When there is pain, humiliation, domination and constant submission, what is a lonely woman to do after thirteen years of marriage? Her husband’s answer is simple. Give in before you get hurt and enjoy the slow painful ride with him.
Eartha’s life with Clint has descended into misery and loneliness, and then she meets Anthony. Anthony is a little younger and very single and makes it obvious he is interested in her knowing she is married. Even though her marriage is dying, Eartha still feels the bitter angry bonds of wedlock and somehow still hopes Clint will come back to his senses. After a couple of violent episodes, she has to admit Clint is too far into his sexual submission and domination lifestyle and she has to break free for her own peace of mind and safety. But Clint has his own ideas of how and when to let go.
Finally, Eartha is ready to start a new life on her own. Anthony shows her that on her own does not mean she has to be alone. After accepting his love, things began to take unexpected turns which lead Eartha to make even tougher choices than ever before because this time her heart is bound by love.
The clock on the nightstand showed five minutes after nine a.m., just an hour later than her usual wake up time. Giving sleeping in another shot, she turned on her stomach facing her husband. He could sleep until noon and then grumble about the morning speeding away. Productive sleep for Eartha was gotten in her eight hours at night. But then, unlike her husband, she didn’t put in sometimes ten to twelve hours a day at the local shipyard.
Impulsively, she did something she hadn’t really felt like doing in years, she scooted over touching his face and caressed his hair. He wasn’t a boy anymore, but his looks were holding up and his hair, unlike hers, was still all black. Just the other day her sister, while giving her a perm, pointed out a cluster of gray hairs in the back of her head. She’d said it with a form of subtle glee that Eartha hated. Eartha never got why a woman so much younger enjoyed signs of aging in other women.
Sighing, she rolled over on her back. Yesterday was her birthday. She was forty-one, married nearly thirteen years.
A few minutes later, she found herself staring at the shade on the window longing to get up and raise it to let in some of the morning sunlight into her bedroom that Clint acted like would kill him. After pushing back the covers, she left their bed for the window. Clint rolled on his back frowning and squinting his eyes to perfect slits as she raised the shade.
“Girl, pull down that shade,” he mumbled watching her return to bed. “You know I can’t stand all that light.”
“Yesterday was my birthday,” she said ignoring his request.
“Oh yeah? Well, happy-”
“I said, yesterday, Clint!” She felt his body tense beside her. He hated it when she raised her voice and usually she wouldn’t, except three forgotten birthdays in a row was annoying too. “You didn’t even come home.”
“I was working, Eartha.” He rolled to his side, pulling his pillow over his head.
“I made a special dinner, Clint. I bought a new dress and-”
“Hold it, Eartha.” Clint tossed his pillow across the room, flipped over just to glare at her. “It’s too early in the damn morning for you to start bitching like a spoiled brat up in here.” He narrowed his eyes at her silence. “That’s why you acting up, pulling up the damn shade? Cause I didn’t run home to sing you Happy Birthday?”
“I want some light in here.”
“Girl, get your butt up and pull down that shade.” He lay down on his side again expecting her to do like he ordered. She sat up staring down at him hard. After a few seconds, he felt it and turned over to sit up as well. “Why you acting evil? I swear, you look just like your daddy when you cut your eyes like that.”
“Don’t talk about Daddy in that tone. I don’t talk about your dead mother.”
“Ain’t doing me no favor,” Clint said, and bounded from the bed. He partially shut the bathroom door before taking a long pee.
“Clint,” she met him coming out of the bathroom blocking him from entering the bedroom. “Let’s go out for breakfast.”
“Who can eat this damn early?”
“I can, and when was the last time we left this house together?”
“Will you quit acting?” Impatiently, he brushed her aside going to the window. After pulling down the shade, he climbed back into bed covering his head with the sheet.
“Clint, I’ll go by myself if you don’t get up.”
“Knock yourself out, Eartha. I am not your daddy dancing to your tunes. Seems you’d know that by now.”
“Pig,” Eartha said, angry with herself for letting him upset her. What did she expect anyway? She ran to the window and pulled up the shade, letting it zip up with a snappy halt. Light flooded the room again and she stood in the window bathing in the warmth.
“I swear, Eartha,” Clint said jumping out of bed to his feet. “You want me to get the belt to you?”
“I wish you would.” Once he’d whipped her with a thin belt when she refused to shut up about his staying out all night. It didn’t hurt and though only the two of them knew it happened, she felt humiliated and angry. He promised never to do it again when she packed two suitcases and started out the front door. That was seven years ago and he never mentioned it again until now.
“You need to stop. A grown woman acting like a three year old. Where you going?” Clint rushed to grab her arm before she closed the bathroom door in his face. “I thought I told you about walking away when I was talking to you. And quit rolling them eyes before I-”
She tried to pull loose but he dug his fingers into her flesh. “Let go of me.”
“Oh baby,” he said in mock tenderness, letting his grip become a light caress against her skin. “Did I hurt you, sweetheart? I’m a brute, ain’t I? You forget about that ole shade. After all, I ain’t a vampire. I can stand a little sun.” He lifted her off her feet, even though she pushed against him. Ignoring her protests, he dropped her on the bed and began sucking on her neck, working at the drawstring on her pajamas.
“Stop it, Clint. I am not about to have sex with you.”
“Oh come on, it’s your birthday,” he laughed raising up her shirt.
“I mean it.” Eartha pushed his head back before his mouth touched her nipple, and brought her knee up between them.
“I’ll be gentle, I promise.”
“No, Clint.” He backed off frowning at her then gave her a loud smack on her hip. “Ow.” It didn’t really hurt, she just wasn’t in the mood for his rough stuff. Last night she was willing to play it his way, but he blew it by staying out with his whores on her birthday and then having the nerve to be all grumpy with her first thing in the morning. She got up and went to her chest of drawers while he lay back in bed with his hands behind his head.
“Hey Eartha,” he said stopping her at the bathroom door. “You ain’t been getting it anywhere else, have you?”
“What if I was, Clint?” She waited for him to answer.
He just looked her up and down. First, her breasts then her hips and ass. He laughed pulling the covers to his chest.
