The time I awakened every day for the last fifteen years. It was time to do my job. I tapped my husband, Dallas, on the shoulder then rolled from the bed, pulling my robe from the bedpost. With my arms stretched and morning breath flowing into the air with a yawn, I made my way to the stairs to go to the kitchen. It was a slow descend as I held on to the rail and felt the aches in every part of my body. Five more years and this life would be behind me. My husband and I could retire to some small house on the countryside of some Podunk town and eat lots of carbs. I was sure that after twenty years of early morning training, all he wanted to do was gobble down a bowl of pasta and not have to worry about making tape AKA being too damn fat to serve.
I don’t know what his motivation was, but the mere thought of relaxing under trees with nowhere to be was the thing that kept me motivated. No more early mornings or sitting up with him for twenty-four hours while he was on duty, and no more deployments! I’d contributed more than enough to being an Army wife. If that didn’t keep me going, then I’d sit with the thought that my son would be in college soon. He’d still be in my pockets but at least he’d be out of my house and I could walk around naked and unafraid.
I started the Keurig to make my coffee first so that I could sip while Dallas’s brewed. I drank mine black while Dallas liked his with a touch of cream and sugar. Once it was all mixed and ready, I poured his coffee into a travel mug then pulled my phone from my pocket. I scrolled through the memos in my phone to read my to-do list: unpack 10 boxes per room, buy groceries, measure the windows, and meet with the new FRG group. Same shit, new city. I could hear my husband jogging down the stairs. He entered the kitchen, kissed my cheek, grabbed his coffee from the counter, then headed to the garage. He’d be back at eight to change. I used to have all of his things prepared, but now we lived close enough for him to come home. He took full advantage.
There was no need to sleep since my son, Dallas Jr., would be awake soon for school. I stayed in the kitchen, sipping my coffee and scrolling through the news: drama, death, pathetic president, celebrity babies. Nothing worth reading.
An hour later, my son came running down the stairs with Beats headphones hanging around his neck. He held his cell phone in one hand and his bookbag in the other hand. He looked exactly like his father: tall, dark, handsome, but straight out of somebody’s hood with his sagging pants and gold chain. He didn’t have a single trait of mine. It would have been nice had he just gotten my good sense. I had only been a vessel.
“Can I get a twenty?” he asked. No good morning, no eye contact. If he’d looked up, he would have seen the twenty already sitting on the counter. I stared blankly at him until he came to reality. He finally looked up and saw the money. “Oh,” he said, grabbing it and pocketing it. Mimicking his father, he walked over to me and kissed my cheek. It was the one thing that reminded me that he still at least cared that I was his mother.
He changed so much since becoming a teenager, becoming more silent and secretive. I figured it was a phase until I heard him confiding in his father one day. Then I chalked it up to being a guy thing that I couldn’t understand. I never pressed the issue. I didn’t want to push him away from me any further and I didn’t know how to approach him. His father always said to me that he would come around, so I continued to wait.
After Junior left, I looked around at our half-full home. The boxes overwhelmed me. I decided that I’d much rather explore Washington than crumpled newspaper and bubble wrap. I headed back to my bedroom to scrounge around in my closet for something decent to wear. It was the one place that calmed my nerves since our clothes and shoes were the only thing that were unpacked and organized.
It was gloomy out, but I’d learned quickly that that didn’t mean that it was either cold or hot. I walked over to the window to open it and stick my hand out ensuring that my jeans and burnt orange top could stand up against the beginning of fall.
I was pleased with my selection.
Tuesday Morning, Michael's, and Joann’s filled up the rest of my morning. I had enough time to do a quick meet and greet with the head of the FRG. We smiled, shook hands, I bragged on my husband then rushed home to start dinner. Bruno Mars blared through my speakers as I followed my GPS down I-5 going eighty. Just as I veered off the exit my cell phone rang.
“Hello,” I said in hesitation to the unknown number.
“May I speak with Mrs. Goodman please,” a sultry voice said on the opposite side.
“This is Mrs. Goodman,” I replied.
“Hi, Mrs. Goodman, this is Dallas’ teacher Ms. Savé. I hate to do this, but Dallas was involved in an incident and I need you to come in for a meeting.”
“Right now?” I asked.
“I’m afraid so,” she said.
“I’m on my way,” I said as I changed course. I was worried and anxious. I could feel sweat forming in my pits and across my stress lines as I sped through the thickening lunch traffic.
My drive was a blur aside from me honking my horn several times at the poor driving decisions of others. I parked and slammed my heels against the pavement en route to the school’s office. I was pointed in the direction of Dallas’ classroom. There I found a composed teacher sitting at her desk, three flustered strangers, and of course my unruly teenage son.
Three weeks in Washington and already his bullshit had arrived.
Ms. Savé stood, offered her hand, then a chair. I shook the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and Gherri Rangle and their daughter Melissa. Mrs. Rangle sat with her legs crossed at the ankles and her head down. She’d even avoided eye contact as we were introduced. She nervously pushed strands of her long, silky, brunette hair behind her ear and took a seat. Her husband, on-the-other-hand gripped my hand firmly and made it his business to stare me down for at least thirty seconds. I snatched my hand away and took a seat. I was going to have to show Becky how to deal with assholes like him, because it was clear that this wasn’t a friendly meeting.
“So, what’s going on? What happened?” I asked tired of the suspense. I kept my eyes on Mr. Rangle and his bald head. His eyes bounced back and forth between Dallas and me. We were his obvious issue.
