"Sandcastle Soldier" ©Elle Moon/ AD Press
Chapter One: Building the Castle
“He has the kind of eyes that make you want, forever. He has the kind of heart that resists that want, no matter what the cost he must pay. And he has the kind of hands that- well, you know that part,” my voice was smeared in delight. “The first time we spoke…I was hooked.”
“From-” he cleared his throat, “…just speaking?”
I inhaled the moment, I exhaled the memory. Life can make us such a fool. I had known that for much too long. I glanced at the young journalist, my eyes cast in a new want.
“I would have endured hell’s fire to hear him say my name. Just…my…name.” I gazed over the blackened lake.
“Your eyes are the color of thin algae,” he said quietly.
I nodded and smiled. “Is that a compliment, Darren?”
He shuffled his feet nervously, “Why are you telling me all of this, why now?” he asked. His mind was lit from my words and his too much knowing.
“Because once I leave, you’ll get my position and working for the paper takes a whole hell of a lot of courage.” I cringed at the thought. “No smarts needed though, I’m afraid,” I winked at his thick fold of educational accomplishments.
“Why did they, uh…?” he scratched the back of his stubbly hair.
“Fire me?” I narrowed my eyes.
“Because,” I lifted my soft shoulders high, “maybe they had to.”
He stumbled around with my answer, the journalist in him would make him want more of the story no matter what it was, and for a few dreadful seconds he cleared his throat again and stated four words. Four words that I appalled.
I closed my eyes and sighed. How I hated hearing that. How I hated being reminded of such defeat. I raised my thick lashes up and forced a smile.
“I guess I did.”
“Then why would any paper, ever let you go?” His freckled cheeks gleamed in the last breaths of a ruby sun.
“Because that is what I deserved and that’s that.” I draped my bare elbows over the dock’s railing. The wood was warm and scarred and dry…just like my heart sometimes felt- just how my heart once was.
“They’ll regret it.” Darren Landolph and all his Irish charm stared off into the water just as I did.
“D’, they already do.” I held myself tight. “But isn’t the whole world full of regret?”
“He did that, didn’t he?” Darren avoided my sudden silence. “That soldier…he called you by the first letter of your name. He called you- B’.” The man beside me seemed off put by that knowledge, as if he was peeking through the key hole of a door that no one was allowed to look through.
I smiled wide, though the sorrow I felt inside my throat was near choking. “He did.”
“I studied psychology for a while- Harvard. I was never very good at it though. I never wanted the details of how a story works…I never cared about that.” His long Irish drawl clung to the edges of his speech. “I found, all I truly wanted was the story itself.” Darren was desperate to know. The smell of that desire poured from him.
“And you want my story?” I tilted my head down and held my chin still. “You want to know what, exactly?”
His cheeks warmed, he was young- he was eager…but mostly he was brilliant, and a damned good reporter was his thing. Common sense and head smarts might never be found in his affairs, but by damned determination, he’d make you think he knew everything just in his words.
How damned jealous I was of that.
“You’re...her, right?” he seemed to glow when he spoke this. “You’re-,” he shifted his eyes around us, before speaking, “the highest paid-!” he stopped there as he struggled. “Ah HELL! You are the most talked about author of this decade! Maybe even the next if you want my opinion. You’re a phenomenon, but you remain a riddle...unanswered. Everyone! The man selling those franks right there, even he wants your story.”
I pushed back from the railing and pulled the thin, mint sweater tighter around my waist. The wind was picking up, not uncommon for this part of the country.
“Is that what you think?” I held tight under my full breasts.
He nodded haplessly in thought.
“You think wrong," I hummed. “You know, I never truly liked it here. You can write that.”
“Chicago? It’s not that bad is it?” he pulled his small framed glasses from his straight nose. “You going back home?”
“Always working a lead,” I chuckled and then sighed. “And yes, I am.”
“Your Kentucky accent will come straight back you know.”
“It never left,” I widened my eyes and shook my head. “The things we grow within ourselves as children never do,” I glanced at the sparkling water. “You can write that down too, if you want.”
He gasped just enough that I caught it, his face a wonderment of delight and nerves. “Brooke…can I quote you, really?” he lowered his briefcase and worn folders to the deck boards, just from his feet.
I noted how my name was scribbled several times to the top with a question mark after each one.
“You wonder, if I’m really that woman?” My thick lashes lowered in disbelief.
“Yes.” He answered curtly.
“Enlighten me Darren?”
“Well, your words sound an awful lot like hers, as you would say. Though the largest selling story line of the last three years have words that you would never use,” he pulled the air through his flaring nostrils. “You are a no mess, clear lined journalist. And you’re something, more. I’ve got my theories.”
“Ask me,” I challenged.
He removed his suit jacket and sighed. “You’re better at this than me. I get it. I have a lot to learn.” His auburn hair and white splotched skin seemed in deep contrast to the moment. He wanted to know more. Hell, he wanted to know everything!
“Tell me, Darren…have you ever been in love?” I smoothed the long length of my hair into a twist down the softness of my neck. His eyes took in every curve after.
“I,” he cleared his throat, “I have.”
“And did you love her enough...to give your life for her?” I slid my toe towards the thick pile of papers.
He watched my movement, his nerves tight and his eyes scrutinizing. “No.” He said honest.
“And if I was to tell you, that you don't know love then, what would you say to me?” I flipped the tiny point of my flats upward, exposing the paper with my name all over it.
He jumped, bending and scrambling to cover it back up. “I would imagine you to be right. I’m only twenty-five. Perhaps I know nothing of love.”
“Do you know how to fuck?” I asked outright. He went stone still. His breathing was harsher though and his muscles were finely tensed.
“I have, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I shook my head painfully slow, “I was always good at fucking...but that’s not love.”
He stood erectly, his face a thousand chagrined hues. “Can I quote that?”
“You quote whatever you need to.” I turned to walk away. “Life’s short and it’s hard. Sometimes, we can escape the bad…but we never escape the hardness of it. Two things, Darren. Two." I looked back at him stalling. "One, never leave your hook out. If you want a story, don’t let the subject know that you do.” I eyed the papers in his hand.
“And two?” he asked flustered, shoving those metal frames back high again on his nose.
“Learn how to fuck. And fuck well. In this life, you’re either the one giving it or the one taking it. Best learn to give it. Giving it feels a hell of a lot better.”
“And which did you do?” he asked me boldly.
Ah, the reporter in him. The devil of a journalist that never knows when to stop. I spun slowly on my heels to face him.
“Is that the question that you really want to ask right now?” I studied him.
His eyes shot down to the written paper and then flashed back to mine. “No.”
“Then ask,” I taunted. “Ask what you really want to ask. Don’t just know the story Darren, know what makes the story.”
“Fine. Which one did you give it to…and which one did you take it from?” his dark eyes were rushed in want. “Did you give it to that soldier…or did you take it from that husband?”
My mind hazed, went blank in memory then back to now again. My heart teetered as I fought the emotion.
Darren the smart ass Irishmen he was, all young and buck like, held his breath as he waited. On purpose, I drew my full lips into a pout just before licking them slowly. The air leaked out of him in a quiet rush.
“Sometimes life is rare…” I started as he took out the tiny recorder and pushed the red button. I never hesitated. “Sometimes…you find someone that fits you perfectly. Even if you thought someone else already did…”
“Your husband?” his expression angled to a covered impatience.
“The best stories always include that, don’t they?” I arched my bark colored brow beautifully.
“Which did you do, Brooke? Give or take?”
“The rarest love neither takes nor gives, but somehow does both.”
“And what did you give?” his eyes traced my face.
“I gave my heart.”
“And what did you take?”