“Honey, come on over here. I’ll do something good to you.”
“You had your chance,” she said turning on the faucets in the shower.
When she got out, Clint was sitting up watching a news channel. He didn’t mess with the shade. She rolled her eyes dropping her bath towel to put on some underwear. He clicked off the set, crawled across the bed to grab her from behind.
“Come on now, let’s stop the bullshit.” He handled her forcefully, laying her on her back, kissing her mouth, squeezing her breasts. Not too rough for her to complain, even though she was still pissed about her birthday. He looked up at the window.
“The shade stays up, Clint.”
“You into giving the neighbors a show?”
“What if I am?”
“Yeah right,” he backed off her to peel out of his tee shirt and boxers. “Hey, Eartha?”
“What?” She glared at him placing a pillow underneath her hips.
“Happy birthday,” he grinned and shoved himself inside her. “Eartha, girl you still feel so good. Nice and juicy.” He wrapped her up in his arms, kissing her throat. Finally she started to relax and kissed him back. “That’s it,” he encouraged her smooth actions. “Enjoy this loving, baby.”
Willa Sykes went to collect her mail every morning in a short nightgown, paired with a see through robe, proudly displaying her plump firm young breasts and well developed thighs. At twenty-three who wasn’t firm and fresh, Eartha thought folding her arms across her chest, and turning from the open door. She’d go get her mail later when Willa was done taking her time going through the mail at her mailbox.
Clint moved taking her place in the doorway, munching on a bacon and biscuit sandwich, braving the morning sunlight once again. Eartha stood behind him watching him watch Willa.
“You leave any coffee,” she just about growled at him.
“Sure.” He finished off his biscuit and swiped his mouth with a beefy hand, “I’ll go see if we got any mail.” He walked out, standing on the porch a moment before slowly making his way down the sidewalk. At the mailbox he stood still, and when Willa finally noticed him, he tied his sash, cinching his robe over his pajamas.
“She’s a girl, Clint,” Eartha said the minute he came waltzing back inside. “Younger than me when we met.”
“What are you talking about, Eartha?” Clint tossed the mail on the coffee table. “You got something you want to say?”
“Okay,” he invited and sat down on the couch, his feet up on the table.
She went to close the door. She wanted to tell him what she thought of him, his behavior and what she thought of their marriage. But since she’d been doing that for years now, she decided she’d simply address what she just saw. “Don’t do that again.”
“Don’t you dare carry on in this neighborhood.”
“I just went to get the mail.”
“And I was born yesterday.”
“Is that all, Eartha?” he asked simply.
“Nothing else bothering you?”
“Nothing else that concerns you right now.”
“Okay Eartha,” Clint smiled. “You got a letter from your mom. Second letter in three years. Gee, she must really miss you or something.”
Dear Daughter,” it started off. Eartha placed the letter on the kitchen table to rest while she went to pour herself a mug full of coffee. Seemed Clint knew exactly how much to leave her. He’d consumed a whole pot minus exactly one mug full.
“Dear Daughter?” Eartha voiced out loud. “You got two daughters, why can’t you greet me by name?” She checked the envelope for a return address. Scotland? What in the world was she doing in Scotland? Eartha read through the letter. “Oh for crying out loud!”
“What?” Clint asked going straight for the plate of bacon on the counter next to the sink. “What she do now?”
“Claims she’s getting married.”
“Again?” Clint smirked tossing a piece of bacon in the air, catching it in his mouth. “I swear- your family! What’s this, her eighth or something?”
“Fourth, as you very well know.”
“Hah, hah! That ma of yours must think she’s Dianne Carroll or somebody. What kind of man she meet in Ireland anyway?”
“She’s in Scotland,” Eartha corrected and wondered the same thing herself. Why get married in Scotland? Why even go to Scotland for an extended stay?
“Is he even Black?” Clint tried to take the letter from her hand.
“Doesn’t say.” Eartha slipped the letter in her robe pocket. “Anyway, what does it matter if he’s Black or not?”
“Plenty, if she brings that sucker around here. Oh, but gee whiz, I forgot. Your mama ain’t bringing anybody around here to see the big smelly chimpanzee you married.”
“It don’t matter that I work like a maniac to keep you in the lifestyle that degrades you so damned much!”
“Oh just stop it, Clint. You know I have never complained about you as a provider.” It was everything else he sucked at. “And who cares what Mama thinks anyway? We haven’t laid eyes on her in years.”
“Doesn’t it make you mad, Eartha? Her going all around the world and not even coming to see you in good ole Illinois?”
“You know we were never close, and when she married again so soon after Daddy- well, that just pushed us farther apart.”
“You couldn’t stand the old guy taking your daddy’s place?”
“Jules Stiles couldn’t take anyone’s place doing anything.” She angrily got up and tossed the remainder of her coffee in the sink. “It was an insult.” She began vigorously rinsing the sink.
“What was?” Clint asked relaxing against the counter. “What they do, Eartha?” he prompted at her silence. She took the time to wipe her hands dry, and then put on lotion. “Eartha!”
“What?” she asked simply, and spread lotion up to her elbows.
“I hate it when you do that.”
“What?” She put her hands on her hips staring up at him almost impassively.
“See?” He pointed a stiff finger at her nose. “That there is why your mammy can’t stand you.”
“Thanks Clint. Without you to clear things up, I’d have no idea what my own family was about.”
“You know, baby,” Clint said moving off the counter, stepping away from her. “You done developed a smart mouth. And a smart mouth woman is about as attractive as hell.”
“Oh?” She headed toward the swinging door. “I guess, I’ll keep that in mind for the next appropriate time.”
“I told you,” Vivian gloated. “I told you that so called husband of yours wasn’t worth a nickel before you married him.” She got out of her pool, splashing water up to the patio before she decided to dry herself. “So why after all these years you acting like it’s still a big surprise?”
“I think I have the right to expect more.”
“From Clint?” Vivian poured herself a tall glass of iced tea. Unsweetened. She never used real sugar at all and hated artificial sweeteners. Refined sugar to Vivian was the root of all evil, as far as her figure was concerned. “Girl, please,” she said squeezing the juice from a lemon wedge into her glass.
