I left Mary’s house in sweat funky clothes and my Afro looking like I’d been attacked by a rabid spider monkey. I had three folded twenty dollar bills tucked into my gym sock. The money was the last thing on my mind. I was tired but wired. I felt good; I felt like I could take a running start and go airborne and fly the six blocks home.
I’d just had real sex. Good sex. None of that sneaking around kid sex, doing it on couches and in the back seats of cars, or even some motel room on prom night. Nope, I’d been with a real woman, in her bed, free to take our time and do it however we wanted to do it. Free to take my time and enjoy her body and to make her look even more beautiful when she got off.
I walked without seeing my surroundings, instead seeing in my memory Mary’s beautiful nude woman’s body. I remembered the feel of her, the smell of her, and the taste of her. I remembered how she’d looked when she was lost in her bliss—even more beautiful. I’d done that to her.
I didn’t feel proud of myself. It wasn’t about my ego. I’d discovered a new thing: How beautiful a woman looked when her body was in control.
I missed that look already, so much that I wanted to turn around and go right back to Mary’s house and make her look that way again. Two weeks seemed like two hundred years away.
I used a cigar box to stash my spare change and cash, when I had it. When I was back in my room I took inventory of my savings.
My coin change totaled six dollars and seventeen cents. I had twelve dollars in folding money in the cigar box. Another six dollars in my wallet. There was a check in box too, written to me by Aunt Alicia. That was for one hundred dollars, to take care of my needs while she was in the hospital.
I retrieved the sixty dollars I’d gotten from Mary from my sock. Thanks to that money I wouldn’t need to cash Aunt Alicia’s check right away. I put two twenties in the box and kept the third to buy a few groceries later. I jumped in the shower, and while I was bathing did the mental math.
For the time being I was good to go on having a roof over my head. I’d asked Cam how much he would charge me for rent when the time came, and he’d said one twenty-five a month, including utilities. He told me that working in Housekeeping at the hospital, I’d bring home about one-seventy every two weeks, more if I worked the evening shift, which paid ten cents more an hour. That meant that most of one paycheck would be eaten up by rent. I still had to eat, and buy clothes sometimes. I couldn’t imagine how I could afford a car.
In the space of just a couple of months my life’s plan had changed drastically. Until this spring I’d thought that I’d be spending the next two to four years in college, still living at home, and that the biggest concern of my life would be studying. But through no one’s fault I’d been thrust out into the real world.
I appreciated that Cam was hooking me up with a job because I was going to need the income. But I couldn’t see myself being a janitor for very long. I wanted more for my life than that. I had another option, one that I wasn’t wild about, but that considering the circumstances, was something to fall back on.
Since the war in Vietnam was over, some of my friends who weren’t going to college were enlisting in the military. That seemed like a decent deal. If I enlisted I’d have a steady income. The government would put a roof over my head, clothes on my back and give me food to eat. And I could use the military benefits to get a college degree. It was an option, but one I had to wait to act on, if that’s how I wanted to go. I didn’t want some recruiter trying to meet his quota by pushing me off into basic training while Aunt Alicia was still alive.
If the doctor’s prognosis was right, Aunt Alicia wouldn’t make it to Thanksgiving. That was four months away. Cam had my back for the short term, but soon enough I was going to have to find some way to live.
I had one hundred eighty-four dollars and seventeen cents to my name, and not counting another ten dollars every two weeks for doing yard work, no prospective income for the next four months.
That was not living.
For the next two weeks I couldn’t get Mary out of my mind, but by the time the awaited Saturday morning rolled around I felt pretty calm. I dressed in basketball shorts, a wife beater and Pumas. Remembering Mary’s advice, I also folded a pair of flairs, a tee-shirt and underwear and stuffed them into a paper bag. I figured using my gym bag might look too obvious to anyone seeing me going onto her property. It was too much like luggage.
To get my strength up I made scrambled eggs with cheese and burned some hot links. I wolfed down my breakfast, then headed next door to give Aunt Alicia a hug and kiss before I left to mow Mary’s yard.
Cameron no longer gave a shit about nosy neighbors and propriety. When Aunt Alicia came home after her surgery he said he couldn’t trust her to be still and rest. He took his vacation and made her stay with him so that he could keep an eye on her.
I was cool with that. I didn’t want Aunt Alicia trying to cater to me just because I was there. And, I wasn’t a kid anymore, but Cam was better able than me to take care of her. Anyway, she was his woman. If she were my woman I wouldn’t trust somebody who still smelled like schoolbooks to be responsible for her care and comfort.
On my way next door I sat the paper bag containing my extra clothes next to the divider wall. I’d just put it down when Cam opened his front door.
“I was just coming to get you,” he said. “Got breakfast ready over here.”
I hopped the wall onto Cam’s side of the porch, glad that he hadn’t seen the bag, which might have resulted in questions. When I stepped into his living room I got hit in the face by humid heat. “Is your air conditioner broken?” I asked.
“It works, but that chemotherapy drained the heat out of her blood,” Cam said. “She said she feels like she’s freezing so I’ve got the heat on for her. She doesn’t have much appetite either; kind of nauseous.”
Aunt Alicia was sitting at Cam’s kitchen table, wearing a quilted robe buttoned up to her neck. The weakness in her eyes and the dark circles under them broke my heart.
It wasn’t fair. If the fucking doctor was right she wouldn’t live to be thirty-seven years old. I felt guilty for worrying about what I was going to do with the rest of my life when my aunt had to be worried about what waited for her after her life was over. Soon.
She gave me a weak smile and said, “Come and eat before you go. Cam made omelets. They’re almost edible.”
Aunt Alicia’s nausea notwithstanding, Cam could cook okay and so could I. But even with our combined culinary skills, without Aunt Alicia doing her thing in the kitchen the amount of nontoxic, decent tasting food prepared in the house was going to drop by about ninety percent.
I leaned and kissed her on her cheek and said, “I already ate. Just wanted to come say I love you before I go plow the back forty.”
With humid eyes Aunt Alicia said, “I love you too, sweetie. Tell Mary I said hello.”
I turned away before she could read anything on my face.
Even carrying my nondescript paper bag I felt guilty as I neared Mary’s house. I stole looks around like a criminal, but at just after eight o’clock in the morning on a Saturday the only sign of human life in the area was Mary’s neighbor Faith’s kids across the street, in their yard. They were too busy fighting over a Big Wheel to notice me.
Mary’s back door was closed. After what had happened the last time I wasn’t sure if there was a new protocol, so I stuck to the normal script. I dropped my bag off on her back porch, went to the shed where she stored her mower, gassed it up got busy.
As always, I mowed her front yard first, then the sides. I kept my eye on the house as I worked, but didn’t spot Mary at the windows. I was anxious to see her naked again, and finished those areas in record time. Getting to the back yard was a relief. I didn’t have to think about somebody passing by and seeing my anxious erection pushing out the front of my shorts.
When I finished the back yard and was rolling the mower back to the shed I saw that her previously closed back door was open.
In spite of being anxious to get my hands on Mary again, my legs felt watery and electricity boiled in my stomach as I knocked on the screen door frame. From beyond the kitchen Mary called for me to come in.
She was sitting on the end of her living room sofa, casually swinging her crossed leg as she flipped through a TV Guide. The shades and curtains were drawn, and she read her magazine under the glow of an end table lamp. She hadn’t made my fantasy real by being buck ass naked, but she was wearing a see-through black lace slip that was more see-through than lace. The lamp’s amber light highlighted her brown skin showing through the lace.
