Runaway Girl

We hadn’t known what hell was until our mother had brought him to our doorstep. Mark. Mark was the devil’s name and would forever be burnt into my mind after everything he had put us through. Even as I lay here, I know deep down he cannot take the blame for the torture both my baby sister and I were enduring. I had somehow dragged her into this mess and allowed this devil to clasps his arms around her without a fight.

To even think we had experienced the worst. The men mother had brought around the house before Mark was beyond lower than low. But Mark was a new breed of bad. Completely different in all aspects and this was what had started the pain we now suffer. He wasn’t verbally abusive to us like how Kenny was. Neither was he as physical as Dean had been with my mother after a drink or two. It may seem surprising, but Mark was more of a father than I had ever had. Things turn into a blur when I try to remember how everything truly began.

 

  • May 2012

It was late in the night and the last time me and Belle had saw mother was when she had stood just in front of the door claiming she’d be back in a few minutes. That was at 12’noon, it was now almost 9’oclock and she still hadn’t returned home. It wasn’t as though Belle and I weren’t used to it. It was normal for her to leave at early hours and return home late at night, smelling of alcohol and other things that always made my nose scrunch up whenever I got close enough to her to take her to bed.

Belle sat on the couch coloring Velma from her Scooby-Doo coloring book, whilst I began cooking lunch. Which normally meant anything that could be cooked and worked well was what I normally prepared.

At the age of sixteen I was a mother to my baby sister Belle. I had realized depending on my mother was wasted energy. She’d either be too intoxicated to care for either of us, or be too preoccupied with company to even remember she had daughters. Belle was only eight, so she wasn’t fully aware of how she was being neglected by our mother, but I was attentive to the way she failed to be a mother to us and I knew it wasn’t an epiphany I wanted Belle to go through just yet. So by any means I was trying to prolong this realization by shielding her like a protective older sister.

After rustling up and eating our ‘make-shift’ dinner, I tucked Belle into bed, not wanting her to see mother stumble into the house around midnight like she usually did. I didn’t want Belle to witness her older sister stripping her mother and taking her to bed, so when she woke up she was in her bed and not blacked out on the corridor floor. Belle looked up to me as I tucked her blanket around her.

“Dara where’s mum?”

Half of me wanted to shrug, because I truly didn’t know where she was and it was exhausting thinking about where she could be. But instead I gave her one of the many lies I told her during our childhood.

“She’s at a friends house, then she’s going to grab some groceries for us.”

Belle looked at me, long enough for me to wonder if she realized I was lying, then looked towards the ceiling. She grabbed a handful of her blanket and spoke without giving me eye contact.

“But she’s been gone for so long!” I gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead and moved stray hairs away that fell onto her face.

“Belle don’t you worry, she’ll be here soon. I’ll tell her to give you a kiss goodnight when she comes in, deal?”

Belle nodded, obviously not convinced with my explanation, but I hadn’t given her room to voice her doubt. I turned on her lamp and turned off the room light, blowing her a kiss before shutting her bedroom door. With a sigh, I trudged back downstairs, awaiting my mother’s arrival. Knowing eventually she’ll stroll in. It was only once when she’d left the house and hadn’t returned until the next day. I can vividly remember the way I worried, thinking she was face down in a ditch, or that she’d actually forgotten she had kids. It was always a dark joke between myself that mother had forgotten she had children. But during her absence that night, I remember thinking how she could have actually forgotten about Belle and me and if only I knew those personal jokes could have actually been a reality. She eventually stumbled in the following morning, claiming she wasn’t aware of the time. No apology, no sign of worry that her kids were alone for more than 24 hours. Instead she walked in the house nonchalantly and headed straight to bed. The anger that boiled within me that day was uncontrollable. She hadn’t even cared for our wellbeing. I was sure to take Belle and myself to a care home that day. However when she awoke, she’d given Belle a fluffy toy that Belle, till this very day, clings onto and had gotten me earrings. It was her way of apologizing and I had accepted it. It was rare for us to receive any gifts from our mother, so when one came around, I was sure not to throw it away.

 

But sitting here, watching the time go by reminds me that no matter how many small gifts she throws our way, will not excuse her lack of maternal skills. Midnight was around the corner and there was no sign of her return. I’d somehow dozed off a few times, awaking to the sound of the television and looking straight at the clock, sighing when I realized it was later than when I initially slept and that she still wasn’t back. Just as my patience began to wear thin, the locks on the door began to unlock slowly. A few giggles were heard on the other side of the door. I stood waiting to catch my drunken mother, when the door opened and a tall man had his arm around her waist. Frozen, we both stood watching each other. My mother’s head swung left to right as she grew limp. The man watched me stand before him in what seemed like horror, then gave me a small smile and closed the door behind him.

“Could you help me with her, she’s drank a little too much tonight.”

I ran to my mother’s side, putting her left arm around my neck as the man started walking towards the living room.

“It’s okay, I can handle it from here. Thanks mister for bringing her home.” With a startled look, he watched as I took my mother into the living room. I sat her down on the couch and pulled her shoes off. It must have startled him how a sixteen year old was caring for a more than able thirty eight year old woman, because even after her shoes were off, he still stood in the corridor with awe written all over his face.

“I said thanks mister, but you can leave now.”

“You’re a special girl to take care of your mum like this.”

“Well, I have to do what I have to do.”

“Hmm.” He nodded his head and watched as I did the routine check on mother. I made sure I didn’t remove any clothing off of her, as I couldn’t really understand why the man still hadn’t left.

“I respect what you’re doing for your mother. She’s a good lady, under all the drink and addictions. She wanted me to stay the night, but I wouldn’t want to intrude. Let her know she got home safe because of Mark and she got to bed in one piece because of you.”

With that he left my mother and me alone in the living room. The front door opened and then shut soon after. This was the first time I’d met Mark.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Advertisements

Sister Abigail’s Unfaithfulness

Questions. All I’ve received these last few months are questions. ‘But father, if what you have been preaching about is true, then why would other people go searching for answers that the Bible should have provided?’ How many times must I explain to them that those who search for answers that the Bible has already given to them are unwilling to see the truth that is brought to them by Christ?

But none of my responses ease their mind. It’s almost as though, the more time I spend answering their questions and giving them reasons for other people’s actions, I fuel them with more enquiries. Father what more can I do for your people? I am only human and for that reason myself, I cannot deliver the answers they all search and plead to hear. I try to teach your people in the way you’ve instructed me, but nothing seems to work. Instead, more questions arise.

A few weeks ago, Sister Abigail came to me after Sunday service with a look I knew far too well. She had wanted to confide in me, which was a regular thing for people to do. She stood in front of me as everyone had begun to speak in small groups after service, shifting her weight onto each leg, fiddling with her fingers and looking down towards the ground. Noticing her tense posture, I rested my hands gently on her shoulders and reassured her things would be okay. No matter what she told me it’d be in confidence and I would be willing to advise her the best way I could, with the help of you.

She sighed and proceeded, “Father, now that the niggers are claiming for civil rights, it’s made me wonder why we, as the church haven’t accepted them earlier. They are human, just like you and I, and today you preached saying ‘God made everything in his own image’. If that’s the case then the niggers should have been allowed to worship with us, right?” I wasn’t too sure how to answer her question, let alone process it. I don’t get asked regularly whether niggers should be allowed to worship with us, because everyone knows that niggers and us folk are two completely different beings. But here before me stood Sister Abigail, asking me why I haven’t let niggers into the house of God to pray with us… was the preaching I performed today all in vain?

I wasn’t angry, more disappointed. She should know how the world functions, and the world only functions in the way it does because of you Lord, so why would she question such things when this is way life is meant to be? I tried to give her an uplifting smile and explained to her, ‘You see Sister Abigail, the way the world spins is because of God, the way food grows is because of God, the reason why you and I are here is because of God. And the reason why niggers aren’t accepted into the world is because of God. It is just the way God made things. You see, they are examples for us, parables even. The way they are and the way they behave are ways us folk shouldn’t. We must deter from their behaviour and remain in the path of God. Did God not create the Devil?’ She gave me a small nod, still looking down at her feet. ‘And the Devil is nothing but wicked and disobedient, hence why he was abolished from the Kingdom of Heaven. Niggers are like the Devil in this case and we are like God. The niggers are disobedient, destructive and downright bad, so we must cast them out of society and out of our lives, like what God did to the Devil. You must understand Sister Abigail, everything in this world happens for a reason, because of the one and only.”

