Perfect Life – Part 2

The next morning, I awoke with a small headache. It seemed years ago since I’d had my last hangover. I run my fingers through my hair and take a deep breath in, luckily, I took paracetamol before heading to bed as I could only imagine how worse the throbbing in my head if I hadn’t done so. I slowly get up recalling the events of the night before in my mind. The enchanted ebony that I’d had the pleasure of speaking with. I try to recall the last time my body felt so energised and smile remembering her in my arms. Just the thought of having her all night, rolling around in my sheets awakens my entire being. I try to convince myself that leaving her was the right thing to do – but struggle to find the sense behind my actions.

I get up feeling tense. The gym would be sure to help loosen me with all this pent-up energy I had built within. I start my morning regime, stepping into the shower and allowing the water to pour over my body. It was my own choice to turn her away, I think. She would have been willing (probably just like every other female I was with). And maybe the fact that I know she would have freely given herself to me, is what keeps the blood rushing straight towards my shaft. Why was I overthinking about a woman that I barely knew? It wasn’t like me to pine over a woman. By the afternoon, I’d be over my brief encounter with this unknown woman and I’d be back to my usual self.

***************

I sat leaned back in my office chair, an email opened, a response half written and all I can focus on is the number typed in my phone as ‘M’. As I rotate the phone in my hand, I let my mind wander over to the night before. The colleagues that were far too drunk, the way the women of J’J sat watching me, waiting for me to let loose. Who’d have thought it’d be a stranger that’d get me to enjoy myself? Throwing my phone behind me and onto my bed, I focus on answering some emails when my phone rings. Maybe she decided she was over waiting and thought to call me. I did save my number in her phone, right? I lift the phone to see Kurtis’ name flashing. Feeling surprisingly deflated, I answer.

“Kurtis, how’s it going?”

“Tanner – I feel like shit.”
Kurtis was my direct manager and the operational manager of J’J Business. He worked closely with the CEO of the company and was the reason I excelled faster than others, as it was him who I’d impressed so heavily. We’d managed to build a solid relationship together and have only gotten closer as colleagues and friends ever since.

I chuckle slightly, “Well you did knock back more than a few drinks yesterday.”

“I’m not even sure how much I drank and I woke up on my couch this morning! Honestly my head feels like it’s about to explode.” Kurtis moaned, groaning slightly as he inhaled deeply.

“Well, if you’re calling about the presentation and the brief – I’m typing them up as we speak. So, you can just recover today.”

“You’re a godsend! In fact, the reason why I called is because I’ll be off to Barcelona for a business summit next week, meaning I won’t be accessing my emails as frequently as I usually do. And seeing as I can completely trust you with my everything, I’ll be leaving you to oversee a few things I do. Give you the training to get you to that next step.”

“You know me Kurtis, I’m always ready for the next step.”

“That’s what I admire about you. Well you’ll be meeting with Jace Brennan on the 20th December.” I look at the calendar on my laptop – next week Monday. “He already knows you by name, but it’ll be good for you and him to meet face to face.”

Jace Brennan, the CEO of the entire company. This was definitely a big move for me, and I couldn’t mess this up as it could affect my entire career.

“Is it just an informal meeting?”

“Exactly that. Just a quick meeting, explaining what you’re currently working on and then lunch with him.”

As he runs through the meeting, I make a calendar entry on my phone as a reminder, ‘MEETING WITH JACE B’.

“I guess this is in the morning?”

“No, I think he’s got a family thing in the AM, so he’s asked for you to pop through around 1? Oh, and I didn’t mention the family thing.” I chuckle and make a mental note.

“Cool – I’ve got that all down.”

“Oh, and Tanna (!), I owe you.”

“You most definitely do!”

We both laugh and end the call. With M out of my mind (well not entirely), and Jace’s meeting taking the forefront of my thoughts, I complete my email and start working on the presentation and drafts for Kurtis.

Its hours after the call when I finally finish everything my phone begins to vibrate for another time today. I reach for it, lowering the volume of the television.

“Tantan!”

It was my older sister, we were five years apart, yet I felt I was ten years ahead of her. She was a ball of energy and followed her heart passionately. Which meant if her heart called her to a spontaneous visit in India, she’d go. The only downside was that she’d find her short of cash more often than so and would crash at my house until she was back on her feet.

“Emilia what’s up?”

“Nothing, I was hoping to ask you for a major favour?”

Everyone seemed to need something from me today. “Yes, you can crash here-”

“No that’s not it! It’s Christmas next weekend and I need you to make time to come through to dads.”

I rub my eyes and throw my head back. It’s not as though I don’t want to go my father’s for Christmas, it’s just we end up sharing memories of our mother and before you know it Emilia’s in tears and my father is on the verge of breaking down. It’s happened every year since her death and I was hoping to bypass the mourning party and send my wishes from a far.

“Em, we all know how it gets when we gather at dad’s for Christmas.”

“Oh, have a heart for crying out loud. It still hurts for some of us…”

Her voice trailed off making me feel guilty. It wasn’t as though I didn’t care or feel anything towards my mother’s passing. It was just… I wasn’t surrounded by tough people and who could I honestly rely on to share my grief without them unloading onto me? Losing my mother was the hardest thing I’d ever experienced. It broke me more than I let on and maybe that’s what made me stick to myself… I sigh feeling a wave of uninvited emotions rise to the surface.

“I know Em…”

“I’m sorry Tan, I shouldn’t have made it seem as though-”

“It’s fine.” I say interrupting her. She remains quiet for a while and then continues with her speech.

“Well… if you could come over and spend Christmas with dad and I, that’d be really great.”

“I’ll be there.”

Instantly the mood feels lighter as I feel her smile through the phone.

“Yay! Right, I’ll be in touch with times and what not – see you soon. Love you.”

I cringe but can’t help but smile. Emilia had made sure her love was evident whenever she had the chance since our mother passed. She denies all the emotions as a direct effect from the death of our mother, but I know she wished she confessed her love to our mother more often and now she didn’t have the chance, she made sure she never wasted the opportunity to her living family members. I look at my phone for what seems like the hundredth time today and think about M. Maybe I should leave her be, it was a good night, but maybe that’s all it was.

********************

All weekend I anticipate today’s meeting with Jace. Not as though I was worried, but it was a big career push if I impressed Jace himself. It was all good shining bright among other stars of the company, but if I shined big enough for the moon to notice me, who could tell what could happen?

I had put on the best navy suit I had in my wardrobe, selecting my cleanest brown brogues to accompany the look and a black trench coat. This wasn’t much of a different look to my everyday appearance. However, my step was with more reason that last week. I set my laptop on my desk and prepare for the working day, pushing my meeting with Jace to the back of my mind.

The time flies by quicker than I expect and I’m finding myself walking towards Jace’s office for our scheduled meeting. Kurtis had already called me twice with things he needed actioned before midday, so I didn’t have much time to fuss over the meeting, until now. I reach Jace’s office door and look at his name plaque on the door. The curtains to his office were drawn causing me to look at my watch to check on the time. 12:59 … I knocked on the door, despite the feeling that he didn’t want to be disturbed and waited.

“Come in!”

Turning the doorknob slowly, I enter confidently. Opposite me sat Jace, face hidden behind his laptop. He didn’t bother looking up from his screen until he heard the door close. He assessed me briefly then gestured for me to sit in the vacant leather seat opposite from him. I took a seat, waiting for him to finish whatever had his attention and found myself looking around his office. His curtains were drawn creating a dark atmosphere in his office. His table was almost spotless, apart from the laptop, a few pens and notebooks that lay on the desk.

Behind him was a small family portrait of what it seemed to be like him, his wife and a daughter laughing at an exotic holiday. My eyes drift towards the cabinets lined against the wall, all sealed and locked for confidential reasons. His sigh brought my attention back towards him. He rolled his eyes and then closed the laptop, folding his arms on top of the machine. He beamed a smile at me and spoke.

“Sorry about that Tanna, women eh?” Taken back, I smile – women? “Right, Kurtis was keen we meet up, speaks very highly of you.”

