Flash Fiction by April Thomas
Agony tore at her heart as her eyes searched the playground wildly. She diligently searched for the clothing her four-year-old daughter wore, especially the red balloon tied on her small wrist. "Please, please, please," she murmured to herself. Her heart was pleading for God to help her find her little girl. The sun was getting ready to set, and she knew she was running out of time. She screamed out her name again. "Chloe!" She sobbed deep in her heart; she knew she would not hear her daughter calling back. She immediately searched out a stranger passing by.
"Sir, excuse me. Have you seen a little girl, she has two long braids tied with pink ribbons. She's wearing a pink and white dress, and she has a red balloon tied to her wrist...sir, please!"
Her eyes are bewildered by the stranger's rudeness, but hope returns as she sees a lady with a child passing by her. "Ma'am!" She calls out waving at the young mother and child, but a man calls out to her. She turns to see a man with long dark hair tied back in a ponytail. He wore casual clothes, and she could tell that he was Native American, like her. She ran to him as he began to speak to her.
"Are you missing a little girl?" He inquired as he looked her over. She was disheveled and seemed confused.
"Yes," she answered, stopping before him. "She has t-two long braids, and-"
"Where did you last see her?" He questioned quickly.
"I was sitting right there on the bench, watching her play on the playground. I must have dozed off or something because when I woke up, she was gone." She answered.
"Are you in any pain?" He asked as he observed a bruise above her left eye.
"No, I'm not in any pain. I just need to find my little girl." She answered, not concerned about herself.
"I will do my best to help you," he returned.
"How can you help me?"
"My name is Nathaniel Eaglefeather; I'm a detective."
"Yes, please, thank you. My name is Alice, by the way."
"Alice, what a sweet name." Nathaniel offered her a handshake. Alice took his hand and shook it, feeling that finally, her prayers answered. "Okay Alice let's trace your steps, how did you come to the park, did you two walk or did you drive here?"
"We walked, I live a few blocks from here. My husband and I had a horrible argument, and I needed to cool off, so I took Chloe for a walk. I wasn't feeling so good, but I didn't want to go back home, so I decided to let her play at the park while I rested for a bit on that bench."
"Did you notice anything strange on the way to the park, anyone you may not have normally recognized in the neighborhood, possibly driving around?" Nathaniel asked.
Alice thought for a while as images from the day strolled through her mind. Her memory felt fragmented, but she did remember a man driving a dark blue van with no back windows. "There was a man, but he didn't stop or look in our direction," Alice answered.
"Yes, no back windows." Alice finished, her blood now running cold.
"Please stay right here, I am going to make a quick call," Nathaniel said, stepping away.
Alice nodded as she turned her back to gaze at the children playing on the playground. "How could this of happened," she whispered to herself.
"Ma'am, can you take a ride with me?" Nathaniel asked.
"Do you know where my daughter is?"
"I might if you would just come with me, we don't have much time," Nathaniel insisted.
"Yes, should I call my husband?" Alice questioned. "I tried to call my husband, but he keeps hanging up on me. I think he's still angry."
"No worries, let's just get going before it gets too dark."
"Wait, Sir, I am sorry. Can I see a badge, proof that you are, who you say you are?" Alice requested.
"You are very wise to ask for ID," Nathaniel replied while pulling out his badge.
"Thank you," she nervously smiled. She took a good look at the badge and nodded in approval. "Let's go."
"So tell me, Alice, if you don't mind. What did you and your husband argue about?"
"Oh, men...he thinks I'm stupid that I don't know about all the women he screws behind my back. I'm just sick of it. I gave so much of myself for him, and he doesn't value me, and I'm done."
"What made you think that he was cheating?"
"He suddenly started working late and having extra business trips that would last longer than just a weekend. Then I saw the text messages while he was in the shower, and I overheard him talking with a woman on the phone. I would do anything for him to talk to me like that again. He would give them money and pay their bills. He doesn't know that I know all of this. That's why he disregards me, calling me crazy." She took a deep breath, realizing that it took a weight off of her to say. "But I could care less if staying with him meant having my daughter in my arms again, I would do it in a heartbeat."
"My heart goes out to you," he returned. "I can tell that women, like you, are not appreciated in today's world. He will regret losing you, I am certain of it."
Alice sobbed once more at Nathaniel's words. "I wish that were true."
"I am going to reunite you with your little girl-" his cell phone rang, and he had to answer it. He quickly shoved his blue tooth earpiece in his ear and answered the call. "Detective Eaglefeather. Yes," he replied. "Damn, okay, send me the new address now," he ordered.
Alice had anxiously listened to the one side conversation. "What's wrong?"
"We may have found your daughter or a little girl who fits her description, but it's a three-hour drive to get there. Your husband has already been contacted, and he will meet you up there."
"Why won't he answer any of my calls?"
"Let's just focus on reuniting you with your daughter; everything can be figured out after," Nathaniel advised.
"I just don't understand what's happening." Alice murmured.
Nathaniel could find no words to comfort her and felt it was best to leave her alone with her thoughts. There would be a lot she would have to deal with soon enough. To Alice, three hours seemed to flow by timelessly, but to the detective, he felt every agonizing minute of the drive.
They drove to a remote part of town and parked near a worn-down old home a few police cars were there and a dark blue van. Some officers looked over in the detective's direction, but he had given them strict orders before his arrival. Nathaniel took a deep breath as he turned off the car's engine. "Is there anything else that you remember before you passed out?" He questioned.
Again blurred images flooded her mind; she did her best to get a clear vision of what took place, leading up to her daughter going missing. "I can't seem to remember anything clearly. Why are we here?"
Nathaniel stepped out of the vehicle and walked around to the passenger side. He opened the door and offered her his hand. She took it and stepped out onto the pavement. "I haven't been candid with you," he began. "My name is Nathaniel Eaglefeather, and I am a detective, but I work mainly in special cases." He said as he leads her towards the house.
"I-I don't understand, was my daughter sexually assaulted?" Alice didn't wait for a response began to shout out her daughter's name as she ran towards the house.
"Mommy!" Chloe shouted back as Nathaniel struggled to keep up with the mother. His heart seems to explode with a pang of great sadness and joy as a beautiful little girl in a pink and white dress with two long ponytails ran towards her mother. Both mother and daughter collapsed, embracing each other as tears flooded both of their faces.
"Oh, baby, where have you been? I've been searching for you everywhere."
"Alice, there is something that you need to know. Nathaniel struggled to come out with the words. However, it did not matter. Alice's eyes locked on a gurney carrying the body of a small child. She bolted towards the stretcher with Nathaniel close behind her. She reached ahead of him and yanked the white sheet back, revealing the bruised and discolored face of her little girl.
"Whoa," shouted the coroners.
"Yes, it sure is windy today," Nathaniel blurted out as he did his best to catch his breath.
Alice looked back down at her daughter, who was standing beside her. She could not breathe; she had no clue what to think; she felt like the walls were closing around her all at once.
"Alice, please... stay with me," Nathaniel pleaded. He daughter her as she fell. Placing himself on the floor and allowing her head to rest on his lap.
"Mommy, mommy, come back!" The little girl demanded.
"We have to give mommy a minute, sweetie," Nathaniel said to the little girl.
Alice's eyes fluttered open, and she grabbed her little girl and squeezed her, and tears streamed down her face. "Who did this to us?" She questioned the detective.
