But Now I See: An Excerpt

by Crystal Senter-Brown


Jasmine’s mama once told her: “How you got him is how you’ll lose him,” but Jasmine didn’t listen.

Instead, she welcomed her best friend (and ex-boyfriend) Mason into her home three years ago when he needed to get away from his fiancée Sasha for a few days. Jasmine rushed around her house that night like a madwoman, stopping just long enough to cook Mason’s favorite meal (she lied to Mason and said it was something she just happened to have in her freezer). She lit Mason’s favorite candle scent (sandlewood) and fluffed the pillows on her guest bed. She even dug out Mason’s old Morehouse t-shirt to wear when he arrived.

As she caught a glimpse of herself in her bathroom mirror that night, she was disgusted. Her stomach ached as she realized that she had become someone she swore she would never be. Suddenly she had become that girl. The girl who would do anything to get the man she wanted, even if he was engaged to someone else.

Jasmine knew she should have honored Mason’s engagement to Sasha, even if she didn’t know Sasha personally.

But Jasmine believed Mason was her soul mate, not Sasha’s. It was Mason who gave Jasmine her first kiss and Mason who took her to her senior prom. Even though she and Mason claimed to be just friends, she knew they were destined for more.

Who knew that, less than eighteen months later, Mason’s fiancée Sasha would be dead and Jasmine and Mason would be preparing for their own wedding day?

Chapter One

“The church looks so perfect for my wedding, Keisha,” Jasmine said as she adjusted the satin bows on the pews. “Thank you so much for helping decorate. I know it’s not part of your job as first lady.”

Jasmine was glad she chose Elm Street Baptist Church as the location for her wedding. The wooden pews reminded her of her grandmother’s church in Morristown, Tennessee, a church where she spent most of her Sundays as a child. The new stained glass window above the pulpit created prisms around the church as well as directly where Mason and Jasmine would stand as they said their vows. It was perfect.

“Why’d you have to say first lady like that? You make me sound like an old lady!” Keisha said as she laughed. “And you’re lucky we’re friends, because believe me, I don’t do all of this for just anyone. I love the lilies at the end of each pew. Are lilies your favorite flower?”

“Oh, my Jasmine has always loved lilies,” Mrs. Garrett called from the back of the church. “And lilies are also my mother’s favorite flower, God rest her soul. Jasmine’s great-great-grandmother was named Lily!”

Jasmine smiled. “I didn’t know that, mama! Keisha will you help me get the rest of the bows out of my car?”

Keisha followed Jasmine to the side entry of the church. As they approached the doorway, Keisha’s mother Lucille entered. She was carrying a large flat package that was wrapped with white paper.

“Hey, girls!” Lucille said. “Jasmine, this is for you and your beloved,” she said as she handed the package to Jasmine.

“Oh, thank you, Miss Lucille!” Jasmine said as she took it. Jasmine shook the package and then held it to her ear. “I wonder what this could be!” she said as she smiled. She knew Lucille was working on a special painting for her and Mason.

“Hmmm….it's flat and large, maybe a painting?” Keisha said sarcastically.

“Of course it's a painting, silly!” Lucille said. “But don't open it until you get home. I want you to open it together.”

“But I may not see Mason tonight unless he’s still there when I get home!” Jasmine said. “Our wedding is tomorrow and it's supposed to be bad luck to see the bride before the wedding day.”

“Are you serious?” Keisha asked as she chuckled a little. “Y'all have been shacking up for almost two years and you're worried about him seeing you before the wedding? I'd think living in sin would be worse than some silly superstition.”

“Living in sin? Oh, so now you're God?” Jasmine asked as she folded her arms. She hated when Keisha judged her.

Lucille cut in. “You must be Jasmine's mother, Mrs. Garrett?” Lucille said as she extended her hand to Jasmine’s mother.

“I am! But please call me Mary. And you are?”

“I’m Lucille Jennison. I’m Keisha’s mama,” Lucille said as she shook Mrs. Garrett’s hand. “It looks like we still have quite a bit of work to do. Why don't we see what else needs to be brought in from the car?”

Jasmine brushed past Keisha as she headed for the door. Keisha just shrugged her shoulders.

* * *

“So, what's the plan for tonight?” Mason asked Jacob as they drove to the tuxedo shop.

“What's tonight?” Jacob joked and then began to laugh.