Her nipples were in the same condition as my dick. They poked through the spaces in the lace. I remembered the feel and taste of them, and my mouth watered so profusely that I almost choked when I swallowed.
Mary arched her foot toward her coffee table and said, “There you go.”
I followed the line of her leg to where her toes were pointing, to where three twenty dollar bills lay on the table.
My dick sent words to my mouth before my brain could stop them and I said, “I wasn’t going to say anything.” My lust warned that if Mary thought she had to pay me fifty dollars a pop, eventually the cost wouldn’t be worth it and she’d stop giving me some.
“It’s not for that,” she said. “This is so you’ll do what you did last time.”
“With your mouth.”
“Oh.” She was paying me to go down on her? Maybe she’d pay a drug addict to get high, too.
“Why don’t you run up and take a shower and come back down here? I put towels out for you.” I noticed what looked like a bedspread folded on the other end of the sofa. Following my eyes, Mary gave me a hot smile and said, “I’ll be waiting right here for you.”
Boxing had sunk so low in the public eye that Jamal’s interview didn’t air until the Friday evening broadcast. He missed the first airing because he was in New York taping the Letterman show. But ESPN repeated their programming all night long, so when Jamal returned home that night he was able to catch a rebroadcast. Tia was in Miami getting ready for her fashion show. Pops had come to Jamal’s oceanfront condo to watch the interview. Stephanie was sleeping over.
Stephanie had a condo in Manhattan that she’d leased back when she was a Wall Street shark, but she often stayed at Jamal’s place on the Jersey Shore when they had extended business to handle. It was easier that way because Jamal trained at Pop’s gym in Asbury Park, and he was almost always in training. So Stephanie staying over because they had their telephone meeting with Bob Sterling’s people tomorrow afternoon was nothing new.
What was new was that this time Stephanie was here but Tia wasn’t. Jamal didn’t see it as an issue. Stephanie had spent nights in his guest room before he ever knew Tia. And Tia never said it was a problem, even though Jamal had noticed that when Stephanie slept over, Tia always made sure that she gave him some hot sex, and that she was much louder than usual while they were doing it. He figured that that was just Tia’s way of peeing to mark her territory, letting Stephanie know what was what. He’d told Tia about the meeting tomorrow, so she had to figure Stephanie was at the house. So it was no issue.
Jamal and Pops were in the living room watching ESPN when the reporter started the lead-in for his interview. Pops yelled out, “Hey girl, come on! Our boy’s coming on TV!”
Stephanie hurried out of the kitchen carrying a sandwich on a paper plate and a bottle of water. She wore a plaid flannel nightshirt that fell to her knees and ankle socks. “What’d I miss?” she asked.
“Nothing yet,” Jamal said. “It’s just coming on.”
Jamal was sitting on one end of the sofa. Pops sat on the other end. Stephanie plopped down between them and curled her shapely bare legs under her bottom. As she made herself comfortable Jamal caught a whiff of whatever girly stuff she’d bathed in. It smelled nice. It crossed his mind to wonder if she had anything on under her nightshirt. But he didn’t dwell on it because he had a woman. Besides, Stephanie was more like a big sister than a real chick.
Pops leaned toward the screen and said, “There he is!” like they were looking at a stranger. Jamal sat back, watching himself on video replay. Stephanie sat with the paper plate resting on her hip. In the corner of Jamal’s eye plaid flannel molded to the curve of hip and bottom. But he didn’t dwell on it because he had a woman.
The interview was edited with the reporter’s questions cut out so that the piece just showed Jamal talking about his strategy for beating Delgado, and how he wanted to bring respect back to boxing, and how one day he hoped that every weight class would only have one champion, and how he wanted to start things off by unifying the Middleweight title.
When his piece was done the reporter said, “Well, if this were a presidential State of the Union Address, now is when we’d air a rebuttal by the opposing party. So here’s our interview last night with the WBC Middleweight Champion, and arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Ernest ‘The Gunslinger’ Gaines.”
The scene switched to show Gaines standing just outside the arena tunnel in Las Vegas in his day glow orange suit. As the piece started he was already talking:
“…Delgado is what, thirty-five years old?” Gaines grinned. “He’s washed up. He’s nobody. He beat a nobody to get that fake belt, and now a nobody beat him to take that fake belt. I’m the real champion, and Jefferson knows it. The whole world knows it. I don’t need to fight Jefferson because I’m the real man and I’m already on top. Everything Jefferson wants, I got. Everything he wants is mine. Everything he desires is mine. And he knows exactly what I’m talking about.” Gaines looked directly into the camera and repeated, “Everything.”
Later Jamal watched the live webcast of Tia’s fashion show down in Miami. She modeled four ensembles. In Jamal’s opinion she made the other models look like men. Nobody could hold a candle to his baby.
On her last run Tia wore a military style jacket over a mini skirt that showed off her long legs and gave a whole new meaning to the term “combat ready.” She attacked the runway with the shoulder-swaying swagger that models must learn on their first day of training. Watching her, Jamal was thinking that he had just the weapon with which to go to war with his baby. He couldn’t wait for her to get back to Jersey.
Tia reached the end of the runway, stopped, and with one hand on her hip cut a sharp turn and pose left, then right, then did an about face and started back up the runway. The camera angle switched to a side view of the runway, which Jamal liked because now he could see the nice curve of Tia’s booty. He was looking at her ass and thinking that maybe he should fly down to Miami after his meeting tomorrow when someone in the audience at the side of the runway stood up and pumped their fist in appreciation as Tia sauntered past.
It was Ernest Gaines.
Lucas is coming this month. Are you ready? If your itch is dying to be scratched right now, grab a copy of the novella “The Girl Next Door,” and get introduced to Lucas before he became The Professional.
Here’s an excerpt:
I woke up on Saturday morning to a pounding so loud it seemed like the house was coming down around me. It sounded like somebody was trying to knock the front door off its hinges. I bolted up, slid out of bed and went to the window to see what the hell was going on.
I saw the Thunderbird down at the curb at the same time that I heard Harold yell, “Annie! Annie, open this goddamn door! I know you’re up in there!”
I was already mad that this fool was on my property making all that racket. But then, under Harold’s pounding and yelling, I heard a pitiful wail come through the wall.
It was Lucas. The poor kid sounded like the Devil had him by the ankle was dragging him down to Hell.
That little boy’s terrified crying did something to me. I went from being mad to being something else, something dark and cold.
As I put my clothes on I felt like my mind was a room, and someone was standing at the door, flicking the light switch up and down. But instead of a light going on and off, it was my consciousness changing, moment by moment. As I got dressed, one moment I was in the present, in my bedroom in my house on Spruce Street. But in the next moment I was on the other side of the world, in Korea. And in that place, there was blood – so much blood.
I left my bedroom and went downstairs, one moment as my present self and the next as the soldier from my past, with the ghost of Korea finally caught up with me, pushing and encouraging me.
For ten years I’d tried to run and hide from that ghost, but had never been able to really get away. I suppose that I’d always known that one day it would find me; that one day it would catch me.
Now it was finally back, and it wanted blood.
When I stepped outside Harold looked over to my side of the porch. He glared at me, and then turned back to Alicia’s door, dismissing me as if I wasn’t worth his attention. He started banging and yelling again:
“Annie, open this damn door! Annie! Don’t make me break a goddamn window!”
I said, “I’m buying this house. You break a window, I’m taking it out of your ass.”
Harold looked at me again. He said, “Nigga, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll take your punk ass back in the house and mind your business.”