"Your body was found at the park. You were injected with a substance that caused you to pass out, but it killed you with your medical condition. Your little girl was taken by that man in the dark blue van. He lied about the location of where he buried your little girl. So, I was called in. I work with unusual cases involving the supernatural. I knew that I would find your spirit in the park. I needed to help you, hoping that we could have saved her in time. I'm sorry we failed." Nathaniel spoke compassionately.
"You told me that you would reunite me with my daughter, and you did, you didn't fail us," Alice said as she cried. "Who did this to us?"
"The man was hired by your husband's mistress. Your husband has nothing to do with this; he is on suicide watch as we speak."
"What do we do now?" Alice asked, looking down at her little girl.
"You and this sweet angel are going to stand up," he began getting to his feet as he helped her to hers. "Turn around, and you see that bright, beautiful light?"
Alice nodded, unable to speak.
"Leave all that pain and suffering here and take your daughter's precious hand and walk into that light. I will make sure justice is served for you and your daughter."
Alice looked back one last time and mouthed. Thank you, to Nathaniel, and then she and her daughter disappeared into the numinous light.
An officer tapped Nathaniel on the shoulder. "How did you know this was the right little girl?"
"I dreamt of a red balloon," Nathaniel answered.
Copyright © April Thomas 2020
August 5, 1973
Her bare feet stomped across the cold tile floor of her father's humble church. She could hear the rumble of his voice as he passionately preached the morning sermon. This morning's speech was titled Jezebel the enemy of God, and the lecture was about to reach its climax, Angel could not wait a moment longer. Just fourteen years old and rage flowed through her veins like bitter venom. She had run away from home six months ago after stealing the church's weekly tithe. Her father had chastened her, but it only seemed to fuel the rebellious spirit in her.
Elijah Johnson was at his wit's end, dealing with Angel, a little girl he promised his deceased wife to raise as his own. He had no clue who Angel's real father could be, but there were times he was sure it was Satan himself who fathered this child. However, Elijah did not stop looking for his daughter. He seemed to always be on his knees, praying for his daughter.
The double doors to the main hall of the church burst open with force, that even startled Angel as she stomped through the doorway. She quickly regained her composure and locked eyes on her father. Although he was all that she knew to be her father, it was undeniable that he had no blood relation to her. Her father was a tall, dark-skinned man with thick woolly hair. She, like her mother, was fair-skinned with straight dark hair.
Parental lies, the first knife in her back. Angel gleams at her father as she takes a few more steps farther into the hall. Her father, along with a vast majority of the congregation, gasped at her appearance. A disheveled young girl, beautiful, barefoot, and pregnant. Her swollen womb seems to take over her petite frame.
"Hello, Daddy!" Angel boasted.
Elijah stepped down from the pulpit, his knees weak from the emotional shock of seeing his daughter in this condition. Before he could reach her, Angel began to speak again.
"I came to congratulate you on your first grandchild. Her name will be Jezebel and I am giving her the name of my real father...Castle!" And with that, she turned and walked out of the church.
The emotional shock and pain were too much for Elijah's heart to bear. He fell to his knees, finally reaching the point where his daughter had made her announcement, and died.
The sun was beginning to set when they decided to call it a day. Makayla was relieved to know that she could catch a month-long break after today. She was exhausted, starved, and upset that Tamarius hadn’t stuck around to see the rest of her shoot. He wasn’t even there when she wrapped up her last shot. Makayla thought he most likely needed a break from her.
She stepped into her trailer to take off her make up and change. Before she could lock the door behind her, there was a knock. She opened the door to see a messenger holding a note. "Thank you,” she said taking the note and closing the door.
While working, a call had come in from her father. The note read: Makayla, we need your help back home. The orphanage your cousin owns is in danger. Can you please call me when you get this message?
Makayla quickly reached for her purse and pulled out her cell phone to call her father. No one answered, and as she was hanging up, she felt large hands slide around her waist while soft lips kissed her neck.
"Mmmm," she groaned. "Is that who I think it is?" She smiled and turned to face Tamarius who was grinning from ear to ear. "Oh no, it's just you." Makayla teased, pulling away from him and laughing.
"Wow, that was cold. I knew you had someone on the side. Who is he? I’m going to kill him," Tamarius said with feigned anger.
"Stop it. He's just a kid." Makayla played along while she began to pull off her bathing suit.
Tamarius rushed to lock the trailer door then turned back to Makayla.
"Please, always make sure the door is locked before showing everyone my gifts." He smiled and Makayla smiled in return.
He was everything she was looking for in a man, charming, funny, romantic and sincere. Of course this is what also scared the crap out of her. "I'm..." Makayla began, stopping to sigh and scratch her head.
She stood there naked and was amused by the difficulty Tamarius was having paying attention. "I'm sorry about earlier. I was...I don't know. Tamarius, I've been through a lot."
"I know," he said. Walking up to her, he pulled her close. "You better put some clothes on before we break this trailer." His smile was slow and sensual as he lifted her chin to kiss her lips. "I made reservations for us at a great Polynesian restaurant on the other side of the island."
"Aw, is it because I got mad? You don't have to do that." Makayla felt her cheeks heat up and pulled away. "Tamarius, you know I'm not pregnant. You don't have to like... freak out and marry me or nothing crazy like that." Makayla reached into her bag and pulled out the clothes she wanted to change into.
"Makayla, I don't care if you are or if you aren't, I just want to be with you. Can I just be with you?"
Makayla turned her head to look at him. She knew he had a quick temper and could see the anger and shock he now tried to hide, but she also admired his passion. Why do I always go for the big, hot-headed, hasty ones? she joked to herself.
"Okay, don't pop a blood vessel. All I’m saying is that I have tried in the past to get pregnant and nothing happened. I don't want you getting your hopes up or whatever. I know I should have told you before, but things are getting serious now," Makayla said as she finished putting on her clothes.
She hated thinking about the fertility problems she’d had in the past. She’d learned to not get her hopes up over a missed period or nauseated stomach. She’d fought her urge to rush to the nearest convenience store and buy out all of the pregnancy tests.
"Did you ever go to a doctor?" he asked with concern.
"Yeah, he told me to just lose weight. He didn't see anything wrong." She slipped on her shoes.
"Then you really don't know. It may have been the other guy who was sterile or something," Tamarius said, reaching out to help with her bags.
"Well, he knocked up the girl he cheated on me with," Makayla replied, fighting back her tears.
"Kay, that doesn't mean anything. All it could mean is he wasn't the right guy for you." He let the bags fall to the floor and swept her into his arms for a tender hug.
"Well, I’m on birth control. We don't need to be talking about this anyway. It's too soon.” Makayla pulled away from his embrace and headed towards the door.
Tamarius sighed. He would have to reconsider proposing to her tonight. He was afraid Makayla would run. She wasn't ready, and he could sense her fears. Stooping to once again grab her many bags, Tamarius knew he would give her all the time she needed. He was willing to wait for her. With the last of the bags hooked onto a few fingers, he rushed out of the trailer and caught up to Makayla as the limo driver opened the car door for her. They got in and got comfortable.
"I'm glad this job is over. I need a break," Makayla said resting her head back.
Tamarius leaned over to tell the driver where they were headed, but Makayla cut in.
"I want to pick up something else to wear. Do I have time to like take a shower?"
"Yes and no. You’re beautiful as you are, but we can stop on the way if you like. The shower part... I'll just try not to stand too close to the smelly chick," Tamarius said with a teasing squeeze of her shoulder.
"Oh, I wasn't smelly in the trailer," Makayla laughed.
"Yeah, but you didn't let me rub my scent on ya, so now you stink of the cabana boy."
