MY ANGEL by Denise Skelton
Simone Porter, an inner city youth center director, has lived her whole life being dominated by her over controlling mother, but yet she still retains her romantic nature and idealistic views about life and love. Matthew Turner, however, has been hurt by a materialistic wife who used his kindness and affection and threw it away for another man. Now his heart is hardened and he feels he will never love again the way he loved his wife.
Brought together by an almost deadly "accident", Simone and Matthew develop a bond that becomes the basis for a fantastic friendship. Despite the extreme disapproval of Simone's mother and Matt's father, they become best friends. But is friendship alone enough to heal Matt's broken heart? And is Simone capable of going against her mother's wishes and standing for up for what she wants?
As they juggle work, family conflicts, and their own conflicting feelings soon the passion and attraction between them becomes too great to ignore. However, Simone is torn between Alan, the man her mom wants for her, and Matt, the man her heart wants for her. Matt must decide between the ex-wife that used to be his everything, and Simone, his "Angel". However, in this battle between true love and family influence, Simone and Matt learn that it is sometimes harder than it should be for best friends to become lovers. And Matt's relationship with his ex-wife proves to be more dangerous to them than anyone could have imagined.
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The second and fourth Sunday of every month at the Porter’s home was always the same. Often the meal changed, sometimes the faces, but the atmosphere would always remain the same. The aroma of barbecued ribs greeted them as they entered the small formal dining room. Gathering around the table, everyone
settled in, and after saying grace, they prepared to devour the meal that Debra Porter had cooked.
Looking across the table, Simone Porter smiled faintly at Alan Whitaker. Her mother’s newest idea of what was the best thing for her daughter. He glanced back at Simone. He was handsome with dark eyes. His clean-shaven chestnut skin stretched over his high cheekbones as he offered her a bold smile.
"Go on everyone, dig in," Debra ordered, her voice demand-ing and tired at the same time.
Simone knew that tone all too well. It was her mother’s "look at this magnificent feast I’ve painstakingly created especially for you people and you had better praise me before you even bother to put one bite in your mouth" tone that she used so often it’s part of her personality.
"Everything looks wonderful, Mother," Simone whispered. "Yes, it does, doesn’t it," Debra beamed. "I’ve really outdone myself this time."
"Yes, honey, you have," Simone’s father, Joseph, added. Out of the corner of her eye, Simone saw her father pick up a large slice of cornbread, pass it to her sister René, and gesture for her to put it on Simone’s plate. René looked at her father, then glanced quickly at her mother before gingerly slipping the cornbread on the plate.
"There you go, baby girl," he announced.
Simone looked innocently at her father. "Thanks, Daddy," she said. Her voice, which was barely above a whisper, was fine and delicate like a perfectly tuned silver bell.
"Joe, don’t give her that," Debra scolded him. "She doesn’t need to be eating any bread. It’ll go right to her hips."
Simone glanced uncomfortably across the table at Alan, then to her right, meeting her mother’s disapproving gaze. She watched as everyone passed around the serving plates of green beans,
potato salad and cornbread. When the plates were passed to her, she scooped out a tablespoon of beans and a tablespoon of potato salad.
"Simone, I made that rib just for you," Debra said, pointing to the lifeless, tasteless-looking piece of meat on the serving plate. "I steamed it first to get rid of as much of the fat as possible, then I used a new recipe that I cut out of some magazine." She paused as if trying to remember the name of the magazine, then waved her hand, dismissing the idea.
Simone groaned inwardly. Reluctantly, she speared the meat with her fork and placed it on her plate as far away from the other food as she could manage.
"Debra, let her have one of the other ribs. That one doesn’t have any barbecue sauce on it." Joe said with concern.
"It doesn’t matter, it’s better for her that way .... Besides, you know I don’t like to waste food."
"Why don’t I just take Simone’s rib," René said, reaching toward Simone’s plate with her fork. "And she can have mine. That way nothing will go to waste."
"René," Debra warned, her voice low and stern. René looked at her mother, then sympathetically at Simone, saying I’m sorry with her eyes.
"Debra, leave Simone alone. Let the girl eat," Joe said, feeling embarrassed and sorry for his younger daughter.
