Excerpt from "The Sidechick Chronicles Vol. 2: Mishandled Love"

Constance Bishop

     For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent all my time inside of a church. To the world, I am Constance Yvette Bishop. Once upon a time, I was Constance Yvette Jackson. I’m a forty-five-year old semi-successful woman with four children. My husband and I share three healthy boys, Langston, Lincoln, Caiden and my stepdaughter, Ambrosia. For seventeen years, I’ve been married to the one and only, Laurence Michael Bishop—Senior & Founding Pastor of Mount Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Before I became his wife and the first lady, I was on my way to becoming a successful lawyer.

     I had a career on the rise, and I was coming into my own as a woman that had nothing to do with the church. My career plans included owning my own law firm, but now I offer legal assistance at a community legal aid to maintain my sanity. I’m sure most women would kill to have my title, but honestly, I want to walk away from it all. The moment I gave up my career, I became indifferent about being the First Lady. This was never the life I dreamt. I never had my sights set on being the face of this church. All I ever wanted was to be at the top of my field, appear on TV to offer legal commentary, and help fight the inequities within the criminal justice system.

     While at Hampton, I was at the top of my class, pledged AKA, and held the position of president of the Black Student Union. I went to Thurgood Marshall School of Law and law clerked at a few great law firms. Not only did I pass the bar on my first try, I was offered a position at three of my top law firm choices. My parents were proud. I was finally finding my way out of the shadow of my father, the late Pastor Chancellor Jackson. I love God and all, but I had hoped my career was my way out of the church. Clearly, God had other plans.

     My eldest sister, Camilla got out the first chance she could. She made her way to New York and only pops up occasionally for holidays and when she’s not busy with her media relations career. My eldest brother Jonah got out too, just not in the way a preacher’s kid should’ve gotten out. Thanks to his rebellious nature and desire for the street life, he was spending another five years of his life behind bars.

     My baby brother Ashe somewhat followed in my father’s footsteps. He was extremely active in the church and though I thought he was headed for the pulpit, he opted out and settled for being a deacon. The pulpit honor seemed to be saved for my second oldest brother, Tristan who never imagined leading a congregation. For the longest, he dabbled in the world of being a womanizer before he finally found a woman that he couldn’t live without.

     After years of playing the field, he eventually realized he would never love a woman the way he loved Blair Waters. Now thanks to her, he’d turned his life over to God, was happily married and the senior pastor at Greater Hope.

     Unlike the rest of us, my younger sister Yasmine who was eight years younger than me was the only one who wanted the fame and notoriety from being the first lady.

     When we were teenagers, Yasmine would watch my mother on the front row and be in awe of her. She wanted to sit in the front row when she got older just like my mother, while everyone looked to her in amazement. Personally, I would never understand it, and neither could Camilla. Growing up, we would see how all the women would fawn over our father and my mother would just smile through it.

     It was bullshit then, and it’s still bullshit now. Only difference is, now I get to sit through all the subliminal disrespect on Sundays, while trying not to snatch wigs off during altar prayer. After seven years under my father, Laurence eventually branched out on his own to start Mount Temple. Ten years later, I was sitting on the front pew surrounded by over five thousand people and all I wanted was my husband to notice me.

    Most days, I wish I would’ve stayed away like Camilla. Looking back, I should’ve let Yasmine have Laurence. I’d just gotten over having my heart broken and should’ve taken more time to heal. Back then, she was throwing herself at him. And honestly, they were made for each other. They’re both overly ambitious, power hungry people who would mistreat the ones they love to get what they want. For the longest time, I thought he’d only asked me out to get closer to my father.

    I dismissed the idea shortly after I realized he could’ve just as easily asked Yasmine out. It’s crazy experiencing all that I’ve gone through and I’m still here. Most of it was because of my mother. She’d always find a way to push me back in the door when I was nine toes out of it. It takes a strong woman to hold this position. God doesn’t give it to just anyone, I would remember her telling me. Some days, I wished he’d given it to someone else. Because truth be told, I didn’t really want it anymore.