Makayla burst out laughing. "You’re so stupid."
"Yeah, but you love me." He looked into her eyes.
Makayla was breathless as she stared into his loving gaze. Her lips would not form the words that her heart was screaming. “Yes, yes I do love you!” she wanted to say.
Her eyes filled with tears as she looked away and tried to think of something else to talk about. "So what kind of place is it?"
Tamarius chuckled to himself. "You’re going to love it."
Makayla looked down at her hands. Is this real love? She thought.
"What's bothering you, love?" Tamarius asked.
"Nothing, I just...." Makayla didn't know what to say. She was still overwhelmed by her emotions. She hated holding back all that she felt for Tamarius.
"Don't be afraid of me. I'm not here to hurt you," Tamarius said softly.
"I know that we are meant to be together.”
"You do, but because of what happened in the past you’re fearful. You told me that you dreamt of me, right?" Tamarius asked.
Makayla looked up at him. "Yeah, you remember that?" she smiled, warmed by the notion that he remembered.
"How could I forget? I was blown away. I thought I was losing it before I met you."
"I understand where you’re going, but I just don't know how to fit you in." Makayla said.
Tamarius was dumbfounded and suddenly afraid to lose her. "I don't even know the right words to say to that. You mean so much to me...." His words came out in a feeble mumble as he looked into her eyes. "Just let things happen naturally."
Makayla was so lost in the love she saw in his eyes that she didn't even realize she’d begun to speak again. "I know you’re the one for me. There is no doubt in my heart."
Tamarius pulled her close. There were so many things he wanted to say to her. He couldn't find the words to express how he felt. As the limo pulled up to a shopping plaza, Makayla pulled away from him and got ready to exit the limo.
"Tamarius, you have no fears about us?" Makayla asked.
"Only one," Tamarius replied while he gazed at her.
"What is it?"
"That we’ll walk away from what we have be because of your fears."
Makayla smiled as she teased him. "What if I die?"
Not pleased by what he’d just heard Tamarius frowned. "Well, then when it's my time, I pray that you will be the one to greet me."
"Promise me you will always put God first."
"I promise God I will always put him first," he quickly answered.
Makayla smiled at him. Though she didn’t yet seem to realize that her walls had begun to collapse with him, Tamarius could see a glow around her, and he began to hear some of her thoughts. He was elated by this new development. The only other time he’d been able to read her thoughts was when they’d made love.
The driver opened the door, and Makayla stepped out. Standing on the curb, she waited for Tamarius.
"Okay, we have one hour." His warning implied she needed to make some quick decisions.
"You’re coming with me, right?" she asked.
"Only if you promise to model for me," Tamarius teased.
"Let’s go. This will be quick." Makayla grabbed his hand and pulled him into a nearby boutique.
Makayla tried on numerous dresses, finally deciding on a black silk, charmeuse dress with black, high heels.
Tamarius, being a typical man, found a chair to relax in while she shopped. Once she’d found everything she needed, he quickly paid for everything while Makayla dressed in the fitting room.
He was breathless when she stepped out in her new dress. "Oh, my goodness. You look absolutely beautiful. You’re stunning." He smiled at her.
"Thank you." Makayla blushed and looked over at the sales associate who had helped her.
"Your husband took care of everything," the woman said.
"What? Oh, we aren't married." Makayla blushed even more. "Tamarius you didn't have to. I got it."
"Does it really matter who pays? We are both fine, and I will not let money be an issue in our relationship. Just let me be a gentleman, please." He walked over to her and extended his arm. "Now come on before it's too late."
Before Makayla could slip her hand under his forearm, her cell phone rang. She quickly answered the phone and heard her father’s voice. "Daddy!"
"Hello, baby. How are you doing?" her father asked in Chinese.
"I'm good, just doing some shopping before dinner with Tamarius." Her cheeks were suddenly hot with blush again. Her father always made her feel like she was five-years-old and, she hated to admit how she loved it.
“How’s my favorite daughter?” Fa Li asked.
“Daddy, I’m your only daughter, remember?” She smiled as she played along with the line of questioning her father never seemed to tire of. “How’s Trinidad?”
“With Coretta at my side, Trinidad is always worth having left China for.”
“And how is Lin Li?” Her aunt now lived in the Martinez mansion leaving Makayla little opportunity to see her.
“Like usual. Her granddaughter, Mei is out at the island which should make her happy.”
"So, Tamarius is with you?”
“Put him on the phone and let me say ‘hi’," her father ordered.
Makayla smiled at Tamarius and shrugged as she handed him the phone and inched closer to him to listen to the conversation.
Tamarius seemed suddenly nervous as he took the phone. "Good evening, Mr. Li."
"Hello, son. Things going good?"
"Yes, sir. We're doing good. I took Makayla to meet my cousins. They fell in love with her, and I think they are plotting to steal her from me."
"Hold onto her," Fa said with a hearty laugh. "Well, you take good care of her. She is my one and only."
"Oh, I am and I will," Tamarius reassured him, his head bobbing in a fervent nod.
"Good, I’m sure she’s in good hands. Well, nice talking to you, Tamarius. I will see you soon. Now pass me my daughter again."
"Okay, nice talking to you, too." He handed the phone back to Makayla.
"Kay," Fa said. "Listen, the orphanage your cousin Tia runs is having some problems."
Fa’s loud exhale and inhale told Makayla of the stress he was under. "What happened, Pops?"
"Look, the other day Tia came by to see me and she was real shook up. She told me the children were waking up with scratches and bruises on their skin."
"Oh my goodness, Daddy..." Makayla headed for the front door.
Tamarius stepped ahead of her and open the door for her, following closely behind as she walked out. He looked at Makayla who’d stopped and stood next to a large, cement column as she continued to speak with her father. He could tell by the heavy slope of her shoulders and the tight clenching of her fist that the call was very serious. He waited patiently for her to get off the phone, and when she walked up to him and gently wrapped her arms around his waist, he welcomed her into his arms as she rested her head on his chest. He offered her a gentle hug and planted a kiss on top of her head.
"Something bad must have happened. You rarely come to me." He forced a smile.
Makayla looked up at him. "Not true."
"Not important. What happened? What did your father say?"
"Remember my cousin Tia," Makayla began.
"Yeah, the one who takes care of those kids in Saint James."
"She got hurt pretty bad. She just got out of the hospital. The doctors couldn’t do anything for her. She’s in some kind of catatonic state and..."
Tamarius was speechless. He gently pushed Makayla back to look into her eyes.
She was crying as she continued to speak. "My dad said the only word that came out of her mouth was the name of a demon."
"What... what's the name?" Tamarius asked, trying to control the sudden rage he felt building up inside.
"Don't say the name. Just tell me what his job is." Tamarius knew that many demons’ names should not be repeated.
"He is a major one sent to seek, destroy, and kill God's chosen children. Tamarius, I have to go back home. Those children are in danger. It's only a mater of time before he finds the one he is looking for. In the meantime he will be trying to reap their souls."
Without another word Tamarius pulled out his cell phone and called his pilot. He arranged for them to leave soon. He pulled Makayla into his embrace. Feeling her hands around him seemed to calm him down as he whispered to her, "Everything is going to be alright. We can do this together."
Mei paced along the beach in front of their makeshift camp. Max had been gone for more than an hour, and she feared the worst. It had taken her some time to calm Uriel down, but before she even realized it, he’d fallen back asleep. Tears flooded Mei's eyes as she reminded herself to keep the faith. No matter what happened, they were all in God's hands.
