Category Archives: Free Stories
A Conversation Among Male Characters About Women
GORDON MONROE (Simon’s Cousin): Featured In: Golden (Insatiable: Book Two)
ARTHUR GREEN (Simon and Gordon’s Uncle Artie): Featured In: A Southern Belle: Forbidden
GRAYSON PAGE (Gordon’s Neighbor): Featured In: What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
WESLEY: Featured In: The Neighbor
The Setting: The basement billiard room in Simon Bishop’s Monmouth Beach, New Jersey home.
“So here’s a question for you dudes,” Wesley said. “What’s your favorite outfit on your woman? What do you like to see her in?”
“Boy, what kinda freaky talk you tryin’ to get started up in here?” Uncle Artie snapped.
“Nah man, I’m just wondering. I had this conversation with Gail last night and she said that she didn’t think men cared enough about what women wore to really notice. She said that other women notice what a woman is wearing, but all men want to do is figure out how to get them out of their clothes.”
Gordon said, “Gail is right, in general. But yeah, I think we like certain things, too.”
“You’re talking specific things on our woman only?” Grayson asked.
“Yeah, that’s what I mean,” Wes said.
Grayson grinned, “Oh, hell yeah,” and leaned over the table to line up his shot. “Two in the corner pocket.”
Simon laughed, “Sounds like Grayson has something specific in mind on Ivy.”
“You know we all do,” Gordon said. “So what’s your thing on Elle, Cuz?”
“Are you talking about in or out of the house?” Simon asked. “Some things aren’t meant for public consumption.”
Gordon shrugged. “Okay, either. Both.”
“You fools don’t know jack shit about what a woman looks good in,” Uncle Artie grumbled. He glared at Gordon. “You gonna take your shot or stroke your stick all day?”
Gordon leaned over the table. “Every time I see Elle she’s looking like she getting ready to go model for some magazine photo shoot. I don’t know how you can pick just one thing, Cuz. Ten, cross-corner.”
“That’s why I asked if Wes meant in or out of the house,” Simon said. “But you know me G; my favorite ensemble on any woman is naked. If she’s wearing an ankle bracelet she’s overdressed.”
Wesley raised his beer bottle. “Hell, we’ll all drink to that one, Simon. But I can do naked with some heels, too.”
“Ya’ll a bunch a freaks, that what ya’ll are,” Uncle Artie said. “Ain’t no woman prancing around bare-assed just ‘cause you like it. Ain’t a woman God ever made happy about the way she looks with no clothes on, and you can write that shit down. I’ma put that three-ball in the side pocket…gotdamnit! Ya’ll got me thinking about naked hammers so I can’t see straight to shoot!”
“Nah man,” Gordon laughed, “You just can’t shoot pool for shit.”
As Simon leaned over the table he said, “Yeah, Elle does her thing, for sure. But it’s not all her. Sometimes I take her shopping because I feel like it; get her stuff because I want to see her in it. Some of the stores we go to and stuff we get aren’t for public consumption, either. Fourteen, straight up.”
“What kind of stuff?” Wes asked.
“Can’t go there and tell her business,” Simon said. “But one thing she can rock well is basic. She looked good as hell this morning wearing just my shirt. I think it was the light in the kitchen that did it. When the sun hit her just right and made the shirt kind of translucent, that was a sight worthy of photographing to hang on the wall. Sexy without trying to be sexy, you know?”
Gordon nodded. “Yeah Cuz, sometimes the simple things are the hottest. All that lingerie shit? Not always necessary. When we’re just kicking it around the crib when Kia is home Aurelle will wear my boxers and a wife beater. Something about that always gets to me.”
“I’ll tell you what it is,” Uncle Artie said. “It’s the dog in you.”
Uncle Artie said, “Simon likes Elle wearing his shirt. You like Aurelle in your drawers. Hey, does she know you used to piss in your drawers? Remember that, Simon? Boy couldn’t see a damned raindrop without letting the waterworks go.”
“Fuck you old man,” Gordon spat. “I was like three years old.”
“I’ma have to talk to Aurelle and warn her about your pissy drawers,” Uncle Artie laughed. “Anyway, what I was saying is that you cats like seeing your woman in your clothes ‘cause you’re like dogs; you want to mark your territory. Your woman wearing your stuff is her wearing your mark. Lets you know she’s yours and makes your dick feel bigger.”
“There’s probably some truth to that,” Grayson said. “We don’t think about it consciously, but there’s probably some primal thing going on, like we killed the animal and she’s wearing its fur.”
Gordon said, “I don’t know; maybe. But Aurelle said that when she wears my stuff it makes her feel closer to me.”
“And when she says that your dick gets big, huh?” Uncle Artie grinned.
“Fuck you again, man.”
“Well you dudes can speak for yourselves,” Wesley said. “I like the lace and frills. I didn’t think I did until I met Gail. That woman single-handedly raised the price of stock for Fredericks of Hollywood.”
Grayson said, “I think the hottest thing I’ve ever seen Ivy in was back before we got involved. She came over to chill wearing these gym shorts that must have been passed down from her slave ancestors. They were raggedy and full of holes but she made them look hot.”
“You know she wore them to fuck with you, don’t you?” Simon smiled. “A woman isn’t going to dress down for a new man without a motive. Either she’s not interested and is trying to keep you at bay, or she knows what she’s wearing will flip your switch.”
“She had me flipping switches like Thomas Edison,” Grayson laughed. “I keep meaning to ask her what happened to those shorts because I haven’t seen her wear them since.”
“They served their purpose,” Simon said. “She hooked your ass so she doesn’t need them anymore.”
Wesley said, “The thing that did it for me like that was Gail wearing nothing but a towel when she came out of the bath. The first time I saw that I damned near had a stroke. I think right then was when I started getting into full-figured women.”
Simon said, “So the bottom line is that it doesn’t take much for us, huh? Women can put in a lot of effort to look good, and we appreciate it for sure, but when it gets right down to it, clothes aren’t that important.”
“See, ya’ll’s some young, ignorant fools,” Uncle Artie said. “Women don’t dress sexy and smart like they used to. Ain’t nothing in the world looks better than a woman wearing seamed stockings and one a them tight skirts that hug their hips and hind parts…what’cha call them skirts, Simon?”
“A pencil skirt?”
“Yeah, that’s it, a pencil skirt. And a tight sweater that hugs them tiddays? Lord have mercy Jesus! See, ya’ll don’t know nothin’ about women who know how to look good and still be classy.”
“No, I feel you Unk,” Gordon said. “I’d rather see a woman like that than some chick flashing her thong and a tramp stamp. Classy is definitely sexier.”
Simon said, “That’s what I was talking about about in or out of the crib. You want your woman to represent when she’s out in the world.”
“You mean represent you?” Wesley asked.
“No, represent herself as a lady. Look good, look sexy, but don’t show the hungry assholes out there sniffing around after her what’s on the menu. That is, not unless you’re playing like that.”
“Playing?” Grayson asked.
Simon said, “Sometimes we just want to fuck with people when we go out, so Elle will wear something smoking just to draw that attention.”
“So you don’t care if other dudes look?” Wesley asked.
“They’re going to look anyway. I’m not paranoid like that. As long as they don’t step to her or disrespect her, no problem. But when she’s dressing like that we have to expect some comments to come. That’s the entire point: take her out, show her off, leave hard dicks in her wake.”
Grayson said, “I think Ivy does that sometimes on purpose, but to women.”
“Okay man, you seriously need to explain that one,” Gordon said.
“No, I mean she’s one of those women that I think sees other women as competition. I think it’s because she was married to a pro football player and women were always after him. So she had to keep her game on point back then, and now she still does. So I think sometimes she’ll wear something extra hot as much to piss women off as to appeal to men.”
“And other women will notice and hate,” Gordon said.
“…that’s what she was wearing when she came to see me…” Uncle Artie mumbled.
The men looked around at him. Uncle Artie stood leaning on his cue stick with a faraway look in his eyes.
“What’d you say, Unk?” Gordon asked.
“She came to see me last fall,” Uncle Artie said. “Shocked the shit out of me because I hadn’t seen her in forty years. But I knew her right away, because she still looked good and, well, I never forgot her.”
“Who are you talking about?” Simon asked.
Uncle Artie said, “The woman who bewitched my young, dumb ass back in the day: Olivia Bettencourt. Girl made me want to cheat on my fuckin’ wedding day.”
Gordon shook his head. “Damn, Unk…”
“Why’d she come to see you?” Simon asked.
“I was in my office at the dealership, and I heard Keisha out in the hall say, ‘That’s his office,’ and I looked up and there she was in the doorway. I almost couldn’t believe it; thought I was dreamin’…but there she was…”
“What’d she want?”
“Just to say hello and take me to lunch. So that’s what we did. After all these years I didn’t think she’d remembered my dumb ass, but she did. She remembered…things…some things that I’d forgotten about.”
“What things?” Gordon asked.
Uncle Artie shook his head. “It’s like Simon said; some things about a woman’s business you don’t talk about to nobody. She has to be sixty by now, but Lord have mercy Jesus she still looked good…”
Simon said, “Let me guess: She was wearing a pencil skirt and seamed stockings.”
Uncle Artie nodded.
“See, that’s when a woman really has it going on,” Simon said. “We forget thong panties and a tramp stamp showing as soon as it’s out of sight. But a woman that you’re still thinking about decades later, for whatever reason? She’s got it going on.”
Wes said, “Okay, so that brings up another question. What is it about a woman that appeals to you? Like, I’m feeling thick women. So what’s your type, or what feature is the one you want to be on point for a woman?”
Uncle Artie snapped back to the present and said, “Boy, who the hell are you with all these questions, Walter Cronkite?”
From the stairs came the lilt of feminine voices and the sound of descending footsteps.
In a low voice Simon said, “We’ll pick this up later.” As Aurelle appeared, followed by Elle, and then Ivy and Gail he spoke louder. “So who do you think was more valuable at their position, Mariano Rivera or Michael Jordan?”
Elle laughed and said, “Don’t even try it.”
“What were you guys really talking about down here?” Ivy teased.
“Women, probably,” Gail said.
Aurelle said, “That’s fine, as long as it was about us.”
“Don’t worry about that sugar,” Uncle Artie said. “These fools might be fools most of the time, but they got enough sense to appreciate their blessings.”
Elle said, “Well, the pizzas are here. Are you coming up, or do you want to eat down here so you can talk about us some more?”
© 13 March 2013
Find the books starring these characters here:
This romantic/erotic short story features characters from the world of The Black.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Valentine’s Day Morning
Monmouth Beach, New Jersey
Simon gave Elle a sponge bubble bath in his sunken Roman tub as she sipped non-alcoholic champagne. The real champagne would come tonight. He kissed her between sips: her lips, her neck, and her shoulders.
“Are we going out today?” she asked.
“No questions. It’s a surprise.”
The doorbell rang. He gave her a kiss and said, “Don’t move.” He went downstairs to answer the door.
He’d paid extra to have the delivery made at the time he specified. It was worth it. She was worth it.
As the delivery man placed everything according to his specifications he said, “Your lady must be a special woman.”
Simon said, “You have no idea.”
Back upstairs he dried Elle off, carried her to his bed like a baby and laid her down. He rubbed perfumed oil into her skin, taking his time and massaging every inch of her beautiful body. It took him nearly an hour to complete the process, and by the time he was done she was moaning and sighing and dying for it…aching for release. But it wasn’t time yet.
The new pink robe he’d bought for her was made of a silk and cashmere mix. Elle sighed and shivered as he slid it over her nakedness.
“This feels like sex,” she breathed.
“Soon enough,” Simon said. “We’ll have time for that later.”
He told her to follow him downstairs.
Elle stood on the stairs, gaping her surprise down at the living room, at what he’d had delivered for her.
One hundred roses: Thirty-three red; thirty-three pink; thirty-three white. One black, because that was his favorite color. A mixture of Godiva chocolates: Dark, milk and white.
Elle dashed among the roses like a bee, inhaling their fragrance as she sampled the chocolates. When she turned back to him he had the jewelry box out and open, presenting the pair of diamond earrings
She came to him, kissed him. Then she went to the coat closet. She came back with a package for him to open.
A watch by Parmigiani Fleurier.
He was blown away.
Simon looked at Elle, watched as she opened the robe and let it fall to the carpet.
“The time is now,” she said.
Simon and Elle are from the novel ELLE (INSATIABLE: BOOK ONE)
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Valentine’s Day Morning
They were at the same hotel at which three years ago they’d taken their relationship from friendship to love. Morgan smiled as Mina came out of the suite’s bathroom. He took a moment to drink in her nakedness and then held the wrapped box out to her.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Baby,” he grinned.
Mina pouted at him. “Oh Honey, your gift is at home. If I’d known you were going to surprise me by flying us here –“
“Don’t worry about it,” Morgan said. “You’re my gift…the only gift I need.”
Mina came to him and kissed him. Then she took the box and tore off the wrapping. Morgan watched and smiled as the box was revealed and Mina’s eyes grew wide.
“Oh my God Morgan, no! Not Christian Louboutin!”
“Yep. You’ve been talking about them since we were co-workers in the Air Force. I figured it was about time.”
Mina opened the box and gasped. “Oh Baby, you remembered…these are the ones I showed you…the Lynch fetish model!”
Morgan grinned at his wife’s happiness. “Yeah, no way was I going to forget these babies.”
Mina ripped a shoe out of the box and bent up a shapely leg to put it on. Morgan sat down on the hotel bed to enjoy the show. He watched Mina’s heart-shaped golden bottom as she moved over the carpet in the red-soled, five-inch heeled pumps.
“Damn, Baby, you make those shoes look good,” he said. “But don’t you feel like you’re walking on a tightrope?”
She turned back to him and moved his way, now adding an extra sway to her hips. “Well, these aren’t really made for walking,” she cooed.
“Oh really? Then what are they for?”
Mina stopped in front of him and looked down at him. “Get those boxers off and I’ll show you.”
Morgan did as he was told. Mina kneeled before him in her new no-bullshit fuck me pumps and took him in her mouth. After a few minutes, after she’d transformed his constant desire for her into throbbing, raging need, she rose up and pushed him onto his back.
As she climbed onto him and slid her wet, silken heat down onto his need she said, “These shoes will never touch the floor again.”
Morgan and Mina are from a yet to be released novel, untitled.
Oceanport, New Jersey
Valentine’s Day Morning
Maisha had to run out to the store, so Duncan took the opportunity to put a few finishing touches on her Valentine’s Day gift. It had taken him six months to complete, primarily because he’d redone it twice. He hadn’t been satisfied that the first two versions did her justice.