“Ha-ha, man. Very funny! You better have something planned for my last night as a free man!”

“Oh, I do! You know I won't let you down!”

As Jacob and Mason walked into the tuxedo shop, the sales clerk peered out of the dressing room.

“I'll be right with you gentlemen,” she said. “Wait a second. Mason?” she said as she stepped out of the dressing room and threw her arms around him. Mason towered over her by more than a foot and her legs dangled as she wrapped her tiny, tattooed arms around his neck.

“I am... but I'm sorry, I don't remember you,” Mason said as he peeled her arms from around his neck. He looked her up and down, trying to remember where she knew him from. “But you look familiar. What’s your name?” he asked.

“Ivy. Ivy Grey? I used to waitress at that little spot in downtown D.C. Remember?”

“Elisa's?” Mason asked.

“That's the place!” Ivy said as she put her hands on her hips. “I remember we used to talk all night about how we were both from Blue but how we'd never come back here. Yet, here we are!” she said as she threw her head back with a loud laugh.

“Of course I remember you now,” Mason said. He was grinning from ear to ear. Jacob noticed the chemistry between Ivy and Mason and decided to cut in.

“AHEM… So, we're here to pick up our tuxes for Mason's WEDDING tomorrow. There should be two, last name is Joseph.”

“Oh, yes, I just bagged them up! I'll be right back!”

Ivy skipped away as Mason watched.

“Hey man, slow it up. You're getting married tomorrow!” Jacob whispered to Mason.

“I can look! As long as I don't touch, right? Dang, Jacob, you’re turning into boring old preacher,” Mason said. “How old are you again?”

“The same age as you! And looking is lusting,” Jacob said. “And not only is lusting a sin, it also leads us down paths we shouldn’t even be thinking about!”

“Whatever, man,” Mason said. “How about you do you, and let me do me. Besides, if looking is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right!” Mason said as he laughed.

Ivy returned holding Mason and Jacob's tuxes over her head.

"So are you excited about your bachelor party tonight? I'm sure you've hired a couple of girls to send you off the right way!” Ivy asked.

"How do you know I'm even having a party?" Mason responded as he raised his eyebrows.

"Um, hellooooo! I knew you in D.C., remember? You used to tear those strip clubs up! And you're a MAN!" Ivy said as she laughed. “I don't know of ANY man who wouldn't want to have a bachelor party."

"I didn't have one," Jacob said.

Ivy threw her head back and laughed as she leaned in closer to Jacob. "Well pastor, word on the street is that you didn't need a bachelor party after making a baby with some chick out in Seattle!"

“Excuse me? You don't even know me!” Jacob said, visibly upset.

“Ahem! How much do we owe?” Mason asked as he stepped in between Jacob and Ivy.

“No charge!” Ivy said. “It's on the house.”

“Oh, we can't do that,” Jacob said. “How much do we owe you?”

“Oh, YES WE CAN! Do you know how much this wedding is running me?” Mason said as he put his wallet back into his pocket and stepped in front of Jacob. “Thank you, Ivy.”

“My pleasure, Mason. Hey, you saved me many 'a night when I was out of my mind and crying over that stupid guy I was so crazy over.”

“Whatever happened to him anyway?” Mason asked.

“He's hangin' out upstate for knockin' off some retail store,” Ivy said.

“Oh wow! Well, it looks like you've moved on and you're doing well.”

“I am!” Ivy beamed as she ran her fingers through her curly fro-hawk. As her hair lifted, Mason and Jacob could see dozens of tiny tattoos on her scalp in shape of stars.

Ivy noticed Jacob looking at her head.

“Is there a problem, pastor?”

“Are those tattoos? On your HEAD?” Jacob asked as he laughed. “I’ve seen it all now!”

“Yep! Stars.” Ivy turned her head from side to side to give Jacob the full view.

“Why would you do that to your body?” Jacob asked.

“Never mind him, Ivy, we’re gonna go now,” Mason said as he pulled at Jacob's arm. “Thanks so much for everything!”

“No, I wanna answer him, Mason,” Ivy said. Mason folded his arms and looked right at Jacob.

Ivy stood right in front of Jacob and looked up at him. Jacob towered over Ivy’s petite frame, but she didn't seem to be intimidated by him.