I waltzed back towards him, closely. “I took his.”
The air shifted around us, like a moaning whore of a woman. Just like my own moans. I lifted my head up and smiled at heaven as I moved closer to my colleague.
“What did you get?” Darren stammered his words in his own moan of a want.
“I got forever.”
“From the soldier or the husband?” He was quick and witted. A dangerous and dumb combination.
I leaned into him, catching him just slight by the bare skin of my wrists against his shirt. The rustle was soft and thin. His eyes caught mine in a surprised gesture of need. Men.
“Never leave your hook out? Never, ever…lead the reveal. In journalism, that’s the most coveted rule.” I licked my lips and popped them together in a snap. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“Wait!” he hailed after me shoveling his feet in a haste of furious movement. “I need to know,” he at last admitted.
I stopped shy of the piers edge.
“I have to know.” The high points of his freckles hued in flushed color.
“Was it,” he ran a freckled hand through his freckled colored hair, “worth the take?”
I held my breath. I held my heart. My eyes trailed up towards that Illinois sky and I waited him out. “Love, Darren...love always is…”
“But which one? How did it start? Which one B’,” his eyes were dark with curious wonder.
“Uh-uh, never leave your hook out. Never tell the end before it’s done,” I shrugged my shaking shoulders and I laughed. “Some endings never come anyway.” I spun on the tips of my toes and bowed. “Some,” I continued as I straightened, “are forever.”
“What did he do to you, Brooke? What could he possibly have shown you that could change you so much?” Darren, who would never know, but come so close to having that Pulitzer in his own hands, continued to hang on for his bestseller as he stacked his papers and put away his recorder. When the red light dimmed, I answered.
“How long have we worked side by side?” I asked.
The reporter lifted his face to mine in a show of shock as I arched my brow.
“Thirty six months? It all becomes the same. Even a woman with my smarts. The days pass, and the time fades, and all you ever really have, is heart.” I stated flatly. "I learned how to build sandcastles.” I smiled in dream like awe. “And…he- he taught me that.”
“Sandcastles?” Darren was taking the bait. “Like, on the beach- sandcastles?”
“There were no beaches.” I held firm.
He turned his squared chin towards his collar bone and set his jaw. “What kind of sandcastles?”
“The ones we build from the dust in our bones.” My words were haunted. “The ones we build from the dirt in our souls, and the crumbs of our flesh,” I shivered as I remembered. “Just before the sin eats us away so clean.”
“I don’t believe in sin,” Darren looked awkward and young in that moment. I watched him, like watching someone who has yet to learn so much.
“You don’t believe in sin?” My words made his sound incredibly foolish.
He flustered his hands upward, notes held tight. “No. I believe in wrong and right…in morals. Just, no judgment on such actions.”
“We are all judged…here, after. Hell…maybe even before.” I helped him open his briefcase.
“You’re not leaving yet?” he knelt a bit to look into my eyes.
“You seem surprised, Journalist?”
He pushed his case closed. “No, nothing about you Brooke surprises me. I want your story.” He folded the last of the papers- his notes, in his steady hands.
“It’s yet to be finished.”
“Then I want what you already have down.” He held out his hand in an affirmation of our unspoken deal.
I flicked my finger tips to his and that was all. He stared down at our touching hands. His were steady no more. Just like that. Just in the instant of a touch, Darren was losing his hook because he was swallowing it whole.
“No shake,” he shrugged.
“Don’t need one.”
“Gimme’ your story, Brooke,” Darren and all his sweet- young innocence, held onto my fingers.
I closed my eyes, for just the second of a second…how I knew the feel of a man’s fingertips. How they search out the deepest parts of a woman. How the soldier had touched me, just under my womb all the way to my heart. And how my husband had touched me…a touch I knew I could never leave fully.
How, no touch is ever the same.
I cleared my throat, pulling myself from the memory. My body was hot, melting. Oh how I yearned to feel that touch again.
I chanced a quick look towards the horizon. “What do you want to know?” I hummed the words, the soft wetness on my lips showing how I was melted. His eyes watched me now. I smiled like the devil under the hem line of a sinner’s skirt, right in the middle of a Sunday school session. Lust…the best sin of all.
“I want to know, how they both wanted you…I want to know how you wanted them. And I want to know, the secret,” he straightened his tie just before immediately loosening it.
“The secret?” I was keen and cut. He was flustered and loose.
“Who you really are,” he said it as quiet as a whisper. He spoke in tremors of fear and maybe of want. “You are,” he cleared his throat gruffly, “quite a mystery Brooke.”
I licked the pout of my mouth as I took his hand in mine. His eyes flickered in the light towards our clasped fingers.
“Am I?” I pulled him from the wooden railing away from the restaurant. “Come,” I instructed and he did as he was told.
“You are captivating,” he breathed outward as he walked with me. “I see why now,” he inhaled the air around us.
“Your eyes aren’t even open, Darren.” I chided him as we made our way towards the picnic table.
“Then open them for me,” he moaned as I sat him down and took the rest of his neat papers from his hand. I lifted them up, cautiously between us. His knees brushed against the back of my legs as I turned around to face the water. With calculating thought, I ripped them down the middle. The sound was like the soft tearing of clothes. How I missed that sound…how I yearned to visit that memory.
“Wait!” he said without much fluster as I lifted my arms high above our heads and let the papers rain down on us and into the water. “That was a year’s work!” he sighed.
“You want the story?” I spun to him.
“Then you have to let go of what you think you know and open your eyes to what you don’t want to see.” I nodded my head that he understand as I spread his knee caps as far to the left and right as I could without hurting him, too much…
“WH-What are you doing?” his stuttering words showed how melted he’d become.
I leaned into him, my long fingers resting in the middle of his young, strong chest. “You ready?” I taunted him.
“F-F-For what?” he was excited. Pushed. Wanting.
“My story,” I was near his mouth now. So close. I traced his lips, the way they curved and tipped downward on the edges. This man, this boy, was completely willing to go wherever I needed him to.
“Shh,” Slowly, I spoke into his mouth without ever touching it. “This is how all great stories start, isn’t it?” My words were hot against his panting breath.
He never moved, never held still either. I smiled curtly.
“H-How, how is that,” he said heatedly.
“With a thought…a want…”
I pulled close enough that static air silently popped between our breathing.
“All the greatest stories, start with-” I paused as I listened to his breathing stop. He was frozen from the way we were suddenly eating up the time. I moved my eyes over his face, as if I were seeing him finally, as if we hadn’t shared a cubicle at the office all these long months before. I was searching him out, exploring all that made these seconds on fire. Eating up the time… And like most things in life, I had learned if you were going to eat something you better be prepared to swallow it. Even before you've tasted it. I, Brooke Taylor, knew how to swallow perfectly.
“You want…my story?” I teased as I licked the corner of my mouth with just the tip of my hungry tongue.
“Oh hell Brooke, I think you can see I want more than just that now.” His eyes moved down my tight breasts tucked high in my pink cotton tank, and then into his swollen lap.
My regard bubbled as I moved even yet closer. The journalist, Darren, at last found his nerve. He pulled upward, just enough that our lips near touched.
I swallowed the moment whole by not reciprocating. I held my mouth just to his as he waited. Pulled back from him just enough to not make the connection, and in the silent seconds that passed, he settled back against the edge of the wooden table. His breath held, his eyes wide.
“I want you,” he surmised. “As they did I’m sure. As every man within five damned feet of you probably has.” He rolled his eyes back and exhaled long. “I…want…you.”
“Keep your eye on the hook Darren,” I said deeply. “And open it wide.”
He shook his head, his eyes now tight on my breasts.