Ms. Savé cleared her throat. “Well, Mrs. Goodman, I caught Dallas and Melissa in a…” she cleared her throat, “…compromising position.”
“Compromising?” I asked confused.
“Yes. Compromising. There was a sexual act and there is also a video and one other student involved. I have already spoken to that student’s parents. They no longer wished to be a part of this conversation and opted to take their son home,” Ms. Save stated.
I sat in disbelief processing her words. I turned to my son. “Is there anything you want to say?” I asked.
Dallas Jr. smacked his lips. “She does it all the time. Everybody knows she’s the freak of the school. Look at her.”
“Freak?!” The young woman screamed. “You and Randall made me do it and you know it!”
Melissa sat between her parents with her arms wrapped around herself. Her shirt was cut low and her skirt was high enough for me to see that her under garments had a floral pattern.
“We’re not here to discuss details of what happened or who did what, but what the consequence and/or solution should be,” Ms. Savé interjected.
“Consequences as far as what? My son’s approach may have been a bit off but I can’t say I’m not inclined to agree with him. They get caught and now what? She plays victim and my son gets kicked out of school? She’s sitting here half-dressed. I think we know all we need to know about this… incident,” I defended.
“Excuse me?” Gherri chimed finally letting me see her full face.
“You heard me. You expect me to buy this innocent girl act? She got caught and now she’s ashamed. Girls do this all the time. You will not claim rape or anything else against my son,” I stated.
“Your son intimidated her!” Mr. Rangle yelled.
"You know what? You can have this conversation with our lawyer. Junior, let’s go,” I said grabbing my purse.
“We’ll do just that,” Mr. Rangle added, standing to exit the classroom.
The other parents beat me to the door. Ms. Savé called after me as I exited next. “Can I speak with you for a moment?” she asked, now standing, her top model legs holding her high.
I handed Junior the keys to my car. “I’ll be out in a minute,” I said, sending him away.
I turned to face Ms. Savé. I had been so focused on my anger that I hadn’t recognized her beauty. I’d always been one to give props where they were due. Her face was dulcet, the glow, her high cheekbones, her pouty lips. Now the fullness of her presence was felt. Her aura had taken over the room as she walked closer to me; the intimidation of her beauty beneath her bronze afro pushing forward with her. The tinge I felt as she approached could have been placed somewhere amongst insecurity, misplaced attraction, or envy. I wasn’t sure. Once she was close enough, I took in the length of her body. I stood at 5’7”, so she had to be at least 5’10” without her heels.
"This is really serious, Mrs. Goodman,” she said, sliding her hands into the pockets of her tan slacks. “That family could open a case against Dallas and win. The video alone would ruin his life.”
“I’m not understanding why you’re defending that girl. You saw her,” I stated.
Ms. Savé’s laugh was sniggering as she looked to the ground then into my eyes. “So, you’re one of those.”
The audacity. I thought, but said, “Pardon me?”
“You could probably get me relieved of my duties for this, but I’m not really sure that I care at this point, because there are things that I am much more passionate about. This is one of them,” she paused. “What I’m saying is that you are wrong. I understand that you love your son and naturally, every inch of you wants to protect him, but you need to realize that he’s not a baby anymore.” she stated.
“I’m missing your point. He’s a boy and boys will be exactly that, boys. Look, that little girl shouldn’t walk around looking like a prostitute, giving people the wrong idea. I’m sure she had the choice to go into the boy’s locker room and I’m positive she knew exactly what she was going in there to do,” I defended.
“You know, you look much more intelligent than you actually are. You yourself are a woman and you should know exactly how it feels to be objectified by men. You should take a long, hard look at your life, because you are so lost and abused that you can’t even see that you raised an oppressor. He’s been in my class three weeks and it took me two seconds to figure him out and now I see why. You and he both can say whatever you please once you leave this classroom, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I didn’t tell you that you are an enabler to his poor behavior. Slut-shaming and victim blaming a sixteen-year-old girl to her face? So, in response to your comment, yes, I saw her. Once upon a time, I was her,” Ms. Savé stated. She slowly walked over to her desk, pulling the drawer open and retrieving a phone. Junior’s phone. She walked back over to where I stood with a baffled expression and handed it to me. “Take off the rose-colored glasses, Mrs. Goodman. You have a good evening.”
I had nothing more to say. I stepped into the hall and unlocked the phone that had been handed to me. And there I stood shocked and appalled with tears forming in my eyes as my son and another male’s voice insulted, bullied, and humiliated this young woman. I was dizzy and sick to my stomach. The same twenty-dollar bill from that morning was stuck to his forehead as he told her to work for it.
I couldn’t make it to the end.
I closed out the video and started opening the messages on his social media pages. He’d been making friends with this other boy long before we moved. And Melissa? She never stood a chance as I read several messages that led to today. I dropped the phone into my purse, took a second to compose myself, and headed for the exit.
My son sat inside of my car unbothered. I’d never hit him before. It wasn’t something that I believed in after enduring so many vicious beatings growing up. To me, there was a better way. Not in that moment though. I flung my purse to the back seat then slapped Junior across the face, knocking his headphones from his head.
“What were you thinking!” I yelled.
He rubbed his face then straightened out his earphones. “I thought you were on my side. You saw her, Mom.”
“I also saw the video. I didn’t raise you to do things like that. You have lost your mind,” I said, reaching for my seatbelt. “I don’t even want to look at you right now. You just sit there and try not to do anything else to piss me off in the next twenty minutes. I’ll let your Dad handle this, because I’m not sure I can.”