Last summer he’d taken a photograph of her sitting in the sunroom gazing out at their garden. She’d looked so beautiful in that morning light, like a goddess fallen to earth. Duncan used that photo as a reference for the oil painting he’d done as a tribute to his love for her.
He decided to take the painting downstairs so that she’d see it when she came in. He was about to do that when the house phone rang.
It was Maisha, calling from her cell phone.
“Sweetie, come outside,” she said.
When Duncan stepped out onto the porch his instincts went on alert. That always happened when he encountered something out of the ordinary. The gleaming Mercedes sedan sitting in his driveway was out of the ordinary.
Then he saw the big red ribbon strung through the Mercedes’ window, and the bow on its roof. From the corner of his eye Maisha stepped from around from the side of the house and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetie!”
Duncan stared at the car, speechless.
Maisha said, “I always thought my man was too classy to be driving around in a Charger. This car is more you, Baby.”
Duncan grabbed Maisha and pulled her to him, and before he kissed her said, “The only thing classy about me is you.”
As they went inside Duncan said to his wife, “After a Mercedes, my gift for you seems weak.”
“Nothing about you is weak, Duncan. Believe me.”
“Okay well, come up to the studio and let’s see.”
He hadn’t expected Maisha to cry. But when she saw the oil painting he’d done of her she began bawling her eyes out.
When she was able to talk she said, “Oh Honey, you made me look like a queen.”
“You are a queen, Maisha. You’re my queen. You always will be.”
As Maisha dried her eyes she said, “Let’s go break in your new car.”
“Where do you want to go?”
Maisha smiled at him. “Who said go anywhere? I’m talking about the back seat.”
© 14 February 2009
Duncan and Maisha are from the forthcoming novel THE HITMAN CHRONICLES
The West End
Long Branch, New Jersey
Valentine’s Day Evening
He thought he’d messed up. Big time. The question had come out of his mouth before he’d thought it through. But he’d seen the way the men were looking at her in the restaurant. He’d seen their unhidden desire, the raw lust in their eyes as they’d gazed at his wife. He’d seen the women too – the wives and girlfriends and lovers – glaring at Auriel with their expressions dripping bitter jealousy instead of enjoying their Valentine’s Day dinners.
Even in her overcoat his wife exuded sexuality, so everyone watched as the hostess escorted them to their table. All eyes watched her stride in her four-inch red heels. They gaped at her sensuous sway, at the curve of her strong dancer’s calves, and at the erotic arch of her feet in her heels.
They watched as he’d helped his wife out of her coat; he could have sworn that a hush came over the room. He knew some men had to shift in their chairs as their erections came to life when they saw Auriel’s beauty revealed in her black belted dress…a red belt at her waist that showed that she had no waist…at the way her round hips and bottom flared out from that non-existent waist…at the split in her skirt that opened as she sat down, showing a glimpse of the pathway to a paradise they would never know.
He’d seen them all looking, the men with longing and the women hating. But what had gotten to him…what had made him ask Auriel the question…were the men. If they looked at her this way in a restaurant, then on her night job at Shadows…
“Do they ever offer you money to do more than dance?” he’d asked as they were finishing their meal.
It was a question that had to cross the mind of most men involved with a woman who danced for other men’s pleasure. But it was a wrong question and a stupid question for him to ask. He was a man. He knew how men thought. Of course they’d offered money to the most desirable woman most of them would ever see. So the pointless question had pointed to the deeper question. That was why Auriel had answered him with a look of surprise and hurt.
He’d apologized as he drove them home. She’d said that it was okay. But he knew his wife. He knew it wasn’t okay. He’d hurt her by asking the question.
He thought he’d ruined Valentine’s Day.
When they got home she’d presented him with a bottle of wine given to them as a gift from Amarante, her employer at Shadows. The wine was a hybrid of the wine created by Auriel’s grandfather in Louisiana. Amarante had had it analyzed and modified into her own exclusive brand. The wine was called Passion’s Nectar.
Auriel had told him to sit down on the sofa as she poured glasses for them. Then she put on the music and did what she does so well.
So now Gordon sat in his living room, watching his wife dance for him to a song called The Principles of Lust by Enigma. He watched as she gave him his own private striptease.
He hadn’t seen her get dressed before they went out. So he was surprised to see that beneath her black belted dress she wore only a thin ruby chain around her hips. A red satin heart hung from the chain, covering her treasure. She danced for him in red four-inch heels and a red satin heart. It was her Valentine’s Day gift to him. But while her body whispered desire, her face still showed her hurt.
He wanted to say something to her to make things right. But the wine – that Passion’s Nectar – was so potent. His mind felt enclosed in fog. He couldn’t focus enough to come up with the right words.
And the wine had another effect, so much more powerful than her uncle’s homemade wine. As he watched his wife dance, the thing between his legs thickened and lengthened until it felt like a throbbing shaft of concrete.
Auriel was watching him as she danced. The hurt was still in her eyes. Her sensuous mouth was turned down in a pout. Occasionally she’d move to the coffee table; take a sip from her own glass and then move back to dance some more. Gordon wondered what effect the wine was having on her, how much it was boosting her desire.
The song ended.
She stood looking at him, her luscious bare breasts heaving, her eyes blazing now, the hurt replaced by something else.
“Take it out,” she said. It wasn’t a request, but a command.
He struggled because he was so hard, but managed to release himself from the confines of his clothing. The shaft of concrete stood straight up, throbbing in the air.
“Look at me,” she said.
He was already looking.
She reached back, unfastened the chain, tossed away the red satin heart. She stepped out of her heels.
She said, “Look at this body.”
He kept looking.
“Don’t you know me?” she asked. “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know what I am?”
“I’m sorry, Baby…”
She said, “This isn’t my body, Gordon. It’s not mine to give to anyone. This body belongs to you, and any pleasure it gives or receives is at your whim.” She held up her left hand so that he could see her wedding ring. “That’s what this ring means.”
She came to him then, stepped around the coffee table and stood over him, looked down at him…at the shaft of concrete throbbing up at her. “And that belongs to me,” she said. “It’s mine and no one else’s, to do with as I will.”
He reached for her, but she moved away, out of his reach.
“Don’t ever hurt me like that again, Gordon. Don’t.”
“And don’t apologize again. Now come to bed and bring me my property. And come and claim yours.”
Auriel turned away and went to their bedroom.
Gordon got up and followed, his wife’s property leading the way.
© 15 February 2009
Gordon and Auriel are from the novel GOLDEN (INSATIABLE: BOOK TWO)
The story of the wine they were drinking is detailed in the novella PASSION’S NECTAR and other books in the PASSION series
Mapleton, North Carolina, 1955
Joshua walked up the dirt road, his aching feet dragging, his battered work boots kicking up dust. The dust didn’t matter. He was already so dirty and sweaty that it was going to take three baths before he felt anywhere close to being clean again.
His legs and thighs ached, but that ache was nothing compared to the agony in his back and shoulders. He wiped his brow with the back of his arm and gazed toward the heavens. The summer sun was low in the sky, but still the late day heat was stifling.
Lord, give me strength…
This was his first day on the job – twelve hours breaking his back in the tobacco fields under the sweltering sun. Every muscle in his body cried out for him not to go back tomorrow, to find some easier way to earn a living. But there was no other way. And he was thankful just to have the job.
There’d been some news today that there might be trouble coming. Some woman down in Alabama had refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, and she’d been locked up for her trouble. Folks were worried that just to make sure nobody starting getting any such ideas here in Hertford County, the nightriders might make an example out of somebody. So everybody in the fields today was nervous. And nobody slacked off on the job.
He’d been walking for over two hours, and finally his little house came into view up ahead. It wasn’t much – just two rooms and an outhouse – but it was home. Their first home. He’d rented the place from the same man in whose fields he’d spent this day breaking his back.
Even looking at their home from a distance Joshua was reminded that the place needed some work, starting off with patching the hole in the tin roof before the next rain. He figured he’d get to that tonight after supper.
Lord, I’m so tired.
Now that home was in sight his aching body felt as if it wanted to give up. He felt like he could just fall out right here, lay his head in the dirt and sleep his life away.
But he kept walking.
He thought about how hard this day had been, and that all he had to look forward to was more days and weeks and months and years like this one, days in which he worked his body until he had nothing left. He thought about getting up tomorrow and the next morning, six days a week, to do it all over again. That’s how his father had lived his life, and his father before him. And that was what he had to look forward to.
He was a man, but the thought made Joshua blink back tears of despair.
Lord, why have you made my life so hard?
As he limped into his front yard the aroma of skillet fried pork chops, collard greens seasoned with fatback and fresh hot cornbread greeted him. His stomach rumbled a return call.
The front door was open, and as he reached the house she stepped out onto the creaky wooden porch. His heart jumped in his chest, and his despair rinsed away like sand in a rainstorm
Rose – his wife, his love – wore a faded hand-me-down calico dress under a worn apron on which she wiped her hands. Her coal black hair was pulled back from her beautiful brown face, which glistened with perspiration. She’d probably been cooking all afternoon on that wood-burning stove. Joshua figured it had to be hot in that house, as hot in there for her as it had been for him out in the fields. Still, when their eyes met she greeted him with a smile.
In spite of his sore feet and legs his stride lengthened and quickened, and in two steps he was on the porch and sweeping her up into his arms.
As he hugged and kissed his new bride he forgot his exhaustion and the ache in his muscles. He forgot his despair. If he had to toil for the rest of his days in fields of fire in the pit of hell it was worth it.
It was worth it because she was worth it.
ABOUT LOVE II
Long Branch, New Jersey
“Look Rosie, it’s starting to snow!” Mrs. Porter exclaimed. She was so excited that for a moment she took her hands off the steering wheel.
Rose tensed in the passenger seat and mentally prayed that this fool wouldn’t kill them. She didn’t want to die, especially right before Christmas.
It had been five years since Joshua brought them up from North Carolina to New Jersey, and in those five years she’d ridden in more cars than she had in her entire twenty-one years of life previously. But Rose still couldn’t get used to Mrs. Porter’s crazy driving. It was a wonder they gave the woman a driver’s license.
To Rose’s great relief Mrs. Porter grabbed the wheel and stopped the car just before they reached the red light at the corner of Third Avenue and Broadway. Another foot and they would have been in the boot of that big old Chrysler Imperial in front of them.
“It will be so nice to have snow this Christmas,” Mrs. Porter said. “Did you have much snow at Christmas in North Carolina?”
“No, not too much,” Rose said. She was proud that she’d remembered not to stick a “ma’am” at the end of her answer. She’d noticed that up here in New Jersey colored folks didn’t call white folks “sir” and “ma’am” just because they were white.
They turned off Third Avenue onto downtown Broadway. It was evening, and the street was lit up with Christmas lights. Decorations hung on the lamp posts. Shoppers hurried up and down and across the street amidst the gently falling snowflakes, skittering in and out of stores like bees buzzing around their hives.
To Rose the scene looked like something out of one of those nice old holiday movies. The spirit of Christmas swelled within her breast.
She hoped that Joshua would be home in time to celebrate Christmas with her and the children. If he wasn’t back from his trip in time it would be the first Christmas in their eight years of marriage that they’d be apart.
“This is so lovely,” Mrs. Porter sighed. “Lord knows we need something cheerful in our lives after all that’s happened lately. Can you believe it’s been a month since they killed the President in Dallas?”
“It seems like it happened yesterday,” Rose said. She answered her employer but her mind was on her husband, who was on the road for his company, delivering aluminum doors and windows.
They turned off Broadway onto Liberty Street, and two blocks later onto Monmouth Avenue. Rose gathered up her things as they neared her house. As Mrs. Porter pulled to a stop at the curb Rose said, “Thank you for the ride, Mrs. Porter.”
Even though they’d taken this same ride five days a week for the last four years, Rose didn’t think it hurt to show appreciation. She still remembered how Joshua walked for miles to and from the fields every day when they lived in North Carolina. Old Mr. Jenkins would never have thought to give any colored worker a ride home.
“It’s my pleasure Rosie,” Mrs. Porter said. “I really appreciate all you’ve done for me. “In fact, Mr. Porter and I have decided that we really ought to show our appreciation for all your hard work by giving you a Christmas bonus this year.”
From her purse she extracted a crisp fifty dollar bill and handed it to Rose.
Rose stared in shock at the money. This was twice as much as she made in a week cooking and cleaning for the Porter family.
This year for Christmas she and Joshua had bought a new set of cap pistols for Little Josh and a doll for baby Carol. There were still two days to go before Christmas. With this money she could buy them more toys, and get something nice for Joshua, who worked so hard to support them.
Rose fought to contain her emotions. “Mrs. Porter, thank you. We all thank you so much,” she said.
Mrs. Porter patted her hand. “Think nothing of it, dear. As I said, we really do appreciate all you do for us. And that’s something else, Rosie. I do wish you would call me Ruth. After all, I consider us friends.”
Rose went up the walk to the house blinking tears from her eyes. The Lord sure was good to them. After all their struggles in the south He’d seen His way to guide them up north to a better way of life. Now if only He could find a way to bring Joshua home before Christmas.
Nessie Thompson lived in the upstairs half of the house they rented. Nessie watched the children while she and Joshua were at work. Rose decided that she’d go into her own house and take off her coat and rest her feet for a minute before she went up to get the children. But when she opened the door to her living room Joshua was standing right there in front of the Christmas tree, holding Little Josh and Carol in each of his strong arms. He was grinning at her from ear to ear.
“Merry Christmas, Baby,” he beamed.
She didn’t remember running across the room to her family, and didn’t know how Joshua managed to hug her while still holding their babies. But Joshua had always managed to take care of his family, whether it was suffering in the sun in the tobacco and cotton fields, or finding a way to move them north to a better life. So she wasn’t surprised at anything he managed to accomplish for them.
“How did you get home?” she said into his chest.
“By driving that danged truck like I was in the Pony Express,” he said. “The boss was surprised to see me back so soon. I told him don’t get used to it, but ain’t no way I’m gonna be away from my woman and my babies for Christmas.”
Unable to speak through her emotion, Rose just hugged her man tighter.
Joshua said, “And guess what, Baby? The boss appreciated me working so hard and fast, so he gave me a fifty dollar bonus on top of my pay. Now don’t that beat all?”
“Yes Honey, that’s just about beats all,” she said. “Now come on and sit down. I’m gonna make some pork chops and collards and corn bread.”
Joshua smiled even harder. “Just like the old days, huh Baby?”
Rose handed him the fifty dollar bill given to her by Mrs. Porter. “No Husband, nothing is like the old days. I want to thank you for that – for giving us a better life.”
