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AS Told To Sandra

Small Collection Of Short Stories

"WOMEN ARE MAGIC AND WE ARE STRONG. WE ALL HAVE STORIES TO TELL, SOMETIMES ROMANTIC AND SOMETIMES TRAGIC OR INSPIRING. I AM SANDRA HALL AND THESE ARE WONDERFUL STORIES I AM SHARING TO HONOR ALL WOMEN WHO HAVE CHASED THEIR DREAMS, WENT AFTER THEIR MEN, AND CROSSED THE LINE- WHILE DANCING WITHOUT A NET ON A WIRE. SIT FOR A MOMENT, IMAGINE YOU ARE SHADED FROM THE SUN, ENJOY A GLASS OF WHITE WINE OR MINTED ICED TEA. RELAX. PREPARE TO BE THRILLED BY AMAZING HEROINES IN THESE EMOTIONAL SHORT STORIES."

Copyright(c) July 2014 by Sandra Hall.

All Rights Reserved.

After seventeen years of marriage, I wasn’t exactly miserable, but I was a far cry from happy. Days of romance were long gone. I no longer received flowers for Valentine’s Day, and our anniversary was just another day rolling by making out another year. I wanted children, and after a few years into the marriage I found out both my ovaries were shrunken.

My husband seemed quite content, however, with the way things were. He and I usually had sex about twice a month, because it was all he required. I realized we were getting older, but I knew he didn’t care to make things between us any better. His attitude in bed spilled over to other aspects of our relationship. We went to the movies he enjoyed, and went to restaurants of his choice. Our home was even decorated according to his tastes. Even so, at that time, I figured I was luckier than some women. Earl was rude, mean and self-absorbed, but he had not raised his hand to me. If his needs were met he seemed satisfied, my needs were not his concern.

I don’t exactly remember when I admitted to myself I no longer felt in love with Earl, but I know I did not like him since that day I told him about my ovaries. I had joined him on the couch in front of the television set. A Bonanza marathon was playing, and I waited for the commercials to tell him. I thought he would at least tell me that everything was okay and hug me up, but all he said was, “Oh, that’s too bad, Marie.” Then he put his arm around my shoulder briefly and continued to watch television. I never spoke of my ovaries or children with him again.

One day I woke up beside Earl and wondered why I was still there living with him. I looked at him critically. He was good looking with his medium dark complexion and shaved head. Why he chose to go bald over sporting his black natural ways, I don’t know. He was tall and big in a beefy way, and his belly was starting to get a teensy bit round, but that didn’t stop the women in our neighborhood from checking him out when he worked in the yard or washed the cars. I also noticed him in the mall or the supermarket watching other women as they passed by.

Although, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a sex symbol, I was still in good shape and kept my appearance up. For all the good it did. Earl didn’t seem to care what I looked like. Sometimes I thought he was carrying on with other women, and I never bought it when he claimed he was working overtime because during those times I never saw the evidence in his pay checks. While I would have liked having sex more often, knowing he might be enjoying other women didn’t bother me very much. I was used to his selfishness.

But that morning, I realized I had nothing of my own in my life. My marriage was loveless, no children and no outside interests. So, I began to think of ways to enrich my life. Something I could be interested in that brought me joy and broadened my horizons. Everything I had done so far was all for Earl, and he never appreciated it.

Reading was the one thing I loved. My best friend was the public library. That fall I decided to take advantage of the creative writing class offered in the evenings. My class met twice a week. I got to know most of my classmates rather well, but most of us never socialized outside of class activities. Classes were where we felt confident to express and explore our thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. Those couple of nights a week were our time to be who we wanted to be and let our personal lights shine a little. At least, that is how I was feeling through the first few weeks of classes, mainly because Earl was doing his overtime again. We didn’t see each other enough for him to complain about the time I spent writing and going out of the house. When he decided to stay home more, he started objecting about me not being there when he needed me, or my neglecting the household duties when I tried to write in the evenings.

“I hope you’re not planning on going to class tonight,” he said one evening at dinner, and like a fool I thought he meant he had something for us to do together. “I’m sure you can find something to be doing here at home.”

“Like what? Sitting next to you on the couch while you snore through a ball game?” I quipped. “Besides, I’ve taken care of everything around this house that I planned to for today.”

“Yeah? Did you now?” He sliced into his steak and shoved it into his mouth, keeping his eyes on me.

“Yeah, Earl. You think you know how to run a household better than I do?” He wiped his mouth with a napkin even though his mouth was clean. “Why don’t you come with me tonight? It’ll be something different for you and you might like it.” I didn’t want him tagging along with me, but I could tell he was spoiling for a fight, so he could insist I not continue my classes.

“Listening to someone talk all night is not my idea of fun, Marie,” he said arrogantly and poured himself another glass of iced tea.

“Tonight we’re reading excerpts and I think I’m going to include two poems I just wrote yesterday,” I shared enthusiastically.

“Well, that’s great, Marie.” He downed his tea in one gulp, wiped his lips with the back of his hand, and then pushed his chair back from the table. He’d heard enough of my nonsense, I guess.

That night I read my poems to an appreciative audience, and I was asked to consider joining a new poets club, by its founder. They met on Friday nights, and I was already attending classes on Monday and Thursday nights. I thought about Earl’s non-approval and decided it was my decision if I was going to leave the house for an hour or two three nights a week.

Imogene Sanders, the club’s founder was also a very successful published author, whose short stories I had enjoyed in high school. Every now and then she still wrote for several upscale magazines. I had a whole list of her stories to catch up on, and I couldn’t believe she was at nearly every meeting we had. She was the most remarkable person I had ever met, for she had raised four grown children, kept a husband, and ran her own household while maintaining a career. She was in her early sixties, and able to mix well with any age group. Our youngest member was only fifteen.

One night after a meeting, Imogene asked me to join her for a drink at a nearby bar and I readily agreed. Frankly, I hadn’t figured her for the type to frequent such a young and hip establishment. She always appeared so refined in her wire-framed glasses and tailored suits. The music was loud and the floor crowded. From our table, I watched the people mill about around the bar or just socializing from table to table. Some preferred standing and people watching from shadowy corners. A couple of men met my eyes and gave me a nod or a quick wink. It occurred to me I’d never be in a singles gathering before. Not even in college.

After a waitress had come and left us our drinks, Imogene said, “Do you remember Reuben Jones, the young man that read from Claude McKay a couple of weeks back?”

“Oh yes, he was great,” I said. He was also very attractive. Tall and dark, with a nice low haircut and a kind smile. I remembered thinking he seemed like a nice man. Of course, almost anyone seemed nice compared to Earl.

“I’d like you to meet him. He said he would probably stop by tonight. He’s an agent. I’m one of his clients.” She took a long sip from her drink and made a silent ah with her mouth as if it really hit the spot. “Also I want you to meet Velma Richland, an editor at Sable Books. I took the liberty of showing her your works, especially your poetry. She agrees with me that you should be published.”

“Me? I’m just a novice.” I was flabbergasted. Imogene could not mean what she just said. And why me out of all the other club members?

“My dear there is no such thing. Either you are a writer or you are not. Oh, there is Velma.”

I turned and watched a tall, slender woman about my age approaching our table. She was still dressed in business attire. Imogene introduced us then signaled the waitress back to take Velma’s order.

“So, Marie Green. I’m glad to meet you. I haven’t read such romantic poetry since seventh grade.”

“Thank you,” I said simply.

“And I think you must share it,” Velma continued. “Sable Books is prepared to make you an offer for your poems and short stories.”

“All of them? But I only started writing seriously a few months ago,” I protested, because this was just too good to be true! I was sitting there with a well-known author and an editor from Sable Books about to be made an offer! “Are you two kidding me?”

“I never kid about talent, my dear,” Imogene declared. “It has been a long time since poetry touched my soul.”

“Marie, we must act quickly. The poems I have will have to be enough for now. We have just enough time to get you included in a new anthology titled, Modern Romantic Poets. We need more short stories and even then only a few will be selected. I want you included in our Christmas issues.” Velma was going on like it was a done deal. Imogene was giving me a look that said it was time I said something.

“I guess, I need to talk with my husband first,” I said. A talk I was dreading already. “Can I get back with you in a few days? I’m just really overwhelmed right now.”

“That’s why I want you to meet Reuben Jones. He’s wonderful. The best agent I ever had,” Imogene said, looking at the entrance. “I suppose, he can’t make it tonight. I’ll leave him a message to call you first thing Monday morning.”

“No, don’t do that,” I quickly interrupted. “I want to talk to Earl first.” Actually, I hoped to avoid any interference from him until I was sure what was going to happen. “An afternoon call would be better.”

By the time Monday rolled around, I was a nervous wreck. Earl didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave for work. By ten o’clock I feared he had changed shifts and not even informed me.

“Running a bit late today, aren’t you?” I said, hoping to speed him up.

“I called in and told them I’d be late. That leftover chili last night gave me indigestion. Stomach is just now trying to feel kind of normal.” He looked directly at me like he thought I had tried to poison him or something. “See, this is what happens when a woman don’t take the time to cook her man a decent meal, and run out every other night to discuss some damn books.”

I ignored all that and asked him, if he took anything for the discomfort.

“Yeah, I squigged down a half bottle of Pepto. Hope I don’t get all constipated behind this.” He went to the couch to lie down. “I’ll take it easy and go in at noon.”

Noon! That was cutting it close, but okay, he’d be just out the door when I got my call. I sat in the recliner and began to relax watching the Food network. Ina Garten was baking cookies again.

The phone rang, and Reuben woke up wanting to know what time it was. I picked up the receiver as he went to the bedroom to prepare for work.

“May I speak with Marie Green, please,” a male voice asked smoothly.

“Who is calling, please?” I was nervous, but I knew full well who was calling. I remembered the timbre of his voice from his poetic styling.

“Reuben Jones. Is Miss Green in?”

“This is she, but um, I was expecting a later call.” I heard Earl singing in the bedroom and he usually walked around while he sang. “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to call you back.” I hung up a few seconds before he waltzed into the living room, buckling his belt.

“Marie, if you go out today, pick up some of that foot powder. I’m just about out.” He checked his pockets then went back into the bedroom for his car keys and hard hat. “See you later,” he said and left.

I rushed to the telephone to check the last call then quickly dialed the numbers. On the second ring, I hung up. Who was I kidding? I knew Earl would find a way to ruin everything. But what was more important? Peace in a lousy marriage, or pursuing a career in a world I loved? What if the deal didn’t fall through anyway?