“The hook.” I reminded him softly.
“Fine! What does,” he ran his hand over his lap and pushed the bulging zipper down, “what does every good story start with?”
I leaned over him, just to the bend of his jaw before I held my mouth there. He growled under his breath in a whimpering fashion.
“Holy mother of hell, Brooke,” he bit. “WHAT DOES EVERY GREAT STORY START WITH?” he nearly broke his teeth to stay in control.
I lifted my face to his, just before pulling completely away and standing between his opened legs.
“Now you get it,” I stayed right there. His eyes relished over every curve of me. “Now you will see.”
“Dammit,” he was gruff and sore at me. “Tell me, please.” He raised up to hide his full display of want.
“Every good story…and only the greatest ones, start with one simple thing.”
“Desire?” he was full on board now. The moment was swallowed down.
I smiled sheepishly.
“Want?” He was shrugging his broad shoulders. “Sex?”
I shook my head as I twisted my dark hair into a braid. Still between his opened legs, I waited.
“Uh-uh.” I giggled and the sound was like a soft folded paper being opened. He was losing sight again as he watched me finish the braid. “Try again?”
“All I can damn concentrate on is the way you smell. How each time you-!”
“The hook, D’.” I tilted my head down. “Tell me.”
His expression hazed then went clear. I watched as he worked the answer in his head. How blatant it was. How everything about me had caused him to miss it. How the want of it, made him miss the obviousness of my manners.
“I know,” he sighed. “This… is how your story starts?”
“Of course,” I was delighted.
He lolled his head back and stared up at an endless sky. “With a-?” he didn’t say it. At last, at the final moments as the thickest parts of him thinned out…he baited my hook just as he awaited my answer.
I nodded before turning and sitting down beside him. He moved back from me before pulling closer again. Together we faced the sun and its warm rays. The way the orange and pinks lit the water was breath taking. Though Darren had barely gotten the chance to catch his breathing back to steady, I answered him anyway. I answered him fully, I loosed my line and I let him sink.
“All great stories,” I breathed outward. “Start…”
“With a kiss,” he interrupted quiet.
I leaned my head on his broad shoulder softly, and started into my story as I answered true. “No...with murder.”
Chapter 2: The Sand’s Sin
“Brooke!” I heard him bark my name from his office even before the door flew wide open and crashed against Herman, the Bugle’s only janitor.
Old Herman never flinched. He kept on mopping. I watched the thick threaded head at the end of its yellow stick as it slowly sloshed up the spill from the morning’s press.
“He’s going to yell at you,” Darren, the newbie, winked at me from his leaned back chair. He was Irish. He was tall. And he was the kind of charming handsome that sneaked up on you all at once. I rolled my eyes as he pushed me up from my own leaned back chair.
“Mr. Neal, right here?” I lifted my first three fingers and waved to him as I walked. The clicking of my heels tapped the old tile floor in clicks of slow movement. How I was dreading this.
“Mrs. Taylor,” Mathius Neal was the oldest shit in all of Chicago. He was a short and burly man, with black eyes and a sharp tongue. He was tough as nails and as hard headed as a rhino chasing a fly. He’d never catch that fly…but damn if he wouldn't kill everything in his way trying to do it.
“Mat,” I held my eyes steady. “I had the story, it was only a minute late.”
“Which caused the inker’ to spill an entire tray of black gold all over the floor. Just look at that mess,” he held his pudgy hands up. “Take a good look at it.”
I set my lips and glanced to the floor. The black ink was sloshed in mirrored pools of wet, as quiet old Herman continued to paint the tile in lines of washed blue.
“It turns a blue tint when it’s diluted,” Mat nodded as he took in the spectacle. “It may never come off.”
I straightened my skirt and agreed as the mop head splashed in the inked suds of the water. My belly was tight, for the oddest reasons, as he worked his over-sized lips to speak what was on his mind next. The silver curls in his short hair seemed to be lit by the dusty over-sized lights. I wanted to squint with no real reason as to why.
“Did you hear me?” he stammered on as I pulled my regard back to his fast moving mouth.
“Yes,” I shook my head. “I mean, no. Can you repeat that again?” I held fast, my belly growing in sick tightness.
“I said you’re going home Brooke, Kentucky. Just for a few short months.” His eyes were beaded with caution.
I gasped, the fullness of my bottom lip sagging just after in shock. “NO!”
“This isn’t open for discussion. You go, or you’re fired.” His black gaze gleaned in that putrid light.
I felt hot sick.
“If this is because of the ink, I will gladly have Jaxon pay-!”
“I don’t want your husband’s money. And I didn’t think you did either.” He cut me a keen warning.
“Then I will make sure every story is on time, fifteen minutes early! Plus I can clean the bathroom for a straight-!”
“No. No discussion. The story I want you to work, oh hell’s freeze, you were picked to work, has a few details that can’t be overturned. You’re going down there, back there…and only you.” He shifted his regard to Darren listening like a hound dog from his chair. “The house you own, it’s still there right?” He was fidgeting with his oversized phone.
I was darting back and forth with my words. Nothing was coming out or being said. I worked out the next strategy and then rejected it before I could speak it. Instead, I stood quietly thinking as I observed his state. I saw how the slacks he wore seemed to be looser today, as if he’d dropped a few pounds from before lunch. He was stressed. I could tell by how wrinkled his blue tie seemed to be and he wasn’t wearing his suit jacket which was a red flag flailing high. I bit my lip as he continued to drone on.
“No side-kick, no chief, not even a recorder. He wants to have you one on one. Only you. I didn’t want to agree, but this is the kind of story…” His voice droned on as I continued to note each mannerism, each huff, each sigh.
The diamond cuffs he usually wore were off and he actually had a pen in his front pocket sleeve. All of this made him seem more human, more like an average man. Problem was, Mat was never like a normal man and he did not ever look messy or unkempt. He despised shedding light on any inclination that he wasn’t a perfect Editor-in-chief. Something was wrong. I was doomed.
“I won’t go.” I wrapped my arms tight over my breasts and stomped my foot.
He angled his face to observe my stance before smiling a wide and veneered smile. “You’re fired.” He twisted to walk away as my body froze.
“NO! You can’t, fire me Mr. Neal! I…you- Mat! You know that I cannot-!”
“Do you see my shirt?” he held the untucked hem half up. “There is no discussion. None.”
“FINE!” I delicately walked to stand in front of his door. “Fine. I will go.”
“That’s my little lass,” he softly held under my chin, his strong hand harsh. “And by the way. It’s the soldier. He’s back.”
The entire news room hushed. The clicking keys of thirty computers ceased, the sloshing glop of the mop head stilled, and Darren’s chair shot straight forward as all eyes landed on my white face.
“You. Can’t. Be. Serious.” I whispered each word. “You know I can’t-!”
“He’s still in Afghanistan now. He is expecting a call, from you, by morning. No discussion.” He slipped by my shocked body like oil over a stuck gear. “Back to work!” he barked. “News happens but it doesn’t write itself!”
And that was that. His door slammed back shut, the blinds fell closed to hide him away, and the news room started back up in a rip roar of excitement. Darren walked to me slowly, as if even his movement would make me bolt.
“How old are you Brooke?” Darren asked in his forced faded, Irish accent.
“Too old for this,” I spoke slowly.
“How old?” He took my elbow gently and walked me back to my little cubby. “Sit.”
I heard him repeat me, but didn’t care why. I was annoyed at him now. I was angry at the Chief. He had no right to make me go back to my hometown! I didn’t give a hairy hell what he thought we owned back there. Kentucky wasn’t our home anymore. We’d been gone for almost three years! He couldn’t expect-!
