Another Man's Child - Part Two
by Leon L. King
Almost thirteen years later, Tamecka laid her eyes on Patrick for the first time since the darkest day of her life. The rest of the world was oblivious to the pain being felt in the confines of the black car that occupied one of the best parking spots in the Wal-Mart parking lot. A mixture of Blacks, Spanish, Whites, and Asians paraded past Marcus and Tamecka’s line of sight as they watched Patrick do nothing that resembled work in any shape, form, or fashion.
The heat that Tamecka had once felt every time that she’d heard the slightest whisper of Patrick’s name was back. This time it was a different sort of heat though. Instead of the temperature rise between her legs that had once caused her to become moist, the heat was affecting her face, darkening her caramel complexion. Her body was as dry as the desert sand. Patrick’s hold on her had slipped completely away. Instead of wanting him, she wanted him to go away.
Marcus’ eyes shot daggers past Tamecka as he looked at the tree from which MJ had fallen. His mind was in turmoil and he felt as if he needed to let loose with the loudest ear piercing scream that his body could muster. He forced himself to look away and nervously began drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.
Another Wal-Mart employee came out of the store and looked at the waiting line of shopping carts. The employee was a height challenged Spanish boy that looked to be no more than seventeen years old. He surveyed the parking lot in an obvious attempt to locate the co-worker that was neglecting their duties. He couldn’t see Patrick because of the vending machine and decided to save the carts himself.
As he made his way to push the carts inside, he rounded the vending machine and came upon Patrick who was still casually smoking his cigarette. There was a brief exchange of words that ended with Patrick pointing first at the boy and then at the parking lot. Instead of arguing further, the boy ambled away slowly as Patrick watched through bullying eyes.
The first cart that he made it to was only a few feet away from the Pettis’ car. Marcus had turned to witness the verbal exchange between the co-workers. He and Tamecka both instinctively shrunk down as far as they could without becoming suspicious when the youth came near their car and they were in Patrick’s direct line of sight. The light tint of the car windows didn’t offer any comfort to either of them. As quickly as the boy was there beside their car, he was gone again and Patrick’s eyes followed him as he watched his every move.
Marcus breathed a silent sigh of relief and laid his head back against the headrest. He closed his eyes and mentally traveled back in time to relive the events of that fateful day in which he first met Patrick. That was the only day in his life that he’d actually wanted to kill another human being.
At the same time that Patrick was leaving Autumn’s apartment to deliver the blouse to Tamecka, Marcus was saying goodbye to his co-workers. He’d decided to leave work early that fateful day because he had special plans for Tamecka and him. In his pocket was a Ľ carat diamond engagement ring that he’d used all of his savings to purchase. It was all that he could afford at the time, but it was the most treasured gift that he’d ever bought in his entire life. He planned on letting Tamecka know that she would be getting a larger ring in the near future but he didn’t want to let another second pass without asking her if she would be his wife.
He’d been carrying the ring around for the past two weeks and had shown it to his favored neighbors and a couple of co-workers. He had planned to pop the question as soon as he’d bought it but then Tamecka had surprised him with her request for more space. More space to him meant that she would be looking elsewhere for love and he couldn’t fathom the possibility of living without her in his life. So her request fell upon his deaf ears and he spent more time trying to be around her than ever before. He was led foolishly by his love and was too blinded to see how much angst he was causing her.
His lungs felt constricted when he was not in her presence, as if he needed Tamecka just to get the slightest breath. Every day after work he rushed home hoping that she would be there, and if she wasn’t, he would immediately try to find out where she was. She was usually at his place on her days off or somewhere hanging with Autumn. He hoped that she would be around when he made it home that day. Hidden deep inside his closet was a box of scented candles, a black, silk negligee, black satin sheets, and a mix tape of songs that he’d lost sleep over to be able to tape from the radio during the Quiet Storm on GCI. He also had a pornographic tape that he’d purchased just to add a little bit more excitement since Tamecka had once revealed how much she enjoyed watching them to him one night. After Tamecka accepted his proposal, he would be breaking out all of his goodies and celebrating with her in an intimate fashion. That night, he planned on exposing a new side of him and pleasing her in ways that she’d never experienced with him.
Marcus wasn’t so callow that he didn’t understand the importance of pleasing his woman. He had an uncle who was only six years older and felt that it was his duty to tell his younger and dumber nephew all the facts of sexual life. He discussed the importance of oral sex as if it were just as important as breathing itself. His favorite phrase was, “If you don’t eat your food, somebody else damn sure will.” The food that he was referring to was not categorized in any of the main food groups. When he caught an STD around his mouth from practicing what he preached, his favorite phrase then changed to, “You can’t eat in everybody’s kitchen.”
His uncle’s STD wasn’t what caused him to be wary of performing oral sex though. He’d had a less than pleasurable experience with a former girlfriend who he’d wanted to please in a tasting way one night. He’d made it all the way downtown and was about to enter the central building when he was assaulted by an awful smell and immediately lost everything that he’d eaten that day. He was embarrassed and so was his girlfriend. They’d never spoken again after that. He promised himself after that that he would wait for a woman to accept his proposal of marriage before he ever took his lips below a woman’s bikini line again.
He wasn’t worried about Tamecka’s personal hygiene. He’d performed the finger sniff method enough to know that his woman kept herself in a clean state of health. After two years, he then planned to boldly go where Tamecka had said that no man had gone before.