About twenty minutes later, the phone began to ring again. It was Imogene. “Why wouldn’t you talk to Laurence? I thought it was all systems go.”

“I told you I had to talk to Earl first. Besides, he called too early. It’s not even noon yet,” I argued.

“Well, have you talked to him yet?”

“No, I didn’t get the chance.”

“Why not? What’s the problem?”

“Look, Imogene.” I gripped the phone in agitation from her questions and demanding tone. Who did she think she was talking to anyway? I wasn’t obligated to her or anything. Nobody told her to be a busybody showing my stuff to her buddies and making deals I had no idea about. And I certainly didn’t have to talk to anybody just because she said so! But I swallowed all that back and said, “I just don’t think the timing is right.”

“Marie, you realize opportunities like this does not come around every day. Much of it is connecting with the right people at the right time. You met me and I knew the people to get your work to at the right time. It would be a shame, if you can’t realize there is no playing around room. Sable Books wants you, but they can easily find another writer to fill your spot.”

“Well, maybe they should,” I said. “If they can’t wait for a woman to speak to her husband.”

“If you let this opportunity go, I must admit you will greatly disappoint me.”

“Imogene,” I started to defend myself.”

“I’m sorry, my dear, I spoke out of turn.” I heard a sniff in her voice. “I won’t bother you with this matter again. Good bye.”

Great. Now, Imogene was upset with me. She was right of course. Why did I let Earl be a factor in my decision? Of course, he’d naturally oppose anything I wanted to do that didn’t directly benefit him. He wouldn’t care that experts agreed I had talent to share. Nor, would he care that I might be disappointed the rest of my life for not going for that ultimate big moment.

I called Reuben Jones’ office. He was out for the rest of the afternoon. I thought about calling Imogene to let her know I was interested in Sable Books’ offer, but I decided to wait until I talked to her agent, so she’d know I was serious.

That evening I skipped my writing class, preferring to be alone with my thoughts. Earl called earlier to inform me that he was going to pull a double shift. Great. A little peace and quiet. I fixed myself a chicken salad and sipped wine out on the patio. It was rare that I could enjoy myself like that. Earl always required something or made too much noise when he was around. Instead of thinking about Earl, I thought how my life might change, if I could make a living as a writer.

Around seven o’clock, I went back inside meaning to watch some television. Before I got comfortable on the couch, the phone rang. I picked it up and answered as I laid down on the cushions.

“May I speak with Miss Green, please?” It was Reuben Jones again! I straightened up in surprise.

“Speaking,” I said trying my best to sound calm. Maybe it was the wine, but his voice stirred my body. My heart beat with a wild excitement that I knew did not come from being anxious about business.

“Ah, Miss Green. I’m sorry to be calling so late, and I apologize for this morning. The truth is I had to leave town suddenly, and I wanted to contact you before I did. If I caused you any inconvenience -”

“Oh no. Not really. Things were just a bit crazy this morning.”

“I see.”

“According to Velma Richland, Sable Books is prepared to make me an offer for my poems and short stories. Imogene suggested I should have you represent my interests. I hope you can help.”

“I’m sure I can. We’ll need to meet at your earliest convenience tomorrow. Noon is best for me, but if you can’t make it, I’ll try to juggle my other appointments around.”

“No, Mister Jones. You name the time, and I will be there.” I was making this promise to myself more than I was him.

“Then noon tomorrow at Marlowe’s,” he suggested and I agreed.

At twelve o’clock I had been at the restaurant nearly a half hour. I was so nervous and anxious I was dressed early and couldn’t make myself wait a few more minutes before leaving the house. I had spent the morning acting as if I were preparing for a hot date. I soon began to feel like a fool. Not for agreeing to the meeting, rather for buying new makeup and getting all dressed up so I could look good for a man. A younger man at that. A man that called me Miss and I didn’t bother to correct his assumption. What was I thinking anyway? Would he know I had dolled myself up just for this meeting with him?

“Miss Green.” His voice was just over my head. I turned around not sure if my face was smiling or not. “Reuben Jones,” he said as he came around the table to extend his hand to me.

“Oh yes,” I said, placing my hand inside his. He smiled giving my hand a firm squeeze. I felt a quick jolt in my chest that seemed to jumpstart my heart. He was even better looking up close than that night he took the floor to do his reading. “Of course, so glad to meet you.” He was bigger across the chest than I thought, and except for a thin moustache, he was clean shaven and smelled so delicious. I studied his face as he took his seat, unbuttoning his suit jacket. He met my light gaze and smiled again. I knew I was staring, but I couldn’t stop myself. And Reuben didn’t seem to mind. A waiter immediately came to our table to take our orders. As soon as he left I had his full attention. “So, you didn’t have any trouble recognizing me in a different setting.”

“Nope. A pretty lady stands out from any crowd.”

“Thank you,” I said as a warmness spread throughout my body. “Of course, I remember you from your readings. Your voice is so versatile and romantic.”

“Well, thank you. I was just reading my favorite poems.” He seemed embarrassed. “Actually, I’d like to read some of yours someday. Maybe I won’t have to wait too long, according to Velma and Imogene.”

“You’ve already talked to Velma?”

“Actually, the deal is pretty much set. All we need is your approval,” he answered carefully. “Imogene submitted your work to Sable Books. Velma loved everything and offered her a deal.”

“How did she pass my stuff as hers? She a professional.” My heart sank. Imogene had used trickery to get me noticed. It wasn’t my talent after all, just Imogene’s status or clout, or whatever.

“She didn’t actually pass it. She just got you read. In fact, Velma demanded to know who the author really was.”

“So everything has been done behind my back?” I was getting angry. “What kind of deal did you all come up with?” I demanded hotly.

He reached inside his briefcase and pulled out some papers. “This is a basic contract for your poems and stories. Velma wants them all. I say hold some back.”

“Why? Is she trying to cheat me?”

“Not exactly. Just give Sable Books what they need for these projects. Once you are published and successful, we can shop around to other houses.”

“What if they don’t want to do it?” I asked. “Imogene said they could easily replace me.”

“Marie, that isn’t going to happen. They are holding back, and so are we. It’s what publishers and agents do.”

“And you are my agent? You aren’t doing a favor for Imogene?”

“Actually, Marie,” he gave me another big ole smile. “Imogene did me a favor, whether you become an official client or not.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s been a little while since I’ve had a nice lunch with a lovely lady. Business or not, I have to say, I’m glad I finally got a chance to meet you. The question is, do you want me to officially represent you?”

“Imogene thinks the world of you, Mister Jones. So I’m going to put my trust in your hands.”

“Call me Reuben.” His voice was smooth as silk, and I had to look into his eyes.

“So, do you like jazz?” he asked, turning the subject as the waiter brought our meals.

“I’m not exactly nuts about it, but it’s all right.”

“Do you think you could sit through a live review with me tomorrow night?”

“Um,” I began salting my steamed veggies. “I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Well, some other time then?”

“No.” I dreaded the disappointed expression on his face. “I can’t because my husband wouldn’t understand,” I finished up quietly.

“Oh. I didn’t realize you were married,” he said then concentrated on his swordfish. I don’t know how his meal tasted, but mine was as tasteless as notebook paper.

“Are you very annoyed with me, dear?” Imogene asked, handing me a cup of coffee then sat down on the sofa next to me. Everyone was socializing before the club meeting officially started.

“I was. If we are to be friends, you can’t be going behind my back like that again.”

“No problem. Now, you have Reuben to push you and handle things.” She sipped at her own coffee. Just then I noticed a figure standing near us. My heart just about leaped up and out of my chest.

“Reuben! Sit down. How have you been?” Imogene moved away from me making room for him between us.

“Just fine,” he answered. “How are you ladies tonight?” He leaned back and spread his arm out on the back of the sofa, making a little more room on the small space. He wasn’t touching me, but I was more than aware that his arm was right behind me.

“I’m going for a refill, would you like something to drink?” Imogene asked, addressing Reuben who declined. As soon as she left the sofa, a big guy named Marty, squeezed himself on the seat. I had to scoot closer to Reuben, and he rested his hand firmly on my shoulder. I saw Imogene look over in our direction as she poured herself a fresh cup of coffee. She pursed her lips in annoyance at Marty’s nerve at taking her preferred spot. He sat there eating and drinking like there was no tomorrow, or no one else on the sofa.

“You okay,” Reuben leaned over to ask me.

“Sure,” I lied. My heart was hammering away. He was wearing Cool Water cologne, my personal favorite. “Hank is going to perform A Love Supreme.” I didn’t know what that was, but I was hoping that would entice him to stay the whole meeting rather than leaving early as he usually did on the few nights he actually made an appearance. “Will you be able to stay?”

He moved closer to me to whisper,” I think I better, else you get eaten alive tonight.” As I laughed with him, his hand tightened on my shoulder. I pretended not to notice. What harm was it doing? We were sitting on a sofa in a room full of other people. For the first time in a long time, I was feeling good. Real good.

Reuben attended more and more club meetings, and he would sometimes read, if I asked him. These days were the best days of my life; I attended functions that Imogene and Velma told me were important, I met wonderful poets like Joyce Joyce, Sonia Sanchez, and other hopefuls like myself. Reuben attended these functions as well, and I made sure to spend as much time with him as I could.

I became more intolerant of Earl as my affection for Reuben grew. I moved out of the bedroom I had shared with him for the past seventeen years. I was sure now that he was carrying on with several different women. Now, that Reuben was in my heart, I didn’t want Earl touching me.

Sometimes I went to Marlowe’s on a whim that I might meet him there accidentally. After doing so successfully twice, I began going to Marlowe’s every Monday at noon. Soon that was our unspoken place and time to meet. Our relationship was as platonic as two people who were attracted to each other could be, and I knew we couldn’t continue that way for long. Sooner or later, he would want more than I was free to give him.

By mid-summer, I was done working on the stories Velma needed for Christmas and the anthology was already at press. I was proud of myself as was everyone at the club. Sable Books flew me to New York for promotion of the books. Imogene insisted she would come of course. The promotion was like a celebration, very sophisticated and more upscale than anything I’d been apart of until now.

I was at a loss for words,and I felt dowdy in my new dress I bought at JCPenny. Everyone had said a simple black gown would suffice at any occasion. Earl told me I was making a fool of myself, being as old as I was trying to be a writer and socializing with famous and rich people. Right after Imogene and Velma left my side to go mingle with old friends and acquaintances, his words started getting to me as I began to feel more and more like a fish out of water. But I made up my mind to keep my head up and remember to be proud of myself. As it turned out, I wasn’t destined to be by myself for long.