“I do what I can to impress Mr ­–”

“Jace… Jace is fine.” He said smiling again. “So, here’s the deal, Kurtis is away this week at a summit and before I consider doing anything, regarding your position, I need to see how you work.”

I nod, going over his words in my head. Kurtis made it seem as though we were just having a brief informal conversation, but this seems to be a discussion about my career at J’J and potentially receiving a promotion. I suppress my shock and decide acting surprised would only raise doubt.

“Totally understandable.”

“Great! With that in mind, I’ve got a task for you. I know it’s nearly Christmas but the amount of internal matters we go through would shock you.”

He slides back in his chair towards a small draw near the family photo and retrieves a folder. He returns to his position opposite me and gives me the folder.

“This is an account that have major potential of growing but just aren’t… I need you to work on them. Three weeks sound about reasonable?”

I open the folder and scan through the details. ‘Nexus Elite’, a media company that had been partnered with J’J since 2014, little to no revenue spent with us, yet continuously offered the best status as they have the “potential to grow”. Key contact assigned to this account was a woman called, Wynter Blaire. I look back at Jace and smile.

“Should be no problem!”

“Hey,” Jace says through chuckles. “Don’t think your good looks will get you past Wynter, she’s a tough woman. Gone through… how many has it been?” He says looking towards the ceiling. “Four account managers.” We laugh together and he shakes his head in disbelief.

“Four?”

“Yeah, she’s a wolf. But I have faith you’ll sweeten her.”

I smile, reviewing the account when there’s a soft knock at the door. I lift my eyes to Jace who’s quickly checked his watch and then the door.

“Apologies Tanna, I think I know who this is. This’ll only be brief… Come in!”

I return my gaze to the documents within the folder, not trying to intrude on any personal or business affairs. Nexus was worth 3.5 million and was predicted to make another profit in the new financial year. It seems like Miss Blaire was one of the main reasons for the uplift in profit for this media company. A challenge set by Jace himself, I thought. I was prepared to show him what I was capable of.

“Sorry to interrupt dad.” Dad? I stare at the papers before me, my attention slightly shifting to the voice behind me. Why did the voice seem familiar to my ears?

“No worries Maxine. Seeing as you’re here, Tanna meet my daughter, Maxine. Maxine meet Tanna.”

As I stood to turn to greet Maxine, my mouth instantly felt dry. It was her. My ebony enchantress from Friday. I stand in shock for a few seconds and she does the same. She looks different from the club. Her tight curls were pulled back into a low bun, bringing out the features of her face. Her eyes were kinder than when I last looked at them. She’d switched her body-hugging black dress, for a black leather trouser and a white shirt. Her once red lips were now a soft peachy colour. Noticing our awkward stare, I stretch my hand out to her, not sure whether now was the time to bring up our encounter from Friday night.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

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Elliot & I [Part 3]

The drive back home was quiet. Fredrick focused on getting us home before my parents as I sat in silence replaying the scene I’d just witnessed over and over in my mind. Was I unfair to feel anything against Elliot when I know my parents have not made his life easy? I thought this question countless of times. A part of me wanted to demand Fredrick to drive me back so I could confront Elliot. But a deeper part of me kept me sat in my seat with my mouth shut.

When we’d arrived home, I got out the car and waited for Fredrick to escort me back to the house. He’d seen that something had gone wrong, but didn’t question it. Something in me respected Fredrick for his silence. There were times I caught his eye as he stole quick glances at me during our drive home and now as we walked towards the main door, but nevertheless no words left his lips. Once we were inside, I started making my way to my room when Fredrick called my name.

“Miss Alexandra, if this is any consolation, things will fall into place.” I manage to place a small smile on my face and made my way to my room just wishing I could erase the scene I’d just seen.

 

******************

 

The next few days following the Elliot incident I kept to myself. I played the role of the famous Harold’s daughter to the best of my abilities. Keeping quiet when I wasn’t spoken to, responding only when I was asked a question and casting my gaze towards the ground like the obedient daughter my father always wanted. Without consciously wanting to, my mind would drift to Elliot every few moments. Torturing me ever so slightly. I’d reminisce about the nights where we’d find ourselves speaking for hours upon hours, or how we’d steal kisses when we’d managed to find ourselves seated at the same event and that fateful night on the balcony… Then the memories would be burned out by the image of him laughing at the racial jokes against my father. My eyes watered slightly, I thought what we had was real? I close my eyes, trying to shut out reality when my mother’s voice pulled me out of m thoughts.

“Alexandra, did you hear what I said?”

My mother said across the dinner table. She always insisted we sat and ate dinner like a normal family, but these humans didn’t understand me and didn’t want to. Father was always first to excuse himself from the table and mother acted as though she wasn’t hurt however, her face spoke the words of pain and disappointment that her mouth failed to utter.

“Sorry.” I muttered, blinking the water away from my eyes that threatened to fall. “Could you repeat it please?”

With an exaggerated sigh she started again, “I was just saying to your father, Mrs Monroe from the ‘Give for All’s’ charity event we met two weeks ago, mentioned her son graduated from law and was single.”

She smirked at me as though I’d be jumping out of my dining chair with joy. I sat watching her blankly wondering who this Mrs Monroe was.
“Who’s Mrs Monroe?”
My mother looked irritated, probably at the fact that the only thing I managed to pick up from her statement was Mrs Monroe and not her single son, who she was clearly trying to partner me with.
“She was the one who spoke about hosting the dinner party for the wives and daughters of those within the charity club?” I nodded as though her sentence managed to put pieces to the puzzle, she so wanted me to see. She looked at my father who seemed less interested than I did. With a non-receptive crowd, my mother decided to continue on with her one-sided conversation.
“Well, we’ll meet him this Friday at the St. Augustine Ball. Kevin, I believed was his name.”

I looked to my mother this time. The ball… how could I forget the stupid ball? Elliot would be there. His father would shake my father’s hand smiling from ear to ear, when truly he wanted to see the downfall of my family. It’d be too much for me to bear with. Even as I sat frozen in the comfort of my own home, I couldn’t fathom how I was meant to deal with the inevitable that seemed to be fast approaching. I looked at my father and then back at my mother who gave me a quizzical stare.
“I don’t think I’ll be attending the St. Augustine Ball.”
“Excuse me?” My father was first to talk. Scowling as he watched me in disbelief.
“I think it’d be best if I don’t attend the ball.” My voice shaking slightly, sounding less confident the more I spoke.
“And why would that be?” My mother, now joining in on this war against me said.
“I’m aware the Winston family will be attending and for that reason alone, staying at home would be the best choice.”

My father looked shocked as I spoke. It was obvious that they hadn’t expected me to want to stay at home, let alone the reasoning behind this be because of Elliot and his family. I could almost see the smirk formulating on my father’s lips as I confessed why I wanted to stay behind. My mother still bewildered spoke,
“Well you’ll be attending as you’ll be meeting with Mrs Monroe’s son. There’s no question about that.” I looked at my mother as she spoke, wanting to scream at her but finding myself clutching tightly at the serviette that lay on lap.
“If you’re happy for me to see Elliot again ­­–”
“Don’t you dare mention his name.” My father said interrupting me. I looked between the both of them feeling like a cornered mouse. I just couldn’t win with them. It was always the way they wanted things done. If my actions swayed just slightly off course, I was dragged through hell for it. Feeling suffocated and angry, I rose from my chair, causing the chair to fall back creating a loud bang. My fists clenched in frustration as the serviette remained tightly held in my hand.

“Alexandra Bennett sit down!”  My father shouted, standing also. My anger seething as I stood meeting my father’s stare. I was tired of being who they wanted me to be, talking to who they wanted me to talk to and loving who they deemed acceptable. I wasn’t a child anymore and I was not going to be treated like one.
“I said, SIT DOWN!” He growled, causing my mother to stand. All three of us stood, chests heaving in anger towards each other. My eyes locked with my father’s, aiming not to fall under his scrutiny. Weakly, my mother spoke trying to regain some order during her precious dinner time.
“Harold please.”
She stretched her arm towards my father, trying to transfer some calming energy to him. But the very fact I remained standing was what kept the flame in his eyes alight.
“You’ll go Alexandra and that is it!