He stopped at the supermarket to get some champagne and a dozen roses. The checkout line seemed to be moving in slow motion as he anxiously waited to buy his items and finally fulfill what he felt was his destiny. After he left the store, he drove home and was excited to see Tamecka’s truck in his parking spot. He decided not to park in front of his building so that he could sneak up on Tamecka and surprise her by being home so early. He thought that she would probably be napping or reading but just in case she looked out of the window, he didn’t want his cover to be blown. In his excitement, he failed to notice Autumn’s car that was parked right next to the truck.
He snuck into his own building as if he were breaking in. He slowly climbed the stairs and paused when he came to his door. He thought that he could hear sexual sounds coming from his TV and immediately thought that Tamecka had found the porno. He mumbled, “Dammit,” under his breath and wondered what else she’d found. He slipped his key into the lock, turned it, quietly opened the door, and peeked in.
His front door opened into his living room and he could see no sign of Tamecka or that the TV was on. The only VCR that he had was in his living room and that fact failed to explain the sounds that could he was able to hear even better after the door was open. He moved closer to the bathroom but he couldn’t bear to go another step when the reality of what was happening finally stabbed him in his heart.
Marcus knew the name of the man that Tamecka was with before he ever saw his face because she was screaming it over and over. He’d never heard her mention the name of anyone named Patrick since they’d been together and she surely hadn’t mentioned anyone of that name to him recently. He started to walk back out and pretend that nothing had happened but he only made it as far as the open door. He stopped, turned around, leaned against the wall, and slumped to the ground. He placed his head between his knees and pressed as hard as he could to drown out the sounds that were tearing his world apart.
He sat there listening to her make sounds that he couldn’t recall her ever making with him. When he felt that he couldn’t stand the sounds any more, he stood up, grabbed the door, and slammed it as hard as he could. The sounds of pleasure stopped even before the door stopped rattling on its hinges and he could hear hushed whispers followed by thumping as Tamecka and her lover man struggled to put on their clothes.
Tamecka walked out first with a towel wrapped around her body and a look of shock on her face. Marcus just looked her in the eyes until she lowered hers in humility. Patrick walked out next. He was tying the string of his sweatpants as he walked out and he wore a disinterested look on his face. He looked Marcus up and down, sizing him up, looking for any sign that he was in danger. Seeing no weapon in Marcus’ hands, Patrick assumed that he wasn’t any type of threat and slowly and calmly began walking to the door. He deliberately looked Marcus in his eyes, refusing to be the first to break the eye contact, daring Marcus to stand in his way.
Marcus stood to the side of the door and didn’t attempt to open it for Patrick. Patrick reached past Marcus, still looking him in the eye, and opened the door himself. As he glided through the threshold, he said, “Nice place.”
Marcus didn’t need to be street smart or a hoodlum to know when he was being disrespected. He didn’t ask Patrick to repeat what he’d said because he heard it loud and clear. The word place had other hidden meanings in Marcus’ mind. It didn’t just refer to his apartment but it also referred to the woman that he loved and had wanted marry until ten minutes ago.
Marcus hadn’t been in a fight since he was eleven years old and the neighborhood bully had made him get out of his own tent that was in his own backyard. He’d fled into the house crying and told his mother. Instead of going out and taking up for him, she’d become angry, slapped him on his ear, and made him go back out and play in his tent or fight. He trudged back to the tent and quickly met his demise while his mother watched from the back door. He’d thrown the first punch and had succeeded in only hitting the bully on the shoulder. He was immediately beaten up but he’d earned the respect of the bully as well as his friends just for standing up for himself. When his father came home and his mother told him what happened, Marcus was once again beaten for running away and then taken out in the backyard for some fighting lessons.
The fighting lessons that he’d learned were long forgotten and had gone unused ever since that day. The lesson that he’d learned about standing up for himself came rushing back and slapped him in his face instead of his ears. Adrenaline shot through his body, exciting his nerves and tensing his muscles. Without thinking, he lifted his right foot, placed it in Patrick’s lower back and pushed him out and through his door.
Patrick whirled around to retaliate and Marcus landed the luckiest, wild, roundhouse right-hook of his life. He had to reach up high but his punch landed directly on the left side of Patrick’s jaw causing his teeth to audibly clamp shut and stun him. The punch that he threw was powered by the hurt that had been caused by Tamecka and Patrick’s total lack of respect. The six inches in height that Patrick had on Marcus didn’t matter. All that mattered to Marcus was that he had to beat that man out of his apartment building before he went to his knife drawer.
Marcus didn’t stop swinging after the first punch and in his daze all that Patrick could do was defend himself by throwing up his hands and trying to get out of the narrow hallway so that he could better use his size to his advantage. Marcus kept throwing wild blows that did little damage individually but added up quickly to keep his offense a threat. Patrick backed down the stairs and Marcus was able to gain the height advantage. He threw punch after punch from his elevated position keeping Patrick on constant defense.
The banging in the hall and down the steps aroused Marcus’ neighbors and some were peeking out of their doors trying to see the fight. At the building door, Patrick was trapped since it opened in and he couldn’t open it without exposing his back to Marcus. Tamecka followed and watched, oblivious to the fact that all she had covering her body was a towel, as tears streamed down her face.
Marcus could see the fear begin to creep into Patrick’s eyes. It had replaced Patrick’s arrogance and left him feeling naked without the security that he’d always been accustomed to. Some short dude was beating him, physically, and all that he could do to was take it. It was then that he realized that he was in the building vestibule, which was wider than the hallway and allowed more room for him to operate.
He threw a right then left jab, catching Marcus off guard. The power of Patrick’s jabs was diminished from the exertion of his trying to escape and also from the mental beating that his self-confidence had taken. The jabs were just enough to allow his escape from the apartment building.
