heyyyy. as always, comments are appreciated, and sharing is caring. 🙂
if you’re new to the Sliding Doors series, you can find previous installments riiight ^ there next to “About.”
“You’re sure you’ll be alright. Do you need me to meet you out there, babe? It’s no problem, really.” She could hear the suppressed worry leaking through the other end of her cell.
“No, Nate. Honey I’m fiiine. Just a one day meeting, and I’ll be back home.”
Nathaniel released an unsure sigh. “Alright, I’m sure you can hold your own with those women. Call me later, my love.”
Having been elected to the board of one of Detroit’s most prominent nonprofits for African American women provided Jade a perfect travel excuse: the ambiguous and inescapable “meeting.”
She learned long ago that the politician in Nate was fond of certain buzz words. ‘Meeting’ was one of them. Attach that to anything, and immediate understanding was garnered.
The plan was to meet with one of her corporate connects to discuss a potential sponsorship while she was out here. That made her omission of the real reason for travel seem a little less … deceiving, in her mind.
When she got up to the counter at Hertz, she whispered her love to her husband, pressed the end button on the latest 4G Android phone he’d gotten her. She could barely get used to one before Nate was upgrading her with its replacement. An unused ipad sat on her nightstand at this very moment. If she let him have his way, their child would be learning to type on some four-thousand-dollar gadget by age two.
Jade looked down at her mosquito bite of a belly, froze knowing a little version of herself could be nestled inside. She imagined what color her eyes would be. Tar pit black like Nigel’s, or deep syrup like hers. Her small, flat nose, or a sharply contoured one like Nigel’s.
She sighed heavily. The brief hiatus she’d had from these tortured thoughts from the hangar exit up until now was over, as soon as it began.
She was really about to go through with it.
She was really going to have an abortion.
Throughout the night and today’s less than smooth flight, she’d been slammed with this realization ever so often. Like fifty footballers ready to win a championship, thoughts of what she was about to do trampled onto the field of her mind, caused her to stop, think, sigh. Cry.
Nigel must hate her. With his whole self.
Her conversation with him last night told her that much. Of all the turbulence she and Nigel had experienced during this rocky, jagged road of a pseudo-relationship they were on, she’d never seen Nigel so angry at her, so wounded she could practically see the blood seeping from his chest.
Moisture gathered, clouding her vision, her heart, each time her memory framed the picture of Nigel’s face, tears streaming down smooth dark cheeks last night.
He’d pleaded with her not to go through with it. Not to kill his child. He didn’t have to tell her that by aborting this baby she’d be murdering his love as well, stabbing their already fragile relationship in the heart.
His pain had caused such an ache in her heart that she’d had to leave; walk away and regain strength to face him in all his nakedness, something she’d never seen beyond the physical.
It hurt so much to hurt him.
It hurt even more to love him.
And Nathaniel was her husband. Not Nigel. No matter how much he felt it, no matter how strongly she wished it. Daily she had to remind herself of this undeniable fact.
The balmy sunshine served as a warm greeting as she pushed her rental away from the airport. Seeing a palm tree after months piled on months of not, passing by familiar sites and stomping grounds, showered a little joy through the pall of melancholy looming over this whole excursion.
The muted-mustard colored house was one she’d been to many, many times. Each room held kept secrets, each wall a story of youth and coming of age.
Bedford Avenue. She had gone back to Cali.
Where so many dreams came true, and her repeatedly broken heart was nursed to health form puppy love devastations. She hadn’t felt ready for the world until the owners of this home had given their blessing, had told her she was fully prepared to be out on her own.
This was her oven.
She followed the familiar red brick paved, circular driveway around past the gate of the huge, ranch-style home. The door was open before she could step onto the long porch with both sandaled feet.
“So you had to be knocked up to come back to Cali, huh. If I’d have known that I’d have took care of that a long time ago.” A smile that put the sun to shame beamed at her.
Same perfectly round head, bald now. Same slim build, though proof of hours of sweat and working out forced her to notice the new definition. Same black “beater” he was so fond of. Tattoo-less tawny skin.
Oh, how this man had lived in the pages of her Dear Diaries during her adolescence.
“Shut it.” She returned his smile, joy ping-ponging between them like an old Atari game.
Kevin encased her in a tight hug, kissed her forehead like he always did. He’d been kissing that spot since their days as the Most Popular Couple of Dorsey High’s senior class.
“Gina’s in the back.” He held her a little longer, rubbed her shoulders up and down consolingly. He knew how hard the call had been for her to make.
Knew how difficult of a decision this was for Jade.
She entered the large home, dark, gleaming hardwood floors meeting her every step.
It even still smelled the same. Like cinnamon.
“Um, I suppose you weren’t going to tell me you chopped all your hair off then, heifer.”