Now that I was out on the porch, I could hear Lucas’ crying more clearly, coming from an upstairs window. Harold heard him too, because he changed tactics. He yelled, “Lucas! Boy, come down here and open this damn door! Don’t make me take a strap to your ass along with your momma’s!”
I stepped off my porch and around to Alicia’s side of the yard. I was peripherally aware that some of our neighbors had heard the disturbance and had come out of their homes to see what was going on. I wondered if one of them – maybe the same person who’d called the police on Francis – would call them again. The ghost of Korea hoped that no one would.
Harold saw me coming and turned away from Alicia’s door. I sized him up; he was a little taller than me, but slender. He moved with catlike quickness – he was down the steps and in the yard coming at me in a hurry. His hands were fast, too. I almost saw the straight razor in his fist too late.
I was in Korea again. The North Korean soldier was running at me, screaming, his knife poised to kill me. I was scared back then. I’d been forced into a life or death, kill or be killed situation.
I wasn’t scared this time. But I wasn’t nineteen anymore, either. Maybe my reflexes were just a hair slower than they’d been ten years ago, because even though I was able to lean back far enough to dodge Harold’s swing so that he didn’t slice my face open, his blade caught me high on my chest.
As I reached to the spot the razor had sliced me, Harold said, “See boy, I told you.”
Harold’s razor was sharp, so I felt the splash of blood on my arms and hands before I felt the burning pain. But by the time the pain set in I was gone. The blood had taken me away, and taken me back in time.
The blood is on my face; in my eyes; soaking the front of my uniform. I wipe it from my eyes, and see the North Korean on the ground in front of me, on his back with his unseeing black eyes open wide. The wound in his throat is horrifying. It’s not even a wound – it’s what’s left after his head is almost separated from his body. His blood has come out so fast that the flow is already almost down to nothing. Most of it is on my face and the front of my uniform.
I hear the men in my company behind me, running from out of the trees. They’re too late. The blood is already on me. A man’s death is soaking into my face, into my skin. I wonder if it will ever wash away. I want to scream again, but somehow I manage to choke it back.
I’m disgusted, not at the blood, but at the way that it – and other things – make me feel. I can still feel the resistance of flesh against my bayonet blade, and the way that flesh yields to my strength. I can feel it up the length of the blade, along my rifle, and into my arms, the power I have over life, the power I have to take life away. And I feel it, another human being’s death. It’s on me, represented by blood, soaking into my uniform; my face; my skin. I want to scream again, not at the horror of the bloody death I’ve caused, but at the realization that a part of me – the evil part of me – likes it.
That ghost – that evil within me – has haunted me, chased me for ten years. And now it’s finally caught me.
As I pressed my hand to my wound, Harold said, “See boy, I told you.”
I guess he figured that he’d taught me my lesson, and that now I’d back off and leave him to handle his wife and son. But I wasn’t me anymore, and I wasn’t satisfied.
Maybe Harold saw something on my face or in my eyes, because in the next breath his look of victory fell off his face and he backed up in a hurry, so fast that he stumbled on Alicia’s porch steps and fell back onto them.
And then I was on him.
Alicia had come out onto the porch. She saw me cut and bleeding and cried out, “Cam, oh God!”
I wasn’t thinking about the blood on me. The thing inside me saw that offering as a pittance, and it wanted more.
I wasn’t stupid. I’d come out of my house with my own weapon, a switchblade, and as I fell on Harold I had it out and open.
I dropped all my weight on Harold, driving my knee into his midsection just below his chest, and felt and heard his breath leave his body in a whoosh. He tried to gasp and suck air back in, but I clamped my free hand on his throat, cutting it off. While he struggled to pry my hand off his throat I switched my grip on my knife’s handle and drew it back behind my head, gathering myself.
I could almost feel it, my blade sinking into his chest, finding his heart. I could feel the impact as I drove my blade so deep that my fist slammed into his chest. I could feel the spurt of hot blood, Harold’s life gushing from his body under my authority, under my power. I wanted to feel it, so badly.
Alicia didn’t shout my name. In fact, her voice was barely more than a whisper. But I heard her. Somehow her soft voice cut through my rage and my bloodlust.
I paused with my fist cocked, my blade ready for the kill. I looked up at Alicia standing above me on the edge of the porch, at the top of the steps.
The ghost from Korea, which was really just the darker part of my soul, wanted to kill Harold. It wanted blood. But the face of the woman I loved implored me not to do it. Without speaking, she told me that I didn’t have to give in to the monster inside me, that I was better than that, if I wanted to be.
But the blood called to me.
I wanted to feel it, so badly.
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
The shoe store was called Sensual You. The place was nice. Classy. It reminded Robyn of the Christian Louboutin store in Manhattan, but on a smaller scale. She even saw some red-soled Louboutins on display.
But she didn’t pay much attention to the ambience. She was too busy fighting off her urge to commit assault and battery as some tall blonde woman rushed to them and exclaimed, “Lucas sweetheart, it’s so good to see you again!” and then hugged him and kissed him on the corner of his mouth.
When the wench finally took her hands off him Lucas said, “Robyn, this is Alexandra. She owns this store. Alexandra, this is Robyn.”
“It’s very nice to meet you Robyn,” the woman smiled.
Robyn checked the woman out as she shook her hand: Tall and blonde; around forty years old. Pretty, if you liked the Nordic type. Brown eyes. Her light brown eyebrows and lashes meant that she might actually be a real blonde. Nice body too, in a tailored skirt and jacket.
She wondered if Lucas had ever slept with this woman. How else would he know her? Did she pay him to fuck her? And if they did do it, when was the last time?
“So Lucas, how may I help you today?” the woman gushed.
“I’m looking for shoes for Robyn,” he said.
Alexandra looked at her and asked, “Is this for a particular function? Do you already have your ensemble?”
Robyn looked at Lucas. She didn’t know why he’d brought her here; much less what kind of shoes he had in mind.
Lucas said, “Actually Alexandra, what I’m looking for is something to go with a black satin corset. As you can see Robyn has very sexy legs and feet so I’m going for a look without stockings. And she’ll either wear a black G-string or nothing, so what I want are shoes that’ll accessorize her, not clothing.”
Robyn was shocked; stunned. Lucas had just stood right there and told this woman that she was going to be wearing “fuck me” clothes.
The woman looked at her. She was already smiling, but now her smile changed. It changed into a knowing smile—a conspiratorial smirk. She said, “Ah…I see.”
Robyn thought that she ought to feel embarrassed as well as shocked. But that wasn’t how she felt at all. Instead of embarrassed, she felt…
She wasn’t sure exactly how she felt. Lucas had just basically told this woman who was a stranger to her that he was going to do her and wanted her to wear the proper shoes for the occasion.
Lucas helped her out of her coat. Then he took her hand and guided her to one of the long bench seats and said, “Sit down baby.”
If she were going to be hesitant at all about what was happening, his calling her baby cancelled it. She sat down obediently.
The woman named Alexandra looked down at her and asked, “What size are you, dear?”
“Six and a half.”
“Let’s see some mules,” Lucas said.
“Oh, we have some very nice slides, just in,” Alexandra said. “And I’m sure I can find some other goodies that will suit your…occasion perfectly.”
When Alexandra went to the back to look for the goodies Lucas took off his coat and laid it over the bench next to hers. He didn’t sit, but he looked down at her and asked, “Are you doing okay?”
Why would he ask her that? She wasn’t nervous. Should she be nervous? Just wondering if she ought to be nervous put her a little on edge.
Alexandra returned with four shoe boxes. As she sat the boxes on the bench she said, “We’ll begin with these. She opened the first box and held it out to show them a pair of black patent leather slides with a black bow on the toes.