Marcus followed and tackled Patrick from behind before he could reach the end of the walkway. Both of the men were exhausted. All that Marcus could do was hold Patrick down when they fell to the ground. He lay on top of Patrick in a prone position. A passerby would have thought that they were attempting to have sex had it not been for Marcus’ hands wrapped around Patrick’s neck. In their exhaustion, they just looked at each other with bugged-eyes and nostrils flaring, breathing heavily. Patrick finally looked away when he heard the sound of a police siren and silently admitted his defeat.
The police didn’t ask any questions when they came. They didn’t ask who started it or what happened. They just handcuffed both men and took them to the police station in separate cars. Marcus hadn’t ever had a brush with the law in his life and was unaccustomed to the processing that he’d only seen on television. Patrick was well known and both of the arresting officers knew him by his full name.
Tamecka didn’t know what to do. She’d watched the entire ordeal through a veil of tears as the man that loved her fought for his honor. After they were arrested, she went back inside and called Autumn and Marcus’ parents. She didn’t go into any detail with either of them. She just told them where Patrick and Marcus were heading and that she would meet them there.
Tamecka parked in the police station parking lot and waited. She watched from her truck as Marcus’ parents arrived first and rushed inside to see what was going on with their child. When she saw Autumn pull up, Tamecka honked her horn to get her attention and beckoned for her to get inside her truck. Autumn had a thousand questions and when she saw Tamecka’s tear stained face she immediately assumed the worst. Without Autumn having to ask, Tamecka began bawling and telling her best friend what had happened.
Autumn listened in shock. She remembered Tamecka’s crush in high school but she never had a clue about what happened with her brother the same night that she lost her virginity. All of that was water under the bridge compared to what had transpired only an hour ago. She began to blame herself for not knowing and sending Patrick over but Tamecka stopped her and told her that no one was to blame but herself. They cried together and when the tears finally subsided, they went inside the police station.
Tamecka and Autumn found Marcus’ parents waiting impatiently for someone to help them retrieve their son. When they saw Tamecka, they rushed to her demanding to be told how and why their son was in jail. Tamecka told them just enough to satisfy their curiosity by saying that Marcus had gotten into a fight with someone. They looked curiously at her wondering what information she wasn’t readily giving them. Conceding that they would not be getting any more than she’d already told them, they went back to pestering anyone that would listen about the whereabouts of their child.
When Autumn began asking the police about her brother, Marcus’ parents were taken by surprise. They didn’t know much about Autumn except that she was a close friend of their son’s girlfriend. They put two and two together and came up with the hypothesis that somehow, someway Marcus had been in a fight with Autumn’s brother. They looked back at Tamecka who was sulking in a corner. She looked so sad that they decided to leave her be for the moment and whispered among themselves.
Before Marcus came out, Tamecka had decided to leave, adding to his parent’s suspicions that she had something to do with the situation that he was in. She started toward her parent’s house but decided that she owed Marcus an explanation if nothing else and turned her car around to go back to his apartment.
The neighbors had already gone back to their own personal lives. No one was looking out of their windows waiting for another fight to start and the men standing at the trunk of a car parked two stalls away paid little attention to her as she walked to Marcus’ apartment. When she got to his door, a note was attached that read, “PLEASE COME TO 2C”. She knew that the note was meant for Marcus but she didn’t think that he would be in any condition to address it when he got home. She took the note and headed one door down to knock on the door of the apartment specified.
A female voice asked who was knocking and Tamecka called out in a croaky voice that she had retrieved the note. The peephole momentarily went dark before an elderly lady unlocked the door, opened it, and said, “I didn’t expect anyone this quickly. Come on in.”
Tamecka followed her inside. She’d seen the lady on several occasions but had never seen the inside of her apartment. The layout was a mirror image of Marcus’, as she would have expected. She looked around her and could see various pictures of small children that she assumed were the lady’s grandchildren. The lady walked to an old black and white floor model TV and picked up a small jewelry box that was sitting on its top and in front of an 8X10 portrait of a smiling child with half of his front teeth missing.
Without turning around to face Tamecka, she said, “You’re the young lady that Marcus is always talking about. He’s a good boy… always helps me with my groceries… quite the catch… if I was only a few years younger myself…” That was just what Tamecka needed: to be reminded of how good of a man Marcus was. The lady turned around and continued. “I was surprised when I saw him fighting like that. I didn’t think that he had it in him. But he handled himself against that larger boy pretty good. Didn’t he?”
Tamecka lowered her eyes and mumbled, “Yes.”
The lady raised her eyebrows and then eyed Tamecka curiously. She looked down at the box that she was holding. “I was the one that called the police. I called them as soon as I heard the commotion. When I peeked out of my door, I found this lying in front of it. I would assume that it’s for me, but I’ve already had two husbands and I don’t think that anyone is going to be giving me a ring to become the third.” She extended her arm to give the velvet box to Tamecka. “Marcus dropped this. I know that it’s his because he’d showed it to me when he first got it. He was so excited and I was excited for him. I don’t need to know what went on next door, but I will say this… everybody, men and women, make mistakes. What matters is whether or not we make the same mistake twice.”
Tamecka knew what was inside the box and couldn’t find the strength to reach out to get it. The lady grabbed her hand, placed the box in it, and wrapped Tamecka’s fingers around it. She said, “I can tell that you’re not a bad person. Neither is Marcus. I believe in my heart that you two will have a wonderful life. Pray and God will make everything better.”
With those words having been said, she gently coaxed Tamecka out the door and closed it behind her. Tamecka trudged slowly back to Marcus’ door and paused after she’d unlocked it. She looked at the box again and sighed deeply, tears already threatening to fall. The box felt heavy, as if it were filled with her heart instead of a ring. She took a deep breath to help her choke back the impending tears and slowly walked inside Marcus’ apartment to wait for him.