She seemed to understand everything I was saying. She listened attentively, nodded when I asked a question and then thanked me when I was finished and left. I knew I had done my job to answer her question and give you justice to the best of my ability. But this Sunday after service I heard rumours, and you know me God I don’t indulge myself in idle talk. But what was being said was that Sister Abigail had left the church. I thought about it and realised she hadn’t been to church ever since she confided in me and now she’s left. Of course I felt like her choice of action was my fault. Was it what I told her? Or was it something else that had bothered her? She’d been a member for almost twelve years now. I would consider her one of the most devoted and reliable members of this church.

That was until today. I needed to understand the reason behind her leaving, just in case if I was the cause, because at least then I could pray for forgiveness for losing a member of the church. So I asked the committee, who found, through word of mouth, that she had left to join a religious organisation, one that was very unknown, but was apparently known (told by Sister Agnes) to express equality. Equality between black folks and white folks, I shook my head after hearing this. No church that was built in that way was a church of Christ.

If that was the church Sister Abigail’s heart desired to go to, then I wasn’t going to stop her. It was obvious from her actions that she was the minority of white folk who seemed to believe niggers and us folk were meant to live together. There was nothing I could do for her anymore, no amount of prayer could save her from the clutch the Devil had upon her. All I can do is pray that nobody associates her abnormal behaviour with this church, because this church is strictly for whites and God fearing people only.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

 

 

The Little Girl [Part 1]

Reports had stacked up far beyond what she could even recall gathering. Amongst those were email requests from clients and reporters who had been more than intrusive on Olivia’s work and private information. She wasn’t interested in responding to those emails, all they wanted was to put their noses into places where it wasn’t needed. After hours of categorising her workload she began to put pen to paper when her phone rang. Dammit. She grabbed her phone and looked at the caller ID before answering, Lieutenant Young. Her thumb lightly traced the answer button as she stared at the name. How long had it been, five months? Olivia remembered her last time she’d been with Young, all her insides tighten at the memory. There was always something about Young that had Olivia tense in a way she tried to reject far often than need be. Remembering she’d left the phone unanswered, she picked up the call.

“L-Lieutenant?”

“Olivia.”

The connection that she had questioned for months hadn’t just been an imagination. It was there and still strong as it was five months ago. With a struggle, she put on her professional voice, ignoring how her body had reacted to his voice.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

“Yes,” he spoke with a husky voice. Olivia rejected the urge to feed into her need and desire and let him continue. “I mean, I’ve got a case here and need your help.”

He wanted her and that was obvious. But he hadn’t called for that, something was wrong and he’d called for help.

“I assume you need me now?”

“Yes, if it’s possible?”

Her eyes gazed at the pile that continued to gain in height and ran a hand through her hair. Whether the workload was a mass amount or not, she knew due to the fact that Young had called her, she’d oblige to any request he made. You’re pathetic Olivia, so pathetic.

“Sure, I’ll be there shortly.”

She cut the phone and with an exasperated sigh, stood up stretching her arms and wondered what case Young was working on that would require her expertise. She recently read in the news a case Young had been working on. A child had died in the hands of his own mother, yet the mother was still able to walk the streets free no matter how much Young had tried to put her away, due to her attorney.

Grabbing her car keys, she left her office sure to return after her visit to the precinct. Weary of the poor weather the Cincinnati skies had showered upon everyone, she slowly walked towards her Ford Fiesta, making sure the snow beneath her feet were solid enough to handle the pressure she applied.

It hadn’t taken her too long to reach her destination, which is probably why they called her, she thought, hoping there was more to Young’s invitation. Stop it Olivia, just find out what he wants. She buried her hope deep within a place where she was sure she couldn’t reach and focused on the task before her. Bracing herself for the frosty weather, she got out her Ford Fiesta and walked towards the building. Shaking off the snow, she looked around noticing how busy it was and found what looked like to be the reception.

“Hello.”

“Dr Lint?”

“Yes, is Lieutenant Young around?”

“You’re here.”

A deep voice rumbled behind her, making her turn around. He hadn’t changed. Lieutenant Young amongst two officers made their way towards her, giving Olivia enough time to get a glimpse of how Young had developed over the few months they hadn’t seen each other. Young was the youngest in the force to become a Lieutenant, yet held so much confidence. Whether that was because of his huge frame or his stern face, either or, no one attempted to cross his path. He not only strived to gain the best possible outcome, but he always seemed to have that golden intuition that helped solve his cases. As far as Olivia had known, he had only failed three times to close a case in the eleven years of being a cop and last month was one of them.

“Lieutenant, how are you?”

“No need for formalities, call me Nicholas.”

Olivia only realised how great his frame was after being so close to him. She wasn’t a woman who was dependent on anyone, but being beside Young made her feel small but not in a way which she felt vulnerable. I’ve missed feeling like this. It’s been so long. She didn’t despise the feeling, in an odd sense she enjoyed it, probably far more than she should have. She shook his hand, ignoring the electrifying shock that ran through her body and focused on the matter at hand.

“So what did you need me for Lieutenant?”

He gave her a quick but brief smile, noticing her obvious remark to ignore his previous request and angled her towards the corridor.

“I thought it would be better to let you see first hand with what we’re trying to work with.”

As they walked through the corridor, with the remaining officers behind both her and Young, she tried to ignore the gut wrenching feeling that began brewing in her stomach. She knew all to well that the last time she walked this path was to help solve a child trafficking case, and Olivia tried so hard to forget those memories.

“Another child I guess?” Without looking at her he nodded.

“Just step into this room.” She opened the door and walked in, sighing as she witnessed from the one sided mirror a small fragile girl, who probably lacked nutrition in a large black jacket. The little girl had her fists tightly balled in her laps with her head down, letting stray clumpy hairs fall.

“She’s so young.” Olivia murmured to herself.

“This is both Detective Dorian Moore, the lead detective of this case and his partner Detective Andrew Williams. Both detectives came across a blood bath this evening and the only living thing left is this little girl.”

“Jesus.”

“Jesus indeed-” Detective Moore spoke reaching his hand out for a shake. She took his hand, instantly comparing it to Young’s and then disregarded the thought. “After she was recovered from the scene all she’s done is sit, with her head down.”

“We can’t even get a reaction out of her, she almost seems as though she can’t hear us.”

Detective Williams said looking at the girl through the one-way mirror. She must have been through a lot Olivia thought, definitely nothing she hadn’t come across before.

“We tried to see if she was possibly deaf, but she was still unresponsive.”

“How did you try that?” Olivia asked Moore who seemed to hold a grave look on his face.

“My brother’s deaf, so I learnt how to communicate through sign-language.” She nodded then turned to the little girl who hadn’t moved an inch during their conversation.

“And she didn’t respond to that either?”

“No.” Young had said, closer to her than she had anticipated. She steadied her heart and focused on the girl.

“We tried everything.” Williams said rustling hair that once had been carefully groomed, but now held a rough look.

“Apart from you.”

Trying to ignore the double meaning behind his comment, knowing it was her alone who had caught it, she pushed those disobeying thoughts further away in her mind, and she stared at the child who’d probably seen more than her mind could comprehend and began devising a strategy.

“Before anything I can’t promise to give you any critical information tonight. This girl has probably witnessed too much to even function anymore, my main priority is to get her functioning again, have her involved in idle conversation and then I’ll begin working on pulling out information in relation to the case.”

“Anything is better than nothing.” His voice ricocheted around the room, leaving Olivia vibrating. Waiting until she had gathered her composure, she turned to face Young, who was no more than a foot or two away from her.

“Is there any other aspects of the crime scene I should be aware of?”

Trying to gain an understanding of how she could formulate her questions without pressing any trigger buttons.

“First we need your trust. What we disclose with you cannot be recorded or broadcasted, not until things play out in our hand more favourably than now.”

Olivia gave Young a firm nod, knowing far too well the extent of those bottom-feeding journalists. Once they got an earful of any of her cases, they piled up at her office requesting for a statement, she hadn’t needed Young to go on to understand what he was saying.

“You have my trust Lieutenant.”