He turned to leave when something deep in my chest exploded. One moment I was meant to follow their rules and ignore Elliot and the first opportunity of me doing what they wanted, I still managed to be in the wrong?
“What do you want from me?! You want me to stay away from him, even took my bloody phone just so we didn’t speak…”
“Alexandra!” My mother shouted.
“And now when I don’t even want to see him, you’re forcing me to attend a ball where he’ll be? I can’t win with you both!” I threw the serviette on the table and left the dining room; walking passed my father as I did so. Our eyes never breaking apart until I was out of the room and pacing up the stairs towards my bedroom. Once I was back in my own domain, I slammed the door and laid face forward on my bed and allowed the emotions that had built within me to pour out into the pillow that cushioned my face. Feeling hopeless and powerless to the clutches of my family and to Elliot’s betrayal, I found myself crying until I lost consciousness.

 

***************

 

I was awoken by a knock on my door and then the noise of it opening. My eyes blinked slowly, adjusting to the light but also to the aftermath of crying for hours. I felt terrible and knew I looked worse. Still in my dinner clothes, I slowly sat up on my bed as my mother closed my bedroom door behind her.

“Alexandra…” I watched her, feeling defeated. She looked back at me and for just a second it seemed as though she genuinely felt upset at the sight before her. It looked as though she wanted to say something, anything that could smooth out the events of yesterday evening… “Get ready, we’re going out.”
With that she left and closed my door behind her. What was the point? Who could I turn to? Elliot was no longer my escapism and my parents caged me like a trapped bird. A bird was luckier than I was. My wings were clipped before I had a chance to fly. I sighed and walked into my bathroom, ready to live a life that clearly wasn’t meant for me.

Fredrick was ready in the car when both mother and I descended the steps just outside the main door. She entered at the left side of the car, whilst I took the right door, behind the driver. I wasn’t aware of where we were going, yet what was the point in asking? I sat silently watching the world go passed me, wondering what life would have been if I had been born into a normal family? I wouldn’t have met Elliot. My heart thumped as I thought of him. I missed him so much, there was something about his presence that parted all my problems away from my mind and heart. He was my Moses. I needed him, he was the only thing that made everything bearable, I couldn’t lose him yet.

I’d let him explain what happened last week. I needed him to explain, if I didn’t hear what he’d have to say who else did I hope would save me from this hell that I lived in constantly? I closed my eyes and remembered his breath against my skin, his voice in my ear, his touch… my thighs pressed tightly together remembering how he took me on the balcony. I couldn’t let my mind think about what more we could do, I couldn’t tease myself with the thought that would never come – not with the way my family were.

I bit my lip and took a deep breath. I had to decide what I wanted to do, stick with my family or follow my heart.

Rachel – Part 3(b)

The rays of dawn crept into the room pulling me from my dreamless sleep. It only took a few seconds for my brain, which was once dormant had begun working. Memories of Craig’s bear behind, clenching and tightening as he plunged deep into Camila was as clear as day. Her mouth, which hung in pleasure, produced no sound as they embraced each other’s love. My eyes welled up just remembering the events of last night. As I lay on my back staring blankly at the ceiling, I remembered being faced with going back to what I thought was my home or following Damion. I’d chosen Damion. I would have chosen anything that meant delaying the inevitable. Splitting from Craig was the next chronological step in this scenario, but what was I meant to do with my sister?

 

Abandoning her like I would with Craig isn’t possible – the same blood ran through our veins, we were forever connected… And to think she would have done something like this to me? Tears formulate in my eyes and I let gravity have hold of them as I feel the little power, I managed to regain through my sleep depart from me. What was I going to do next? The more I thought about the next page in this novel that I had no control over, I found myself crying harder. The emotions that arose in my chest wasn’t just sadness and anger from Craig and Camila, but fear.

 

I was a spectator in this. I was the victim. Yet it was my life that was going to be impacted the most. ‘God’ my lips tremble as I speak to myself. Myself… that was all I had now. Nine years of being known as Craig’s wife and now I was back to Rachel. No, I wasn’t returning to the Rachel before Craig, who I was going to become was far worse that the Rachel before him. Why did they do this to me? When did this even begin? How long had they been seeing each other behind my back? How many nights had he returned from just being with her? I shut my eyes tight at the thought of my oblivion. Just how…how many times had he entered me and shared my own fluids with my sister?

 

My heart breaks yet again at another thought of Craig and Camila and I can’t help but cry. Full tears now escape my shut eyes and sobs leave my lips as my entire life comes crashing down around me. The tears don’t stop and never does the sobs. The more the sound of my cries echo around the room, the more I weep. Look at what I had become, a wailing wife who had nothing. No husband, no family, no business, no home, nothing. I try to contain the cries, if I couldn’t hide the tears the most I could do was suppress my sorrow. But I had no strength left in me. My body was working without my control.

 

The bed shifted towards my right, dipping slightly as if someone had knelt on the bed. Maybe it was Craig coming to apologise for his wrongful ways? But when the hands of this visitor lifted me from my paralysis state, I knew it wasn’t Craig. His body was warm as he pressed me against his bare chest. I sat in his laps, still in my dress from the night before sobbing silently as he rocked me. I craved for some power to just hold everything together for when I was alone at least, but I knew that was only just a mere dream now. My soul was out for the world to see, I was vulnerable and trying to hide was as futile.

 

“Shh…” Damion cooed in my ear as the sobs quietened down to sniffles. I let myself be cradled by Damion as I had given up on fighting. If I couldn’t control my emotions let alone my thoughts, then what luck did I have?

Eventually the tears stopped and I sat in his laps staring at nothing for a while as my mind tortured me constantly. Reminding me of yesterday evening, highlighting the moments when I had chosen to ignore the red flags and just what caused me to get to where I was today. Damion’s rocking slowed and before I knew it, he was waiting for me to make the first move. He had already invaded the little privacy I had and I guess without wanting to push any further, would prefer I took the lead.

 

I pulled from his embrace, causing his arms to drop by his sides. If anyone had come across the both of us, me perched on his lap and he holding me, I’m sure they would have thought we were doing a Craig and Camila. I wipe the stubborn tears that refuse to fall and take a deep breath through quivering lips. Slowly I place my feet on the floor and just as I’m about to stand, Damion holds me on his lap.
“Rachel, you have to tell me what happened exactly.”
I shake my head, feeling the next wave of tears rushing towards the shore that I only just managed to control. Attempting to stand for a second time, Damion releases his hold of me and watches me as I stand up, my back towards him. I just needed to start thinking logically. I’d given too much room to my emotions, which had clearly made evident that was not to be trusted. Maybe if I gave room to some logic, I may be able to get over this hurdle. I turn to face Damion and put on the smallest smiles.

“Sorry for waking you.”
Damion looked at me, almost reading through me causing me to tremble. When was I so visible? He stood up, looking slightly frustrated and walked towards the guest room door. Closing it, with him still inside, he turns to face me. His back pressed against the door, his chest bare, he watches me in silence.

 

The air between us grows thick. The absence of noise giving my tears room to reappear. I watch him watch me as tears roll down my cheeks.
“I’m so…I’m so broken Damion.” I force the last words out of my mouth before the tears pour out faster. My face feels swollen from all the crying I’d done in the space of a few hours. He remains by the door, his expression pained. He looks to the floor for a split second the looks back at me, anger clearly visible in his eyes.
“Who was it Rachel?” His voice held strength that I needed more than anything. I could feel his anger radiating between us. I wasn’t entirely sure who Damion was angry with or even where his anger had come from. It seemed to have appeared between his walk from the bed to the door, either way I wasn’t going to ask. I wiped the tears off of my face with the back of my hand and took a deep breath. Not wanting to admit to Damion that not only had my husband cheated, but with my sister. However, with this morning’s events, what was the use in hiding anything from Damion? Soon people would know that Craig and Rachel had split due to a scandal affair with her sister and his whole circle would be whispering about it. I guess the only plus was that it was his circle, at least I didn’t need to be around it when things exploded.

“My sister Damion. Craig was sleeping with my sister.”