Gina’s cozy, albeit rude voice, was like a special blanket she’d been missing. Her tan skin and thick, silky black hair, a favorite lost stuffed animal. Gina was her comfort, her innocence, her entire early life history in human form. She wrapped her arms around her best friend, her sister since age four.
“You know I go for shock value.” Jade’s hands reached up, smoothed her short tresses. Sometimes she forgot she’d changed her appearance so much over the years.
They embraced the way sisters embrace when they’ve both been missing each other more than the other would ever know; let unspoken apologies linger, rest between them, become understood.
They spent the day reminiscing about childhood, about the time before there ever existed a Joy, or a rehabbed Gina. Before the saying “when life gives you lemons” was even a shadow of a reality in their sunny lives.
Since their parents, her godparents, had died in a freak boating incident, Kevin and Gina had moved back to the big mustard-hued house, refused to sell their past to some newly married couple that wouldn’t appreciate its history, or know the importance of leaving the three antique light fixtures hanging above the modern bar in the kitchen.
They wouldn’t know that Gina’s mom bought them handmade from an local artisan in Mexico during a volunteer teaching stint in Guanajuato. Or that they were her favorite items in the whole house.
Jade lay on the high-backed leather bench in the dining room while Gina worked in the kitchen. They ate cangrejo con coco for dinner, the coconut flavored crab taking her up nine clouds and back. Their household had always strongly embraced their Dominican heritage. Gina’s cooking made you feel as though you’d escaped to the DR for a meal-long getaway. Jade wished she would go ahead and open up a restaurant already. The money her parents had left them was more than enough to do so.
Being an ER surgeon didn’t allow for much free time, though.
The sun had started her descent to clock out, let the moon start his shift. They had both lain on the plush area rug in the expansive living room, the heavy aroma of chicken-filled empanaditas permeating the air around them, before Gina addressed the reason for Jade’s visit.
“Are you sure about this?” She looked across at Jade’s belly, too big to just be full from a big meal, yet too small to be recognizably pregnant in something not particularly formfitting.
Wind sailed out of Jade’s mouth, deflated her. Around the room, several framed pictures of Gina’s handsome son Devon told the story of a happy, slightly mischievous seven-year-old.
Nigel’s face, his tears, his bleeding heart, flashed in front of her eyes, made a pang reach the depths of her.
“I have to.” She said, head falling towards the floor.
“Alright. Well Dr. Renata confirmed you for 10 a.m. tomorrow. Good?”
She felt light-headed, helium traveling up her chest, into her tear ducts.
“Fine.” She nodded her head.
She wasn’t fine at all, though. Not at all.
Not Ostrich. Giraffe.
Nigel couldn’t take his eyes off of the long neck below him, the head atop it pushed all the way back into the fluffy white pillow, eyes squeezed close, chin up, elongating her neck even further.
Her neck was like a giraffe’s. Why had he never noticed this before?
“Oh yes, right there Nigel. Yes!”
Her primal moans brought him back from large grasslands full of tall mammals with spotted coats.
He needed to focus. He picked up his rhythm, pulled two fair-skinned legs from either side and hoisted them on each shoulder, leaned in a little.
Toni’s neck extended more, writhed against the pillow, top teeth pinching the pink of her bottom lip without mercy.
He picked up his pace a little more, kept a nice long stroke, just how she liked it.
After a year of navigating Toni’s long curves, he knew every move, every angle, every combination that guaranteed the progression from oohs and ahhs, to her summoning the B.C. days in some ancient Gaelic tongue.
Toni’s bedroom sounds could earn her a Grammy for Best Porn Performance in a Duo or Group. He loved it. Loved knowing he could make her body rock so harmoniously.
He was almost there. He pushed deeper, unlocked a higher pitch from Toni’s vocal chords. Mossy strands of her naturally auburn hair clung to her neck, kissed her forehead.
She grabbed the pillow above her head, pushed against it again, chin up. Images of giraffes running on dry fields flooded his mind once more. He looked to his left, then to his right, five mile legs landing her feet on either side of his ears. Long.
Like a giraffe.
Damn. He lost it. He tried to fight through it, take her to her nirvana she was peeking at from below. Refocused again, pushed harder, speed increased to Indy 500 stats.
“Ohhhh my – ”
The pounding stole Toni’s stormy voice away; he watched the marvel that was a woman’s orgasm ripple through her body, wave after wave of her pulsating almost bringing him back to the tipping point. A few forced jerked movements after her quake subsided, and he collapsed beside her, a pile of heavily breathing rocks.
“You did that.” Her voice was back, deep, sultry and husky, per usual. Her chest caved in and out, face blissful, eyes staring wildly at the vaulted ceiling above them. Small tremors caused her body to move with after-shock every few moments.
His cheek turned up into a half-smile, his eyes on the ceiling too. The giraffes refused to stop their stampede behind his irises, his throbbing member reminding him that he still had a deposit to make.