With a dark look in his eyes, he looked to his colleagues who shared the same look as he did and took a deep breath, his jaw working as he faced Olivia.

“Nine, nine dead mutilated bodies were found with the little girl. So Olivia tread carefully.”

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Elliot & I [Part 2]

I hadn’t seen Elliot since our intimate moment on the balcony where we found ourselves confessing our love for each other one moment and then where I found myself being pulled away from him the next. I wasn’t sure what mother planned to do with me as she dragged me closer to the hall that evening. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I wasn’t even sure if she could do anything more to increase the pain I had begun feeling. But when she abruptly stopped near the rotating doors that led into the ceremonial hall and faced me and said,

“Love? You think you love him Alexandra? You no nothing of love, so get that out of your head.” It was then I realised that mother could actually somehow make this already bad situation worse. Even now as I lay on the bed thinking about that evening, I wouldn’t forget how she felt no sympathy towards my emotions. Instead she sent me to the toilet to get cleaned up (as she stood guard outside) and then told me to not utter a word throughout the rest of the night. Not as though I was planning to talk someone’s ear off anyway. It didn’t help that once we did return back to our seats, Elliot and his family had left. I couldn’t even have another chance to see Elliot and explain my love for him, explain to him how important his love is to me.

And here I lay, two weeks since I’d shared that passionate moment with him, I can’t help but find myself grow impatient. Every day grew more harder without speaking with him or seeing him. Not as though we saw each other frequently, but at least we had the opportunity to text. But ever since mother caught us, she made sure my phone was confiscated. Not only that she made it a necessity that anywhere I went I was to be guarded. I wasn’t under any threat, well – she’d say Elliot was enough to be a threat. But because of her lack of trust in me (I could only presume), the security men followed me wherever I went. I could barely leave my room without one of the guards trailing behind me, like an unwanted shadow. What still puzzled me was the fact my father hadn’t sat me down to discuss what had occurred. I was sure my mother would have instantly told my father as soon as we got into settled into the limo on our way home that night. But after he continuously spoke about business deals and future movements with other companies, I realised he knew nothing of my venture with Elliot on the balcony. Which surprised me as to why my mother would spare me? It’s almost to impossible to believe she would do anything to protect me, especially when it came to Elliot. But I knew she hadn’t told father, so I made sure I didn’t bring it up.

There was many times I thought about sneaking away from the guard that was allocated to watch over me. Last week I tried to lose Mr O’Neil in the hustle and bustle of the London streets. But after I believed to have gotten away, he showed up in front of me a few minutes later. These men were trained to follow orders and it was then I knew no amount of plotting or sneaking away would actually be successful. I sat up, tired of being caged away in my room with nothing other than my thoughts to keep me company. I was exhausted of thinking about how Elliot was or what he was getting up to. I didn’t want to think about how only two weeks ago did he confess his love to me and my mother and now I no nothing of how he currently feels. I had to do something to ease my anxiety. I slipped my feet into some casual slippers that were laid just near my wardrobe and opened my room door. I was done laying waiting for something to happen. I was going to make sure I saw Elliot today.

As I opened the door Fredrick stood firm, his gaze looking straight ahead, whilst his body remained upright and ready to defend. When he saw me walk out, he looked at me.
“Fredrick there’s somewhere I need you to drive me.”
“Miss Alexandra, I’ve received orders that you should remain at home whilst your mother and father attend their meal tonight.”
“Fredrick I understand you’ve taken orders, but there is somewhere I must desperately go. If you fail to take me, I will find my own way there. And there is nothing you can do to stop me.”
I looked at Fredrick’s build and slightly chuckled in my head. If Fredrick wanted me back in my room, there were more than ten ways he could do so without breaking a sweat. But I was determined to see Elliot today. Especially with my parents out having dinner, there wasn’t going to be an opportunity like this anytime soon. I had to seize the opportunity.
“And where would you be going Miss Alexandra?”
I hadn’t decided on the lie I was to tell Fredrick, but if I hesitated for just a second, he would know that I was planning on meeting Elliot.
“I’d prefer to direct you myself. It’s private.”

The guards had no right to intervene with our personal lives. They were there for a job and that job purpose only. Fredrick understood he had no right to question my privacy, which pained me to see him disobey his orders. But I had to start doing things for myself or else I’d never find happiness. He gave me a stern nod and walked me out of the house to the family car, ready for his directions. It took a while for us to arrive at Elliot’s house. I made sure the directions I gave Fredrick were beyond complicated so he couldn’t trace where exactly I was going. But as soon as he saw the road name, he parked the car and turned off the engine.
“Miss Alexandra –”
“Fredrick I won’t be a second. Please remain here whilst I just go and return something to someone.” Without another word, I left the car before he could stop me. My heart pounded against my chest as I grew excited knowing soon I’d see Elliot. Soon I’d be with him, in his embrace, digesting our newfound love for each other. I walked passed a few cars before getting to his property. Normally two or three cars would be parked in his driveway, however tonight, a row of cars were lined up, and even spilling to the street where other cars were parked. I quietly snuck passed the entrance and begun making my way to the back of his house, where a vine which clasped on tightly to the bricks of his home would be awaiting me to climb right into the window of his room. The vines were beside the kitchen window, where it seemed the event that must have been occurring at Elliot’s house was taking place. Different voices emerged from the kitchen, whilst cutleries were being played with constantly. Elliot could be amongst them and probably was, but I was willing to wait for him in his room, rather than check if he sat with the cluster that seemed to be going on in his kitchen.

After testing a vine or two, I started to climb up when a voice from the kitchen stopped me in my tracks.
“That fucking Harold Bennett, you know what if I had the choice to build my business or kill him…I’d kill him.” The kitchen burst out into laughter, as the male voice choked on his own laughter and continued. “No that man is a bastard. I still don’t understand how a nigger has managed to get what he’s got. Can you imagine Clifford is till this very day struggling on receiving clients for his upcoming technology program he’s starting. And there’s Harold Bennett, not even giving a fucking damn. I told him about Clifford and he said he’ll ‘sort something out’,” He huffed and continued. “Sort something out, the cheek like we need help from him, from people like him.”
“It’s ridiculous how things have changed.” A feminine voice spoke after the room had settled to listen to the mans story. Quickly climbing down from the vines, I slowly creep up to the window, just to see who was talking so poorly of my father. But recognised no one, just a room full of people in suits and dresses, eating a meal and bad mouthing my father.
“Don’t worry Jo, they always seem to fuck themselves up one way or the other. Am I right?”
The room fell into laughter again as these strangers mocked my family and my race. Stunned, I couldn’t find the energy to stop watching, to leave and tell Fredrick to drive me home. No, instead I looked around. Hoping to not see anyone I recognised, it was bad enough these people I knew nothing of was praying for my father to face a downfall, but if it was people I recognised I wouldn’t know what I’d do. But then I saw him. Elliot, sitting down with a plate full of food, chuckling with them. Finding the words that cut so deep to me amusing. I wasn’t sure I was seeing accurately. But the more I stared at him, the clearer everything became. He agreed with what they were saying. I shouldn’t be shocked, my father always made it obvious to him that he didn’t like Elliot. But I never assumed this would have had an affect on how he saw the rest of us. The scene that was before me was far too much for my brain and heart to comprehend. Who was Elliot? Elliot, the same man that I just recently confessed my love too, was the same man that sat amongst racists and found their disrespectful words amusing. Even as I stood there in what I can only assume was shock, I couldn’t help but remember my parents. Remember their own narrow mindset and how discriminating it was at times. They never truly gave me a reason why they disliked Elliot so passionately, but it was obvious his skin colour was a factor. So did that mean I had a right to be angry? My parents were just as bad as the strangers in suits and dresses that sat around the table hoping for my father to fail and belittling my race?

With the pain, hurt and confusion slowly slipping its way into my muscles, I found the energy to turn away. Not aware of Elliot’s mum who stood a few steps away from me, watching me watch them talk about my father. With a pained look in her eye, she followed my previous gaze onto Elliot and then returned her gaze back to me. With no words to say that could possibly explain or reduce the shock I received, I walked passed her and back to Fredrick. Wishing I stayed in bed.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

The Caller

With the keys loose in my hands, I wonder whether unlocking the door and stepping inside is worth it or whether I should go with what my gut is saying and simply turn away. Recently, nothing had been drawing me back here, apart from the fact it’s a permanent place to sleep, but even that I’ve had to question whether it was really worth it? The flame that was once ignited and alight a few years back has most definitely died out. But yet we still smile, put a façade on, not only to others but also to ourselves. It doesn’t help the situation, and maybe in the back of my mind for some unbelievable reason, I feel as though it’s the easiest option; another action I’ve questioned myself on for several months now.