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Rachel – Part 3(a)

A gentle touch on my shoulder pulled me out of the sleep I’d managed to fall into. In a daze, I looked at my surroundings, confused with where I was and why I was with Damion, until the last few hours came rushing back to me. Remembering the images of Craig and my sister make intimate love was enough to wake me up completely. I sat up fully, looking passed Damion to see what I could only imagine was a mansion which stood firmly behind him. I looked back to Damion who was sat still watching me.
“I thought you was taking me to a hotel?”
“I was,” he said calmly, “But then you fell asleep and I did not want to wake you up to get you checked in to a hotel, so I bought you to my home.”
Instantly I coiled into myself, was he assuming I was going to sleep with him in exchange for a place to stay? I was about to voice my opinion when Damion raised his hand.
“It’s not like that Rachel, I have a guest room – where I would want you to sleep.
  I did not want you to be woken up early to check out of the hotel and also, I did not want to leave you alone tonight. I will give you all the space you require, but I have a perfectly good room here and it would be stupid to pay for a hotel room.”
With that, he got out of the car and held the door open for me, waiting for me to follow him. Reluctantly I exited the car. He shut the door and walked towards his house door, feeling his suit jacket for his keys. Once he located them, he opened the door giving me a full view of the grand stairs which were adjacent to the door. The stairs lead to a fork split, taking residents to hidden mysteries on the left or the right. I slowly walked in, admiring the chandelier that hung sophisticatedly in the middle of the foyer. I stood silently, feeling foreign in such a place like this. The golden aura created by the decretive jewels that hung loosely on the chandelier made me feel as though in here, anything was possible – it was almost like a fairy-tale. Damion stood beside me pulling me out of my trance.
“Want me to show you to the guest room?” I nodded with no words as Damion led the way. My heels echoed across the marble floor, causing the sound to ricochet across the walls and sing loudly around the house. We took a left when we came to the split in the stairs, which led us to a hall of closed doors. The corridor was dimly lit from the nightlight that shone through the windows, but that did not make the hall eerie, in fact it made it solemn. Behind each door lay a secret I wasn’t aware of, it gave me something to busy my mind with as my own issues were forcefully reappearing in my mind constantly. Images of myself proudly clinging onto Craig’s arm as he greeted his co-workers and potential prospects, made me feel foolish. I pushed those memories to the back of my mind and brought myself back to Damion’s home.
“The house where the party is, is that not yours?”
Damion looked back at me, a little surprised I spoke but hadn’t missed a stride in his step.
“My father left it for me and Chase but we decided that using it for business and meetings was better than us fighting over who should own it.”
“So, you decided on using your father’s house as a business location?”
“Well, even my father would hardly call that place a home. The number of events and meetings he hosted there barely made that place a home.”
“Makes sense.” He walked me to a door and opened it. Revealing a small room, with a double bed up against the wall. The room was completely dark, apart from the little light the thin curtains allowed through. Damion, turned on the light and gestured for me to enter.
“Behind that door to your right, is the bathroom. If you need any help, my room is the last door at the end of this corridor. Just call me and I’ll be happy to help.”
I walked over to the bed, feeling like an intruder in this unknown room. I turned to look at Damion and realised that he didn’t have to do what he done for me tonight. He could have let me run home crying, he could have even dropped me off to a hotel and left me for the night. Instead, he took me in when I was down and comforted me when I felt as though I had no one. I knew I owed him more than a simple thank you, but that was all I could offer him.
“Damion, I just want to thank-”
“Rachel,” He cut me off. “You don’t have to. Get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.”
With that he closed the door and made his way to his room, his footsteps growing quieter as he moved further away from me. I looked around the room once more, admiring the simplicity of the interior design and the way in which the house in general was built and designed. I kicked off my heels, placed my clutch bag on a nearby drawer and crawled into bed, remembering once again that night why I found myself sleeping in Damion’s guest bedroom. I hadn’t thought to look at my phone since it had stopped vibrating in the car. I reached for my bag, opening the mouth of the bag and grabbed my phone, before returning the bag back onto the drawer. I pressed the home button and saw a number of missed calls and texts from both Craig and Camila. At one point, I found myself hovering over the reply button to one of Craig’s text messages, but in that same minute, I locked my phone and placed it beside my bag. There was nothing I had to say to either Craig or Camila tonight or for a very long time and if I could hide here in Damion’s guest room for tonight, then I was going to happily do so.
It didn’t take too long for me to fall asleep, allowing all my thoughts and worry to drown in a blissful abyss as I lost consciousness and allowed myself to be taken by the exhaustion that crept over me. Craig and Camila would be the issue of tomorrow, for now I slept.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Rachel – Part 2

 For ages I sat in silence, remembering Craig and Camila being intimate with each other. Watching Craig throw away the nine hard years we built together, watching the marriage I thought was too strong to break, shatter to a million pieces with each stroke he penetrated into my sister. A tear escaped my left eye as I tried to erase the images that were now tattooed into my brain. How was I meant to move on from this? We all sit down every once in a while, with our friends and throw scenarios out, ‘what would you do if…’ – never do we think it would actually happen. Here I sit, dumbfounded in Damion’s car wondering what my next steps were. It wasn’t as though I had a full-time job, or I had any hobby of my own ­– maybe that’s what drew Craig to Camila. A woman with a purpose, whereas he married a woman who was a burden. A cry flew passed my lips as I thought of how better my sister was in comparison to myself. I held my mouth trying to contain my sorrow, but realised my sobs were stronger than my grip. Suddenly I felt Damion’s hand gently tug at my hand that was poorly sealing the sorrow that I failed to conceal. Once he had removed my hand, he pulled me over to him. Almost instantly did I find myself hunched in his chest crying harder than previously.
How could my whole life come shattering down around me in a matter of seconds, when it took more than double that to build? Through my sobs I felt my phone vibrate in my clutch bag. Without even reaching for my phone I knew who the caller was. Craig had only now finished making love with sister and had begun wondering where I had gotten to… I had gone through a state of shock and sadness and during that period Craig was still uniting with Camila. The phone began to vibrate violently as I failed to respond to it the first time. I wiped my tears from my cheeks, and looked at Damion’s chest which was yet again drenched with my tears. I reached for my phone when Damion held my hands.

“It’s probably Craig. Maybe you should let it ring out?”
“I’ll have to face him eventually.” I mumbled through sniffs.
“Yes, but now doesn’t have to be that time.”
With that I left the phone to ring and slid back into my seat. I felt the seat shuffle as Damion faced me.
“Who was it?”
“Who was what Damion?”
I responded still blindly looking out the window. Not taking anything in but the lights that zoomed passed me.
“Who was Craig with?”
Instantly water filled my eyes, whilst the images of Craig and Camila danced in my mind.
“It doesn’t matter.”
It was bad enough my husband had cheated on me, but to then announce it was with my own flesh and blood was a line I was not comfortable in admitting. Especially with someone who I barely knew. I wiped the remaining stray tears and shook my head, reiterating how irrelevant it was to know who Craig had slept with.
“Was it someone I know?”
I gave Damion a quizzical stare, confused with why he was so intrigued with who Craig had slept with.
“Why do you care? In fact, why are you even helping me? We don’t even know each other yet all of sudden you seem so interested in my life?”
All of sudden anger poured through my body, as I spoke to Damion. I knew he had done nothing wrong, but with tonight’s events, I could barely contain any of my emotions and knew that at times like this I was better off alone.
“Rachel, you’re right. I don’t know you and I don’t know why I am helping you, but…”
For a minute he paused, staring at me in the face as I frowned in annoyance. Was he eager to get some entertainment from my life, was he only sticking around so he could run back to his brother and share the gossip. I faced the window and remained silent as I heard him sigh.