Lucas said, “Let’s take a look.” He took the shoe box from Alexandra and kneeled in front of Robyn, then placed the box on the floor at his side. He gazed into her eyes.
Robyn felt her heart quicken.
Lucas slipped her wedges off. And then while looking into her eyes, he placed his hand under the back of her right ankle and lifted her foot onto his knee.
Suddenly the air felt too thick and Robyn found it difficult to draw a breath. Her stomach quivered. It wasn’t just Lucas’s actions, but the look in his eyes that told her that something very different was about to happen.
She was nervous.
I lifted Robyn’s sexy leg and placed her little foot on my knee. She seemed apprehensive. Cute. Keeping my eyes in hers I lifted her leg by the ankle and kissed the tips of her toes.
She flinched and let out a little gasp. Her eyes flittered first up at Alexandra, and then around the store, looking guiltily at the other customers. I thought that if just this embarrassed her, in a minute she was going to be in serious trouble.
When I started kissing along the inside edge of her foot Robyn flinched reflexively and tried to pull away. But I was ready for that. The back of her ankle still rested in my palm, so I closed my grip and held her leg immobile. I saw the color rise in her cheeks as my lips reached her heel.
There were a handful of customers in the store. They might have been looking, but my eyes were on Robyn’s so I didn’t know. I definitely didn’t care. The only one in my existence for the moment was Robyn.
I kissed my way back to her toes, this time trailing my lips over the top of her foot. Then I removed the shoe from the box.
Robyn’s leg and foot felt tense as I slipped the shoe on so I said, “You need to relax.”
She swallowed hard and didn’t say anything.
I lifted her other foot and repeated my kisses, then slipped the second shoe on. I placed her feet on the floor and stood up, and offered my hand to help her up.
When she was standing she leaned to me and whispered, “What are you doing?”
She cut her eyes around the store. “People are looking at us!”
“No, they’re looking at you because you’re so fucking beautiful and they’re jealous. Not because of me, but because they want to be you. They want to be cherished like you. Now go see how you like the shoes. There’s a mirror over there.”
Robyn felt like every eye in the store was on her as she walked to the mirror. She felt nude, even though she was fully dressed. Lucas had made her feel exposed; naked.
She almost felt like she did yesterday morning when Mrs. Murchison caught them in the elevator, like she’d been caught doing something very naughty…
…naughty but very good.
She stood in front of the floor-level mirror, turning by force of habit so that she could view the shoes at different reflected angles, but without really seeing anything. Her mind was on the dreaded walk back to the bench, and of having to meet the eyes of the strangers that she just knew were looking at her.
She turned from the mirror and yep, people were looking at her. Robyn dropped her eyes to the carpet and kept them there until she made it back to the bench.
“This is a Marabou slipper,” Alexandra said. “It’s basic, but a classic that never goes out of style. It really goes so perfectly with lingerie. A lady should have several pair in various colors as part of her wardrobe.”
Robyn barely heard her. She was focused on Lucas, who was kneeling in front of her again. He’d been kissing her toes again, but now he kissed his way up her leg to the inside of her knee. And he was caressing her leg, too. His hand had slid up past her knee to the inside of her thigh, and he was pushing her pencil skirt up with it.
Alexandra was standing right over them. Robyn looked up at her. The store owner was smiling down at her.
As Lucas’ tongue tickled the inside of her knee and his fingers teased the inside of her thigh under her skirt Alexandra said, “Robyn, I think you’re going to very much enjoy your Sensual You experience.”
She thought she should say something back to the store owner. Maybe thank you.
But she couldn’t breathe.
After my haircut I drove to the beach to the Pier Village. I just wanted to walk around, enjoy the ocean view, breathe some salt air and generally chill…and maybe to do a little work. I’m dressed for an afternoon boardwalk stroll in a Polo shirt over khaki slacks. Nothing fancy. It’s not my style to try to be flashy.
One thing I like about the village on weekdays: it’s easier to separate the spenders from the pretenders. The shops and boutiques down here don’t sell anything cheap.
You’ve got two basic types of females out here on the weekdays. First there are the unemployed and the shift workers, out here to window shop and dream. Then you have the serious shoppers. If they’re out here on a weekday it means they don’t need to work and they’re spending old money, or they’ve got somebody out making enough dough to let them come out here and burn some. Yeah, it’s mostly white women.
Money’s all green.
I was only in the village about fifteen minutes when I spotted this brunette checking me out every time I looked her way. She was curious, I could tell. Curiosity can lead to cash. I thought I’d go basic on her, just walk over and tell her that I thought she was beautiful and keep going, see if she followed and went after the bait on the hook. I was getting ready to make my move when my cell phone rang.
My caller ID showed it was Angel, my “agent.”
“Hey baby,” I answered. I kept my eyes on the brunette.
“Hello, handsome,” Angel cooed.
Angel’s voice is like liquid heat. I’ve never seen her, but if her sultry voice is any indication of her physical beauty then she’s got to be one of the most gorgeous creatures to ever breathe air.
“I have a session available this Saturday evening, if you have no plans,” she said.
“I’m open,” I said. “What’s the story?”
“A high school reunion.”
Angel laughed a throaty laugh. Even her laugh made me want to fuck something.
“The client is attending her twenty year reunion,” she explained. “She wants someone on her arm to make people believe that she’s done more with her life over the past two decades than make money.”
“So it’s all show?”
“Well, she’s paying for premium service, Lucas. I’m sure she’ll let you know her specific desires. The function is at the Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands. You’ll pick the client up at her residence in Tinton Falls.”
“Just like a real date, huh?”
“That’s what she’s paying for. I’ll email you the particulars, if you want the job.”
“I’ll take it.”
“Every job is one step closer to your retirement goal.”
“Yep, two more years and I’m done.”
“Have you enjoyed your career, Lucas?”
“I got paid.”
“Not exactly an answer to the question, my friend.”
Sometimes I felt like Angel was inside my head, which was really creepy since we’d never laid eyes on each other. And, she’d only been my point of contact for a couple of years. I don’t know what happened to Ahmad, the dude who was my liaison before Angel. And it’s not my business, as long as the jobs and the money keep coming.
I decided to leave the brunette on the beach to her fantasies. Angel paid a hell of a lot more than I got for freelance work.
Tinton Falls, New Jersey
“If anyone asks, you’re an investment broker. You used to work on Wall Street, but now you run your own business from home. You got that?”
“Got it,” I said.
“Are you able to answer basic questions about investments? Some may ask.”
We’d just met twenty minutes ago and I was already sick of this chick. I was driving her to the Shore Casino in my Volvo like we were on a real date and I gave a fuck about her. Her name is Beverly. She wasn’t a bad looking sister, but she had a stick shoved so far up her ass she had to spit splinters.
“I can handle it,” I said.
“What’s the difference between a bull and a bear market?”
I looked over at her. “Are you serious?”
“Listen Lucas, if that occupation is too…complicated for you, say so now. I’ll think of something closer to your level.”
“And what do you think my level might be?” I wanted to open the passenger door and kick her out into the middle of Route 35 traffic…without slowing down from fifty-five miles an hour.
“Well, considering your actual occupation, I suppose you don’t have much familiarity with the white collar world.”
I took a deep breath to get a grip on my aggravation. “In a bull market, the price of given securities are rising or expected to rise, typically at a rate faster than average growth,” I said. “A bear market is the opposite. Prices are falling and expected to keep dropping.”
“And what’s considered average growth?” Beverly asked.