I sigh and put the key into the lock of the door. This had become a ritual; nearly every night after work, I’d find myself slumped and lethargic always questioning why I’m at this door every night. And every night I find myself unlocking the door and entering with a cheer in my voice that never was there previously, but all in an act that my wife and I had coaxed.

“Evening Martha!” I loosened my tie and placed my briefcase on the ground near the umbrella stand and hung my key onto the key holder, placed just beside the coat hangers. I shrugged my coat off of my shoulders whilst using my ears to predict where she was. There were no footsteps in the front room; neither was any sound coming from upstairs, so with that in mind I made my way into the kitchen. It was only until I started making my way towards the corridor, did the aroma of mince and meatballs make its way into my nostrils. I lingered just a little longer, remembering how hungry I was until I got to the kitchen.

There she stood, in a big T-shirt that I used to wear until she’d claimed it, with headphones on, swaying her hips to the music. It took a while for me to comprehend what I was witnessing. It had been months since I last saw my wife this way, and it felt odd. Maybe the love that should have been there from the start was making a way back into my system, and that feeling was beyond foreign. The way she stirred the mince with not only her hands but also her hips had me itching to run towards her and shake her asking her what went wrong between us. I took a step further into the kitchen, with my eyes fixed on her and unfastened my shirt button. Seeing my wife like this, in a light I was so sure had died, began to make the impossible possible in my mind. So what if things hadn’t been going right these last couple months isn’t that what was meant to occur in normal marriages? There wasn’t a manual to the perfect marriage or a strict guideline we had to follow in order to ensure our marriage was crystal clear, and thinking about it now, I don’t understand why I panicked so much when things took a turn for the worse. Maybe I should have tried. Maybe I shouldn’t have given up so quickly. Lost in thought, I hadn’t notice she’d turned around, stunned to see me there.

“You nearly scared me half to death!” She said, clutching her chest with one hand whilst the other removed the headphones from her head. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry about scaring you, I was just lost in thought.” She smiled and turned around resuming her cooking, with her music still audible from the headphones. I walked behind her, and gave her a hug. Something I hadn’t done in such a long while, show affection towards her. Even the act was strange to me, but soon enough that feeling dissipated and before I knew it, I’d put my head to her neck and drank her scent in. At first her body was stiff, also aware of the strange notion that I showed her, but sooner or later she stopped mixing the mince and meatballs and rested her head on mine. With no words shared between us, we both knew that whatever was occurring was something to cherish, whether it was something temporarily or going to last, we both knew that enjoying this current feeling was most important. Soon after what seemed like a long amount of time, she turned around and sighed, with her eyes closed.

“Richard, what happened?” She didn’t even need to complete her question because I knew instantly what she was addressing. With her hand on each of my cheeks, I take a deep breath and try to conjure up the best answer to explain our situation.

“I don’t know Martha.” I watched her bite her lip nervously, with her nostrils flaring and her eyelashes slowly turning moist. I hadn’t planned on her crying, I was never too sure what to do when I was faced with an emotional woman, but tonight everything seemed to just fall in place, almost like the gods has finally pitied us and allowed all the pieces to fall, so that our incomplete puzzle could get solved. I wrapped my arms around her waist and placed my forehead on hers.

“It’ll get better Martha, I don’t know why things have gone the way they have, but it’s not the end. I’m willing, I never thought I would be, but I am, and I really hope you are too.” Her eyes opened, allowing a couple of tears to escape. She nodded and sniffed back more tears that threatened to show.

“Will it Richard? Because I’ve been asking myself this question for months now and it never did.”

“I can’t promise you anything Martha, but I will try and that’s more than what I’ve been doing these last few months. If you’re willing to try, then so will I.” With the cards in her hands, she took a deep breath and nodded.

“I don’t mind. I’ve missed you…us.” With tears on her cheek and a sob close to her mouth, I embrace her fully, trying to prove my change. Because I have to be honest with myself, I hadn’t been the best husband, intentionally working late just to avoid Martha, lying about business trips just to get a few days to myself and that’s not even considering the other lies. But, in hope that’s all behind me, I focus on Martha. I pull away from her and wipe her stray tears.

“Don’t cry,” I look towards the food, “it smells good.” Then it hit me, she looks good, more than just the average good, for some months now she hadn’t enticed me, her appearance had merged with the annoying personality I’d seen and everything had blurred. But now, with things becoming slightly clearer, I could take in her beauty. Her chestnut hair fell passed her shoulders, a sharp contrast to her somewhat pale skin that I always enjoyed watch turn pink or red. Her freckles lightly decorating her nose and cheeks accompanied by a rosy colour, made me smile, it surprises me how long it’s taken me to truly observe and admire my wife. Her plump peach lips, swollen only just a little due to her biting it previously, had all those reasons I married her rush back at me full force. It was too late to right my former wrongs, but at least this was a start. With no hesitation I bent down, only being taller than her by a few inches, give it four of five and kissed her. Eyes closed and heart beating, I grabbed a handful of her hair enjoying the feel of her hair in my hands, the softness between my fingers was like no other. She, reacting in sync with me, grabs my shirt and pulls me closer towards her. Almost as though the proximity between us wasn’t enough, the time we’d wasted wasn’t something we could get back in reality. But between us, we know we had to make up for lost time. Now switching fluids, remembering her taste, I made sure it my personal duty to not let any go to waste. Everything I received was never going to be enough, her scent, her touch, her taste, it wouldn’t amount to the months of separation, but I was sure to make her forget about those years. It was the least I could do and it was written in my vows, so I had to abide by my words and fulfil my promises.

Even air was something I was prepared to sacrifice, just to get more time with her. She pulled away with the only noise being made between us was our attempt in catching our breaths.

“God I’ve missed you.” She said through breaths. Releasing my embrace, I kiss her once more remembering the sharp pain in my stomach.

“I’ve missed you more than you can imagine, and I could take you away here and now, but I want to be sure that when I do make up for loss time, I go for hours and right now I need to restore my energy.” With my eyes fixed on the spaghetti, letting her subliminally know that I’m hungry, she smiles and playfully hits me.

“Go get changed and I’ll make you a plate.” I give her another kiss, which takes longer than planned, but eventually stops as I pull away and dash upstairs, with a newfound hope in my mind. I get to the room and begin to change. Things would have to change, that I’m prepared to do. To be fair, I have to be prepared. This is my marriage on the line and with sense more apparent in my mind; nothing is worth putting my marriage at risk. I can’t actually define when things went wrong between Martha and I, her mother is a little intrusive and it doesn’t help that she involves her in every one of our issues, but that’s a hurdle I’m prepared to address and overcome when the time comes. Right now all that’s on my mind is how I’m about to devour my meal and then my wife.

Buzz Buzz

I reach for my phone in my suit jacket and unlock it, seeing that I have a missed call and a message. I open the message and there, Jennifer’s name pops up. I had a few lies during the months Martha and I were on a break, some worse than others. Jennifer being one of the ones I planned to bury deep in the ground with me. I wasn’t planning to read the message, but as soon as I was about to disregard it another came through, more alerting than the previous one.

Jennifer:

First message: ‘Baby I miss you and I can’t stop thinking about you.’

Second message: ‘I’m not sure with what’s been going on between us recently, but I hope tonight we could rekindle some of our love? Get back at me soon.’

Jennifer was one of my employees whom I worked with on a frequent basis. She just seemed to perfectly fit into my schedule. If she wasn’t working with me constantly, she was asking whether she needed my assistance and as you could imagine I grew very fond of her. Not only was she there, she was something I needed at that time, she enticed me in every way…or so I thought. Day by day her shirt became tighter and her trousers became skirts, which eventually became shorter. The first night I fully noticed her and acted upon it, I was physically drained with the problems at home with Martha, so I decided to stay at work late that night. I had no work to do, but the comfort of my office was better than home. I wasn’t aware that Jennifer had also stayed late, it was only until a knock was at my door and her head poked through the tiny gap between the door and the wall, was when I knew she was still there.