“You can do this,” Darren was in front of me. His sweet and young charming self full of false hope.
“Darren, I can’t go back there! His family! His grandmother!” I hissed the words.
“He stayed married to you,” he said still hopeful. “Jaxon stayed married to you.”
“I’ll just quit,” I stood from my chair and watched it spin back in a whirl of torment- just like my heart felt. I held my hand to my neck and thought absurdly of what I must do.
“You can’t quit,” Darren directed me from the path of the other journalists and moved to the wide front doors.
“I can’t go.”
“You can. You’ve been here for nearly three years…I’ve been here, sixteen weeks. You can do this.”
He opened the doors and we stepped out into the bright Chicago sun. I lifted my hand over my dark brows and closed my eyes as he guided me down the stairs and hailed a cab.
“Listen to me, this is the chance of a lifetime. With all that is going on. ISIS, the beheadings, the end of a war that has yet to end. You can’t pass this up.” Darren held my shoulders in his shaking hands.
“You’re shaking.” I was in a dream.
“And look at you. You’re not!” he pushed me forward, his warm hands sticking to the slick cotton of my white dress shirt. I felt…doomed.
“Jaxon will never go for it.”
“Jaxon has been itching to go home for the last twelve months. Go,” he opened the cab’s door.
I paused as I looked at him. “I can’t.”
He tucked my head down and folded me into the seat. “You just did. Take her to Third and Elk. GO!” he urged me as he knelt down to look into my eyes.
“How old are you Darren?” I was blinking rapidly against the tears that wanted to come.
“Young enough to still not care. Now go.”
“But I have a daughter. I have a life here! What if I don’t return?” I at last looked into my friend’s dark eyes.
“Then you will have found another life. Another fate.”
“My purse is in there,” I pointed. “My things and my-!”
The white leather bag fell into my lap. “I picked it up when you threatened to go quit.”
“I will owe you won’t I?” I pulled my lips thin and held my hand out to his outstretched one before I pulled it to my cheek.
“Yes. And I will collect. I’m still young enough that time isn’t important…I have all the time in the world.” He straightened his opal colored tie that hung loosely over his sky blue shirt.
“Blue is your color.”
“And fame is yours. Now go…” And with that he shut the door.
I raised up to watch him grow smaller as the taxi cab pulled away in a soft purr of screeching wheels. Had he not pushed me out of that door, I would have quit. Had I quit, I would have regretted it the rest of my life, and had I regretted it…
Then that would be one more regret in a notebook of with the pages filled!
I leaned against the stale smelling leather of the back seat. Worn masking tape held the old seams together in a peeled sight of hairy lines. I looked at the tape in wonderment and disgust as the cab picked up speed and started the two mile, thirty-five minute drive. The migraine had already started too, just behind my eyes in wrapping tendrils of pain, then around each side of my face. After another minute in the cab, I dry heaved.
“Ms’ you don’t look so well. No throw-up in my cab. You need me pull over?” His thick accent was disconcerting.
I lifted my hand and waved at him to keep going.
“You are so white!” he was startled by my expression. “Something happen to you bad?”
“No,” I told the truth. “But it’s not over yet.” A sick finger of knowing poked at my gut. Instinct was the best defense a human had.
“You not happy either. You frown.”
“I frown.” I confessed. “I have to leave my home.”
“Home?” he scrunched his nose in an offensive manner. “Listen to my speak, and tell me about the missing of home. I have learned, for many years now, home is something you take with you, not a destination you fucking go to. Some of the time, home is your heart and your heart travels always.”
I sat and listened to him, all his foolish knowledge that was indeed wise too. I thought of the years I had spent here but more so the years I had left behind. After a spell, I closed my eyes and silenced my thoughts. And after the next stretch of time, just before the jabbering cabbie’ pulled up to mine and Jaxon’s driveway, I opened the door and spewed everywhere. Tuna on rye. The taste was no better the second time around. I handed him the cash. He paused in his window and smiled a pretty smile at me. His deep hued lips seemed to stretch forever.
“Home is never easy to leave. Until you learn to make it wherever you go.” He took the wadded bills. “Change?”
“You keep it, for the advice,” I nodded.
“This is a hundred dollar bill?”
“You need more?” I smiled.
“An American man always want more, though he not need it. It is our custom to never take what isn’t needed. It is our way.”
“How long you been in America?”
“Fifteen years plus two.”
“Seventeen years?” I leaned down a bit to face his wide brown eyes. “I’ve learned this, about men and America and home. If you keep your feet on any land long enough, you learn a new way. And a man is a man no matter what kind of man- they always want more. It’s the woman you have to watch out for, cause’ a woman needs. And some needs never get filled.”
“You’re not from here either,” his eyes twinkled. “I hope you find home.”
“Me too,” I backed away and shut the back door on that part of my life, forever. When the mostly wise driver pulled away, I waved sheepishly to him. Then, I clicked my heels up the driveway in a fast paced and deafening manner. The sound of my heart was a pulsing fire that crackled instead of beat. My mind was a vast and empty vacuum! No matter how much I tried to rationalize what had just occurred, I could not. I was headed back home. I was headed back to nowhere Kentucky…where the worst people in the world harbored their black and ugly hearts. Jaxon’s family was the kind of kin that held you down and pressed you under with all their watching eyes and money filled hands. His mother had passed, years ago. His father was rich, remarried and moved away somewhere in the Isle of Lundy. Power wasn’t a word to describe them. Unstoppable. Hungry. Fathomless. The Taylors’ would have their prodigy son back, and with him came his country-hick wife and the little girl, that no matter how hard she tried, would never be enough.
I stopped, right there on the cobbled drive, my stomach a mess of churning sick. I took a deep breath and I exhaled sourly through my nose. With blurry eyes and trembling hands, I placed my numb fingers on the door handle and just as I was about to push myself in for the last time…
My husband swung the door opened for me, his dark hair and warm eyes wide with surprise and happiness.
“Brooke?” he seemed puzzled.
I lifted my hand for him to wait as I bolted to the side of the expansive cement and hurled three more times on the manicured boxwoods. The railing dug just under my ribcage as over and over I heaved up the stress of my day. When I felt Jax’s warm hand on the back of my neck, I closed my eyes.
“Brooke? Are you okay?” his soft tone was settling.
“No,” I mouthed to him. My hair in a mess down the sides of my neck. I was sweating. I was sick.
“A stomach bug?” he helped me up, “let me get you in the house. No reason to kill the shrubs.” He was strong as he guided me to walk towards the opened door.
I stopped him, afraid I was going to vomit more. He stood patiently, jesting me with an eye roll and a grunt. I let him hold my back and my stomach at the same time and hoped the ill feeling would pass.
“I’m-I’m not sick,” I coughed. “He is…” I tried so hard to be strong, “…he is sending me back.”
Jax’s touch hardened. “Back?”
“Mat, he’s sending me on a story. Back… to Kentucky. To home.” I held my stomach tight as he sat me down in the teak rocker.
As he kneeled in front of me, I at last met his eyes. His long, brown bangs were brushed back loosely and he wore a pair of faded blue jeans with a fitted, gray t-shirt. His watch was on and the gold band he never removed. His eyes were frightening as the dread came over them at my words. I turned my blotched face from his, the confession too much.
“Then quit. We have plenty. No reason for us to return, if you don’t want to, we won’t.” He was nodding that I understand but I could see the glint of hope in his eyes. He loved Kentucky. He loved home.
Idly I started to chew on my first two fingernails. He discouraged the action by pushing my hand down.
“It’s okay. I promise. Whatever you wish, whatever you want…it’s yours. Just quit. We can quit together.” His hand was on my shoulder, gripping my bones in impatient fervor. He wanted to know what I was going to do, now.