She stopped pacing when she heard a noise behind her. Turning around, she saw Max, standing there, smiling at her.
Mei ran to him, crying and laughing at the same time. "Max, I'm so sorry. I was wrong to make us come here. I don't know what I was thinking. Let’s just go back home first thing in the morning," Mei rambled on as she held Max tightly.
"Baby, no. I was wrong."
She took a big step back and looked at him, scrunching her face in confusion. "Oh no, you’re a ghost. The Max I know wouldn't say that," Mei cried.
Max laughed. "You are impossible woman. Now that I finally understand your point, and I agree with you, this is the thanks I get?"
"Max when I thought I lost you—I can't do this without you."
He stepped closer to her, pulling her into his embrace. "Stop it. That was a garden lizard on steroids. I have fought bigger reptiles in my sleep."
"Yeah, Mr. Alligator Wrestler. Where did you learn to do that?" Mei asked.
"That's how I realized you might be onto something. If I hadn't seen you in danger, and I don't think I would have been able to do what I just did. I learned something new about myself."
"That was scary. I don't want to ever go through that again."
"Are you okay? Is there anything I need to kiss?" Max whispered as he leaned down to kiss her.
"Yeah, my butt for giving me a heart attack." She smiled before kissing him.
"Bend over," Max joked.
"Okay, but don't get mad. I got bit by something." Mei hesitated to even bring it up.
"Let me see. It can't be poisonous or you would have been... Just let me see." Max didn’t want to finish his initial thought."
"It's dark, babe. Watch the baby. I'll go wash it off in the ocean." Mei walked away. She could now relax knowing that her husband was safe.
When she returned, she joined Max who was sitting next to the fire.
"Is it bad?" he asked.
"It's fine. The salt water will kill any bacteria. It’s really not that bad." Mei didn't tell him it was a snakebite and that she had two puncture wounds on her ankle; however, she knew it was a non-venomous snake, or she would have been dead by now.
"It’s been one hell of a night," Max yawned.
"I know, and we haven't even started yet."
"Let's go to bed. It's only a couple hours to sunrise, and tomorrow is another long day." Max stood up and stretched before offering his hand to help Mei to her feet.
They made themselves comfortable, sleeping on either side of their son, fearing he would wake before them and wander off to the ocean or forest. Max and Mei slept lightly, waking at the slightest sound or movement Uriel made. By sunrise they were up and ready to hike their way to the campus. They were soon hot, sticky, hungry and exhausted. After a few hours of trudging through the forest, they came to a clearing. Just a few more yards and they would be climbing the front steps to the college.
Max and Mei were not alone. Many other students walked like zombies to the registration hall. Tidbits of conversation came to Mei’s ear, and she soon realized everyone had been left stranded on various locations around the island and had all had to hike their way back to campus.
Mei spotted two other couples with young children. They argued amongst themselves as they walked towards the campus steps. Mei knew what that felt like. If she and Max hadn’t been so exhausted by their trek, they’d most likely be arguing right now as well. Walking under the boiling heat of the sun was causing people to want to kill each other. Tempers rolled high and patience was all but gone.
Grateful that they had pre-registered, Mei smiled when a staff member led them to a private, meeting room with other couples who also had young children with them. Max and Mei found a seat in the class while everyone waited for a staff member to explain what was happening.
A professor entered through a side door. Everyone grew quiet as the professor called everyone’s attention.
"Good morning," the professor greeted loudly. In his fifties, he was an average height man with a slim build.
He walked to the front of the room with a sure and confident stride. He cleared his throat and began to speak. "First I would like to welcome you all to King Solomon's College of Divine Wisdom. My name is Professor Adam Boyd, and I have taught at this college for over twenty-five years. I will be your spiritual warfare professor. This year we are trying something new. Normally, we do not allow young children at this college for safety reasons; however, the board has requested we temporally change our policy and allow young families to attend. Our campus is not equipped with the necessary facilities for children. Changes are being made as we speak to correct this. In the meantime, I will be assigning the first mission." He looked around the room. "I want all the fathers to stand."
All the men hesitated, but eventually stood up. The professor looked at each one of them carefully, nodding his head as if speaking to himself. "How many of you knew that you would be in this situation?" he asked.
No one raised their hand.
"Sometimes, God chooses the most unlikely to carry out his important missions,” he stated. "Okay, sit down. I know you are all tired."
Everyone sat down without a word. Toddlers were getting fussy in the background, and mothers were trying to comfort them. Uriel was no exception as he threw himself back into his mother’s arms, no doubt frustrated and hungry. Mei handed him to his father as she quickly searched for toddler snacks for him. Max rocked and gently calmed his son as Mei finally found a box of animal crackers, Uriel's favorite snack.
"I will make this quick,” Professor Boyd went on. “We don't have coed dorms, so until the dorms are built, you will have to stay in separate dorms."
A mixture of groans, sighs, and cheers circled the room. Max and Mei looked at each other. This would be a problem. Uriel was used to sleeping in the same room with both his parents. In the middle of the night, he would only want his father to rock him back to sleep or insist on sleeping between his parents. They watched as Uriel contentedly ate his cookies. He was now happy in his own realm.
"I don't know how you will want to work out your schedules, taking turns and what not, but this will be a part of your second assignment from my class."
Everyone began to talk amongst themselves.
"Yes, your first assignment was last night, and telling by the fact that you are still here, I know that I have succeeded in weeding out the weak and have found the strong ones. Over the past two days, sixty, young families have been left stranded on the beach or in the forest and you guys are the first to stay and stick it out. I am very proud and eagerly look forward to working with you all."
Everyone was quiet, shocked by what they’d heard. They could see that this college would test them when they least expected it. A student in the back of the room raised her hand to ask a question. The professor nodded to her.
"Professor, what will we do when we need to go to class?"
"We have an on-campus childcare center. It is brand new and we have an excellent staff,” the professor answered and then turned to point to another student. "Yes, you, in the back there."
"How long will it be before a coed dorm is built?"
"When you come to class on Monday, I will be able to answer that question for you."
Mei leaned over to Max and whispered to him, "What are we going to do?"
"Let me take him tonight. You really look tired. Besides, if he cries for me in the middle of the night, it won't be a problem."
"Okay," Mei whispered, but she felt a profound sadness pass over her. This would be the first night she’d sleep without her two, favorite men. Already, she felt lonely and sick to her stomach.
"Are you okay?" Max asked.
"Yeah, babe, I'm fine." He always had a knack for seeing right through her and though she tried to hide her sorrow, she knew Max could read the sadness in her eyes. Nothing he could say would take that away.
The professor pointed out that the two, faculty-staff members at the back of the room would guide them to there dorms. Mei reluctantly handed Max the baby bag, kissing her son and Max goodbye as if she would not see them ever again.
"Baby, stop it,” Max said in a soft hush. “I'm just going to see the dorm and settle in. Maybe bathe him with me, and then we can meet in the cafeteria for something to eat."
"Okay, I'm sorry, I know. It's just hard for me. I’ve never spent the night apart from Uriel and you. It's going to be odd," Mei complained.
Max leaned down and kissed her. "We always have our dreams," he smiled before turning and leaving with his group.
Cressida Dash sat behind the desk in her large, elegantly designed, executive office. Letting out a sigh of relief, she opened the file her father, Charleston Dash, had placed on her desk. It was a case he wanted her to personally take on. Cressida looked over the papers, horrified by what she read. Confused and infuriated, she stood and stared at the file on her desk in disbelief. How did her father expect her to defend such a person?