“I meant from my life.”
“What life?” Vivian leaned back in her chair massaging her super flat tight stomach, her pride and joy.
Vivian looked over at her sister’s vexed expression. Now what was she suddenly so mad about? Surely, she wasn’t going to sit there and take up for Clint. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Oh screw you, Viv.” Eartha pushed out of her comfortable cushioned chair grabbing her purse. “You make me sick, you know that?”
“What did I do?”
“You think you got it all, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah. But what does that have-” Eartha tossed her untouched glass of tea into the pool. “Damn Eartha!” Vivian jumped up incensed. “We just had it cleaned! If this is what being over forty does to a woman-”
“Just keep living, Viv. Diets and yoga won’t keep you thirty four forever.” Eartha stepped into her flip-flops then made her exit through the kitchen to her car parked out front.
Driving around town not going anywhere made about as much sense as going off on Vivian. She checked her fuel gauge and realized she needed to get some gas if she wanted to make it back home.
“And just who wants to go home?” She said pulling into a filling station. Now her hands were going to smell like gasoline. “Damn it,” she said flipping the switch to clear the pump. Morosely, swiped her gas card and proceeded to fill her tank. “I’ve got a life,” she grumbled. “I take care of things. Who doesn’t have a life is Viv, sitting around the pool all day and tae boing or doing that Pilates crap. Nobody comes and does my laundry while I paint my toenails.”
Eartha looked up a little startled at the sound of the sudden masculine voice and the man standing so near on the other side of the pump. She wondered if he heard the crazy stuff she was going on about. “What?”
“I thought you were talking to me,” the man said stepping around the pump.
“I-” Her pump beeped giving her instructions to complete her purchase. “Oh shoot,” she said pushing the wrong button. The machine told her to go inside to pay. “No,” she argued. “You are going to take my card. If I wanted to go inside to pay, I’d have gone inside in the first place.”
“If you swipe that card again, that machine is going to start another transaction and you’ll have to pump more gas or go inside to have them override it,” the man said.
“You may as well do like it told you.”
“But I don’t want to use my cash.”
“You can use your card inside too.” The man stepped around to her side again. He glanced at the display on her pump. “Uh oh.”
“Your card is expired. That’s why it won’t take it.”
“Expired?” But they’d just gotten the new cards the other day and she remembered switching them out, throwing the old ones in the trash pail. “Oh no.” She must’ve done it ass backwards. “I kept the wrong cards.”
“My ex used to do that kind of stuff all the time,” the man chuckled good-naturedly.
“Well, I hope you didn’t laugh at her,” Eartha snapped. The man sobered with a little cough and started to say something, then seemed to think better of it when Eartha cut him an annoyed look before she started across to the store.
On the way back to her car, she met him going inside. He smiled at her as they passed, she just looked at him.
“Girl, you need to relax,” she told herself reaching into the glove box for a pack of cigarettes. “Ain’t anybody’s fault but your own that you’re married to an asshole.” She lit the cigarette, took a few calming puffs then smashed it out in her clean ashtray. She started the engine and had to wait as the man casually strolled in front of her car. He carried a brown paper bag and was sipping from a can of soda. Once again, he gave her a smile to which she nodded politely. He stopped then came around to her window. He was tall enough to squat down and be at eye level with her.
“Having a bad day?”
“Gee, what gave you that idea?”
“Are you married?”
“Thirteen wonderful years,” she smiled bitterly. “How long have you been divorced?”
“I’m not. My ex was my girlfriend. We were together a long time, until a few months ago.”
“Why didn’t you marry her?”
“I wasn’t in love.”
“Then why do all that time with her?”
“You wasted her time.” He laughed rising from his lowered position. Eartha found herself looking directly at his crotch. Her stomach flipped over and her face was getting warmer by the second. She quickly faced forward, refusing to allow herself to get all flustered. What was the world coming to, she wondered, when a woman wasn’t able just pump some gas without some stud of a guy coming around displaying the goods all up in her face?
“Here.” He was handing her a card through the window. She read his name and different numbers. It was for personal use, not business. She looked up at him sharply. “Please, take it,” he urged.
“I don’t think so young man.”
“Young man?” His brows went up and he chuckled as if amused. “Last time a woman called me that I was twenty five, and she was my grandmother.”
“How old are you now, twenty six?”
“Would you believe thirty six?” He hitched up his jeans at the knee and squatted down again.
Eartha supposed he looked around his age. And he was okay looking. Nothing to write home about in the face department, but his smile was something else with those big white teeth. She took the card reading his name again. Anthony James.
“Look, this isn’t exactly a come on. I’d never try to complicate a married woman’s life. But if a sympathetic ear is what you need, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Hey, aren’t you feeling better now than you were just a few minutes ago?”
“I suppose but-”
“Keep the card a few days. Use it or don’t use it.” He rose again giving her his crotch to view.
This time his jeans seemed a bit tighter, and she couldn’t help but check out his butt as he strolled to his vehicle. A convertible. He flashed another smile before putting on a pair of sunglasses. What was he, a gigolo? She tossed the card across the passenger seat and pulled out from the pumps.
But where to go? Viv was probably pissed, but still lunging around the pool. If she just quietly returned Viv might give her a mean look or two, while waiting for her relax and get around to apologizing for the rude behavior she exhibited earlier.
“Well, she had her face lifted again,” Vivian informed her. “Just last year.”
“Oh?” Eartha adjusted her skirt and stretched out on her back on the chaise lounge, she closed her eyes to soak up some of that famous sun people like her sister was always going on about. Personally, she called it lazing about. She could get just as much sun tending her flowers and garden, or just going about her regular day. “She gets more ridiculous every time I hear about her. She’s sixty three and she needs to stop making a fool of herself.”
Viv raised up removing her sunglasses to stare at her older sister. “Where you get off being so hard and judgmental? Old don’t mean you have to give up living.”
“Nothing she does is appropriate for her age or as a widow.”
“News flash! Mama isn’t a widow anymore. She’s a divorcee’, soon to be remarried again.”
“You sound like you’re proud of her.”
“Humph.” Vivian put her shades back on and lay back facing the sky. “Sounds to me that you might be a little on the jealous side.”