I glared hate at her. I felt like I was in fucking school again. “Typically about twenty percent.”
Now she looked away. “Don’t fuck it up for me,” she said. “Just get us through the night without embarrassing me.”
Embarrassing her? I’m not the one who can’t get a fucking date. I’m not the one who needed to front in front of people I haven’t seen in twenty years.
After I park us at the Casino and helped her out of my car Beverly tossed her weave, slipped her arm into mine, smiled and hugged up on me like we’ve been together for ages, are madly in love and probably just got finished fucking in the car.
Let the show begin.
I drive a black S80. It’s stylish in a subdued way. I don’t like showing off, but I like to be different. And I like quality.
See, I travel in rarified air.
It’s nice up here.
I got started when I was eighteen years old. Not in the business of money, but in the business of taking care of women. Not fucking them, which is what I thought it was all about when I was young and uninformed. I learned early on that it’s not always about what happens between the sheets, though it could be. It’s not always about wining and dining them either, though that’s often a part of the package. I get paid to give a particular woman what she needs particularly. Sometimes it’s nothing more than company and conversation. Not often, but sometimes. The bottom line is that each woman is different. She has her own particular beauty—which has nothing to do with the external—and her particular beauty needs its particular nourishment. This is where many men fall short. I get paid to take up the slack, to fill a void; to nourish her beauty, even if only for one night.
But okay, it started with sex.
The first was a friend of my aunt’s. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. She helped me learn. Then she introduced me to some of her friends.
Maybe it’s a woman’s nurturing nature that compelled them to want to teach me what a woman likes, and more important, what she needs. And maybe because I was young they considered me clay to be molded, and they felt free to tell me to do things that they couldn’t ask their men to do (if they had a man), or things they’d asked for that he wouldn’t do.
Consider the times. Women were still largely considered not to be as sexual as men. Women didn’t always feel free to be themselves, to let their sexuality off its chain and let it run loose. Whatever the reason, I paid attention and learned my lessons. I’d say that in the end, I graduated with honors. I’m not bragging. I don’t need to. I come with references.
This thing—the Passion series—started as an online short story, one of those “what if this happened?” things. The what if was what if a woman woke up after a night out partying to find herself in a strange bed in a strange house (a mansion), with no memory of how she got there? She finds a note on the pillow that says simply: You were amazing.
That’s how this thing began, and how I thought it was going to end, by answering that single what if question, and then moving on to the next thing. But like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” New ideas are what happen, too, and so the characters from that first story, Passion’s Nectar—Julian St. Christopher, Grace Trouillot, Victoria West and Glenda Engerman—had come alive, and they weren’t done living. More characters were to come, and they played their parts and helped me flesh out this series and add the novellas Passion’s Kiss, Passion’s Journey, Passion’s Fire, and now this last episode in the Passion series, Passion’s Fury.
And then there was the Dream Girl project. Once upon a time I had an idea for a sequel to Dream Girl. I was going to title it The Daughters of Lilith. The tale would have Frank Einstein—the founder of Headbox Industries—coming up a new invention: an injected nanochip that boosted feminine pheromones and made them irresistible to men. My idea was that there would be a plague of deadly succubus type women who were almost unstoppable. Men couldn’t go up against them because they’d be too busy wanting to…well, you know. So Agent Avery Silva—he of the unnamed government agency—would assemble a hit squad of badass women: Nikira Horikoshi and Simone Gray (from the upcoming Hitman Chronicles series) and a woman named Javari, who you’ll meet soon in The Professional. Well, a few chapters in, the story started to feel like Charlie’s Angels. That’s already been done (and maybe twice too often). So I scraped the bulk of that idea, but I still wanted to do more with Frank Einstein and the nanochip thing. The solution was to merge that idea with Passion’s Fury and wrap up two storylines.
Now, when I say “wrap up,” don’t take this as the absolute end. The Passion series is done, yes, but no one died. Well, almost no one died. You will see Julian St. Christopher and the characters from the series again, I promise. And Gretchen Smith and Ana are still out there in the world somewhere. As soon as I find out what they’re up to you’ll be the first to know.
Now, before I go, I have to give special thanks to author extraordinaire Nia Forrester (author of Afterwards), who got to listen to and put up with me griping and moaning during the making of this novella. We hold ourselves to high standards, and sometimes, when we feel that we just can’t reach that high, it helps to have someone who’s been through it to boost us up. Nia, if I left footprints on your delicate shoulders I’ll pay for the dry cleaning. Thank you.
Somewhere in Virginia
But now Frank Einstein—the man behind the Dream Girl project—has upped the stakes on libido boosting. His new drug has created an irresistible woman, a woman who is leaving a trail of dead men in her wake, and the only one who can stop her is Julian St. Christopher.
When these two competing entrepreneur’s worlds collide, one of them is willing to do whatever it takes to win—even kill. But will Julian St. Christopher have the focus to fight a professional battle while his personal life is unraveling?
In the final episode of the Passion series the lines between romance, erotica and fantasy are blurred as the hour of reckoning arrives—an hour in which some will have to pay for their sins, maybe with their lives.
Ayn said, “When you called from the States you did say that ‘we’ were coming. Did you mean your woman? Is she your wife, or something else to you?”
“Something else. Someone very important to me.”
Ayn traced her fingertip along the top of her exposed thigh and said, “And yet you’re on St. Martin alone, and she’s in New Jersey.”
Julian didn’t bother to correct her and say that Vicki was actually in California. His gut told him that that would just be more ammunition for this sexy creature to try to use against his resolve. “It doesn’t matter. I appreciate your enthusiasm Ayn, but we’re not going to do anything this evening but eat.”
“Well, may I have a drink while we wait for dinner?”
“Sure. What would you like?”
“Something cool and clear with ice, please.”
Julian went to the wet bar, aware that Ayn was eyeing him and smiling salaciously as he moved across the room. As he poured Citadel and tonic water over ice he wondered if she made moves on many of her customers, and if she did, why. The homes for sale on St. Martin were expensive, so potential buyers had to be of some means. Maybe Ayn was trying to hook one of her clients so that she could stop working for a living. Or maybe she just got off on playing around.
When Julian turned from the bar Ayn wasn’t on the sofa. Now she was standing on the far side of the room, in front of the sliding glass doors that opened onto the balcony and provided a view of the impossibly blue ocean. She stood with her feet apart, and the low hanging sun shone through the gossamer thin material of her makeshift skirt. It didn’t take much imagination for Julian to know what she would look like naked, because the outline of her figure was right in front of him.
He joined her at the doors and handed her the glass. As she accepted it she said, “You’re not having anything?”
Smiling, Julian shook his head, once. “Something tells me that around you, I’d best keep my wits about me.”
PASSION’S FURY RELEASE WEEKEND SPECIAL EVENT
To celebrate the release of Passion’s Fury, the fifth and final episode in the Passion series, from now until Monday, November 4th the first four books in the series are available for $1.99 or less, so you can have all five novellas for less than $10.00! Don’t miss the Passion Party!
PASSION’S FURY (New Release)
Carrie Norwood woke up slowly, the light of awareness coming in stages, as if she were climbing from a deep, dark well up toward consciousness.
A part of her didn’t want to wake up. There was something back there in the darkness of sleep, something that pulled at her, beckoned her back. It called to her in a soft, seductive whisper.
Less than half awake she placed her hand between her legs…found herself…tried to answer the call.
Hungry and anxious, her body moved in response to her own touch. Her hips gyrated with a will of their own. Her body undulated, writhing in slow, sinuous motion.