She quickly gathered up the papers, shoved them back into the file folder and stomped her way down to her father's office at the end of the hall.
Charleston Dash was a stern businessman and loving father. He had three, now adult children. Jackson, his oldest son, was a neurosurgeon living in Albany, New York. Christian, his youngest, was a full-time musician and part-time mailroom clerk at the family firm. Then there was Cressida, his only daughter, whom he cherished. Charleston's wife, Harmony Davis Dash, had been placed in a psychiatric hospital three years earlier.
"Dad, what is this about?" Cressida stormed into his office and threw the files onto his desk.
Although on the phone with a client, Charleston took one look at his daughter’s face and knew the conversation with his celebrity client would have to be placed on the back burner. "Yes, something just came up. I will have to call you back. No, I promise you everything is going to work in our favor. Okay, take care now." He set the receiver down and picked up the file his daughter had so dramatically thrust before him.
"Cressida, I gave you this case because I thought you would be the perfect person to handle it." He spoke like the self-confident businessman that he was.
"What? Are you kidding me? Dad, this is the same man Mom said broke into our home and attacked her!" Cressida’s shrill voice echoed across the walls of her father’s office. She was furious at her father’s carefree demeanor.
"Pudding, your mom is not in any position to talk. She has lost her mind. You can't listen to her," Charleston replied. He made his way over to the bar to pour himself a drink.
Cressida regretted the harsh words. She knew the topic of her mother always led him to a drink. "Daddy, I'm sorry. It's just that… this man is pure evil. I can't defend someone like this. Daddy, Blake Carter, raped and killed over 23, young girls and boys." She went to stand behind her father. A tear rolled down her cheek as she pictured the faces of the innocent children who’d been hurt by this man. "Only a fool would take this case. His guilt is obvious."
Charleston set his glass back on the bar and turned to face his daughter. "Cressida, had I had another option, I wouldn't have asked you. Nobody will take this case. I would take it myself, but my workload is already overflowing, and with your mother's illness, I can't afford to lose anymore cases. Look, honey, it truly is a done deal for Blake Carter. It's an easy case. No jury in their right mind is going to let him off." He placed his arm around his daughter’s shoulder and pulled her closer to plant a kiss on her temple.
"Please, for Daddy? I have no one else."
Cressida crumbled under her father's embrace. "Okay, Daddy. I’ll take it." She felt as if a part of her had just died.
"That's my girl. Hey, we can't always have the good cases. We have to sometimes defend filth. At the end of the day all you need is a shot of rum and a piece of a..."
"Daddy!" Cressida cut him off before he could finish.
Charleston let out a hearty laugh as he walked back to his desk. "Well, you know what I mean." He smiled and settled into his chair.
"Dad, you’re a pirate." Cressida remarked as she made her way to the door.
"Hey!" Her father called out holding up the file for the Blake Carter case.
She walked back and hesitated a moment before snatching the file out of her father’s hand.
"Ar, ar, ar," he snorted in his lame attempt at a pirate.
Cressida nervously smiled. She had a bad feeling about this case. She looked at her watch. Five o' clock had finally rolled around. She rushed to her office, shoved the file into her briefcase, and grabbed her coat. With a quick flick of her wrist, she locked her office door and headed out.
As she walked, Cressida pulled her hair out of its tight bun and shook it loose. One of her friends had set her up on a blind date. The timing was great; she needed something to distract her thoughts from this upcoming case. She made her way to the local gourmet restaurant and headed for the bar where they’d agreed to meet. All Cressida knew about Joshua Smith was that he was a local realtor in his mid-forties who was divorced and had five kids.
She made herself comfortable at the bar and ordered a rum and coke, thinking about the last statement her father had made, only moments earlier. Occasionally checking her watch, Cressida waited and ordered another drink. She looked around at the other patrons wondering if there’d been a mix up. Was she in the right place? Yes; this was exactly where he’d said to wait for him. She waited another half hour, but her date never showed. Feeling lower than dirt, she ordered three, straight shots of vodka. She quickly swallowed them down and kept ordering more as if each one held the power to make her forget about her miserable life. The bartender ended up cutting her off. Beyond drunk, Cressida was unable to get off of the barstool.
Meanwhile, Maxwell sat in the dining room, having coffee with a business associate when he noticed Cressida at the bar. "So are we done here? I can see a friend of mine is in trouble at the bar." He took the napkin off of his lap and placed it on the table.
"Yeah, sure. It was nice doing business with you," Hank Williams replied, putting his hand out for Maxwell to shake.
Maxwell shook his hand, threw down some money for the meal and stood. "I'm sorry for cutting this short, but it appears that my friend is about ready to fall off that stool. Call me later so we can finalize everything. It was good meeting you, Hank," Maxwell said before hastily making his way over to Cressida.
He reached her just as employees were beginning to slide her off the barstool. Maxwell held her as her head rolled backwards.
"How much did she have to drink?" he asked the bartender.
"She had eight shots of vodka and two rum and cokes," he replied. "Lucky for her it's early, and the place isn’t too busy. I was able to keep track of her. Any busier, and I would have let her drink herself into oblivion."
"I understand." Maxwell grabbed her things. "Cressida, it's Maxwell. I'm going to help you out, okay?"
No response came from her.
He picked her up and carried her out the door. On his way he passed a short, plump, and bald, middle-aged man, standing there bewildered as he held a bouquet of flowers.
Maxwell looked across the dinner table at his date. One of his friends mistakenly thought he knew his taste in women and had convinced him to go on this blind date. Maxwell had been disappointed the moment he’d been approached by a very stocky woman who looked to be in her fifties. He grunted and plotted how he was going to murder his friend and make it look like an accident. He smiled at his date as she rambled on about her day. Occasionally, he would catch himself looking at his watch or checking his cell phone for messages from Max or Tamarius.
His date, Marge Witfield, was the daughter of one of the board members. Maxwell had hoped to meet her younger sister. Closer to his age, she had seemed to have many of the same interests as him. Being a gentleman, Maxwell decided to see the date through. Marge was not whom he had expected, but she was a person with feelings, and he had to respect that.
"So how many children do you have?" Marge asked, smiling coyly at Maxwell.
"Ah two...well one. My son recently got married to a wonderful girl and I accept her as my daughter," Maxwell explained.
"Oh, that’s really nice. I have three sons and two daughters. Justin, Jacob and Job—those are my sons. And, my daughters are Evelyn and Sarah."
"Yes, they are all practically grown now. I wish your son was single. I'm sure he would have liked to meet them." Marge giggled.
Maxwell raised his eyebrows and smiled. "Yeah, you never know," he said, not really knowing what more to say.
"And, how's your brother?"
"Tamarius? He’s out traveling with his girlfriend." Maxwell looked around for the waiter. He needed a refill on his drink.
"Your brother is a great guy. He was single for so long. I was beginning to wonder about him."
"Wonder about him, how?" Maxwell felt defensive over his little brother.
"Well, you know what happened back in college. He never dated any girl after..."
"Did you think my brother was gay?" Maxwell asked twisting his face.
"Ah, well, no, but it's his choice. I just..."
"He is not."
"Well, I know...now."
"Gay? Just because a guy doesn't have women hanging all over him twenty-four seven," Maxwell grumbled to himself.
"Did he ever get over that Natasha chick?"
"Natasha? Oh, yeah; a long time ago. I haven't thought about her in a long time." He thought back to his college years.
"Well, on a better note, you’re single... I’m single. The night is still young," Marge blushed as thoughts of Maxwell’s angelic frame caressing her brought chills to her body.
