The sudden shrill of the phone jarred me awake. Pulling my hand from under the soft bed covers, I fumbled and patted the cherry wood nightstand in search of the sound that annoyed and interrupted my peaceful slumber. My fingers made contact with the hard receiver, as I lifted my head off my satin pillow and put it up to my ear.
“Hello,” I groaned as if in pain.
The woman on the other end screamed, “Who is this?!”
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes while I averted a yawn. “You called this number, so you should know.”
I closed my eyes and lay back down.
“This is Jill Tate, you trick.”
My eyes popped open as if a fairy godmother had sprinkled dust in them. All the sleepiness I felt was gone. My body sprung up to attention as I turned on the lamp. The bright light temporarily blinded me. My heart began to pound like little staccato
drums being brutally hit. I took a deep breath and released the irritation that
threatened to consume me. Finally, I asked, after reeling my voice back into
control, “Jill who?”
“Tate.” The woman smacked her lips like she was sampling a sour piece of candy.
“You know who I am. I’m tired of you little tricks sleeping with my husband.”
“Sorry, but I think you have the wrong number,” I said as I rubbed my right eye.
“I don’t think so. I checked my phone bill and your number is all over it. Your trifling ass is sleeping with my husband, Darren.”
I sat straight up in bed and changed the phone from my left ear to the right one, trying to assure I heard what the woman had said. “Darren is not married, not the one I know.”
“Are you serious? Is that it? Really, is that all it takes for a man to get into women’s panties is to say he’s not married?”
“Sorry, but the Darren I’m seeing is not married.” My heart was beating hard inside my chest as my left hand balled up into a fist. I needed more information. I tried to think of what would be a good facial distinction to share with her to assure she had the wrong number and wrong man. “Is the Darren you’re seeing a professor with green eyes?”
“You’re not stupid. Yes, he has green eyes and I’m sure you knew he was married. All you skanks know. You’re just playing a role like you don’t.”
“The cat got your tongue, doesn’t he, sucker? You can’t say a word?” Jill’s voice echoed so loud in my ear, I had to pull the phone away to prevent harm to my eardrum.
As I held the phone tightly, my right hand turned numb. I shook my hand, trying to get the blood moving again. I was getting angrier by the minute. Beads of sweat flowed down my oval-shaped face, colliding with the tears that stained my smooth mocha-colored skin. The phone call was real. The man I loved was not mine. He had a wife. I couldn’t think nor swallow the saliva as it increased in my mouth. Activities we did together became blurred; the passion shared became foreign as I tried to remember how his hands had caressed my body. But what I felt at that moment was pain ingrained in my heart like rough sandpaper. How dare that snake make me believe I was the only one?
Normally, I was quick on my feet with smart responses when faced with uncomfortable
situations, but I couldn’t think of anything substantial to say,so I blurted out, “You need to talk to him.”
“I’m talking to you, trick, and I demand you stay away from him or your ass is grass. Leave my husband alone. He needs to be home with his wife and kids.”
I hung up the phone and sat in the same spot frozen, unable to think about what to do next. As my nerves settled, I lifted my left hand to the side of my left temple and tried to wipe away the feeling of dread that crept over my skin like little ants roaming on an ant hill. I swiped away at the tingles that nagged my right arm.
Darren couldn’t be married. I tried to reason by crossing out conversations as they rolled through my mind. Some of the conversations left more questions than answers. Why did he sometimes disappear when I needed him? Why did he sometimes rush me off the phone?
I grabbed the phone and punched his cell phone number into the phone pad. The phone rang until it went to voicemail. “Darren, please call me, it’s urgent.” I left message after message, as I lost hold of myself in my attempt to reach out to him. “Please call me back. Some woman called, Baby, and said you were her husband. Baby, please call me. I need to know if this is true.” The calls were never returned.
Darren always called back, so I was surprised he had not returned my voicemails. I began to feel the caller had told the truth. Lately, Darren had been slipping out of my bed. It seemed that he could not spend the night as he had done so many times before.
After I waited about two hours for him to call back, I lay down and cried until I fell asleep on my soaking wet, tear-stained pillow.
The next morning Darren arrived before nine A. M. I was headed to work. I was dressed in a red two-piece suit, but my 130-pound,well-toned body felt naked. To have someone call to say you are sleeping with their husband leaves you feeling unclean and vulnerable, like you need a bath.
Every part of you is exposed. My heart pounded through my chest at a rapid pace. The doorbell rang and I darted to the door; I knew it was Darren. As I swung the door open with much force, the slight wind circulated the cologne I had given him. The scent wafted through the front door before he did. It assaulted my nostrils and floated through them with a fierceness that made my knees buckle. Oh, how good this man smelled and how good he looked in his dark Armani suit that fitted his body as if the seamstress had made it just for him.
“Baby, I got all your messages. Let me explain.” He reached his arms out to me as if my five-foot-three stature would just fall into them. I stepped back.