The rest of the journey was filled with tense silence. Damion ensured he didn’t do anything that would cause me to lash out whilst I held my emotions together by a mere strand of thread. We came to a stop as his driver reached my home. The engine was cut off as everyone waited for me to exit the car, but I found myself frozen. Who was I lying too? This was no longer my home, this was just bricks put together in which I thought was a place I could return to every night. But here I sit, staring at the gold 67 that was placed just above the front windows – not moving at all.
“Rachel I can take you to a hotel?”
How was I now the other woman? Why did it feel as though I was intruding this building when I had lived there for nine years? Why did I have to leave my home and reside in a hotel because of the wrong doing of my husband? Besides, I couldn’t waste money on a hotel when I wasn’t sure when or where my next income would come from. I took a deep breath, my hands shaking as I pulled open the car door. The cold breeze from outside enveloped my body as I attempted to confidently get out the car and walk to where I thought was home.
“You don’t have to do this Rachel.”
I stopped in my tracks, my heart thumping hard against my chest. Was it worth it? Could I truly take anymore tonight? Craig would return, probably with Camila as they would worry where I had gotten to. Could I really endure seeing them concerned for me when they were the reason for my abrupt absence? In a flash, I re-entered the car slamming the door shut. Damion directed the driver where to go and the car took off.
I had no idea where Damion had planned to take me tonight, but I had little to no fight in me to protest. As I sat in silence, I wondered what must have been running through Craig’s mind. Was he worrying about me? Or had he used my disappearing act to get more alone time with Camila? Either way, he had not attempted to call again and that was enough to keep my blood boiling. I was playing myself if I thought I could handle a confrontation tonight – I was rapidly running out of energy and the more the energy was sapped out the more I felt my grasp on my emotions were slipping. I closed my eyes, allowing the motion of the car rock me to sleep like an infant child in their mother’s arms.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

 

New Woman – Chapter 4

Throughout the journey home my mind constantly raced back to Vicky. I kept trying to rationalise my behaviour, why my body kept reacting to Vicky in ways that it shouldn’t. Images of our kiss continued to flash into my mind and with every image and every thought of her lips on my own, a foreign tingle runs through my body. My head was clustered with so much confusion, so many emotions running through that I wasn’t too sure how I was meant to react or even feel. I’d only moved here for the job a month ago and look who I’d become – a stranger to myself. It was coming to a point where I couldn’t even understand why my body was reacting and behaving the way it was. Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt my self-control slipping away from my fragile grasp. Having these feelings towards Vicky rattled me, it made no sense, how could I go from being in a serious long-term relationship with Jonathan, to now being single and having feelings towards Vicky. It was obvious that Vicky had strong feelings for me, the way in which she stared at me after she shut down my PC, the way in which she came closer to me to kiss me, was enough to tell me that she had been suppressing her feelings towards me for some time. I rested my head against the window of the taxi and closed my eyes. I tried with all my might to rationalise my emotions, trying to find reasoning as to why I felt different whenever I was around Vicky. I didn’t think I was attracted to her, neither did I believe I fancied her, there must be more behind why my body continued to disobey me when she was in close proximity to me.

After the taxi driver dropped me home, I paid him and made my way inside, feeling more drained than I did before. I made some spaghetti for dinner and sat down in front of the TV, watching the images flash across my screen, but not really taking anything in. Eating silently, still in deep thought, I felt my phone vibrate. I picked up the call, happy to see my mother on the caller ID.

“Mum!”
“Rebecca, how are you my love?”
Just hearing her voice had caused me to get emotional. Whenever things were getting tough, I could always rely on my mum to make things better, however moving so far from my parents has made things difficult. It was tough enough to leave a relationship for the job, but to leave my family behind, was heart wrenching. I wiped a stray tear away from my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm the quiver in my voice.
“I miss you mum.”
“Is everything alright? Are they treating you good up there? I could come up in a heartbeat Becca, you know I would.”
“No,” I said sniffing. “I just missed your voice, that’s all.”
“Ah baby, it’s okay. Just remember you’re making the right choice. This experience, this job is just the beginning for you – there is so much more for you after this.”
I smiled, hearing my mum’s words always made me calmer.
“Thanks mum, I wish everyone saw it in that way.”
“Oh forget about him Becca. How is work going, let me know everything? Written anything yet?”

 

For a split second, I saw myself telling my mum everything that was going on between me and Vicky. Asking for her advice and hoping that she would share some words of wisdom, but as quick as the thought came, is how quickly it went. There was no way I was going to let my mum know that as soon as I left her house I turned into a woman even I wasn’t familiar of. I could imagine hearing the sheer shock in her voice and her demanding to come up to help me pack and come back home. I instantly threw the thought away and smiled again.
“It’s going okay. I’ve got the opportunity to write my first article for next week’s issue.”
“Oh my gosh! I’m so proud of you Becca, look at you, writing in the most famous magazine known to women. What’s it about?”
“Well I didn’t get to choose the topic, but it’s about the portrayal of women in today’s society. I discuss jobs, relationships and family – it’s not a bad topic in all honesty.”
“Oh Becca, as soon as the issue is out let me know. I’ll buy all the copies!”
“Mum, you only need to buy one.” I said chuckling.
“I always knew you’d be special and make me proud. Have you finished the article?”
“Not yet, I’m struggling on how to finish it. I want it to summarise what I’ve spoken about, but leave my readers with something to think about.”
For hours, both my mum and I spoke about ways in which I could complete my article. Throwing ideas back and forth, we finally came to an idea that we both agreed on and thought would have the best impact on my readers.
“Look at me helping you with your article – I better get credit for that.” I rolled my eyes smiling.
“Nice try mum, how’s Dad by the way?”
“Oh he’s alright, working later shifts so he’s always tired.”
“Send him my love.”
“I will, I should let you get on. It’s late and I don’t want to keep you up. But darling remember, if you need me I am just a call away okay?”
I nodded, feeling myself get emotional. Once we said our goodbyes I almost felt ten times more worse than when I had taken the call. I wished I could confide in my mum, it would have made things much more easy and bearable. But, if I barely understood what I was feeling and matter if fact, why I was even feeling this way, how could I expect my mum to be of any help? Getting her involved would have further confused the situation which I definitely didn’t need. What I did need was things to go back to how they were last week, Vicky barely noticing me and me trying to blend in with the others. I wiped a stray tear from my cheek, speaking with my mum was a huge help, but it was bitter sweet. There was so much I wanted to speak to her about but only managed to glaze the top of the icing. After a heavy sigh, I clear my dinner and make my way to my bedroom.

This unknown thing between me and Vicky had to take a backseat. I was going to get this article complete and then I was going to have to approach Vicky. There was no way I was going to work with this constant confusion between the two of us. Neither was I going to pursue that tiny little voice in my head that always wanted to know how Vicky tasted, wanted to know how soft she felt and how she would gently caress me. I was also not going to notice how every time I thought about Vicky and the kiss in her car that my heart beat just a tad bit harder than before, or even how my insides coiled and tightened in pleasure. If I gave room to these anonymous thoughts and feelings then everything would get messy and I didn’t just lose my long-term boyfriend and move away from my family home to ruin an opportunity of life. Making my way to bed I think about how I plan to gently tell Vicky that a platonic relationship is better than whatever we had managed to get ourselves into. However, she decided to take it was up to her, I just hoped this talk didn’t cause her to rethink my position at work.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

New Woman – Chapter 3

Vicky didn’t get to work that day until midday. Every time the office door opened, my chest tightened. Just the thought of Vicky got me feeling nervous. It wasn’t even the kiss we shared…well in fact that was the major part of the anxiety I felt every time I heard someone mention her name or if I heard high-heels clicking on the marble floor. What I think was causing my nerves to be all other place was the first contact we would have to share in front of everyone, knowing what we did and trying to act as though it didn’t happen. I tried to focus on the article I was meant to be writing for next week’s issue, however every once in a while, I’d get an email from Eileen asking me whether I’d seen Vicky enter her office.
*Rebecca@NW.com – I haven’t seen her come in yet.*
*Eileen@NW.com – Is anyone taking her emails?*
*Rebecca@NW.com – I’m sure she’s got her email connected to her phone or something?*
*Eileen@NW.com – not her internal emails, I’ll ask the tech guy to get her emails forwarded on to someone.*

I hoped I didn’t see any of Vicky’s emails pop up in my inbox. Even though I may be seen as her personal assistant, that was not my job and I didn’t intend on being anymore involved with Vicky than necessary. Just as I tried to focus back on my article, the office door swung open and in came Vicky. With sun glasses covering her eyes, she walked straight to her office without greeting anyone, without even acknowledging me. Not to say I was upset, I should have expected Vicky to blow hot and cold – that was the way she functioned. With the awkward phase out of the way, I focused back on the article, noticing it was coming up to lunch and I had only managed to get 500 words written. Sooner or later I found myself engulfed with work, almost forgetting that Vicky was sat opposite me in her office. The article was coming together and I needed to make sure this was ready by today to have it double checked by the sub-editor so that I could get it published in next week’s article. Just as lunch was creeping ahead, Eileen came to my desk.