Tamecka was afraid to turn on the lights in the empty apartment. She stood motionless at the door and allowed her eyes time to adjust to the contrast in lighting from the hallway to the semi-dark room. A parking lot light located close to Marcus’ living room window provided the only hint of light as it filtered through the window blinds and cast a yellowish glow on the walls. She looked at the living room furniture surrounding her. She knew that nothing had been moved but every thing seemed closer together, as if the room had magically decreased its dimensions. She felt as if she could just reach out and touch the TV from where she was standing instead of having to take five or six steps as she normally did.
Tamecka knew what had changed. It was self-evident. Marcus’ apartment, her second home, had been desecrated. Things would never be the same, no matter how the furniture would be rearranged, walls painted, or pictures added. Another man should have never entered his place or her, his woman. Marcus’ actions were less hostile than any other man’s would have been. Another man would have been justified in shooting Tamecka and Patrick dead on the spot. Temporary insanity would have been a plausible excuse for any judge or jury in America. Tamecka held her arms at her side and clenched her fists. She still held the jewelry box in her hand. She sent up a silent thanks to the Almighty man above for sparing her life if nothing else, walked to the kitchen table, and placed the box on its top.
She felt unclean: the after-effects of her mistake. Her miniscule hairs on her arms seemed to be crawling and a queasy feeling had taken over her stomach and made it roil uncontrollably. She hadn’t eaten since before she left Autumn’s house but her appetite was in the lost and found section of her life.
She needed a shower but was hesitant to enter the place where it all had started and probably ended: more or less. The thought briefly crossed her mind that maybe it was the showers that had affected her decision making. She discarded the thought about as quickly as Patrick had discarded her after their first encounter as she prepared herself to enter the bathroom. She flipped the switch and was assaulted by the fluorescent white light. She blinked her eyes into focus and surveyed the disarray of her and Marcus’ personal hygiene items. She began cleaning up the mess and put everything where it belonged on the vanity counter.
Marcus’ glasses had been on the counter also. They’d been knocked into the basin of the sink and seemed to stare up at Tamecka as she organized the items from memory. It was as if the glasses were scolding her for making them watch her heinous actions as they played themselves out. She gently picked up the glasses last and polished them the best that she could. She briefly put them to her face and looked into the mirror. The clarity of the lenses was something that she could help. The images that had been reflected had become as much a part of them as the frames that held them in place. She delicately put them down where they belonged.
She started the shower and adjusted the water temperature as hot as she could stand. As she stripped down and took off her panties, she noticed a whitish discharge in the crotch. She dismissed it as her own female juices and threw them on the floor. They would never again be worn, Tamecka planned, and would go in the garbage with the towel and blouse that Patrick had touched that day.
Steam was already fogging up the bathroom when she stepped into the tub. The water was hotter than she would have normally been able to stand but she braced herself for self-torture. It was as if the scalding spray was ripping the skin away from her body. She slowly grew accustomed to the temperature and showered thoroughly, scrubbing her skin until it tingled, and almost rubbing her southernmost pubic hairs out of their follicles. There were no thoughts of Patrick to keep her company. She was disgusted with him almost as much as she was disgusted with herself. When she’d scrubbed every part of her body twice, she cried again and let her tears mix with the shower’s rain.
After her shower, she spot-dried her body, threw on a robe, and let the rest of her body air dry. She went into the living room and plopped down on the couch. She drew her knees up to her chin and began to think about what she was going to tell Marcus when he came home. The truth would have been simple enough but she didn’t think that Marcus would understand. She didn’t understand her actions herself. How could she say that she asked Patrick not to go? If Marcus weren’t completely crushed already, he would be when he was hit with the truth. Her bottom lip began to quiver but she bit down on it and forced herself not to cry.
She waited in the darkness and rocked back and forth. There was no easy way about it. Like the lady next door had told her to do, she began to pray that everything would get better.
Marcus’ parents dropped him off at his apartment. They’d insisted to come up with him but he didn’t want them to. He told them that he wanted to be alone. They suspected that something else was up. They still didn’t have a plausible explanation as to why he’d been fighting in the first place. Instead of pursuing the issue, they watched from the car as he disappeared into his apartment building.
Marcus didn’t want his parents to come up because he knew that Tamecka was waiting on him. He’d anxiously surveyed the parking lot as they approached and spotted her truck. Two hours in a musty jail cell isn’t enough to fall out of love. He was heartbroken but as much as he wanted to hate her, he just couldn’t. He wasn’t built that way. Hate wasn’t a part of him as much as he still felt that Tamecka was.
He’d realized that he’d lost the ring soon after he was in the police car. His hands were cuffed so he couldn’t search his pockets but the bulge that he’d been feeling all day was gone. He felt that he should have been more upset than he was about it but the loss of the ring was minute in comparison to the pride that he felt that he’d lost a few hours ago.
When Marcus opened his apartment door, the light spilled in from the hallway and allowed him to see Tamecka sitting motionless on the couch. She stared straight ahead with her knees pulled up to her chin and made no movement to acknowledge his presence. Marcus closed the door and instinctively made his way to the bathroom in the darkness.
He paused at the bathroom door and hesitated before going in. A crime upon his heart had taken place there earlier but compared to the bathroom of the jailhouse, nothing in the world was better at the moment. He flipped the light switch and stepped inside. As he went about his business he surveyed the small room trying to see if he could locate the exact spot or spots that the crime occurred. Nothing seemed to be out of place. His and Tamecka’s toothbrushes were still in the same place on the vanity. Her female products still dominated the counter and the medicine cabinet although he paid the rent. There were his old glasses staring back at him that he only wore when he was in the house. Everything was in order and in its proper place but his home didn’t feel as safe as it once had when he’d left for work that morning.