Almost magically, he appeared by my side. I stared at him as though he were a friendly ghost, then hugged him as the dear friend he was to me. “Reuben,” I said, so relieved and happy to see his smiling, beautiful face. “I’m so glad to see you.”

“Come on, did you really think I’d miss your first gala-event?” He gave me a lingering peck as I slowly drew back. Feeling his lips on my skin sent a rush right up to my head. “Marie, you look absolutely stunning in that gown. But I think you smell even better.” He smiled down at me, and for the first time, I could plainly see the ardor in his eyes.

“Thank you,” I managed to say without swallowing hard first. “I was starting to feel like a poor relation.”

He glanced around the fancy decorated room at the more elaborately dressed women. “No one here is more lovely than you, Marie. Would you care to dance?”

As we moved around the dance floor, I noticed Imogene and Velma watching us.

“Did Earl accompany you to New York,” Reuben suddenly asked with a slight frown. I shook my head in answer. “He is a fool.”

“I don’t want to talk about Earl,” I told him. “Tell me how you were able to clear your desk of everything and fly here to be with me.”

“I just wanted to be here, so I came, Marie.” He held me tighter and pulled me closer. “I want to kiss you.”

“You can’t.” Not with Imogene and Velma watching. I wondered if they knew how we felt about each other all along. “It’s not that I don’t want to.”

“You want me to leave you alone?”

“No!” What would I do if I could no longer see him, or hear his voice? How would I get through the days and nights? I knew my depending on him being there for me wasn’t fair to him. “Can’t we just stay friends?” He kissed me lightly on the forehead, and I felt his arms loosen from around me. Oh no, I thought, he was kissing me goodbye!

“Reuben?” I held on to his arms, but what could I say to him? I was married and until now never thought of breaking my vows. Could I be that reckless? “Don’t go. I need you.”

“Let’s go out to the terrace,” he suggested and danced us through the doors.

I pulled away and hurried to the balcony to take in the night air. My head was swimming with wild thoughts. All I wanted was to live in the moment and not think of tomorrow or Earl.

“Marie.” I felt his hand on my bare back. He touched me gently with his fingertips. I turned slowly to face him. My body shivered as he brought his face closer to mine. “Marie?”

“Kiss me,” I invited him and closed my eyes. His lips pressed firmly to mine in a hot and thorough kiss. I had never been kissed like that in my life! My knees grew weak, and he supported me by pulling me into his chest, holding me with a strong arm around my waist. “Oh,” I moaned when he released me briefly to catch our breaths. I put my arms around him and locked my mouth onto his and tried to match his growing fervor.

“Do you want me, Marie?” he asked between hungry kisses.

“Yes, so very much. You know I do…but I can’t.” Reuben tore himself away from me, leaving me breathless. “Reuben?” He seemed angry. “Reuben, I’m trying to be straight with you. You know I’m married.”

“Do you still love Earl?”

“No.”

“Then why are you still with him? It makes me sick when I think of you in bed with him.”

“I haven’t slept with Earl in a long time.”

“How long?”

“Since we started meeting at Marlowe’s.”

“Be with me tonight, sweetheart.” He urged me by gently taking me in his arms to kiss me calmly with slow deliberation. “Just be with me. I’m not asking you to break your vows.”

“I feel like I already have.”

“Kissing is not committing adultery.”

“Is that all you want, Reuben? Is that enough?” How could it be, I wondered. It was killing me trying to do right and keep myself from ruining the kind and warm friendship between us while I wanted to be with him so much that my belly ached with growing desire. A desire I knew was partially fueled by my own self -imposed abstinence from sex.

“For tonight,” Reuben said. “Here in New York, I just want to express how I feel about you.”

“How do you feel?” I had to hear him say it, in order to believe I wasn’t misunderstanding what was suddenly going on between us. Was it just physical desire, or real longing for another person to love?

“I’m in love with you, Marie. And I’ve convinced myself that you feel the same way. Do you?”

“I think so. Reuben, I was unhappy for a long time,” I rushed to explain. “And then I met you. I don’t want to spoil it.”

“Getting closer can’t spoil it. However, if you aren’t sure, I can step back and wait.”

“Wait? What do you mean?”

“I want you, Marie. If you want me, you need to get things right so we can be together.”

“You want me to leave Earl and be with you?”

“Can you?”

“I…” Of course, I’d thought about leaving Earl a thousand times since I met Reuben. I just never imagined he’d love me back enough to want me to get a divorce to be with him.

“I can wait until you trust me, if I know you are into these feelings the way I am.”

“I trust you. It’s just that I wasn’t prepared for this.”

“Come on, sweetheart. You’ve known how much I feel for you.”

“Well, I can’t say I knew, exactly. I just hoped I wasn’t making a fool of myself.”

“No way.”

“I’m eleven years older than you and I don’t have the class you must be used to.” I thought of the younger versions of Imogene and Velma. He laughed and kissed me. “What’s funny?”

“You. You are funny. Seriously, you have all the class and qualities of a woman that I desire and then some. And the years between us is not an issue. So what else you got to keep this thing between us from moving along?”

I bit my lip to keep from blurting that I was spoiled goods. Barren, as they described women like me in the Bible. A younger man wouldn’t want his options taken away. In my heart, I had always known that was one of the main reasons Earl never valued me much as his wife. Could I bear to be so disrespected again?

“What is it?” Reuben must have seen the conflict in my sad expression.

“There is something,” I confessed. “I don’t know if I can ever tell you what it is.”

“Whatever it is, you can keep it to yourself. I love you, so I’m trusting you with my heart. You’ll take good care of it, right?”

“Right. But- you don’t care if I keep a secret?”

“I care,” he sighed. “I also know one day you will tell me when it matters. I’m not asking for your life story in one night.”

“You’ll really wait for me?”

“I’ll wait if you tell me you intend to be with me.”

“I do, Reuben. I really do.”

“Then be with me for the time we have alone here in the city. Can you promise us this time together?”

“Yes.” Secretly, I promised to give him every day for as long as he wanted me.

Part 2 continued later...

"I have more stories to tell! Be sure to tune in each week!"
"Ah, which will it be for next week?"

"I guess we waited long enough for part 2"

Part 2

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The next two days in New York were heaven. All was a blur except for openly expressing my love to a wonderful man. I decided I would leave Earl right away and pursue a relationship with Reuben. I told him on the plane back home, he was elated and held my hand the entire flight. We kissed deeply at the airport, and promised to see each other soon.

I rode back to town with Imogene in her limousine. In the city, she had not said anything about Reuben and I getting together. I knew she was bursting at the seams, but I wasn’t going to volunteer the information she wanted.

“I take it you enjoyed New York,” she finally said, sitting across from me, trying to study my face.

“It was a blast!” I enthused. “I always wanted to visit New York! I sure hope my pictures come out nice.”

“I suggest you be careful with photographs of you and Reuben. Your husband might not understand,” she warned.

“I guess, he wouldn’t,” I agreed.

“What won’t he understand, Marie?”

“That I’m in love with Reuben. Oh Imogene, don’t act like it’s news to you. You are about the most observant person I ever met.”

“But my goodness,” she exclaimed. “Never in a million years would I have thought you’d have an affair. Affairs have a way of getting out of control fast.”

“I know and that’s why I’m leaving Earl. I don’t have anything left for him, and Reuben loves me. I’m going to start my happiness off right.”

“I’m happy that you are in love, dear. Reuben is a wonderful man.” She reached out to hug me. “If you need me for anything, just call.”

I entered my home after saying goodbye to Imogene in high spirits, but soon saw my homecoming was to be a disaster. My living room was a shambles. I heard Earl in the kitchen, so I went to see the damage he had done there as well.

“So, the world traveler has returned,” he greeted me with his face all screwed up in anger. “It’s about time, this place is a mess!” He swiped his arm across the table, knocking off bottles and food containers and other debris to the floor and walls. “Bet you think you too good to clean my house now that you been to the city, writing books, and dancing with the jet set. I sure hope you enjoyed yourself, Miss Marie. Starting this evening, all that crap is over.”

“No, it isn’t,” I contradicted. “As a matter of fact, I’m just getting started.”

He merely shifted his weight and looked at me hard, then said, “You ever going to clean this house up, girl?”

“I didn’t make this mess. This house was clean when I left.”

“Are you refusing to do your household duties too? First you leave our marriage bed, now you don’t want to do your chores. I guess, it’s my fault for letting it go so long, but I’m taking control again.” He moved closer to me. I smelled the stink of beer and tobacco on his breath. “We’re starting with you cleaning this house. We’ll work on the other later.”

“What other? If you think, I’m letting you touch me!”

“I told you we were getting back on track, Marie!” He grabbed and squeezed my arm for emphasis.

“Stop it, Earl. That really hurts!” The phone began to ring, he released his painful grip on me to answer it.

“Who is this,” he demanded. “Her agent? Well, she won’t be needing your services any longer. No, you may not talk to her.” He slammed the receiver down, and I fled upstairs to my bedroom and locked the door.

“Marie, you open up!” He yelled and pounded on the door.

“Go away and leave me alone!” I screamed back. The telephone rang, I rushed to the nightstand to answer it. It was Reuben as I knew it would be.

“Are you all right?” he demanded. “Did you tell him about us?”

“I’m all right. I locked myself in my room. He doesn’t know anything about us. We can’t talk now, he might pick up an extension.”

“Honey, hang up and call the police. I’m on my way right now. Don’t open the door until the cops get there.”

“No! Don’t come over here!” I screamed into the dial tone.

When the police arrived, I asked them to escort me from the house. I picked up the bags I left in the living room, so I was prepared to go. Earl acted like he was totally bewildered to see me leaving with the officers. He moved in front of me, one of the officers asked him to let me pass.

“Baby? Baby, where you going? What are you doing?” he pleaded.

The front door flung open suddenly, and Reuben tore into the house. Relief flooded his face when he saw me standing between the officers. One of them ordered him to halt, and the other quickly restrained Earl. I ran into Reuben’s arms, and hugged his neck. He kissed my face and asked was I okay?

“What the hell!” Earl bellowed. He was shocked to say the least. “Who the hell are you? Get your hands off my wife! Marie! Girl, you better not be messing around on me!” he warned then yelled at the cops to let him loose.