Joshua looked down at his wife. He remembered that hot summer day eight years ago when he’d felt so tired and helpless thinking about the future. He remembered Rose coming out onto the porch, sweating from her day over the stove.
“No, I’m the one who ought to thank you,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for wanting a better life for you, I’d still be working in the fields just like my daddy and granddaddy did. Love is what got us a better way of life. And love will always keep us.”
Rose couldn’t find the words to respond. So she held onto her man and leaked tears onto his shirt. The Lord sure is good to us, she thought again.
Joshua said, “Baby, it’s a little cold out, but do you feel like taking a walk? I don’t want you cooking tonight. Let’s go downtown and have us a nice eat out dinner. You deserve it. Nessie already said she’d watch the kids and feed them.”
They walked up Monmouth Avenue with their arms around each other. Big feathery flakes of snow flurried around them, and they walked with their heads bowed against the chill December night. But they really didn’t feel the cold. Love warmed their hearts and their spirits.
As they turned up Liberty Street and then neared Broadway, they heard the voices of carolers filling the night with holiday cheer. They stopped on the sidewalk and listened to the beautiful lyrics of Silent Night.
“Oh Joshua, do you feel it?” Rose asked her husband as they enjoyed the carolers.
“Feel what Baby?”
“God. God is out here tonight. I feel him all through my bones!”
Joshua smiled down at his wife. “He’s always out here, Baby. It’s just that sometimes, when everything seems like it’s going wrong, we forget that He’s right there, waiting for us to use His strength to get us through. Look at where we’ve been, and where we are now. That ain’t nothing but the Lord moving us with His blessings.”
“Then let’s keep moving,” Rose said. “I can’t wait till we get there!”
“You that hungry, Baby?”
“No husband,” Rose said. “I can’t wait to get to the next wonderful thing God has planned for us.”
Nightwalkers: The Vampire Linares
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Long Branch, New Jersey
“Are you sure it’s all right for us to be down here?” the girl asked. “It’s so dark.”
“Yeah, sure, “Steve said. He was holding her soft hand as he guided her along the sand under the lip of the boardwalk. “They only close the beach because the lifeguards aren’t on duty at night. It’s not like it’s illegal or anything.” He stopped and looked at her. “Are you scared?”
The girl looked up into his eyes and said, “I’m with you, Steve. I’m not afraid.”
The way she spoke with her little accent made Steve want to kiss her. He wanted to do more than kiss her because she was so pretty. That’s why he’d approached her this afternoon as she’d stood alone against the boardwalk railing, gazing out at the ocean. Ordinarily he wouldn’t have had the nerve to approach a girl so sexy, but she’d looked his way and smiled at him, and then he hadn’t been able to help himself. His legs had carried him to her side as if they’d had the courage that the rest of him lacked.
She’d looked beautiful this afternoon, but Steve thought she looked more beautiful tonight. The moonlight illuminated her pretty face, which surrounded by her ebony hair almost seemed to float in the darkness.
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” he said. “I promise.”
“Thank you Steve.”
She smiled at him as she thanked him. The way she smiled at him made him want to throw her to the sand and rip her shorts off. He’d never wanted a girl so much, except for Marilyn Monroe. But he’d only seen Marilyn on the movie screen. This girl was real life. She was real, and he’d convinced her to come down onto the beach with him. It was almost midnight. They were all alone on the sand. He had high hopes.
The girl looked away from him toward the ocean that was as dark as the night sky and said, “I love the sound of the sea at night; it whispers in the dark like two lovers. The rumble of the waves is the man’s voice in her ear. The surf against the sand is the woman’s sigh.”
“That sounds like poetry,” Steve said.
“Making love is poetry, Steve. Our bodies write the sweet verses.”
Steve felt his desire for the girl harden. He’d never heard a girl talk like this. How did she know about making love? Had she done it before? The guys in his frat said that foreign girls were fast and loose. Was it really true and not just more malarkey about women made up by his schoolmates? If it were true, then maybe he’d be bragging about this summer vacation until Christmas.
“Have you ever swum at night?”
“Huh? Oh, no. I mean, there are no lifeguards…”
“I would like to go for a swim. Would you join me?”
“But we don’t have bathing suits.”
“I don’t want to bathe, Steve. I want to swim.”
She took her clothes off.
“Oh my god, you’re so…oh my god…”
The naked girl backed away from him, into the darker than night shadows under the boardwalk. Now the light of the moon barely reached her, and Steve could only see slivers of her pale skin. He felt a twinge of apprehension, an instinctual warning that all wasn’t right. But she was so beautiful, and she was naked.
From the dark shadows under the boardwalk her invitation came to him as a whisper carried on the salted breeze: “Come to me. Let us write our verses on the sand.”
Steve followed her into the darkness.
Long Branch, New Jersey
J.J. Newberry’s Five and Dime
The girl sat on a stool on the short leg of J.J. Newberry’s L-shaped lunch counter, facing the glass door entry of the five and dime. She wore pink Capri pants and a white blouse with red polka dots, white mules, and a white scarf knotted around the base of her slender neck. Dark sunglasses perched on the crown of her head.
She was fair-skinned, and her creamy complexion looked all the more so because of its contrast to her coal black hair, which fell past her shoulders almost to her trim waist. Her ruby-painted lips provided another contrast, one that drew the attention of the three men who’d come to Newberry’s for burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches on their lunch breaks.
The girl also drew the attention of shopping housewives, some with whining children in tow. The women either glared at her with their lips curled in barely concealed contempt, or looked at each other and shook their heads as if to say, Where did that harlot come from, and how can we keep her away from our men?
A couple of teenage girls who were probably playing hookie from high school fiddled with costume jewelry for sale and stared at the older girl with wide-eyed awe and admiration.
The three men at the lunch counter tried to be less obvious about stealing glances at the girl’s red lips as she puckered them around the straw of her milkshake. But they noticed. In their individual thoughts they wondered how her pucker might feel as a kiss, or how her lips might feel wrapped around something more substantial than a soda straw.
One of them, a young man with brush-cut blonde hair and wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a tie decorated with a drip of fresh mustard, took particular interest in the lovely girl. He sat on a stool at the far end of the long leg of the lunch counter, near the entrance. It gave him a nice viewing angle as he watched the girl. When she sipped her shake and then flicked her pink tongue over her red lips he shook his head and muttered, “Jumpin’ Jesus in a rowboat!” to himself around a mouthful of his burger.
The young man’s name was Alex Crenshaw. He was on lunch break from his job uptown at Nash Aluminum. He thought the girl at the other end of the lunch counter looked hot to trot. He thought that if he could get in a word with the little honey and things went his way, he wouldn’t bother going back to work today. The real good time would come later, when he went home with lipstick on his shirt and smelling like cooze. Watching his wife cry over his cheating was such fun.
The bells over the store entry tinkled, and a colored man entered the five and dime. Alex only took notice of the man – who was as dark a Negro as he’d ever seen – as he passed and moved down the lunch counter aisle because he was wearing a suit. He figured he must be a teacher, or a fucking preacher. He turned his attention back to more interesting things: The sweet treat sitting at the other end of the counter.
The colored man walked down to the end of the lunch counter. He stepped to the pretty girl’s side. That drew Alex’s attention back to him.
The girl smiled up at the dark man and said something to him. He said something to her, and her smile faded. The colored guy didn’t look too friendly. Alex got up off his stool.
Linares sensed Abdiel’s presence minutes before he entered the store. She always knew when he was near because they shared a bond. The essence of immortality that permeated every cell in her body was his essence, because he was her creator.
As she waited she could barely contain her joy. She hadn’t seen Abdiel in nearly four centuries, not since they’d visited the New Netherland colony together. This place – New Jersey – had once been a part of the colony. They’d come to see the place at which the angel Sophia had foretold that the Chosen One – the true daughter of Havah – the Eve – would become known and would fulfill her destiny as one of the Trinity. Sophia and Abdiel were the other members of the Trinity. One day the Trinity would lead mankind in the second and final battle against evil – against Lilith and her spawn, the shadows of death.
Linares watched Abdiel enter the store and approach. Her heartbeat quickened; the essence of life carried in borrowed blood raced throughout her body. If anyone had been paying close enough attention, they might have observed that she looked a couple of years younger than moments before.
When the one who made her immortal reached her side she smiled at him and said, “Have you ever had a strawberry milkshake? They’re absolutely divine. I had no idea –”
In a low voice Abdiel said, “I will have words with you about the body that washed ashore in Deal Township yesterday. But there are other matters to attend first.”
Linares looked at the man approaching them from the other end of the lunch counter. She said, “The demon.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“This time try to use discretion.”
“I threw him out to sea as far as I could.”
“That is not the issue. We’ll talk later, Linares.”
The young man reached them and said to her, “Excuse me Miss, are you okay here?” He shot Abdiel a suspicious glare.
Abdiel said, “My apologies. I thought the young lady was someone I knew. I was mistaken.”
“Yeah well, no harm, no foul, right chief?” the man said. “Now you have a good day, okay?”
“You as well,” Abdiel said, and to Linares, “Good day, Miss.” He headed for the exit.
The man watched Abdiel’s back until he exited onto the street, then looked at her, smiling. “My name is Alex,” he said. “I rescue damsels in distress.”
“Do you think I’m in distress?” the girl asked.
She looked even prettier up close. Alex wondered how good she’d look out of her clothes. The way she was looking at him, he thought he had a good chance of finding out. “Not as long as you’re with me,” he said.
“And how long will that be?”
“How about the rest of the afternoon? I know a nice little spot up in the Highlands.”
The girl took her straw out of her now empty glass. With her eyes on his she ran her tongue along the lower third of the straw, gathering up the pink sweetness. She swallowed and breathed, “Mmm, so good.”
“So can we get out of here?” Alex asked, now anxious.
“I’ll tell you what – buy me another shake and I’ll think about it.”
Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey
Alex leaned against the bathroom door jamb in the motel room, sipping a Ballentine and staring at the girl, who sat on the side of the bed, smiling at him.
He was going to fuck her good, but the best part would come tonight, when he went home and told Peggy about it. His wife would cry her heartache, and then he’d beat her for crying. Then he’d fuck her too, while telling her that she was the worst lay he’d ever had, that every other woman he boned was better. That was the best, when he made her feel that she was nothing, that she had no value as a woman or a wife. Human misery was such a deliciously sweet treat.
Alex wiped the beer from his chin with the back of his hand and said to the girl, “Hey, I didn’t get your name. What’s your name, sweet treat?”
The girl got up and went to the door. She tested the knob, and reached for the chain latch. As she slid it into place she said, “My name is Linares.”
Linares. Alex decided that when he fucked this girl he’d make it hurt her. It’s what she deserved for having the same name as the Iberian bitch. Maybe he’d kill her.
The girl turned from the door, but she didn’t return to the bed. Instead she moved in front of the room’s single window. She was still smiling at him.
She said, “It’s your misfortune…Alex…that when you take possession of someone your senses are limited to those of your human host. When you take someone, you can’t see us. You can’t see your death.”
Linares watched the demon look around for a way out, but there was none. Recognizing its predicament, it stepped away from the bathroom door, into the room.
The demon’s eyes shone red at her. It dropped the beer bottle and hissed, “Let me pass, vampire, and I will let you live.”
“Your only passing will be into nonexistence,” Linares said. “For you, the end of time is now.”
“Then put aside your blade, Linares. Fight me as an equal.”
“You’re not my equal, demon. You’re filth. You’re the spawn of she who is the betrayer, she who lay with the Father of Lies. For the harm you have done, you deserve no consideration and no quarter.”
“You dare judge me? You, who drink the blood of those you claim to protect? You, the progeny of a twice-defeated angel? We won over Sophia at the tomb Havah. We crucified Yeshua. Abdiel lies to you, Linares. The angel will not return. The world and the souls of man belong to us. We have won. Now let me pass.”
“Was this necessary?” Abdiel asked. He looked around, at the blood-spattered walls, and at the pieces of the body strewn about the motel room.
“I was angry,” Linares said.
“The demon did not feel the man’s suffering. Ripping him apart served no purpose.”
“It made me feel better.”
“And the demon? Why did you not use your blade?”
“Because I fear no evil. The shadows of death will never turn me from my purpose, from our purpose.”
“You endanger our purpose with carelessness, Linares. To destroy a demon is one thing, but what about the man on the beach?”
“I…lost control. We were being intimate and I took the essence at the height of my bliss. It wasn’t my intent to kill him. But I threw his body far out to sea.”
“Not far enough. Fortunately a member of the county’s homicide division is a consort. The death is being reported as an organized crime assassination.”
“I’m sorry, Abdiel. I’ll be more careful.”
“See that you do. Use your essence to control man, to clean his memory of your act or to make him your consort. No death unless necessary. Man has progressed beyond primitive superstitions and now uses reason to understand the way of things. We must progress as well. So while you are here, replenish your essence without taking lives.”
“Why am I here, Abdiel? Has the daughter of Havah arrived as foretold?”
“She is here. She doesn’t know what she is or her true purpose. But she will need to know soon. When that time arrives I want you to serve as her advisor.”
“As you wish, Abdiel.”
“I have a car. We’ll go to my home. You’ll live with me until you find your own residence. Others will arrive shortly to clean up this mess.”
“Are there others in the area?”
“Just you, I, and the Chosen One. I’ve kept this area reserved for her. When she’s ready, she’ll begin to fulfill her destiny here.”
Linares slid into the back of Abdiel’s limousine. She lay back and closed her eyes. She wondered what it would be like to meet the Chosen One. She wondered if she would sense the blood of Havah – the Eve – pulsing in her veins.
Linares wondered if when all was said and done, she would worship the Chosen One as the new Havah, or if instead she would have to destroy her.
© August 2012
For books and eBooks on Amazon go here: amazon.com/The-Black/e/B005QB5GOS/
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Nightwalkers is one of the books I’m currently editing for publication. While working on that, an idea occurred to me that had nothing to do with the novel. I hope you enjoy my little distraction.
Nightwalkers: The Vampire Linares
“Keep that bitch away from me,” Calvin grumbled.
Robert chuckled, “Relax man, she won’t bite. Hit me.”
Calvin dealt Robert a two of diamonds. “Yeah, so you say. She looks hungry to me; kind of pale.”
“She’s always pale. She’s from England or somewhere.” Robert looked over at Linares, who’d taken her Reeboks off and sat curled up on the end of the sofa, watching The View. “Hey baby, you’re from like London or Liverpool or somewhere, right?”
Without looking away from the television Linares said, “Spain.”
“She don’t look Spanish,” Calvin muttered.
Now Linares looked at Calvin. She smiled at him. “And you don’t look American.”