Toni’s left arm fell brokenly to his chest, her high-noon skin starkly bright against his own midnight. Her hand snaked down beneath the soft white sheet covering her favorite playmate.
“Mmm. You’re still hard?”
“You know it takes a while. I’m good.” He said, the sensation from her rubbing stirring a fire once more. This wasn’t what he wanted, though. Finishing with her had never been a problem.
His piece had spoken its piece tonight.
He yawned, feigned exhaustion. The O’Jays played on a continuous loop in his inner ear. His body was here, but his mind was on the other side of town; lying next to Jade, entangled in her body like purposely knotted shoe strings in your favorite pair of sneakers. She was so compact, struggled to wrap her arms entirely around his body when they lay together.
Not giraffe-like at all.
“Get it up, I put it down errytime it pop up.” Toni’s voice was whispery, mimicking Amil and one of her favorite nasty lines from an old Jay-Z song. Her body was turned towards his now; a slow, sedated smile on her face. One elbow propping her up, the other under the sheets directing her hand motion on his growing manhood.
He used to love that about her, the ability to cite random hip-hop quotes for every occasion without thought. Loved the polished, corporate exterior, and soft, yet rebellious tomboy personality that radiated from within.
It used to make him smile.
It still did, sometimes. But sometimes just wasn’t enough anymore.
“Toni, I … don’t know how to say this.” He was shaking his head, chest heaving with the impact this breakup would have on his life. The deception had to stop though. Toni was beautiful. Smart. Supportive for the most part. A great lay. She needed someone who would love her the way he once did.
The way he now loved Jade.
A tide of fear washed over Toni’s face. Lust drained like a pulled stopper in a bath. “Then maybe you shouldn’t say it.”
“Toni, we both know that our relationship has been failing for a while.”
“If you weren’t so busy screwing your little cunt, maybe we could be working on us.” Toni’s casual words were snake venom, coursing through, constricting him unsuspectingly.
She turned to the nightstand, picked up the joint she’d been smoking before the oral pleasures that had started this whole episode. Pinched between forefinger and thumb, she pulled expertly, held, then released in small puffs that lingered above their heads in the light casting in from the hallway.
“What?” was all he could manage.
“You aren’t that naïve to think I didn’t know, are you? What do they teach in law school these days? Don’t you know anything about discovery, exclusionary rules, hearsay and shit?”
She’d never said anything. Not one peep, not one suspicious question. Nothing.
He wondered why. He hadn’t exactly been moving in stealth, but it unnerved him to know that she had chosen not to confront him until now.
Another cloud of smoke pushed through the air above them.
He sat up. “What is it you think you know?” His voice was even, unaffected.
“Oh, I don’t think anything. I know what I know.”
Toni was smart. She wouldn’t reveal her hand unless he fessed up first. And that wasn’t likely to happen. The testosterone wiring within him was programmed to auto-deny any and everything; to escape unscathed.
He was known for his honesty, not for his stupidity.
“Then why haven’t you said anything to me about what you think you know?”
“Again, what do they teach in law school? You don’t indict unless you feel you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
“Negative. You indict when you feel you have enough evidence to go to trial. And as OJ proved, trial does not mean conviction. And this tells me that what you think you know, is insufficient.”
She reached for the black lace thongs on the end of the bed. Slid them a mile high up to where they belonged. Took another puff of the diminished rolled paper creating a smoky Starry Night above the nightstand.
“Details are unimportant. I know you’ve got a little whore on the side. Everything else is moot. You’ve had your fun. Now you can stop.” She faced straight ahead, eyes never connecting with his.
“You don’t know anything. Our relationship has nothing to do with outside entities, Toni. I’m speaking on you and me.”
“You didn’t seem to have a problem with my father being an outside entity, now did you?” She slid an acerbic eye his way. “Get rid of your little slut, Nigel.”
Nigel rose from the decadent bed, calmly put his striped boxers, then his shirt on. Toni had used the looming cloud that was her father as an manipulation tool one too many times.
“And bring me a latte back. This port is going to require an all-nighter.” She had already switched gears, the CPA in her focused on a presentation for a potential client in the morning.
He paused, glacier eyes stared at her. “Get your own. Not coming back.”
At this he saw panic flood her face once more, the cloak of assuredness peeling off like old paint. “What do you mean? Nigel, we have a life to plan. To live. Are you really going to leave me for some no-class skank?”
Nigel stepped into his shoes, paused again. “No. I’m leaving you for my peace of mind.”
Her face dropped, anger mounted. He watched her gallop her long legs over to him and block the doorway.
As if he couldn’t move her.
“You can’t just walk out on me, Nigel. Remember who owns you before you do something stupid.”
“And you remember I’m a man, before I do something stupid.” The ice in his eyes froze her with fear, matched only by the fire of his rage. “Now, move.”
The moment her body moved an inch, he barged through stormily, almost knocking her over on the way out.