He washed his hands and as he dried them, he stared back at himself in the mirror. He thought that he looked as if he’d aged ten years while being in jail for only a few hours. The smell of the cell was still in his clothes and he decided to take a shower and gain a few extra minutes before he went and confronted Tamecka.
The stinging spray of the water felt good on his body. He’d suffered a few lumps during the fight with Patrick and they were beginning to get sore. He thought about some of the things that he should have done differently during the fight, like chop Patrick in the throat, or lay a couple of elbows on the top of his head when they fell on the ground. Thinking about what he should have done briefly took him away from his thoughts about Tamecka and he ended up showering quicker than he’d intended. As he rinsed himself, he remembered that a serious talk was coming soon and he became scared.
He was proud of himself in the way that he’d defended his honor against Patrick. Fear had not been an issue. It was impossible not to notice the size that Patrick had over him but the thought had never crossed his mind that he had no chance of winning. He’d fought blindly and with ten times more courage than he had at the moment when he had to face the five-foot, five-inch woman that was sitting in his living room.
He put on a pair of warm-ups and T-shirt just in case he would have to go for a long walk by himself later. He didn’t know what the outcome of their talk would be. He knew what they both needed but he wasn’t quite ready to give up what he truly wanted.
He went into the living room and it looked as if Tamecka hadn’t moved an inch. He sat on the opposite end of the couch, throwing his right leg over the arm, and settled in.
Ten minutes passed by and ignored the couple sitting in the darkness. Another ten passed in silence. Then ten more. Tamecka finally grew uncomfortable with Marcus’ reticence and decided to initiate the conversation. There were questions that needed to be answered before they could go on with their life.
“Are you alright?” She asked.
“I’m okay? . . Well, I guess I am.”
“Are you okay physically?” As soon as the question was out of her mouth, she wished that she could take it back. To ask such a thing was to question his manhood.
Marcus didn’t take it the wrong way though. He understood what she was asking. He wasn’t embarrassed about the way that he’d handled himself in front of his woman. He replied, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
With the formalities out of the way, Marcus found the courage to ask his first question. “Who was he?”
Tamecka took a deep breath. It was time to face the music. She said, “His name was –“
Marcus cut her off before she could finish. He knew the man’s name very well. It was permanently engraved in his mind. “I know his name. I want to know who he was to you.”
“First of all? . . . he’s Autumn’s brother.” She could feel the tension in the room double its viscosity when she made the revelation. Marcus’ parents hadn’t mentioned anything about Autumn to him in the car. “She didn’t have anything to do with this. She had no idea about my history until I told her today.”
“History! What history?” Marcus asked in alarm. “How long has this been going on?”
“No, it’s not like that,” Tamecka said as she shook her head in the darkness. She briefly explained the first encounter that she’d had with Patrick, leaving out the orgasm and fireworks parts. “Today was the first time that I’ve seen him in over two years.”
“You haven’t seen him in two years and he’s able to just come into my house and do whatever he wants to. If his tongue is that good, maybe I should let him suck my? . . . never mind.? . . That doesn’t make sense. The least that you could have told me was that you’ve been seeing him for a while. At least then I would think that he had to at least work for it.”
Tamecka didn’t answer. She couldn’t. She knew that Marcus wouldn’t understand the truth. She didn’t even understand it herself. Her truth was much stranger than fiction.
“What was he doing over here?” Marcus asked.
“Autumn sent him over to give me a blouse back.”
“So it was her fault?”
“No, it was not. I already told you that she didn’t know about us. If she’d known, I know that she wouldn’t have sent him over here. Don’t blame any of this on Autumn. She feels guilty enough already.”
Marcus sighed. He’d listened to what Tamecka had told him but he wanted to place blame on anybody else but her. He loved her too much and the answers that she’d given him to that point didn’t make him feel any better. “So, it’s not like you were dating or sneaking around with him?” He asked.
“He came over here? . . . began coming on to you? . . . and one thing led to another?” Marcus was pointing her answers in the direction that he wanted them to go.
“Yes,” Tamecka answered, “it was something like that.” To say that it was actually a lot less than that would have been like grinding the pieces of his already shattered heart into dust.
“I need to know exactly what went down. That’s the only way that I’ll be able to sleep. While I was in that cell, all that I could do was imagine what he was doing to you.”
“No, Marcus. I can’t and I won’t do that. I know that you probably feel as if you need to know but it will just hurt you even more.”
Marcus thought for a moment and then said, “As much as I hate to ask questions that I don’t want to know the answer to, I just feel that I need to hear them. No matter how painful the answers may be. I must know what happened. Maybe it’s a man thing, but I have to know.”
“A mistake is what happened. Something that I wish that I could take back.”
“Mistakes don’t make a person scream the way that you were. That’s what is eating at me the most, I think. You sounded as if you were enjoying breaking my heart.”
“Marcus, I didn’t know that you were in the apartment,” Tamecka pleaded with her voice.
“Oh, if you had known, would you have toned it down a bit?”
