by Deme Send
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one------------ As the illuminated ball methodically dropped from the top of Times Square the crowd of thousands of onlookers and well wishers yelled in unison "Happy New Years!"
Candace Jackson sighed as she turned off the television and threw the TV's remote control down on the couch beside her.
Another lonely New Year's evening spent alone again she pondered as she mundanely got up to go and stand beside the large bay window overlooking the small city of Blythe, California. Where had the time gone? She wondered as she thought back to twelve months ago when everything in her life was picture perfect.
It had been almost one year ago to the day that she had just journeyed into her eighth year as a correctional officer for the California Department of Corrections (CDC). She had a wonderful career and an equally wonderful fiancé, Clinton Jakes, who just five years earlier had transferred from a prison located in northern California.
Her brow wrinkled with confusion as the lone question she had been unable to answer after almost one year of not being with Clinton anymore haunted her memories and lingered in her mind day after day suddenly emerged, why did he have to leave her so abruptly without a warning or a reason?
As the recollection of their first chance encounter with one another vividly replayed in her mental faculty like a slow motion video, her rigid lips involuntarily curled upward feigning a slight smile.
The wonderful memories of their last few days together overtook her being as the stored data miraculously replayed itself like a surreal series of filmed images in which she was forced to watch having no immediate or foreseeable control over them.
Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. (The Song of Solomon 4:11)
Candace's leg jerked involuntarily as her knee lightly hit Clinton in the small of his back.
He smiled to himself as he turned over and saw her still fast asleep. He gently brushed a few fallen strands of hair from around her face causing her to unconsciously stir in her sleep as she slowly rolled over and turned her back side towards him. His eyes artfully scanned her beautiful caramel colored naked body before settling on the colorful decorative tribal tattoo on her lower back. If Candace had one flaw on her body it was this God awful tattoo he thought hesitantly, but nevertheless he still loved every inch of her gorgeous body regardless of the fact.
It seemed almost like yesterday when in reality it had been well over three years since the day Candace and he had started dating one another. He nuzzled up against her and kissed her shoulder tenderly as she moaned appreciatively from his wanton touch. In less than one week they would officially become husband and wife which was something he had dreamt of for almost a year now. If anyone had been dragging their feet slowly in regards to heading down the altar it was none other than Candace. Fortunately, for her patience was a strong characteristic of his although he was more than willing to wait an eternity if he had to for her, his soul mate.
Under normal circumstances couples usually wait to get married because they don't have the money, but in their case they both averaged over sixty thousand dollars a year working as Correctional Officers for the California Department of Corrections (CDC) not including any extra overtime they made working double shifts.
He had wanted to run straight to Las Vegas and get married the same day he proposed to her, but Candace on the other hand had her mind set on the traditional American wedding up until six weeks ago when she had surprised him with an impromptu wedding proposal. He was both stunned and elated about her sudden decision to get married in Las Vegas the following month. He wept.
Although he had been born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area the majority of his life, Candace on the other hand was from back East, Maryland to be precise, and the only family she had in California was her cousin and best friend Xy Tyndale. Come to think of it he thought if it wasn't for Xy he might never have met the love of his life.
Almost eight years ago Xy was fortunate enough to receive a full Scholastic scholarship and acceptance into the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) medical program. Her 4.33 GPA and fluency in the Spanish language of arts were both a major contributing factor in her snagging the Scholastic scholarship. If Xy thought for one instant that she was going to leave Candace back in Maryland she was sadly mistaken.
Xy and Candace had grown up together like sisters since kindergarten and while they were both still acne prone preteens in junior high school they made a blood pack by pricking their left thumb with a pin and rubbing their two thumbs together. This blood pack was their promise to one another that no matter what career choices they made in life they would always live in close proximity to one another. At the time neither one of them really knew that one day that blood pack would hold true.
Candace couldn't resist the urge to follow Xy halfway across the country to it never rains in Southern California once Xy informed her of the good news in regards to her scholarship at UCLA. It would only take a few short months for both of them to realize that moving all the way to the West Coast would turn out to be the best decision that either one of them had ever made.
Clinton carefully eased his nude body away from Candace's and slipped out of the bed. He yawned and stretched his lean lanky 6-foot 2 inch physique and headed straight for the bathroom to put out an unseen fire lurking somewhere underneath the deodorized deep blue water that filled the toilet bowl. As he stood there and relieved himself of last night's last minute liquids he looked intently at his face's reflection in the mirror and observed that his face was long overdue for a shave. How in the world Candace had inadvertently missed the two day-old stubble permeating from his face was a mystery within a mystery he thought smiling as he shook his head and quickly flushed the toilet.