Her instinctual movement generated new sensations, brought her closer to wakefulness.
Carrie kept her eyes closed so that she could fully savor the new sensations. She removed her hand from her sweet spot and smiled and stretched, loving the way the luxurious sheets slid against her bare skin. It was like being caressed by a gentle lover.
An amazing lover.
Her body thrummed a memory. The memory became need.
Without thinking about it she put her hand back between her legs, and slipped her fingers into the cleft of her sweet spot; let her palm press against her clit.
Her body shuddered its response. The answer was there, but the memory was fading too fast, slipping away.
So big….so hard…
And so deep…
Her body thrummed at the memory, and hungered.
Soft lips on her neck.
Warm, urgent breath.
Carrie opened her eyes to morning light filtering through window blinds. The light was a distraction, quickening the erasure of her memory.
She lie still, her body enveloped in rich satin, trying to recapture the memory. But wakefulness washed the last of it away.
The sensation of the cool sheets against her bare skin felt so nice. It was like the bed loved her body, the way it caressed her nakedness. She felt so comfortable, like she could sleep for days.
Carrie closed her eyes, for a moment willing to allow sleep to take her away again. But then it occurred to her that these weren’t her sheets. And no one she knew owned satin.
She opened her eyes again.
As she sat up and looked around, confusion colored her waking pleasure.
Carrie rubbed her eyes, blinked and looked around again.
She didn’t recognize her surroundings. Alarm replaced her concern.
As her heartbeat gained speed, the satin sheets slid down her body, and she realized that she was naked in a strange bed in a strange place.
Her still hungry body thrummed a memory:
Her body owned a knowledge that her mind had lost.
Fear replaced Carrie’s alarm.
She was naked and alone, and she didn’t know where she was, or how she’d gotten here.
And, something had happened.
Her body told her so.
The bed was huge, larger than king-sized. Carrie felt tiny in its expanse, and vulnerable in her nakedness. But the vast bedroom dwarfed the bed. The room was as large as the entire first floor of her apartment.
Ornate furnishings dotted the sea of dove gray carpet. The furniture looked heavy and well-crafted, as if it belonged in the bedchamber of some great castle in a land and era in which the sword was the ultimate weapon.
The bedroom’s French double-doors were closed. So was the matching closet door. Another door opened onto a private bath; she could see the edge of a sink vanity and mirror in that space.
Where was she?
Carrie clutched the sheets to her body and fought back the icy fingers of panic. She couldn’t allow herself to lose it. There was an explanation that she’d remember in a moment. She just had to think about it.
She’d gone to that club last night – she remembered that much – to that new place everyone was talking about called Shadows. She’d gone with her best friend Patrice and Louis, her friend and supervisor at the gallery.
That’s it – she’d call Patrice!
Carrie looked around again. Where was her cell phone? Where were her clothes?
She eyed the drawer chest, the armoire, and the closet door. Maybe she’d hung her clothes up before…
Her body thrummed its memory.
Don’t think about that right now, she told herself. Figure out where you are, and how to get out of here.
She’d worn her new green party dress to the club, the sexy number she’d saved for three months to buy. She’d hang that baby up for sure. It had to be in the closet.
Carrie eased out from beneath the bedcovers, her eyes on the closed bedroom door and her ears tuned to detect the presence of anyone approaching. She crouched on all fours on the bed, catlike and tense, ready to dive back under the covers at the first sound of a voice or a footstep.
But all she heard was the whir of the ceiling fan. Its downdraft was like passionate breath on her flesh. It set her nerves on edge, like…
His breath and lips on her neck…
Her body thrummed its memory.
She almost remembered something, almost captured it, but then her eyes were drawn to something in the periphery of her vision, pulling her focus away from the elusive memory. She looked to her right, to the far side of the bed.
A folded note lay on the satin covered pillow.
Anxiety and dread flooded her breast.
On that pillow might lay an answer to the question she wasn’t yet ready to ask.
As Carrie crawled across the bed she noted that the covers on the far side, while not badly disturbed, weren’t tightly made either. Had someone been in this bed with her, and maybe straightened the covers on that side before leaving? Her body thrummed that if not here, then somewhere, with someone.
As she moved she realized that the sensations in her body – that thrumming aftershock, the ache that wasn’t all unpleasant – came from more than one place. She reached back and touched her fingers to her backside, to that puckered spot.
So big…so hard…so deep.
Oh my God.
Carrie picked up the note with trembling fingers and held her breath as she flipped it open. She read it and whispered, “Oh, man…”
Just three words, written in a masculine script:
You were amazing.
And don’t miss all the novellas in the Passion Series:
And coming soon:
If you’ve read my novella “Friends, Lovers and Other Killers” you might recall that the catalyst for all the drama (okay carnage) in that tale was the friendship between characters Mitch, a divorcee, and Cynthia, a woman in a troubled marriage. You might also recall Mitch mentioning and reflecting on his failed marriage and how it impacted his friendship with Cynthia. When FL&OK took place, Mitch’s ex-wife was in prison. How that happened will be explained next year in my novel “The Hitman Chronicles.” What happened between Mitch and Margaret is chronicled in this excerpt, a tale inspired by the late, great Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.”
DREAMS TO REMEMBER
Her voicemail message said that she’d be working late again and to not wait on her for dinner. She told him that she’d catch a bite on the way home.
Mitch wanted to go out tonight. He was in a serious mood for some cheese ravioli, and the only place that made it the way he liked was a little Italian restaurant across the street from the beach in Long Branch, his hometown.
This was the second night this week that Margaret worked late. She did this more often lately, but he didn’t want to complain because she really loved her new career as an accountant. But damn it, she worked on salary. She wasn’t making any more money for the extra time.
And he really wanted some cheese ravioli.
He walked naked from the master bath’s shower into their bedroom and stood under the ceiling fan, letting the downdraft cool the moisture from his walnut-brown skin. He caught a glimpse of himself in the dresser mirror. He was thirty-four years old and his stomach was still flat and hard. Crunches every morning before work saw to that. Push-ups and dumbbell curls kept his arms and upper body in shape. He needed to get to the gym more often to work on his legs, though. He turned to the face the mirror, studying himself a little closer. If it weren’t for the thinning hair on the top of his head he could have passed for someone ten years younger, because he kept himself in excellent physical condition. He had to stay in shape to keep up with Margaret.
They met twelve years ago when he was twenty-two and she was eighteen. He’d worked in the Housekeeping department at the hospital in Long Branch since he’d graduated high school. Through hard work, he’d made shift supervisor in four years, even though he was the youngest guy on his crew.
Margaret had been a new hire on his shift. He’d thought she was gorgeous; a slender dark chocolate beauty with black eyes that could look right into your soul and a smile that could melt your heart if she chose to grace you with it. She melted his the first day he laid eyes on her.
They hit it off right away, and in less than a month they were a couple. Two years later they were married.
They’d had a lot in common back then, not the least of which was their appetite for sex. He’d never met a woman who wanted to give and get it as much as Margaret. She insisted on having at least one dick-induced orgasm a day, preferably in the morning. Otherwise, in her own words, she’d be a grumpy bitch all day. Nighttime sex was her way to close out the day, her sleeping pill.
In addition to wanting to satisfy her own needs, she believed that the only way to make sure he didn’t fool around was to see to it that when she was done with him, he had nothing left to fool around with. She’d told him a thousand times that if he was going to come at all, it was going to be in her, his wife. To Margaret’s way of thinking, even masturbation was an insult to her womanhood, unless of course, she was the one doing it for him. The result was that for every day of their marriage, unless one of them was sick or very tired, they fucked. If it was her time of the month, she did other things to get him off. Even when they argued and weren’t even talking to each another they fucked. They just did it in silence.