“What the fuck you mean? I was born here. My people were brought over here in chains, bitch. My people were here before most of the motherfuckers in this motherfucking country got here. I’m American; I don’t know what the fuck you are.”
“If you want to be technical, I’m Iberian,” Linares said.
What the fuck’s an Iberian, bitch? I thought you just said you were from Spain.”
“I was born in Spain before anybody ever called it Spain…bitch.”
“Yeah well, whatever the fuck you are, just keep your ass over there on that couch, ‘cause I don’t trust you. And what the fuck are you doing out in the daytime anyway? It’s damn near high noon. Aren’t you supposed to be burning up or something?”
“The dark man sent her,” Robert said. “Hit me again.” Calvin dealt an eight of hearts and Robert said, “Shit, busted on twenty-two!”
Linares said, “You shouldn’t believe everything you see in the movies, Calvin. We don’t all walk the night. Those of us old enough have learned to adapt.”
Calvin barely noticed his win at cards. He had his eyes on Linares, who’d turned her attention back to Barbara Walters and her crew. “So how come Abdiel didn’t come himself? He ain’t as old as you? Dark as that nigga is he shouldn’t even feel sunlight.”
“Abdiel is the oldest of us all, and the most powerful,” Linares said. “He simply prefers anonymity.”
Robert spit out a laugh. “She means the brother likes to keep his shit undercover. Damn man, pick up a book sometime.”
“So what’d he send you here for?” Calvin asked Linares. “What’s up? We’ve been handling our business like we’re supposed to. Me and Phillip got the sleeping chamber finished. It’s so light tight you can’t even squeeze air in.”
“And I’ve got around the clock security ready to go to work,” Robert added. “You can move somebody into the house whenever you’re ready.”
“So what’s going on?” Calvin asked again. “I mean, this ain’t typical, one of you just showing up for no reason. You sure you’re not just feeling thirsty and come here looking for somebody to suck on?”
Linares giggled at something on television and then said, “One of the four of you has been taken. When Phillip and Teresa return I’m going to kill that one.”
Calvin said, “Fuck!” and shot up from the card table so fast that he knocked his chair over.
The View went into commercial break, so Linares watched Calvin with an amused smile as he rifled frantically through his tool bag. He came out with a claw hammer.
“What the fuck you talking about, ‘taken?’” he shouted at her. “What the fuck you talking about, killing somebody?” He looked at Robert and pointed at her with the hammer. “See? I told you that bitch was up to something! She was looking at us funny the minute she walked in the door. I told you she was hungry!”
Robert had gathered up the playing cards and was shuffling them. He said, “Relax, man. If she wanted your blood you’d be running on empty right now. So Linares, what’s this taken thing?”
A commercial about shampoo had drawn Linares’ attention away from the men. As she watched it she ran her fingertips through her raven black hair. “How do you think I’d look as a blonde?”
“Not so hot,” Robert said. “Blondes need a tan to work it right. You’ve got that milky thing going on with your complexion. The black hair is a nice contrast. You look sexy like you are, so I wouldn’t change it.”
“Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you.”
“Man, fuck all that bullshit!” Calvin yelled. “She ain’t giving you no pussy!” He shook the hammer at her. “Who you trying to kill, huh? ‘Cause all I did was build the fucking box like ya’ll said!”
Linares swung her legs off the sofa. She wore jeans under a New York Yankees replica pinstriped jersey, and looked like anyone’s college girl next door. Calvin outweighed her by ninety pounds and was clutching his hammer, but he backed up a step.
Linares didn’t stand. She placed her hands primly on her knees and looked back and forth at the two men. Then she said, “One of you four has been taken by evil. The demon controls your actions and every word you speak. It’s come to try to destroy the one we set up the house for.”
“Hey, all I did was build the fucking box around the bed,” Calvin said. “I ain’t trying to destroy shit, and I don’t want to get destroyed, neither. So keep your fucking fangs off me.”
Robert said, “My security team is tight. Nobody will get close to whoever is coming.”
Footsteps sounded on the front porch. Robert dropped the cards. His hand shot to his side and he gripped the butt of his service revolver.
“It’s Phillip and Teresa,” Linares said, and Robert relaxed.
“So are you going to bite one of us?” Teresa asked. “I mean like, bite us for real? Because I kind of like the little nibbles you give me.” She sat next to Linares on the sofa, close enough that their hips touched. Phillip sat on Linares’ other side. “Actually, I really like them.”
“That’s because it makes you come,” Phillip said. “This isn’t about that. This is serious stuff.”
Teresa scowled at Phillip. “Yeah well, you fucked her, you asshole. Don’t think I forgot that. So she made you come, too.”
“I swear I didn’t know he was your husband then,” Linares said.
“Yeah well, he knew he had a wife,” Teresa snapped. “I blame him, Linares.”
Calvin had been pacing the living room with his hammer clutched in his fist. Now he stopped and glared at Phillip and Teresa. “What the fuck is wrong with ya’ll? This bitch is fittin’ to kill one of us and you’re talking about your dick and pussy. What the fuck?”
Teresa smiled up at him. “You don’t know what it’s like,” she said. “It’s like…like…” She clutched herself and shivered. “Bliss…”
“Yeah well, fuck all that,” Calvin said. “I’m in it for the money. Keep paying me and I can buy all the bliss I want. But I ain’t letting shit bite me; not Linares, not Abdiel, not none a them pointy-teeth motherfuckers.”
Robert was still at the card table, shuffling the cards. He said, “So Linares, why didn’t you just pick off whoever it is while they were by themselves? Why do you want all four of us here?”
Linares sat back on the sofa and crossed her legs. Teresa scooted closer to her, and the vampire wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Calvin curled his lip and shook his head in disgust.
Linares said, “It’s what Abdiel wants. He wants you all to bear witness.”
“Bear witness to what?” Phillip asked. He reached to place a hand on Linares’ breast, but Teresa smacked it away.
The vampire said, “Evil isn’t just a thing that men do, Robert. It’s not simply a thing you can control with a will to be good. Evil is an entity. It exists separate and apart from the will of man. You’re going to see the demon. You’re going to see evil in its earthly form. By bearing witness to the physical presence of evil, your faith in the rightness of what we do will be reinforced. You’ll better know that your service to us is a righteous service.”
“So you’re going to bite one of us for real?” Teresa breathed, “Like, suck us good?”
Calvin said, “She’s going to kill you, you stupid fucking horny –“
“Hey, watch it man,” Phillip warned. “You’re talking to my woman.”
“I can’t take the blood of the possessed,” Linares said. “It’s fouled, laced with the filth of Lilith, the mother of demons. It would make me sick.”
Phillip said, “Then it must be Calvin. He’s the only one that won’t let you bite him.”
Calvin backed away from the sofa, back to the card table. “Uh-uh-hell no-that’s bullshit! Ain’t no fucking demon inside me!”
“The possession happened recently,” Linares said, “a day or so ago at most. It could be any one of you.”
“How are we going to see the demon?” Teresa asked.
“A person weak of spirit is easily taken by evil,” Linares explained. “But once it enters its host, the demon can’t leave so easily. It requires either extraction by exorcism – which is painful for the demon – or the death of the host body. Until either happens, the demon is trapped within its host. But when the body perishes, the demon is released. Many human suicides are actually caused by a demon wanting to leave its host. Anyway, since I’m not a priest I’ll have to kill the one of you possessed to release the demon. You other three will see it then, when it leaves the body. Then I’ll kill it, too.”
“So you know which one of us it is?” Phillip asked.
Linares nodded. “Besides being able to bear the sun, another benefit of my age is that I can sense the presence of Lilith’s spawn. That’s something a young vampire can’t do. It’s why Abdiel chose me to prepare the house.”
Teresa snuggled closer to Linares and kissed the corner of her mouth. Then she said, “So the demon knows you can see it?”
Linares smiled. “It does now.”
“How are you going to kill it?” Robert asked.
Linares stood up. She reached back under her hair to her collar and grasped the hilt of the dagger sheathed at her back. She held the blade out for her consorts to see. “This blade is forged from the ore from the earth of The Garden. It can cleave the ethereal flesh of the spawn of Lilith.”
Robert heaved the card table over, dashed for the front window and dove headfirst through the glass.
Linares was a blur as she flashed from the sofa to the window. She grasped Robert by the back of his policeman’s shirt and yanked him back into and across the room. He slammed into the far wall and fell to the floor, but was on his feet instantly. Shards of glass stuck out of his face. Blood oozed out around the glass, matching the sudden glowing red in his eyes.
Calvin yelled, “Oh, fuck!” and drew back his hammer, ready to fight whichever of the creatures came at him. Phillip clutched Teresa to him as if his human arms would protect her from whatever was about to happen.
Robert yowled a cry that sounded like a mixture of a cat’s screech and a snake’s hiss and charged at Linares. The demon used Robert’s human arm to strike at the vampire, but Linares caught his fist and twisted hard. Robert’s forearm cracked like a breaking tree branch and dangled uselessly in the sleeve of his uniform shirt.
Snarling, Robert snapped at Linares like a rabid dog. She jerked her head away, and his teeth chocked together so hard that a couple broke loose from their roots and fell from his mouth.
Linares took a skip-step back, and then delivered a side kick to the side of Robert’s knee. His leg collapsed on itself, and he dropped to one knee. Linares was on him in a blink. She wrapped her arm around his head and grasped his chin. She wrenched his head around so violently that it spun twice on his neck, and Robert dropped face first to the floor, his human body dead.
Linares picked up her dagger, stood over the dead cop and said to her horrified consorts, “Now watch.”
The air just above the dead man’s body shifted, and then darkened, until it became a translucent shadow as large as a medium-sized dog. The thing was all darkness save for two red orbs that glowed at Linares with bitter hatred.
Linares slashed it with her blade, and the shadow screeched. Blood flew into the air in a red arc. She slashed again, drawing another otherworldly screech and more blood. The demon shuddered and collapsed back onto Robert’s body. Linares stepped closer, and shifting the blade in her hand, drove it down into the evil so deeply that her fist sank into the shadow.
She withdrew her blade and backed away. Her face and clothes were spattered with blood. Again she said, “Watch.”
As her terrified consorts watched, the now still shadow faded away until only pure, clean air remained in the space it had occupied. The demon’s blood faded and vanished too, from Linares’ body and from where it had splattered around the room.
Linares slid her dagger back into its sheath and said, “Anyway, that’s how you kill a demon.”
Calvin dropped his hammer and said, “Fuck me naked. Did ya’ll see that shit?”
“Yeah,” Phillip said, “It was like a living shadow.”
Teresa said, “I feel like I’ve seen something like that before.”
“You probably have,” Linares said. “Sometimes that thing you think you see out of the corner of your eye isn’t just your imagination. Evil is among us, always seeking out the weak and impure. It’s always looking for a way in so that it can bring more suffering and misery to mankind.”
“So Robert was a punk,” Calvin said.
“You’re the punk Calvin,” Teresa snapped. “Have some respect for the dead. I would’ve bet money it was you with a demon inside you.”
Linares laughed. “Calvin’s an asshole, but he has a good heart.”
“Fuck you too, dead chick,” Calvin said. “But do me a favor: You ever see one a those shadow motherfuckers around me, stab it before it gets inside me, okay? I’d appreciate it.”
“What are we going to do about Robert’s body?” Phillip asked.
“I’ll make a call,” Linares said. “We have other people on standby to handle cleanups like this. They’ll get here pretty quickly, so we should leave and be out of their way.”
“Where are we going?” Teresa asked.
Linares said, “I vote for Dairy Queen. I’m absolutely dying for a strawberry shake.”
© August 2012
Sicklerville, New Jersey
As Ali shut off his weed eater he pretended not to notice Lisa sitting on her porch across the street, sipping a tall glass of something and watching him. Whenever he did yard work she managed to find her way out onto her porch to enjoy the show. He didn’t know why her old man didn’t notice. Or maybe the dude did notice and didn’t care.
Making sure not to look Lisa’s way, Ali scanned his front yard, surveying his handiwork. Nice. He’d mowed it to a uniform inch and a half high, power-edged along the sidewalk and driveway, and trimmed along the sides of the house. His lawn looked like a layer of green carpet. It was too bad it had been so hot lately, and there’d been so little rain. Keeping his lawn green had damn near doubled his water bill.
Ali headed for the garage with the weed eater, and forgot himself when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked across the street, and saw that Lisa had gotten up and was standing at her front door, holding her storm door propped open with her hip. She waved at him.
This morning she was wearing a peach-colored tank top and white shorts. Even from across the street and through his safety goggles Ali thought he could see her nipples poking out her top.
To be neighborly he waved back. Lisa took a quick look up and down the street, and then with her free hand pulled the strap of her top to one side and let her big tittie fall out.
Ali almost tripped over his weed eater. Lisa flashed a big smile, stuffed her tittie back in her top and went inside her house.
Her dude must not be home. Or maybe he got off on his woman being an exhibitionist. Maybe he was inside at the window stroking himself while Lisa flashed the neighborhood. You never knew what kinds of freaks people were behind closed doors.
Inside his two-car garage Ali wiped down his lawn mower, then stepped out of his battered, grass-stained for-grass-cutting-only Nikes. He looked across the garage at his Charger, and decided that though it was only mid-morning, it was already too hot to deal with detailing it. He’d get up early again tomorrow and take care of that.
In his kitchen Ali peeled off his sweat-drenched tee-shirt, took it to the laundry enclave and tossed it into the washing machine. His cell phone was on the kitchen’s center island, and when he passed it on his way to the refrigerator to get some water he noticed its message light flashing. He looked to the wall and saw the voicemail light for his house phone flashing too.
He checked the house phone’s voicemail first. Kendra’s cheerful voice asked, “Okay, where are you so early on a Saturday? I’ll try your cell.” That call came just after 7:00 am. He was out in the yard then.
Her cell phone voicemail said, “Okay, if I’m disturbing you while you’re getting some nookie, I apologize. But if you are, give me a call back. It’s kind of important.”
Ali hung up, frowning. Why would his ex-wife want him to call her if he was getting laid?
“Hey, what’s up?” Ali asked.
“Are you alone?”
“Yeah, I was doing the yard. What’s up?”
“I’m not gonna do it,” Kendra said. “I changed my mind.”
“Not going to do what?”
“Oh. Sorry.” So this was one of those calls. Whenever Kendra was going through some shit in a relationship she called him to vent. For some reason she sometimes acted like they were the same kind of friends they were before they got involved, and before they’d been married for four years.
Kendra said, “It’s okay. We talked about it, and kind of decided together that we weren’t ready.”