I shut off the music that blared after starting the car. He was going to sit in silence with me.
Junior stormed straight to his room. I slammed his things and mine down on the kitchen counter. I needed to start dinner, but instead I began pacing the floor wondering if I should call someone. I needed to think. I walked into the living room and took a seat. I’d told myself that I’d only sit for a few minutes, just long enough to get myself to focus on dinner.
A few minutes became hours. It was 5:30 in the evening and Dallas was walking through the door. He kicked his shoes off at the door then headed to the kitchen like he did every day.
“What the hell!” I heard him yell.
“Babe! Come to the living room,” I said.
“No dinner?” he asked entering the room. “What’s going on around here?”
“We need to talk about Junior,” I said, looking him in the eyes.
“What? Why?” he asked annoyed.
“He’s in trouble at school,” I stated.
“What? We’ve been here five minutes. What has he done that fast?” he asked, plopping down on the sofa.
“He can tell you himself. I’ll go get dinner started. You can go talk to your son,” I said, standing to leave the room.
Dinner wasn’t ready until eight. Dallas Sr.’s lecture was weak—do stupid things, but don’t get caught. Oh, and we raised you better. My husband was angrier that his routine had been broken. I sat with a knot in my throat trying to force my food down as I watched the men in my life from the corners of my eyes. For the first time, I was looking at my world from the outside and I wasn’t fitting in. The images from the video were imprinted in my mind, especially the fear on Melissa’s face.
When dinner was over, each of them left, not even bothering to remove their plates from the table. Neither of them thanked me for the meal. There was no kiss or a good night. It took me eighteen years to realize that, that was the way it had always been. They eat, they leave, and I clean.
Afterwards, I had a million things going on in my mind. I had questions, but no real answers, and most of all I was confused about how to handle the situation with my son. I’d been on autopilot most of my life.
Ms. Savé had ruined thirty-seven years of my life, in less than ten minutes. Now there were more than boxes waiting for me, but first, I needed to unpack myself.
It took me a week to return to Ms. Savé’s classroom. I waited for the coast to clear before I knocked then entered.
“Mrs. Goodman,” she said. “Here to return the phone?”
“That and I owe you an apology,” I stated.
“You don’t owe me anything. I do owe you an apology though. I overstepped my bounds and I was unprofessional,” she stated. She stood from her desk, and with her, that presence that smacked me before. It had to be her confidence. Had to be.
“No, you were right. Um…” I stumbled. “This may be awkward and uh, probably inappropriate. I’ve been thinking about what you said and I was wondering if we could discuss it further over dinner or drinks. On me? We could talk here if you like, but I think this is personal and this might not be an appropriate setting, I’d talk to someone else but—” I hesitated.
“No, no, that’s fine. I, uh, I’m out of here in about ten minutes, if you’re free now.”
“I am actually. I’ll wait outside. I’m in the white Dodge Charger.” I gave Ms. Savé a nervous but grateful half-smile then eased out of the door.
Within a few minutes, Ms. Savé was on my passenger side. “Where to?” she asked.
I laughed. “I was hoping you knew a place?”
“I know a few,” she said. “Are you good at following directions?”
“Excellent,” I stated while starting the engine.
Ms. Savé guided us to The Ram located inside of a little plaza just of Meridian. We went inside and seated ourselves in the bar area. We slid into one of the booths and were greeted before we could get comfortable. I ordered a water with lemon and she went right on in with a shot of their top shelf Vodka.
“You aren't shy, are you?” I teased.
“It’s Friday night.” She smiled, easing out of her black blazer and revealing the tattoos on her arms. “Now, I’m just Chevi.”
“What do your tattoos mean?” I asked.
“These?” she pointed. “They’re all symbols for life,” she stated. She paused, staring at me for a few moments. “I want to ask you so many questions, but I don’t know how to do so without you feeling attacked or offended.”
“Ask whatever you like. It’s no secret that you and I are… different, for lack of a better term. I came here open. You really made me think,” I confessed.
“Really? About what?” she inquired.
“My life,” I admitted.
“And what path did that lead you down?” she asked.
“That I’m nothing more than a kept mother and maid,” I replied.
Disappointment in her tone, she said, “That’s it?”
Confused, I said, “Well...yeah. Was there something else?”
The waiter approached with our drinks. Ms. Savé slid hers in front of me. “You take this,” she said then looked back to the waiter. “Martin, is it?” she asked leaning to read the waiter's name tag. “I’ll have another shot and two raspberry margaritas on the rocks. Thanks.” He hurried away and she turned to me. “You drink that. You’re going to need it.”
“I have to drive,” I stated.
“I’ll get you home. Take the shot princess,” she teased.
The liquor burned my chest. It had been a long time since I drank anything other than wine.
“You do realize that everything that you observed was surface?” Chevi asked. “You have to know that washing a dish and cooking a meal does nothing to contribute to who you are as a woman. If anything, it’s demeaning and cliché,” she said.
“I don’t know what you want from me, Chevi. Should I just lay out across this table and tell you about my childhood?” I said.
“If that’s what it takes to loosen you up and get you to dig deeper.” She leaned back in the booth. “Let’s start here. What were your parents like?”
I stared blankly. “You’re serious?”
“Okay, I’ll bite.” I cleared my throat. “My father was strict and my mother was bit of a free-spirit, but sweet for the most part.”
