As our friendship grew, Quinn divulged the details of a discussion she had with Donald (before my return) in which he claimed I begged him to visit me while in Arizona. My first thought was why I'd wait three years after he married Sophia to pursue his love. Aside from that, I made it abundantly clear on two occasions that I didn't want him: immediately following our fling and at Church when he inquired whether Kyle and I were dating. So clearly, Donald's deception was recompense for being rejected. And to reassure Quinn, I shared Donald's most recent effort to pursue me.
One Friday evening (seemingly around the same time he'd told Quinn I'd begged him to visit), a call came to my phone—on the other end was an agitated Donald. I'd asked what was wrong. He responded, "Things aren't good at home, and I need to getaway. Do you think I can come to visit?" So I replied, "No! Are you crazy! Coming to visit me will only cause you more problems." Consequent to that call came another one a week later. Only this time, it was a mutual friend of ours calling. Diego went on to say, "Donald wants you to call him in his office." My senses instantly flagged the behavior as suspicious, but I called anyway. Upon answering, Donald told me about an open position that would fit well with my experience. Days succeeding this call came another call from Diego asking me to contact Donald once again. This time he'd wanted to confirm whether I'd accepted the position. Despite his puzzling approach, I didn't see any harm in telling him I did. That said, I could only conclude that Donald's conversation with Quinn was the effect of rejection.
Moments succeeding my redress, I wondered if Donald had anything to do with the rise of the 'lynch mob.' However, these women were bitter, jealous, overly competitive, and devoid of the truth. And while this could describe Donald, he struck me as the type to work alone. On the contrary, Sophia would have been an excellent choice to lead such a group of women, only she and Jade were too much alike; neither liked being around women who threatened them. Oddly enough, this was also the reason Sophia refused to support Donald in the Church. Only she dressed it up to appear that the problem was the first lady. And, even though I believed Donald's calling was a joke, Sophia married him as a minister, and nothing should have stopped her from supporting that.
Donald was ordained as a minister two years before his marriage to Sophia, so her assignment was clear. But when I heard she didn't want to attend Church because she considered the first lady to be phony, I couldn't help but wonder how Sophia would know if she never went to Church. I had a much different perception of the first lady, which likely comes from spending time with her. Aside from that, knowing what I know about Sophia, her dislike had more to do with not having the first lady's title.
The thing about Sophia was that most people couldn't cognize her ability to appear genuine- hence, maintaining her distance from those who could. And through the years, I've learned that genuineness has many forms. Still, the most significant way to measure is whether or not a person is motivated by money, material things, and respect for other people, regardless of status. A highly competitive nature, bragging, and a lack of appreciation for individuality are also essential. So, aside from Sophia's humble brags and preference for status over person, her concept of uniqueness was just as distorted when she leaped at the chance to makeover one of her coworkers.
Sherry and Sophia had a good working relationship throughout the months, but a friendship quickly developed after Sherry sought advice on getting a makeover. While Sherry didn't know what she wanted at that moment, Sophia guided her through the process, ensuring she would be more than satisfied with the results. I couldn't wait to see the transformation because Sherry wasn't necessarily the most feminine woman I'd met, and Sophia didn't strike me as the type to have many ideas of her own. So when Sherry and Sophia appeared in the office as identical twins from head to toe the following week, it didn't surprise me; however, Sophia dared to be offended when I didn't offer baseless compliments like some of the others. Don't get me wrong; I've embellished the truth occasionally to boost someone's self-esteem. But I couldn't pretend to applaud two middle-aged women who thought looking exactly alike was mentally mature. But it did demonstrate that Sophia was precisely as I'd described. How could she be that vain to think someone wanted to look like her? Moreover, what was wrong with Sherry?
There was no doubt at this point that Donald and Sophia were a good match for each other, not in the most compatible way, but as a means to an end. Sophia portrayed the innocent role, while Donald displayed his fragile ego in almost every scenario, especially when he didn't get things his way. And while I continued to have small talk with them both, enlightening myself with their character in terms of how they treated other people rather than simply how they treated me reinforced their true identities. Donald reaffirmed these underpinnings when he played devil's advocate in a conversation with Jamie just after my return.
Upon arriving at the Michigan office, Donald didn't waste a moment suggesting that Jamie ask me out on a date. Jamie didn't think much of it at the time but later decided to approach me. However, instead of the usual line of asking me out on a date, Jamie inquired about the Church I'd attended, which also happened to be Donald's Church. Rather than give him my biased opinion, I invited him to experience it himself. So, the following Sunday, Jamie made his way to the pew directly behind me as Donald greeted him graciously from the pulpit, followed by a curious gaze. Thence, Donald asked the following day at work, "Are you and Mr. Monroe (Jamie) dating?" I answered, "No. After Jamie inquired about service, I invited him to attend." Donald then chuckled and replied, "Oh. I thought you two were dating."