Tamecka allowed an annoyed sigh to escape. “It’s no use,” she said. “You are just going to twist every little thing that I say until it fits your perception of things.” She paused and waited for a comment from Marcus. When he said nothing, she continued. “This is what happened. Patrick came over to bring the blouse.? . . . I was in the shower and I thought that it was Autumn at the door.? . . . Instead it was Patrick that I buzzed in.? . . . He came in while I was still in the bathroom? . . . I told him to go but he wouldn’t? . . .He told me that he would leave if I let him taste me again. I was scared and he’d been in and out of jail. I didn’t want anything to happen to me, so I let him? . . . you know? . . . taste me. It didn’t feel good and I was acting out my part so that he would get it over with and leave. Then I, no we, heard the door close and it was over.”
She was out of breath when she finished. The more that she’d lied, the easier it was to tell them. Her last words came in a flood and she couldn’t exactly remember what she’d spouted. She told Marcus exactly what she thought that he wanted to hear. She had to make it seem that she wouldn’t have done anything to hurt him unless something was at stake. She made it seem that she feared for her safety. She’d lied to Marcus in the last few seconds more than she had in their whole relationship. It didn’t feel right but she was trying to protect him from the stark truth.
Marcus sat in the darkness and digested her story. She’d told him exactly what he’d needed to hear. She was afraid, he told himself. He thought a moment longer and then asked, “Why was he tying his sweatpants when he came out?”
Tamecka had forgotten about that bit of information. She had quickly become a new pro at lying so she replied without hesitation, “He’d pulled down his pants and was about to try to put it in but I pushed him away and said no. So he went back to what he was doing.” She was shooting herself in the foot without having the slightest idea that she was holding a gun.
“He tried to put it in?” Marcus asked.
“Yeah. He tried but he didn’t.”
Marcus had all the while envisioned Patrick inside Tamecka with her legs in the air, toes pointed to the heavens. Oral sex didn’t seem as bad. It was bad enough but Marcus felt that penetration was far worse. A little bit of his hurt was lifted and a few pieces of his heart glued themselves back together.
As Tamecka told her true lies, they still sat on opposite sides of the couch letting the darkness of the room diffuse their pain. Tamecka felt the couch move as Marcus shifted his body. He grunted as he stretched his limbs.
“Are you sure that you’re alright?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Just a little sore.” He was silent for a few seconds and then continued. “I think that I hit the wall more times that I hit him.” Tamecka could hear an underlying tone of humor in his voice, a first since he’d come home. It was a positive sign that things could probably turn out fine.
The thought of the loss of the ring resurfaced in Marcus’ mind and he quietly said, “Damn damn damn.”
Tamecka correctly assumed that he was saying damn to the ring but decided to hold off on telling him about it for a while longer. Instead she said, “Come sit down here.”
Marcus could see barely make out the outline of her arm as she motioned toward the floor in front of her. He scooted over as gently as he could and sat down on the floor with his legs splayed out in front of him. Tamecka grabbed his head and pulled it toward her. She began kneading his scalp and molding his mind for forgiveness.
Marcus always loved when she massaged his head. It always felt as if she was working the stress out of his whole body. He closed his eyes and let the feeling take him wherever it wanted to. After a few minutes, Tamecka said, “The lady next door found the ring.”
Marcus’ eyes flew open. His big little secret was out. He let an exasperated sigh escape and closed his eyes again as Tamecka kept her fingers in motion. Time passed. Marcus said without opening his eyes, “Where do we go from here?”
Tamecka answered his question with a question of her own. “Where do you want to go?” She asked.
“You’ve been the one saying that we need our space? . . . our own time alone. I never expected it to come to this though.”
“Marcus, I never meant for this to happen either. I’m sorry. I really am. And if I could do things differently, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
Marcus said, “I don’t know what I want to do. I’m hurt and I’m confused.” He paused. “I do know that I don’t want to lose you though. If you still feel that you need space then go ahead and do what you have to do. I’d rather see you happy than as miserable as you seem to be right now.”
Tamecka sighed and tears began to well in her eyes again. Marcus was giving her a way out. He all but pointed towards the door to her freedom. Yet, she was so afraid of punishing him with additional hurt that she closed the door herself and catered to his feelings instead. She cleared her throat and said, “I know who I want to be with. I want you to try and forgive me. I know that it will be hard for you but I want to make up for what I’ve done.”
Marcus had already made up his mind to forgive her. He didn’t want to lose her but he needed to see what she would do if he was willing to let her go. Her statement that she wanted him relieved him. He grabbed her hands and pulled her forward enough to be able to plant soft kisses on the back of her right and left hands. He stretched his head back as far as it would go and looked up at her. He could see the silhouette of her face. He whispered, “Come here,” and extended his arm back to caress her chin and pull her face forward. She hesitantly brought her lips to his; trying to fight back the memory that she’d touched someone else’s earlier that day.
Marcus shifted his body so that he could kiss Tamecka more fully. She had repositioned herself during their talk and sat cross-legged on the couch. The thoughts of her saying another man’s name flooded the hollows of his mind. He wanted to make her feel like that. He needed her to scream his name with as much passion and fervor as she had done with Patrick. He turned completely around and pulled himself up to the couch. He kissed Tamecka again and pressed her down on the seat cushions. As his kisses increased in pitch, he slowly undid the belt of her robe.
Tamecka resisted has long as she could. The thought of her having been with another man earlier in the day played with her mind. But as Marcus kissed and rubbed her, her resistance slowly broke down and her body came to life. Once again, her mind and body were on different levels. Once again, she let her body take complete control but this time it felt right and she gave in completely. She felt as if another part of her were melting with every meeting of their tongues as he kissed her deeply and passionately. She felt him move from her lips and trace a damp path with his tongue to her ear. He knew exactly how she liked her ear-play. He didn’t drown her with a sloppy wet tongue nor did he try to force the whole thing inside her ear canal. He lightly nibbled her earlobe and placed quick darts of his tongue along her outer ear as the pace of her breathing increased.