“Figures,” she said before I could finish.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Chevi moved closer to me in the booth. “You had the perfect life didn’t you. Daddy’s little girl that did everything right. Mommy gave you all the right toys to make you the perfect wife and woman, right? What was it? An Easy Bake Oven? The Ken doll of your dreams? Tell me, when you lost your virginity... was it on prom night with the star player, who told you that it would be the best night of your lives and that everybody was doing it? Did you fuck him or did he fuck you?” she asked.
There was nothing for me to do but breathe. Heavily. My heart raced, and I couldn’t tell if this was a conversation or a seductive dance or if I should stay or run.
“You see, when I said to look at your life, I meant breaking down every moment that gave you a choice. I bet you a hundred dollars that you’re sitting here with your shirt buttoned all the way to the top because you were told to respect yourself. Do you believe that if you unlatched at least three you’d be treated any differently than you are now? Our waiter over there watched your ass from the time we walked in until we sat down and I can bet he’ll watch as soon as you get up to leave.” Chevi grabbed my left hand from the table examining my ring. “You have a long way to go, Harper.” She looked me in the eyes and I couldn’t look away. “Why do you wear your hair like that? I mean, I like it, but was it your choice? Have you ever cut it?”
I spoke, somehow finding the word no.
“Why not? Husband or daddy?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure. I swallowed. “Umm, both. Men like women with long hair.”
She laughed. “Forgive me for laughing, but men? What do you like? I don’t even think you know.”
I thought of myself as an educated woman up until that point. Chevi ran circles around me. My eyes crossed as she delved into spirituality, patriarchy, toxic and fragile masculinity, feminism—who it belonged to—and womanism. In her words, she loved Amber Rose and Phylicia Rashad’S lifestyle choices equally. I counted the number of times she used the words intersectional and synonymous—seven. By the end of the night I was tipsy and shaken. I was devastated. I was awakened. The awakening happened all over my body as I started to question life and the eyes I began to see Chevi through.
I rushed home to my husband who was right where he always was by nine. I kicked off my heels and walked over to him, snatching the book he held from his hands.
“What the—” he said, throwing his hands in the air.
“Kiss me,” I said, grabbing his face forcefully.
“Babe, it’s after nine,” he said, holding me back.
“So. I want you. Now.” I pushed his hands away and moved in again, this time tugging at his pants.
“Harper! You know that’s now how we do things.”
“We or you?” I said in defense.
He softened his tone. “Us, baby. Me and you.”
“Bullshit. We only do whatever is convenient for you. I’m throwing myself at you right now and you’re telling me that I need to make an appointment.”
“What you’re doing is behaving like some two-dollar whore,” he spat.
I pushed myself from his lap and stood beside the bed in disbelief. “You’re my husband. Showing you I want you makes me a slut?”
He stuttered. “I-I’m not trying to disrespect you or anything, but women shouldn't carry themselves like that. It’s the man’s job to initiate. Look, I need to sleep. Can we revisit this conversation in the morning?”
“Unbelievable,” I said, before leaving for the guest room.
As I lay in bed, I thought about Chevi. I wanted more of whatever it was that I was feeling.
I found myself in Chevi’s presence every day for the next two seasons. She rattled and calmed me all at once. She’d become my teacher. With every moment of enlightenment, I’d loosen a button on my blouse. Chevi introduced me to books that should have been on my radar long ago. I didn’t understand how I’d spent years in college and never read as much as the blurbs from Zora, Tony, or Audre.
I’d never had a friend like her before. Although feminine, she was aggressive. She touched me a lot. My arms, my hair, my hands, the small of my back.
I think I liked it.
She never got her nails done, nor did she wear a lot of jewelry or makeup. During the week, it was pant suits, lip gloss, eyeliner, and a single necklace. On the weekends, it was distressed jeans, baggy tops, a choker and a single white-gold ring on her pointer.
I felt guilty for looking, but her body was amazing at thirty-five. She told me that she loved mine, but it was hard to agree after childbirth. We argued about her hair, because to me afros were unkempt, while to her they were a style.
Still, I was intrigued by all things Chevi.
My home life was completely interrupted by my new obsession: knowledge (Chevi). I still did the things that I was supposed to, but in my own time. The sessions between Dallas and I were filled with only his complaints of my change, A.K.A. my lack of submission to his demands. B.K.A. I wasn’t fucking him anymore. Correction: he wasn’t fucking me.
Even my son was completely shocked by my now frequent use of the word no. He was expelled from school. As far as I was concerned anything he wanted he’d have to work for. We were still going back and forth with the parents of the young girl he’d violated. Keeping that video from going viral was costing us a pretty penny.
I sat in Chevi’s driveway. Her home was a beautiful elevated, one-story, brick house. I grabbed the borrowed novel from the passenger seat and headed to her entrance. She opened the door before I reached the second step.
“I heard you pull up. Hungry? Thirsty?” she asked, stepping aside to allow me to walk by. Incense burned, the lights were dimmed, and soulful music played softly in the background. I kicked off my shoes as I viewed the art that hung along the walls, leading to the living room. All black women.
“I can definitely use a drink.”
“What would you like?” she asked.
“Whatever is already chilled.”
“Red wine it is then.”
I heard the cork pop then she emerged with two glasses and the bottle. She took a seat on the floor where her coffee table was and motioned for me to join her.
“Are you expecting company? What’s with the mood setting?” I asked.
“No, just you. I thought we could just vibe tonight.”
