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June 11, 2014

How Good God’s Been

“Do you know how good God’s been, Leroy?” Daphne asked as she stepped out of the church and ran into her old friend.

“How good?” Leroy asked, the response to the question having become nearly automatic over the years.

Daphne smiled.

That young gentleman right there is Leroy Simmons.

Daphne and Courtney looked across the hall at the tall, confident young man leaning against a set of lockers, smiling broadly at the trio of girls that had stopped to talk to him.

“Gentleman, huh?” Daphne asked.

“Girl, you know it. But he’s too gentle for us.”

Courtney said this with a laugh, but there was a hint of resignation in her voice. She didn’t look down at the young women fawning over Leroy. Really, the only reason she didn’t join them was because she felt she couldn’t compete.

As Courtney began to walk away, Daphne and Leroy made eye contact for the briefest of moments, yet in that short amount of time he managed to sneak in a smile. Daphne immediately looked away and remained at her friend’s side.

I saw you the other day.

“Oh?” Daphne said, less a question than a sign of her surprise. No one usually joined her at these football games other than her younger brother. Leroy took Devonte’s seat on the bleachers now while the freshman was off getting himself and his sister something to drink.

“Yeah,” Leroy said. “And if I’m not mistaken, I think you saw me too.”

“Maybe,” Daphne said, thankful her complexion was dark enough not to reveal her blushing.

“Well, I was hoping me and you could get together sometime.”

“Maybe,” Daphne said again, blushing ever harder.

“What do you think?”

“Are you asking me out?”

“Maybe.”

Leroy saw Devonte returning and, gauging Daphne’s response well enough to know that she wouldn’t resist, kissed her on the cheek before getting up to go.

You’re not serious. Are you?

“I don’t know,” Daphne said to Courtney.

“What is there to know?”

“I don’t know. I mean, what do we really know about him?”

“He likes girls.”

“That’s a good thing, right?

“Liking girl is a good thing. Girls, not so much.”

“Besides, isn’t it more like, girls like him?”

“Daphne, neither of us have ever been with a guy like him. I don’t know if you’re any more ready than I am.”

“Are you saying he’s too cool for me?”

“Yes, girl. You know that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

As much as Daphne wanted to ignore Courtney for just being silly, her friend had said nothing that she wasn’t already thinking herself. Daphne sat there knowing she wasn’t going to take a leap with Leroy, but she couldn’t stop scribbling his name in her notebook just the same.

William and Mary? I thought you were looking at Liberty.

“I was,” Daphne said. “But William and Mary is offering too much financial aid to turn down. And when I went on the tour, it just felt, I don’t know. There’s something about walking in a place so old. You can feel it in the air.”

“Feel what?” Courtney asked.

“How temporary it all is. I mean, when you’re walking around a place that’s older your country is, it really puts things in perspective. It reminds you just how short your life is. I want to really do something with my life, and I think that place will help me.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

“I know, girl. Me too.”

They didn’t. Somehow, despite the odds, the two friends kept in touch even after moving to schools that were several hours apart.

I know I said I never intended to settle down young, but Daphne, I think he may just be the one.

“Tell me about him,” Daphne said, pressing her phone firmly against her ear.

“You already know about Trevon,” Courtney said. “We’ve been friends for over a year now.”

“Yes, but I’ve never really asked you about him. How did you two meet?”

“It’s funny. We got into a debate in our human psychology class. He was so worked up that he waited for me after class so that we could continue it afterwards. We ended up going to lunch together and arguing for most of the day. I hated him.”

“That sounds so romantic.”

“I know. I really didn’t like him though. Still, we started studying together because we knew the material would stick that way. And somewhere over the course of the class, I stopped hating him.”

“And you guys became good friends after that?”

“Yes, and we’ve been bickering ever since. When he asked me out, girl, we even argued over that.”

“I’m surprised you can put up with him.”

“You know I come from a family of arguers. It’s how you know we care.”

“Ain’t that the truth.”

“Girl, stop. That’s enough about me. What have you been up to over there at William and Mary?”

I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.

As Martin leaned forward, Daphne couldn’t believe this was real.

Only a few years earlier, the two of them were both interns at the same law firm. They were fresh out of college, and while she managed to walk out with her diploma debt-free, he was nearly drowning in it. The company would only hire a couple of the interns that year, and she did everything she could to make sure she wasn’t one of them. If anyone needed the money, she figured, it was Martin.

Somehow, without having talked about it at all that summer, Martin knew Dahpne had sacrificed her shot for him. So when she got a job with a different company across town, she came into work the second week to see a bouquet of flowers. Daisies, her favorite. Martin didn’t leave a card, but she knew they were from him. All through the internship, he had called her Ms. Daisy.

“Have you been Facebook stalking me?” Daphne messaged him later that day.

Seeing the message pop up on his phone, all Martin could do was smile.

When Daphne first saw Leroy again, three years after graduating from high school and before her marriage, she could hardly recognize him.

“What’s good wit’ you?” Daphne asked, using a greeting she only used around the handful of acquaintances in her life who looked the way Leroy did now.

“Nothin’ much,” he said, locking his eyes somewhere off to the side, then the floor, then finally somewhere over Daphne’s shoulder.

“What have you been up to these days?”

“Oh, you know, a little of this. A little of that. I’m working on cars these days.”

“Oh? That’s great!”

“Yeah, my old man’s a mechanic. I figure I could learn from him. What about you? I hear you went off to one of those good schools.”

“William and Mary, yes. I’m majoring in history and Africana studies there.”

“You always was smart. I knew you were going to go places.”

Daphne smiled. She later found out that Leroy had just made it out of prison a few months prior to that conversation. Drug charges, just like her cousin. He was determined to get his life back on track, considering he was now the father of a two-year-old girl, and though her mother wanted little to do with him, he wanted to do right by their child.

So he worked under his father for years trying to become a good mechanic, and standing here now next to Daphne just outside the church, he was starting to attract as many regular customers at the shop as his pop. The old man couldn’t be prouder. Neither could Lisa, who had just walked out of the church and joined Leroy’s side, holding their daughter’s hand. Trisha was now eight.

“Too good,” Daphne said.

“That He has,” Leroy agreed.

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“How Good God’s Been” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.