He paid close attention to both ears making sure that neither would envy the other. He moved down to her neck still lightly nibbling and sucking. Tamecka’s hands went to the back of Marcus’ neck: silently letting him know that she was liking what he was doing and to never stop if he didn’t have to.
Marcus didn’t stop but he planned to soon. There was something else that he needed to do.
Marcus slowly worked his way back up Tamecka’s body with his mouth and lips while his fingertips played a slow ballad up and down her arms. He’d pleased his woman in one way - although not in the way that he’d planned earlier - but he still had another job to complete. When he made it to her lips, he stopped, stood up, and slowly took off his clothes with such speed that it seemed as if they were never on. He lowered himself back to the couch, hovering his body over Tamecka as he looked into her eyes. The outside streetlight provided just enough illumination to surround her face with an almost surreal, iridescent glow. She looked back at him with glazed eyes that showed signs of pain that was also mixed with pleasure.
The thought that he didn’t have a condom briefly flashed through both of their minds but was gone again and forgotten in an instant. Tamecka reached up and ran her soft hands from Marcus’ shoulder blades to his butt. She drew him down to her as she raised her hips to meet him. With two years of experience in the anatomy of her body under his belt, Marcus expertly guided himself inside her without the use of his hands.
The first stroke was gentle but each preceding stroke came with an increasing urgency that neither of them had ever known. He tried to go deeper than he’d ever been before. He was trying to erase the memory of another man but the sounds of exaltation that Tamecka was uttering could not drown out the sounds of Patrick’s name that were still echoing in his head.
He pulled out and roughly turned Tamecka over, repositioning her body where her hands were on the back of the couch and her knees were on the sofa cushions. Doggy style. Tamecka’s favorite position. His least favorite because it didn’t allow him to look at her face as it contorted into different images of ecstasy. He started where he left off, giving each stroke a meaning and going faster and deeper until she began to sing his name.
With each call of the name that his parent’s had bestowed upon him, it seemed as if his urgency increased. As she got louder and gripped the back of the couch until she could feel the hard wood underneath, he still heard Patrick’s name. But it was now intermingled with his own.
They were on a path to a head-on collision with their climaxes. As Marcus began nearing his climax, he could no longer hear Patrick’s name. He couldn’t even remember the name that he had cursed only a few moments ago.
They exploded together. Came together as one. For the first time in their relationship, the second time that day, and third time in her life, Tamecka exploded in orgasm. This orgasm had a different feeling to it. It had a meaning, which intensified the feeling. And she knew that she would get that feeling again and again instead of wondering when and if it would ever happen.
They collapsed on the couch in a heap of caramel and chocolate limbs. Marcus still throbbed inside her. He slowly softened until their combined wetness caused him to slip out, disconnecting them from each other. Tamecka squirmed underneath him until she lay on her back. She wrapped her legs and arms around him and gave him a squeeze that said thank you for everything.
Small volcanoes of sensation erupted throughout their bodies as they lay together. Every warm puff of Marcus’ breath on her neck sent ripples of pleasure soaring up and down her spine. As the feeling of the love they made wore off, the hurt came back to take its place. Sex had been just a temporary substitute for what they still felt. The process of healing had begun in a chorus of moans and the frantic writhing of their bodies. But they both knew that it would take time and a lot of love to re-establish even a portion of what they’d lost in a single day.
Just as they had reached their climax together, they reached their threshold for pain together. The first teardrop that each one of them shed rolled down their cheek and met to form a bigger one, a subtle sign that they were in this relationship together. Neither tried to wipe their tears away and they cried and sniffled together for the first, and hopefully the last, time.
Marcus moved his mouth to Tamecka’s ear and whispered, “Will you marry me?”
Tamecka had been expecting the question and answered quickly. “Yes,” she whispered in reply. The ring still lay on the kitchen table but she didn’t move to get it. It could wait for the time being. The question of the day had been asked and answered. The box of chocolates, lingerie, sheets, and slow jam tape were not needed. The rose petals were still in the passenger seat of Marcus’ car, wilting away one by one: nature's way of saying that everything still was not well in paradise.
Marcus and Tamecka prayed for sleep to deliver them from their pain and provide a few hours of peace. Marcus began to drift off first, floating in a warm sea of love, swaying between hurt and relief. Once again he began hearing Patrick’s name, sounding far away in his head, but loud enough for the walls of his home to hear.
Sleep didn’t come as easily for Tamecka. She began to hear the walls whispering to each other but she could not discern what they were saying. She felt Marcus’ breath even. A reflexive jerk of his body let her know that he’d fallen asleep. She eased from underneath him to take a shower. She still felt unclean. When she closed the bathroom door behind her, it suddenly came to her that the walls were whispering Patrick’s name over and over again.
Two months later, Tamecka was back in the room in which it had all started. She sat on the edge of the tub, letting tears run unchecked down her face. On the vanity, the items that she had once knocked in disarray were joined by two open pregnancy tests. A third pregnancy kit lay between Tamecka’s feet as she stared down at a blue strip of paper that she held in her hand. The blue color meant that the test was positive: she was pregnant.
She didn’t believe the results at first, which was why there were three kits in the bathroom. Each of the tests told her what she didn’t want to know: that she was twenty-one years old, engaged but unwed, and about to become a mother. All of those factors paled in comparison to the most difficult conflict that she had to consider. She didn’t know for sure that she was pregnant by Marcus.
She couldn’t say with any degree of certainty whether or not Patrick had come inside her. She kept telling herself that he didn’t, but doubt kept rearing its ugly head just when she’d convinced herself that she was right. She kept telling herself that Patrick had only managed to get a couple of strokes . . . maybe more than a couple . . . but he couldn’t have possibly come that quickly.