“I wanted to quit!” I said to him. “But it’s my first job. My first job ever! Three years I’ve worked there. Three years of writing, and staying up late, and interviewing pointless cooks and cops and doctors. Three years and he finally gives me something that-!”
“What’s the story?” he interrupted, his face changing with each confession.
I lowered my eyes timidly. I felt so weak. The vacuum seemed to stretch forever in my mind over an endless desert. If I closed my eyes I would see the grains of sand move like something alive over top of the dunes. Ripple after ripple…the emptiness was all there was. I couldn’t go back.
I couldn’t stay now either.
I cussed, a string of uncomprehending words that made no sense or rhyme. Jaxon laughed under his breath, just a chuckle of a sound, as I raised my pale green eyes to him in shock.
“It’s not funny!” I exclaimed. “This is my life! Our life! Your family is…they are-!” I was shaking my head as I pushed him out of the way and stood, "They hate me.”
“That’s not true, Gram loves you.”
“You mean Mother?” I arched one brow. “She demands Jaxon, that you call her mother.”
“That doesn’t matter. She doesn’t hate you.” He was standing behind me.
I smoothed my hair, wiped the bitter acid off of my mouth and walked away. I stepped into the foyer of our tiny Chicago home. More like a flat, with its own perfect parking and perfect lane. The way the Taylors’ lived was like no one else. Owners of one of the largest mining companies in the eastern part of the country had fattened their pockets and their extravagant lifestyles for many generations. They were the elite. They were the rich. Nothing was held back on their children.
I took it all in. I moved my spinning head from one end of the room to the other. The memories here were sweet, no bitter. We’d moved three winters ago and though we’d looked over our shoulders the entire time, we’d found our piece of heaven. Except the pull for Jaxon to return, the constant letters and emails and phone calls…he’d ignored them all, for me. He’d shut the door behind us and I had thought I would never have to open it back up.
The roses he’d bought me bowed their heads like sad witnesses to how my heart felt. On the marble counter they were perched and looking very heavy. Everything oozed stress.
Jaxon clicked the door shut and I waited as the alarm beeped once. I held my stomach again, the shock was wearing thin and all that was left was the real of it. In my heart I knew, I’d never return to this little perfect place. In my soul and in my bones, I knew…our world was about to change. Tiredly I let out a long sigh.
"I'm going to take the stress away," Jaxon’s warm fingers slipped under the hem of my skirt as he lifted it high up my hosed thighs. The movement was shocking and electric at the same time.
Forcefully, he pulled my backside to him as he pushed his groin tight against me. Through the denim jeans and the hem of the tweed skirt, I could feel what he had for me. I bit my lip and fitted myself tighter against him.
“Let me shower you,” he whispered in my ear. “Kenley has our Ada’ out for a late lunch then a late play date. Come, let me take it all away for you.” His smooth hand pulled downward on the waist of my black hose. I felt him peel them down over my panties, pulling them just under my hips before he stopped.
My breath was picking up. Jaxon was listening to the pitch of my breathing.
“You feel amazing,” he whispered. “You want me to stop?”
I shook my head.
“You have been a good girl, right?” his breath was warm against my ear.
“Yes,” I whispered as I unzipped my skirt on the side.
He moved me just enough forward that it slid down my hips to the wooden floor.
“You know, I love you Brooke. We will be fine. I’ve missed home.”
I trembled lightly.
His hand pressed on the lowest part of my abdomen as he gently guided me. “I want you… now.”
“I should,” I gulped, “I should at least rinse my mouth,” I pulled to move forward stepping completely out of the crumpled skirt on the floor.
He grasped both my elbows. “I don’t need your mouth,” he pulled me back. His hands started to roll my hose and panties down the full roundness of my bottom.
No movement now, he was eating me with his eyes. My backside was fully uncovered as I turned my profile to see his face. His eyes were roaming as his hands traced each curve, each edge of me. My breath stuck when his fingers at last stopped just between my thighs. He held them there, just tipping them deeper...teasing. My spine folded in for more.
"Say it," he bit the bottom of my ear as his hand moved to twine my hair in his fist. Gently, he pulled my head back. Just as his other hand plunged deeply between my thighs, pulling apart the bare folds of my skin there, opening me up completely and fast.
“Ahhhhh, you’re ready,” he moaned as he slid his fingers slowly inside me, feeling my wetness. “Who needs your mouth?” He ripped my panties completely off my thighs in one simple tear and I gasped. The pull of my legs was a blistering pain, but I couldn’t feel anything anyway. The way he was working his that hand had left me mindless.
In a thought within a thought, I listened as the zipper of his jeans were undone. In the thought within a thought, I felt myself climbing higher and higher to near climaxing, as his fingertips rolled small circles around my clit.
“Jaxon…” I moaned out as his fingers again opened me wide.
“Bend over,” he urged as his other strong hand pushed me down.
I bent in a slow descent until my fingers tipped the floor. With my eyes closed and his hand working between my legs so sweetly, I let go of everything that had happened up until this moment. The deeper he pushed, the more I became lost. The more I became lost, the more I wanted him. Until at last I felt my breathing turn into a harsh pant and my legs weaken.
“Please, Jaxon,” I begged and he stopped immediately. From behind me, I could feel his smile.
I bit my tongue as I straightened part way up. “Please…make love to me.”
“Show me,” he moved his hands from my naked body. “Show me what you want, Brooke.”
Shaking I reached around to the back of my thighs, pulling my hands up to just under the wettest part of my body, and I pulled myself wide apart.
“Here. I want you, here. I want you now.” I sounded like a kitten starving for milk. He licked his lips, his handsome face stoned with want.
The feel of air as he clutched both sides of my hips, was a wakening that made my flesh hive. The moments after, the seconds that ticked just before I felt the full hardness of him slowly slide into me, was a delicate motion that seemed to eat the time up in maddening desire. I made a low, guttural sound and the rest of the time passed with nothing but the pant of our breathing and the slapping of our bodies.
We made love, in the middle of the foyer until a light sweat moistened my lower back. When he was finished, he pulled away from me and went to shower. A light peck on my temple was the only touch we had after. I didn’t follow him to the shower like normal. I rinsed in Ada’s tiny, purple dinosaur bathroom, in a quiet manner of nerves and worry.
After I was done, I found the Nanny and Jaxon talking casually in the foyer we’d just screwed standing up in. My cheeks never flushed as I walked to her and took my squealing Ada from her arms.
“Thank you, Kenley. I see she had a wonderful day.”
“Why are you home so early?” The young girl didn’t smile while she asked. Her curious face instantly noted something was up.
“We’re taking a trip!” I shrugged to Ada who was jabbering to me about her play date in the park.
“We goin’ go bye bye?” Ada smacked her round lips together in a frown. “ME stay HERE!”
“No honey, we’re going back to Kentucky, where Grammy lives.”
Ada’s face opened up in a full smile as she scuttled from my arms and rushed to her Daddy’s.
“Yay, yay, yay, yay!” she jumped up into his long arms and curled her little legs over his side.
“You’re a happy girl,” he eyed me over her curly head. I shook my head no.
“Are you moving back there?” Kenley with hurt eyes at last frowned.
“No, no!” I said solidly. “I have a story I have to do. As long as that takes, is as long as I stay.”
“Shew,” Kenley smiled. “I was worried!” Kenley Maria Williard was a young, just turned eighteen in fact, college girl who had worked for us the last three years. Before I had even birthed our daughter she started. I liked her. She liked Jaxon. He loved me. And she was just too young, which was perfect.