"Joe, she’s trying to lose weight. No wonder she’s as big as a house, with you sneaking her food all the time," Debra shot at her husband. "Now I," she said, proudly placing the tips of her fingers on her chest, "am trying to help her."
"You know, Mrs. Porter, everyone needs a person in their life like you," Alan said, smiling at Debra. "Someone to guide them, you know, and to lead them down the right path."
"You know, Alan, this is so true, and I have always been there for my family. To help them make the right decisions, even if they do not realize or appreciate it. And with Simone and her diet, I happen to be in that very predicament. Why just the other evening, Joe and I met her for dinner and ... "
Simone closed her eyes, willing herself to be anywhere but in the home where she had spent the first 19 years of her life, sitting across from the man her mother had hand-picked for her. A man who was intelligent, successful and very, very attractive. A man who was probably a great person. But something deep down inside Simone whispered that he was going to be the second most annoying person she had ever met. She crowned her mother with the title of "First Most Annoying."
She groaned. If God were merciful, then her latest diet would shift into high gear and she would shrivel up and fade away any minute. She opened her eyes, glancing quickly around the room.
Nope, it didn’t work. I’m still here.
"Excuse me," Simone said, rising from the table.
"But you didn’t eat your dinner. I prepared that especially for you."
"I know, Mother, and I’m sorry. I’m just not very hungry." Simone averted her eyes from her mother’s critical gaze. As she turned to leave the room, her mother’s words followed her.
"Like I was going to say, I could not believe that she ate two whole pieces of fried fish."
Walking into the hall Simone took her coat out of the closet and went into the living room. As she opened the patio door, she stepped out into the frigid January weather. Taking a deep breath, she allowed the cold, crisp air to clear her mind. If she had known her mother had invited Alan to dinner, she would have made up some excuse not to come. She would rather have gone to the
movies or to the mall. She suppressed a moan. She would have even preferred cleaning her house from top to bottom than spending the entire afternoon with her mother when she was in her "can someone please take our pathetic daughter off our hands, I beg you" mode.
Simone walked across the yard, smiling at the sound of fresh snow crunching under her feet. Brushing off one of the lawn chairs, she sat down and stared into space as she contemplated a quick exit that would bring her the least amount of ridicule from her mother. She decided it might be better just to hang out in the back yard for a while.
For as long as she could remember her mother had made every attempt to change her. At the age of 7, Simone wanted to take ballet and her mother made her take piano instead. At 10, Simone wanted to play on the community co-ed football team. Debra had told her that she wasn’t allowed to play or even associate with the children at the community center, because most of them were what she liked to call street urchins. At 16, Simone wanted to join the Young Democrats Club in school. Under threat of losing her driving privileges, Simone again bowed to Debra’s wishes and joined the Republican club instead. After all, that was the place to meet unattached young men of stature and wealth.
Now, at the age of 28, Simone still felt she was ruled and bullied by her mother. Debra never threatened. She didn’t have to. She just had a way about her that made people do exactly what she said and when she said it.
"Hey baby girl," she heard from behind her.
She glanced up at her father’s smiling face.
"I brought you something. Follow me."
She rose and followed her father across the yard to the garage that doubled as a workshop. Once they entered the garage, Joe crossed the room and lifted a napkin on his workbench to reveal a plate with a regular-size portion of food on it. He reached
inside his shirt pocket to pull out a paper napkin with a fork wrapped inside, and held it out to Simone. She looked at the plate and back at him.
"Go ahead, take it. She didn’t see me bring it out."
Sitting down on a stool next to the bench she reluctantly took the plate, carefully placing it on her lap. Joe pulled up another stool to sit next to her.
"Simone, your mother means well, really. She just goes overboard with almost everything she does."
"I know, Daddy, and I’m trying to lose weight. It’s just not that easy."
"Simone, you’re not overweight."
"Daddy I’m five-foot-three and ... "
"You still go to the gym a few times a week, don’t you?" She nodded.
"You take good care of yourself. You’re in good shape." "But Mother’s the same height and she’s barely 100 pounds."
He shook his head as she spoke. "You and your mother are two different people."
"But ... "
"No, you are different people and you are going to look and act different. And I’m glad of that." He sighed. "I love your mother dearly, but I don’t think the world could handle another Debra Porter."
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