“Yeah. Have you never just sat around listening to music, talking about nothing, and enjoying another person’s company.”
I shrugged. “Can’t say that I have.”
Two hours and three bottles later, I was being more open with her that I’d ever been. I told her that Dallas Jr. would have to register as a sex offender and do community service. She comforted me. She uplifted me.
“I love your taste in music,” I said. “What song is this?”
“This?” she pointed to the sound we couldn't see. “A.D.I.D.A.S. by Ro James. He’s so underrated. I think I’ll loop this one,” she said disappearing for a second then returning. We stared at each other in silence for a few moments then I found the courage to pry. Could have been the wine.
“So, what are you?” I asked.
“I’m not sure I understand the question.”
“I don’t want to say it. I mean, are you… gay?”
“Why do I have to be anything?”
“Because everyone is something.”
“Have you been listening to me at all? Are you so conservative that everything has to be in a box, in some controlled setting for you to make it make sense?” she asked. “Six months and we’ve gotten nowhere.”
I watched every word that escaped her lips and before I could stop myself, I said, “I love the way you speak and especially the way your mouth moves.”
She smiled. “Are you flirting with me, Mrs. Goodman,” she said reminding me that I was of the market.
I didn’t care.
“No. I don’t know. I’m unsure of so many things right now. Would it be a bad thing if I were… coming on to you?” I asked.
“You would have to decide that for yourself.”
I huffed in frustration. “Would you give me a direct response just once?”
“Ask me a direct question. Stop giving me room to generalize,” she said in a tantalizing tone.
I looked her in the eyes. “Do you like women?”
“Yes,” she replied without blinking.
Suddenly there was a knot in my throat where words should have been. I half-hoped she’d say no. Now I had nothing.
“I like men, too, just in a different way.”
Confused, I replied, “I don’t understand.”
“They’re fun and handy. I like having them around to do the dirty work.”
“So, what is it that you like women for?” I inquired.
“Are you sure you want the answer?”
“Orgasms and companionship.”
I let it sink in. “Is that what I am for you? Companionship? Even though I don’t know how that would be possible, since we don’t have sex, and we haven’t had sex or planned to have sex and I’m not gay…” I began nervously rambling.
“Is that what companionship equals to you? Sex?” Chevi asked.
“This, right now is companionship. This is intimacy. I don’t have to jump your bones to show you that you matter to me. No one does,” she said.
“What if I wanted it to be that way with you?” I asked.
Taking a sip from her wine then placing the glass down Chevi asked, “Physically intimate?”
“Be careful what you wish for.”
I moved toward her slowly, watching her eyes to see if I’d be met with resistance.
I wanted to feel what it was like to make the first move, to be allowed to. Chevi took another swig, then gently placed her glass down. She let me come to her. I couldn’t stop myself. I’d never thought about being with a woman before. Ever. The idea was previously gross, but in that moment, everything about it seemed appealing. It was just Chevi.
My mouth hovered against hers. I hesitated.
She lifted her hand up to my cheek, brushed it lightly and took over. “Is it okay if I kiss you?”
“Why are you asking?” I whispered.
“Because you need to understand consent. This is your body and you control it.”
Her words were shocks to my system.
“May I?” she asked again.
“Yes,” I said almost breathless.
It was slow and it was easy. Permission was her foreplay. With every move that she made, she needed me to be okay with it. And I was. I wanted her fingers in my hair, her hand around my neck, and the pressure of her thigh between my legs, slow grinding.
“Fuck me.” I begged her. “Please. I want you to.”
“I can’t,” she said. “You’re still married,” she gently stroked my cheek. “This is far enough. Trust me. You aren’t ready for what comes after this, but will you do something for me?”
Surrendered, I replied, “Anything.”
She sat up, pressing her back to the sofa. “Come here,” she commanded. She pulled me up, turning my back to her chest. I leaned back, melting into her. She brushed my hair to the side to kiss my neck. In my ear, she whispered, “Take off your shirt.”
As I undid the front she eased her hand up my back, unsnapping my bra. I sat there cold and topless.
“Lift up your skirt,” she whispered.
I wiggled between her legs to do as she said. My panties would go next as her fingertips trailed my shoulders then my arms and down to meet the back of my hands. She locked her fingers with mine.
“My hands are yours. What do you want me to do?” she asked.
I was the puppet in control. I moved our left hands to my breast, gently squeezing. Even though she couldn't feel it, she moaned. With the right hand, I massaged the throb between my legs, hoping to calm it. I wished it was her, but I knew it couldn’t be. She lived vicariously through my fingers, enjoying the motions, the moans, the breathing, the non-breathing, the jerking of my body.
“Are you doing this because you want to?” she asked, biting my earlobe.
“Yes,” I said, feeling the sexiest I’d ever felt from the tiger stripes on my breast to the cellulite on my thighs. I was proud to be a woman.
"It's just you and me, Harper. You can let go,” she whispered. “Let me see you.”
The sound of my name from her lips relaxed every muscle in my body. I couldn't hold back anymore. Chevi wrapped her arms around me as I allowed my body to free itself. In my mind, I was I running through fields, swimming through oceans naked, spitting profanities, and screaming in the middle of streets. But in reality, I was echoing and drowning out the music.
I was completely exhausted as my head fell back onto Chevi’s shoulder. I laughed and she joined me.
“What do I do now?” I asked.
She kissed my cheek. “Whatever you want.”
“What if I want to be with you?”