“You alright Richard you seem a little stressed?” I could barely merit a response, I thought I was alone and to find out I wasn’t was a shock. But I told her I was fine, of course that wasn’t enough for her, so she invited herself in my office and decided I talk about my issue. It was the first time I spoke to anyone about Martha, I’m usually the type to keep my own issues to myself, but that night, I guess I was stressed beyond reasoning. Eventually, she offered a back massage.

“Trust me Richard, if I wasn’t working here, I’d earn a good living off being a masseuse.” I chuckled and allowed her to massage me. At first her hands remained on my shoulders, then my chest and slowly my thighs. I couldn’t find it in myself to stop her, it was the first time in a while my penis had awakened, by someone other than porn. One thing led to another and that night I buried myself deep with Jennifer. After that night, I continued to bury myself deep within Jennifer, it was a place of solace and my escapism, I didn’t have to think about work, home or my failing marriage, instead I could just think about how her walls convulsed around me and had me shivering. I knew the risks, not only about my marriage but having frequent sex with a employee was dangerous, but Jennifer seemed to be understanding to those boundaries, so I continued. Before I knew it, I needed Jennifer more and more; I’d call her to meet me in various locations, just to escape again. To think about her had me involuntarily smiling; she was something to remember, but never something to keep. It was only recently, the place I used to go to for solitude began to lose it’s meaning. I could no longer escape in the clasp of Jennifer’s love; instead it was another place of strangulation. She began demanding, requesting for things she had no need in worrying about. Eventually, I grew distant and resumed my position of being stressed and tense, until tonight. Things are starting to work and I’d be damned if a pothole in the road is going to stop me from getting to my destination.

I took my phone and replied back to her text,

‘I think we need to talk, not tonight but later on in the week.’

It didn’t take her long to reply, she was always so responsive.

‘What’s this about Richard? You’re giving me this bullshit line that people throw around when things are coming to an end…’

This wasn’t something I could do over text, it wasn’t even something I wanted to do now, but with the way Jennifer was reacting, had me wondering how bad this could get if I didn’t defuse the situation asap. I went by the staircase and called out to Martha.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be a few minutes, I have a business call, I won’t be too long, keep my plate warm for me.”

“Sure!” With that I walked back into the bedroom, closing the door behind me and called Jennifer.

“Well Richard?”

“Jennifer relax,” I whispered, “I just wanted to speak with you, I’d prefer to do this on a more personal level, but I could sense you getting agitated via text.”

“Fuck this business like shit Richard, what are you saying?” I could tell this conversation wasn’t going to go anywhere, no matter what direction I tried to attack this matter, the outcome proved to be the same.

“I think, with the way things are going between us-”

“And how’s that Richard, explain that to me? Because in my eyes, you were the one who changed, everything was great…that’s what I thought. And then one day you just lost your spark, so you tell me how things are going, because I was beyond eager to hear your side.”

With a sigh, I continued. “I think we should stick to a platonic relationship.”

“Bullshit Richard! What changed? You wasn’t talking about platonic when we were fucking, you weren’t complaining when I couldn’t speak because I was filled with your-”

“Okay! I understand Jennifer. Things have changed, but they changed even before things got better.”

“What are you referring too when you say ‘things got better’? What with you and Martha huh?” Damn, I didn’t want to bring Martha into this, because I knew that’d just anger her more. I lay on the bed and rolled my eyes, trying to find the words to explain what was inevitably happen between Jennifer and I but I just kept quiet, words failing me.

“So you have nothing to say huh? Well I have loads to say. How dare you do this to me? Do you understand how much I gave you and how much I did for you to use me and throw me aside like a rag doll? I will not be treated like this Richard, I won’t be kept in the dark like a damn secret, I will not! I am worth more than that and you treated me as though I was worth more than that, so I know you love and if it’s fucking Martha that’s got your mind clustered, then we can just clear that by simply telling her about us.”

“What?”

“You heard me, why not let her know about us, because what we have is far more valuable than that shamble of a marriage you were close in ending last month.” I told her far too much during our time together, which is evident now, but making her more angry is not going to help anything. I take a deep breath and try from another angle.

“Okay baby, maybe I was acting irrational, maybe this is just a phase with me and Martha and I don’t want you to feel used, so why not I take you out this Friday after work and we can work on us.”

“No Richard, let her know. It’s about time she knew, what’s the point in hiding anymore – tell Martha you’re done or I will.”

“Jennifer you will not get involved in my marriage, you’ve said enough tonight. Not only have you crossed a line tonight, but you continue to persist with this attitude that you must have assumed I’d take? I don’t, so while I spend tonight with my wife, I want you to relax and tomorrow when I see you at work I want you to speak nothing of this until we’re alone, where I can find a solution.” With that I dropped the phone and sighed in exasperation. I’d let that line of lover and boss get far too clouded and for that reason I had to cut our relationship off. Even though that wasn’t the main reason as to why I wanted to terminate our relationship, it was reason enough for me to tell her, she was beginning to turn into a nuisance, something that she didn’t normally do. However, I’m glad she’s an issue for another day and for now I can focus on the future between my wife and me.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

New Woman

The only thought that kept running through my mind was why did I come here? If Eileen hadn’t pestered me to come, I know I would have stayed at home and made up a lame excuse for my absence if people asked. But there I sat, amongst colleagues I barely knew and in a bar that wasn’t my style. To make matters worse, Vicky walked in. Vicky Parsons, the editor-in-chief of ‘New Women’, and also my boss. We barely saw eye-to-eye. She’d send me on ridiculous errands throughout the day, stopping me from completing my work and then check up on me at the end of the day to see if my work was completed. It was a catch-22 situation with her.

But she looked different tonight. Her auburn hair wasn’t tied up in a tight ponytail, it fell loosely pass her shoulders and had a slight wave to it. And replacing her constant work suits was a silk sleeveless blouse and denim jeans. She greeted everyone with smiles, gave out a few hugs and then it was my turn. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I was surprised when I received a brief smile. She took a seat opposite me, and very quickly slipped into conversations that surrounded her.

Time was passing and cups were never empty. I made sure I kept my cup always half full so that I wasn’t forced to order another round. I didn’t mind drinking, but with people I was so unfamiliar with, made me feel uncomfortable. The DJ began playing his 80’s playlist, which caused everyone at the table to get excited, making them eager to get onto the dance floor. After declining for yet another time, they let me be and made their way onto the dance floor, leaving me alone with Vicky. She noticed me and gave me an awkward smile.

“It’s…”

“Rebecca.” I spoke loudly enough for her to hear.

“That’s it, Rebecca. Why aren’t you dancing?” She leaned forward.

“Not really my thing.” I lied.

“Dancing isn’t your thing and you’re only…twenty?”

“Twenty-one.”

“Exactly you’re young. You should enjoy dancing before you get too old to do it. Fine, if dancing isn’t your thing then what is?”

“Writing.” She rolled her eyes and waved her arm in the air, dismissing my comment whilst taking a gulp of her drink.

“Of course writing, you wouldn’t be working for me if you weren’t interested in writing, but what does Rebecca love doing?”

I took a sip of my drink and shrugged, “Drawing.”

“There you go, that’s the Rebecca I was asking for,” She chuckled and then moved to sit beside me. “What do you like to draw?”

“People.”

“Really? Wow, I’d like to see a drawing one day. Promise me you’ll show me one?”

I nodded, chuckling lightly as she stuck her pinkie out in front of me for me to wrap my own pinkie around. I did so and she smiled, making me feel more comfortable. I could tell the drink had made its way into her system as her movements and speech became more muddled, but it showed me a side to Vicky that I never knew was there. After we finished our drinks and ordered for another round, we fell back into conversation.

“So does your boyfriend live with you?”

“Oh, I don’t have one.”

“A pretty girl like you doesn’t have a boyfriend?”

“Well I didn’t want anything interrupting my goals.”

That was a lie. Jonathon and I were in a serious relationship for a year, until I was accepted in working for the company. Everyone in my family was excited I was accepted into one of the top five major women’s magazine companies in America, apart from Jonathon. He decided that if I left, I was leaving the relationship too. I tried calling, messaging and emailing, but with no response I decided it was time to focus on myself.