“Now, I know you’re nuts.”
“At least Mama is doing something.”
“Yeah,” Eartha agreed. “Like getting too skinny and going around the world to fool some man into thinking she’s younger and might have a little money.”
“It’s her life, Eartha. Everybody ain’t satisfied being locked in like you.”
“Are you at least going to this one?”
“This one what?”
“Child, I don’t have money to be wasting on going to Scotland to view another one of her insane farces.”
“You sure it isn’t that Clint won’t get up off the money? When was the last time that idiot took you anywhere?”
“For your information, Clint isn’t up on our money. And maybe I’ve already been to where I wanted to go. Unlike you, if I wanted to go somewhere, I wouldn’t wait for my husband to take me. Everything in this world is not about a man.”
“In your case, it should be. Maybe then you wouldn’t be so uptight and bitchy all the damn time.”
“Hey sis,” Viv said changing her tone. It got Eartha’s attention. She was up to something whenever she called her sis. “There’s a party I want to go to tonight.”
“What else is new, Viv?”
“I can’t go alone.”
“Well, I hate walking in alone. Men act like you’re only there to get screwed. And don’t you say it.”
“Okay, I’ll go.” Why not? When was the last time she just up and did something at night?
“Really? Gosh, Eartha it’s going to be so much fun! We haven’t been out together since-”
“Never.” At least that’s what it seemed like.
“Anyway, I can’t believe you agreed so easily.”
“What you get for thinking you know me so well,” Eartha retorted lightly closing her eyes. You and Clint, she thought, realizing her husband would probably not even miss her since he was sure to be dressed and out of the house before she even got out of the shower and no doubt she was bound to get home hours before he even thought about her being supposedly at home all alone on a Friday night.
“You about ready?” Viv asked flicking her cigarette into the street.
“You gonna park here?” The neighborhood looked abandoned or closed up for the night, yet there were cars lining up the street that seemed out of place in the meager looking surroundings. “How far down is this house? I don’t even hear any music or-”
“Girl, this street is just about full. We aren’t going to find anywhere closer.”
“Viv?” Eartha stood still scanning the street. Viv never associated with anyone out of her acquired social standing, except for her of course. “Do you know these people putting on this party?”
“Hey Vivian!” A young man called out crossing the street in front of them. He had a woman on each arm.
“Hey!” Vivian called back putting a spring in her step.
The smell of marijuana filled the early night air, as a small group of partygoers began to exit their cars and start up to a very old large three story house.
“Girl, will you please put some pep in your step?”
“Damn Eartha, you agreed to try to let your hair down and have some fun for a change! Are you trying to change your crazy mind on me?” Viv rounded on her stopping them in the middle of the street. “Shoot, we haven’t even stepped inside the place and you-”
“Well, excuse me for feeling just a little out of place, Viv! If I’d known everybody but me was rich and beautiful-”
“Girl, please!” Viv put an arm around her leading her across the street up to the sidewalk in front of the house. “It’s just a party and you look as good as anyone else. See, that’s what being married to a creep all these years does to a good woman.”
“You’ve lost all your self-esteem, that’s what.” Viv waved to a few people going up the steps.
“Maybe I prefer not to be over confident.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Viv mumbled taking what looked to Eartha like a credit card from her small shiny purse. She flashed it at the servant who opened the door. He stepped back letting them pass inside the dim lighted house. “Girl, I’m going to mingle a little,” Viv informed her after just a few minutes. “Be back before you know it. And for goodness sake, loosen up. It’s a party!” She grabbed a flute of champagne off a passing server and practically ran up the stairs, flashing that she wore no underwear, leaving Eartha staring up after her dumbfounded.
A champagne serving party for wealthy people in a poor neighborhood. Luxury among the peasants. Viv no doubt probably thought it was chic, but to Eartha it was ugly, almost perverted. And she was just a little angry at her sister for thinking she’d appreciate being part of it. Well, being angry didn’t take away her thirst. Strolling to the punch bowl, she heard a loud burst of jovial laughter and automatically turned toward it. Dumbfounded again, her mouth dropped open.
He was standing in the midst of a small group of women of varying ages. All seemed to adore him or at the least to find his conversation enjoyable. His eyes didn’t wonder around the room while someone else spoke. The ladies in his circle had his attention. Eartha noted his easy smile and the slight nods he gave to indicate he was agreeable to the older woman’s words. She was fifty if she was a day, maybe even sixty. The younger ladies were content to smile and fuss with the jewels decorating their long necks and ears. She wondered how many of them had his personal phone numbers.
“Excuse me?” A tall man stepped up beside her. Dark and attractive in a jockish way. Like Clint, if Clint were tall. “Did you say something?”
“Er no,” she replied. “I didn’t even know you were near.”
“My name is Clive.” He stepped closer blocking her view of the group she watched. He continued to smile even though she frowned. “Are you alone?”
“No,” she said backing away. Clive was quick on his feet. He managed to move in front of her before she turned all the way around.
“He’s busy,” Clive stated mildly. “His card is full, while I on the other hand am ready and willing to give you all the attention you desire.”
“Why don’t we start by dancing?”
“I don’t think so,” she said glancing back toward Anthony James and his admirers. Just a gigolo after all.
“Oh come on,” Clive said. His smile disappeared, and he looked her over, up and down suddenly not too pleased with her overall appearance. “What are you, about forty five? Been married all your life and the sex is stale? You figure a younger man-”
“I’d hardly call you a younger man, Clive. And if I was sixty five, you’d look no better to me than you do now.” He wasn’t too bad physically, but he was nothing to really brag about either. Compared to Anthony James, there was something lacking about ole Clive. Not sexually appealing at all. She glanced in his direction again. Tall, and physically fit. Good skin too. Her mind went back to his crotch in her face, inadvertently, her eyes lowered down the front of his pants.
“You ain’t his type,” Clive said unkindly. “Compared to those other ladies, you’re just a hamburger patty among porterhouse steaks.”
“So what do you do, take his leftovers?” She purposely eyed him up and down, showing she wasn’t any more impressed with him than he was of her.
“There ain’t any shame in my game, and I ain’t especially particular.”