“You don’t want that. Right now, you’re vulnerable, you’re intrigued, and you just experienced something… surreal. It’s foreign to you right now, but eventually it will become familiar. Do yourself a favor and fall into that familiar feeling with someone who can reciprocate and mirror exactly what you want.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m non-monogamous, Harper.”
“As in you sleep with multiple people?”
“I connect with multiple people,” she said. “It’s a lot more complex,” she explained.
I wanted to have my way, but if there was one thing that I learned from Chevi, it was to allow people to exist as they were. She did what she had come for and I was grateful for the season of awakening, change, and transition. Before going home to wreak havoc on my life, I let Chevi cut my hair.
I had finally arrived.
To be continued one day...
©2017 Christiana Harrell
We had an arrangement. One that would be odd to others, maybe even moral-less since I was a married woman. I figured it was harmless since there was no sex in it. Yes, she touched me, but never to make me cum. She had other women for that. My body was nothing more than a warm cushion. More for me than her.
I remember the first time that I saw her. I was sitting alone at a community event as my wife worked the crowd. It was always that way because my wife liked to be seen. I said my hellos, shook a few hands, and gave a few church hugs, but I always made my way to a quiet corner to watch. That was how I saw her before she saw me.
She was the power in the room, ten feet tall in a spiritual sense. Dark like the midnight sky, but demanding like a full moon. She moved as I did, shaking hands, half-way engaged in conversations as her eyes scanned the room.
Stop staring, I thought then turned to see what my wife was up to at that point. Still chatting--the same.
I couldn’t help myself. I was metal and she was the magnet, so there my eyes were again, only this time she was headed to where I was seated with my legs cross and a glass of water in my hand.
“Mind if I take this seat next to you?” she asked, not waiting for my permission.
“Why’d you ask if you were going to sit down anyway?” I asked.
“I just wanted to say something to you,” she confessed, looking into the crowd. “Are you here alone?”
“No. I’m with my wife.” I pointed in her direction. “She drags me to these things,” I said.
We sat shoulder-to-shoulder, never turning to look the other in the eye. I sipped my water that I and she chewed gum. I shivered with each clench of her jaw.
“Where are you from? I’ve never seen you before,” she said.
“Assuming you know everyone,” I replied then huffed.
“Only the people that I want to know,” she said, sending my shivers into a frenzy of forbidden signals to my sacred place. “I saw you watching me,” she said.
“So,” I replied pretending to be unphased.
“So you’re married, huh?” she asked.
“Four years,” I stated, sipping from my glass once more to quench the thirst that I had for her.
The beautiful stranger turned to look me into my eyes. It was over. I knew all and so did she as we avoided blinking during our silent conversation of want.
Echoing in interruption I heard, “Who’s your friend?”
It was my wife, Tyranny, coming to crumble my temptation. Without missing a beat, the sexy stranger turned to her extending her hand. “Bash. My name is Bash. I thought your wife was a friend of mine from back in college.”
Tyranny smiled. “Yeah, she has one of those faces. She gets mistaken for other people all of the time.”
“It’s a beautiful familiar face and you are a lucky woman,” Bash said, standing to take her leave.
“It was nice chatting with you,” Bash said, turning to look down on me and claim dominance. I kept my words, only giving her a smile and a nod--likewise.
She patted Tyranny on the shoulder then moved past her pausing to turn and say one more thing. “Oh, and about that benefit on Friday at the Art Museum downtown, it’s formal. I’ll put two tickets at the door for you and your wife. Get there early to find good parking. You know how Seattle traffic and parking can be.”
She was too good.
She continued, “And what name should I put on the tickets?”
“Perrisha Mandalin,” I said.
“Perrisha,” she repeated and for the first time in my life, I recognized the true beauty of my own name. “Perrisha,” she said one more then walked away with a smile.
Friday came and I stood in the mirror second-guessing my dress and decision to show up. My dress was beautiful with it’s open back and fishtail, but sexy--too sexy. I took one last spin before adding accessories to my look--a bracelet and dangling white gold earrings. Tyranny added her reflection to the mirror.
“Why aren’t you dressed? Are you not coming?” I asked.
“You know I don’t like stuff like that,” she said.
“I never get to used that excuse when it comes to you,” I said.
“Babe, can we not argue right now? Just go and have a good time. Buy some nice art for the house. I’ll be right here when you get back,” she said, kissing my cheek.
I nodded then pushed past her to grab my black pumps and clutch.
In the car, I tossed my shoes on the passenger side. For some reason I couldn’t drive in heels. The traffic was bad, but not brutal. Jhene Aiko’s Pandora station kept me occupied until I reached my destination.
Just as Bash promised, there were two tickets at the door and she was the one issuing them.
“I see you caught my hint,” she said. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” I said, pulling my torn ticket from her fingers.
“No wife?” she asked.
“She couldn’t make it,” I lied.
“I won’t pretend to be disappointed. I’ll make sure you have a good time,” she said, holding out her arm.
I grabbed it, realizing how muscular she was. “You work out?”
“Everyday. You should join me sometime.”
“I’m not sure that would be a good idea.”
“Then what would be? How are we supposed to be friends?” she asked.
“I never said I wanted to be your friend,” I teased
“Yes, you did. You said it the moment you showed up alone.” Bash smiled. The argument had been won, because I had a choice and there I was without my wife. I clung to the arm of another woman and I was happy about it. I didn’t ask the important question. What if someone saw me?
I wasn’t sure I cared. Did I even need to?