“You going out for lunch?” She said swinging her handbag on her shoulder. I looked at my article and realised it was best to keep writing, when a writer was in their zone, it was almost suicidal to take a break.
“You know what, I’m currently in my zone right now. I’ll catch up with you later on.”
“Make sure you eat; all that drinking yesterday needs to get soaked up by something.” I smiled as she waved goodbye and got back to the words before me. This was the first opportunity Vicky had given me to actually be part of the team and write content for the publication. When I first arrived, I was doing the meaningless jobs, proof-reading, getting coffee, setting up meeting rooms, but finally I was given the chance to write up my own article. I was given a topic, ‘Women in today’s Society’. It wasn’t a topic to go crazy other, but nevertheless I counted my blessings and made sure I wrote the best article I could. And to finally find my zone, after my thoughts had been drowned by last night’s event was great! I hadn’t noticed Vicky step out of her office until I heard heels click on the ground just in front of my desk. Not trying to make things anymore awkward than necessary, I slowly looked at her, ready to put that façade on and be cordial.
“No lunch today?” She said barely looking at me, but more around me. I guess she was just as embarrassed as I was.
“Just working on the article.”
“Make sure it’s in my inbox by 9AM sharp tomorrow morning. We’ll be holding a meeting on the content and marketing and I need all articles ready for then.” In a clipped tone, she walked back into her office and gently shut the door. Taking a deep breath, I tried not to get annoyed, knowing this was how Vicky was and that I literally had to take her for how she was. I could work to a deadline, it wasn’t impossible, whether or not Vicky thought it was possible for me was another question. I saved the document and then put my computer on sleep, grabbing my bag, I walked out the office knowing it’d be best to get lunch now as I knew it’d be a long evening for me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Writer’s block they call it – well that’s what I’d hit. Nothing innovative was coming to mind, in fact I was now repeating myself, waffling like I was back in high school. For ages, I stared at the last sentence I typed, hoping the words would spark an idea, another point, but nothing. It was getting close to the end of the day and here I sat still struggling how to complete this bloody paragraph. I had done everything I could, I’d gotten up to take a break, drank coffee, went outside for fresh air and nothing. Everyone had begun gathering their belongings getting ready to leave. Eileen came to my desk, noticing that I hadn’t grabbed my stuff, ready to rush out of here and get back into bed (even though that’s exactly what I wanted to do).
“You not leaving now?”
“I’m struggling to get the end of this article written up. Nothing is coming to me.”
“I don’t blame you, we’re suffering from a massive hangover, maybe you just need some rest and then something might spring to mind. Why don’t you take it home, get some rest then get back at it again?” The idea was more than gold. However, I wasn’t too sure that I’d wake up after my head hit my pillow. My headache that had disappeared for a few hours had crept back slowly, gently tapping on my brain to warn me that I was overworking myself. I rubbed my forehead, trying to ignore the pain and looked at Eileen.
“I’d rather get it done now, so that when I get home I can just sleep and not wake up until tomorrow.”
Eileen chuckled, put her handbag on her shoulder and for the second time today waved goodbye to me. I kicked my heels off, feeling more relaxed hearing silence and knowing it was just me in the office, this way I could focus on the article and get home before it was too late.

An hour went by and I had only managed to produce 200 words. I rested my head on the desk, the headache now in full swing and took a deep breath. I needed to focus, if I kept trying nothing was going to happen. I closed my eyes, allowing the silence to envelope me, when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Waking up suddenly, I shot up.
“You was sleeping.”
I looked around me and remembered I had put my head on the desk to calm the headache and also in hope to gain an idea of how to complete the document on my PC screen. But without my knowledge I must have slept and was woke up by Vicky.
“Oh, sorry. I was just trying to get rid of this headache and finish this off.”
“No need to be sorry, I think you should go home. It’s late and the meeting isn’t until 10:30AM tomorrow. So, you still have time –”
“No,” I said cutting her off. “I can get this done.” She looked at me and then walked around the desk, once she got behind me, she leaned forward, giving me a brief sense of her perfume. The sweet scent played around in my nostril, as she proceeded to save the document and shut down the PC. Trying with difficulty to not let her being this close have an effect on me, I scooted back in my seat slightly giving her as much room as possible. What was wrong with me? I was letting this woman affect me, it was bad enough that every time I thought about the kiss it made me heat up, but to even feel tempted to reach out to her as she’s stood a few inches away from me made no sense. Was I beginning to react to Vicky in a way that I would with a man that I had an interest in? This was how I began behaving with Jonathan at first, however this time it was different. Almost as though the more time I tried to ignore the kiss we shared, the more my body decided to react harder and stronger than necessary. Vicky looked at me over her shoulder, a stray hair falling to her face, giving her a more feminine edge than normal. The electricity that was once present in our journey home the night before had returned. A million thoughts ran through my mind, one being the fact that we were stone cold sober. I couldn’t blame the alcohol if I proceeded with the inevitable, because we’d had none to drink. Secondly, could I truly help myself? Even though every muscle and fibre in my body wanted me to rush out of the office, I somehow found myself staring back her. My heart pounding in my chest as she came closer to me. The closer she came to me, the more I felt myself hold my breath, waiting for her to make the first move. It was only when she was a few inches away from my face is when we heard the sound of the cleaners just outside the office doors. Instantly we repelled away from each other, our breathing both ragged and out of place. Before she spoke, I had already gathered my belongings and was rushing to leave. I didn’t know what I was doing, my feelings were everywhere. One minute I thought I knew what I wanted but then the next, I’d find myself doing things that was so foreign it didn’t make sense. Before Vicky chased after me like yesterday, I made sure I got out of the building and into a taxi before she could catch up to me.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

New Woman – Chapter 2

I barely slept last night. The constant images of Vicky’s lips on my own replayed in my head disobediently whilst I tried to erase the memory. What was I doing? This was not the way I behaved with a man let alone a woman. The first time Jonathan and I were intimate, I had done intense research in the way to kiss and how a man would like to be touched – ridiculous as it seems, he was my first boyfriend and with no siblings, I had to depend on a number of articles to be my guide. However, I’ve just moved to New York and here I am acting out of character, way out of character! So many thoughts were running through my mind, reminding me of the previous night, that I could barely concentrate on anything. I could barely allow one emotion to run through me because I started to think about things like Vicky’s lips on mine, remembering how soft they were on my own, how my body vibrated in unexplainable excitement and warmth, and instantly I regret even doing it in the first place and wish I could bury myself under the sheets so that I didn’t have to come out until I forgot about last night.

It didn’t help that my head felt as though two mine workers were hammering at my brain trying to find gold. I found myself wincing at the pain amongst a number of other memories which I tried to forget. I knew that I had to get up soon for work, but the thought of even raising my head felt impossible and facing Vicky today, did nothing to encourage me to leave my white silk sheets. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on eradicating one problem in hope that would make any future plans easier to organise in my head. Firstly, I needed to locate some paracetamols. There was no way I was going to have an internal war with myself when I had a splitting headache. Slowly I sat up, instantly gripping my head when the throbbing intensified due to my elevation. Taking deep breaths, I slid out of bed and carefully made my way to the bathroom, remembering the floor pattern as rising my head to look directly in front of me, would have only made everything worse. After making my way to the bathroom safely, I opened the mirror cabinet and grabbed the only tablets in there.  Feeling far too awful to make another journey to the kitchen for a glass of water, I popped two pills into my mouth and gulped the water from the taps of the sink. Once the bitter pills made their way down my throat, the image of Vicky arose in my mind. What was I meant to do? How was I meant to act with her now? Did she ever consider that before throwing her lips on mine?

