Character Voice: Bernice Albright

Tomorrow Never Comes

Bernice Albright is the eldest sister and presumed matriarch in “Tomorrow Never Comes.”

My name is Bernice Albright. I’m a romance novelist with 20+ novels to my name. All of my books have charted well on the New York Times Best Sellers List. I’ve also received countless accolades for my writing.

I’ve been called “the black Danielle Steele of romance.” There’s even talk of turning one of my stories into a TV film.

I’m proud of my success. However, there’s something far more important to me than writing a million dollar bestseller.

That “something” is my family.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m appreciative of my success. After all, I worked hard for it. Five years of rejection letters finally paid off for me. I live a lifestyle that wasn’t possible in my previous job. I’ve traveled the world and met people I otherwise wouldn’t know existed. And I’m financially set for life.

My health is even good – I beat cancer!

I am blessed.

However, I love my family so much that I don’t allow anything else to take top priority in my life. Maybe it’s because as the eldest, I had to step into the role of matriarch after my mother, Ernestine Albright, took her last breath on this earth. Before she died on a peaceful, Sunday afternoon in April 1993, she just asked one thing of me: to take care of her babies.

She had two younger children: Marlena, 10; and Rico, 6.

I was 25 at the time. I had just divorced my first husband after one year of marriage. He was a bastard rolled into a son-of-bitch. This might sound like a harsh thing to say, but what else would you call a man who slept with your friend, his friend’s girlfriend, and his ex-girlfriend? Add to that the fact that one of these “ladies” got pregnant!

I wasn’t destroying my life or health with a man whose decisions were ruled by his horny penis. And my family needed me to be focus and in good health for them.

So the no-good husband went, and my siblings moved in with me.

It was a struggle raising my siblings. I was just an English teacher working at a private school, so it’s not like I was bringing in big bucks. Nevertheless, I didn’t want my siblings going into foster care, and I wasn’t going to let my mother die not knowing what became of her babies.

So, I just did what needed to be done: I worked hard to provide for them. And along the way, I made sacrifices for myself.

Sacrifice was something I was familiar with. I had been in acquaintance with it all my life. My mother – rest her soul – was a teen mom. She was just 16 years old when she gave birth to me in 1968. She was living in the roughest housing project in Birmingham with her mother, who had also been a teen mom.

With just a 10th grade education and a baby, it didn’t seem like there was much she could offer the world. She even felt like she couldn’t do much. Except be a maid.

So, she eventually started working as a maid for a rich white family out in Mountain Brook … a place I now live in, by the way.

Although my mama worked hard, she had nothing to show for it. Though we eventually moved into our own apartment when I was five years old, we still were living in the projects. We had no car. We had no extra money. We barely even had enough food to eat at times.

In spite of life being bleak for her, my mama instilled in me that life could be good for me, and that it would be. She didn’t want me to repeat the cycle of living a limited life … just as she had. And her mother had. And her mother before her.

No, she knew someone needed to break that cycle, and that someone was me. So, she started me on the pathway in the best way possible: with education.

She noticed that I like to read and write. She even mentioned this to Mrs. Kilgore, her employer. So, out of the kindness of her heart, this middle aged woman, who knew nothing of hardship since she was born into wealth, bought me ten brand new children’s books for Christmas.

I read every one of them, and with each one, my love for reading grew … along with my love for writing. This would help me win writing scholarships, which helped finance my college education.

As a teenager, I started writing romance stories for those store magazines named Jive and Black Confessions. This was a little extra money to go along with my fast food job at McDonald’s. It helped not only financially, but also career wise because I was crafting my writing skill – something that would take me out of poverty and into the seven figure income bracket.

Mama had met and married Haxton Brown around this time. Hax, as everyone called him, was a handsome man. Rico favors his father to the “T.” In fact, mama was so stuck on his good looks that she fell in love with him instantly.

Then again, that’s all she could love about him. There was nothing to love about him since he didn’t exactly give love himself. He showed my mama no love. He ignored his children. He basically just focused on his looks, which he said, “were good enough to make a nun horny.”

I couldn’t stand him. Yet my mama loved him. So, to make her happy, I said nothing. I kept my thoughts about Hax to myself.

By the time Hax and mama were married seven years, all they had to show for it were two kids – nothing else. They still lived in the projects. The only reason he stayed with mama was because she came with a steady income … or at least that’s I’ve always believed.

That’s why when mama got breast cancer and a prognosis of three months to live, she asked me to raise my siblings. Despite loving him, she knew Hax wasn’t a good father, and their children would suffer as a result.

He wouldn’t even stand by mama throughout her 18-month cancer battle. Like my father had done when she told him she was pregnant with me, Hax left mama after learning she had cancer. I guess the selfish, egotistical “fool” couldn’t stand having people focus on my dying mother instead of him.

So where is he now? I don’t know. Is he even still alive? I don’t care. All I know is when my mother was dying, I stood by her. And I honored her request by raising her children.

While raising my siblings in a two-bedroom apartment, I began writing. I had stopped after graduating from college and marrying. The weight of life had weighed me down to the point that I couldn’t think of creating a fictitious world while trying so hard to make it in the real world.

This, however, was my ticket to a better life. So, I had to return to fiction writing – which I loved anyway. So, I began writing romance stories – only to have agents reject my manuscripts time after time.

While trying to make my mark in the publishing world, work, and raise my siblings, I somehow found time to fall in love and marry again.

Robert was a science teacher at my school. He was a nice, quiet man. Everyone liked him.

What everyone didn’t know, including myself, was that Robert had a lot of insecurities. These insecurities surfaced once I became a successful author.

With each book, I became more popular and richer. I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a fulltime writer. Robert couldn’t handle any of this.

He hated seeing my books in the bookstore. He despised seeing Facebook pages dedicated to me. He resented people recognizing me everywhere we went.

Robert hated me, and I couldn’t stand that he hated me, especially since I still loved him.

I couldn’t, however, follow in my mother’s footsteps by loving a man who didn’t love me. So, we divorced after five years of marriage.

Neither of my marriages were worthy of me bringing children into, which I hate (my characters are luckier at love than me … go figure!). I feel like my poor picking in husbands robbed me of the beautiful experience called motherhood.

Raising my siblings, however, was like raising my own children. In spite of the hard times we sometimes faced, I confess that I loved raising them. I just wish my mother could’ve live to experience the joys that she as their mother would’ve experienced, such as:

  • Marlena and Rico’s first dates
  • High school graduations
  • The birth of her first grandchild

I was as happy as mama would’ve been at these events.

I also worry just as she would’ve about my siblings.

They’re grown now and making their own decisions. Some of their decisions worry me so much that at times, I can’t help but do anything else.

Even though they’re adults, come what may, I will be there for my siblings … just as mama would want me to be.

Read about Bernice in “Tomorrow Never Comes,” available at Amazon. To download it, click here.

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