All night we spoke flirtatious codes and tones both verbal and non. She pulled out my chair then pulled hers close enough to breath into my bosom.
“Would you like a drink?” she asked, licking her lips and my imagination at the same time.
I dropped my eyes from hers. “I shouldn’t. I’m driving alone.”
She lifted my chin with her fingers, wanting to keep my gaze. “I’ll get you home safely. Trust me,” she said as she raised her hand in the air to get the attention of one of the caterers. “Two white wines please,” she said as one hovered. She never took her eyes from mine. Her conversation was mine again. “Can I tell you something?”
“Do you want my permission this time or are you going to tell me anyway?” I joked.
“I’ve never had this kind of attraction to anyone before. Especially not a married woman. I meet a lot of woman, but… you… there is something about you.”
“Why bother asking my permission?”
“I’m trying to remain consistent.” She smiled. “I don’t really want to be here. I only came hoping you’d show up,” she confessed.
I adjusted in my seat, leaning my back against the chair. “What are you hoping to gain by my being hear?”
“Come home with me. Now,” she said.
Before I could think about it and protest, I said, “Okay.”
Her eyes bucked and she leaned back. “No jokes?”
I shook my head.
Bash grabbed my hand, pulling me from my seat. I followed as she lead me to her car. There was no real plan. I just wanted to be in her space. It was still early enough for me to make it home in an decent hour, not that my wife would notice.
Bash lived downtown so in a blink we were at her place. The tension that I tried to ignore began to swell refusing to be denied anymore. She took my clutch from my hand as we entered her apartment and placed in on a shelf. My feet wouldn’t moved past the threshold.
“I’m not going to bite you,” she said, pushing me with her pelvis.
I smiled. “You might. I don’t know you.”
“Then get to know me. You’re here now, so stop pretending you don’t want to be friends.”
“You don’t want my friendship.”
“Guilty,” she said, standing close to me, wrapping her breath around me. “Why are you here if you know what I want?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“We shouldn’t lie to one another,” she said. “Tell me what you want from me.”
I looked over her body as she took a step back. “You’ll think I’m weird if I say it.”
“How much do you weigh?” I asked.
She raised her brow, but responded. “One-hundred and ninety-five pounds.”
“All muscle?” I asked.
“Solid.” she said cockiness in her chest as she smirked and sucked at her teeth.
“And how tall are you?” I asked.
“5’8,” Bash replied.
“You promise not to laugh?”
“Lay on me. I want you to lay on me,” I requested.
She was silent for a moment. There was no reaction and no emotion. Then she began to unbutton her jacket. “Take off your clothes,” she said.
I trailed my fingertips across my shoulder, taking my time to remove my dress. We watched each other as we undressed. She stripped down completely naked while I stood with only my laced panties and my arms covering my breast. She walked over to me lifting me from the floor and carrying me to her bedroom. I felt as though I was floating on air. There was no more conversation as she laid me on my back across her mattress. Grabbing my wrist, she removed my arms from my breast now laying her head between them. Using her thigh she separated my thighs to lie between my legs.
And for hours, just like that, we laid.
It became our thing, to lay, to not talk. It was my meditation and escape from my life as a neglected wife. The guilt was more manageable than that of sex or sharing myself emotionally.
I stood in front of her apartment door staring at the big white C that hung above the peephole. I didn’t tell her that I was coming. Tyranny had been called into work and I had some extra time. I wanted to use beneath Bash. Just as I lifted my fist to knock on the door, it swung open and a woman with tears in her eyes rushed past me. I expected to see the same anguish inside. Instead, Bash was standing in her kitchen drinking a bottle of water, unphased.
“Lock the door,” she said.
I did as I was told and began removing my jacket. I wanted to know what had just happened, but that wasn’t our thing. She finished her water then pulled her t-shirt over her head and headed toward the bedroom. I assumed it didn’t matter that I showed up early and unannounced. I followed her removing my clothes. Today I’d even removed my underwear without thinking.
I laid back on the pillow spreading my legs as Bash turned off the light to join me. For a few moments, we lay there silent, breathing, existing.
“I’ve never asked what you get out of this,” she said.
Running my hands up and down her back, I sighed. “I wish I could explain it. I could say it’s your bare skin or the pressure of your weight pushing me into the mattress. It’s a different type of submission for me. One that I don’t get at home. Wait… are we talking now?” I asked.
“No, I’m sorry. I don’t want to complicate this. It’s the one thing in my life that’s easy and oddly, I like it,” she confessed.
“I like it, too, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop liking it.”
“Don’t say that,” she said, squeezing me tighter. “Is it you wife? Does she know?” she asked.
“No, but I can’t keep convincing myself that I’m not doing anything wrong.”
Bash leaned up to look into my eyes. “Maybe I asked the wrong question,” she said stroking my temple with her thumb. “Why do you need this?”
Her question crushed my chest, pushing out the reality that I’d coped with for over a year. “She doesn’t touch me,” I whispered. Tears began welling up in my eyes. “This is the furthest I can go without feeling too guilty.”
“Does she have someone else?” she asked.
“That doesn’t matter. Two wrongs won’t make a right,” I said, answering her question without answering her question. “Just lay here, okay. We don’t talk.”
She nodded and resumed her position until we both fell asleep.
Bash’s skin was warmer than usual and she began to sweat mid nap. I tried to adjust to allow air to flow between us. She groaned. “Where are you trying to go?”
“Nowhere?” I said in a whisper.