"Waiter!" Maxwell yelled, stopping the waiter as he passed by.
"Another cranberry," Maxwell replied. He had been alcohol free since June of 2009 and was focused on keeping it that way.
"You don't drink?" Marge asked.
"No. I quit."
"Oh, so sad. I was hoping we could maybe go to a bar later."
Aside from having been a neglectful father for so long and having finally gotten on the right track, Maxwell now had another reason to be glad he’d stopped drinking. "I'm sorry, but I'm much happier now."
"Yes, well that’s important." Her grin didn’t quite hide her disappointment in his commitment to stay sober.
Maxwell smirked. The woman was making him feel like a pre-rape victim. She sat across the table smiling, licking her lips and puckering them, as she attempted a seduction. If his brother had been here to witness this farce; they’d have had a field day.
Maxwell looked down at his watch again. He couldn't take it any more. He had to get out of there. The gears in his head worked overtime as he searched for an excuse to leave. Just as one happily came to his mind, Marge began to speak again.
"So... your place or mine?" Marge pushed her chest towards him as she winked and coyly smiled.
"Check please!" Maxwell yelled, raising his hand. It was time to go.
The waiter hurried over and Maxwell shoved a few hundreds in his hand as he stood from the table. "That should cover it. Keep the rest." He then turned to Marge. "I'm sorry, but I can't stay longer. I have many meetings in the morning. You do understand?"
Marge’s lips moved as her eyes registered disappointment. “But… we’ve just… can’t you stay a little…”
He took off before she could form a complete sentence. Poor woman, he thought with a disenchanted shrug. The girl was all hot and bothered with nowhere to go.
"Those Martinez men," she grumbled.
Makayla lay awake staring at the alarm clock. She always got nervous before a big photo shoot, making sleep almost impossible. Tamarius lay beside her. They had been seeing each other for the past year, and he still dumbfounded her with his untainted love and support. Although she held back, reluctant to let her heart fall completely in love with him, she knew she was only kidding herself. She would marry him in a heartbeat if he proposed. In her heart she was certain he was the one for her.
"Can't sleep?" Tamarius mumbled. He turned over and wrapped his arm around her waist.
"You know me."
"Don't be nervous. You’ll do great tomorrow," he said.
"Do you think you can handle it?" Makayla smiled. Tomorrow she would be posing with a few, handsome, young, Hawaiian, male models.
"Don't worry about me. Just focus on the shoot." He didn't want to think about other men touching her. He also knew she wouldn’t be able to focus if she was too concerned about his feelings.
"Okay," Makayla whispered.
"Now go to sleep before I make you." Tamarius smiled.
"Make me?" Makayla laughed.
Tamarius bit her neck softly as she released soft moans. Tamarius' eyes were wide open now as he pulled down the silk strap of her nightgown. Sliding it down, he kissed her in the places that made her scream and then made love to her. They lay together, breathless, before slowly drifting off to sleep.
It was 5:15 in the morning when the alarm woke them from a peaceful sleep. Tamarius hurried out of bed and headed for the bathroom to turn the shower on for Makayla who ran around the room searching for an outfit to wear.
"Kay, just jump in the shower and relax. You’re not going to be late," Tamarius assured her.
"You’re right. We can't be late. It's only five minutes away." Makayla conceded as she stripped off her robe and stepped into the shower.
Tamarius chuckled to himself as he brushed his teeth.
"Are you coming in?" Makayla asked.
"Thought you'd never ask." Tamarius rinsed out his mouth and slipped off his boxers. He stepped into the shower and yelled. "Is it hot enough for you?"
Makayla laughed and turned down the hot water. "I like it hot."
"I got something hot I'm sure you’re gonna love."
"No, we’ll be late. What time is it?” She reached out to glance at her watch on the counter. ”Crap, I'm going to get dressed." She jumped out of the shower leaving Tamarius speechless.
They made it to the photo shoot on time. Makayla gave Tamarius a quick kiss before running off to her trailer.
"Would you like some coffee, Mr. Martinez?" A young female voice purred.
He turned to see who was speaking. A young girl offered him a flirtatious grin as she held a tray of coffee to him.
Being cordial, he accepted a styrofoam cup, filled with dark, Hawaiian coffee with a smile. "Mmm, the good stuff."
"Enjoy." She blushed and walked away.
Makayla sat in a chair, getting her face done by Gina, her makeup artist. A wave of nausea crept over her. She pulled out her cell phone and texted Tamarius, asking him to come to her trailer. Less than five minutes, later he was there.
"Still nervous?" he asked.
"I feel nauseous."
"Do you need to throw up?" Gina asked, stepping back.
"I don't know. I just feel a little off."
"We didn't eat breakfast. Let me get you something to eat." Before she could argue, Tamarius ran out of the trailer.
Makayla grew worse, and by the time Tamarius returned, she was in the bathroom vomiting. He was concerned about her and the photo shoot that was about to start. She looked a mess, and he wondered how she was going to pull off looking fabulous in barely five minutes. He placed her breakfast on a small table and walked over to the trailer's bathroom. Gina was there holding Makayla’s hair back as she knelt before the toilet.
"I got her," Tamarius told the makeup artist as she helped Makayla to her feet.
Makayla leaned over the bathroom sink trying to catch her breath. She turned on the faucet to rinse out her mouth and brush her teeth.
Gina made her way out of the restroom and pulled Tamarius aside. "Is she pregnant?" she queried.
Tamarius was baffled by her boldness. "No, no that’s... no."
"Mmm, well I’m going to tell them she needs a little time." Gina stepped out of the trailer, just as Makayla walked out of the bathroom.
"Hey, sweetie," Makayla greeted.
"Hey, do you feel better?" Tamarius asked. His tone was distant and didn’t quite convey the concern he felt. He was consumed with his own thoughts, questioning the possibility of Makayla being pregnant.
"Yeah, what's wrong? You look as if someone just told you about a death." Makayla walked over to the table where the container with her breakfast sat.
Tamarius was momentarily speechless as he turned to face Makayla. He weighed his words and finally spilled the question. "Did you take your pill?"
"Birth control? Don't worry. I’m not pregnant." Makayla opened the styrofoam box, letting the aroma of spicy, Portuguese sausage, eggs and white rice fill the air. "This looks good," she mumbled.
"Did you take it this morning?" Tamarius asked nervously.
"Of course, Tamarius, stop it. I'm not pregnant. Don't worry. I won’t ruin your life by becoming pregnant," she snapped, suddenly annoyed by his questions.
She quickly shoved a fork full of food into her mouth to shut herself up. She could see Tamarius was upset by what she had said.
He paced the trailer. He had a bad temper and had learned to control it over the years through prayer and meditation. Though Tamarius relaxed and decided to let it go for now, he didn't want to let her think he wouldn't want to have children with her some day.
"Makayla—" he began.
"It's okay. I understand.”
"Please, I need to focus. There’s nothing to talk about anyway." She set her fork down and walked back into the bathroom to wash up. When she returned to the room, she walked past Tamarius trying to ignore his presence.
He gently grabbed her wrist, making her stop. "Makayla, please hear me out," he pleaded.
"I can't right now," she replied, fighting back her tears. Makayla convinced herself he wouldn't say the things she needed to hear. She pulled her hand away and left the trailer.
With a disgruntled shrug, Tamarius sat on the couch trying to figure out what had just happened.
"Relationships are never easy," Tamarius heard the voice of his spirit guide, Mathius, say.
"Every time I think she's put her wall down..."