My forehead tightened as I remembered another detail from last night, I’m sure she mentioned she had felt attracted to me for a long time hence why she was unsure of how to behave with me? If I took what she said into consideration that would mean, from when I first arrived in the office she had started having feelings for me? It all seemed to surreal to believe. I could imagine telling Jonathan what had gone on yesterday and him turning around and blaming me for my boss kissing me. I scoffed thinking about Jonathan and instantly regretted it as the mine workers bounced around in my head, causing me to wince. Bloody Jonathan, how could we be in a steady relationship for a few years and the time when I start to progress in life, that is when he decides to give me an ultimatum? I looked at myself in the mirror, looking at the way my brows furrowed in annoyance and the way my mouth frowned as I thought about the way in which Jonathan failed to get in contact with me after I left for the job. After staring at myself for a few minutes, I realised that I had transferred my anger, shame and guilt to Jonathan. If he had been caring, if he had stuck by my side, maybe I wouldn’t have found myself here, clutching onto the rim of the porcelain sink, my head pounding and my heart racing after every thought of Vicky. I had no right to blame Jonathan, if anything he would laugh and say the infamous, ‘what did I tell you’ line – but who else could I blame?

I dragged my feet as I walked back to bed and gently sat on my bed. I grabbed my phone and noticed that soon enough if I didn’t start to make a move towards the shower, then I would have to call into work and let them know that I won’t be showing up. And even though every muscle in my body craved for me to get back underneath those sheets and get lost in my unconscious, something within me stopped me from doing so. I had to remain professional. Maybe because I was one of the youngest of the bunch at work (bearing in mind the team was all nearing the same age), but I felt I had more to prove. I was the one with the least experience, yet still managed to find myself in a position where someone who had years under their belt should have been. I had to prove not only to myself (and the imaginary Jonathan in my mind) but also to Vicky. I needed to show her that no matter the curveballs thrown my way, my head was still in the game and I would fulfil any promises I made.

With very slow movements, I made my way back to the bathroom and ran the hot water in the shower. Watching the water spray out of the mouth of the shower hose relaxed the miners in my head. I stripped out of my pyjamas and stepped into the shower slowly, enjoying the hot water beat against my skin. Breathing slowly, I thought about nothing apart from the water being sprayed against my skin – it was much needed. The silence, the calm because I knew after I left my apartment, I would have to face the storm I wasn’t prepared for.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It took longer than normal to get to work, but as I stepped through the glass doors of Building 59, and swiped my ID on the barrier sensor I knew that I had to put on a brave face. Even though I couldn’t think of anything better than hauling a taxi and returning home. Instead I put on a bright smile and walked out of the elevator meeting Kirsty, the receptionist by the welcome desk.
“Bloody hell, how do you do it?”
Paranoia claimed me as I tried to decipher what Kirsty had meant. Do what? Had Vicky gone around and told everyone we had shared a kiss yesterday night and now Kirsty was wondering how I could show my face in the office the next day? Too stunned to speak and too scared to hear what her next line was I stood in front of her in utter silence, bracing myself for her next words.
“I mean, we all drank so much yesterday, yet here you are looking like you never went out and got the best sleep ever.”
A nervous chuckle escaped my lips as I remembered that she too was there yesterday, dancing the hardest on the dance floor. I shrugged my shoulders whilst signing in.
“Trust me, I don’t feel as good as I look.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed that you felt like shit.” She said taking a long gulp of water, whilst taking a tablet. I waved her goodbye and made my way to my desk, dreading seeing Vicky as my desk was the closest to her office. I couldn’t face any awkward situation and didn’t think I had the energy to. Once I got to my desk, Eileen was first to greet me with a disgruntled face.
“I feel bloody terrible Rebecca…you know when you think to yourself ‘was it really worth it?’ – yeah that’s my thoughts now.” She said slightly perching on my desk.
“Yeah, I seriously contemplated coming into work today – I feel like absolute crap.” Eileen looked at me deeply and then shook her head.
“Would have never thought you have a hangover, you look too good to be feeling as crap as you say you feel.”
I chuckled slightly, booting up my computer. “Don’t us females try harder when we know we look even more worse than usual?”
“No honey, that is you only. How did get you home anyway? I should have texted you, but I had to share a cab with the girls because I could barely stand once I left.”
“Just a taxi.” I said avoiding any eye contact, hoping she couldn’t notice the lie.
“Did you see Vicky, she left shortly after you and I thought she may have caught up to you?”
“Nope, didn’t see her. I got a taxi quickly lucky for me. Anyone get lucky yesterday?” I asked her hoping to get her to switch topics and talk more about herself and her experience yesterday night.
“Nah,” She said shaking her head and getting up from my desk, slowly making her way back to her desk. “sadly, I was banking on someone to get lucky…even a cheeky kiss would have been exciting!”

She turned from me and walked to her desk as I looked back at my monitor. If only she knew that a ‘cheeky kiss’ was shared last night, but between the two people she would have least thought would have shared an intimate meeting.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

The Hunt – Part 1

She sat frozen, watching Gabriel watch her. He was being sentenced to ten years in prison for domestic violence and numerous sexual assaults. She tried to ignore his glare, the way in which she was aware of the fierce fire that burned behind his expressionless face. She knew what that look meant and even as the security guards began handcuffing him, she felt more vulnerable than ever.
At first he tried to defend himself. Tried to lie and claim that Marina had wanted it too. The beating, the abuse, the constant verbal insults, in his mind she had wanted it…asked for it even. According to Gabriel, it was a mental thing, that somehow sexually excited her. Being dominated and oppressed was something that apparently gave her thrills.

He even continued to state the their daughter was planned, that she had begged for child, to extend their family and that he was more than happy to give his woman what she desired. Marina shut her eyes, remembering how hard Gabriel had knocked her out that night, to awake the next morning naked on the floor beside her bed. She had almost left him then, she knew she had to get out before he had killed her. But, every time she was close to escaping, she realised the fear that wrapped itself around her was more than the one that was with her whilst she lived with Gabriel. She then knew leaving him scared her than being with him. It was that fear that had kept her grounded with Gabriel until Elina was born.
She was now bound to this man, he had not only tainted her, made her undesirable, but he had officially claimed her by giving her a child, whom she loved dearly. Two conflicting emotions with people who ran the same blood as each other, things as such was enough to confuse Marina and keep her with Gabriel. Through the abuse, the torment and the constant demeaning comments – this was what she knew, and that monster had given her a beautiful daughter, at times she found herself thanking him for Elina’s life.

She opened her eyes to see Gabriel walking away with the guards. But just before he disappeared from her sight, he turned and stared at Marina. No last words, or even a shift in his face, just a dead glare that Marina knew she wouldn’t forget anytime soon.
That was the last time Marina saw Gabriel, being handcuffed and taken away to serve ten years of his life behind bars…that was until now. Four years later and she had found herself just as tightly wound up as she was when Gabriel had first entered this place. She sat on the uncomfortable plastic chair that was nailed to the ground, unable to move as the nerves was all too much for her to bare. Why had she decided to see him again? He’d asked for her to bring Elina, which Marina wholeheartedly disagreed with when she first received his letter. But what made her still come? What was it that Gabriel had said to bring her to this confined room, under the tight surveillance of the guards – back to the man who she was more than grateful was behind bars?

A door opened and in walked the inmates. Marina’s breath caught in her lungs as she remembered the letter she received from Gabriel. Asking her for her forgiveness, for a chance for him to explain his actions. Four years was a lot of time for someone to go over their behaviour and he now knew where he went wrong, he simply wanted to apologise. At first she refused to even consider going to see him, but after some thought she thought he deserved to explain his actions, maybe he could change. And he certainly had.
He was far more built from the last time she saw him, his shoulders broad and square almost looked too big for his jumpsuit. His chest was clearly visibly through his clothes as it pressed tightly on the material, showing her the definition of how much muscle he had gained through his four years of being in prison. He was bigger and more threatening compared to the Gabriel she once knew. What had she done? And was she truly ready to hear what he had to say to her now, whilst he was walking slowly towards her?