What that probably really meant was that Kendra had jumped without thinking again and said “Yes” when Donald proposed, and now that she’d come back to earth she was looking at things realistically. She’d probably remembered that marriage was about more than the ceremony and the ability to say you were married. It was about work. Two people merging their lives and not killing each other as a result took work.
Kendra said, “One of his old girlfriends moved back to town and I think something’s going on. Or he’s at least thinking about it. He didn’t say that, but that’s what I think.”
Or it could be that.
“Damn. Sorry, babe.” He hadn’t meant to call her babe, but sometimes even after three years apart, muscle memory kicked in and it slipped out.
“It’s okay. Story of my life.”
It wasn’t the story when they were married. When he and Kendra were married he wouldn’t have cheated even if Beyonce had stripped naked in front of him and started singing Put a Dick in It. All any man needs is one good woman who’s a freak like him. Kendra was a freak like him.
“So why are you doing yard work in this heat?” Kendra asked. “It’s blazing out here.”
“It’s only going to get hotter later, and you know I can’t have my yard looking scraggly. How’s your weather in Connecticut?”
“It was nice when I left this morning.”
“When you left?”
“Open the door. I’m in your driveway.”
Ali opened his front door and stepped out onto his porch. Across the way Lisa was standing behind the glass in her storm door, watching. Ali ignored her and turned his attention to the car in his driveway.
The Hyundai Sonata looked new. Ali felt proud of Kendra that she was handling her business and able to get a new ride. Then she opened the driver’s door and swung her legs out, and he forgot about cars.
Kendra had been spending time in the sun, because her legs were baked to the hue of Vanilla Wafer cookies. She popped out of the car, smiling at him from behind dark sunglasses as she clicked her remote door lock.
Kendra’s sundress was lemony yellow, with a tube type top. Her bare shoulders were as bronzed as her legs. Ali thought that either she’d either lost some weight or gotten taller because even in her flat sandals her legs looked longer than he remembered. Or maybe it was because her sundress was damned near a mini.
Ali watched her as she came up his walkway. Vanilla Wafer skin. Yellow dress. He thought about banana pudding. Sweet. He pushed the thought away.
He held the door open for her, and as she stepped in he stole a glance across the street. Lisa was gone. Her front door was closed. Ha!
Ali closed his front door and turned in his foyer to face Kendra. She took off her sunglasses and looked him up and down like he was a piece of meat, grinned and said, “Dag, boy! You’ve been working out!”
Oh yeah. He was hot and sweaty and was only wearing basketball shorts.
She said, “I’d hug you, but I didn’t bring anything to change into.”
Ali shot a quick glance at Kendra’s bare shoulders and at the hint of cleavage peeking above the top of her tube. Once upon a time he would have joked and told her to take off her dress if she was worried about messing it up. But that was once upon a time. They hadn’t sexed each other since she was between boyfriends – before Donald and after the other dude she thought she was going to marry. Ali couldn’t remember his name. But that was once upon a time. He didn’t know where Kendra’s head was now.
“Come on in,” he said, and led her into the living room.
Kendra looked around before sitting down. She said, “I see you finally got your black leather furniture.” She looked through the archway that opened onto the dining room and said, “And a new dining room set. Nice.”
Her comments reminded Ali that she hadn’t been here in a while, almost two years. The last time she visited he was still using the family room furniture left over from their marriage for his living room set. “I got some nice bonuses last year,” he said. “I guess you’re doing all right too, with that new ride.”
“Oh, Daddy said it was time for a new car,” Kendra said. “He said I needed something safe for my commute.” Kendra commuted from Connecticut into Manhattan to work.
“Tom is right,” Ali said. “I still think you should take the train.”
“You know I like being behind the wheel.”
That was true. When they were together sometimes they’d almost get into arguments about who was going to drive wherever they were going.
Kendra sank onto his sofa and crossed her legs. She slid her palms over the black leather and cooed, “Ooh…nice…soft…”
Ali figured that knowing Kendra, if she was going to vent about her now former fiancé it was going to take up the next several hours, so he’d might as well be cleaned up and comfortable. He said, “I need to grab a shower. Can I get you anything before I go up?”
Kendra looked him up and down again and let her gaze come to rest on his shorts. She said, “I know where everything is,” and bit into her plump bottom lip.
Ali said, “Oh, you’ve got jokes,” and escaped upstairs.
Ali was halfway through his shower when he had a Psycho movie moment. His master bathroom door was open, and through the dimpled glass in the sliding shower door he saw the murky figure enter. Even though he knew it was Kendra and that everything was cool, his imagination had her snatching the shower door open and raising the French knife she’d pilfered from his kitchen, ready to try to hack him to bloody bits.
Instead of trying to kill him she closed the toilet lid and sat down on it. She asked, “So are you seeing anybody?”
She should have asked that question before she hit the road and drove down from Connecticut. But planning ahead never was Kendra’s style. For her, planning ahead usually took the form of vague daydreaming about something that was almost impossible to happen in reality. Almost everything else she did happened on impulse, at the spur of the moment. Like getting engaged twice since they’d split up. Maybe them splitting up, too.
As for whether he was seeing anyone, he was. Sort of. He’d met Coleen at the Burlington Mall a couple of months ago, when she bumped into him and almost spilled her soda on him in the food court. After three dates Colleen confessed that the bump wasn’t an accident.
Colleen was nice enough and pretty enough. She was a thirty-six year-old divorcee with a nine year-old daughter and six year-old son. They got along okay. No real issues. No unnecessary drama. He was going to have to stop seeing her soon, however.
Colleen was a “good girl.” She had a hard four-months-before-sex rule. That was cool. He respected a woman who had standards and wasn’t so desperate to get a man that she used her body as a sacrificial offering. But he could tell that she was getting anxious for the four months to be over.
He needed to stop seeing her before then.
He’d told Colleen from the jump that though he was cool with being in a monogamous relationship, he wasn’t particularly interested in getting married anytime soon. Colleen said she understood, and that that was fine. Yeah, right.
After two months he knew that for Colleen, sex was going to mean serious commitment. And to her way of thinking, if you were going to seriously commit, you had might as well be thinking about marriage. He’d seen the marriage glow in her eyes on the day he’d made the mistake of taking her and her kids to Six Flags. It was that glow that said, He’ll make a good husband and father. Looking at that glow in Colleen’s eyes was scarier than looking into the eyes of a hungry panther.
So not no, but hell no. Marriage wasn’t going to happen. He’d been there and done that. The proof was sitting right outside his shower, wearing a yellow sundress.
To answer Kendra’s question he said, “I’m dating.”
“Is it serious?”
Kendra reached and slid the shower door open, looked in and gave him that smile. It was a smile he knew so well. He used to think that she must have smiled that same way when she was a little girl and was about to stick her hand in the cookie jar when she wasn’t supposed to. It was the smile that meant she was thinking about doing something bad.
Bad, as in sometimes very good.
Kendra stood next to his bed and let him pull the top of her sundress down off her plump breasts while they kissed. She let him push the dress down over the swell of her hips, and let it drop and pool around her ankles. As he kissed his way down her body she stepped out of the dress and kicked her sandals off.
Ali kneeled in front of her and kissed her belly as he peeled her panties down. Her panties were white with yellow sunflowers on them. Pretty. What was under her panties was prettier.
Ali straightened up, took a step back and looked at the woman he used to be married to the way she’d looked at him down in the foyer, and then again when he’d come dripping wet out of the shower.
38-D, 30, 42. Five-foot-five. About 160 pounds of tight-packed hourglass curves.
She was looking at him, too. Her eyes were on his rock hard desire for her as she said, “I don’t think I can get married again. I think eventually I’d end up cheating on him with you.”
Ali wanted to tell Kendra that she was wrong or crazy or whatever. But he couldn’t, because he felt the same way.
Ali stepped back to his ex-wife. He took her soft, warm nakedness in his arms. He kissed her.
It was like coming home.
Kendra broke their kiss and asked, “Have you done it yet on your new sofa?”
“Then let’s go christen it.”
“You’re going to look good naked on black leather.”
Kendra gave him her hand in the cookie jar smile and said, “Then bring your camera.”
© 18 July 2012
Platonic, Pt. 7
Rumson, New Jersey
“So you don’t love me anymore?” Andrea lay next to him in his bed, propped up on one elbow. The bedcovers were draped around her hips, exposing her nakedness from the waist up. She smiled as she asked him the question, trying to look like she was asking in fun. But he knew her. She really wanted to know.
Brandon kept his eyes on her face. He didn’t want to look at her breasts, as lovely as they were. He didn’t love her anymore, not like before. He realized that now. She no longer had a grip on his heart. He knew because the sex they’d just shared only felt like sex. There was nothing special about it, the way it used to be for him with her. He felt bad about that, and not for himself. Andrea was his friend. He loved her as his friend. He didn’t want sex with his friend. He felt like it cheapened their friendship, and made her less than she used to be.
“I love you,” he said. It was still true. Just different now.
Andrea was watching him, closely. “But not like before.” She knew him, too.
“Before wasn’t good for me,” he said. “That was me wanting from you what you wanted from someone else.”
“I wasn’t using you, Brandon.”
That she would say that meant that she probably had been using him. She’d never wanted to hurt him, but she’d enjoyed him wanting her. He’d been her back up love; her shoulder to cry on when the man she love stepped on her. He couldn’t be mad at her about that, because he knew what it was all along and he’d let it happen. He’d known the truth, but didn’t want to see it. Love is nothing if not hope, and hope can make anyone a fool. That’s what Freda Michaels had been trying to get him to see for years. Freda knew, but her telling him wouldn’t have worked. He had to see it for himself, and like a child maturing into adulthood, learn some things through hard experience.
“We’re friends, Andrea. We should be able to use each other when we need something, as long as it does no harm.”
“What if I want us to be more than friends?”
“Is that where you are now?”
“I think so, yes. I think I’m at that point in my life.”
If Andrea were being honest – with him and with herself – then she was today where he was years ago. Years ago he would have jumped at the chance. There was a time when if she’d simply said the word, he would have married her without hesitation. There was a time in which she had her hands around his heart.
He said, “We’ll always be friends, Andrea. I’m always going to love you. But for me the moment has passed.”
Manhattan, New York
“Do you really have to use a condom to blow me?”
“Those are the rules.”
“I don’t think I can come like that. I don’t think I can feel anything.”
“Do you want something else…a hand job?’
“Fuck no. I can do that for myself. Do you really have to use a condom?”
Terri was getting a bad feeling about this client. He was too whiney, like a spoiled toddler who wasn’t getting his way. A tantrum might come next. There was a big difference between a baby and a grown man throwing a tantrum. One could be dangerous. She cut a glance at the hotel room’s door and wondered if she could reach it, throw the security latch and get out before he caught her. If she needed to run. If he tried to chase her.
“The rules were explained to you when you set up the appointment,” she said. “We can’t change the rules.”
“Why not? It’s just you and me now. I won’t tell if you won’t.” He winked and smiled at her, as if she really wanted to suck his dick without protection and only needed his agreement to keep quiet to do it.
“Those are the rules, Gary. So no condom, no oral.”
“Then I think I want my money back.”
Terri slid away from him on the bed and reached for her bra. “Okay, call the service.”
She was going to get off the bed, but he grabbed her wrist. “I want my money back now.”
She needed to keep the situation calm, and then try to get away from this asshole. “Gary, don’t be silly, okay? We can have fun if we play by the rules. Let me put the condom on you…”
“We’re not using any fucking condom, Jewel. I told you I can’t feel anything like that. Let’s not make this something ugly, okay?”
Terri saw the threat in his eyes. If this bastard didn’t have things his way he was going to get mean.
She was sick of this, so sick and tired. And she didn’t have to be here. She could have gone to Brandon’s last night, and tonight been relaxing in his den without a care in the world. Brandon wouldn’t pressure her to do anything because they were friends. He cared about her.
Terri looked at the customer’s hand clutched around her left wrist. She looked at his wedding band. She said, “If you wanted someone to suck you off raw, you should’ve stayed home with your wife.” It was a wrong thing to say, given his temperament. But she didn’t care anymore.
The customer squeezed her wrist tighter and growled, “You little bitch,” and started to reach for her with his other hand. But he wasn’t that quick, and she was.
As she zipped up her dress Terri kept her eyes on Gary, who sat on the edge of the bed with a bloody hotel towel pressed against his broken nose. She said, “You could call the police, but you probably don’t want to. They might arrest me for solicitation, but it won’t stick. My company has a team of lawyers and private investigators ready to jump at a moment’s notice, and we have politicians who enjoy hanging out with us on occasion. You, on the other hand, have a wife who thinks you’re being a good boy while you’re in the city attending your company’s convention. And your company probably wouldn’t appreciate the bad press they’ll receive when this hits the news.”
From behind the towel Gary mumbled, “Fuck you.”
“Since you didn’t and won’t, you really can call and get your money back. Enjoy the rest of your evening, Gary.”
Rumson, New Jersey
Brandon was surprised to open his door and find Terri standing across the threshold. She didn’t look very friendly. Remembering how he’d come off the wrong way a couple of nights ago he decided to play things carefully and see what happened. He said, “I’m glad to see you.”
“I used to box when I was in the Army,” Terri said.
“Yes, really. And I was pretty good, too. They don’t have a boxing program for females, so I could only spar. I was the only female training for boxing and there weren’t too many dudes in my weight class, so I fought a lot of guys bigger than me.”
“Where are we going with this?”
“Where we’re going is that you’re bigger than me too Brandon, but I bet I can kick your Wall Street ass.”
“That still doesn’t tell me where we’re going with this.”
“Where I’m going is that if I do this, there can’t be anybody else. No naked wenches for Christmas, or any other time. Next time it won’t be her I punch out.”
“And before I stop working where I’m working, I need to find another job. My rent and bills still need to be paid.”
“Or you could stay here.”
“How would that be different from what I’m doing now?”
“You’d be here as my friend, and because I care about you and what happens to you.”
“I don’t need a man to save me.”
“I’m not in the saving business, Terri. I just want you here with me. It’s not a complicated thing.”
“It’s always complicated. We’re different people.”
“Was it complicated when you came here before?”
“As I recall, it got very complicated. Complication came out of your kitchen naked.”
“She had a towel on.”
“Yeah, for a hot second. I didn’t come here to talk about your wenches.”
“Do you want to come in or are you going to stand out in the cold while we talk?”
Terri stepped past him into the foyer. He noticed that she had a bandage over the knuckles on her right hand. “You’ve been fighting?”
“I wouldn’t call it a fight. So do you really think this can work with us, Brandon?”
“Yes I do.”
“Because we worked well as friends. I liked having you here, and when you weren’t, I missed you. I want you here all the time; here with me.”