Clinton turned on the bathroom faucet and splashed some cold water onto his face as he reached into the medicine cabinet to retrieve a fresh razor and a can of Gillette shaving gel. But before he could even begin to shave he would have to first brush his teeth he thought as he quickly grabbed his toothbrush and moistened it with the running water.
Candace flung one arm over her head as she reluctantly opened up her eyes. The clicking sound of the razor against the porcelain sink every few moments coupled with the running water had awakened her earlier than she would have liked.
She sat up lazily in bed and pushed the black comforter off of her naked body as she grabbed her T-shirt from off of the floor where she had carelessly tossed it last night.
Right foot first left foot second her body instinctively obeyed as her brain gave the command to stand up.
Every time she made up Clinton's bed alone it took her almost ten minutes to make it look picture perfect because of its massive size not to mention the twenty or more decorative throw pillows situated on the bed. She was just putting the last remaining pillows on the bed when Clinton snuck up behind her and lightly slapped her naked exposed buttocks.
"Good morning baby." He grabbed her from behind and gently squeezed the two firm honey dew melons as he liked to refer to them as, instead of breasts.
"Hi honey." Candace wiggled free from his strong grip and headed towards the bathroom.
"Listen baby, next week this time you'll officially be Mrs. Clinton Jakes." He sat down in the brown leather recliner chair overlooking the bay window in his bedroom and stared dreamily outside.
"Uh huh, I hear you sweetie." Candace mumbled with a mouth full of Colgate Tarter free toothpaste as she vigorously brushed her teeth.
Clinton interlocked his fingers and folded his hands lazily behind his head as he continued to gaze out of the window.
The next door neighbor's black bulging eyed Chihuahua was cautiously sniffing the edge of Clinton's well manicured year round green lawn as if it were deciding to leave Clinton with an early Christmas present. He tapped on the window loudly as the startled rat looking dog with ears too big for its body scurried back home where it belonged.
Candace had a sheepish grin plastered on her face as she carefully plopped down in Clinton's lap and loosely wrapped her arms around his neck. She kissed him feverishly on the mouth while he squirmed beneath her as his manhood quickly became swollen from her fervent kissing.
"Well I guess that will hold you over until our wedding night." She laughed loudly as she attempted to get up from his lap.
"Oh no you don't, Ms. Candace Jackson, if you think for one instant that I'm going to wait five days before I taste your succulent goods again, you're sadly mistaken. It's bad enough that we live in separate homes and frankly-"
"Stop your whining sweetheart, ten years from now you'll be begging for me to stop pawing at you."
"I certainly doubt that, but I'm talking about right now, not ten years from now Candy." He lifted up her T-shirt and began sucking gently on her right breast.
Her head lolled backwards as his intoxicating rhythmic sucking momentarily clouded her thinking faculties.
Candace forced herself to pull away from his labored attempt to make love to her one last time before they were officially husband and wife.
"So you're going to leave me hanging like this?" He licked his lips at her hungrily as he pointed down to his swollen crotch area.
"There's always the five alive crew" she gestured with one hand as she wiggled all five fingers.
"I still have five days to change my mind right?"
Candace grabbed a pillow from the bed and quickly threw it at his chest.
Clinton jumped up from where he was sitting, ran and grabbed her around the waist before she could escape his grip.
They fell onto the bed laughing as they playfully wrestled one another.
"Listen sweetie, tomorrow is our last day at work for the next six weeks and to be frankly honest with you I'm tempted to call in sick, but I know that you probably plan on signing up for an overtime, right?"
Clinton lovingly wrapped a few fallen threads of hair around the back of her ear and nodded as he supported his body by leaning on one elbow.
"Just this one time can you not work any overtime?"
He continued to play with the hair behind her ear as he thought about what she was asking. "I tell you what baby, if none of the overtime offered tomorrow is a walk in the park then I promise that I won't work overtime tomorrow. Now is that fair enough?"
"I guess it has to be." She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly because when it came down to it there was always an easy overtime if you worked for CDC.
Forty-five minutes later Candace was easing Clinton's dark blue Ford Excursion into her three-car garage next to her silver convertible Jaguar.
For the past six years she had been living in the desert in a little town called Blythe. If you blinked your eyes traveling on Interstate 10 East or West you were sure to pass up Blythe accidentally, seeing as the town only had three major exits off of the freeway.
Not to mention only one grocery store, Albertson's and one shopping facility, Kmart in the whole town. The nearest Mall was one hundred miles in either direction. Needless to say, there was much to be said about Blythe, California.
A vast majority of her co-workers commuted daily from the Palm Springs area via vanpools and car pools. Clinton had hinted on more than one occasion to her that he wanted to move closer to Los Angeles. For the past year now she was strongly contemplating on granting him his wish especially now that they were getting married.