“I’m sure we can keep you on the pay role, so that you won’t have to be hired by another family.” I nodded to her.
“That’s perfect!” she chimed. “I’m going to miss you guys though. Will it be more than a month?”
“Yes. At least twelve weeks. Most of the spring and a bit into summer. No big deal though. Just consider it a long vacation.” I lied so smooth it was scary.
When she excused herself, Jaxon walked her to the front door and handed her pay in advance. I watched my husband. Like any wife did. He was tall, lean, and his body was perfectly cut. The long length of his shoulders seemed to never stop. He was dark headed and dark eyed. I loved his smile and the smooth cut of his jaw. I had fallen in love with him on the second date. I had no idea then, what his anger could really be.
I rubbed my jaw instinctively.
“Brooke?” He returned to me, his face swallowed in curiousness.
“Your phone?” he was holding the gold square in his hand as I took it. Vaguely I felt him take our daughter out of my arms. My eyes were locked on the screen. Unknown number.
“Who is that?” I mumbled as he danced away into another part of the house. I heard Ada’s giggles as he went on and I slid the screen to on.
My heart was a pounding teller. On the other end, before I could say hello, the male voice spoke first.
“Is this Brooke, umm…Taylor?”
I was frozen. Silent.
“Hello?” the voice was deep and clear, and not a stranger at all. I would recognize that voice anywhere. “Hey…” and then “…B’, is that you?”
I felt my knees with no cause weaken and my stomach drop to the tips of my toes. A shiver, like someone stepping on my grave, slid up my back then back down it. I opened my mouth and only a stutter of sound came out.
“B’!” he seemed to chuckle on the other end, his tone warm and happy. “I’d recognize that sound from anywhere! Even a million miles closer to the sun!” Dakota James Decker burst into a rumble of laughter.
“DJ?” my voice crackled and his laughter rang on. “I mean, Dak…”
“No one has called me DJ in a while. How you been B’?”
“I’m…I’m good. I guess the paper got a hold of you?”
“Yep, a guy named Darren or Derek. The reception is hell here. I got your number though. I couldn't wait till' in the morning.” He spoke as sweet as my childhood was.
I was smiling before I knew it. “You’ll be coming back home.”
“And so will you,” he said seriously. “Will it be a sit down interview or…something else?”
The shudder moved again. I felt it slowly rake my bones, as if his words were something more than what they should be. I was holding my breath.
“B’?” he was serious and cautious now.
“I’m here. Umm, sit down, with photos.” I held the phone too tightly.
“I’m good at photos,” and then, “do I call you or you going to call me?”
“How many other interviews do you have?” I blurted. “I mean, I know you don’t have to…do this.”
“He was a good friend of mine. It’s an honor to speak about him.”
The man I was speaking with, Major Decker, had served in the military for the last sixteen years. He was decorated, he was honored, he was the best of the best, an army man with a heart like no other. Seven different countries and five deployments, Dakota had witnessed some of the worst parts of war. Including the beheading of one of his finest, First Lieutenant Charles Benton. Every paper this side of the world wanted his story…
“I passed on them all. Except…you.” His tone was set.
“I think you know the answer to that B’. I’ll be seein’ you soon. It’s late here so I gotta’ jet. I hope all is well,” and then, “Mrs. Taylor.”
“Thank-thank you Dak’,” I mumbled. “Be safe.”
“Always am ma’am,” his Kentucky accent though gone, came back for just the second of a second.
“I mean it.”
“You care about me so much, B’?” his voice was honey combed in sweet wonder.
I covered my mouth, my hand shaking and my insides shaking so much worse. “Dakota, I…” I opened my mouth and raised my eyes up at the same time.
Jaxon was in the doorway, his face stern and his stance casually leaned on the wooden frame. His eyes were fixed on me- unblinking, he stared right at me. My words had dried instantly.
“Will see you soon.” He said.
"Of course Major," I covered and listened for the click. The second it came I folded my hands behind my back and waited.
“DJ Decker?” Jaxon was smooth and hot as fire. I felt the abhorrent intolerance sifting from his skin.
“Yes.” I cleared my throat and pulled myself tightly together. “I was going to tell you, but I was sick and then we fuc-…made love,” I corrected as I moved my eyes to where we had stood, half naked and as one.
“You know a lady should never use such language,” Jaxon glided towards me. “And a wife never misinforms her husband. Right?”
“Of course not,” I slipped past him. “You’ve left Ada alone?”
“She is fine, she’s eating cereal and sitting with the dogs.” He lifted his chin and rubbed his hand just under. “Hmm,” he hummed.
“He would only speak with me. I wasn’t aware of that until just now.” My back was to him. I stood in the designer jeans he’d bought for my birthday and the pale pink cashmere cardigan Ada picked out for me. Underneath that was nothing but my lace bra and body splash, vanilla scent.
“You know, I don’t like this,” Jaxon was walking behind me.
I inhaled sourly, tasting the day over and over again, just as his hands searched under my braid for the base of my neck. I closed my eyes as he grasped just between my throat and collar bone. His long fingers were strong and purposeful as he started to squeeze.
I resisted removing his hand.
“You should have told me first thing,” he pressed harder. “I don’t like playing the fool. I won’t ever do it again.”
“What are you talking about?” I was treading deep water with my husband. I could feel it. He knew I could feel it. I couldn’t stop.
“You know,” he spoke each syllable with a calculated drawl, “you know…how protective I am of you.”
I felt my spine stiffen. “Yes. Even when there is no need.”
“Brooke, you grew up very differently from me. I despise the fact of that, but it is what it is. I would give my life for you. And if one hand…one eye, looks at you the way I do…I’m not sure what I would do.” He lifted a stray curl from around my temple. “I have fallen in love with you all over again. Every day. Every moment. Every touch.”
“I know,” I whispered as his hand found the front my throat and he started to squeeze, teasingly.
“Then you know, if my family-!” his voice had found anger as he pressed his thumb deep into the indentation of skin at the bottom of my throat, “…if they were to upset our balance, I will not hesitate…”
I gulped. The old Jaxon was back, resurfaced after three long years hidden. The fear was instant, the worry was just after. He was as black as they were but with a heart of sorrowed gold. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, and he always did, the glimmer of love I felt for him had made me stay. The way he fucked me, like no other man ever could…I was bound to him. In every way.
I closed my eyes and pressed his hand harder. The excitement was a wave of want that would never lessen. Jaxon Taylor, the most wanted man, had picked me. I would take whatever came with that choosing.
“I love you,” he grasped both sides of my throat and pulled my face savagely to his.
With his forehead pressed to mine, he closed his eyes. “I will fight, I will kill…anyone who dares get in between us. We can do this.”
“How bad can it be, love?” I asked timidly as I remembered the last time we all sat as a family. “They’ve played nice for a while now.”
He pulled from me, the strength made me near stumble back, before he grasped my face and held me tightly away. “I wasn’t talking about my family.”
Chills…my grave…I felt haunted and forewarned by his words. No matter how without sense that was.
“Who-?” I knew the answer.
“I’ve allowed you to work at that puke paper all this time. I tolerated Darren the kid. I tolerated that old shit who eyes you every chance he gets. I will tolerate the soldier, only because it brings me back to my own front door. You knew him, right?” he was still holding my face.
I nodded sheepishly.
“So be it,” he smiled and just like the flip of a coin, my Jax was back. His face was softer, his touch was softer, his breathing was normal. I felt the fear ebb away as he took my hand and we walked together to our Adalaine.
“Momma’!” she exclaimed as she burst towards me, all her toys gathered in her tiny arms.
Jaxon scooped her up instead and her giggling laughter erupted around us in a squeal of happiness.