“Are you married?” I asked in a pitiful, wounded voice. Tears welled up in the corners of my eyes,threatening to cascade like a river down my face.
“Yes, but we filed for divorce. It’s over with us. It’s been over a longtime.” He looked down like a rat caught in a trap as he begged to be released from the contraption causing him pain. His eyes looked puffy like he had either been hit in them or as if he had not slept in days.
Slap! The sound across his face exploded like a huge wave slamming against hard steel. He tried to grab my hands to stop the sudden thrashing against his body. My hands and arms flapped out of control as they swung at him in all directions. The hits jabbed and punched him in every part of his face and chest. My mocha-colored fists began to blur as they pounded into his ribcage. He grabbed my hands to slow the rhythmic thuds that battered his chest and stomach. With the right eye-hand coordination, he was able to secure my arms stiff against his body with a firm grip. “Stop it, Denise. Stop it now.”
“Let me go!” I cried out between sobs as I tried to wiggle out of his embrace. “You are hurting me.”
He loosened his grip and I dropped to the floor in agony. Nothing could have hurt more. “Get out, Darren. Just get out.”
“You don’t mean that. I love you.”
As I looked up at him, the frown on my face thickened at the nonsense this man had spilled out of his mouth. “Love? What do you know about love, you cheating dog? I trusted you!”
Darren’s eyes widened as he bent down to my level and grabbed my hands. If he had not been holding me so tight, I would have attacked him again. He blinked back tears. “You don’t mean that. I can explain everything. Just listen to me.”
“Get out!” I screamed. “I said get out of my house!” Hurt by his deceit, my voice roared like thunder. The rumble snapped him out of his trance-like stance. Not wanting to upset me anymore than I was; he stood up,turned around on the shiny wooden floors and walked briskly to the door. As he neared the doorway, he turned back. Looking over his shoulders with his beady swollen eyes, he said, “This isn’t over.”
As he walked out, he slammed the door behind him. I sat on the foyer floor for about ten minutes. I bawled until the heat that beamed off the window warmed my skin. The sun’s hot rays were dangerous to my unprotected skin, but I couldn’t move. It caused the suit I wore to stick to my clammy, sweat-soaked body. Embarrassed by the snot that bubbled out every time I took another deep breath and let out another sob, I forced myself to get up. To do so, I had to crawl toward the hall’s table and use it like an anchor to pull up my weakened and angry body. This was the second Friday in March, my favorite month. Instead of laughter, excitement and happiness, as I planned my wardrobe for tonight’s activity with some friends, I felt like someone had knocked my teeth out of my mouth. Instead of preparation for a lovers’ weekend, I felt sad and broken. My heart felt like someone had taken a hammer and cracked it into little pieces.
How could I celebrate love when the love I had was not real?
After I pulled up on the table, I walked to the living room like a dead man taking his final walk right before being electrocuted. I grabbed the phone when I reached my destination. I gathered all my emotions,put them in check and breathed in hard as I prepared to talk calmly to my secretary. When the secretary answered the phone I told her I would not be in and then called my mother. Standing there, listening to the phone ring, I breathed in hard to control the sad, squeaky voice laced with pain that had become routine when I was upset. When I heard my mother pick up the phone I said, “Hello.”
“Denise, is this you?” my mother asked in a soothing voice, reflective of soft jazz.
The words lingered in my throat.
“Denise. Honey, what’s wrong?”
I felt like a little child who needed the comfort of her parent. At the sound of Mother’s voice, I gathered strength and whispered with a childlike soft voice,
“Mommy, I need you.”
Before leaving to visit Mother, I showered again to knock the sweat off. As the water battered me in all the right places, I grabbed the soap and let the sweet smell of strawberries soothe me. I dried off, oiled my body down with Shea butter and put on a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt.
Brushing my sweaty, long, brownish-black, damp hair into a ponytail, I dabbed some brandy-colored lipstick on to mask how drained and broken I looked. I grabbed my purse, searched for the car keys, located them on the table in the foyer, put on a light jacket to ward off the thin chill in the air, set the house alarm and left. I drove thirty-five minutes to mother’s house.
As I drove to Mom’s, it occurred to me that Darren had provided so many signs of another woman being in his life. There were times he would leave early, arrive at my house at awkward unscheduled times, not answer his phone after he checked to see who was calling and the big one, going into the bathroom while lifting his finger to his mouth to shush me as he shut the door before talking on the phone. He would later explain it was the Dean of Students or the president of the college. Students or the president of the college. Like a fool, I believed him because I didn’t want to think he was seeing anyone else. I took the reasonable route and put my wild imagination into the back of my mind where I allowed it to stay under lock and key.
As I drove down the highway with plenty of time to cry again, I dried the tears that ran down my face with the back of my hand. Every now and then I banged my open hand against the steering wheel to punish myself for getting caught up, which was something I promised myself I would never do. One thing was certain: If I lived through this pain, I could make it through
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