She unlocked the garage door leading to her laundry room and headed directly for her bedroom to check the answering machine. The machine's red light was rapidly blinking with two new messages. Candace hit the play button as the first message began playing:
"What's up cuz! In exactly five days I'll be deleting you from my players' club membership roster. Oops! My bad, I should have done that almost three years ago when you first started dating Clinton. Just kidding! I was really just calling to tell you that I can't make it to Blythe until the day before the wedding because my pre-selected team of intern co-workers is right in the middle of a major research debate with another team of interns. So don't look for me until then, okay? Well, gotta go talk to you later."
Candace smiled as she erased Xy's voice off of the machine.
She hit the play button to hear the final message recorded on her machine:
"Please hold for the next available operator" a computerized voice implored as Candace quickly hit the delete button.
She needed another no interest credit card like she needed a hole in head she thought inquisitively. If there was one thing that she and Clinton both shared in common it was the fact that they both maintained exemplary credit reporting records.
The solid oak grandfather clock in her living room chimed ten times acknowledging that it was now ten o'clock in the morning.
Clinton's good friend and basketball partner, Vernon Brooks would be dropping him off later at her house. Afterwards they'd probably catch a movie and grab a bite to eat at Sizzlers if either of them was really hungry by that time.
Candace poured herself a tall glass of cranberry juice and gingerly sat down at her computer desk and went online to check her e-mail and browse the wide world of the Internet. It was almost two hours later before she finally shut down her Dell Computer. There was close to sixty-five e-mail messages in her mailbox while the majority of the messages were junk mail or Spam mail as it is currently known as. She was just about to get up when she heard Clinton's keys rattling at the front door.
"Candy, where are you my love?" He shut the door quietly behind him as she quietly peered around the corner of the kitchen at him.
"Where would you like me to be Mr. Jakes?" She lifted up the sheer tank top she was wearing and exposed her bare breasts to him. She giggled uncontrollably as he slung her like a ten pound sack of potatoes over his shoulder and marched towards her bedroom.
Clinton pulled off the dark green basketball shorts he was wearing as she anxiously tugged at the black T-shirt that was covering his chest. She tosses the shirt to the floor and examines his wares.
"As I recall the last thing you told me this morning before you left me was that I was going to have to wait five days before I had the opportunity to make love to my beautiful bride again and now you're practically trying to manhandle me."
"Did you notice that my clothes are still on?" Candace was laughing hysterically as Clinton glanced down at his glistening naked body. "Your body does look delectable baby, good enough to eat I might add. Anyhow, all is not lost because now you're ready for that cold shower your body so desperately needs right now." She covered her mouth with one hand to suppress the laughter that was emanating from her inner being.
"Payback is a mother baby, mark my words." Clinton smiled and winked suggestively at her as he casually headed for the shower.
"What's not to love about his fine ass" Candace murmured underneath her breath as she lightly bit the corner of her lower lip and lustfully watched him strut into the bathroom. She was almost tempted to join him in the shower, but opted to hold out until the night of their wedding which would prove to be a night to remember for both of them if the day would only hurry up and get here.
Clinton dropped her off at home a little before nine o'clock later on that evening and promised to call her as soon as he walked into the front door of his house. He blew her a kiss goodnight and waited for her to walk indoors before he drove off.
She smiled and waved to him as he sped off safely into the night rushing to reach home so that he might be able to talk to her for at least an hour tonight.
Her phone rang approximately fifteen minutes later causing her to smile at his prompt punctuality.
Candace was seven hours into her eight hour shift at work in Central Control the following night when Clinton walked up to the small 4" by 6" port window which was just large enough to pass mainly keys through.
Another officer was accompanying him as he motioned with his head for her to come over to the window. The officer whispered something to Clinton as he headed for the watch office. Clinton nodded his head in approval as he focused his undivided attention back to Candace.
"I guess this means that you'll be taking that overtime transporting that inmate to Riverside General Hospital, right?"
"You're not mad are you? Because if you are I won't take it baby." He reached for her hand through the small port window and rubbed it reassuringly.
Candace shook her head slowly as she pulled her hand slowly away from his. "Nope, if that's what you really want to do go right ahead."
Clinton knew that she was only angry right now because he had accepted the overtime without consulting with her first. "Listen baby, I promise that for the next couple of months I won't work any overtime at all. I'm going to dedicate all my after work hours solely to you."
"Yeah that's what your mouth says now-"
"Candace," Clinton drew an imaginary cross across his chest and mouthed the words "Hope to die if I break my promise to you."
She rolled her eyes and smiled flirtatiously at him as she reached out for his hand. She loved him too intensely to ever stay mad at him for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Clinton Jakes was the best thing that had ever happened to her since she set foot on the West coast almost several years prior.