“I suppose whores can’t afford to be.”
“I just love a woman with class,” Clive said softly smoothing down his tie. “And by the way, everyone can tell that dress come from the JCPenney Collection.”
Rather than continue slinging insults with a stranger, she turned her back on Clive in time to catch a passing waiter with a tray of drinks. Gulping down a flute of champagne, she noticed Anthony James look up and glance around. For a brief moment, he appeared out of sorts, or maybe even bored, then he was smiling again giving the older ladies his undivided attention the function of the party became indisputable. She decided it was time to go, even if she had to drag Vivian down those stairs by her hair.
“Lord, have mercy,” Eartha whispered. A woman had another woman backed against a wall, both had their tops down to the hips exposing their breasts, slobbering and sucking on each other. Moans and long sighs from all around her drew her attention from the women. No one seemed to think a closed door was necessary. Searching the darkened hallway, making her way, going door to door, she was thankful her sister wasn’t among the exhibitionists.
“Viv?” The door pushed open after one tap. She put her head in keeping her eyes averted, afraid of what she might have to witness. “Viv, you in here?” She had to be because it was the last room.
“Shit!” Vivian screamed. “Eartha!”
“Vivian?” Eartha couldn’t see a thing, but she heard a man’s grunts coming from somewhere low in the room. She looked toward where she thought a bed should be. “Viv!” She ran her hands over the wall hoping to find a light switch. “You okay in here?”
“Eartha, get out of-” The light came on and Vivian froze in place. She was nude on the floor on her knees receiving thrusts from behind by a very young, enthusiastic and also nude man. Eartha’s untimely intrusion had no effect on his performance. “Reuben, stop! Stop you fool!” Vivian pulled away crawling to the bedside reaching for her dress to hold in front of her for Eartha’s sake, then ran into the small bathroom and slammed the door shut.
Eartha gasped, backing into the door closing it, aghast at the sight of the young man on his knees looking at her while he vigorously pleasured himself. “Stop that,” she managed in a hollow sounding voice. What was wrong with people? The young man continued to pump away, moaning just a little as he grinned at her. “I told you to stop that!” She swiped at him with her purse. “You dirty little-” And then he ejaculated with a loud moan of release. Still looking at her, he smacked his lips, rising off the floor. He was tall. And so damn young. She clutched her purse in front of her chest. “Boy, if you touch me.”
“Relax,” he grinned. “I just need that box of tissue.” He indicated the dresser she backed herself into. “Thanks,” he flashed a smile taking the box from her hands. “What’s the matter? You never party before, or what?”
“Why don’t you go do something about yourself?” She couldn’t help it. Her eyes just wouldn’t leave the perfect body in front of her.
“I just did,” he said crumpling up the soiled tissues in his hand. “And I don’t mind being looked at.”
“Viv!” What was taking her so long anyway?
“Why didn’t you stay downstairs?” Vivian asked marching out of the bathroom. She quickly stepped into her dress pulling it over her hips, and glared at Eartha while she put her arms through the thin straps. “Why the hell you think you had to come up here?”
“Why didn‘t you tell me this was a sex party?” Eartha flicked off the light and opened the door. “I’ll meet you outside.”
“Girl, close that door and sit down. This ain’t the kind of neighborhood to be standing around outside looking stupid! And turn that light back on so I can fix my hair!” Instead of waiting for her compliance, Vivian stalked across the floor to flick the light switch. “I swear,” she fumed under her breath going back to the dresser. After digging around in her purse, she pulled out her brush and ran it roughly through her soft curls.
Rather than look at Vivian, Eartha watched the young man go into the bathroom. He looked about twenty, Eartha hoped to goodness he actually was.
“You ready or what?” Vivian snapped. She was all pulled together with purse in hand staring at her crossly.
“Well, what’s the matter with you?” Eartha asked amazed at her funky attitude. “I’m the one-”
“Look, Eartha Barstowe, I was just trying to do you a favor. Show you a world that has nothing to do with Clint. I swear-”
“Who’s Clint?” Reuben came out of the bathroom addressing Eartha. “Is he your man?” He leaned against the doorframe and gave her a quick reappraisal. Amused, he looked at Vivian seeing Eartha wasn’t about to converse with the likes of him. Vivian just rolled her eyes.
“Are you a prostitute or something?” Eartha blurted hoping to wipe that grin off his pretty face. Didn’t work though.
“I guess you’re into labels,” he said.
He pushed off the door, not approaching her exactly, yet she took a step back from his perfect nakedness. “You feel the need to put people in certain categories in order to relate.”
“Say what?” Eartha glanced at Vivian. She just stood there with a hand on her hip.
“I affect your sexual nature as much as you obviously affect me.” Reuben paused inviting her to view the evidence, disappointed he continued. “Calling me a prostitute, a negative label takes away my power or gives you strength to resist.”
“Are you for real?”
“Why act like a prude? Maybe this isn’t exactly your scene-”
“Stop it.” Vivian stepped up and took Eartha by the elbow.
“No, you ladies hold it.” Reuben took her other arm pulling her almost against him. “She burst in here, started ogling me-”
“Well, what you expect a woman to do? It’s not like you’re shy or anything.”
“That isn’t the point.”
“I wasn’t ogling you, you pervert!” Eartha cried at the very notion. “I was flabbergasted! And maybe just a little bit more than disgusted at the-”
“Eartha.” Vivian tugged at her arm. Then to Reuben, “Get your hand off my sister, boy.”
“Sisters?” He dropped her arm letting out a big howl. “Vivian’s sister is a-”
“Shut up,” Vivian said in a quiet tone. Her eyes gave the order rather than her voice. “Now, you apologize to her.”
“Oh Viv,” Eartha sighed not liking the tension she was picking up from her sister. “Who cares what this boy thinks about me?”
“I care, and he better care what I think.”
“I apologize, Eartha.” He bent forward in a slight bow, contrition evident in his voice and facial expression. “Forgive me, please.”
Forgive him? Eartha looked at Vivian. Her eyes were on Reuben. “Well, I hardly think forgiveness is necessary.” Besides, she got the feeling Reuben was talking to Vivian anyway.