"Makayla has been through a lot from a very young age. Men have disappointed her for years. The last one did a real number on her heart. She loves you; however, that doesn't mean she isn't going to be scared," Mathius went on.
"I'm not going to hurt her. She should know that... she's psychic."
"Yes, but emotions can make visions cloudy. You know this."
"She's the one for me."
"Yes, she is. Finally you have found the one you’re meant to be with."
"Mathius, I want to pop the question."
"Pull out your cell phone and act like you’re on it. Someone is coming," Mathius stated with calm efficiency.
Accustomed to the routine, Tamarius pulled out his cell phone and began talking into it as Gina entered the trailer to get her makeup boxes. She smiled at him moving quickly so as not to disturb his conversation.
"It is good that you want to marry her, but just remember she may hesitate. Watch your temper and continue to pray and meditate. Tamarius, remember relationships have their ups and downs." Mathius' voiced played through the phone.
"All right. Thank you." Tamarius slipped his phone back into his pocket and headed out to find Makayla. He loved watching her model.
He found her surrounded by a group of male, hula dancers. She looked beautiful. No one would think she’d been sick just moments ago. He smiled at her as she caught sight of him.
Makayla blushed and the photographer went wild. "That’s it! That’s the look. Over here, Makayla!" he shouted with excitement.
Makayla shifted her focus as she posed with the dancers. Tamarius felt a bit of tension rise through his shoulders as he watched the woman he loved take on a romantic pose with a fire dancer. After a few moments he left. He had to take a walk and take some time to think. Hopping into the limo, he decided to go out to a local jewelry store. He was finally ready to ask Makayla the big question. He prayed she was ready to accept his proposal.
I hope that everyone is in good health and staying safe away from this evil virus. To continue helping those who want to read something other than the virus drama I will be sharing the first few chapters of my book Broken. It is the second book in the Endurance series. Today I am sharing part 1. Here are a few things that you should know. As a writer I hate being bored when I write. I hate when my writing seems to get mundane, and for this reason I will kick things up a notch just for fun. I believe if I’m bored writing it, then the reader will be bored reading it. I don’t want to do that to the reader. My chapter set ups are different and in most books are different from the previous book. As I said I am not a fan of the mundane. Enjoy, in part 1 we discover what Max and Mei are getting themselves into. If you do not have Endurance The Power Within, first book of The Endurance Series, please do so at Amazon.com the Ebook is just 3.99.
Chapter 8~ Persistent
Max stood as Mei entered the kitchen. He was intoxicated with her. When he had called last night to make sure she got home safely, he realized she was going to try and make things difficult. He didn't care; he was not going to let her go. Max picked up a large vase filled with beautiful flowers. He handed it to Mei and gently kissed her cheek.
“These are for you,” he gently whispered.
Mei smiled as she whispered, “thank you,” in Chinese.
The warmth of his spirit could be felt throughout the room. It was soothing; his entire presence was delightfully overwhelming.
Song beamed with excitement. She hadn’t seen her daughter smile in such a long time. She could tell her daughter had feelings for Max. Song hoped that he felt the same way for her daughter too. She didn't want to see her daughter get her heart broken. She also didn't want her to miss out on being a teenager.
“I’m sorry for not calling first,” Max said, gently holding her hand. He smirked, thinking back to when he tried to call the number, only to get the voice mailbox of a local animal shelter. He led her to the kitchen table. “I would like to ask you on a date,” Max explained.
Song was glowing with happiness. She admired how handsome and polite he was. She hated seeing her daughter so withdrawn. Max seemed to be able to force Mei out of her shell; this immensely impressed Song.
“I don’t know about that,” her stepfather coldly interrupted while entering the kitchen to wash an apple. “She has chores,” he growled.
Thomas was disgusted by Max's presence; he felt threatened. Another man in his territory just drove Thomas mad. A bold young man such as Max made it difficult for Thomas to conceal the rage he was feeling. Max's presence seemed to come with the spirit of change, and Thomas would not welcome it. Something about his energy made Thomas feel fearful as a child who had been caught with his hand in a cookie jar.
“Her chores are finished,” Song lied. She wanted her daughter to enjoy every moment of this new experience. “Go, love birds, enjoy your day.” Song stood from the table, ushering them to leave at once.
“I don’t know,” Mei slowly expressed. She didn’t need Max to see her new wounds or bruises. The Florida sun would be sure to reveal what she carefully hid under tons of makeup. She didn’t want to be around anyone. Most importantly, she didn't want to fall in love, and he was already giving her a challenge.
“It’s okay Mei…You’re only young once,” her mother sighed.
“Please don’t make me beg,” Max pleaded. "I have no shame."
Mei smiled as she nodded her head. There goes that head again working against me, she thought.
“I will take those flowers,” Song said, snatching them from her daughter’s hands.
Max softly tugged her as they started towards the front door. “Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Paulard. I’ll have Mei back at a decent hour,” Max yelled back.
He lead her to his vehicle, his heart bursting with excitement that she was allowing him to treat her the way he had dreamed.
“Max!” Mei yelled, stopping in front of his vehicle. She needed to tell him to forget about her. She knew how guys thought, and that she would understand if he didn’t want to be with her, that she would not be angry with him.
Max stopped, turned, and then looked at her. “Mei, you told me something last night, and I will never forget ...I want to be a part of your life." He wanted to say much more but didn’t want to scare her away.
Mei already appeared to be searching for an emergency exit.
Am I ugly to her? he thought.
“I don’t remember last night,” Mei hastily lied, walking towards the passenger door. Max rushed past, opening the vehicle door for her. She paused and looked at him strangely before getting into the SUV. Only in movies had she observed such men, and they were rarely in their teens.
He smiled at her, observing her every move; he would have paid any amount of money to know her every thought. He closed the door after she was seated, and makes his way around to the driver’s side.
Max entered the driver's seat. Starting the engine, he glanced over at Mei. “You don’t remember… Uha? Hmm…I will have to remind you,” he said.
I would like to see you try. You are not getting back in these panties,” Mei thought.
“Put on your seat belt; I don’t want you slipping away,” Max teased as he backed out of the driveway.
“So where are we going?” Mei asked.
“First, brunch,” Max replied.
“Good I’m starved,” Mei responded.
"Are you all right? You seem tense," Max inquired, sensing something was bothering her.
"No, I'm fine," she lied but noted that he could sense her emotional battle.
Mei could feel his energy encircling her, doing what his physical body could not do at the moment. She had never experienced anyone who showed this much interest in her before.
"If you ever want to talk to me about anything, I’ll listen. Please don't ever be afraid to come to me." Max felt guilty for what had happened last night; however, he could not get past all the passion and desire he felt for Mei. She had him wrapped around her pinky, and she didn't even know it.
"Max, I'm good. Don't worry about me. I gave you that wrong number for a reason," she hinted.
He gazed at her momentarily. He was taken aback by her words. "Yeah, look. We should talk about what happened last night."
Mei cringed inside as she thought about last night, her stepfather slowly killing her joy. She turned her head towards the passenger side window as a tear rolled down her cheek. They came to a stop at a traffic light. Max gentle turned her chin, forcing her to look at him. She closes her eyes not wanting to meet his. Max could see a slight bruise on her cheek, causing his heart to leap in his chest.
"Mei, what happened?" he questioned, concerned by the bluish green bruise, emerging from beneath her make up.
She pulled away. “Nothing."
Cars behind them began to honk. The streetlight had changed to green. Max hesitated but then turned his attention to driving again. He eagerly found a place to stop and speak with her. He could not ignore what he just saw. He pulled off at a park that sat next to a lake.