"I'll walk you to your vehicle when your shift is over, alright?"
She glanced up at the clock mounted on the wall and saw that it was nearly nine-thirty in the evening and nodded her head in acknowledgement as he headed towards the watch office to join his transport partner for the next shift.
Within twenty minutes her future husband was walking her out to her vehicle as he prepared to work another eight hour shift.
Candace began taking down her neatly pinned up hair which was a natural chestnut brown in color and hung midway down her back as they casually walked to her vehicle.
Clinton’s SUV was parked directly behind hers as usual with one of his signature love notes firmly placed underneath her windshield wiper blade. Anytime they drove separate vehicles to work he would religiously leave her one of his romantic love notes on the windshield of her car. Unfortunately, he had spoiled her for the past two years by practicing this ritual because the day that he forgot to leave a note on her windshield would be a day that he wouldn’t soon forget she thought as she retrieved the note from her windshield and placed it in the front pocket of her green jumpsuit.
Clinton buried his head into her apricot scented hair and inhaled deeply as he hugged her tightly around the waist.
She pushed herself away from his body slowly and stared at him quizzically.
“Sweetie, I’ll be waiting for you when you come in at eight in the morning, okay? Frankly you’re scaring me Clinton.”
“I’m sorry baby it’s just that I really want to be going home with you right now instead of working this overtime.” He pulled her back close to him and kissed her full on the lips.
“It’s not too late to change your mind baby.”
“Nah, I’ve already committed myself to go on the transport and besides this is only this officer’s second time on a transport and the last one was in Blythe. No, I can’t let two inexperienced officers take an inmate alone for a three hour journey in one direction.” He shook his head cautiously as he kissed her once again on the lips.
“I love you so much honey.” Candace climbed into her vehicle and started up the car as he kissed her tenderly on the cheek.
“I love you too baby.” He waited as she closed the car door and rolled down the window. “Make sure that your boyfriend keeps my side of the bed warm for me until I get there, alright?”
He winked at her as she suggestively stuck her tongue out at him. He blew her a kiss for good measure to tide her over until he was able to give her one in person the following morning.
Although Candace was going to be off of work for the next month and a half she still decided to call it an early night once she finally made it home and took a much needed relaxing bath.
She was just about to get in the bed when she remembered the love note from Clinton and hastily removed it from the front pocket of her uniform.
She rubbed the note softly up against her nostrils gingerly inhaling the familiar scent of his fragrant cologne before she ultimately unfolded it and read its contents. The note read:
This will no doubt be the last note you receive from me as Ms. Candace Jackson because in exactly four days you will become my soul mate for life. Proverbs 4:6 & 8 states: “Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.” I promise you today my love, that I pledge my allegiance to you as my wife always. I love you more than life baby,
Her eyes were misty with tears as she smiled to herself, clutching the note firmly in one hand as her head slowly hit the pillow. It was well past midnight before she finally drifted off into a comatose like sleep.
The continuous loud ringing of the telephone for the past five minutes eventually jolted her out of her comatose state.
She reached blindly for the brightly illuminated alarm clock on her nightstand and glanced at the time which read: 3:18 in bright green neon numbers.
It was probably just Clinton calling to let her know how long they were going to have to wait at the hospital before they were finally able to head back to the prison.
Her voice was groggy and thick with sleep as she finally picked up the telephone receiver.
"Hey baby, is that you?"
Something happened that very instant that Candace would never remember, but what she did remember vividly was dropping the phone to the floor and screaming without restraint at the top of her lungs as the Watch Commander at the institution for that shift notified her that Clinton had just been tragically killed in a freak accident en route back to the institution from his transport.
Within a few moments following the phone call her doorbell suddenly began ringing.
With uncontrolled tears streaming down her face she stumbled incoherently like a zombie to the front door praying that it was Clinton at the door and that this was just some sick nightmare that she was stuck in temporarily. But if it was Clinton at the front door why hadn't he used his spare key?
She laggardly opened up the front door and slumped to the ground as she saw her immediate supervisor, Sergeant Lenny Hudson standing alone in the front doorway.
His head hung heavy and low as he averted his eyes towards the ground and slowly shook his head. He was momentarily at a loss of words as he unconsciously kicked the side of his left sneaker mindlessly on the cold gray concrete walkway. He glanced nervously at her for a split second and that was the only second that really mattered.
For in that split second she knew that this was not just a temporary nightmare in her life, no not indeed, because this would turn out to be the worst nightmare she would forever relive over and over again in her mind for a long time afterwards.
The world as she had come to know it started to rapidly close in on her as it became increasingly pitch black.
Her head instinctively hit the black tile floor in the front of her foyer as Candace Janae Jackson passed out for the first time in her nearly twenty-seven years of life.
Continued in Chapter 2