I walked over to him, looked him dead in the eye. “I’m leaving your no account ass tonight. I had planned to do it sensibly as soon as I came home, but you started a fight and made things get all out of hand and ugly.”

“The hell you say!” he roared and increased his struggle with the officers. “For him? Who the hell is he?”

“My name is Reuben Jones.” Reuben stepped forward and faced Earl man to man. “I’m in love with Marie. Let her go in peace, man.”

“What?!” Earl looked to me like he wasn’t buying all this had happened right under his nose. He looked back to Reuben. “You’re her agent! Putting ideas in her crazy head to screw her! Marie, you little cheating bitch! You just wait!”

“Naw, man!” Reuben shouted over Earl’s bluster. “Get in your head, she’s leaving you.” He stepped closer to Earl. “Marie and I are in love. You bother her, and I promise it will take more than two police officers to keep me off you.”

I looked at Earl’s eyes, they weren’t blazing with so much fire at the moment.

“You are going to regret coming between Marie and me,” he swallowed, losing his bravado. The officers even relaxed their grips on his arms. “Marie, how dare you make me into a fool? You walk out that door tonight, I swear I won’t ever have you back. You think a guy like that really could want a woman like you? All he wants is to make money off you, you damn fool. Marie, you hear me talking to you?”

“Yeah, I hear you,” I said as I went to pick up my suitcase. I was about to leave the house that I called my home for seventeen years, and realized I wasn’t leaving behind anything that meant something to me.

“All right, fine,” Earl shouted as Reuben and I stepped out onto the porch. “Go on and take those shriveled up ovaries with you! You never was a woman, Marie!”

Those words cut through my body. It had been years since I told Earl about my ovaries, all these years I thought he just didn’t care one way or the other. But all these years, he had hated me for not being able to have children? Was that why he messed around on me so much? It felt as if a bolt of lightning had struck me down. I froze at the bottom porch step too afraid to proceed or look Reuben in the face. What did he think of me? Was I indeed damaged goods? Could he fully devote his life to me now?

“Marie?” Reuben put an arm around me. “Let’s go.” I allowed him to lead me to his car. As he pulled off, I sneaked a peek at his profile. He let out a relaxing breath before glancing toward me. “I guess, that could have gone a lot worse.”

“Where are we going?”

“Where do you think?”

By the time we arrived at his condo, I felt absolutely ill to my stomach. Reuben, after getting a good look at my face, lifted me in his arms and carried me to the front door. Somehow he got his house key into the lock without having to set me down first. He lay me down on his hard leather couch. Frowning, he checked me over for bruises or anything he thought was causing me pain.

“It’s just a tummy ache,” I told him. And I was feeling better because it seemed like he hadn’t heard or understood what Earl had yelled about my ovaries.

“Are you sure? Did he hit you?”

“No. He just grabbed my arm.”

“Okay, I’m going to fix you some Alka Setzer,” he said, heading for what I assumed was his kitchen. He brought the fizzing glass to me and watched me drink it all down before gathering me in his arms on his lap to hold. I felt so precious and adored then.

“I guess, it was too much excitement for you. Sorry, if I made things more stressful on you, but I wasn’t about to let you face his wrath alone.”

“I know. I’m glad you came to help me.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.” I snuggled up into his chest, breathing in his manly scent. Then for some reason it hit me that Reuben had heard everything Earl said and understood clearly what it meant. I closed my eyes and tried to shut out all thoughts and just enjoy the experience of being with Reuben- for however long it lasted.

I was free to be with Reuben, but I choose to stay at Imogene’s townhouse while her husband way away on business. Seemed he was away a lot, yet they appeared a happy enough older married couple. I never once heard Imogene complain about her marriage except to say she missed her husband sometimes.

Two weeks after I filed for divorce, I was enjoying a quiet evening at Reuben’s home on his deck. We were about to take our drinks inside to get away from the mosquitoes when my cell phone rang. It was Imogene. I told Reuben I’d join him as soon as I talked to her.

“Don’t come home tonight,” she practically screamed through the phone. I immediately knew it had something to do with Earl. “That fool just drove his truck right through my flower beds! Before that he turned my water hoses on. My lawn is a mess!”

“Did he bother you? Are you all right? I’m coming right over.”

“I’m fine. He shouted some nasty comments and threw a bottle at your car. The work of a true coward. I called the police, of course. So don’t you come home, stay with Reuben tonight. I’m fine.”

“If you are sure.” I doubted I’d be fine if a fool drove through my yard like that.

“I’m sure. You just be careful and alert from now on.”

“I will.” I hung up and turned around to find Reuben standing right before me. “Earl just trashed Imogene’s yard,” I began explaining in a rush as I entered the house. “He must’ve thought I was there since my car is parked in the driveway. She says she’s fine, but I think I shouldn’t leave her alone tonight.” Reuben silently followed me through to the living room. I went to get my purse from the sofa and started for the front door, Reuben didn’t follow me. “Reuben?”

“Sweetie, I want you to lock up behind me. Don’t open the door until I get back.” He went to the bar to get his keys.

“Where are you going?”

“Over to Imogene’s then to Earl’s place. Wherever I find that nut, is where I’ll deal with him.”

“No, honey. Let it go.”

“Not a chance. I warned him and he’s going to learn early.” He kissed me lightly then hurried out the door.

About twenty minutes later, I heard a key in the front door and watched the knob turn slowly. I turned on the light as Reuben made his way into the living room. I noticed right away his face was battered. He’d found Earl. I went to get him a beer and the first-aid kit. He joined me at the kitchen table. He sipped at his beer as I tended to his bleeding knuckles. For two grown men to have been in a fight, Reuben appeared to have come out of it reasonably well.

“Is he hurt bad?” I asked. Reuben took the last sip of his beer and looked at me. “He’s okay, right?”

“I suppose, he’ll be all right.” He crushed the can in his hand and let it drop to the tabletop. “But he was laid out cold on Imogene’s lawn when I left. She didn’t want me there when the ambulance and police arrived.”

“Oh no! Reuben.”

“What?”

“He might press charges.”

“I doubt it.” He got up to grab another beer from the fridge. Again, he looked at me and took a couple of sips. “If he’s really hurt, would you blame me?”

“No. I know Earl had it coming. What I’m concerned about is you getting in trouble, and getting hurt.” I went to him to lightly touch his swollen face. “You don’t have to fight Earl over me.”

“A man protects his woman and family. You’re all I have, Marie.” He leaned in and gave me a kiss. He hands held my waist as he deepened the kiss. His lips weren’t busted but I doubted that kiss was pain free. “I’m in love with you, don’t you feel it?”

“I feel it, Reuben. I feel the same way.”

“Then why are you holding back?”

“I’m not holding back. I’m divorcing Earl and we are together. I don’t understand what you mean? If –if you mean why we haven’t made love yet, I thought we agreed to wait for the divorce.”

“I can wait.”

“But you don’t really want to.”

“No, I don’t. I wish you’d decided to live with me instead of Imogene. I tell myself you are honoring the idea of marriage and not Earl. I can’t stand that it’s that fool Earl that is keeping us apart.”

“You don’t feel like we are together?” All this time she thought everything was golden. He wasn’t even satisfied? “Why didn’t you say something before? Why tonight? Reuben, did- did Earl say something? Is that why you beat him up so badly that your knuckles bled? What did he say?”

“Nothing worth repeating.”

“Reuben, what did he say?”

“He noticed how you hesitated to leave with me. Was it hard for you to leave him, Marie?”

“No.”

“Then did you believe what he said about me just using you to make money?”

“No.”

“Then tell me why I had to lead you from his house?”

“That isn’t true.”

“Yes, it is. What he said got to you, and you doubted me enough to get sick.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying.” I wasn’t prepared for this conversation that was turning into a confrontation. “Why couldn’t you just beat his ass without talking to him?”

“Baby, you already told me you had a secret. I said I’d trust you with my heart. I meant that, but please, if you love me tell me.”

“You already know. You heard him.”

“So, you were scared he wouldn’t take you back if things don’t workout with us.”

“Huh?” He was serious! “You believe I’d go back to Earl?”

“It kills me just thinking about it. I’ll beat him worse if he comes around you again.”

“Oh Reuben, stop. It’s not in the back of my mind to run back to Earl, if the going gets tough with you. I don’t doubt your intentions or expectations concerning me. But Earl did say something that scared me to death that’s why I hesitated. I was frozen in place because I thought you knew what I never intended to tell you, and you’d see me the way Earl did. But you’ve been acting like it was okay. So I pushed it back under the rug.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You heard him, Reuben. Don’t pretend you didn’t hear him tell me I wasn’t much of a woman because I can’t bear children.”

“What? You can’t bear children?” He looked at me like I just brought a rattlesnake into the kitchen.

“Did you hear Earl or not?”

“I- I heard him, but I didn’t think that was what he meant. You really can’t?” I pushed out of his embrace. He didn’t attempt to take me back. “You really never intended to tell me? Baby, why not?”

“I just didn’t want to.” I left the kitchen to grab my purse from the end table in the living room. Having him look at me like I was a stranger was too much at the moment. Maybe when he had time to think it over, he’d see I was just trying to spare myself some heartache, and he’d not think I was a horrible person.

“Marie, talk to me.” Reuben caught up to me at the door. He took me by the shoulders and spun me around so fast I lost balance and pitched forward to his arms. He gave me a moment to compose myself and calmly pushed me back off his chest. “Now, explain it, because I don’t understand what you just said. How could you think it was okay to not tell me we can’t make babies together?”

“A lot couples can’t have kids and they do just fine. I thought we could too- if you didn’t know.”

“Marie, we never even discussed having children. How can you justify making the decision to duped me? You really think I deserve to be treated this way?”

At my silence, he pulled me forward by my shoulders forcing me to look into his face. He was angry, so angry and hurt. I saw the bitter disappointment and began to sob. I let him down and I was losing him. “I’m sorry. Reuben, you know if I told you, you wouldn’t think I was worth waiting for. After a while, you’d see me as an old shriveled up woman. You wouldn’t even think of marrying me.”

“Because of your ovaries? What kind of man do you think I am?”

“Earl-”

“Screw Earl. I’m talking about us.” He ran a hand over his head backing off. After pacing the living room and giving me a side glance here and there, he finally sat down wide-legged on the sofa. “Come here, please.” I went to sit with him and waited for him to speak. “So now that I know, what are you going to do?”

