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The Beauty of Staying Together

Calvina, the young battered wife of Duane, is in desperate need of a new start in life. Will her jealous husband, the mad man with whom she had been unequally yoked, prove too much to ever hope for a chance of staying together--a chance to fix her troubled marriage? Read chapter one now!

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The Beauty of Staying Together: A Message for Troubled Marriages


Calvina, the young battered wife of Duane, is in desperate need of a new start in life. Will her jealous husband, the mad man with whom she had been unequally yoked, prove too much to ever hope for a chance of staying together--a chance to fix her troubled marriage?

Please read the two main character profiles before reading the story. We can be so wrong in the strong initial opinions we form of people.


Duane was raised in a small town in Florida. Before the family's move to Minnesota, he had observed, or so he shared with Calvina, a young boy being nailed to the roof of a garage and the garage set on fire. He had been hiding in the bushes and heard the young boy's screams. He never told anyone. But, in his own mind, there is nothing that a eight or nine year old kid could have done so wrong that it warranted taking his life. It was nothing less than pure hatred for the color of the young boy's skin. From that day on his dislike for white people turned to hatred. And that hatred and anger ruled his life. Duane also carried anger against his parents. He felt they loved the other seven children more than him. He had shared with Calvina that his mother, when scolding him for some misdeed, would often look at him with contempt. She, according to him, often referred to his "big head," causing him to be self-conscious about his appearance. Later, in the story, he says that his first theft was breaking into the medical office to steal an inhaler to get relief from an asthma attack. He claims he had asked his dad to buy it and his dad had refused.

Claiming to have been beaten in prison with a jagged edged water hose, his hatred grew for those in authority. Feeling powerless to do anything to better conditions not only for himself, but for all Black people, Duane set out to secretly level the playing ground by committing carefully thought-out crimes that would have the authorities puzzled and for which he'd never be caught.

Before learning any more about Duane, what is your opinion based on the above description/information?


Calvina was uptight all of the time. She felt stupid, clumsy and always out of place except when with her best friend, Annette. She refused to see anything positive in her life as she was consumed with hatred for her height and self-pity because of the rejection she'd received from her biological father. Calvina was a thumb-sucker and a bed-wetter who secretly loathed waking to a pissy bed each morning. She'd fall asleep in class from sitting and trying to stay awake at night so she'd be able to go to the bathroom when she felt the urge. She suffered through name-calling daily at school and so it became a place she was forced to go to that only added more misery to her already miserable life.

Calvina joined a church early in life and tried to console herself that God loved her if nobody else did. But as miserable as she was, she soon turned on God, blaming Him for her misery. After all, if He was all-knowing and cared so much for her, why didn't He do something?

When Duane came along and shared his sad story with her, she saw him as her only way out and herself as the only one who understood him.

Before learning any more about Calvina, what is your opinion based on the above description/information?

The Beauty of Staying Together: Chapter One - Hope for a Troubled Marriage?

Seated on the brown overstuffed sofa, Calvina, a married sixteen-year old had just nestled into the arms of her lover, Edgar. He's everything I always wanted in a man. She smiled to herself as she played with the button on his shirt. Maybe Edgar will ask me to marry him. If he does, I would divorce Duane Dawson in a heartbeat. Calvina settled back, crossed her long legs, and let her brown eyes roam around the spotless apartment. We gon' have a place like this someday, she thought. Calvina finger twirled the black twirly curls that graced her honey-colored face as she glanced around at the sparkling glass topped tables. The television and floor model stereo were both polished to a high gloss. Bonnie, Edgar's sister was a good housekeeper. Yep, one day Edgar and me gon' be as happy as Bonnie and Louis.

The frantic knock at the door startled Calvina, interrupting her daydream and sent Bonnie's short legs scurrying across the room to answer the door.

"Comin'!" Bonnie called out as she brushed back the brownish-black lock of coarse hair that continually fell across her forehead. She opened the door and Roberta, not waiting to be invited in, rushed past Bonnie. She was a very light-skinned woman, barely twenty years old, whose voice became high pitched whenever she was excited.

Once inside she blurted out, "Yo' husband didn't go to work." Her gaze was fixed on Calvina. "He's checked you guy's apartment and know you ain't there," she continued. "He knocked on my door and asked if I knew where you was." Roberta stopped to suck in a breath. "I told him that I would go next door to tell ya' that he was lookin' for you. He asked me who you was with next door and I told him that you was at Bonnie's." She rested a hand on her chest and swallowed before continuing. "He's waitin' for you to come home." She was still staring, wide-eyed, at Calvina.

Calvina pushed away from Edgar and jumped to her feet. Always uncomfortable with her five-foot-ten frame, Calvina dropped in one hip as she stood there, fearing what Duane would do to her if he ever found out about the affair with Edgar. The hip-drop was her coping mechanism whenever she was on display: like the time Ms. Williams, her fifth grade Math teacher had called her to the blackboard to work out a difficult Division problem that only Calvina had answered correctly on the last test. She had felt her peers' eyes at her back as she made her way to the front of the class. At five-feet-six inches, she was the tallest kid at Grant Elementary School. Fearing another call to the blackboard, Calvina never solved another difficult test problem.

"What am I gonna' do?" she yelled into the air, throwing her long arms up and letting them drop to her sides. "Duane's gonna' beat the crap outa' me," she whispered through clenched teeth. She was afraid of Duane and felt trapped. Trapped in an abusive marriage to a man she no longer loved. Trapped in a tall, skinny body that she hated because it had brought her unrelenting teasing during her school years. Trapped in her mind because she saw no way out. Oh, how I wish I had stayed in school. I'd be graduating in two years and goin' on to the police academy. I'd be helpin' to put people like Duane in jail.