So he had to keep himself in top shape to keep up with his wife. He had absolutely no complaints about their love life, however. Mitch knew plenty of guys who practically had to crawl and beg their wives for a little pussy every now and then, so he knew he had it good.
His body was dry now, but he was going to have to wait until his rock-hard erection died down before he could get dressed. Even after twelve years, thinking about his wife always had this effect on him. If she’d been around right now to see his condition, she would have been on him like white on rice. But she was working late again.
He decided to go for the ravioli. The restaurant was on the shore, some thirty miles from their condo in Lakewood, but tonight nothing else was going to satisfy his craving. Since he’d planned to take Margaret to dinner, his clothes were already laid out on the bed: Charcoal gray cords, black cable knit turtleneck sweater and over the ankle Rockports. He got dressed and rushed downstairs, throwing on his black calf-length cashmere overcoat as he headed out to the parking lot to his Jeep.
He never used to eat alone. Early in their marriage, he and Margaret had been inseparable. When he was just a Housekeeping shift supervisor and she one of his workers, they loved going out together to eat when they got off from work, before they went home. Margaret used to say that it was like foreplay; they knew they were going to get naked as soon as they got in the house, so stopping somewhere to eat served as a tease, prolonging the pleasure they were both dying for.
Two years after they married he was promoted again, to manager of all the Housekeeping shifts. Margaret was happy for his success, but she was pissed that he got to work a nine to five while she still worked the evening shift. But their conflicting schedules didn’t cut down on their lovemaking. Margaret wouldn’t allow that. No, he just got a whole lot less sleep. She’d get home at around midnight and shake or suck him awake, or he’d wake up gasping for air because her pussy was pressed against his face.
His next promotion came as a result of his love of computers. He started out working with the hospital’s system administrator in his spare time, helping him troubleshoot problems or set up new programs. Before he knew it, the administrator had moved on and the job was offered to him. It was a better job paying better money doing something that he truly enjoyed, so of course he accepted.
He and Margaret had agreed early on that at the five-year point in their marriage, they would start making babies, and now that he was the hospital’s Systems Administrator, he made enough money to allow her to quit her job and start working on getting pregnant. But when that time came, Margaret threw a monkey wrench into what he’d thought was a rock solid plan. She told him that she wanted to go to college and get a degree before she became a mother.
Of course he supported her, even though he was disappointed that they wouldn’t become parents according to their original schedule. He paid her way through college, and to Margaret’s credit, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting in just three years.
And then things started to change.
It was nothing drastic, just some little things. Like all of a sudden their old friends, people from the Housekeeping staff that they’d hung out with for years, weren’t good enough for her. Like how she’d traded in the Sebring convertible he bought her for her birthday the day after she got it for a Lexus, without even telling him. She paid the extra cost, but damn. Her reason had been that she had an image to maintain, that people expected a white-collar worker to drive a white-collar automobile. Like that she didn’t want to play racquetball with him on Saturday mornings anymore. She’d taken up golf, and now she hung out on the links on Saturdays with the suits from her firm. Like that they hadn’t gone out to dinner together at their favorite Italian restaurant in over a year. The only true constant in the two years since she’d become an accountant was their sex life.
Mitch parked his car around the corner from the restaurant and walked up the street toward the front entrance. He’d been so deep in thought that he almost walked right by the white Lexus parked four spaces up from his Jeep. He wouldn’t have noticed the car at all; after all there had to be dozens of white Lexus’ in this county alone, except for the black Raggedy Ann doll perched on the rear window deck.
Her Raggedy Ann doll.
He stood for a minute on the curb with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his overcoat, looking at the car. There had to be a logical explanation. Margaret said she’d be working late. It was a quarter to eight now. She got off at five-thirty. She worked all the way up in Newark, at least an hour away in the best traffic. So if she’d just worked an hour over, she could be here by now. But they lived straight down Route 9 from Newark. This restaurant was twenty miles out of her way. Why would she drive all the way out here? Had she had a sudden taste for ravioli too?
The hostess asked him if he’d be dining alone. He said that he wasn’t sure, that he thought someone he knew might be here. She led him into the dining area.
Mitch spotted her sitting in a booth in a corner near the back of the room. Her back was to him. Some light-skinned pudgy-faced brother in a suit sat across from her, talking animatedly. Mitch couldn’t see Margaret’s face, but she was leaning forward and nodding her head as if she were hanging on this guy’s every word.
Mitch made himself relax. There was no point in assuming something without knowing the facts. Maybe this dude was just her co-worker, or even her boss. She’d never introduced him to the people she worked with. He told the waitress that he’d spotted his party and headed for their booth.
Margaret was lifting something from her plate with her fork. She raised it…and offered it to the suit.
Mitch froze in his tracks.
The suit stopped talking and smiled at his wife, then accepted the bite. A bit of the food remained on the corner of his mouth. Margaret—his wife—wiped it away with her bare finger. The suit kissed her fingertips.
Mitch moved quickly, without thinking, and was standing over them in an instant. She looked up at him, and her face answered every question he could have thought to ask. He asked anyway.
“Is this how you always work late, Margaret?”
He watched her struggle to find the words, to come up with some saving explanation. But there was no suitable excuse—not when you’re caught red-handed—and she knew it.
Margaret—his wife—breathed out a heavy, resigned sigh and said, “Mitch, could we please talk about this at home…”
“What could we talk about Margaret? What the fuck could you possibly say?”
The suit cleared his throat. Mitch ignored him.
“Mitch, please,” she said. “Don’t make a scene.”
“I’m not making a fucking scene. I came here to get something to eat because my wife said she was working late. If I wanted to make a goddamned scene, I’d be tearing this place apart.”
Her eyes scanned the dining area. “Please keep your voice down, people are watching.”
He snatched her hand up, and before she could protest, pried her wedding band off her finger. To his disappointment it slipped off easily. He’d hoped to peel some flesh off with it.
Margaret gasped. The suit stood up.
“Now see here, fella…” the suit began.
Mitch stabbed him in the middle of his expensive silk tie with the tip of his finger, cutting him off in mid-sentence. “Motherfucker, the smartest thing you will ever do in your life will be to sit your ass down and shut the fuck up, right now.”
The suit didn’t move. They stood eyeing each other like two pit bulls waiting to be let off their chains so that the battle could begin. The dining area had become as quiet as a tomb. All eyes were on them.
Mitch shifted his feet on the carpet, left foot forward, right foot back and perpendicular to the left, bending his knees a little to set his balance: a boxer’s stance. He kept his hands low, but if this cocksucker so much as flinched…
Margaret knew him well, and when she spoke there was a trace of panic in her voice. She grabbed his wrist. “Mitch, don’t please.” She looked at the suit. “Thomas, sit down.”
That’s right bitch, Mitch thought, save your boy’s life.
The suit named Thomas looked down at her, considering, then said, “All right, dear,” and took his seat.
Margaret breathed a sigh of relief and let go of his wrist. “Let’s talk at home, all right?”
Mitch glared down at her, said, “Fuck you,” and left the restaurant.
He’d almost finished packing when he heard the front door open downstairs. Shit. He’d hoped to be out of the condo before she returned. He wanted to leave her while he was still angry. He knew the pain would come soon enough.
She stood in the bedroom doorway, watching as he closed his suitcase.
Don’t say anything to me. Just let me go.
“You don’t have to leave, Mitch.”