“What do you want me to do?”

“If you walkout on me tonight, I’m not going to forgive you. You stay and we can talk about our future. But let me tell you this, our future does not include you judging me by Earl’s actions, or anything that went on in that marriage. Now, what are going to do?”

“I’ll stay for as long as you want me to stay.”

“That’s not good enough, Marie. You sound like you expect me to kick you out at any time. Don’t you think you deserve better than that?”

“I just want you to be happy.”

“I can’t be happy with a woman that’s doing my thinking for me.”

“I understand,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry.”

“I want you,” he went on. “You are the woman I love.” He gazed at me for a few beats, and I let it sink in because from his expression I saw he was sincere, talking from his heart. He wasn’t just talking to make me feel better about myself. “You hear me? I can do without having kids, but I don’t want to do without you. The only way you can make me happy is to stay with me and stop being scared of your age, and your ovaries.” I hugged his neck because he’d said everything I longed to hear. His body felt so strong and good against me, making me feel warm all over. I never wanted to let him go. “You have so much to offer any man, Marie,” he continued in my ear. “You are smart, very talented, kind, and oh so sexy.” He pulled back to shower kisses on my neck and face.

“Oh Reuben.” Now, I was shedding tears of happiness.

His hand slipped inside my blouse and pushed away my bra. Cupping my breast, he asked me, “Do you trust me with your heart?” Before I could answer, he covered my mouth gently with his lips, kissing me slowly, then deeply, easing me down beneath his body. “I love you, sweetheart. Do I have to marry you to make you believe me?”

No, but it would make me the happiest woman in the universe, I wanted to tell him that but his body was doing too much to me. A moan escaping my lips was all I was able to express, when his hands went up my skirt, grabbing at my flesh. I held his shoulders tight as our bodies started a rhythm of sparks setting off between us. He attempted to pull back and stop the madness. I couldn’t let him go. Without words, I tried to express I was ready to celebrate our physical love. I slipped my hand from his shoulders down to his lower back and buttocks, then eased my palm around under his shirt to the bare tautness of his belly, and down inside his pants to the erection pressing heat between my thighs. I held him for the first time, closing my fingers around his member. It began to harden and grow in my hot little hand.

“Christ!” He shouted, backing off me and jumped to his feet. “Marie…” I saw the lust in his eyes even as he tried to take his eyes from me lying spread eagle on his couch. I also saw the huge bulge in his pants.

“Reuben?” I said, rising to my unsteady feet. “Don’t leave me like this.” I sidled up to him, slipped my arms around his neck and kissed him into a slow burning frenzy. He squeezed and caressed my body from my hips and thighs, up my back and around my chest. “Mmm, that’s feels so nice, baby,” I said, hoping my voice sounded seductive enough to woo him back to the couch with me. If not, I was sure unbuttoning my blouse, and unhooking my bra as I backed toward the couch would do the trick. He watched me continue to undress to complete nudity. In a heartbeat, he peeled out of his clothes, then he grabbed me by my hips again.

“Marie, are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered softly, meeting the smolder in his eyes.

“Then show me, baby.” He lifted me up and cradled me in his arms, making me feel beautiful and cherished before he carried me from the living room. In his bedroom, he lay me on top of the covers, then he took me in his arms, gently rolling my body on top of his. “Show me,” he said again.

Straddling him, I slowly lowered myself down on his powerful shaft. We both cried out from the long awaited delight of his long hard heat sinking deep into my creamy moist walls.

“Mmm…Oh…” I moaned out loud. The orgasmic pleasure was exquisite, and so penetrating that I didn’t care if I woke the neighbors. My body hadn’t been work so good since- never! “Reuben, baby!” I shouted. Our eyes met as I felt I was about to fly away to heaven. “Reuben… I love you… so much.”

“I know you do,” he said and gathered my spent body in his arms. Lying against him, I knew I was in his heart and he’d go hard for me to protect me and keep me by his side. “I love you too, baby.”

Earl agreed to a quick island divorce. I didn’t want to legally be his wife a second more than I had to be, and I let him have everything his name was on, so we wouldn’t have to prolong things in court. Earl eagerly let me leave everything behind, not once did he even pretend he thought I deserved more for the lousy years I put in with him. But that was my old life. I left it where it belonged. Earl was free to do whatever he wanted with the raggedy remnants.

Reuben was all that I needed. He fully supported my writing career and continued to represent my business interests. Shortly after our second wedding anniversary, we were blessed by adopting our child. Christine is six now, which means I will soon be turning fifty. Fifty!

Once upon a time I would have dreaded getting older, thinking my life was passing me by with nothing to show for it. Then, I started my second life. This life I adore so much, as a wife and mother is because at the age of forty-two, I met and married Reuben Jones.

THE END

Come Back For Me

A short Story

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this story, or portions thereof in any form.

Copyright© July 2014 by Sandra Hall

An elderly woman loses everything she values in life, but holds on to the love of her departed husband for comfort, and then finds she is ready to give up after a heart breaking blow from her family.

Her elbow popped every time she pushed out of the low chair, and she’d stop to shake it out, then do her slow shuffle to the bathroom, complaining about her knees. Zelda watched her until she turned into the hallway, then went back to her knitting. Stupid fool wouldn’t make it, she never did. Zelda enjoyed watching The Price Is Right as much as anybody else, but Bob Barker wasn’t worth pissing on yourself.

“Anybody mind?” Curly asked, taking a seat at the piano. “Just through the commercials?” No one bothered to answer as usual. Damn fool, Zelda thought shaking her head, didn’t he realize his days of commanding an audience were long gone? Sometimes she thought to take him aside and tell him to just play without asking. Make it a gift like a first kiss. Of course, she’d never do that because Curly got on her nerves worse than Milly pissing on herself because she simply refused to get up before the commercials started.

“Anybody seen Cathy this morning?” LC Roberts asked everyone in general.

“I don’t think she’s getting up anymore,” Teenie Adams volunteered.

“Nonsense,” LC differed. “A little arthritis-“

“It ain’t just a little, LC. Besides that’s not all wrong with that girl. I hear they’re gonna move her on the other side.”

“The other side?” LC gaped at Teenie. Several other residents, including Zelda, grew quiet and still for a moment. The other side was the mental health unit.

“Well, I might have heard wrong, and those cleaning girls don’t always know what they be talking about.”

“Yeah. They always gossiping,” LC agreed and wiped his mouth. “But I think, I’ll shuffle on around before lunch, see how she’s doing.”

“Doubt she even knows who he is,” Curly grumbled and hit a hit note on the piano. He ducked his head down at the glares he received from his fellow residents.

“Zelda, what you got going there?” Patty Jean asked patting at her curly white natural.

“Just a blanket,” Zelda said noticing no one was paying attention to Bob or his beauties at the moment.

“Girl, at your age, I don’t see how you do it.” Patty Jean massaged her own fingers. “My hands are so shaky these days. And don’t even talk about my eyesight.” She moved from her chair to sit beside Zelda on the couch to touch the soft yarn in the blanket.

Zelda quickly pulled it from her slight grasp. “If I hurry, I’ll just get it done before they arrive.”

“Who?”

Zelda looked up at Patty Jean like she was one step away from the other side. “Who you think?”

“You mean the kids?” Patty Jean asked crossing her legs carelessly.

She made Zelda sick always showing off her old dancer’s legs and touch of thigh. Who was she trying to impress anyhow? Most of the menfolk could barely hold their pee much less a woman’s attention. Of course Patty Jean was still a showgirl at heart and they were different, Zelda supposed. Also Patty Jean wasn’t in her nineties either.

Ninety-three years old! Who would’ve thought she’d live so long to outlive all four of her children? People said she was lucky, fortunate even to be walking with the aid of a walker after breaking her back six years ago. She glanced over at the walker just hating the sight of it. Even with it she could not manage to keep up a place of her own, and she couldn’t take living with her crazy granddaughter in law with all her rules. The woman had expected her to just sit in a chair all day watching television. And Danny was too henpecked to support her when she insisted she could keep up her own bedroom and contribute to the home by sharing light household duties. If she had to feel old and useless, she might as well do it where there were other people like her, who didn’t see her as a burden. At least that’s how she saw it two years ago. Now, all these sick, crazy, old people got on her nerves. She wanted to go home. Sitting in a chair all day watching television wasn’t so bad.

“Well, don’t get your hopes up,” Patty Jean said, adjusting her sweater.

“What?”

“Remember what happened on Thanksgiving.”

“Well, this is Christmas, PJ.”

“Last year was Christmas too, and I didn’t see any grandkids.”

“They’d just had a new baby.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that was it.”

Zelda noted the sweet sarcasm but ignored it. “You know, PJ, by New Years I just might be busting out of here.”

“Did Danny tell you that?”

“Nope. I’m telling him.” Zelda appreciated the shocked expression on Patty Jean’s face. “This evening,” she added and tossed her yarn and needles into her knitting bag.

“Don’t you think you ought to wait for his answer before you start announcing stuff like that?”

“PJ, I’ve decided I’m going home. If they don’t want me in theirs, I’ll just have to open mine.”

She walked back down to her private room to pick out a large sewing needle to start on the edging for the baby’s blanket. Then on impulse she went to the closet and chose a red pantsuit. It seemed ages since she last dressed up. She hoped it still fit around the middle.

“That’s lovely, Zelda,” Patty Jean voiced from the doorway. “I always said dark skin like yours was spectacular in red.” She looked down at her own barely brown skin.

“Light skin didn’t exactly hurt your career, did it?”

“I guess not.” Patty Jean lowered her eyes entering the room. “But I was a very good dancer, Zelda.”

“I’m sure you were,” Zelda muttered and laid the pantsuit across the bed.

“You don’t like us very much, do you?” Zelda raised a brow. “Old people, I mean.”

“I don’t belong here, PJ.”

“All right, I hear you. Just don’t expect your grandkids to really care. They don’t have time for a cranky, old, crippled woman.”

“Maybe that’s how it is in your family.”

“Zelda, you are old just like the rest of us. You’re used up as far as young people are concerned, and you need to accept that.”

“Now, that’s where you are wrong.” Zelda grabbed her walker and went to her chest of drawers. She took out some papers and envelopes then shoved them at Patty Jean.

“What is this stuff?”

“Titles and deeds, my dear. I still own my house and car, and I have plenty left in my savings!” The look of astonishment on Patty Jean’s face was priceless. “I have it figured out. All I need is someone to come in two, maybe three times a week to cook and clean. I can have my groceries delivered-“

“Oh Zelda,” Patty Jean sighed. “Don’t you know?”