Her Secret – Part 1

Tala rolled up her sleeve, to check her watch for the third time that hour, 16:47. She knew Vince would eventually not show up, especially after the last public display they shared together. They hadn’t only embarrassed themselves, but had also highlighted their personal issues to their counselor and anyone who had close proximity to her office door. She looked at Dr Bailey, who had a stack of reports across her desk. Aware of her gaze, Bailey looked up and gave Tala a smile, aware that time was passing by and Vince had not yet showed up to their appointment.

Tala reached for her phone, which was wedged in her pocket and tried Vince’s cell phone for another time, cursing softly under her breath when she was directed to his voicemail again. With her annoyance rising, she began tapping her boots against the marble floor, trying to find a solution to what seemed to be a downward spiral that she had found herself to be apart of. Taking another sneak peek at her watch, she rolled her eyes knowing their appointment ended at five o’clock. She wasn’t even sure why she had waited for so long. She knew deep inside of herself that she should have taken her jacket and left as soon as Vince started playing hide ‘n’ seek. But she didn’t and it was because she was still scared of letting a relationship of nine years go to waste. She knew if she had walked out when she really wanted to, then she wouldn’t be returning. As soon as she stepped outside Bailey’s office, she would have finally given up on Vince and that wasn’t something she could do so easily after building a family with him; a family that she was bounded to. And for that reason alone, is what kept her sat in Bailey’s leather seats, constantly hoping Vince walked in.

She was never sure why she let Vince convince her in going to relationship counselling. She knew way before he did that their relationship had come to a sour end and all counselling did was make their issues more obvious. Instead of rebuilding their damaged bond, counselling in fact had strengthened Tala’s resentment towards Vince. Every night she’d found herself wondering what her life would have been like if she hadn’t met Vince that Friday night in the bar. If she hadn’t let his lies and façade paint false images of him for all those years. She probably won’t be sitting in a counselor’s office waiting for a stranger to help solve her personal problems.

Thoughts about Vince always caused her teeth to clench in anger. If only she was smarter she would have noticed the signs from early, but love had blinded her to the point that every indication of his actual self was disregarded. Then she had Deanne and things started to change. The arguing wasn’t as frequent and their focus was on their first child together, they didn’t have time to notice each other’s faults. But of course she knew it was only a matter of time before old habits slipped through the cracks of their act. It was the little things he did that caused problems, never wanting her to leave the house, making her feel like a maid instead of a mother. She hadn’t even realised when she’d stopped communicating with her friends and family. Must have been when she was still trying to please Vince and his unattainable needs. But it happened, and it meant that whenever things got too heavy for her, she had nowhere to run to apart from the bathroom, where she found herself frequently. In the same position every single time, crumpled to the ground next to the sink, crying until she felt better.

With things as bad as it was it surprised her when she found out she was pregnant again with Paige. She contemplated aborting Paige, shuddering as she feared her second baby would look at her with questions in her eyes, the same way Deanne’s had. But as soon as Vince found the pregnancy test in the bin, she was further constrained to him. So she’d brought another beautiful baby into a fragile and damaged home. There was no escape for her, because if she left she’d have to think about her daughters, think about them seeing their father, think about how they would feel, so for four years she sat, waiting till the moment was right. But it never was and here she was, sitting alone in Dr Bailey’s office.

The weight of the leather chair shifted slightly to the left side of Tala, pulling her out of her thoughts and back into reality. It was then she realised she was crying as Bailey held a box of Kleenex in her hands.

“Oh, excuse me Dr, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be ridiculous Tala, you need no reason to apologise.”

Tala took a few tissues from the box and wiped the tears that had found their way down her face. It was bad enough that she sat here alone for so long but now she’d begun crying in front of Bailey, she took time to suppress her emotions before grabbing her jacket and leaving once and for all.

“I know you’re upset Tala, it’s obvious that there’s things you’re dealing with that you haven’t shared with anyone and it’s getting too much for you to handle by yourself.” Bailey moved closer to Tala, as Tala wrapped her arms around her body remembering how alien she was in her own family.

“I have no one to speak to…”

Her words trembled as they left her lips, feeling naked to her emotions she huddled more into herself. Taking note of her stance, Bailey moved close enough to Tala that she could embrace her, using her right arm as a belt, she gently held Tala as she remained hunched and pulled her softly towards herself. Allowing Tala to understand her presence was there for her.

“I’m here Tala. You can speak to me, you can tell me what’s truly bothering you, tell me the things you hide from the world. I’m here for you.”

It’s as though Bailey’s words were filled with a key that opened a door to Tala’s vulnerability. The more Bailey spoke, the more tears continued to fall from Tala’s face and into her laps. She hadn’t felt so naked before, she made sure she stayed strong in front of everyone, even if that meant she broke down almost every day privately, she was okay with that. But here she was, feeling like a child in her mother’s arms, just looking for some guidance.

Bailey moved the box of tissues to the table in front of them then faced Tala, feeling a wave of sadness rush through her own body seeing a grown woman cry uncontrollably because of her partner. She pulled Tala to sit up, unwrapped her arms and then held Tala’s hands. With tears still streaming down her cheeks, Tala felt embarrassed for letting Bailey witness her in such a state. She looked into Bailey’s eyes hoping for an answer, or an escape but saw nothing but big brown eyes stare right back at her.

“You don’t need to cry anymore Tala, things will get better for you, I promise that.” Tala closed her eyes, her eyelashes wet from all the water and nodded, hoping Bailey’s words held more than truth but reality. She looked back at Bailey who’d watched her in pain. She didn’t want anyone’s pity, hating the feeling of being helpless, Tala released one of her hands from Bailey’s grip and made sure all tears that may still be visible were gone with the back of her hand.

“I’m sorry Dr, I should go, but…thank you.” Bailey smiled and surprisingly gave Tala a light hug. Stunned, Tala stared blankly at Bailey’s embrace. Not knowing what to do, she sat waiting for Bailey to let go, unsure of how she should take Bailey’s action, but she didn’t move. Involuntarily she found herself resting her head on Bailey’s shoulder and for once allowing herself to be looked after. She couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of someone truly caring for her, a feeling that had become so foreign to her. She hugged Bailey back, hoping that everything she was going through was a dream and that she’d wake up and everything would return to normal.

She felt Bailey’s chest rise and fall against her own, taking note of the amount of breaths she took, noticing how her fingers penetrated warmth on her spine and how her hair smelt fresh. Something about the way Bailey was, made Tala feel safe. She didn’t want to leave the microcosm she privately built with Bailey, because she wasn’t sure when she’d return. She hummed silently as her reality slipped away and she found herself lost in Bailey’s touch. Bailey’s fingers circulated against Tala’s spine leaving small flames everywhere she touched, causing Tala to draw closer to Bailey.

Bailey knew this was beyond what a normal counselor would do for her client, but seeing Tala wait for her husband and then surprisingly start crying had triggered something deep within Bailey. Tala deserved more, she definitely deserved better, and it pained Bailey to know she could do nothing but sing empty promises in her ear. After a few minutes, she loosened her embrace on Tala. It may have felt like the right thing to do, but she was not ready to lose her job over a woman who’s husband barely cared for her.

When their eyes locked Tala felt a surge run through her. She wanted to crawl back into Tala’s arms, she wanted to remain there until things had gotten better, Bailey seemed like a secure place to lay her nest and that was what she wanted to do. But she had never felt like that with anyone. She wasn’t even completely sure if it was a sexual emotion or just raw emotions getting placed in wrong categories. But after staring at each other for longer than necessary, Tala grabbed her jacket and rushed for the door – feeling so vulnerable and exposed, she knew the only place she wanted to be was in her bathroom.

Bailey watched as Tala rushed out, trying to ignore what she knew she felt, as it was beyond inappropriate. She closed her door behind Tala and sat back at her desk, her heart beating against her chest hard. She felt her chest, disbelieving the way in which her heart seemed to crash into her when she felt the pebble beneath her shirt. Looking down ever so slightly, she saw her nipples were erect. She never mixed her personal life with work, but that hug had overstepped the mark and now Bailey knew she was going to have to have the upmost restraint if she ever met Tala again. Because Bailey not only understood her pain and wanted to resolve it, but she wanted to be the reason why Tala smiled and the way Tala held onto her, she knew Tala wanted the same.