He tried not to look to her as he spoke. “One of us has to go, and I never liked this place anyway. You picked it out, remember?”
“Where are you going?”
“To a hotel. I’ll start looking for a place tomorrow.”
“Mitch, I’m so sorry. This is not how I wanted it to happen.”
He looked at her now. “Yeah, cheaters never plan to get caught.” He lifted his suitcase and stepped to the door. She didn’t move out of his way. “Excuse me…”
Her eyes shone with tears. In all the years he’d know her, he’d never seen her cry. She always fancied herself as the epitome of the strong black woman.
“I really need to go.”
She touched him, her fingers tracing over his sweater. A single fat tear slid down her dark chocolate cheek. “Can’t we at least say goodbye to each other, just this one last time?”
She stepped closer to him, her face nuzzling against his neck, her hand sliding against the front of his pants.
He thought about their life, their relationship. How it had always been.
Even when they argued and weren’t even talking to each another they fucked. They just did it in silence.
He thought about how she looked naked. Her dark slender body: always wanting; always needing; and always giving. She was an incredible lover, certainly the best he’d ever had, and they’d grown and learned together. Nothing had ever interfered with their sex life. Even now, as much as he hated to admit it to himself, he wanted her. He could feel himself growing under her coaxing touch.
He looked at her, deep into the depths of her black eyes. “Just tell me one thing, Margaret…”
“Did you fuck him yet?”
“Oh Mitch, I couldn’t…I wouldn’t do that to you. I swear it.”
He stared at her. She looked back at him, her tearful gaze unwavering.
He thought he believed her. He wondered what it could hurt, to do it this one last time.
Margaret had already stepped out of her pumps and was taking off her business jacket. She pulled her blouse out of her skirt, unbuttoned it and slipped it off, letting it drop to the carpet at her feet. Her bra followed.
Firm, dark breasts; even darker nipples. What would it be like to never know them again?
She unzipped her skirt and let it drop around her feet.
Tiny black bikini panties and thigh-highs as dark as her legs. She’d always hated pantyhose.
She peeled her panties down, watching him watching her. Fresh tears—so shocking because he’d never seen cry—flowed freely.
He stood in his bedroom, his suitcase still clutched in one hand, staring down at the woman he’d desired most in the world, the woman who was about to become his ex-wife.
Nothing had ever come between them and sex before. Nothing had ever been greater than their desire for each other. But this…
Mitch looked down at Margaret as she waited for him on their bed; on her bed now. He couldn’t imagine that he’d ever sleep in it again. He thought about all that he’d invested—the love, the trust, and the years—in the belief that they would be together until one of them put the other in the ground.
He could have cheated. He’d certainly had his chances over the years. He couldn’t even remember how many opportunities had come his way, opportunities that he’d turned down because he’d wanted to do the right thing. He wondered when things had changed for Margaret, when she’d stopped wanting to do the right thing by him and their marriage. What had made her lose so much feeling and respect for him that she could go to another man?
He pictured them again in the restaurant, the way she’d fed the suit from her plate, the way she’d wiped food from his mouth, the way he’d kissed her fingertips. Those weren’t the kinds of things you did when you were just thinking about fooling around with someone. And it wasn’t the kind of thing you did in a public place if you were worried about getting caught. Those were the kinds of things that people in the midst of new love do. The kind of things you do when the person you care most about is sitting across from you. Someone you’ve been intimate with.
She swore that she hadn’t slept with that guy, but could a cheater be trusted to tell the truth? He and Margaret made love almost every night. Had he been sleeping with her, fucking her after another man had been inside her, perhaps just a few hours before him?
Mitch looked at Margaret, naked and waiting for him to come to her. Would she have fucked the suit tonight first if he hadn’t caught her, and then come home to let him have what was left? Had she done it before, on one of those nights that she’d said she was working late? Had he already been getting sloppy seconds…from his own wife?
He was glad now that he hadn’t eaten anything, because suddenly he felt sick. His stomach was trying to churn up and expel the remnants of whatever remained from his lunch. He backed toward the bedroom door.
Margaret sat up, surprised. “Mitch?”
She was in danger. He’d never laid a hand on her before, but he wanted to hurt her now. He wanted to hurt her badly.
“Mitch, wait. I told you, nothing happened between Thomas and I.”
She’d spoken his name. From their bed, she’d spoken his name. By speaking his name she’d brought him into their bedroom.
“Find a lawyer Margaret,” Mitch said, his voice tight with anger. “Find a lawyer and get me his name. I’ll have mine contact yours and tell you what I intend to keep.” He turned and left the room.
As he reached the stairs he heard her call out, “It wasn’t anything about you, Mitch. I still love you.”
Mitch stepped out of what used to be his home and closed the door quietly behind him. He stood on the stoop of his condo for a moment, breathing in the cool autumn night and wondering where he might go. A hotel was an option, but he had plenty of relatives in Long Branch, any one of whom would take him in without hesitation. But they would ask questions and feel sorry for him, and he couldn’t stand that right now; wouldn’t be able to take the pity. Already he could feel the pain starting to spread, pumping from his heart like blood and coursing through his system.
He could go to his best friend Eric’s place, but that presented the same problem. He couldn’t take the sympathy, even from another man. Even thinking about it now made his eyes burn with pain. He hurried to his Jeep, blinking the hurt from his eyes as he moved.
He tried to conquer his sorrow with anger, by visualizing her laying with her lover, doing the things to him and for him that Mitch had thought were his gift alone. But that image brought a new bolt of agony to his heart so powerful that it almost made him moan. He got into his jeep with his suitcase and slammed the door.
Now that the image of Margaret with her lover had entered his head, he couldn’t push it out. He turned on the radio as he wheeled out of the parking lot, hoping to blot out the vision of his wife naked with another man with music.
Jammin’ 105 out of New York was playing Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.”
Son of a bitch.
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
Honey, I saw you there last night
Another man’s arms holding you tight
Nobody knows what I felt inside
All I know, I walked away and cried
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember, listen to me
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
Mitch braked at the corner of Prospect Street, put the Jeep in park and let Otis’ plaintive vocals rip into his soul. This song was a killer for anyone with a broken heart, but he wasn’t going to let it get to him. He hadn’t cried since he was thirteen, when he’d decided that he was a man and above such things. Children cried. Females cried. He was a man, damn it, and he wasn’t going to break down.
The rookie cop waited as his partner returned from side of the black Jeep Cherokee driven by a black male, approximately 30 years old. The Jeep was stopped at the corner of Massachusetts and Prospect Streets in Lakewood with its blinkers on.
As his partner slid back under the wheel of the police cruiser the rookie gave him a questioning look. “Well, what’s up, Sarge?” he asked.
“Forget about it,” his partner said. “This guy just found out that his wife is cheating on him, and he just walked out on her. He lives right back there in Wyndham Place. This is as far as he got before life punched him in the gut. The poor bastard is sitting there bawling his eyes out.”
“So what are we gonna do? He’s blocking traffic.”
“You’re not married, are you kid?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna sit here for a while and make sure nobody rear ends him. Let’s call it a public service; helping a citizen in need. Call back in to the desk and tell them to disregard.”
I know you said he was just a friend
But I saw him kiss you again and again
These eyes of mine, they don’t fool me
Why did he hold you so tenderly?
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember, listen honey
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
I still want you to stay
I still love you anyway
I don’t want you to ever leave
Girl, you just satisfy me, me
I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember
© 2002 Christopher Bynum
Lyrics excerpted from “I’ve Dreams to Remember,” written and recorded by Otis Redding, released posthumously in 1968.
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