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:
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.”
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)
Everything The Law Allows
“Are you Sean Daniels?”
He looked up at the dude standing in his office doorway. Light-skinned brother. Light brown eyes. Wavy hair – the shit they called good hair back in the day.
“Who wants to know?” Sean asked.
The dude came into his office, stepped about halfway to his desk and stopped. “I’m Derrick DuShane. That name mean anything to you?”
Sean leaned back in his desk chair. He thought about his Smith & Wesson SW1911. It was safely locked up back at the house. He kept it under lock and key so that his little girl Nina couldn’t get to it. Probably wouldn’t need it for this bitch, though. “The name doesn’t mean a thing to me, man. I might have heard it…but it doesn’t mean shit.”
The dude took a step closer. Just a step. Still wasn’t close to his desk. “Well let me tell you who the fuck I am, bro,” the dude said. “Lisa is my wife. You know her, don’t you?”
Sean didn’t think this asshole was really asking a question. “Oh, Lisa…yeah. Our paths have crossed.” He ended his statement with a smile.
“Well, make sure you uncross ‘em motherfucker, you understand me? Stay the fuck away from my wife!”
Now Sean almost laughed. This punk was so mad that he was standing there with his fists clenched, shaking like a leaf. But he knew not to step too close. “I’m not interested in Lisa…anymore,” Sean said. “She served her purpose. I was done with your wife months ago.”
“I ought to kill your ass,” DuShane spat.
“Shit sucks, doesn’t it Derrick?” Sean said. “Did the paternity test not come out like you expected?”
“What…how did you know about that?” Now Dushane looked confused.
“I just put two and two together…bro. Your wife’s baby doesn’t look too much like you, does it? See, women aren’t the only ones who can punch pinholes in condoms.”
“Motherfucker, why would you do some shit like that?”
DuShane stepped closer, but Sean didn’t think he knew what he was doing. Still, he figured he ought to be ready, just in case. He stood up and said, “Because it’s not illegal to sleep with another man’s wife. See, I’m doing what the law requires. I’ve been doing that for the past seven years. Sometimes when I think about it, I get so pissed that I really want to hurt somebody. But now that would be illegal. But sleeping with your wife…sleeping with Lisa? Well, that’s something the law allows.”
Now DuShane backed up, toward the door. “Man, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Just stay the fuck away from my wife, got it?”
“Oh, I have no problem doing that. Like I said, I’m done with her. You have a good life, bro. And have fun paying for my baby for the next eighteen years.”
Sean hung up his coat, loosened his tie and stepped into his living room. The aroma of marinara sauce drifted out from the kitchen. His stomach grumbled in response.
Hearing the door open, his daughter Nina came bolting down the stairs and leapt into his arms.“Hey daddy!” she yelled. She hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Hey baby,” Sean smiled. “How was school today?”
“It was good! I made you and mommy a Valentine card. Come and see!” Nina squirmed out of his arms and took his hand, leading him to the kitchen.
Donna stood at the stove, stirring sauce in a pot. She turned to give him a kiss. Sean made himself not flinch away. Memories of today’s events were still strong. They reminded him of things he wanted to forget – things that made him not want to kiss his wife.
“C’mon daddy, look at your card!” Nina said, pulling him toward the refrigerator door, on which her homemade cards and other artwork hung.
Sean looked down at his little girl. She was light-skinned. She had light brown eyes and wavy hair –the kind they called good hair back in the day.
Nina looked just like her daddy.
But the law said that because she was born during the course of his marriage, he was the one who had to pay. There was nothing he could do about that.
All he could do was what the law allowed.