right one. “Dear Heavenly Father, I come before you right now, first thanking You for another day, and most of all, thanking You for allowing me the opportunity to reunite with my sister. Thank You for answering my prayers. Then, Lord, I now ask that You would please remove all pain and discomfort that my sister is experiencing and that You would heal her body completely. Lord, please make her whole again. Please allow her illness to only serve as a test that will ultimately become her great testimony. And if there is anything that we can do here on earth to help her, Lord, please speak to our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Please give us the wisdom we need, along with total direction. Because while we know that the prognosis Trina has been given doesn’t look good to us as human beings, we also know that only You have the final say. So, Lord, I am asking You to heal Your child. I am
asking You to perform one of Your awesome miracles on my dear, sweet sister. Lord, we ask this and all other blessings in Your Son Jesus’s name. Amen. Amen. Amen.”
“Amen,” Trina said, opening her tear-filled eyes and holding her brother’s hand a bit more securely than before. “Thank you for praying for me, and…” Her voice trailed off, as she took a deep breath and swallowed tears. “Well…I just want you to know just how sorry I am. How truly sorry I am for everything.”
Curtis was confused. “Sorry for what? You haven’t done anything, and I’m the one who will be sorry from now on.”
Trina gently slid her hand away from Curtis and patted the side of her bed. “Please sit.”
Curtis did what she’d told him.
“It’s time for me to forgive you, and it’s time you forgave yourself,” she said. “And the reason I’m sorry is because I didn’t forgive you before now. But it was just that I was so hurt. When you left for college and never called or came back home, it hurt me to my core. It felt like you had died.”
“I know, and if I could turn back all those years, I would. If I could talk to that same eighteen-year-old boy and tell him what a huge mistake he was making, I would.”
“I loved you and looked up to you, Curtis, and I needed my big brother. But while I won’t ever fully understand how you were able to walk away so easily, I have thought about your motives. I’ve had these last few months to rethink things and to try to see them through your eyes versus mine. And you know what?”
“I didn’t like what I saw. I mean, Thomas Black was the cruelest, most uncaring man I’ve ever known, and he made life miserable for all of us. But what I’ve now come to realize is that
our father’s evilness must have been a whole lot worse for you than it was for me. Verbal abuse and spankings are one thing, but violent physical abuse is something different…and sadly, Curtis, I know you were the victim of all three things.”
Curtis stared at his sister for a few seconds, and then they chatted for a while longer until she began drifting off to sleep. But sadly, he was still replaying everything Trina had said about their father. Words that had taken him back to a very dark place he didn’t want to remember.
# # #
Thomas stormed into his son’s tiny bedroom, drunk as always. “Didn’t…I…tell you…to take that garbage out of here? Didn’t I?”
Curtis dropped his Bible onto the floor, the one his aunt Samantha had given him earlier this year for his thirteenth birthday. “I…am…I had to finish my homework. I’ll do it now, Dad.” “You’ll do it now, Dad,” his father said, mocking him, balling up his fist and striking Curtis across his face.
Curtis fell to the floor but quickly scurried across it on his hands and knees to the closest corner he could find. “Dad, I’m sorry. I’ll do it right now.”
Thomas staggered closer to where his son was cowering in fear, and Curtis took cover with both his hands. But it didn’t help.
“I hate the day you were born,” Thomas said, kicking Curtis in the stomach, seemingly with all his might, over and over, and Curtis winced and cried out. “You’re the reason I never got to move to California, and I’ll always hate you for that,” he yelled, swinging his leg back as far as he could and kicking Curtis again. “And I don’t know what you’re readin’ that Bible for. Your
crazy mama started you doin’ that mess when you were a small boy. Don’t you know there ain’t no God?” he exclaimed, kicking him again. And again. And again. He kicked Curtis so many times, his body went numb. But as Curtis lay there, crying uncontrollably, not a single person came to see about him. Not his mom or his sister. His father had always been a stern, angry, uncompassionate man who had spanked Curtis and Trina just a little too hard when they were small children and then whipped them with belts and tree switches when they’d gotten a little older. But now that Curtis had turned thirteen, something was different. His father’s abuse had escalated and turned for the worse, and for some reason, he only inflicted this new level of abuse on Curtis. He still yelled at his timid and seemingly terrified wife as though she were less than a dog on the street, he ruled over her like she was a five-year-old child, and he spent all his money on women and liquor—leaving Curtis’s mom to fend for their children all on her own. But Thomas never put his hands on her. He also never did much more than grab Trina by her collar, push her from time to time, or call her awful names. Curtis didn’t understood that, although, the more he thought about it, it, he had heard his father say to his mom, many times, “You’d better be glad I don’t believe in hitting women. I never have. Otherwise, you’d be a dead woman.”
Curtis’s father had always hated him, Trina, and their mom, but now he acted as though Curtis was his sole enemy. Still, no matter how much his father beat him and put him down verbally, he wouldn’t let his father win. He also didn’t care what his father said about there being no God, because Curtis knew God was real. He didn’t understand why the God he kept reading about wasn’t protecting him from his father, but at some point, He would—and Curtis wouldn’t stop believing and trusting in Him. Not when God was all he had. Not when no one else seemed to care about him, one way or the other.
Curtis lay on the floor, crying all over again, and then heard his father leave the house and slam the front door behind him. Curtis was glad he was gone, but more than anything, he wished he would never come back. He wished his father would just die—and claim the special place in hell that Satan had waiting for him.
# # #
Curtis looked at his sister and realized how soaking wet his face was. So he wiped it with both hands. Trina was still asleep, but he was just happy to sit there alone with her in silence. He didn’t like that his visiting her was stirring up old wounds, but he was glad to be there nonetheless. And he would come back to see her again tomorrow. He would do so as often as he could, because she was now his priority.