I watched them together, for nearly an hour, as they played on the expensive wool rug. She was his, in all mannerisms and actions…but she was truly mine. My world was her. I took in the scene with shallow sips of love as I studied every detail. In my entire marriage to Jaxon, I had never once contemplating leaving. Even when the bruises of our passion gleaned through. Ada came quickly in our first few months together. His grandmother had hated me for it too. When the terror found out I was birthing a girl, well that was the nail in my coffin so to speak. It was the same old story since the beginning of time. The prodigy son falls in love with the beautiful but poor heart…
Only this story started with a twist. A secret. A stolen moment where nothing made sense but everything made a reason.
Ada popped Jaxon square in his gut as she tackled him fully with her stuffed snake wrapped around her waist. I covered my mouth to hide my shock as he lovingly and gently picked her straight up and held her over his elongated form before kissing her gently on her nose. Jaxon was a surprise around every expression. Just when I thought I had his dark side figured out, he would open his heart and let out the light. The roller coaster that he was left me drained and tired, but oh so filled too.
“Dinner?” he eyed me from on his backside as he rolled over, tucking our daughter under his arm while she giggled and pushed.
“Out?” I raised my shoulders.
“I was thinking in.”
“In?” I was puzzled as his eyes traced my breasts then moved to my bent knees.
“Or, I could just…eat out.” He winked and I shook my head in bubbling shock.
“I’ll order Chinese. You two keep playing.” I stood and walked from them, feeling Jaxon’s eyes on me as I did.
Within twenty minutes we were snuggled on our modest couch, our toes tucked under blankets and our bellies getting full. Ada ate every morsel of sweet and sour chicken and before long she was dozing off in Jaxon’s arms. I settled down deeper beside him, absorbing our time before it was changed. Funny thing about life is, it never stays the same for long even though the years keep going by seeming unchanging; the days see to it that every part of our insides change. So that nothing is ever the same. So that time robs you of the thing you thought you had to begin with…the feel of forever.
“What will it be like you think?” I asked Jaxon as we lay sprawled half on top of each other, our legs entwined like knots.
“Going back there?” he yawned. “Easier on me for sure.”
“You’ve not worked for years Jaxon Leigh.”
He chuckled, his wide smile so happy. “I work all the time. He slipped his hand under the blanket and traced his fingers up my shirt to my bra. With just a tug, he was underneath caressing my nipple. Ada snored lightly from the bottom of the chaise. Her wild hair and soft skin looking so much like an unkempt angel. I pushed Jaxon’s hand away.
“Fine,” he growled playfully. “I think,” He rolled from me, careful to not disturb our daughter as he wrapped his arm under my shoulders, “I think we will find our way again.”
“I didn’t know we were lost,” I admitted sadly.
“Everyone is lost to some point, love.”
I thought of his words as my stomach drew in. “I feel like everything will change.”
“It might,” he agreed. “For the better.”
I thought of his menacing family. I thought of their ruthless power and all their control. Their greedy fingers stopped reaching all the way to Chicago. How I would miss it. How I would regret…if it were to-
“What will the interview be like, you think?” he started to rustle under my shirt again and this time, I let him.
“Boring. Long. Exhausting.” I arched my back lightly.
“How long has it been Brooke?” he pinched the soft skin between his knuckles as he lay his hand flat to my breast. It was painful…and blissful at the same time. My breath caught.
“Stop,” I urged him and he did. I smiled down at his upturned face, so handsome of a face that I felt weak.
“What would I do without you? Perhaps I would die.” He bit my collar bone. “Perhaps I already do, every time I touch your skin with my mouth.”
I closed my eyes and moaned, just light enough that he paused before continuing onward, up my long neck.
Just as his mouth landed mine firmly, his phone buzzed from the worn coffee table. He cursed as he moved his lips over mine. When the phone continued buzzing, he pulled himself up and answered.
“Jax,” he said crudely in a laugh. “You’ve interrupted me from taking great pleasure in my wife at the moment-!” his eyes were twinkling, light.
I moved my hands down the long, strong muscles of his back just before he jumped to his feet and grew silently simmering. Something was off. I stood too.
Ice cold death. I felt abhorrently and potentially sick as soon as he addressed her. The entire demeanor of him changed, as violent as a thunder clap in the middle of a lightning storm. I was losing him. Again.
“Jaxon?” I barely spoke his name.
He held his hand up to me and stormed off. I could hear him, in the foyer, speaking low and clear.
“How have you found this out, even before I’ve had the chance to let it sink in...” and then “…absolutely not, there is no way she is cancelling the interview…” and then “…don’t make this into something it’s not…of course we are happy to be returning home to you…” His words droned on and on as he defended himself, defended me.
I bit my lip in frustrated anger as I started to pace.
Ada sighed from the foot of the couch, her tiny eyes shut tight as she rubbed them.
“Momma?” she croaked like a tiny and dry toad. “My belly hurts,” she whined.
I rushed to her and felt of her head. “No temperature…you feel like you might throw-up?”
“Uh-huh,” she nodded her little head up and down.
I gathered her up tenderly in my arms and rushed her to the dinosaur bathroom she loved so much. As I sat her on her feet, the gagging began. I wondered fleetingly if I had been sick after all and it wasn’t my nerves, that was until she at last wiped her full lips and spoke.
“I had a baddest dream!” she wailed quietly as she held herself up by her hands on the toilet seat.
I rubbed the back of her hair as I pulled it into a pony tail. “Is that why you feel so sick?” I smoothed down her eyelet lace shirt.
“Uh-huh!” she started to sob.
“Oh sweetie, calm down and tell me about it. Would you feel better if you tell me about it?”
She shook her head no.
“Well, maybe mommy can help you. Prove to you it’s just a dream?”
She turned up her teal eyes, so round and bright and filled with tears. “No momma’,” she suddenly and ferociously wrapped her small arms around my neck so tightly I choked a second before I could talk to her.
“T-Tell mommy,” I guided her off of me while still letting her hold on.
“No!” she buried her baby face into my collar bone.
I listened for Jaxon’s call to end. When I heard the low rumble of his speech, I knew he was not finished. Carefully I squatted and placed Ada against my knee.
“Look at me baby,” I said encouragingly. “I need you to tell me, okay?”
Her round eyes were brimmed with more tears as she nodded her head to me.
“Okay, tell Momma, what was your dream?” I rubbed her tiny curls back and wiped her tears away.
She drew in a breath and held her mouth opened before forming her words carefully. “I had a bad dream, about Daddy and you.”
“Go on,” I nudged her gently. I felt lost. And for the first time, in so long, I felt true hopelessness.
“It is wet! Dwippin’ from…-!” her child’s mind was working the dream, trying to find the words to explain it best. “A ceiling with puffy squares.” She bobbed her head excitedly before growing somber again.
“Rain?” I thought of a sprinkler system.
“Red.” She whispered. “The water is red, cause’ it’s…bleeded’,” she covered her sweet face.
“R- red?” I was stumbling as I fought to not be scared. “Like blood?”
“Not like Mommy,” she corrected then covered her face.
I grabbed her up, pulled her to me and held her tight. “It’s okay baby, it’s just a dream. Only a dream.” I kissed her tiny tears on her tiny cheeks as I felt my own heart heavy.
“Grammy is in the dream,” her voice was muffled in my collar bone. “It’s her! I heerd’ her say, ‘no more sand castles’, over and over. And it’s cause’ of her!”
I was confused beyond comprehension but also I felt like I knew, or should know, what she was speaking of. I should know what she meant. My gut told me I did. My heart pinched that I was wrong. I took in a shallow sup of air and asked.