“Oh I understand, it’s almost as though men get threatened by a woman who has goals, it’s ridiculous. That’s why I always say screw men, they aren’t worth our time and we women should stick together.”

“I agree!”

“You see Rebecca,” she shuffled closer to me. “I don’t bother with men anymore. They think we need them for everything, for money, for love, for sex, but we don’t and neither do you. Because I’ve got you Rebecca and if you need anyone I’m always there for you.”

Her comment warmed my heart, it was nice to know someone was looking out for me and wanted the best for me. Especially when I found it difficult being in New York by myself away from my family, hearing that someone was there for me brought a smile to my face. She grinned back at me and stroked my cheek gently.

“You’re so pretty, no man is worth your time.”

“But then who is?”

My words came out slurred, the only evidence that I’d drank far too much than I could handle. Her eyes shone under the strobe lights of the club as she watched me. She shrugged at my question and then chuckled.

“I am.”

It took me longer than normal to digest her words. But once it finally sunk in, I still found it hard to grasp. The alcohol was making me hear things that wasn’t said, because if I believed for a second that Vicky had just said she was a worthy partner for me, I’m sure I would have panicked.

“What?”

Still confused, I question her response for some clarity, but everyone had began making their way back to the table, screaming for more drinks. And during their return, Vicky sat quietly drinking her drink and watching her feet, whilst my brain raced wondering whether she meant what I thought she meant, or maybe I’d jumped further than I could and I just misheard her.

 

 

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

 

Time had passed and I’d consumed more alcohol than I should have, but it was never enough to have made me forget what Vicky had said to me earlier and I guess with that on my mind, I needed something to settle my nerves. She hadn’t spoken to me much after her confession and it surprised me when I felt bothered by her actions. I felt as though she believed she had the ability to decide when I was worthy to be spoken to and when I wasn’t and that was what frustrated me throughout the night. I knew tonight wasn’t worth the journey. With that in mind, I gulped my drink and gathered my things, ready to put an end to this night and strictly keep my relationship with these people work-related only.

I picked up my clutch bag, along with my denim jacket and slid past two colleagues having a conversation.

“You’re leaving so soon?” Eileen said standing up, tugging me to sit down again.

“Yeah, it’s late and I’m in early tomorrow, so I’m heading off now.”

I moved her hand gently whilst saying my farewells to everyone. Vicky didn’t respond, but through my peripheral vision I noticed that she hadn’t stopped looking in my direction since I first stood up. Whilst I walked to the exit, I decided to forget about the conversation Vicky and I had, because if she felt she could be one way with me one minute and then the next the other, then I was prepared to keep my distance from her. I pushed the doors open, welcoming the cool air that graced my face. I slipped on my denim jacket, and began walking until I could haul a taxi to take home. All the while, my attempts of blocking Vicky from my thoughts failed. There was something about the way she’d approached me, was completely different to the woman I worked for in the office. She wasn’t uptight and strict. In fact, she could actually be interesting enough to converse with, what I couldn’t grasp was why she had constant changes in her personality? I understand when at work, one must be authoritative, but in the club she went from reserved, to friendly and then straight back to withdrawn before I even had a chance to understand what was going on.

Being deep in thought, I luckily managed to notice the yellow taxi parked on the curb opposite from me, with an old man leaning on the driver’s door, slightly hunched reading the New York Times. I jogged across the road and hesitantly tapped his shoulder. He peeked over his paper, squinting his eyes in confusion.

“Is that your taxi sir?” He turned to look at his taxi and then back at me.

“Well I am leaning on it, so I suppose so.”

I inwardly rolled my eyes, knowing I had no time for any sass, as I was already annoyed with the way Vicky had treated me.

“Are you on your break or are you working?” He folded his paper and opened the driver’s door. After a few moments of silence and him stepping inside the cab, I figured he was working, so I walked to the passenger’s door, waiting for him to unlock it.

“Where are you looking to go?”

“46th–”

“Rebecca!”

I turned around to see Vicky running towards me. I let go of the passenger door handle, wondering whether that was really Vicky running towards me, or whether I should enter the taxi and ignore the little voice in my head that told me to see what she had to say.

“Rebecca…”
“What are you doing here?” I asked folding my arms across my chest, shifting my weight onto one leg.

She slightly chuckled, “I’m not entirely sure. I waited in the club after you’d gone, but then I just kept thinking about you, so I literally got up and then went to find you.”

“Find me? I’m going home, you didn’t need to find me Vicky.”

“Hey lady, are you getting in or not?” The old man asked, peeping his head through his opened window. I turned around giving him a signal to wait and turned back to Vicky.

“I just wanted to speak with you.”

“If you wanted to speak with me, then why did you ignore me when we weren’t alone?”

“I don’t know.”

“Lady! Are you in or not?”

“I’m coming.”

I spoke with a hint of annoyance in my voice. I wasn’t annoyed at the taxi man; it was Vicky and her indecisive behaviour that had led to my frustration. She hadn’t batted an eye when I’d left, but there she stood, in front of me wanting to talk.

“Rebecca, I’ve been very odd with you, but that’s because I’m not sure how to behave with you. My feelings have me behaving in one way, whilst my mind is telling me to stay away from you.”

“Feelings, what feelings?”

“Okay lady, this is the last time I’m asking, are you getting in or are you going to stand out there?” I looked towards the cab and then back at Vicky, contemplating my options and realised that going home was best. I wasn’t sure what Vicky wanted to tell me, but there wasn’t a point in knowing, nothing would change between the two of us. I opened the door to enter the car, when Vicky grabbed my hand.

“What are you doing?”

“I need to talk to you.”

I pulled my hand from hers, but her grip remained firm. “Vicky, I need to go home.”

“I’ll drop you home if that’s the issue, but I really need to talk to you.”

“About what Vicky? You ignore me at work, you ignore me in the club and now you want me to listen to what you have to say?”

The driver got out the car, annoyed and resumed his previous position in reading his newspaper. I rolled my eyes and shut the passenger door then faced Vicky. She waved a black vehicle towards us and then opened the door for me to enter. Reluctantly I got in, waiting for her to explain herself.

“Lincoln could you drop us at…?” She faced me, waiting for me to fill the gap.

“46th street please.” The driver nodded and began driving.

“Thank you Lincoln.”

I faced the window closest to me, not wanting to face Vicky.

“I’m sorry Rebecca, I haven’t been fair to you. I shouldn’t have acted one way and then another, I wasn’t considering your feelings.”

“I don’t even understand why you bother with me so much, I’m just your employee.”

“There’s something about you that’s why.”

“You keep saying things like that. What do you mean? What is it about me that has you so conflicted Vicky?”

I faced her, with annoyance in my voice. Knowing I was probably pushing the boundaries with the way I spoke to her. Not only was she my boss, but also she was a few years older than I, and I wasn’t raised to be disrespectful. But at that time I didn’t care. I’d lost my ride home from a sassy driver, drank too much that I’d started to feel car sick and now I had to endure a ride home with Vicky. I could gladly say I was pushed over the edge tonight. She moved closer to me and shrugged.

“I think I’m attracted to you Rebecca.”

Staring blankly at her face, I wasn’t sure how to react. Earlier on I assumed I heard her proclaim her attraction to me in the club. But now with the words ringing loudly in my ears, my body froze as I tried to digest her confession. Vicky was attracted to me? That meant she was a lesbian. Why hadn’t I seen the signs before? It’s not like ladies who are attracted to other ladies, walk around with a sign on their foreheads proclaiming their sexuality. But, something in my body felt like I should have known this revelation before now. She was always distant at work and never tried to engage in a conversation with me. However, it was the way she looked at me when we did managed to speak, was what always had me thinking of her. Not like I’d imagined pursuing anything with her, but I always wondered what her issue was with me. But it made sense. Her cold demeanour and then the warmth she showed me, was all because she liked me.