“Know what?”

“This property isn’t yours anymore. The state has a lien on it. You can’t possibly pay all that you owe back.”

“Are you nuts?” Zelda snatched her papers back. “The state can’t take a person’s property. Anyway, Danny is paying my bills.”

“Right.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“When was the last time you looked at your bank statements? Do you even know how much it costs to live in a place like this?”

“Danny is an accountant, he told me not to worry about money because he was taking care of my needs.”

“I’m sure he is, dear, but with your money. That’s how it is done. Didn’t you know that?”

“You’re talking nonsense!”

“Ask him then. Call him right now.”

“Just because your family-“

“All right, Zelda.” Patty Jean gave up. “Maybe I am wrong. For your sake, I hope I am,” she added before leaving the room.

“You are wrong.” Zelda slowly lowered herself on the bed and looked at her shoes. White Keds that she wore with everything. “You are wrong,” she repeated stubbornly. “My family loves me.”

~*~

Danny would eat just about anything. His wife sat sideways in her chair as if trying to disassociate herself from the supper table. Maybe the meatloaf was a crumbled up mess, but it tasted all right, Zelda thought. And what did her granddaughter in law think was wrong with a glass of tea or a cup of coffee? Why did she even bother to come visit if everything was so yucky?

“Clarissa, would you like a stick of gum? I got double mint.”

“Oh no, ma’am. I don’t chew gum. It is a disgusting habit.”

“I have some fruit in my room.”

“Miss Zelda, I don’t want your fruit.”

“I guess eating is a disgusting habit too.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” Zelda said and refrained from commenting on Clarissa’s skin and bone figure. Why she wore belts all the time made no sense, as it made her seem even more shapeless. “So young man,” Zelda said, hoping to bring Danny’s head up from his plate. “Don’t you get fed at home?”

“Of course, he gets fed.” Clarissa turned around on her. “How do you think he stays so fat?” She gave him a long look filled with disgust.

“Uh, Grandmama.” Danny wiped his greasy thick lips then stared at his plate.

“Just tell her, Danny.” Clarissa crossed her arms and let out a tired breath of air.

“Tell me what?” Zelda went into her bosom and pulled out her checkbook and passbook. She stared at Danny who was still studying on his plate. She pushed the books next to his hands. “Tell me what, Danny?”

“Uh…”

“Miss Zelda-”

“I’m talking to my grand boy. But if you want to tell me why I don’t have a nickel in the bank, go ahead.” She turned to Clarissa. “Explain it to me.”

“You gave us power of attorney. We paid your bills, Miss Zelda.”

“Do I still own my home?”

“Your home?” Clarissa looked at Danny. “What is she talking about?”

“I’m talking about the home I left to live with y’all. Danny, you said I shouldn’t live alone.”

“Oh, Miss Zelda!”

“But I want to go home!”

“Grandmama, we sold the house.”

“How much do I have left from that?”

“Well, you see,” He swallowed hard then picked up his wife’s untouched glass of tea and chugged it.

“You telling me you blew my money and sold my house. And I don’t have anything to my name?”

“Grandmama, you’re all right. This place is one of the best in the state.”

“But you spent all my money?”

“No.”

“Then why is the bank telling me my accounts are closed?”

“I- We just thought all monies should be in one place.”

“One place?”

“In our name,” Clarissa proudly informed her. “We write all the checks to take care of you.”

“Danny!” Zelda felt her heart beating much too fast in her ancient chest. They’d taken all her money and was waiting for her to die. It was much worse than Patty Jean tried to tell her. “Danny!”

“Grandmama, calm down.”

She looked across the cafeteria and found Patty Jean. As if sensing her distress Patty Jean rushed over to take her hands. “Zelda? Is it your angina?”

“Oh PJ!”

“Angina?” Clarissa frowned and rose from her seat. “What’s that? A heart attack?”

“Call the nurse!” Patty Jean shouted and eased Zelda back down in her chair. “Now, just calm down.”

“Grandmama, you all right?” Danny asked, his eyes big as saucers. “She’s okay, isn’t she?”

“How do I know?” Patty Jean snapped. “As if you care anyway,” she mumbled, rubbing Zelda’s cold hands inside her own.

“I beg your pardon?” Clarissa crossed the table to glare at Patty Jean. “Old lady, how dare you talk to my husband like that?”

“PJ, help me out of here!” It was too much to take. All the hard years of work and sacrifice amounted to nothing. Tears poured from her eyes, soaking the front of her blouse.

“It’ll be all right, dear.” Patty Jean put a supportive arm around her waist and began leading her away from her family.

Someone thought to offer them a wheelchair, and Zelda sank down into it and covered her face. For the first time in her long life she felt old, weak and frail. Uncontrollable sobs overtook her body causing her shoulders to heave. She called on her departed husband,” Oh Percy! Save me!”

~*~

“Percy,” she muttered one last time then pulled the door closed against her stiff back. “Have mercy.” She didn’t look at the boy waiting on her to make a move. She looked at her Keds then put one foot in front of the other, making her way down the hallway. In front of the elevator she crossed her arms and waited for the boy to find his key to unlock the elevator.

“Now, where is that thing?” He lightly dropped Zelda’s big suitcase to the thin worn carpet to search his pockets. “Oh, here it is!” He looked at her, giving her a big grin which she didn’t feel like returning. “Ma’am, we gonna get you in your new place-“

“It ain’t new,” she snapped. Her back and hips were killing her. Like a fool, one of the aides had taken her walker ahead with her other personal effects. “And it ain’t my place!”

“Ma’am, I-“

“Boy, just open that damn thing before I die!” Beads of sweat covered her upper lip. “Or do you want me to go down the stairs?”

“Aw, Miss Zelda. Why you acting evil?” He unlocked the elevator, then gave her his biggest grin again. “Sharing a room isn’t so bad.” He gripped the suitcase and pulled it on its raggedy wheels to rest against the back wall. “Want to hold my arm?” He offered her his elbow.

“No, I-” But vanity wasn’t going to help her aching back and hips. And being mean to a kid that was trying to be nice and helpful wasn’t going to get her to her easy chair any quicker. “Thank you,” she said taking hold of his arm. The support of his body did wonders. “Thank you,” she softly repeated and followed him inside the elevator.

~*~

If Patty Jean didn’t cut it out, she was going to scream. What good did yoga do an old body? Every morning she was stretching and bending before Zelda stopped snoring. That was one of the reasons she always preferred a private room. If no one heard you snoring, no one could complain. But Patty Jean never complained. She was one of those eye rollers that also sucked their teeth instead.

“What you working on now?” Patty Jean arched her back and held it. “That’s not another blanket?”

“Nope. Just a shawl. Just about finished.”

“You sure do work fast. Didn’t you start that Monday morning?”

“Like to keep myself busy.”

“Me too.” Patty Jean balanced on one foot and closed her eyes. “That’s why I read books.”

“You mean, you like to escape the real world.” If she wasn’t reading, she was meditating.

“So what happened with that grandson of yours?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Patty Jean opened her eyes and stared at Zelda like she had suddenly changed colors. “You aren’t letting him off the hook? It’s bad enough you can’t keep a private room. That boy can’t just go through your money and leave you a ward of the state. What about all that stuff he said about taking care of you?”

“Seems he was lying. Didn’t want his wife to know they were bankrupt. He used my money to keep his household running. All the good it did his dumb ass.”

“What you mean?” Patty Jean went to sit in the other easy chair across from Zelda. She admired the handiwork on the shawl.

“She filed for divorce.”

“Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Can’t say I’m sorry for him either.”

“I suppose he thought he could take care of things better than how they turned out. Poor boy is nothing like his daddy or granddaddy. I guess the men in our day were different.”

“I think they had to be.”

“Yeah.” Zelda rose up shaking out the shawl. “What do you think of this thing?”

“It’s lovely. Purple is always a good color.”

“I used the last of my good yarn on this.”

“You will be the envy of every woman in this joint.”

“Oh, this isn’t for me, PJ. It’s a gift. For you.”

“Me?” She touched the fabric like it was precious.

“You always be talking about how pretty and nice everything is.” And she was always saying how drafty it was in the common rooms. “Don’t you want it?” Zelda shoved it at her. “I know I’m not the easiest person to share your living space with. And I know you offered to let me stay with you because you felt sorry for me.”

“Oh Zelda, that isn’t true. “

“I didn’t want to belong here, PJ. I didn’t want to be pitiful.”

“Oh girl, being old don’t make you pitiful. Not when you have friends.” Patty Jean tried on the shawl then strutted up to the dresser mirror to admire her own reflection. “Now, what are you going to wear?”

“Me? I’m already dressed.”

“I mean to the dance tonight.”

“Dance?”

“Wear that green dress with the dropped waistline. I heard Basil say you looked cute in it last year.”

“Basil?” He was in his late seventies and boasted that he wasn’t on heart medication. He popped Viagra like they were aspirin. “That sex maniac?”

“He’s not a maniac. Why you always labeling people?”

“What’s a man that young looking at a crippled up old lady like me for?”

“Maybe because you are one of the few women he hasn’t gotten alone behind closed doors yet.”

“Girl, I only had one man in my bed my whole life.”

“But I thought you said you lost your Percy thirty-six years ago.”

“Sometimes it feels like it happened just yesterday.” She shuffled over to sit on her full sized bed. Patty Jean didn’t complain about it taking up extra space either. “One thing about being old, you know it won’t be much longer.”

“What won’t be, Zelda?”

“Leaving.”

“Leaving?”

“Leaving this world, PJ. Aren’t you getting tired?”

“I’m old, Zelda. But I’m not ready to leave from anywhere. Look, your grand boy let you down big time, but you have to move on. And it’s very doubtful you’ll meet anyone half as good as your husband, but that don’t mean you can’t enjoy the people around you. In the time you have left you don’t need to be alone.”

“I’m not like you. People don’t like me.”

“That’s because you act all cranky and grouchy. You can be a real drag when you want to be, lady. Do you think this is how your Percy wanted you to end up? Old and tired, dying alone? Come on, Zelda. Put on that green dress,” Patty Jean urged gently then quietly left their room.

“Percy,” Zelda muttered and felt like crying. She lay back on the bed, covering her face and let the tears flow. What was so wrong with only wanting to see him again? Nothing in this world was bright anymore. There were no more songs to sing either. What was left? Just going through the motions of a living woman? Sure, she could do that. Pretend to enjoy her last days just to please others. “Oh God.”

