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

Nea Lampkins

     There are regular men, and then there are the kind of men who command the attention of everyone they interact with. He was that kind of man and I was mesmerized by him. It wasn’t always like this, but for the past four years, I’ve been in love and in awe of him. I had been going to Mount Temple Missionary Baptist Church since it was founded. I grew up in this church and for the past fifteen years, it was home. My father, Dane Lampkins was a deacon and frat brothers with Pastor Bishop. My mother, Raquel sat on the board of the church as one of their financial officers. When I was younger, I sang in the choir with my cousin Ava and sister Damita, but that got old and I retreated to the audience with my mother and my best friend, Ambrosia Bishop.

     Ambrosia and I grew up right here in this very church together. My parents followed her father from Constance father’s church when he left to start Mount Temple. Our whole lives were intertwined in every way. We were the same age, went to the same schools, and even decided to go to the same college. I was majoring in fashion studies and she decided to major in fashion design. We were going to be the new June Ambrose and Alexander McQueen. We were both tenacious and creative souls. We both loved fashion and makeup, so our dream was to open several beauty bars across the country. In our last year of college, we’d started Chic & Dash Beauty Bar. The fashion and beauty industries were ours to discover and conquer. I had everything I could ask for and it was all wrapped up in the man who stood before our congregation of five thousand members.

     I never intended on us being together, but it happened. I would never fathom in a million years that the man I would spend the rest of my life with would be the pastor of my church. He wasn’t just my pastor, but my father’s best friend and my best friend’s father. If it ever got out, it would be the worst scandal ever. But in my defense, I never went looking for him. We just found each other in ways I never could’ve dreamed of. Our first time together was when he came to see Ambrosia when we were living in Chicago.

     After we graduated art school, we both decided to stay and get jobs. We figured we would work there, build up our portfolios and then branch off to New York. During that time, we started our own online boutique with our best friend Cai, that we grew eventually into our flagship store.

     During that time, Laurence had a conference in Chicago, so he dropped in on me and Ambrosia. After we had dinner, she ended up calling it an early night. I don’t know what led me to meet him at a bar, but an hour after we’d said our goodbyes to Ambrosia, I was in the lobby of his hotel.We talked for hours and had a few drinks. Initially, it was weird to be in this space with him since he was the same age as my dad. As the night went by, I became more relaxed. That night was the first of many. I realized we had a connection and a month later he came back up. Neither of us told Ambrosia he was coming, and we spent the night together. He guided me through everything as we made love.

     I was twenty-two when I gave him my mind, body and soul. It was a night I will never forget. I’m twenty-six now, and I’m a lot more sexually experienced in ways I never was before. In the beginning, the guilt was eating away at me. I was betraying my best friend in the most unimaginable way. But Laurence told me that Ambrosia would want him to be happy no matter who it is which eased some of the guilt. I wasn’t entirely sure if she would be if she found out I was the person he wanted to be happy with—however, the way he made my body feel made up for the guilt that used to eat away at my soul.

     A year later, Ambrosia decided to move back home. The Chicago winters were on her last nerve and she wanted to be closer to her family. We also decided we wanted to open a store at home, so she decided to get a jump start on opening our second beauty bar. Surprisingly, we decided to go with an unconventional option in the Benton Park area. The neighborhood was up and coming, so it was perfect for our beauty bar. I stayed in Chicago for another year to make sure Cai was okay mostly running the store alone and to find additional vendors to work with once I moved back. It wasn’t the original plan, but it wasn’t a step in the wrong direction. We were going to get to New York, we were just going to make a pit stop at home then work our way up towards it.

     Since I remained in Chicago, Laurence made frequent trips up to see me. I wasn’t sure what he was telling Mrs. Bishop, but that wasn’t my problem. My job was to keep Ambrosia in the dark. I didn’t want to risk our friendship if she found out. So, in the dark is what I kept her. While making sure neither of my best friends discovered my darkest secret, I stumbled upon another man. On a trip home one weekend, I went out one night with Ambrosia and Cai. While turning up, I ran into the sexiest chocolate man I’d ever seen. He had a small entourage with him, but they were low-key, or at least they were trying to be. Women were literally going out of their way to make themselves be seen by the group of men. I figured they must have been some kind of local celebrities or something seeing the amount of attention they were getting.

     Personally, I thought it was kind of pathetic. I never wanted to be the desperate woman who chased a man because he looked like he had money. My mother was adamant about that when it came to me and my sister. She would say, you work hard for what you want, and you make your own money. She always reminded us how it was nice to have a husband that provides for you—but never be completely dependent on anyone else—and make sure you can bring something to the table as well. Regardless to how much she loved my father, she believed in having her own identity. Watching those women fawn over the group of men reminded me of that very thing.

     The whole night, the three of us hung out in our own booth dancing and drinking. On my way back from the dance floor, is when we locked eyes. I could tell he was older than me. He carried himself differently from most young guys I knew. He also wasn’t overly flashy, but I could tell he had money. His Louis Vuitton shirt hugged his muscles perfectly. While the camouflage joggers and Louis Vuitton lace up sneakers, I knew cost a grip let me know he wasn’t your average kind of dude. What confirmed it all was the gold, Cartier watch that adorned his wrist.

     He didn’t look like a corporate kind of man, but if you looked at me and Ambrosia, you wouldn’t think at the time we were grossing a hundred thousand a year. As we got ready to leave, he managed to introduce himself to me. Kannan Cross, or just Kane for short. When we first started dating, I was really using him to hangout when Laurence couldn’t get away from his husband obligations. I also needed someone around to scratch that itch when Laurence couldn’t come do it and I got lonely. Kane had a trucking business called A Cross the Way, which worked out perfectly. The times when he would have to make a road trip, I would just spend time with Laurence.

     Before I knew it, I was romantically involved with two men and another year had flown by. I was happy, making money and being dicked down regularly. I eventually moved back to St. Louis. Now that I’m home, I juggle being with them both. Between the two of them, I’ve gotten trips, rent paid up a year, and whatever else I want. Laurence even kicked in some of the starter money for our Chicago store. He sent it through Ambrosia, but I knew the extra added was for me. Now that I’m with Kane, they’re both silent investors for our home store we’re in the process of opening in the coming months.

     Truthfully speaking, I’d be lying if I said Kane didn’t have a piece of my heart. It was hard not to give it to him since he’s been down for me since we’ve been together. It’s even becoming harder to cheat on him with Laurence. I’m also afraid what would happen if he found out. He’s mild mannered, but I know still waters run deep. And if my intuition is right, Kannan Cross is an ocean. Still, I don’t see wedding bells in our future.

     My happily ever after belongs to Laurence Bishop.

     From the moment we started dating, Laurence had been telling me how unhappy he was with his wife. He’d tell me the spark that used to be there just wasn’t there anymore. After we’d make love, he would tell me how Constance does make his body feel the way I do. Apparently, they’d fallen out of love and no matter how hard he tried their relationship wasn’t salvageable.

     I could understand what he was saying since my parent’s marriage had its shaky moments at one point. I wasn’t sure as to what the deal was, but each time I’d come home school, they seemed to be more distant. For a while, it seemed like they were trying to keep it together for me and my sister’s sake. Eventually they weathered whatever storm they were in and I could feel the love reignited back into their relationship.

     However, their situation was different from my man’s. Even though it’s been three years, I knew it was only a matter of time before Laurence asked her for a divorce. There was only so much you could do to keep a loveless relationship afloat. Some marriages could survive rough times, while others couldn’t. Call me naive if you want, I don't care. But as God as my witness, I know Laurence loves me. He means everything to me as I do him. He is a powerful, well-respected man with God's favor on his life. Most times, I sit and reflect on how wonderful these past three years have been with him. Even now, I look at him and I am in awe. His voice is so captivating wrapped in inspiring words. I feel honored that out of every woman in the church, he chose me.  We are soul mates and once he gets his divorce—we're going to conquer the world together.

     He's always told me his dreams of us are God’s way of confirming we will be together. Our first night together I remember him saying to me, Nea, I've watched you grow up and I've been waiting for you to be ready for me. No matter what happens, you can always trust me. I will always be here for you. I love you and no one will ever love you like I do.  I prayed about you and God told me you we're going to be my wife. Just give me a little time and I will proclaim to the world you are mine.

     Just hearing that our future is being prophesied to him excites me. When I’m not with Kane, I’m with Laurence. Laurence and I spend so much time together doing weekend getaways and staycations, why wouldn't I believe him? His eyes see into my soul. His smiles could heal a broken heart. And lord when he touches me, I swear I feel unimaginable things coarse through my body. I was so grateful God had sent me my soul mate at twenty-two. I know God creates someone for everyone, and our love is proof of that very thing. There is no other explanation for why our lives are so intertwined.

     Our paths were destined to cross.

     Our souls are forever intertwined.

     Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was destined for greatness. I was meant to be the center of attention and admired. Laurence is my path to greatness. We looked good together. Constance wasn’t meant to be around forever. Sometimes you don’t get it right on the first try. I have it on good authority she isn’t happy with Laurence either. Every Sunday, she sits in the front row with a look on her face like she dreads being there. She didn’t have what it took to be the First Lady.

     I know that it is my destiny to become the rightful First Lady of Mount Temple Missionary Baptist Church. It’s my fate to stand beside this great man. I just hope when the dust settled, Ambrosia would forgive me, and everything will be as it should. Because come hell or high water, I was going to be married to Reverend Laurence Bishop and we were going to rule the world… together.