With my mind failing to form any words, silence filled the car. It seemed as though my heartbeat that thudded hard against my chest, was loud enough for Vicky to hear. It almost felt like we’d been sitting facing each other for hours, when she began shuffling closer to me. Her movements were slow and I wasn’t sure if that was the effect of the alcohol or her actual movements. But I sat watching, as her frame filled my gaze and eventually left us inches away from each other. We were so close that I felt her breath caress my skin every time she exhaled. My core clenched in anticipation, aware of what was to come next. Vicky moved closer to me, heat radiating off her skin and enveloping me. She stared at my parted lips and then pressed her soft lips against mine before I could react. I sat motionless, not sure if it was confusion that hadn’t made me push her away, or whether it was the feeling I felt as her lips moved against mine. I hadn’t felt like this when I’d kissed Jonathon. My body had never vibrated with need when my lips connected with his. Neither did my skin become so sensitive when he touched me during our intimate moments. Yet here I sat, feeling a wave of emotions my body had never felt before. It was almost too much for my body, let alone my mind, to handle. The more our lips moved in sync with each other, the more my body tensed in excitement. Her chest brushed against my own, causing my nipples to harden in pleasure. A small moan escaped my lips, echoing through the car. It was then I realised what I was doing. Hearing my own voice woke up the more conscious side of myself. What was I doing kissing Vicky? It’s bad enough that I’ve never been with a woman, yet after kissing Vicky my body reacted in ways I never thought it could. But, she was my boss and I wasn’t attracted to women. With a shock I pushed her away from me as the car came to a halt.

Wide eyed with a hint of desire, Vicky stared at me. Her chest rising and falling in short breaths with her lips plump from our intimacy. I wasn’t sure what had come over me, but I needed space. Space to think, space to understand what had just happened. I reached for the door when Vicky grabbed my arm.

“Rebecca wait –”

Too stunned to comprehend the kiss, I lightly pulled her off of me. Afraid I’d be drawn back into her embrace and that my body would react to her in ways it shouldn’t. Once her grip loosened on my jacket, I rushed out of the car. Hearing not only the slam of my car door, but also Vicky’s. I picked up my stride, in fear of Vicky catching up with me. Once I’d reached my apartment door, my nerves took control making my fingers fumble with my keys. Aware of the footsteps behind me that increased every second, fear clawed at my throat as I imagined having to speak with Vicky after the moment we’d shared. Finding the key, I rushed inside before Vicky had the chance to reach me. My heart crashed against my chest, whilst my mind played images of us kissing. I backed away from the door as Vicky’s frame emerged with a handprint lightly pressed against the glass. I needed time away from Vicky. Everything was happening so fast and if I wasn’t careful this could end badly for both of us.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

The Howls of the Night

It was the third night in a row.

The third night they’d awoken me with their singing.

The third night they’d awoken me with their unnecessary praises.

The third night I’d sat up drinking myself to sleep and being unsuccessful each time.

No matter how much I tried to block them out, emotionally and physically, their words pierced through my walls, through the fibres of my pillows and into my ears. I hadn’t slept for months, this year pushed me around and I just let it do it without a fight. But I wouldn’t dare to let them keep making a racket as I tried to find myself in my own microcosm. I grabbed the Jack Daniels, which stood beside my alarm clock showing the time 6am. I never needed the alarm as I never slept, but it always felt normal to have it there, set to that time, because one day, maybe just one, I’d sleep into a blissful dream and be awoken by the ring of the alarm clock. I sat and stood up on the right side of the bed, with the alcohol in my right hand. I grabbed my battered boots, roughly slipping my feet into each shoe, then walked to my wardrobe. The lyrics continued to attack my bones as I tried to get a coat, my saviour…the protector….Jesus, the almighty, I love you. I quickly grabbed a coat and rushed out of the room. It was rubbish, how dare they sing things that meant nothing. Tears pricked the corners of both my eyes. I shrugged the grey trench coat over my shoulders and hurried down the stairs. Left foot, right foot, tenth stair, ninth stair – rushing to put a stop to the abomination that soared from the church building.

Once I finally got to the bottom of the stairs, I grabbed the house keys, which hadn’t moved since… every glimpse I took of those keys the air suffocated my lungs and squeezed my heart involuntarily.

I left my house, slamming the door behind me; ready to face those who were oblivious to reality. With the Jack in my right hand, I placed the keys in my coat pocket, and unscrewed the cap of the bottle. I took one swig, then another and another until the streets of Tottenham blurred ever so slightly. I trudged down the steps and pushed the gate, then took another swig of Jack. The choir continued to soar through the air, blowing loose strands of my hair backwards, seven hallelujahs… I took another gulp of the drink, soothing my throat. I closed the bottle and walked towards the entrance of the church. I reached the entrance and without hesitation pushed the doors open. There, in front of me stood the choir swaying left to right, whilst the choirmaster coordinated them. The pastor smiled, joyful of the song the choir sang. In the centre of the church the alter faced me, taunted me with candles, bibles and dreams. The anger mounted through my body, was all too much, all too false, and I was prepared to stop it.

Without thinking I threw the Jack Daniels bottle onto the ground, smashing it into pieces, each shard of glass flying around the church removing the smiles, the singing, the hope. The choir’s singing came to a halt, heads turned all to face me. I stumble through the church with my fist clenched and words slurred.

“Shut this music up! Shut it up, it’s all false, y-y-you all are false!” I started walking, ignoring the cuts the glasses were making through my boots. “He can’t hear you, don’t you get the message!!! He’s not listening anymore, so all of you shut up! It’s bloody three in the morning, let me drink in peace, instead of shouting false praises through my walls!” I clutched onto a nearby seat and took a deep breath, looking straight into the pastor’s eyes.

“Excuse me my daughter-”

“I am not your daughter!”

“I can see you’ve come in anger, what is truly upsetting you?” The pastor stood, watching me attentively waiting till I spoke.

“You, you all are upsetting me, you’re liars! Preaching false words!”

“False in what way?”

“If he, the big man upstairs loved us so, then why did he let the world take my sister? Huh! Explain that? Because…if, if, if he did “love” us as you preach about, why would he let that happen?” The pastor was about to speak when I raised my hand, cutting him off. “I loved her with all my heart, I watched over her, I wanted the best for her, so why did he take her! Explain that!” The lump in my throat arose, tears cascading down my cheeks. “I just want my sister back, I want my life back, she wasn’t meant to be taken from me, she was young, had energy – so why her? Why not me? Why did he leave me to suffer like this? There’s nothing left for me here on this world anymore.”

I wiped the tears away from my eyes, clearing my vision when I realised the pastor had found his way in front of me. He held my shoulders delicately and closed his eyes, trying to find the words to say that would relate most to me. But then he opened his eyes, and said nothing. He took an audible sigh and looked up, at the ceiling.

“The Lord taketh and the Lord giveth, there is a reason for all. Just because you may not be visible to the reason now, doesn’t mean there’s none at all…have faith young child, as the questions you have will be answered.”

And there, before my eyes I broke, similar to the pieces of glass on the floor, I broke down, remembering Edie’s face, her smile, her laugh and remembered how much I’d missed her. We used to go church together when we were younger, half listening to the sermon and half giggling at the words we didn’t understand in the Bible. Missing her was an understatement, I needed her, she’d been my life, my faith, my happiness, and just like that she’d taken everything with her. The thought of her made me weak. I clung unto the Pastor and cried, hoping that if what he had said was true, then I would find a reason as to why the world took my sister before her time.

 

Have you ever?

Have you ever had to analyse your emotions ten times over, just to make sure you’re not behaving or feeling emotional for an irrational reason? Have you ever had to question your own mind-set, because everyone around you doesn’t seem to grasp your way of thinking? Have you ever felt crazy because you just can’t understand whether what you feel is reasonable or not? Well I have, and it drives me insane. Why must I feel as though I am the one who has blown everything out of proportion, the one who took everything “too far”, the one who just always seems to destroy the mood with her reactions? I tell you it could make any sane human being feel crazy. Just because people fail to understand the way I process things why must that make me the odd one? I remember years ago when I studied psychology, I was learning about conforming. One thing that stuck in my mind was how incredible it was to see how people would conform to the majority group, just because the numbers were high. Even if the question was as simple as what is 2 + 2. We all know the answer is 4, but if the majority claims the answer is 5, we begin to doubt our own judgment. That is exactly how I feel write now. As I sit here, pen in my hand, scribbling subconsciously on the plain piece of paper before me, I wonder whether because people cannot understand me, I can no longer understand myself. Hence why I have to analyse everything I do ten times or even more.