“What if I said I’ll move in, but that I want to wait before anything happens?”
“For how long?”
“I don’t know; three months, maybe six.”
“I understand. You’re worried that you’ll suck in bed and not measure up to my high standards.”
“Ooh, you asshole!” For the first time since he opened his door to her Terri smiled. Actually let go of a little laugh.
He said, “Okay, but seriously, I do think there’s something we need to do before we jump into the deep end.”
“Is this another one of your ultimatums?”
“Not at all. More like a strong suggestion…a very strong one.”
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
The Office of Dr. Freda Michaels
One Week Later
Freda tried to maintain her professionalism and not smile as she sat across from her patient. Okay, patients. They sat next to each other on her office sofa; closer than strangers would sit when there was adequate space but not so close that one could make assumptions about their level of intimacy. Brandon was dressed in pressed jeans under a cable knit pullover of too high a quality to come from anybody’s department store. He’d let his facial hair grow out, and with it trimmed low, looked handsome in a scruffy kind of way. Terri wore jeans, too, and cute over-the-ankle boots with three-inch heels. For the first time since Freda had known her she wasn’t wearing a hairpiece. Her short wavy haircut made her look much younger. Today, rather than sexy-pretty, she looked sexy-cute. They looked like a cute couple, if that’s what they were. Freda had hopes. “It’s really nice to see you again, Brandon,” she said.
“Thanks Freda. You too.”
“Although I must admit that I’m quite surprised at the circumstances.”
“We just want to make sure that we start things off on the right foot – you know, all things considered.”
“I’ll do all I can to help. So are we going to call this couples counseling?”
Terri took Brandon’s hand, smiled and said, “Let’s call it ‘playing it by ear’ counseling.”
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
Evan woke up to the aroma of breakfast – bacon, coffee, something with onions. When he got down to the kitchen he found the table set and Freda busy finishing up what they used to call their country heart attack breakfast: Bacon and hot links, home fries (from real sliced potatoes) with onions, scrambled eggs with cheese, buttered grits, cheese toast (made in the oven), pancakes, coffee and sweet tea. So that they wouldn’t permanently clog their arteries they used to only have this breakfast once every month or so. Evan hadn’t had it since their marriage ended. His stomach rumbled that that was far too long.
As was her habit from back on the mornings before they had kids and again after the kids were grown and out of the house, Freda was wearing the dress shirt he’d worn to work the day before. The shirt was white, and the way it contrasted with her long, bare, honey-hued legs made his heart gasp rather than beat. She had classic soul music playing on his stereo, currently Groove Me by King Floyd. As she flipped the pancakes she wiggled her hips and sang along. She looked good enough to eat. Again.
When Freda saw him she danced his way, smiling and with spatula in hand, and greeted him with a smack on the lips. He grasped her waist so that she couldn’t prance away and asked, “So why are you so happy this morning? And the only correct answer is because of what we did last night.”
“That’s one reason,” Freda said.
“What’s the other?”
“I think that for the first time in a long time I truly believe that love can conquer all. It feels good to have that hope again.”
“Is this because of your patients – Terri and Brandon – hooking up?”
“Mmm-hmm. If I’d had to bet money a couple of months ago, I would have bet that they didn’t have a chance. But now I’d bet on them making it work. And if those two can make it work, hey…”
Freda turned away and padded back to the stove. Evan watched her, and for a moment he forgot that their lives were separated, that they weren’t married any more. Or maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe all that mattered was how they felt being together in the moment. And maybe that feeling conquered everything else.
31 May 2012
NEW RELEASE THIS MONTH:
GOLDEN (INSATIABLE: BOOK TWO)
Platonic, Pt. 6
Rumson, New Jersey
Brandon went to answer his door thinking that the first thing he’d do was tell Terri that he appreciated her coming, and then that he hoped he hadn’t come off as arrogant last night, because that hadn’t been his intent. If she felt that he had been, then he’d apologize. He’d even apologize about Lisa, though he didn’t feel he’d done anything wrong regarding that incident. He just wanted to start things off on the right foot, and then move forward.
He opened his door, ready to make things right.
Andrea was standing on his porch, smiling her sexy smile.
As he tried to regroup she presented a bottle of wine and said, “Repayment for last night. I really appreciate you not letting me spend Valentine’s Day alone.”
“Likewise,” Brandon said, and stepped aside to let her in.
Before closing the door he looked out at his driveway, expecting Murphy’s Law to go into full effect. Now was when Terri’s Ford Focus would pull into his driveway behind Andrea’s Mercedes CLS, and all hell would break loose.
Behind him Andrea said, “I brought you something else, too.”
Brandon closed the door and turned around as Andrea extracted a disc from her shoulder bag.
She held it up and said, “I burned you a copy.”
“I see.” He looked at her mouth – one of his favorite of her many sexy features – and had no doubt that the last thing she’d done before getting out of her car was freshen her gloss. He knew her so well. And she’d reapplied her gloss because she knew him so well.
Watching him watching her, she smiled her sexy smile again.
The night ahead flashed before Brandon’s mental eye. He was going to be in Andrea up to his kidneys when Terri rang his doorbell, because God is a practical joker, and sometimes a cruel one.
“Do you feel like Chinese, my treat?” Andrea asked.
She said, “I’m thinking we order some food, sip some wine while we watch this and relive some wonderful memories.”
He stepped closer to her. “And decide if we need to make a sequel?”
Andrea gazed up at him, and her sexy smile transformed into a victory smile (he knew her so well). She said, “Then we can start our undress rehearsals tonight.”
Brandon lowered his face to kiss her. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled in anticipation of the doorbell chiming.
“Everything okay?” Andrea asked.
Brandon gave her a smile that he wasn’t completely feeling and said, “How could they not be, all things considered?”
A thing to consider was Andrea stretched out on his den sofa on her stomach, with her face in his lap.
A thing not to consider was that it was just after 7:00 p.m., and there was still a possibility (though becoming less likely) that Terri would show up.
“You seem a little distracted,” Andrea said.
The curse of having once been best friends: They knew each other so well.
Brandon slid his hand down Andrea’s back to the generous swell of her bottom. Another thing to consider was that since she’d come over straight from work, she’d wanted to take a shower, after which she’d put on one of his tee-shirts. Only his tee-shirt.
He pulled the bottom of the tee-shirt up to the small of her back. Andrea’s sexy smile turned wicked. She had a nice ass – one of the best – and she knew it. And, she knew he knew it. Thus her wicked smile.
She held him grasped gently in her hand. Gazing at her amazing ass, he pulsed against her soft palm. She wrapped her wicked smile around him.
As Andrea demonstrated one of the amazing powers that made her a superhero among women, Brandon stared across the room at the cable box clock. He watched the blood red LED change: 7:12…7:13…7:14. How late before it would be too late, so that he could relax?
The doorbell chimed. Brandon jumped. Andrea gagged.
She sat up, frowned at him and said, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah…I was kind of lost in the moment,” he lied.
He started to close his pants, but Andrea said, “I’ll get it.” She looked at his lap and smiled at her handiwork. “You’re in no condition.”
She stood up, turned her back to him, and leaned to the coffee table to pick up her credit card. She bent over low enough to give him a view of what was important in life, and then pranced away to answer the door.
When she was gone Brandon closed his pants, sat back and got ready. Either the delivery person bringing their dinner or Terri bringing hellfire would be at the door.
He hoped that God wasn’t in the mood for one of His jokes.
Long Branch, New Jersey
“Do you think she wants to get back together?” Lucas asked.
Evan stood at the glass balcony doors of Lucas’ oceanfront condo, watching white surf on a black ocean. He’d stopped by Lucas’ place after work, partly on a whim, and partly because Lucas knew women as well as anyone. He wanted his opinion on his situation with Freda. He said, “I don’t know, man. I think maybe she’s just feeling lonely, and I’m a safe bet.”
“I’m guessing it’s a safe bet for you, too,” Lucas said.
“No doubt. There’s a lot more bullshit to wade through dating these days than there used to be, so I can definitely relate to her on that. Speaking of dating, I’m surprised to catch you at home the day after Valentine’s Day.”
“Man, I’ve been non-stop for five days straight. I need air. So you like Freda giving you booty calls?”
“I’m not complaining.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“There isn’t one right now, not for me. I thought about it, and I can get with keeping things as they are, with us being friends.”
“You mean friends with benefits.”
“With Freda Michaels.”
“You know you’re out of your fucking mind, don’t you?”
“How do you figure?”
“Evan, I’ve known Freda almost as long as I’ve known you. She’s not the friends with benefits type, not even for you.”
“So you think she’s going to want to turn this into some kind of relationship?”
“Come on man, you know Freda. From the moment you let her into your bed, in her mind you were in a relationship. She’s just waiting for you to read that headline.”
“She can wait all she wants, because things are fine with me as they are. She wanted out of being married and she got it. So we can work with what’s left.”
“Well as a friend to you both, I hope you get back together. You were good together – better than any couple I know. But more important, I haven’t had any of Freda’s Chicken Melanese since you split up, and I’m sick of that bullshit.”
Evan’s cell phone beeped that he had a new text message. He checked it out and said, “Speak of the devil.”
Grinning, Lucas said, “I was about to offer you another beer, but I guess you’re on your way out to answer a booty call.”
“Nah, she’s telling me that she just got out of an emergency session with a patient. It’s a crazy situation. She wants to know if I’m busy so she can give me the latest.”
“I thought that stuff was confidential between the doctor and the patient.”
“She’s only telling me.”
“Uh-huh. And that’s the kind of thing you share with a spouse – not with a booty call.”
Terri felt better as she left Dr. Michael’s office, but she was still on the fence about what she should do about Brandon. On that part Freda had been no help. She’d just turned the question back on her with the standard, ‘What do you want to do?’ crap. Hell, if she knew what she wanted to do, she wouldn’t have asked Freda for a short-notice session.
Freda had actually looked shocked when she told her that Brandon had come to her place last night talking about wanting a relationship. But she’d recovered in a hurry. Then she got on her usual ‘Look at yourself in a mirror’ game:
“What did he say, Terri?”
“He told me to quit working so we could be more than platonic friends.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
“It made me feel like he’s an asshole, that’s how it made me feel. He told me to come to his place today, like he was giving me an ultimatum. Who the hell does he think he is?”
“What if he’d asked you in a different way?”
“Well, let’s say he’d asked you if you would consider not working for the sake of your being together. Would you have considered it?”
“Well, he didn’t ask me that way, so the point is moot, isn’t it?”
“Is it, Terri?”
Fucking Freda, always answering questions with questions. She’d gone to her for answers this evening, not for more questions to deal with.
But what if Brandon had come to her correct? What if he had told her in a different way that he wanted to get with her? Would she have gone for it? Well, it would’ve been a better way to at least start things off. She’d still have to make him suffer for a while for having that naked cow in his house, but it would’ve been a start.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a moot point.
Fuck you Freda, Miss Know-It-All.
Her dashboard clock read 8:42. It was still early, and she didn’t want to go home with all the extra questions Freda had given her to carry.
Too bad she couldn’t go to Brandon’s and just relax. She had to admit, she really missed that. When she was at his house it was like her real life didn’t even exist. Being with him was a pleasant escape from her reality.
So how hard would it be to swallow just a little bit of pride and go over there? Real hard, that’s how hard. If she went over there it would be like she was obeying his command. Now way in hell would she give him that satisfaction. Besides, he had a good cussing out coming before things could be smooth between them.
Terri decided to hell with it, she was going home.
(To be continued)
Platonic Pt. 5
Andrea’s email invitation to diner surprised Brandon. He hadn’t expected that she’d be alone on Valentine’s Day. For all the years he’d known her, wolves had been sniffing after her hot body, and finding a date had never been an issue in her life. They agreed that by the time he got back from the city it would be too late to find a decent restaurant that wasn’t overflowing with Valentine’s Day diners. So Andrea invited him to her place.
Part joking and more curious, he’d asked her what she was doing alone on this lover’s holiday. She responded that she had a meeting to get to, and that they could talk about it when they saw each other that evening.
As he drove from the city back to Jersey and to Andrea’s condo Brandon felt a growing anxiety. He told himself that his anxiousness was only because he hadn’t seen her in many months – since the late spring of last year – and not because he still had feelings for her. He told himself that they were just friends getting together for dinner. He wasn’t sure that he believed himself.
The plan was that she’d make dinner and he’d bring the wine, so once he was back on familiar turf he stopped to pick up a bottle. As he left the liquor store he noticed a convenience store next door. On impulse he went in and purchased a single rose for her. He told himself that it didn’t mean anything. They were old friends. The rose was a gesture of their friendship, that’s all. A man could buy a rose for a lady friend and it not mean anything more than his showing appreciation for her as the feminine – the gift to man.
Andrea greeted him at her door with a hug. The rose garnered a smile, a ‘thank you’ and a kiss on the corner of his mouth.
“I haven’t been home long,” she said as she led him into her house. “I had to throw something together in a hurry.”
Brandon followed her in, checking her out as she padded ahead of him wearing a denim shirt over leggings. Her shirt was oversized and hung over but couldn’t hide the curve of her bottom. The leggings, molded to her strong thighs and calves, made him think of the days when her legs were bare and extended out like a gymnast as he’d moved over her and in her.
He pushed the memory away.
What she threw together was delicious; some concoction that included salmon, spinach, tomato and basil. They ate and sipped wine in her family room, in front of the crackling fireplace and the television. Just like old times.
Well, in old times they might end up naked on her couch, or stripping each other’s clothes off as they kissed their way upstairs to her bedroom. Once they’d only made it as far as the stairs, and afterward laughed about his scraped knees and her bruised bottom. That had been one of the cool things about their friendship: It allowed them to laugh during sex. It wasn’t that serious. Until he started feeling serious.
Brandon didn’t expect such happenings tonight. They’d moved on from that part of their friendship, to other things and other people. That thought reminded him of their email communication.
“So why don’t you have a hot date tonight?” he asked. “You’re not seeing anyone?”
“I am, but I think it’s falling apart.”
Andrea smiled and shrugged. “Story of my life, right? Picking losers. Speaking of which, can you believe Travis called this morning to wish me a happy Valentine’s Day? He called right after you emailed me – like he sensed the danger or something.”
“He was always jealous of our friendship.”
Brandon didn’t know why Travis would have been jealous of him. Travis was the one who’d had the inside track to Andrea’s heart.
“So you hadn’t heard from him in a while?”
“Oh, he’ll try to call or shoot me a text every now and then. But I’ve been through with him for a minute. You know that.”
“So what’s the deal with your new guy?”