“I’ll meet you downstairs. Give me a minute or two.” Vivian spoke with her eyes still on Reuben.
“Oh, for goodness sake, Viv! I am not about to wait while you and this boy have another go round!” She grabbed Vivian’s hand. “We are out of here, right now.”
“I said, a minute or two,” Vivian yanked her hand free then shoved Eartha out of the room into the hallway. “Just go downstairs and wait for me. Have a drink.” Vivian closed the door in her face.
“Viv! Don’t you dare do me like this!” She rattled the doorknob. “Damn it, Viv!”
“Will you hold it down?” A harsh voice in the dark suggested unkindly. A tall man with no neck appeared out of the shadows. “If you got a problem with your girl, you solve it somewhere else.”
“How dare you come up to me and-”
“Just stay off the damn door, and I won’t be forced to throw you out.”
“Throw me out?”
He pointed a thick finger in her face, which she promptly swatted away. “Look, lady-”
“If you lay one of those filthy hands on me, I’ll have you arrested!”
“Who invited your crazy ass to this party?” He inquired backing off.
“None of your business,” she snapped. “If you get away from me now, I just might not report your crude threatening behavior to my friend.”
“I’m just doing my job, lady. People come here to get their freaks on in peace.”
“Fine. Whatever!” She brushed past him for the stairs. He didn’t attempt to stop her or offer any more suggestions on how to conduct herself.
Tonight, after just three hours, he had over twelve hundred dollars, half the bills had phone numbers scribbled across the face. It was moments like this that he felt cheap, especially after the fun and genuine interest he gave the ladies. For a while there, he thought they were relating as equals, however, in the end, they reduced him to a body part. His wit and charm, even his intellect were nothing. He wasn’t a man to these women, just entertainment.
Bitterly, he crumbled the bills in his pockets. He could call them tips of appreciation, see if it made him feel any better. He wasn’t leading anybody on, and they all knew the rules. He wasn’t hired to sex them up. Not on the clock anyway.
Morosely, he went to the bar for a club soda. A woman old enough to be his grandmother gave him the eye while she waited for her own drink.
“Anthony,” she began with a smile. “It’s about time I caught you alone.”
“Actually, ma’am I’m just here for a last drink.”
“You mean,you are leaving so soon?”
“Afraid so. Got an early day tomorrow.” Her bright expression deflated. He looked at her jeweled hands. A wedding band and engagement ring.
“What a shame,” she said taking her martini from the bartender. She ate one of the olives and took a gulp from her glass. “I hoped you’d dance with me,” she pouted.
“Judy!” Clive sailed up as if so happy to see her that he kissed her on the lips, pulled a stool closer to hers.
“Young man,” she said sharply. “Anthony and I were discussing something.”
“Yeah?” Clive signaled the bartender for his usual. “Thought it was past his bedtime.”
“The night is just getting started,” Judy retorted touching Anthony’s hand as he took a long sip of his club soda.
“Not for that guy,” Clive said taking the opportunity to place an arm around Judy. “He’s got a job to get to in the morning.”
“A job?” Judy stared at Anthony like he was a Martian. “Why would you need-?”
“So Judy,” Clive pulled her gaze off Anthony with a firm finger under her chin. “If it’s a fun long evening you want, ole Clive is here.”
Anthony hoped Judy knew where the line was, one more attempt to entice him would be begging. She looked Clive over blatantly. Not her first choice, obviously. She glanced Anthony’s way one more time and tried to catch his eye, but he was busy squeezing a lime wedge into his drink. “So Clive,” she said managing a certain enthusiasm, with a jeweled hand and wrist, she caressed Clive’s thigh. “Do you like fast cars?”
“Only kind I like, baby,” he grinned moving his legs to give her better access.
“Good,” Judy smiled. “Good.” She finished off her martini then gave Clive a big kiss on the mouth, which he returned heartily. “How about you take me for a spin?”
“Sure, Judy.” Clive popped right off the stool grabbing her around the waist. “I was about to suggest that myself.”
“Er, just let me visit the powder room. Be right back,” Judy promised, pulling out of his crude embrace. Moving as quickly as her high heels allowed, she started across the room.
“Oh man!” Clive rejoiced, “Judy Davidson.” Then, “Hey man, what is your problem anyway? You think you too good or something?”
“Man, I didn’t say a word.”
“I’m just doing what any normal guy would do.” He stressed the word normal.
“Well,” Anthony said pushing off the stool. “Normally, I wouldn’t let a woman old enough to me my nana pick up on me.”
“Man,” Clive scowled. “ Ain’t that many young honey’s gonna pay no brother to screw her. Or drive her around in a cool ass car. Hell, I heard Judy gave Bo Johnson a Jag for his birthday. And he only-”
“Clive, don’t give me any details. My indigestion is bad enough lately.” Sure Judy looked good for her age, and from what he heard, she could still sort of go, but sleeping with a woman twice his age for money and presents was on the other side of the line he refused to cross. But live and let live, he sometimes said.
“You and that chick that was here earlier should get together,” Clive snorted unkindly.
“Some tired ass housewife. Boy, she was drooling for you but too scared to join the crowd. I guess, she must’ve watched you a solid half-hour. Too bad for her sorry ass you were already spoken for.”
“Hardly.” Yeah, he thought he caught a glimpse of someone standing alone. For a minute, he actually thought it was the lady from the gas pumps, but dismissed it as crazy. The lady might have problems, and he knew he didn’t know her, but he somehow thought he knew she had too much lady in her to indulge in such base activities. “You say she seemed out of place?”
“Real bitchy,” Clive stressed, which Anthony translated to mean she wasn’t flattered with his form of flirting. “Anyway, she wasn’t all that much anyhow. No style, or anything. Screwing her would probably be like-”
“Man,” Anthony cut in displeased with Clive’s one-track mind. “You know with some grown folks, it’s not about sex. Least, not all the time.”
“Bullshit. Show me a man that ain’t interested in sex and I’ll show you a weirdo.” He eyed Anthony silently for a few seconds. “Anyway, I’ve been studying on something. The chicks here crave you, man.”
“I just told you, I’m not interested in servicing women for trinkets.”