“See, unlike you, I don't walk around in fear of a God who sends fire from the sky. I know my God loves me, cherishes me, and wants what is best for me. That's how He got me outta that jacked up relationship. So when I was finally free, I shaved my head and got a few tattoos. Will it be forever? No way! Eventually I'll let my hair grow back and I'll look just as normal as your perfectly holy church members. But for now, this is who I am.”

“Guess she told you!” Mason said as he laughed.

“Whatever floats your boat, sister,” Jacob said.

“And you think you're perfect, Pastor?” Ivy asked. “Your big ol' head is on every billboard in this city, but you're still one of us,” Ivy laughed. “I bet you still run around on your wife like you did before you got married, huh?”

“Okay, you know what? We're gonna go now. It's obvious you want to believe everything you hear instead of trying to get to know me.” Jacob turned and walked toward the door.

“Hey, I may not go to church, but a lot of my friends and customers do. Just the other day one of your members came in looking for a suit for her son, because she said you made him feel badly about the way he was dressed at one of your services.”

Jacob shook his head. “That is NOT true! We don't even have a dress code at our church!"

“That's not what she said! Hey, all I know is, you should practice what you preach. Don't judge me for my tattoos and another young man for his clothing if you truly believe that God loves us just as we are. You need to loosen up a little. I think you've been in the church for way too long. Maybe you need a vacation or something.”

Jacob was silent. Mason broke the tension in the air by taking the suits off the counter and grabbing his keys.

“Well, Ivy, it was great to see you! And thanks again for the hook-up!”

“Anytime, bro! And good luck tomorrow!” Ivy said.

“Thank you!” Mason said as he turned back to look at Jacob. Jacob’s face was burning red. “You good, man?”

“Yeah... I'm good. Let's get outta here.”

“Bye PASTOR!” Ivy said as Jacob passed her.

Jacob kept walking without looking back.

* * *

Jasmine’s living room was a maze of shoe boxes, wedding favors and wedding programs. As she carefully stepped over each item, she felt relieved that the mess was only temporary. Mason also dodged each item when he entered the room.

“Where you goin’ smellin’ all good?” Jasmine asked Mason as she wrapped her arms around his waist and put her head on his chest.

“I’m going to my bachelor party! Where else?”

“Oh yeah...who's throwing it?” Jasmine asked.

“Who else? Jacob!”

Jasmine began to laugh. “Oh, well then I have nothing to worry about, then. Jacob’s too boring to get you into any real trouble.”

“Oh, really? Is this the same Jacob whose illegitimate son showed up at his doorstep a few years ago? He’s wilder than you think he is, Jaz.”

“Oh, please! His son was conceived before he even got married. And since his face is on every billboard in the city, I doubt y’all will be sitting up in the strip clubs around here.” “Maybe, maybe not,” Mason said as he smiled. “Anyway you know I’m not staying here tonight, right? It’s supposed to be bad luck.”

“I know, I know. Where are you stayin'? And when’s your mama comin'?”

“I’ll probably be down at the hotel down by Mama’s Place. It’s not far from the church. My mom should be here tonight, too. She was asking why we didn't have a rehearsal dinner scheduled.”

“What did you tell her?”

“I told her we don’t even have a wedding party so why would we have a rehearsal dinner? Anyway, she has a room down there, too.”

“Perfect! So I’ll have the house to myself tonight!”

“Yep!” Mason said as he kissed Jasmine. “Now you make sure that YOU don’t get all crazy tonight.”

Jasmine smiled. “I’ll try not to. Frankie and Keisha are on their way over.”

“Oh, no. Frankie? Maybe I should stay home after all! She’s wild!”

Jasmine kissed Mason and smiled. “Believe me, I can get wilder than she can! And you know she just joined Elm Street!”

“What? When?”

“Last Sunday. Keisha said she stood up in front of the entire church and everything!”
“I can’t even imagine Frankie in church,” Mason said as he gathered the rest of his toiletries. “But I guess God really can change people.”

“Yes, He can! Jasmine said. “I’m proud of her. It took a lot to get her to even come to church in the first place!”

“So, what’s stopping you?” Mason asked with raised eyebrows.

Jasmine looked away. “I don’t need to go to a building in order to talk to God. Besides, you only go because you work there!”

“Hey, I was raised in church!”

“Weren’t we all?” Jasmine snapped. “Don’t come down on me because I don’t wanna be up in there with people who probably don’t even like me.”