Donald's contentment was short-lived after seeing me and Jamie enter the Church as a couple the following Sunday. Settled in the pulpit, where he'd been for the past five years, Donald observed every step we'd made to the pew, then vanished halfway through service, never to return to the Church again. I found that strange, but coincidences happen; I just had a hard time believing it since when Donald questioned whether Jamie and I were dating, he also expressed his thoughts about Sophia. As a result, I smirked and said, "If you think she's rough around the edges and isn't the type of women you're used to, why did you marry her? Better yet, why are you telling me this?" Of course, he didn't go into detail. I reasoned it had to do with not getting the response he wanted.
Current day, Donald made a point to let everyone know he left so he and Sophia could find a church together. But, again, I had a hard time believing it, especially after he and Sophia displayed their affection for one another at our annual Thanksgiving celebration. Still, it only came after Donald noticed the excessive attention Jamie and I were receiving when we entered the room together. More importantly, following his staged kiss, which reminded me of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie's 1984 Video Music Awards kiss, Donald left the event and told a few of his colleagues that he could have me if he wanted me—it seemed his lie clarified who sought who and the real reason he left the Church.
The next day as I waited to be briefed by Mr. Arnold, Sophia walked up to me and said, "Donald is with me for my money," but then pretended it was a joke, clearly nescient that I already knew why Donald was with her, and that she was just fine with it, too. Keep in mind that this was the same person who'd recently cloned herself and stood up in front of more than 75 people to kiss Donald just for attention, so I called as I saw it.
Subsequent to Sophia's remark, I shared the experience with Quinn. She agreed that Sophia knew why Donald married her. She'd even believed that Sophia knew Donald was fixated on me, another reason for her pretentious comment. Luke 8:17, which reads, "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought to light," came to mind as Quinn expressed her corresponding views. I didn't understand why that scripture popped into my head; though it was fitting, it became more appropriate once Jamie shared other encounters with Donald.
Donald earned the nickname blowhard for grandstanding about all of his material possessions. His biggest boast was his and Sophia's house, to the point where he'd made public the cost of all their upgrades, leaving no monetary figure undisclosed. Their dwellings were so impressive that Donald sought to convince Jamie to buy property in the same area, right next door, to be exact. Only he proposed one far less expensive than his. In essence, recommending that Jamie move next door to a less expensive house would have given Donald the appearance that he was living better and offered him unlimited access to Jamie's comings and goings.
It didn't take long to figure out that Donald was self-indulgent and that coercing people was one of his ways to feel superior. However, it wasn't as if Donald lived in a custom-built home when it came to buying a house. Nevertheless, he had a way with first impressions because even I fell for it. Unfortunately, giving in to Donald's suggestions or ideas was like fueling a 'semi, driven by a blind man'-- all over the place without regard for anyone else. What irritated me the most was his rags-to-riches lifestyle and how he and Sophia behaved, yet they'd barely made it there.
Sophia bailed Donald out of foreclosure just before they'd married. And even with that, they were unsure if they could qualify for a house, so they were prepared to move into an apartment. But Sophia got her job as a supervisor at the perfect moment, which helped them qualify for their current house. But, given that they were in that predicament, you'd think they would have humbled themselves rather than boasted, especially since Donald was supposed to be a man of God. Yet, at the very least, take the time to praise God for the grace to purchase something they originally thought they couldn't afford.
As I better understood Donald and Sophia, I thought it would be interesting to share with Jamie my notion that Sophia was the puppet master in her marriage. And, although Donald was the bigger bragger of the two, Sophia's humbled brags didn't go unnoticed by me. She had a way of veiling it so others couldn't tell. When they coexist, a humble brag is shame masked by sympathy and admiration, which could further indicate Sophia's struggles with insecurity and, maybe, a lack of self-identity. Despite what Sherry and others thought, replicating herself via Sherry was not an act of self-assurance. Our self-worth is assessed by how much we value our individuality. And if Sophia respected that, she would also know that though money is essential, it will never carry the value that self-love does.
Donald paralleled Sophia in many respects, particularly her love of money. However, he had the ability to communicate well, both personally and professionally. Donald was also a witty and bright man who could've found his footing in the ministry had he not been motivated by money. It didn't help that he married Sophia, someone who failed to support or even encourage him to uphold his ministerial code of ethics.
Jamie concurred with my assessment but added that Donald possessed the exact demeanor that Sophia desired, making him just as cunning as she. There was no need to deny it; after all, he had already shown that side, as well as the one that resented Jamie, and how he had become increasingly more envious as Jamie and I continued to date. And the longer I considered everything, the more confident I became that Donald's suggestion that Jamie asks me out on a date was purposefully poor advice considering I'd told Donald years earlier I had no interest in dating older men. In truth, age had nothing to do with me dating; it just seemed more polite to tell Donald it was our age difference rather than telling him, "I'm not interested in dating you because you're sexually repulsive and you're a horrible kisser! And, by the way, I'm not sure of your calling, either."