“Trinkets! Man, are you nuts?” Clive asked uproariously. He looked around before chilling out. “Man, I ain’t punched a clock for over nine months. I still got my house and two cars. Plus, mind you, money in the bank. I make more money here drinking the boss’s booze and meeting contacts like Judy. Boy, she’s loaded and all her friends are loaded.”
“That’s wonderful, Clive.” Anthony thought it was about time to leave.
“Hold on a minute. Fella, the ladies see something in you they don’t see in me. What? I can’t imagine. You ain’t anything special on the outside and I know I got a better looking face. But anyhow, if you are too good to give these women what they want let me have ‘em. All you have to do is talk me up, and send them my way.”
“Why the hell not? Man-”
“I thought life was so good.”
“Can always be better. Anyway, how many times have I rescued your sorry ass from women like Judy?”
“Clive, I’m not into it procuring for you.”
“We could be a team, man. I can do all the screwing. You can just-”
“Hell no. Why don’t you find someone that’s willing?”
“Ain’t anybody else I know that’s like you with these ladies. Hey, just consider the possibilities.”
“Sure, Clive. I’ll give it all the consideration it deserves. Here comes your date.”
“Thanks man,” Clive backed off smiling full of confidence.
Anthony walked away before Judy made it back to the bar. When she called his name he pretended he never heard her.
She was just a housewife, he observed, a regular housewife out shopping, not too concerned about her appearance as long as she was presentable, yet comfortable. Her jeans were old, more than broken in, looked like she had worn them for years. The fit was loose, not revealing much about her shape, and her oversized tee shirt was faded with the picture of Betty Boop posing with a little black cat. She was moving slowly the way shoppers do when looking for some item that should be on the aisle but didn’t seem to be. After a few more seconds, she gave up and pushed her cart continuing on to the next aisle. Anthony walked away going to the opposite end, not wanting to risk being discovered watching her.
After a few more minutes, he followed her to the checkout stands. She went directly to the twenty items or less lane and started unloading her cart. When she finished, she looked up giving him an impersonal smile rather than pretend he was invisible. Disappointed, he realized Eartha hadn’t recognized him as more than just another shopper. He placed his cider close to her stuff on the counter. Automatically, she used the plastic divider to separate the items. While she opened her purse to take out her checkbook, he wondered if he should say something.
“Ma’am, paper or plastic?” the bag boy asked her.
“Take plastic,” Anthony suggested then wondered what he’d say if she questioned his choice. “If you don’t mind my opinion.”
“I always take plastic,” Eartha replied tersely, finally looking at him fully. “You,” she said embarrassed upon recognizing him. “Uh,” she began then cleared her throat as she busied herself with filling out the check.
“So did you have a good time?”
“The party. Clive mentioned you seemed uptight. But I wondered since you went upstairs-”
She was handing the cashier her check and froze. “How did you know I-”
“You don’t have to be embarrassed.”
“Who says I’m embarrassed?” The clerk whisked the check from her fingers and the bag boy asked if she needed help with her bags. “Yes please,” she smiled at him placing her purse strap on her shoulder and led him out of the market without another word or glance in Anthony’s direction.
“Are you following me?” Eartha asked as he approached her empty handed. In the store she had the feeling more than once someone was watching her, but refused to give in to paranoia. Men scoped women in public places all the time. Clint did it even when he was with her sometimes.
“Excuse me?” Anthony frowned stopping a few feet away.
“You didn’t buy anything,” she pointed out.
“A man can’t change his mind?” She unlocked her car with the remote without a word. “Are you embarrassed I saw you at that house, or am I just annoying you?”
“What does it matter if you saw me? I wasn’t doing anything to be ashamed of.” She opened the driver’s door and slipped in behind the wheel, putting the key in the ignition. “Being there was a mistake. However, you looked quite content, like you were in your element.”
“Hmmm.” Anthony held the door open with a casual gesture putting his face near hers. “You didn’t like that.”
“What?” She smelled mint. Coming from his mouth. She observed the shape of his lips that seemed much too close to her own. “I can’t imagine what you mean.”
“Me, looking like I was in my element.”
“It isn’t for me to like,” she retorted turning the key. The radio and AC came on but the engine didn’t turn over. “Or not to like,” she followed up turning to start the car. The hum of the motor comforted her. It no longer felt like she was suspended in time with a dazzling man she didn’t even know. He could easily be a rapist or a serial killer.
“All the same,” he ventured. “You wish we hadn’t seen each other.”
“Do you work those parties?” If he could be blunt so could she. “Is that why you hand out those cards to complete strangers?”
“Look me in the face and ask me that,” he invited. His husky voice and minty breath turned her head but she remained quiet. “I give my cards out to people I find interesting. Now, what exactly do you mean about ‘working those parties?’”
“You know what I mean.”
“I’m afraid I don’t.” The smile left his mouth.
“Then why are you offended?”
His mouth tightened wrinkling his moustache. At first it seemed he was ready to back off and leave her alone then he took a moment before speaking. “I’m sorry, Eartha. I thought from what Clive said and the way you seemed disappointed-”
“At seeing me working the party. Yes, me and several others were hired to help get things started. Sex isn’t part of my job, if that’s what is turning you off.”
“Seemed like Clive was doing something else.”
“Hey, that’s Clive. I just know I haven’t compromised myself. And what consenting adults do isn’t really anybody else’s business. Maybe you don’t approve, but for me the work is easy and the pay is good. Plus, I meet people and make good business contacts.”
“I’m a photographer.” He drew himself back rising to his feet. “Maybe, I was out of line approaching you in public. It’s plain that you can’t wait to get out of this parking lot.”
“I’m not-” Anthony pushed the car door shut and started across the lot. Eartha noticed it was a different vehicle from the one he had at the gas station. It was a Cadillac. A struggling photographer, who worked sex parties, could afford a brand new Caddy and had a Stingray at home she supposed. “Oh whatever,” she said under her breath and strapped on her safety belt and headed for home.
“She’s in your office,” Zelda informed Anthony from the reception desk. She covered the mouthpiece on her headset with her palm. “I tried, but you know how she is.”