"Is this where you’re taking me?" Mei observed, confused by the abrupt stop.
"No, I want to know what happened to your face. When you left, you didn't have that bruise on your cheek." Max was stern; his demeanor let her know she could not satisfy him with a lie.
"I don't want to talk about it," Mei pleaded.
"Did Cora slap you? You can tell me."
"Then, what happened?"
Mei looked at the passenger door quickly pulling the handle and unbuckling her seat belt in what seemed to be one swift move. Max suddenly jumped out of the vehicle and raced around to the passenger side door as Mei slammed the vehicle door closed and walked off. He was on her heels as he grabbed her by the waist, pulling her against his chest. Mei screamed and fought back, trying to get away, He wrapped his arms around Mei. His energy surrounded her like the protective wings of an angel. In his heart, he whispered a prayer and peace came over her.
"I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to know what happened," Max whispered in her ear.
She cried as her body became limp. Max held her close. "I just want to know what happened, but if you don't want to tell me, it's okay.”
Mei's tears affected him more than he understood. He would do anything not to see her cry.
Mei nodded her head as she turned to face him. "I just can't right now; this isn't a first date conversation. We already started off wrong; who knows where this will end up.”
"Mei, I'm not what you think. I’m... Okay! I admit; maybe I should have handled things better. I shouldn't have given in, but there you were in my arms. I dreamed about you since I was a boy coming to the youth center. I can't get you out of my mind, all through middle and high school you ignored me and then finally! I'm sorry, I gave into my weakness--you."
Chapter 7~ Victory
Cora and Mei drove in silence until they came to their first red light. Cora glanced over at Mei who appeared to no longer seem hurt or angry. Serenity was covering her; she even appeared to be glowing. Cora knew something significant had happened back there with Max and became enraged. How far things had gone between them was becoming painfully obvious.
Cora did not recognize Mei. Never before had she seen her friend in this state. Cora’s anger subsided as concern replaced it. She had most recently heard that Max already had a girlfriend. Everyone knew, except Mei, who sometimes appeared deaf to gossip. She was always under tremendous stress and lived in a state of either fear or severe depression. She had lost so much of her childhood because of her stepfather.
“What the fudge just happened back there, Mei?” she finally blurted after breaking from her rambling thoughts.
“I don’t know…but, for once in my life, something wasn’t stolen from me,” Mei replied, blushing uncontrollably.
"You had sex!" Cora screamed.
Mei sat quietly as images of Max flooded her thoughts. She had no basis of comparison, but the way that he had made her feel, no man could even come close. There was something genuine and passionate about the way he made love to her. Mei tried to fight her thoughts, realizing that she needed to get him out of her mind.
Cora was speechless on what to say to her friend, but managed, “You’re on a whole other planet right now... I can't even speak to you! Say “hi” to the rest of the loonies while you’re up there, God only knows where,” she spoke as they pulled into Mei’s driveway.
“Are you going to be okay?” Cora breathed. She faced her friend, concerned about her coming back to this home in her present state.
“Yeah…I'm sure everyone is asleep by now,” Mei answered, gathering her things before getting out of the car. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” she said, closing the car door.
She gingerly walked up to the front door, unlocked it, and headed to her room. Mei was genuinely in her realm as she walked into her bedroom, not noticing that it wasn’t locked. She began to undress, taking off her shirt and jeans while preparing for bed. She struggled in the darkness for a while, realizing she needed light to finish preparing for bed.
She started heading towards her nightstand, to turn on her lamp when she heard her bedroom door lock. She spun around to see her stepfather standing in front of her door.
Thomas might have seemed like some saint to everyone else in the neighborhood, maybe even in this house, but he was no angel. He bitterly stepped toward Mei as she scrambled to put her clothes back on, stumbling backward in the darkness.
The moonlight through her window was her only help in the dark as she searched for her clothes. She grabbed her shirt, quickly putting it on, all while, trying to keep a watchful eye on Thomas.
“It’s five thirty in the morning…where have you been?” Thomas questioned, boiling with rage.
“I…I…I was out with friends,” Mei voice trembled, fearing what she knew would happen next.
Thomas flew towards her, his fist colliding with her face. He knocked her down to the floor. Mei grabbed her mouth to hold back her painful scream. She didn’t want to wake her mother and sister, fearing what might happen to them. Thomas had threatened their lives before, and Mei believed he would follow through.
Thomas pounced on Mei, ripping off her shirt and undergarment. He raped Mei. She died a slow death at that moment. She tried to imagine being someplace else where he couldn’t hurt her, where no man could touch her.
The next morning she awoke to the sounds of voices in the hallway. Her mother was trying to open the now locked bedroom door, but Thomas stopped her saying, “Song, she’s tired; she was hanging out late last night with some friends. Let her sleep in.”
“Oh, okay, I guess you’re right,” her mother sheepishly replied and then reluctantly walked away.
Mei felt a rush of pain as she tried to get up from the floor. Her left cheek ached, and her body felt as if it had been through a meat grinder. Somehow, she knew he raped her more than once. “I didn’t feel like this after Max,” Mei gently cried. “How can anyone love me? I’m damaged!” she sobbed.
She sat on the side of her bed, opening her nightstand drawer and pulled out a small metal box. It contained a pack of razors and large Band-Aids. “I just don’t want to hurt anymore,” she whispered to herself.
Mei grabbed the blade, pausing for a moment over her wrist. Tears began to blind her view as she shoved the razor into her forearm and sliced it open, gagging a little as she realized how deep this cut went. She quickly bandaged her new wound and put away her mutilation kit.
Ariaha, her sister, knocked on her door.
“What?” Mei answered, irate by being disturbed.
“A hot looking guy is at the front door for you, and Dad looks upset,” Araiha giggled.
Mei jumped to her feet and ran to her window. She could see Max’s truck in the driveway.
“No!” she cried. “I don’t want him seeing me like this,” she whispered, looking down at her arm. Blood soaked through the bandage, and she would have to change it again.
“Mei?” Araiha called, banging louder.
“I’m sick!” Mei yelled back.
“Mei get down here right now! You have a guest!” her stepfather sternly hollered through the door.
Mei fought back her tears, seething with rage. "Why did he show up here? I gave him a wrong number to make sure he would get the message," Mei grumbled to herself. “Tell him I will be down in a few…I just need to wash up,” Mei replied, trying to stay calm behind the door.
She then grabbed her towel and clothes before heading to the shower. She didn’t want to see anyone today, especially her stepfather. And Max for a whole other reason.
“What is he doing here?” she growled stepping out of the shower.
She quickly dressed and covered up the bruises on her face and neck left by her stepfather’s hand. Mei learned the art of concealing injuries from persistent beatings by her stepfather over the years; however, this one was posing a challenge. She was skilled at putting on makeup to take the attention away from her real problems. She rewrapped the fresh wounds, three separate times before it finally stopped bleeding through the bandages.
She nervously headed, downstairs following the voices into the kitchen. Mei could overhear her mother talking to Max over tea. She made her way into the kitchen. Just seeing him again brought butterflies to her stomach. She couldn’t help but stare; it was like he healed her, temporarily taking away the violent energy from her stepfather.
At seventeen, he was such a gentleman. Who in the world raised him? Mei had heard the horror stories about his mother. Could she have raised him to be a gentleman or was it all just an act? Damn, it's working, Mei thought.
When she looked into his eyes, pain and fear seem to melt away. She just could not be angry with him for finding her.