     Despite how hard he’d stomped on my heart, I loved him with every cell in my body. But he didn’t always have my heart. Before Laurence, I’d fallen hard for an up and coming prosecutor. Titan Criswell was everything I thought I wanted in a husband. Even though he grew up in the projects, I could see he was headed for Supreme Court status. He attended my father’s church when he was staying with his mother, and then we were in law school around the same time. My father didn’t like him for me and wanted me to date someone less rough around the edges. After law school, he’d got caught up in some family legal stuff that almost costed him his freedom and left town without so much as a goodbye. My heart was in shambles before Laurence came along. I wasn’t sure I would ever love anyone with that much intensity again.

     Initially, I wasn’t sure if I loved Laurence, or if I was using him to heal my heart. As time passed, we grew on one another and I fell hard in love with him. You could say it was rebound love, but whatever we call it, I gave him my heart nineteen years ago. We dated for two years before we said I do. Our beginning seemed like a whirlwind. Eight years after we said I do—I was a mother to four children.

     Out the gate, we’d gone through quite an adjustment period. During the early years of our marriage, he fell prey to adultery. I don’t know if it was the notoriety he was receiving or what. The first time he cheated, I made up tons of reasons to stay. I didn’t believe in divorce, or what would the people at church think? I would even go so far as to tell myself this was the devil testing our marriage or those women were miserable and trying to break us up. I gave so much power to all those excuses, I failed to place the blame where it should’ve lied—with Laurence Bishop and his cheating ways.

     Solely blaming those women although they were extremely disrespectful wasn’t right. Yes, they knew we were married, but I didn’t marry them. I married Laurence and as my husband and a man of God, he should have respected and upheld our vows. The first time I left him, I was pregnant with Langston. We’d been married for about four and a half years when I discovered he was creeping with some woman I’d never seen before. I stumbled upon some things in his phone and after investigating, I caught them coming out of a hotel. The next day, I ran off to New York and found solace at my sister’s home.

     For seven, long months, he begged me to come back. I stayed until after I gave birth to Langston. For a while, everything was good. He assured me this was a one-time thing and he would never do it again. But to my dismay, it happened again. His next indiscretion was discovered two years after I had my second son, Lincoln. I was ready to have papers drawn up. I was not the kind of woman who would stay in a marriage and be continuously disrespected. Despite what the optics were at the time—I had my mind made up. But then, I found out I was pregnant with my son Caiden. A slip up when he was somewhat behaving. My parents also had a hand in convincing me not to walk away. We did the spiritual counseling, the professional counseling, and the separation for the second time. We did everything you could think of to fix my husband’s philandering ways and maintain this godly marriage facade I’d grown tired of upholding. I guess the only good thing about all of it was he managed to keep his whorish ways from the women in the church.

     To the public, we were happily married and running a successful church. To my knowledge, we’d been affair free for the last eight or nine years. Of course, that didn’t stop them from subliminally flirting with him from the choir stand to the audience. He would call it being social and swear it was a part of his job. But I knew better—we all did. There wasn’t a desperate woman in St. Louis who didn’t flock to sit in the pews at Mount Temple Missionary Baptist Church. They came in their short, sometimes long fitted dresses with the extra high heels.

     Their hair would always be done, and their faces would be photo shoot ready. Most of them would stare and give me a fake smile, but I knew they were plotting behind my back. If I missed one Sunday, bible class, or church event—they were all over him. I only knew this because of my stepdaughter, her best friend Nea, and the few loyal women in the congregation who did respect my position. The other ones were just looking for any way they could slide in, so they’d tell me out of spite.

My favorites were the few who had the audacity to call and check on me knowing damn well they didn’t care if I lived or died.The last name and title were all they were after. Women came from near and far to see the Reverend Laurence Bishop. It was like he put out a mating call and they came running with their pheromones turned up high. Because of this, nobody paid any attention to me. I was a wraith to some and a threat to others. They all wanted this seat.

     They all wanted the glory they thought I reveled in. But none of them really knew the truth. They had no idea that no matter how pretty you were, or how smart you were, or how well that dress hugged your hips—Laurence would get tired and find something new.

     Lately I’d been feeling like Laurence was back to his old ways. I didn’t have proof, but I was at the point I no longer felt the need to look for it. If I knew one thing to be true, I knew everything done it the dark, eventually came out in the light. I wasn’t sure what the state of our marriage was, but I was enjoying my life the way I saw fit. It was time I lived for me. I was going to find the woman I was before I was imprisoned to the front row of the pulpit. For years, I believed our love was blessed by God, but not anymore. I prayed when the dust settled, the pulpit didn’t collapse alongside my marriage.