“He’s someone from work; another manager. We’ve been talking for a couple of months, since his divorce was final.”
“Okay. And tonight he’s where?”
“His daughter’s birthday is today. He said that he always spends Valentine’s Day with her. So he’s down in Mt. Holly tonight.”
“How old is his daughter?”
“Well then, he’d better enjoy it while he can. Once she starts dating, he’s not the guy she’s going to want to be spending her birthday with.”
Andrea chewed on her lip and stared at the television, pretending to watch. But Brandon knew her. The look on her face told him that daughter or not, she wasn’t happy about this dude leaving her alone tonight. He asked, “So did he take you out or do something with you this weekend, since he knew he’d be spending today with his daughter?”
Now Andrea looked at him, and one side of her sexy mouth curved up in a bitter smile that was more like a grimace. “You think? See Brandon, you get it. I’m not hating on his little girl, but why couldn’t he think to do something for us another day? Why don’t other men get what you get?”
“I don’t think it’s about getting anything; just common sense.”
“Yeah well, this is why I said it’s falling apart. I don’t have time for somebody who doesn’t have time for me. When I see him at work tomorrow I’m going to tell him it’s not going to happen with us.”
“Sorry.” He really was sorry. Andrea was his friend, and he wanted her to be happy.
Andrea cleared away the dishes, and as she carried them to the kitchen he poured more wine. He figured they could wind things down over another glass, and then he’d leave so they could get themselves ready for tomorrow’s workday.
As Andrea came back to the sofa she asked, “So how’s your love life these days? Who’s the lucky lady in your life?”
“These days I think most women are lucky if they’re not in my life.”
“What’s that mean?”
She sat on the far end of the sofa, drew one leg up under her and extended the other, pointing her pedicure in his direction. Brandon couldn’t swear to it, but he thought she had one more shirt button unfastened than she had before she’d left for the kitchen. What he was certain of was that her push up bra was doing wonders for her cleavage, which he hadn’t noticed before.
He decided that if Andrea pressed him for information he wouldn’t tell her too much about Lisa, and nothing about Terri. In hindsight the paying for a friend thing seemed pretty pathetic. He had a real lady friend, right here.
He said, “Just that the women I run into lately seem to be all about sex at first, but then that changes. You know how it is. If sex gets involved things can’t stay platonic. Somebody always wants more.”
She looked at him for a long moment, with her bemusement knitting her brow. Then she said, “Do you want to stay over tonight?”
She’d read him wrong. He hadn’t been talking about them, or about him and what he’d wanted from her.
Andrea smiled a sultry smile and added, “We’d better go up now. The way you work, we might be late for work in the morning.”
She leaned over him, hands braced on the pillow on either side of his head, gasping with him as they climbed down from the peak of their mutual orgasms.
He watched her like he’d never seen her like this before.
Her eyes were closed as she shivered through her bliss. Her breasts swayed like luscious fruit on the vine with each shuddering exhalation. Her pink tongue flicked out to swipe beads of sweat from her lips. More perspiration dripped from her hair and the tip of her nose and her nipples, down onto him.
He touched her like he’d never touched her before.
With both hands he grazed his fingertips over her soft face, down her sleek sides, and over her hips. He slid his hands along her thighs and the gentle contour of her calves, over the soft soles of her feet and back up to gently cup the curve of her bottom. He couldn’t make his hands leave that spot.
When was the last time they’d done it like this – like hungry animals? Like children discovering a new, fantastic toy? How long had it been?
She licked her lips again and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
She smiled with her eyes closed. “I was talking to myself.”
“So the card and candy and flowers were unnecessary.”
Freda opened her eyes – Evan noted that they still smoldered – and gazed down at him. “You didn’t get me any of that.”
“But thanks for dinner.”
“You paid for it.”
“And for dessert.”
Her smile broadened, and he could see the girl she used to be back when they were in college and thought they were grown and knew the ways of the world. Ignorant innocence, not having a clue about the tricks life had waiting for them.
Or the tricks they had waiting for each other.
Ecstasy expelled, Freda leaned and collapsed onto the bed beside him like she’d been shot. She left one long, slender leg draped across his torso. Her arm fell across his chest, and for a few moments she caressed his cheek with her fingertips. Her gasps quieted to shallow breaths.
Evan lay still and waited. After a couple of minutes, just like always, her shallow breaths became the deeper breathing of sleep.
Evan lay awake, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. He replayed the events of the afternoon, of Freda calling him at the office to tell him that she’d pulled some strings and had a table on hold at what used to be their favorite restaurant in West End, if he was interested. He couldn’t say no to real cheese ravioli, made from scratch on the premises. He met her at the restaurant after work.
They talked shop over dinner, and he asked her the status of her situation with her client the prostitute.
“I’m going to give it a try,” Freda said. “I really think I can help her.”
“What about the issue of ethics?” he’d asked.
“I’m going to explain to her that I treated the guy for years, and that I can’t reveal anything about my sessions with him to her. I’ll tell her that I’m going to be impartial, but leave it up to her to keep seeing me or go to someone else.”
“Can you be impartial?”
“I can. I can because I’ve reminded myself that this isn’t relationship counseling. Terri and Brandon don’t see each other anymore, and haven’t since before Christmas. This is about helping Terri.”
After they’d eaten and were leaving the restaurant, Evan thought they’d be saying their goodnights. But Freda had said simply, “Come to the house,” and headed for her car.
So now he lay staring up at the ceiling with Freda snoring softly into his chest. He couldn’t sleep because he didn’t feel right. He couldn’t sleep because though he’d lived in this house for the better part of two decades, it felt foreign to him now. He couldn’t sleep because even though five years ago he’d bought and watched the deliverymen assemble the bed he now lay in, it didn’t feel like his bed anymore. Evan couldn’t sleep because it felt too strange being a guest in a place he used to own.
He decided that he felt better when they did it in his place. He had to admit to himself that he still cared for Freda, even if he’d let the essence of the love he’d felt for her go. He had to admit that he still enjoyed the intimacy. It was better than with other women, maybe because they knew each other’s bodies as well as they knew their own, because they’d attained that level of comfort over two and a half decades.
But it was better when they were at his place. At his place he didn’t have to wonder if she’d get bored, or if he’d eventually wear out his welcome, or whatever the hell had happened.
Between it being Valentine’s Day and a Tuesday night, business was nonexistent. Men who had wives or girlfriends were spending the evening with them. Unattached men either had too much pride to pay for company tonight or didn’t give a fuck about Valentine’s Day anyway. So Michelle gave everyone the night off.
Michelle told the girls that the irony of Valentine’s Day was that while male customers were scarce, her friend Lucas, who was a freelance escort, was always booked up on and for the entire week surrounding the holiday. She said that he usually had separate lunch and dinner dates on Valentine’s Day. Men might not care, but many women didn’t want to be alone, even if they had to pay for the company. And Lucas didn’t come cheap.
So Terri had the night off, and she was enjoying herself. She sat curled on her sofa in her comfortable ragged sweats with a bag of microwave popcorn and a diet soda, watching The Walking Dead reruns.
When her doorbell chimed she nearly jumped out of her skin and scattered popcorn everywhere.
She wasn’t expecting anyone, and muttered a curse at the interruption of her night to herself. She muted the television and crept to the door, telling herself that zombies wouldn’t ring the doorbell. They were too stupid to be tricky. They’d just try to break in.
She stood with her ear to the door, listening for the sounds of ravenous growling coming from the rotting throats of Thriller video wanna-be’s. She didn’t hear anything. Then the doorbell chimed again and she almost screamed.
Terri staggered-backed three steps away from the door and shouted, “Who is it?”
The evening had gone better than he’d anticipated, and Brandon felt pretty good as he parked his car and headed up the walkway to her door. He hadn’t expected Andrea to want to do anything. Moreover, he’d surprised himself by politely declining her invitation.
He imagined that Freda would say that he’d achieved a major milestone by choosing not to do something that might only drag him back to his previous miserable emotional state. She might have said that he’d shown true strength by resisting temptation. But Freda would have been wrong.
He wasn’t strong at all. He still wanted Andrea. They were good friends (he’d been an idiot not to stay in touch with her), and their sex was always good.
But Andrea wasn’t who he wanted.
He rang the doorbell and braced himself to catch hell.
Terri wouldn’t have been more surprised if she’d opened her door to find Jesus and Santa Claus on her stoop, fighting over ownership of Christmas. And that battle wouldn’t have equaled the emotional battle raging inside her, between her anger and her delight at seeing Brandon at her door.
Of course she had to give him the pissed off version.
He saw the surprise on Terri’s face, in her wide eyes. But then her surprise turned into a scowl and she snapped, “What do you want?”
“I want you to quit.”
“I want you to quit your job – what you’re doing.” He said. He thought if he’d had time, he probably could have presented his case and his feelings in a better way. But he hadn’t had time to think it out. He’d been on his way home from Andrea’s and had come to Terri’s apartment on last moment impulse. With no plan formulated, all he could do was state what he wanted.
“How the fuck are you going to tell me what to do with my life?”
“You don’t need to get ghetto, Terri.”
“’Ghetto?’ Motherfucker, you haven’t seen me get ghetto, not yet.”
“Come on, you’re better than this.”
“You don’t know what I am, because you don’t know me.”
“I do know you. That’s why I’m here. And that’s why I want you to quit.”
“Quit and what?”
“Quit so we can stop being platonic.”
She blinked. “Meaning what?”
“Meaning that the next time you spend the night, you sleep in my bed.”
Terri didn’t want to smile. She wanted to stay mad. After what he did, he deserved her being mad at him. “And what if I don’t want to sleep in your bed?”
“Then I’ll come to your bed and ravage you.”
“I’ll lock the door.”
“I’ll kick it down.”
“Brandon, don’t get me confused with those other hoochies you fuck. I’m not going to be another notch on your belt, so it’s not happening. Now, is there anything else you want, because I’m busy.”
“You naked would be nice.”
“Oh, I know it would be. But it’s not happening for you. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it. So I’ll be home tomorrow. If you come over, I’ll know you’ve quit and we can move forward.”
“Move forward to what?”
“To us being exclusive.”
“Look, I don’t need some knight in shining armor to come riding in to rescue me.”
“And I don’t own a horse. So if you don’t come over tomorrow, well…then you don’t. I’ll see you later.”
He turned and went back down the walk. Just like that. To have the last word she shouted, “Yeah, you wish!” to his back.
Terri slammed the door and got busy cleaning up the spilled popcorn as she muttered curses at Brandon for having the nerve to come back and try to disrupt her life. She wasn’t going to his house just because he told her to, nope no way in hell. Who the fuck did he think he was? He was the one who…
Who what? Got him some pussy because he was free and single and wasn’t obligated to anybody?
She’d told Dr. Michaels that she didn’t have feelings for Brandon, that it was just a job. Looking back at the session, she felt like a child who’d denied having been in the cookie jar while she had crumbs around her mouth. If she hadn’t had feelings, then why’d she get so mad? If Brandon had just been some guy – like a roommate – and she’d walked in on him and his naked tramp, she wouldn’t have cared less. But he hadn’t been just some guy. She could admit that to herself even if she couldn’t admit it to anyone else, even her therapist.
She’d thought she was done with Brandon. Two months had passed since the last time she’d seen him. And now he’d come to her door saying he wanted her to quit working so they could stop being just friends. Sleep in the same bed. Do whatever in the same bed.
On the television someone screamed. Hungry zombies were attacking. Living people were fighting for their lives, taking the zombies out with bullets and arrows to their heads. Sending dead things back to where they belonged.
Rumson, New Jersey
Brandon didn’t expect that if Terri came over she’d come early. Still, as he drank coffee and read the papers he was hopeful. But she didn’t come during the morning.
What he really hoped was that she’d come over around lunchtime. There was a little out-of-the-way seafood place on the bay that he wanted to take her to. They could sit and talk and get reacquainted with no pressure, and see how things went from there.
In retrospect, he thought he’d come on a little strong last night. To just show up at Terri’s door telling her that she should quit her job like it was a condition for being involved with him felt beyond arrogant. That hadn’t been his intent. Going to Terri’s place after leaving Andre’s house had been a spur of the moment impulse that at the time had felt romantic. But it the light of day it seemed asshole-ish. He hoped she didn’t take it that way.
Midday came and went with no sign of Terri. Brandon tried to focus on work, but as the afternoon wore on his mind was on her rather than on the stock market.
In the late afternoon his house phone rang, and he felt renewed hope. When he worked at home he communicated with his secretary and work associates via computer and company cell phone. Terri was one of the few people besides family who had his home phone number. But the name on the caller ID replaced his hope with surprise.
“Are you slumming today?”
“Working from home.”
“I’m kidding; I called your office first. Your secretary said you were telecommuting today. So what was up with you last night?”
“What do you mean?”
“You used to always say that as long as we were unattached, you could never say no.”
“Oh, well you did say that you were seeing someone. And I didn’t want you to think that the only reason I wanted to see you was to jump you.”
“The way I was feeling last night, you could’ve jumped all you wanted. And I told you I was ending it with Bobby.”
“That’s his name?”
“Yep. And I told him today. So that’s over.”
“Sorry it didn’t work out.”
“Don’t be. I’m not even one hundred percent certain that his daughter’s birthday was yesterday.”
“It was like that?”
“Yeah, now that I think about it. You looked nice. You lose some weight?”
“Yeah, a little. You were hot as always. You really worked those tights.”
“Apparently not well enough. Maybe I should’ve just worn the shirt, with nothing underneath.”
“Oh, that would’ve gotten your attention?”
“You had my attention, believe me.”
“Obviously not enough of your attention. Do you even watch the video anymore?”
Once upon a time they’d recorded themselves having fun together. Brandon hadn’t thought about that for a long time, not in years.
“I don’t have it anymore. I had a technical issue with that computer and had to format the hard drive. So it’s erased.”
“You didn’t keep a disc?”
“You had the only disc. I didn’t want copies lying around.”
“’Had?’ I still have it. It still looks hot, and it still gets me hot. Do you want me to burn you a copy?”
Brandon hadn’t been too heartbroken about losing that video. Even before it was erased, he hadn’t watched it in years. It had been a too poignant reminder of the closeness they no longer shared. He didn’t need to see it again.
“Actually, the real thing was always preferable,” he said.
“Mmm…definitely. Well, I’ve got a late meeting to get to. Don’t be such a stranger again, okay?”
Andrea was smiling to herself as she hung up the phone. Brandon was being a little standoffish, probably because they hadn’t been together in a while. He always was a gentleman, which was one of the things she liked about him.
But she knew him. He used to always say that it was a crime for her to not get what her body needed. So all she had to do was not play games and let him know she was serious about wanting some, and he’d be willing.