In the ensuing weeks, as Donald started prowling at every corner to learn all he could about Jamie and me, I would praise my keen instincts. His obsession grew to a size that didn't give Sophia much choice but to follow suit. They were like two reporters covering a top-breaking story; hearing our voices sent them rushing, no matter when or where. The experience was far from usual—and each day revealed more of their mental mechanics'. Unfortunately, things got obsessive.
When I first returned to the company, Sophia wore pantsuits and slacks and had a manly appearance, yet seasoned and sophisticated. Donald usually came to work like he crawled out of bed after a late night of drinking and often in dated attire. In recent months, however, their wardrobe comprised of strikingly familiar garments. Donald started wearing expensive name-brand suit jackets, blazers, ties, and slacks. He apparently wanted to start his own trend when he began wearing $300 jeans (on dress-down Fridays), which he made well-known to everyone. Sophia began to wear more dresses, appearing a bit more feminine. She'd even changed her hairstyle, a very close resemblance to mine, to include the color. It was creepy, to say the least, especially since she'd cloned herself in the past, but now she was trying to look like me.
To be sure it wasn't a coincidence, I'd chosen an outfit Sophia might like to duplicate. The next day at work, I wore a tailored black ruffled blouse with fitted cropped black slacks and black kitten pumps. The next day, Quinn was upset. When I asked why she was crying, she replied, "Have you seen Sophia… she has on an outfit exactly like the one you wore yesterday." Although it's said that 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it didn't sit well with me. It put me in the mindset of a movie called "Single White Female." It's one thing to admire, but a sickness when you want to be a carbon copy.
After weeks of wearing $300 jeans that no one else dared to buy, Donald borrowed a tie Jamie had worn only a few days earlier. Trying to figure out his thought process was impossible; why would he borrow a $50 tie rather than purchase one of his own didn't pass the logic test, especially considering the amount of money he spent on a pair of jeans. However, things became considerably weirder when Jamie and I announced our impending nuptials. Fortunately, Donald and Sophia had nothing negative to say, at least nothing we had heard about. But it didn't mean our announcement went without any commentary.
In some such way, Dexter thought that if he'd complained enough to the Chief of Staff (Mr. Harris), somehow he was supposed to stop Jamie and me from getting married. While my disbelief was overwhelming, Dexter's inability to restrain himself gave me even more cause to assume Jade's hatred for me only manifested from the attention she knew her husband gave me.
Mr. Liam (Clay) was another who demonstrated his inability to control his impulses by approaching Mr. Harris in an attempt to stop the wedding. His disapproval, however, extended beyond the workplace and into his personal life with his wife. But, like any other wife, Blythe became furious and couldn't understand why Clay would want to hinder another man from getting married, forcing her to seek answers from a family friend.
Brenda and the Liams had a friendship for nearly 25 years, but she also knew Jamie for much of the same time. It was unclear if Blythe knew this; however, it would soon reveal itself after Brenda contacted Jamie to inform him of Clay's reproach of our marriage.
Meanwhile, Jamie and I were married despite Dexter and Clay's meltdown. Donald, Sophia, and Danielle were among those who attended our little garden wedding. I'd invited Donald and Sophia to assure them there was no resentment for their envy, and perhaps they would soon recognize that we were all living a good life with plenty to go around. And Danielle's invitation was my way of expressing thank you for her openness and for taking the time to get to know me rather than brutally continuing to criticize me as the others did.
Having Donald and Sophia in the mix wasn't the most judicious choice. Still, it was refreshing to see that they could leave all the boasting and bragging away from the setting because it allowed for some objective dialogues they were probably not accustomed to having. I'd even expressed Dexter and Clay's disapproval of our marriage, and even they were surprised. While they didn't know Clay, they were equally perplexed about why anybody felt they had the authority to prevent us from marrying. As for Dexter, Donald and Sophia didn't like him any more than I liked Jade.
After more time spent talking, I finally realized why Sophia was the way she was, thanks to Jamie's best man, Gary. Gary, who grew up in Sophia's neighborhood, spoke candidly about his impoverished roots. On the other hand, Sophia was hesitant to confess she hailed from a low-income household but emphasized that a single mother raised her after her father abandoned her. However, it seemed to be an excuse since Sophia lived in the same community even when her father was around. And the more Gary included her in his dearth, the clearer it became that it was a phase she was trying to eliminate. I didn't understand why since Sophia, despite her beginnings, lived far from that image; hence, I felt she should've embraced her roots rather than shutting them off.
Sophia's urge to impress, her lengthy pursuit of affluence, endless talking, buying love, and excessive attention were all the result of her poor childhood and the absence of her father. I felt some contrite for my initial impression of Sophia, but that quickly faded when she and Donald drew me aside later that afternoon and told me that Danielle was not someone I should trust. Aside from talking to Danielle daily, Donald disguised himself as a minister for the past five years. Sophia continually exploited anyone to feel her countless voids, yet they wanted to discuss trust.