“Zelda.”

She’d heard the voice before but couldn’t believe it was real. Yet, today, she had to believe it. Wanted to with all her heart. Her heart that was now thudding away in her chest, so hard that she wasn’t able to rise.

“Percy, I-” I want to be with you, she wanted to say, but her mouth no longer worked. Her body felt light and spent. Darling, where are you? So dark, I can’t see you! Percy!

“Zelda, take my hand.”

“Oh!” She was able to reach out her hands and move them about searching in the darkness. “Oh!” She felt herself being swiftly pulled from the bed to her feet. Nothing hurt. Her back was straight and her hips felt strong. “Percy!” He was there! So handsome and tall, and strong! She spun around to look at her reflection in the dresser mirror. Relieved, she smiled and her appearance. They were as they were the day they separated.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“You keep hold of my hand all the way across the light. You can’t let go. Understand?”

“I’ll never let go. Oh Percy, you came back! And- and we’ll be together?”

“Always. Is that what you want?”

“Yes!”

“Then don’t you let go,” he said grasping and squeezing her hand, then kissed her fingers before kissing her lips.

“And this isn’t another dream?” It couldn’t be. God wasn’t that cruel, not even to someone as ornery as she. No. She was really feeling his mouth on hers and she was holding him in her arms.

~*~

“Zelda!” Patty Jean shook her body and then slapped her a few times, even though she knew the moment she returned to their room that Zelda was gone. Just like that. She’d only been gone ten minutes at the most. But it didn’t take long. Looked like a heart attack. She left Zelda alone on the bed and walked out into the hallway to get an aide’s attention. The aide ran to get the duty nurse. Inside the room she sat in an easy chair and began to sob. “Oh, Zelda. You poor old lady.”

End

Copyright (c) September 2014 by Sandra Hall

Eight years and eight days. A long ass time to be locked up with a woman named Masselina Gage. Tina didn't know what was worse, the loud snoring or the constant gas the giant of a woman emitted nightly. At least, Tina hoped it was gas, considering she could count the times she actually had seen Masselina enter the shower room. Yesterday was one of those rare days so the funk level was down to tolerable.

Every bone in her back seemed to pop as she groaned and raised up from her bunk. God, she was tired, bone weary. She let her legs dangle over the side as she contemplated starting her day. Today she was sixty, and her knees hurt like hell. Fourteen years and she had become old. She remembered her own mother who at sixty had remained healthy and strong. Never seemed tired until six years ago, and then she was dying of breast cancer at seventy-nine. Regardless of her aches and pains, she had to get down from the top bunk and let her feet touch the cold hard floor again.

"Need some help?" Masselina offered, wiping her round face with a towel. She always got to the sink first.

"No thanks. I can manage."

"Jones, you-"

"I'm not an invalid."

"Nobody said you were. And I don't see why you don't demand a step stool or something."

"I don't beg nobody for nothing." Tina let herself slip quickly from the bed trying to let her better knee take the impact. She winced as fire shot through her knee caps. "God," she moaned and grabbed hold of her inflamed knees.

"You are a grade A ding-a-ling." Masselina went to her locker with a frown, chose a prescription bottle and shook out a few pills. "Here," she said, offering the pills to Tina, who frowned at her and started stretching out her back. "They're just painkillers. I take 'em all the time."

"Yeah, I know."

"Your meds ain't worth a damn and I can't see-"

"Gage," Tina broke in. "Mind your own business. Just this once, okay?" She straightened up, and tested her legs.

"You are my business. You think I need everybody knowing my partner is getting infirm?"

"I'm not your partner. We're cell mates, and that is all."

"Right. I'll remember that the next time Selma comes a calling." Masselina crossed her plump arms gazing down at Tina. Tina was in direct opposite to her six feet plus frame. Her mostly gray hair was always curled from a night of foam rollers, while Masselina sported her long mane in thick braids that hung down to her hips. "What's eatin' you lately, anyway?"

"I'm tired and disgusted."

"Aw, you're just in a mood because it's your birthday. Tomorrow you'll wake up your old self."

"My old self?" Tina scoffed. "I was forty-six when they put me in here! I had a mother, a husband and six children."

"Exceptin' for your mama, you still do. And next year you're gettin' sprung."

"Yeah," Tina voiced sourly. She grabbed a towel and a washcloth then briskly went back to the sink to spread Noxema over her dark chocolate skin. Sixty! She wished she could erase the harsh lines on her face as easily as the cream. Tyrone had not seemed to have aged as much. Of course, he hadn't served the better part of a fifteen year sentence either. The bastard. It was just as much his fault that Julia was dead.

"Reckon he'll come today since it's your birthday?"

"Who?" Tina patted her face dry then squirted a glob of toothpaste on her toothbrush. Brushing vigorously, she thought of the few and far between visits and the lame excuses she accepted over the years.

"And the kids?"

"What about 'em?"

"You mean those brats don't care it's your birthday?"

"Why should they?" Tina spat out a mouthful of foam. "I sure don't."

"Aw..."

"I ruined their lives. Took 'em years to get over it," she defended her children wiping her mouth.

"And you're paying for it. What more do they want? They ain't the first kids whose mama went to the pen." Masselina pushed some stuff back into her locker causing a box to fall. She caught it before the contents spilled to the floor.

"Hey, Gage." Tina moved in a little closer. "How about granting me a birthday wish?"

Masselina turned from her locker and shut it not bothering to lock it. "Say what?"

"A birthday wish."

Masselina frowned a little. "It ain't nothin' sexual, is it?"

"You wish."

"Not really, old lady. You ain't exactly my type," Masselina boasted, pulling her gown over her head revealing the flabbiest set of tits Tina had ever seen. Not owning a brassiere, she pulled on a white tee shirt then a denim jumper over a pair of cotton briefs, then she stepped into a pair of blue Keds. "What you want though?" She smiled a little pleased at the change in Tina's pissy attitude.

"I need a referral," Tina voiced clearly and deliberately.

The smile faded from Masselina's stunned face. "What the hell you know about referrals?"

"Plenty. You think I turn deaf when you talk business?"

"Nope, but I always assumed you was just a little bit square. Girl, just do your time and stop talking crazy." Masselina watched her silent cell mate get dressed then take the rollers from her hair. "Who is it?" she asked after Tina set down her brush.

Tina met her eyes. "All I want is a name and number. It has nothing to do with you. Besides, I've never crossed you or anything. You can give me this favor."

Masselina considered her pitch. "Nope, not this."

"What! You can't refuse!"

"Sure I can, Toots."

"You big lousy-" Tina stifled herself appreciating that her cell mate was more than twice her size and eighteen years younger. Turning her back, she began to make up the upper bunk.

"Don't you want to know why I'm refusing your wish, babe?"

"Don't call me that," Tina snapped.

"You get your crazy self implicated in somethin', they'll tack on another ten years. Why you want to risk that when you just got another year to see through?"

"Because I have things to take care of!" Tina swung around showing the wrath within herself that had been building for nearly fifteen years. "Because I hate him! He took my life so I owe the son of a bitch! I hate him!"

Silence built for a moment as Tina took controlling breaths and Masselina merely studied her.

"You finally admitting he set you up? I told you that eight years ago."

"Didn't need you pointing things out. Anyhow, what does that have to do with anything?" Unexpected tears of frustration spilled from her eyes.

Leaning against the bunk beds, Masselina replied, "You know, Jones I always wanted to ask you somethin’."

Tina wiped her eyes hating that her plans were falling apart, that she was falling apart. "Ask me what?" she asked.

"About killin' that woman. Was it because she was in your house again, or was it just that she was fuckin' Tyrone?"

Tina sniffed and dabbed at the corners of her eyes. She shook the hair out of her face, and looked Masselina in the eye. "Does it matter?"

"Guess not. But you know what burns me up about women like you? Or should I say, righteous wives like you?" Masselina uncrossed her arms and gave Tina a contemptuous snort before continuing. "You were so ready to kill another woman, but you didn't punish him. Why not? He was more guilty if you ask me. Now, he's all but forgotten about you and he's havin' the time of his life, thanks to you."

"Gage--"

"You should've shot his sorry ass too. Maybe the jury would have seen it as a crime of passion."

"I got the one I wanted."

"And that, Mrs. Jones, is exactly why you ain't gettin' no referral from me."

"Because I killed the bitch that had the nerve to cross me in my own home after I warned her?" Tina asked for clarification.

"No, you idiot! Because even now you can't see the crime you committed against womankind! Tyrone took you both out so he could seek out new victims. You gave him that power."

"I know that," Tina said through clenched teeth.

"But you don't sympathize for that other woman, do you? You still believe you were justified in taking her life for that pig you call a husband."

"You weren't there, Gage. You have no idea how everything went down, or what kind of person Julia was."

"All I need to know is that a woman you hated did your man in your own bed, and that he invited her, knowin' you weren't the type to make idle threats. You were married to him and you knew he wasn't worth another woman's life. Now here you are feeling like the chump of the millennium, angry and--"

"Oh, can it, damn you!" Tina exploded.

"Naw, you can it, baby!" Masselina fired back. "In my book you deserve a life sentence for what you did. Instead, you're gettin' out next year which means you are gettin' a second chance. Somethin' a lot of us would kill again for. But not you, Mrs. Jones! You still want Tyrone."

"Come again?" Tina knew she could not have heard right. Tyrone was the bane of her existence. Looking back, she realized he had never been a good mate or father. He had taken all that was good in her life and turned it into crap. Because of him she wasn't there to help her poor mother while she was dying, probably in great pain. "I hate the man!"

"You are choosin' revenge over freedom, and that is plain stupid."

"Why do you care? Isn't revenge your business?"

Masselina sighed heavily. "Tina, I don't know why, but I've always had a soft spot for you. I know you don't think much of me and that's cool because we come from different places, different perspectives. I was a career criminal, but I never killed nobody that wasn't in the same game as me."

"What about that cop?"

"I wasn't even aiming at him. It was just an accident."

"Sure."

"Okay, Jones, turn this around and don't listen."

"You think you got me all figured out." Tina turned her back to Masselina balancing her elbow on the bunk to hold her head. She was growing weary from the exchange.

"I bet you felt empowered when Tyrone promised to stand by you, and even though you were in prison, you felt you had won because you still had your man. That was the important thing, right?"

"Why won't you shut up?" Tina asked and turned around. "I got it, you won't give me a referral."

"There's one more thing."

"Dear Lord!" Tina rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. "I don't know what's worse. Your body odor or the crap spewing from your mouth."

"Whatever," Masssalina replied evenly. "I made mistakes. Committed crimes against mankind and some would say nature. But I was always clear on what I was doin' and why. As a result, I sleep fine."

"Good for you," Tina practically sneered. "But you ain't been in here as long as me."

"Be older than you when I get out. But what I was tryin' to say was that I've learned from my mistakes."

"How to be a better criminal by not hurting women?"

"That's one way," Masselina agreed. "Another is being honest-- to yourself. Girl, I hate to see sisters act a fool."

A loud buzzer went off as the cell doors unlocked then slid open. The cell mates stared each other down a few more seconds then Masselina smiled before she strolled out for morning chow.

Tina fought back bitter angry tears, damning Masselina for her condemning words. She screamed and tore her bunk apart then did the same to the lower. Who needed her damned referral anyway? She did, she conceded, if she wanted it done neatly. If she were implicated she would spend the rest of her life locked up, or possibly executed. Was it worth it? Her home, her mother, or her children's love? She had neither, thanks to Tyrone. She had a right to the revenge she had craved for so many years. Some lesbo who had no idea of what went on between a man and a woman had no right to preach to her. Damn her anyhow.

And damn these knees, she thought. She limped to Masselina's unlocked locker. She poured out three of the pain pills she'd been offered earlier then chased them down her throat with a dixie cup full of water.

"Jones, what the hell? You get this cell squared away! You got four and a half minutes!" Tina didn't bother to acknowledge the petite redhead. "You hear me?" she screamed touching her club.

Tina sat on the lower bunk and massaged her knees. After a few seconds, she looked over in the guard's general direction.

"Did you hear what I said?"

"Yeah."

"Chow is in five minutes."

"As if I don't know that!"

"Jones, you better get that bug out your butt," the guard suggested.

"If anybody needs to be worrying about her butt, it's you."

"Girl, you tryin' to threaten me?"

"Yeah."

"You going through the change or what?"

Tina said nothing and waited for her to leave. While fixing the bunks, she calmed herself as she realized what her freedom really meant. She'd have power to choose, really choose the course her life. She could mend broken fences, even. There was still time and there was hope. Gage was right. She was about to act a fool again because of Tyrone.

~*~

"You didn't talk to Van Owen, did you?" Masselina asked from across the table.

"No." Tina dug into her grapefruit savoring the sweet tartness. They got fresh fruit once in a blue moon.

"You know kiddo, there is revenge and then there's revenge." Masselina took a slow sip of her coffee. "You said Tyrone has been livin' it up since you got locked up? He's been makin’ investments, and buyin’ up property?"

"Yeah. He's accumulated a fortune by now." He was never that ambitious or savvy when they were living together. Hell, he barely worked and they lived off her money.

"You didn't give that man power of attorney?"

"No, I'm not entirely stupid." Now where was she going with the questions?

"What you need is a divorce specialist." Masselina cut her sausage with her fork. "Someone that can assure you of a comfortable life when you get back on the outside. I know such a person."

"A lawyer? What can a lawyer do for me now?"

"Ain't nobody said nothin' about a lawyer. I said a divorce specialist. He'll start protectin' your interests immediately. If Tyrone is smart he'll go with the flow, if not, he'll go down hard."

"You mean, I should hit Tyrone in the bank accounts? Take his money?" He'd rather die than lose his money! Or be told what he better do. "Why did you change your mind, Gage? This is a referral?"

"I didn't change my mind. You changed yours."

Not really, she wanted to say. She still wanted Tyrone to suffer and die alone, but ruining him was good too.

"Thank you," she managed to choke out instead.

"What the hell, it's your birthday."

"Don't remind me."

END

For This World

A short Story

Copyright© July 2014 by Sandra Hall

I don't have to do this, she told herself for the eleventh time since sun up. All I have to do is open that window, step through it, and climb down that big old tree. I can be down the road before anyone can say boo.

"You about ready yet?" It was her grandmother checking on her again. "Venita?"

"Give me a few minutes, all right?" She stared at herself in the full length mirror as she had been doing all morning.

"Girl, I know you're ready..."

"Granny, please. Just give me a break so I can get myself centered."

"Centered? What the hell is that? Look, you got five more minutes, then I'm getting Earl. You hear me? You know nobody ain't playing around here.”

"Yeah, I know being sacrificed ain't no game," she said bitterly and let her first angry tear fall down her drawn face.

"Like I said, you got five minutes," Granny yelled through the door, then trudged off, swearing to herself.

"Old bitch," Venita grumbled before turning back to her reflection in the tall oval mirror. "All right then, what's it going to be?" She had already packed a bag three weeks ago, just in case. But where could she run to that the family couldn't trace her? Other people had resisted and disappeared. Lancaster had promised to help, but she hadn't seen him in over a month. "I'm not marrying some extraterrestrial, that's for certain." She went to the window and looked down at the lawn. No one was about, except for Purvis. Whether he would bark was anybody's guess, for he was as untrustworthy as his masters. If you could say such a dog had a master. "I know that hound will bark. Besides, I might fall and break my neck. Oh man, when did I become so cowardly? Why didn't I just refuse in the first place?"

"Because you were scared like any other seventeen year old girl."

"What... Who is in here?" Venita spun around scanning the room. She knew damn well she had locked the door and she should be alone. Hurriedly, she checked the bathroom. Finding the room empty, she checked the closets and looked under the bed. "I must be cracking up," she said as she sat on the edge of the bed. "Sounded just like somebody was talking to me. It's bad enough having to deal with those aliens without hearing ghost sounds."

"You aren't cracking up."

"Who- where-" Venita's eyes followed the sound of the voice to the mirror. "Oh hell no." She rubbed her eyes, not believing her reflection was still standing in the mirror frowning back at her. She ran to the window and opened it then began to climb out, reaching for the nearest tree limb.

"Get back in here before you kill yourself." She kept reaching out. "I'm not a ghost, just a hologram."

"A hologram from where? What do you want?"

"There isn't time for questions. Get over here if you want our help. I'm only doing this for Lancaster. He seemed to think you are worth the risk."

Seemed to? Did that mean he was dead? "What happened to him?" Venita pulled herself from the window and approached the hologram in her mirror. "I depended on him." He wouldn't turn her over to someone she didn't know she could trust.

"He's with the Elite Force doing battle against the Dukelons. He could be almost anywhere in space."

"Was it his idea to go?"

"He saw his duty, Venita. Do you see yours?"

She looked down at the wedding dress she wore. It once belonged to her mother and Granny before that. But they had chosen their own grooms and didn't have to honeymoon in space.

"If only we had listened when they warned us," she whispered mostly to herself. "But we all thought when they mended the ozone and healed the rain forest that they were a gift from God giving us another chance to do this planet right." Instead they had colonized and used humans to further their scientific research which was always harmful to humans. She looked up at the hologram and asked, "What do I have to do to get out of this mess?"

"Marry the Dukelon."

Marry an alien? Venita had seen what became of humans when they finished using their bodies.

"I'm not giving birth to any experiments!" She backed up from the mirror. Was that person really from the Elite, Or just a ploy to lure her into the farce willingly? The Dukelons still wanted humans to believe they were here to help in return for a place to live.

"Do you think I am insane?" No, she wasn't here to help. Lancaster didn't send her such a person.

"If you married one of them they will have to take you to the mother ship."

"Not going to happen."

"So, all you really wanted was to get out of this mess your family bestowed

upon you. You don't care about prosperity, or the future of this planet."

"I do want to help, and I do care. But marrying one of them and going into space isn't helping me. Who is going to help me in space?"

"The Elite is out there. Human and alien. We need people on the inside, and the mother ship is as inside as we can get. A new young bride is the most unlikely to be suspect of anything."

"I don't get it." Venita shook her head. She wasn't a trained spy or soldier. "What the hell can I do?"

"Just get married and go with your husband - and wait."

"For what?"

"For whatever you are instructed to do. Most likely, we will be able to use their own technology against them."

"Yeah, but what about me? I don't want to be stuck out there."

"You won't be the only agent. Elite members are already aboard the mother ship posing as loyal Dukelons."

"And I'm supposed to trust one of them?"

"What choice do we have really, Venita? Unless we commit to all out interstellar war, we have no real hope. No one wants a war, and most humans don't even believe the Dukelons are malevolent. Those of us that are knowledgeable have a duty-"

"Don't say that! We aren't out of options."

"True," the hologram said. "You have no reason or obligation to help the cause. Lancaster simply wanted to rescue you. I, on the other hand, thought he knew what a brave woman was."

He thought she was brave? And saw her as a woman? All at once her heart felt like it was glowing inside her chest. He wanted to rescue her and meet her in space! I can do it, she thought. "How long will he be out there?"

"As long as he's needed, you know that."

"Do you expect him to return?"

"No, and neither does he. You have to decide what you are going to do. My time here is growing short.

"Venita! Unlock this door, or I'm gonna break it down." It was Uncle Earl as promised. "You hear me?"

"I hear you, you old bastard!"

"I better see you downstairs in two minutes," he threatened then stomped on down the hallway.

"What do they really look like?" Venita faced the mirror again.

"Somewhat humanoid, but from what I've learned you won't have to mate with it. It's done in the labs."

Was that supposed to ease her mind? "If I go, should I hope to return?"

"I wouldn't count on it," the hologram answered bluntly. "Nor would I count on running into Lancaster."

She wasn't counting on anything. Just hoping like hell. "Did he really send you?"

"Yes, he did." Then, "Are you accepting the mission?"

"Just tell me what to do. I'm ready," she said, going to the door. If there was just the smallest chance to see him again, she had to take it.

"Just go through with the wedding for now. You'll be contacted aboard the ship. If you are successful, the Elite Force will make every effort to rescue you before the ship is destroyed. Do you understand?"

"Yes." She knew he would come, if he could. "Yes," she said again, unlocking her bedroom door. "Lancaster," she whispered and boldly stepped out into the hallway. “I’m counting on you. For this world… and for me.”

END

Well, there you go! I shared these stories as they were told to me and I hope somehow they touched your heart.. If you enjoyed them and would like more short stories drop me an email on my website @ https://www.darkesteyebooks.shop/ 
Created By
Sandra Hall
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