She figured that dropping by his house after work this evening with a fresh bottle of wine would be the perfect way to let him know that she was serious.
(To be continued…)
Platonic Pt. 4
Terri drove out of Manhattan mad. The customer last night had been a special kind of asshole.
He was an actor, but not a very famous one. At least she’d never heard of him. He’d spent most of the early evening yesterday bragging about his next movie, which he claimed was going to be a summer action blockbuster, something about time travel and spaceships. He took her to a prescreening – one of those showings in which the studio gauges early fan reaction.
The movie sucked. Some people actually booed. She almost felt sorry for her customer. But then back in his hotel room he decided to take his disappointment out on her by trying to knock her back through the box springs. It was a good thing he had a tiny dick, so she really didn’t feel anything but his thighs and knees banging her. But she didn’t tell him that. He was already hurt and embarrassed enough about his pathetic movie.
But she was mad that she’d been in a position to let her body be used by someone to take out their frustrations about their life.
She was tired of being used.
Early retirement was starting to look real good.
Michelle – who ran the house – encouraged the girls to have a goal of getting out of the business by the time they were thirty. Terri was twenty-six. She didn’t want to do this for another four years. Not anymore.
Until recently she’d never felt ashamed about what she did for a living. She provided a service that people desired, even needed. She’d told herself that it was no different than selling food. Some people cooked and ate at home. Others went out and paid for it. Michelle’s house was the 5-star restaurant of the escort business. Terri hadn’t necessarily been proud of her work, but she hadn’t been ashamed, either.
At least she hadn’t felt ashamed until she’d met a man who didn’t want her for her body. He’d valued her for her friendship. He’d allowed her to like him (Okay, like him a lot). And then he’d spit in her face. He showed her how little he thought of her by sleeping with some two-bit tramp who fucked for free.
She should’ve punched him instead of her. That bitch didn’t even count. This was all Brandon’s fault.
Yeah, retirement was looking real good. She’d lived frugally since getting in the business. If she quit working right now, she had enough money saved to live and even to maintain her current standard of living for another year. Well, to be smart she’d have to cut out some things, like buying a new clothing item every week, and the therapy sessions with Dr. Michaels she’d just set up.
So she could quit, and then what – go back to being a sales clerk? The economy still sucked. Decent jobs were hard to come by. Right now, working no more than a few hours for three or four days a week, she was making more money than anybody she’d ever known personally, except for Michelle and Brandon.
She wondered what her new therapist was going to have to say about him.
“If he was paying you for friendship then perhaps he has unresolved issues in his life that don’t allow him to be truly close to people,” Dr. Michaels said.
“Well, he was sure close to that chick in his house. She was only wearing a towel. The bitch actually flashed me. That’s why I went off. I felt like she was spitting in my face; like she was saying, ‘I’m getting this and you’re not.’”
“Do you think it was the perceived insult or the reality that angered you to violence?”
“Meaning that perhaps you were already upset because this woman was sleeping with Brandon and you weren’t, even though that was your agreement and what he paid for – a platonic relationship with you.”
“So you’re saying I hit her because I was jealous?”
“Or because you were hurt.”
“That would mean I have feelings for him.”
“So this is how this works – we sit here and talk like we’re girlfriends, but you’re really giving me a shovel to dig up my feelings so we can look at them?”
Freda smiled at her. “I prefer to think that I’m holding up a mirror so that you can look at yourself. You mentioned having feelings for Brandon. Do you?”
Terri shrugged. “Nah. It was just a job.”
“I mean, he’s a cool guy and all, and it was nice hanging out with him, but…you know…”
“I don’t know. Tell me.”
“I already said. It was just a job.”
“Were you working when you had the altercation with this other woman?”
“Okay, I see what you’re doing here. You’re trying to get me to say that I had feelings for a client, so I wasn’t in control professionally.”
“I don’t want to get you to say anything, Terri. Therapy isn’t about saying things; it’s about self-discovery that leads to personal healing. My job is to show you the roads you might travel toward self-discovery, but to allow you to do your own walking.”
“All right. So show me a road.”
“Let’s change directions for a moment, Terri. I’d like to explore another area.”
“What – we going to talk about my childhood, or how my parents didn’t understand me?”
“Not unless you’d like to.”
“I wouldn’t. So what other area?”
“Tell me how things typically work with a customer. What’s the protocol when you meet a client?”
“Protocol? It’s all just bullshit, you know? I pretend that I’m attracted to the guy. He knows I’m pretending, but he lets me lie to him. Most of the time it’s the same routine: Have drink, ask a few personal questions like I actually care, and then ask him what he likes to do in bed. Then whatever he likes, I pretend it turns me on so much; all a bunch of bullshit so my savings account grows.”
“And how was it with Brandon?”
“I thought we were exploring another area.”
“I’d like to compare your experiences with him to those with your other clients – the ones you say are just bullshit.”
“We just hung out. Did other things. We’d go places sometimes, or just do regular things around the house. Around his house.”
“Can you describe one of those regular things for me?”
“I don’t know. They were just regular things; nothing special.”
“All right. So of the things you did when you were visiting his house, which do you recall as a favorite experience?”
“Well…okay, this is nothing special, okay? It’s just a regular thing. But…I don’t know…”
“What is it, Terri?”
“Okay well, Brandon has an office in the city, but he telecommutes a lot. To be honest, I think there were some days that he would have gone to his office to work, but I was there, so he worked from home.”
“Did he tell you that that was why he stayed home?”
“No, but I just get this feeling sometimes. Like, maybe he’ll say something the night before that sounds like he’s going to do something at the office the next day, but then he’ll stay home. I even asked him one time if I was keeping him from work. He said there was almost nothing he did at the office that he couldn’t do from home.”
“So it was the staying home because you were there that was special?”
“What? Oh no, that wasn’t it. Anyway, in the mornings Brandon has his thing; his routine. He gets up, puts on his coffee, and sits in the breakfast nook sipping coffee and reading his newspapers. The dude reads like three newspapers every morning, can you believe it? The Wall Street Journal; USA Today; the Asbury Park Press…”
“You noticed which newspapers he reads.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, I’m right there sometimes, so I look at them too.”
“So you have coffee with him in the mornings when you visit?”
“That’s what I was getting to. When I’m at the house, I can get whatever I want. I mean, when he told me to make myself at home, he was serious. So he always beats me out of bed in the morning –“
“Out of bed?”
“Oh, not like that. I have my own bedroom. What I meant was he always beats me downstairs. So when I come down, I make myself whatever I want for breakfast. Well, I’m not going to cook myself a big spread and not make some for him, too, and then sit there in his face and eat it. That would seem selfish. So I make enough for him, too.”
“And what happens when you prepare breakfast for the two of you?”
“What do you mean?”
“We were talking about one of the things you did with Brandon that was a favorite thing of yours. What’s that thing?”
Terri shrugged. “That was it; just being regular. I mean, when I sit down, he puts his newspapers aside and we talk about everything under the sun and enjoy our breakfast, just like…and just be regular.”
“You were going to say just like something. Just like what?”
“Nothing. I was talking too fast and misspoke.”
“Are you certain about that Terri?”
“Is my hour up yet?”
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
“I know what you’re thinking,” Freda said. “Give me an inch and all that. I apologize for just showing up and not calling first. I promise it wasn’t my intent. But you live so close to the office and I was literally around the corner, so…”
“It’s no problem,” Evan said. “Come on in.” As Freda walked past him into his living room he hoped that her stopping by unannounced wasn’t going to become a habit. Then it would become a problem. But he could tell by her face that something wasn’t quite right.
As he helped her out of her coat he asked, “Everything okay?”
She had her back to him as she stepped to the sofa. She wore a gray knit pullover over a black pencil skirt, seamed stockings and high heels that looked more sinful than professional. The curve of her hips and bottom under her tight skirt made him think about last week, when he’d slipped up and let her spend the night.
She shrugged. He knew what that meant because he knew her. She didn’t trust her voice to speak because her emotions were about to overflow.
“Hey, what happened? What’s wrong?”
Freda plopped down on his sofa. He sat next to her.
She said, “I feel like I’m screwing up on the job. Maybe it’s time for me to let it go.”
“Screwing up how?”
“Well, last year I had these patients – a married couple. Their main issue was selfishness. They were both selfish, and their intimacy suffered for it. He wanted sex so he could feel romantic toward her. She wanted romance so she could feel sexual toward him. Neither was willing to give the other what they needed in order to get what they wanted.”
“So how did you screw up?”
“I got tired of their crap and referred them to Siobhan.”
“Siobhan Henry – the woman who thinks that the cure for everything from a sprained ankle to cancer is sex?”
“The one and only. It was a bad recommendation on my part. I just wanted the couple to get off the starting block and start running, because I was tired of dealing with them. So they ended up going to Siobhan’s house for one of her ‘playhouse’ sessions.”
“And what happened?”
“Now the couple is separated and on their way to divorce.”
(AUTHOR’s NOTE: What happened with the couple Freda is referring to is detailed in the novel, The Playhouse)
“So that’s why you’re upset?”
“I’m upset because I’m screwing up again, with a new patient.”
“I must go into screw up mode with patients named Terri. Both of my female patients have that name. In this case, I took on the new patient knowing about her background because someone she knows has been my patient for years.”
“Damn – isn’t that a conflict of interest?”
“It’s unethical, which is why I referred the other patient – Brandon – to Dave Leonard. But that doesn’t eliminate the issue of ethics. And, I wonder how it will affect my objectivity when helping Terri through her issues. Am I going to let her come to her own conclusions and make her own decisions, or am I going to guide her because I know both sides of the relationship she had with Brandon?”
“Hold on a second. How did this Terri woman come to be your patient?”
“I asked her how she’d heard about my practice during our initial interview, before I agreed to be her therapist. She told me that her friend Brandon said he’d seen me, so when she felt that she needed to talk to someone, she came to me. I knew right away who she was. I should have referred her to someone else.”
Now tears slid down Freda’s cheeks. In another life Evan knew that seeing her cry would have made him want to pick up his sword and go fight and kill whatever was responsible for her tears. But that was in another life, when she was his wife.
Still, it wouldn’t hurt to show a little human compassion.
He put his arm around his ex-wife and held her and listened as she told him about Brandon and Terri.
Freda painted Brandon as something of a wealthy, emotionally detached asshole. She had a more sympathetic opinion of Terri. In her view Terri may have chosen an illicit way to make a living, but she still had a heart.
Well, of course she did. But Evan could see Brandon’s side of things, too. Terri was a hooker. No matter how nice a person she was, and no matter how high class a call girl she might be, when it got right down to it, she still let strange men stick their dicks in her for money. She might be the sweetest person in the world, but as relationship deal breakers go, prostitution was a pretty big deal.
“So what do you think?” Freda asked.
“I think you shouldn’t treat Terri any more. There is an issue of ethics, and you don’t want to cause yourself problems down the road.”
“But she does need help, Evan.”
“Then refer her like you referred Brandon, and get yourself out of the middle of it.”
“I don’t know; I think if I keep personal feelings out of it, I could help her.”
“Okay, then consider this: Why would Terri come to you when there are so many therapists to choose from? Why would she pick you when she has to know that by treating Brandon, you might know what happened between them? It wouldn’t make sense, unless she picked you because you did know. Moreover, I bet she figures you know where Brandon’s heart lies, so she’s using you to get that information for herself. Maybe she’s going to end up picking your brains for information about him. Maybe she’s really the unethical one, not you.”
Freda had been snuggled against him while he had his arm wrapped around her shoulder to comfort her. Now she leaned away from him on the sofa, smiling.
“You know what, Evan? Maybe you should’ve been the psychiatrist in the family. That hadn’t occurred to me, and it’s an excellent observation.”
“You would have thought of it as soon as you took your personal feelings out of the situation. You’re an excellent therapist. Always have been.”
“Well, thank you anyway.”
She slid back to him and wrapped her arms around his body and hugged him tight. He let her. And then she planted a kiss as soft as a whisper on his neck.
“I’m sorry,” Freda said. “I bet I interrupted whatever you were doing for dinner.”
“No problem. I was just going to order out. I’m thinking about pizza. You want some?”
Evan fastened his pants and called and ordered a half pepperoni and sausage for himself and the other half cheese for Freda. When he hung up he said, “It’ll be here in about forty minutes.”
Freda got up off the sofa and began looking around, at the sofa and the carpet around it. Evan watched her, thinking that the way she looked right now would make a nice wallpaper image for his computer. His cell phone was on the coffee table, but he wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate him taking a picture of her. After all, they weren’t married anymore.
In a frustrated gesture, Freda put her fists on her hips and said, “Okay, where are my panties? We haven’t left this sofa.”
“I think wearing only stocking and heels is a good look for you. Nice trim job, too.”
“Shut up, perv.” She was trying to sound aggravated, but she was smiling.
“Seriously, why put your clothes back on? I’m enjoying the view.”
“Well, I don’t want the delivery guy enjoying the view, too.”
“It’ll be the best tip he ever received, by far.”
“And believe me, it’s not going to happen.”
“Then at least let me take a picture before you get dressed.”
“No way. I don’t want my bare ass all over the internet.”
“I wouldn’t do that. I was only going to show it to the dudes at the gym, and maybe to a few patients.”
“I always liked your ass. Hold still.” He picked up his cell phone.
“Okay, now turn to the side…”
“Damn, that’s nice. Your nipples are hard. Now turn all the way around, so I can get that sexy booty.”
“You’re the devil, do you know that?”
New York City
Unable to focus on work, Brandon gazed through his office window, watching the protesters five stories below. They were rallying against the one percent, the people they thought didn’t care. People like him.
Well, those people didn’t have a clue about what he cared about, just like Freda Michaels didn’t have a clue.
So what if she got rid of him as a patient? After ten years they were spinning their wheels anyway. But he wasn’t going to waste time and money on a new doctor. He was done talking and getting nowhere.
But there was one thing Freda was right about: He needed to bring closure to old issues.
It was Valentine’s Day. That was as good a reason as any to contact her.
He pulled her up in his email contact list and typed a new email, just a simple one-liner:
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
She could take it however she wanted to. Considering all that had happened between them, she wouldn’t think he was trying to be romantic. He was just being friendly.
He started to click the “send” icon, but then decided that the message looked too plain. After a couple of minutes of searching the web he found a nice image of a dozen red roses. He inserted the image below his message.
He sent the message, and then got back to work.
He was only busy for a few minutes when he received a reply email from her:
Aw, thank you! You’re so sweet.
So I haven’t heard from you in ages. Did you just get back to Earth or something?
(To be continued)