“Oh crap,” he moaned and started to turn around and head back out. Just what he needed after a letdown of a morning. At the door, he remembered he had an afternoon of appointments. Dodging Brenda meant losing business he desperately needed. And he bet she knew that as well. “Damn.”
“Tony, I can-” Zelda started to rise.
“No, I’ll deal with her.”
Brenda Park. The woman who thought she was his boss. Short with thick legs that to Anthony could use a pair of stockings. She eyed him from the corner of her almond shaped, light brown eyes, pretending patience. Removing the camera from around his neck, he watched her back as if she were a viper. He placed the camera on the desk, then started around it to go sit.
Without warning, Brenda stood up straight. Her leather skirt bunched up her thighs, hinting she wore no underwear. She walked around the little table not bothering to straighten her clothes. “Why must you continue to play this game?” Her skirt finally righted itself. “Are you a boy or a man?”
“Haven’t you been compensated well?”
“Depends on how I look at it.” Anthony pulled out a chair and sat down.
Brenda nearly fumed, her face went red beneath her golden complexion. Taking a couple of deep breaths, she backed off going back to the small sofa. From her small purse she took a cigarette and lit it. “Explain that,” she said crossing her short muscular legs. She blew quick discharges of smoke from her nose glowering at him.
“Business is good,” Anthony said. “I work hard and I’m good at what I do.”
“Your business,” she interrupted, jumping to her feet. With a wide sweep of her arms, she twirled around the modest office. “This- this studio!” she nearly screamed. “Was near death until Balls and Chains-”
“It was a lucky break I needed, I admit that. But I did a job for you and you paid me. There is no need to kiss your ass now. I don’t know what you want from-”
“You know damn well what!” She came upon him breathing her hot cigarette breath down into his face. “My phones have been ringing!” Anthony rose towering over her. She saw the tight controlled anger behind his eyes and then she smiled. “You will come back to my parties.”
“Don’t see that happening.”
“I want you as host at the next gathering. I’ll pay you five thousand dollars. All you have to do is stay until midnight.”
“I already told you, I was done with that. You coming down here to play the she-devil certainly isn’t going to change anything. My business is doing good and I have no reason to go back to moonlighting as-”
“I don’t think you understand, Anthony. I’ve invested time and money into you. Called in favors to get you work at the national level.”
“How do you think a yokel like yourself landed Dreamboat Magazine or Frostbite Monthly? Now, if you still want to be so ungrateful, I’ll make a few calls and see it never happens again.”
“You really think you have that kind of power?”
“Balls and Chains Adult Entertainment is reputed all over the world. We’ve many high profile and powerful clients with whom I have a certain influence.”
“So? Make your calls. I’m not interested in anything -”
“You will work for me at Balls and Chains,” Brenda said as if he had not just refused her. “Or,” She unzipped her skirt letting it fall around her feet.
“Woman, you’re twisted if you think-”
She rushed him, backing him up against the desk, somehow getting her hand down his pants. Appalled, he shoved her hard and yanked her hand out. She tripped on her skirt and fell to the floor.
“Stay off me, Brenda.” He reached for the phone, hating that he was trembling.
“Put that phone down,” she ordered from the floor. Anthony paused to look at her. On her knees, she was pulling her blouse over her head, her nipples poked out like little eyes from her cut out bra. “You get over here.” She made no move toward him, but was exerting her will. “Now, Anthony.”
“Zelda!” Anthony yelled at the top of his lungs forgetting about the intercom system. “Zelda, get in here!”
“Anthony, I am not asking you. You do as I command.”
Zelda burst in. “What in the world? She looked from Brenda and her angry humiliated face to Anthony’s stressed and maybe just a little bit frightened face. “As I live and breathe,” she cried out.
“Zelda, do something,” Anthony shouted backing up behind his desk.
“All right, then.” She walked right up to the shorter, younger and much stouter looking woman, who dared her with mean eyes to stay in her face. “Get dressed this instant young woman, and leave. Or I will be forced to bodily remove you.”
“Old lady-” Brenda began then found her arm in a tight hold behind her back. Surprised at Zelda’s strength against her struggles, she attempted to flip Zelda over. Anticipating the move, Zelda applied pressure to her shoulder. “Turn me loose,” Brenda ground out. “I’ll leave.”
Zelda went to stand beside Anthony. “You all right, Tony?”
“Yeah, thanks.” They shared a short hug then kept their eyes on Brenda while she dressed and pulled herself together. “Don’t come back, Brenda,” Anthony advised.
“One chance is all anyone gets from me. For your bad manners, I will see that you are out of business within the month.”
Anthony walked over to Brenda. “Consider this. I’ve seen your whole operation in action and nearly every time I stepped foot inside your parties or attended a show at Balls and Chains, I brought along a camera or two.”
“As a photographer, I often feel the need to document every new experience. Seeing famous people getting wild and nasty was a new experience for me.”
“You are bluffing,” Brenda said. “You aren’t smart enough to think ahead of me.”
“Try something and we’ll see.”
“Fool,” Brenda uttered then marched from the office.
“Tony,” Zelda said taking a seat behind the desk. “I knew I never should have let her in here.”
“Well, it’s over, now. Thanks for taking up for me. Anyway, where did you learn how to do arm locks and shoulder holds?”
“My uncle was a professional tag team wrestler. The Mighty Joes.”
“Oh. Zelda, I don’t know where to start about explaining why I had to get you involved in this mess.”
“If it’s really over, I don’t think I need to hear any details.”
“Tony, I am not as naïve as you think. Now, let’s just leave it at that,” she said pushing out of the chair and came around the desk. “However far it went doesn’t matter, as long as you stay out of it now.”
“I never did anything wrong.” Except take a job he knew full well might have negative consequences. It was difficult just meeting the older woman’s eyes. “Working for Balls and Chains was a mistake. I knew Brenda had her eyes on me for a reason.”
“You needed money,” Zelda voiced understandingly. “Can that woman hurt the studio?”
“She can, but at risk of retaliation, I doubt she’ll try anything.”
“I just can’t believe the stunts people will pull these days.” Zelda shook her head and walked out of the office.
“Damn.” He let out a breath and sighed, wondering why his hands were still shaking.