“Good,” she said, turning her face to kiss my cheek.
She had to be dreaming. She had to be thinking I was someone else. One of her women. Bash kissed me once more, this time on the corner of my mouth.
“Bash,” I whispered, but got no response.
A second passed and she kissed me again. On the lips.
“Bash,” I whispered.
“Hmm,” she said.
“We can’t do this,” I said.
“What am I doing?” she said, leaning in, wrapping her warm mouth around my neck. The suction was slow and wet as her hand tangled itself with my hair.
“Ba--” I started to say before her thick tongue silenced the ‘s’ and the ‘h.’ This time, I kissed her back. I’d wanted to know what it was like to kiss her for months and I’d done a good job of resisting up until that moment.
We moaned together.
I pulled her into me, embracing the heat and the sweat as she began to grind her body against mine. I pressed my fingers into the flexed muscles in her back, begging her to take it easy on me because it had been a long time. She didn’t honor my request, moving over my breast and devouring each one. For a moment, I sunk into her dominion, but only a minute. I found the strength necessary to push her away.
“No. No!” I said as she fell over onto her side. I jumped from the bed and began frantically dressing. “We don’t do this. We cuddle. I leave. That’s it.”
Bash only stared, watching my every motion as I grabbed my things to head for the door. She found her words as I touched the door.
“She doesn’t love you,” she stated.
I swung around with tears in my eyes. “Neither do you.”
“But I could. I want to,” Bash said.
“You don’t even know me.”
“I know your silence and it’s loud as fuck when we’re in this room. You could tell me more, but you set the boundaries, not me. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. Why are you even playing this game? Wants versus needs, Perrisha.”
“You need to be there, but you want to be here,” she said.
“Stop trying to get into my head. How would being here be any better. A woman literally just ran out of here crying and you barely blinked before laying down with me.”
Bash shook her head. “You assume you know me. I tell you I want to know you and you draw your own conclusions about my character instead of offering the same. That woman that you saw leave today has been trying to get with me for over a year. Yes, I spend some time with her having dinner and seeing a few movies, but that’s it. She wanted more when I’d told her a year ago that she’d never get it. I don’t offer myself to any and everyone despite what you think. I’m disciplined in all aspects of my life and I know how to wait for the things that I want. That includes you,” Bash spat, standing from the bed.
I could tell she wasn’t used to losing, but unfortunately, there was no room for a win here. I felt what she said, but I’d already promised myself to someone else long before her. I stormed out like the woman before me with tears in my eyes. Bash had rejected her and I rejected Bash.
Sleep didn’t come easy that night. I tossed and turned at the ending of Bash and I. Even thought I’d showered twice, I could still smell her on my skin. I could feel the weight of her body on mine. Those were easy to handle. It was her kiss that slapped me awake. I felt her tongue in my mouth in real time. It made me thirsty.
“You need to be there. You want to be here.”
I sat up, scaring Tyranny half to death.
“Nightmare?” she asked.
I could only nod. My words were still stuck in Bash’s throat.
“You want some of my water?” she asked, reaching for the bottle she kept on the nightstand beside the bed.
I took it from her and drank majority of it.
“Better?” she asked.
I nodded and she turned over to try to return to sleep with no further concern.
“I’m cheating on you. Cheated...I cheated on you,” I finally managed to say. Tyranny didn’t move. I knew that she heard me, so I wouldn’t repeat it. It had already taken me long enough to accept that’s what I was doing.
“Tyranny…” I said.
“Go to sleep, Perrisha,” she said.
“Go to bed. That’s your response. I tell you something heavy and you want me to go to bed. What is wrong with you?” I asked.
Tyranny sat up still no emotion, not a spec of shock. She huffed and rubbed her faded head. “It was bound to happen one day. You’ve caught me twice and we moved on. You can have this one. I forgive you. What else do you want?”
“Wow. That’s where we are? Content in this? Tit for tat until it’s even and we just go on with our routine?” I asked in disbelief and the chill that surrounded her. “Want… what do I want?” SHe probably thought me mad as I began to laugh. “Needs versus wants,” I said the eased from the bed. I walked over to our closet, flipping on the light and grabbing a small bag from the top shelf.
Tyranny watched in silence.
I packed what I would need for about a week or so or until I could figure out what should come next. I knew for sure that Tyranny and I were over. I would no longer suffer in silence and contentment.
I rode in silence this time as I headed back to the truth that I’d stormed out of earlier. There I was again, staring at that damn “C” and it started back. I took two deep breaths then knocked. There was no answer so I knocked harder.
My mind went to the only place that it could: she was with someone else.
I walked away, because if she was somewhere else, she was well within her rights. I accepted the loss and pulled out my phone to look up hotels. The elevators in her building we slow. I needed it to hurry, so that I could get to a safe place to cry and plan.
Finally. I counted the numbers as they decreased. I felt pathetic.
The doors opened to the lobby and there she stood in sweat pants and a t-shirt that was drenched in sweat. We stood there for as long as the automatic doors would allow us to. Breathing. Staring.
I stepped back and she stepped inside in front of me as the door closed behind her.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I said breaking the silence. My voice cracked and the tears came. “I--”
Bash rushed me grabbing my face and pulling me into her. The same kiss that slapped me awake wrapped me in bliss and oblivion. Somehow in our silence, I’d found safety and a real understand of intimacy. I was ready to learn and understand everything else, no matter where it led.
This is where I wanted to be.
©2018 Christiana Harrell