It’s beyond frustrating when you find yourself in this cycle. Where you feel a way one minute, but instantly question it the next because maybe the majority is right about me. Maybe I am a little irrational. Maybe my thought process is abnormal. Or am I now conforming to the majority? Who says the minority isn’t right? Why can’t the way I think and feel be right and everyone else be wrong? It makes me chuckle slightly as I sit scratching my head, thinking about whether I’m sane or not. A mother of two, is up alone in her study room in the early hours of the morning questioning whether she is sane or not, is a headline that I can’t help but chuckle to. I should have my shit together by now. Almost thirty-five, two children and a husband and yet here I am, wondering whether I’m losing it or maybe it’s everyone else who’s losing it. What irks me is that there is no one I can discuss this with, oh well I could go to my counsellor (whom no one knows I visit) and explain it to her. But, then I might just feel even crazier that I’ve had to go counselling in order to reassure myself that I’m not crazy. Ha, the irony. There’s no freedom, there’s no escape. I’m constantly in limbo with my emotions, constantly going from zero to a thousand, because I’m not sure whether I have a right to feel the way I do or not. And it’s a tough battle. It brings a lot of dark nights, silent cries and fake smiles, because everything just doesn’t seem to add up in your mind. And having two children and being a role model for them, gives me no room to even have time to fail. So I hold everything in, make sure only me, myself and I, see this confused version of me. I make sure all the tears have run its course before I see my children, I make sure the internal battle that I face everyday, is kept at bay when I kiss my husband good morning. I make sure the crazy has gone into hiding when I see my family, because it’s bad enough that people look at you like your crazy, but when you looking at yourself and seeing a crazy person stare back at you – everything goes downhill from there.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Our Secret [Part 2]

With the presentation checked and completed, I was sure that the strategies I’d planned for Miss Woods would have her pleased. I smoothed the crease in my skirt and took a deep breath. It wasn’t as though I was nervous because I still failed to grasp the understanding of my dreams, it was the actual fact that I might become a PR to the famous Sienna Woods. This was more than just a huge deal for me. It was an opportunity that if I somehow messed up, could impact my career negatively. Not that I was ever too indulged into my career, but it seemed that having being presented with such an opportunity did wonders for the way I viewed my job. The many doors that would fly open if this meeting went well today kept my nerves at the edge of their seats.

I looked down at my attire, assessing whether I’d dressed appropriately. A blouse and skirt was more than appropriate. But maybe because my client was the Sienna Woods, nothing in my wardrobe seemed to be good enough. I fiddled with the buttons on my blouse and straightened out my skirt once again, when a cough filled the room. My head shot up, and there she stood with Kasey. Dressed in a sky blue designer dress, that hugged her figure in all the right places. My eyes involuntarily travelled down her body, noticing the white heels that probably costed more than my whole outfit. She looked even more stunning in reality than in the movies she starred in. Another cough pulled me out of my daze.

“Cleo, this is Miss Sienna Woods.” He directed her in my direction. I made my feet move forward, with an outstretched hand.

“Sienna would be just fine.” Our hands met in a firm handshake, whilst I tried to keep my gaze on her face. Her smile was infectious and reached her eyes, making her instantly more likable. I hadn’t handled such a client like Sienna Woods before, but I wasn’t going to let her status frighten me.

“I’m Cleo Dane, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Her smile brightened up ever so lightly. I signalled her to take a seat as I loaded up the presentation, giving her a brief introduction on what my expertise were and where I planned to take her image.

It was a long process, and required me to talk her ear off for most of the time, but in the end she was more than on board with the plans I’d set for her. After Kasey had taken Sienna to the exit, I’d begun packing some spread sheets and documents away, preparing to head to my area to start working on the ideas set for Sienna. As I’d finished gathering the paper, Kasey appeared in the doorway.

“You did an excellent job Cleo.”

“Aw, there’s no need to thank me Kasey.”

“There is! Because of you, Sienna Woods is now apart of our clientele, that wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for you and all the hard work you’ve put in.” A smile crept onto my lips. Knowing the time I spent preparing the presentation was actually beneficial reminded me how pleasant this job truly was. I gave Kasey a nod, ready to use this energy into creating a plan that would build Sienna Woods, when Kasey stopped me.

“Nearly forgot, Sienna Woods gave me this,” He handed me a card that had information typed on it and then a hand scribbled number written at the bottom. “Sienna asked me to give you this. It’s her personal number – she really liked you Cleo. This is only the start of something amazing. Well done on the good job.”

He walked back to his office, leaving me staring blankly at the card Sienna had left for me. I looked at the information typed, whilst memorising the number written at the bottom of the card. Noting how my heart thudded a little harder as I thought of Sienna Woods praising me to Kasey…working with Miss Woods was going to be very interesting.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

His Eyes.

It was the cold air that woke me up. The slightly chilled wind that passed me was what had me blinking my eyes to darkness. I was sure I slept with the bed lamp on, so I was beyond confused when I awoke to utter darkness. All that filled my sight was dark shapes that surrounded me. Still in a haze, I try to pull the duvet over my cold body, but realise my arms are tightly bound above my head. I pull a few times, hoping the knot would ease, but instead, it cut into my flesh, burning my skin as I pulled harder to free myself. My arms grew tight and heavy, but I continued to pull hoping to loosen my arms. I look around hoping for some sort of answer for where I was and what was happening to me, but all that accompanied me was darkness and silence. Breathing out a trembling shudder, I tried to move my feet. Not surprised that my ankles too were tied together and then against another object. But even with the assumption in my mind, I still found myself shaking in fear. Becoming more powerless as the seconds flew passed, my desire to break free became erratic. Simultaneously, I struggled to free both my ankles and wrists, but with the bounds only getting tighter with my fight to break loose, I was only making things worse.

Trying to calm the heart that crashed against my chest, I took a deep breath. The air blew against my skin, making me realise I wore nothing but the restraints that held me captive. Inhaling a large amount of air, I prepared to scream, but when the air moved passed my throat, a burning sensation arose. My throat was dry, causing my helpless scream, to become a pitiful whisper. Without the ability to free myself, losing the power to use my voice and the fact that I couldn’t see anything, all rational thoughts dissolved. I pulled, wiggled and rocked uncontrollably, trying to break something…anything. Yet, nothing but my muscles and bones ached, pleading with me to stop my attempts. The feeling was something I was familiar with. As I lay trembling in fear, all my body could do was remind me that this was not the first time I’ve experienced this. Even with my wrist tied together firmly, my fingers quivered as my nerves took control of my body. I was beginning to remember this scene. Images flashed in my mind, as my brain worked to remind me what was meant to come after the shock and realisation of being kidnapped. I shut my eyes, horrified knowing what was to come next.

With a click, dim lights filled my surroundings. My body reacting to the slight warmth the lights gave and my eyelids slightly becoming lighter with the help of the lights. For a few seconds nothing happened. There’s no movements, no breathing, nothing but the lights slowly brightening. The only noise apparent was my breathing that seemed to bounce around in the room I was in. With no action after the lights being turned on, my curiosity pushed me to slowly lift my eyelids. With images flashing in my mind as to what was to come when my eyes were opened. As my eyes fluttered open ever so slowly, a frame filled my face, causing me to feel suffocated. My breathing no longer bounced across the room, but was colliding with an intruding frame that had taken its place in front of me. My whole body shook, as I opened my eyes to witness the same dark glassy blue set of pupils that stared right back at me every night.

Immediately I sat up, holding my mouth from the scream that had burst through my lips. It was a nightmare…a nightmare I was too familiar with. With tears uncontrollably streaming down my cheeks, I clutch onto my chest, trying to steady my heart that was punching my chest. It was always those eyes I found myself screaming myself awake to. I feared to close my eyes even to blink, in case the eyes awaited me as my eyelids covered my eyes. I slid out of bed, still shuddering as I made my way to the kitchen. Making sure every light was turned on. Once I reached the kitchen, the cold wooden floor helped chill my sweaty body as I ran the tap to get a glass. I opened the draw above the sink and grabbed a glass cup, glad my hands were steady to hold the cup without it slipping through my grip. I ran it under the tap and then locked the tap. Bringing the cup to my parched lips, I drank the water, thankful the water managed to relax my tense muscles and ease me slightly. I rested against the sink and took a deep breath, remembering he’d been arrested and had been for six years. I am safe…if only I felt safe.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun