“You Never Know”
Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham
“YOU NEVER KNOW”
“You never know what hand in life you’ll be dealt.” That is a motto of the Edwards family, in the next book of my series, ‘You Never Know: A Christopher Family Novel’. Yes, there were Black folks who came from old money—we simply didn’t hear of them because they didn’t get the bulk of the attention. In recognition of such families and bowing to my Midwestern roots, this novel takes place in Minneapolis. Like its predecessor, expect to find history, humor, romance and LGBT family members in prominence here. That being said, I would like to introduce Elijah Edwards, Sr., and the Edwards branch of the Christopher family in this prologue of “You Never Know:”
Prologue: August 1, 2007
Elijah Edwards, Jr. headed for the office with a sense of satisfaction and excitement after having heard from his cousin, Vickie. One thing that was a given about working for Christopher Electronics; the company knew how to treat its employees as well as recognize them, guaranteeing happy workers and the best results. The testimonial for his father tomorrow was but one example. When Vickie’s father, Allan Beckley Christopher, opened the regional office for the company in Minneapolis in 1971, Elijah Edwards, Sr. was his first choice to manage it, and it continued to be one of the top revenue-producing offices. Dad had since moved on to a seat on the Board of Directors, but Allan never forgot how invaluable his skills and ethics had been back in those early days.
Eli’s Lincoln Navigator SUV cruised smoothly along Golden Valley Road, a David Sanborn CD lifting his already positive mood. Having been a regional manager for the past ten years, he was grateful to Dad for grooming him so well to assume the position of regional vice president. It had not been an easy task to fill his shoes, given the fast pace of the Information Age and technology. However, the core values and work ethic Dad had instilled in him had encouraged him to stay on the cutting edge, as headquarters expected.
Sandra had already finalized their travel plans for their trip to Lisbon next week. With the plans for Dad’s testimonial tomorrow that had been keeping him and his staff busy, his wife’s birthday gift to him of this extended holiday was a blessing, and he hoped the Portuguese he learned would hold him in good stead. His soon-to-be fifty-five years had shown up in his salt-and-pepper hair and the laugh lines on his face, the sun deepening his mocha complexion. He was happy to hear his daughter, Veronica, and her family had arrived from London for the festivities. She had been married for eleven years and now a mother to two children, but only in the past few years had he gotten accustomed to her being Lady Moriarty, Viscountess of Rothmere. He still saw her in his mind as the little girl who could get just as down and dirty in the mud and sand as her brothers and cousins. On the other hand, his Auntie Debbi relished every opportunity to tell any new person she met that she had a grandniece who was part of English nobility. She savored the gaping mouths of skeptics after she pulled out clippings from the London Times’ society pages to confirm she was telling the truth.
The Minneapolis Convention Center had been more than happy to handle the accommodations for Dad’s dinner. It had been gratifying to know that so many of the family would be in attendance. All the Edwardses were preparing for the festivities, not to mention the steady arrivals of Allan’s extended family at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Limousines and personal vehicles had been coordinated by his staff for pickup and delivery, which were transporting his relatives from Chicago and employees from the main office in Evanston to various hotels downtown.
Eli’s mouth broke into a knowing smile as he pictured his mother, Donna Gray Edwards, wielding her scepter of organization over the social activities during the past few days, with Aunt Xenobia and Auntie Debbi as her stalwart ladies of the court. She would have given Gen. Colin Powell a run for his money in military precision. Auntie Debbi loved this sort of thing as well. She plunged into it with the inquiring mind that wanted to know everything. He grimaced slightly as he pictured Aunt Xenobia’s part in the process. She would grumble, bitch, moan, whine and complain while she was getting things done. Though he felt guilty for thinking it, he sometimes wondered if Uncle Jeremiah’s death was his way of escaping her. Maybe that was why his cousin Douglass never married. Fortunately, Ma had a way of keeping Aunt Xenobia in line most of the time.
Eli had to give Vickie her props, and not only because of the news she shared with him. When she went into the business with her father, Christopher Electronics was already a Fortune 500 company. Since Allan appointed her CEO, she had taken the company into the ranks of the Fortune 100 and kept it there. She had been profiled in all the major business magazines, interviewed by Oprah, and recognized by such publications as Essence, Ebony and Black Enterprise as one of the most powerful African-American businesswomen in the nation. At fifty-three, Victoria Christopher Mitchell was still so beautiful she had younger men falling all over themselves when she entered a room. However, she always made it clear by word and deed that the only man for her was her husband Travis, and Eli respected and admired their successful marriage and family.
As for her father Allan, he was already a legend in his own time, standing in the ranks with A.G. Gaston, Madame C.J. Walker, Henry Parks Jr. and John H. Johnson. His was a family success story that had inspired and helped so many people in his lifetime. Who knew that Allan Beckley Christopher, “Little Mr. Fixit,” who came from such humble beginnings in Kansas City, Missouri, would become one of only three African-American billionaires in this country?
Eli turned onto Theodore Wirth Parkway, appreciating the scenic beauty of its trees and well-tended foliage, a pleasing alternative to the gridlocked freeways of rush hour. He had always loved the summer days when he took his family for Sunday drives around the city’s notable lake and parkway system. Darrell and Veronica looked forward to them when they were little; they always seemed to discover something new along the way. Nowadays Darrell was often busy with his family and his duties as an associate pastor, but not so busy that he didn’t take time out to touch base with his father and his grandparents.
Even now, every once in a while Eli and his oldest son would take a drive just to “shoot the breeze,” occasionally accompanied by his youngest son Bradley. A recent college graduate, Bradley was enjoying the summer break before he started his position in the graphics department at Christopher Electronics, and Rico, his boyfriend, was a frequent guest at Sunday dinner.
It didn’t seem so long ago when the men of the Edwards family had their first fishing trip up in northern Minnesota. As the family patriarch his grandfather, Melvin Edwards, was in charge, with Dad, Uncle Jeremiah and Auntie Debbi’s husband Uncle Woody as his assistants. Being allowed to accompany them for the weekend was exciting.
Eli was nine at the time, and his brothers John and Mel, along with cousins Wayne and Kevin, had been included. His brother Julian and his cousin Douglass were too young to go, and Cousin Darius hadn’t even been born yet. His grandfather owned the cabin, but the family still considered it camping because they all brought sleeping bags along with their fishing gear.
As difficult as it was to stay still, his vigilance paid off when he caught his first fish. Their most recent trip required three cabins to accommodate everyone, but the spirit of the weekend was, as always, infectious. The men returned loaded with fish and good cheer, and seeing Dad laughing and dispensing his words of wisdom always touched his heart.
What a day it’s going to be, he thought as he turned off the CD player to catch the latest weather and traffic reports on the radio. Instead, he heard the following: “We interrupt our scheduled broadcast for a breaking news story. The Interstate 35W Bridge across the Mississippi River has collapsed…”
Will a “gift” that Eli has help him or hurt him when he needs it most? Well, you’ll have to find out. In the meantime, here’s to your excellent day and good success.
© 2018 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.
W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”
His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.
Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self.