“How do you know they don’t like you?”

“I saw how those women looked at me when I used to come there with you for our premarital counseling. They hated me!”

“They did not! And you don’t have a problem with coming to the community center!”
“Exactly,” Jasmine said. “Community center. Not church.”

Mason took Jasmine’s hand and pulled her close to him.

“Well, I believe you won’t be too far behind Frankie in joining a church. Even if it’s not Elm Street, although it would make the most sense since I work there and all,” Mason said as he smiled.

“Don’t be tryin’ to butter me up, Mr. Joseph,” Jasmine said as she giggled. “You all packed?”

“Yep!” Mason said as he kissed Jasmine and walked to the front door.

“Jaz?” Mason said as he turned the doorknob.


“I love you. And marrying you tomorrow is really gonna make me the happiest man in the world!”

“And the luckiest!” Jasmine said as she smiled.

* * *

When Mason arrived at the hotel, Jacob was sitting in the lobby.

“Dang, man, what took you so long?” Jacob asked.

“I had to get my stuff together. You ready to party?”

“Of course I am! Get your room key so we can get started!”

As Mason and Jacob entered the hotel room, Jacob’s phone began to ring. Keisha’s face appeared on the screen.

“Hey, babe!” Keisha said.

“Hey! What’s up?”

“I’m just calling to remind you that not only are you a pastor, you’re also very married. So please don’t end up with some sleazy stripper all over you tonight.”

“Come on, Keish! You should know me better than that!”

“I know you won’t do anything stupid. But with the church finally getting back to normal after the whole Joshua situation, I don’t want you to rock the boat.”

“I’ll be careful. I promise,” Jacob said. “See you later on tonight, okay?”

“Okay, babe. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Mason walked up to Jacob as he ended the call.

“Was that your warden?” Mason laughed.

“Ha ha ha, Mase. NOT funny. So, are you ready for tomorrow?” Jacob asked.

“I’m as ready as I’m ever gonna be,” Mason said. “I love Jaz, I always have, and you know that. It’s just...”

“Just what?” Jacob asked.

“She’s already on this baby kick. And I never thought that would be part of our plan."

“But you LOVE kids!” Jacob said.

“Yeah, as long as they’re somebody else’s!” Mason said. “I mean, the kids at the youth center are great! But I've never been sure if I have what it takes to be a good father. I didn’t really have the best role model, you know. My dad was the definition of a rolling stone- he was gone more than he was present. Shoot, I don't even know if he's even coming tomorrow."

“He’ll be here. And you know you don’t need a good role model in order to be a good dad. I think you’ll do just fine," Jacob said. "And the honeymoon is the best time to try to make a ba…” Before Jacob could finish, there was a knock at the door

“Who is it?” Mason yelled out from across the room.

“Housekeeping,” a female voice said from the other side of the door.

Mason looked back at Jacob and winked. “Yeah right, housekeeping,” he said as he opened the door to reveal a stripper. She was wearing a trench coat, stilettos and a lace mask. “Is the groom here?” she asked.

“Right here!” Mason said as he took her hand and led her into the hotel room.

She pressed a button on her cell phone and music began to play. She motioned for Mason to sit and she began to dance in front of him. Mason instinctively placed his hands on her hips.

Jacob leaned back in his chair and pretended to check his email on his phone. Every now and then, the woman caught Jacob looking at her and she smiled. Even though her face was covered, something about her was very familiar.

“You're next,” she whispered and pointed to Jacob before beginning to undress.

“On or off?” she said as she pointed at her mask and looked at Mason.

“Off!” Mason said. “I'm getting married tomorrow, remember? I want to see it ALL!”

The woman began to untie her mask as she sat on Mason's lap. She was facing Jacob with her back turned to Mason. As soon as the mask was removed, Jacob gasped.

It was Ivy.

Waitress-in-D.C. Ivy. Tuxedo-renting Ivy. Pastor-hating Ivy. 

For more information on ordering But Now I See, visit crystalsenterbrown.com.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Crystal Senter-Brown is the author of five books and has released three music/ spoken word CDs. Her stage credits include The Wiz, The Vagina Monlogues, Annie and Purpose Café. She holds a Masters in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and is an adjunct professor. When she's not writing, performing or saving the world, she lives in New England with her husband Corey and son Adonté.