“What’s because of Grammy?” My words became the echo of my heart.
“All the red.” She was a hushed cry.
I walked her to the bathroom sink and wiped her face with a cool rag. I held her, sitting on the toilet after for at least an hour. By the third lullaby I had lost track of time. Ada had been having nightmares since she was tiny and could speak to us about them. They had slacked off, the last year in Chicago…it was like the thought of returning to Kentucky had triggered everything to fire right back up. I held her tiny form until she passed out from exhaustion and then I held her a bit longer for my own sanity.
When I settled her under the pink covers of her bed, I pecked her forehead and walked out of her room quietly to find Jaxon.
He was sitting lazily on the sofa at the end of our bed. The space was cramped and small, yet he had still insisted on bringing that sofa in here. For the life of me I would never understand why.
“Love, is she napping?” his face was dimly lit in the loosely pulled curtains. Chicago winters were bitter and frozen. The heavy curtains were a necessity but oh how I hated them.
“She is dreaming again. Or whatever you-?” I resisted the tears.
“Don’t say it,” he warned tenderly. “She is our daughter, she is nothing like that mother of yours.”
I held my fist to my temple and sighed as I sat down beside him. Like a lump of my former self, just from yesterday, I was hopeless to the core. Adalaine was everything like my mother. Indeed, she was rare and odd and foretelling as my momma’ Doll had been. Though my mother had pressed her visions down. My grandmother hadn’t a bit. She had been a strong woman, a wise woman, and a weary soul. Ada had her soul…my momma’s soul, my…soul. Every other little detail of her was all Jaxon though. Spit from his loins as the old Kentuckians would say. Spit from his loins.
“Just because we don’t acknowledge they aren’t dreams, doesn’t make them any less of a vision. She is just like her. And the things she thinks are dreams, are back.” I rubbed my eyes and thinned my full lips.
“Brooke, it’s the stress of the day. Just let it go. Just let me…” he placed his finger to the back of my neck and pressed in small circles. “Try to enjoy this change.”
My daughter’s words echoed in my thoughts. I shut my eyes tightly and concentrated on my husband’s working hand. He was dangerously close to making me horny. Sex for us was the needle and thread that bound our lives- our relationship whole. I never let him go without, it was my duty and it was my pleasure, and he never let me far enough away to know the difference.
“I love you Brooke,” he whispered into my ear. “I’ve got to head back out. I’ve already called the movers and set everything up.”
My eyes narrowed then went opened fast. “Already?”
“Of course,” he grinned wide. “I am eager to get back. I am eager to see my family,” he tipped my nose. “No matter how ugly we think they are.”
“UGLY?” I nearly pounced forward. “They threatened my life!”
He leaned his head back and groaned. “Grammy is passionate and very protective. She’s an old goat with nothing better to chew on.” His hand pulled me back as his other hand lifted my hips to rest fully on his lap. He groaned again as he laced both hands tightly around my neck, leaning me back against his chest, my face against his but both of us looking forward. “I’m passionate too,” he whispered. “I won’t let her hurt you. Nor will I allow your feelings to be disregarded. Deal?”
“You talk as if you had a hand in this move,” I spoke in choking sounds as his hands constricted around the soft skin of my neck. “You act as if-!”
I stopped. His one hand had left my throat and was now hard on my right hip. Slowly and oh so painfully, he started to work my hips…stretching his arm out and back he controlled me completely as I began to thrust on him. I could feel him, in the instant he moved me, hard and wanting. His desire unstoppable. The need to fill me up with his long cock too much.
He raised me enough to allow me to slip my pants down to my mid thighs. Placing my feet flat and pointing my knees forward, with legs closed, he unzipped the crotch of his jeans and exposed himself completely before he again lowered my naked half gently down. With just the tip of him, he opened me fully. With just the pull of me, he thrust himself deep. I bit my bottom lip as I waited on him to guide the force of me. The seconds were sheer madness when he started. As he raised my shirt and folded the strap of my bra down, exposing my nipple, I halted in ecstasy.
When he took a mouth full of my neck and bit, I whimpered in delight.
“This will make you forget,” he worked me forward and back. His other hand now tight and unforgiving on my breast.
“Forget…what?” I muttered against his jaw line as I arched my back fully against him.
“That’s my Brooke Lane,” he worked his wet tongue between words inside my ear. “That’s my girl.” He shoved hard, holding me down on him as he rotated his hips and then pushed me strongly forward.
On the inside of me, deep between my legs, I felt him entirely as my wanting body reacted on its own. With perfect precision I glided up and down until I heard him cuss and twine my hair in both his hands as he bucked against my bottom in slapping plunges. The pain of him was a pleasure like no other. I loosed myself and rode him until the clothes on our bodies stuck to our skin in moistened sweat.
Last minute he pulled out, lifting me from him just as he started to cum. I sat trembling in heated exhaustion as he finished and rested back.
“I’ve made a mess,” he smiled down at his soiled jeans.
“So have I,” I stared at the blood between my thighs.
“Ah, I thought you felt incredibly wet. Go shower, I’ll join you.”
I sighed as I stood, wobbling out of the tight denim leggings and laughing as he did the same. I had loved this man, my entire life it seemed, though we had been bound by our vows for only six years. Six years.
With one year before Ada erased. Gone. If I counted that one, it would be seven years. Seven long and mostly beautiful years. I had blocked that year completely out, like a black out, like a dream, like a vision come true that I had fought against all along. It was the first time since I was young, that I had ran into the soldier. The first time that I had become a liar and been beaten by the hands of those that loved me most. The first time my own visions stopped.
I steadied myself against the marbled bathroom sink. The shower was on, though I had no recollection of turning it on myself. I could hear Jaxon, rumbling around in the hallway looking for clean towels I presumed. I could hear my heart too, as erratic and still as it had become.
I pulled my face to look in the antique oval mirror, swiping the steam away with my too steady hand. I studied my white face. The slight upturn of my button nose, the full pout of my bottom lip, the tiny lines that had crept above my cheek bones from always smiling. I was younger looking than what I actually was, and I also seemed very guarded and meek. The expression of my smile lines with the tiny sprinkle of light brown freckles made me appear child-like sometimes. With my thinner, but very long black lashes and pale green eyes, I also seemed hollow looking. As if I was still waiting to be filled with wise years. The dark circles I bore, a memory within a memory, seemed to shine at me as I always fought the recollection of a year blacked out.
“You,” I mouthed, “have got to let this go.” I spoke without speaking, feeling myself in my own head as the visions tried to flood back. Painfully, I pushed them down. I shoved hard with my mind until I felt myself becoming dizzy.
Jaxon eased the door open in all his bare naked glory. I glanced at him as I pulled my hair up and twisted it into a tight bun. His eyes were weary as he noted the pale white of my face and the splotched red hives around my temples.
“The visions?” he mouthed to me too as if he was afraid of making them real again.
I shook my head no as I glanced to the floor. “I was sick, tuna on rye.”
He boisterously laughed, free and wholesome. He was happy again, excited even. I nodded as he stepped in the tiled shower and pulled the curtain. The silver hooks screamed over the metal bar, like an omen itself. I closed my eyes and felt the upheaval of my stomach.
As Jaxon Taylor started to shower, I collapsed to my knees and hugged the white, porcelain bowl. As he started to sing, Sweet Home Alabama, I started to gag. And as the bathroom lights started to spin, one thought stabbed into my mind and I grew eerily calm.
The soldier’s eyes, blue as a sky and dark as a sea, stared back at me through a red net of some sort. The soldier’s eyes and his naked body, stark against the back drop of a dimly lit hallway.
I closed my eyes as Jaxon sang on…