Whenever Calvina was scared and feeling like a caged circus animal, she thought of all the things anyone had ever done to her. Fear turned to anger that gripped her very being. She found herself transported from the present to the time she caught Duane and her best friend, Anita in her bed.

That man got the gall to judge me after what he did. She was becoming enraged. I scrubbed peoples' floors and cleaned toilets to get the money to buy a decent bed for us and he wallowed around in it with that...that... I didn't want him back! The church mother said I had to give him another chance ‘cause he asked for my forgiveness. And she said if I didn't forgive him, God wouldn't forgive me for things I had done.

Calvina was beginning to wonder if the church mother had been right. Where was such a Scripture anyway? Tears formed in her eyes.

I hate Duane and I hate Anita. And I hope they burn in hell.

Thoughts of hell fire brought visions of others she'd like to send there. Right on Duane's and Anita's heels would follow her daddy, Calvin Robertson. Namin' me some stupid name like Calvina. Like that was gonna' make me be a boy. His no good behind wouldn't have stayed around even if I had been a boy. Why couldn't he just want me--a daughter!

Before Calvina could sentence anyone else to that lake of fire, she found herself back in Louis and Bonnie's living room. Edgar was calling her name for the third time.

"What!" Calvina snapped.

For all the schoolmates who had teased her for being tall, Edgar had just saved them from being the next ones to take the fiery plunge.

"Listen. It's simple," Edgar said. "This thing ain't hard as we makin' it out to be. Tell the bastard you leavin' him." Edgar was a very dark skinned man with a chest and arms that revealed his faithfulness to weight training. He moved his six-foot-three frame with the confidence of someone who was sure of his every move. It was that confidence that had attracted Calvina to him in the first place--that, and the fact that he seemed to accept her as she was, all five-feet-ten inches.

"Come on. I'll go with you to get yo' things." He took Calvina by the arm and headed for the door. Calvina resisted, pulling back as Bonnie and Roberta came to her aid. "Are you crazy!" Bonnie screamed at Edgar. "Calvina is that man's wife. He'll kill you!" Bonnie and Edgar exchanged looks as though some dark secret lurked between them. Ms Lewis in apartment four had said to Roberta one day, "Now I ain't one to gossip, and you didn't get this from me, but I hear that Edgar is a fugitive from justice in Chicago." Roberta hadn't shared with Calvina what Ms Lewis had said. But as the siblings exchanged glances, she wondered if the rumor were true. There wasn't time to be concerned about it now. Calvina had to get out of her desperate situation.

"If I stick to it that I was visitin' Bonnie, Duane will be suspicious ‘cause I never mentioned her before," Calvina reasoned aloud, switching the drop from one hip to the other.

"You can't change from what I already told him!" Roberta shouted. "He'll think I lied!" And then it hit her. "I know!" Roberta said excitedly. "Tell him that you came over here to borrow sugar for me. Tell him I couldn't come ‘cause the baby was sleepin' and I didn't want to leave him alone."

"Yeah, that's good," Bonnie joined in hoping Edgar would like the idea and abandon his dangerous notion of confronting Duane.

"Do whateva' you wanna'," Edgar sighed. "But I'm tellin' ya' the nigga' ain't a problem. With that, he humped his shoulders and dropped into the nearby recliner.

Columbus, Ohio had dawned a beautiful, sunshine filled day that June 10th, 1962. And if it weren't for the fact that Calvina had to hide her affair with Edgar, she would have loved to be seated out back at the picnic table enjoying the summer instead of trying to figure her way out of the mess she was in.

Roberta and Calvina crossed the yard to their apartment building where they spotted Duane peering out of the rear upstairs hall window.

Duane Dawson was a handsome, twenty-six-year-old, ex-felon who had served three years of a ten-year sentence for armed robbery. He'd been out of prison less than six months when he and Calvina were married. He needed someone to help him keep his nose clean; she needed someone to make her feel good about herself. Duane had told her all the things she longed to hear.

The two women tried to appear casual as they entered the building, but both their hearts were pounding. Calvina could only hope Duane would buy their bogus story. To appear even more convincing, Roberta had asked Duane to listen outside her apartment door for the baby while she ran to get Calvina. As they entered the downstairs door that led to the stairway Duane starred down at them from the top of the stairs. As casually as they could the two women continued their make believe conversation. At the top of the stairs they made their parting remarks. It was hard for Calvina to read Duane's face. He‘s so good at hiding his real feelings, especially around others. Duane hated for people to have a bad impression of him.

Inside the apartment, the interrogation began. "Why did it take you so long to get some sugar?" There was calmness in his voice. But Calvina knew anger boiled beneath his composed exterior. She had seen his fury erupt many times before.

"I was home for over twenty minutes before I knocked on Roberta's door," Duane continued calmly.

"We... we... got to talkin'," Calvina stammered as she fiddled with the twist tie on the bread bag. "She's really nice, Bonnie, I mean." Calvina stood at the kitchen counter, afraid to turn around to face her husband. Duane didn't respond. It always means a beatin' when he's quiet like this. Without turning her body, Calvina glanced around to see what Duane was doing. She couldn't quite catch a glimpse of him. She was afraid to turn completely around and face him. It just might mean getting smacked in the face. "Why didn't you go to work today," she asked trying to control the tremor in her voice.

"Because I wanted to see what you were up to when I'm at work. So I came back and sure enough you're off foolin' around." There was sarcasm mixed with anger in his voice.

Calvina started to turn around and caught a hard, backhand blow to her face. She screamed and began to cry as she scrambled to get into the living room and out the door away from him. But Duane was too fast for her. He gripped her blouse and swung her around. Nothing from the past two years of abuse had prepared her for what was about to happen....

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