The main thing was that she wasn’t sure. She’d told Marcus that Patrick had never penetrated her. To tell him that she was having a baby but that she wasn’t sure if it was his was to also admit that she’d lied to him. “Why open up that Pandora’s Box anyway?” she asked herself. There is a good chance that Marcus is the father after all, she’d thought. Different excuses and reasons why her situation would turn out okay raced through her head. When she’d run the gamut of all the positives, the negatives began kicking in and she cried again.
Autumn had told her that she had three nieces and a nephew: that she knew of. Only the firstborn daughter was the one that Patrick claimed although he still did nothing for her. A couple of his baby’s mamas had managed to get her number demanding to know where Patrick was so that he could take care of his kids. One girl had even come to her house and wanted to fight her because she thought that Autumn was lying about knowing where Patrick was. Autumn had told Tamecka that the girl had the most beautiful daughter with her and that there was no denying the little girl’s paternity.
Every time that Autumn had broached the subject of Patrick’s kids with him. He told the straight-faced lie that the girl’s were lying on him. Autumn never pressured him about it but she did as much as she could during Christmas and Patrick’s kids’ birthdays to diminish the guilt of being their aunt. When the guilt became too much for her to handle, she always expressed her sorrow to Tamecka. Tamecka knew that if there was one person that she didn’t want to be the father of her child: it was Patrick Winstrom.
She knew that Marcus was the father that she’d always dreamed of. He was like the Pied Piper when it came to children. They flocked to his boyish charm and natural childlike magnetism. Even the most hesitant child would slowly circle him with a gradually diminishing radius until he or she too was in his arms laughing and playing. On more than one occasion, the kids would get so comfortable that they would slip and call him their daddy. If a child was brave enough to hold his or her arms out to him, Marcus always found it in his heart to pick them up, no matter how dirty, smelly, sick, nappy-headed, homely, or bad they were.
Marcus took care of his nephew and niece as if they were his own; since his sister’s babies’ daddy (another product of Elgin) loved jail cells more than he seemed to love his own kids. Even when he was free, he didn’t do anything in the physical or economic sense to form a relationship with his own blood. Marcus hated him just as much as he hated Patrick. The saddest part of it all was that Patrick and his sister’s kid’s sperm donor ran in the same circles.
The prior Christmas, Tamecka had spent the holiday with Marcus’ family. His sister and her kids were there along with his parents. They watched with glee as the children excitedly opened the numerous presents that came from being the only two kids in the family.
The doorbell rang and Marcus’ mother went to answer the door. She returned to the living room wearing a look of disgust on her face. Seconds later, the kid’s father came in. He had unexpectedly showed up bearing two presents for each of them. If Marcus or his father had answered the door, they would have taken the presents and left him standing in the Illinois cold.
The kids dropped their presents and ran to him as fast as only kids who don’t understand life could. They jumped into his arms because they loved him more than Christmas presents. Their dad beamed with pride as Tamecka and the rest of the Pettis family watched. The children finally let him go so that they could see what he’d brought them as presents.
They tore open the presents in a flurry of five and four year old hands. Sabrina, the five year old, held up a Barbie doll and dress that was obviously too big for her. Marquelle, her younger brother, held a G.I. Joe figurine (with the Kung Fu grip) and a Raiders jacket that was too small. They held their smiles just long enough to be polite, said thank you, put the presents down where they were and went back to their mother’s side.
Even they knew that the gifts were cheap and thoughtless. As young as they were, they still instinctively knew that they were worth more than what they’d just been given by their own father. The grown-ups definitely knew it and Mr. Pettis calmly rose and escorted their father out of his house as he held him by the arm.
Tamecka watched the women as they each took a child and loved them with hugs and kisses. She looked over at Marcus as he bit his lip to keep the tears that were at the brim of his eyes from spilling over. He caught her look, tried to blink away his feelings, and went into another part of the house. Tamecka knew right then that Marcus was the type of father that she wanted for her kids. She just didn’t know at the time whether or not it would be him.
She was hoping that he was the father of her baby when the third test came back positive though. As she sat on the bathtub, she decided that she would play the odds and not tell Marcus that there was a possibility that the child wasn’t his. She stood up, took a deep breath, and began getting herself together for Marcus’ return.
Time seemed to shrink and the next thing she knew, she heard a key being inserted in the apartment door. She sat at the kitchen table and waited for his entrance. He came in and saw her sitting in the dim light.
“Hey,” he said. He didn’t run to touch her as he did a couple of months back. Things had changed.
“Hey,” she replied. She wished that he would run to her.
He set his keys on the table, knocked lightly on the wooden surface, and went to the bathroom. He came back out quickly with one of the pregnancy kits that she’d left on purpose. He asked, “What’s this?”
She said, “What does it look like?”
“Okay then. What does it mean?”
She managed to paint a fake smile on her face as she stood up and said, “It means that you’re going to be a daddy.”
Marcus looked at her, at the box, and then back at her again, with a look of shock on his face. Tamecka began to fear that Marcus was upset: a reaction that she hadn’t once considered.
Surprise slowly metamorphosed in a big smile. He threw the box down and ran and grabbed her. He picked her up and spun her round and round. He quickly put her down, and apologized in fear that he had hurt her or the baby.
Tears coursed down her cheeks again and he interpreted them to be tears of joy. She knew that he would. He had no idea that she was crying because she didn’t truly know how she was supposed to feel. But her female intuition told her that joy wouldn’t find her heart again for a very long time.