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 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 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

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.

Toxic – Part 5

Josh hadn’t spoken to me for the rest of the time we were at the house. Avoiding my touch, my gaze and any interaction with me. It hurt, but I was aware of what I had done the night before and forced any type of pity deep within myself. We drove to his parent house in silence, not even the radio could drown out the awkward tension between us. I could tell Josh didn’t believe everything I had said to him back at the house, but the mere thought that his wife could have slept with her best friend or his brother was probably too much to bare, so silence was his only option.

He’d wore a nice grey snug knitted jumper, with dark black jeans and dessert boots. I’d worn a presentable dress, that came down to my calves and plain black ballerinas. My intention was not to stand out this evening, my plan was to be as invisible as possible. Say my ‘hi’s’ and remain quiet, I had already made a fool of myself today, there was no need for me to do anymore.
Josh had parked outside of his parents home and took a deep breath. He looked at me as if wanting to say something but thought better of it. He turned his gaze away from me and proceeded to get out of the car, without saying a word to me. Tears welled up in my eyes, but knowing I didn’t have the right or time to be emotional, I wiped the strayed tears that had fallen out of my eyes and composed myself.

I stepped out of the car and waited for Josh to lock it before following his lead. Before we’d gotten to the door, Josh had grabbed my hand with such force that it hurt. There was no affection in the way he took my hand, if anything the force of his hand crushed into my wedding ring finger, which pressed into my other fingers, squeezing them tightly till they rubbed on each other, rubbing onto the bone. With a little wince, he knocked on the door and before a second went by, the door swung open and there stood his sister, Anabelle.

“Joshie!”
Josh threw my hand backwards as he embraced his younger sister. Ana was only 23 and was one of my bridesmaid at our wedding. She always seemed to make me laugh and understand me in a way that always shrouded her true age – almost making her a chameleon to anyone she came into contact with.
“Anabelle, how you been?”
He swung her around lovingly.
“Great! Hi Sash!”
She jumped off of her older brother and gave me a tight squeeze. She stepped back and allowed us to enter. The house was modern. Wooden floor boards surrounded by cream walls with family photos hung chronologically on the wall gave the house the ambience of love and warmth. It was what defined it from a standard house to a loving home. We entered the living room, and out bursted a room full of people. Young and old, everyone sat mingling with each other.

“Josh how have you been?”
His mother kissed his cheek twice affectionately whilst his father made his way to me, giving me a bear hug.
“Good to see the lovely Mrs Fletcher again.”
With a tight lipped smile, I hug his mother who welcomes me just as warm as her husband. For a long time after our little greeting with Josh’s parents, I simply follow Josh. I watch him greet his family that he hasn’t seen in a long time and others he barely recognises. Soon it’s dinner and we’re all packed around his dining table that has been extended, so that everyone is able to have a seat. I sit between Josh and Anabelle, and find myself staring at the empty plate on the table in front of me because it seems Josh has, when possible, ignored me and placed all his attention on his family at each opportunity given to him. The door bell rings and Anabelle rushes to open the door. Moments later, we’re all welcomed by the sight of Mike, who has managed to find my gaze before anyone else’s.

Stood confidently at the doorway of the kitchen, wearing a plain white shirt, tight enough to show off his physique with smart black trousers, sends images of my hands trailing over his chest the night before. I looked back at the empty plate before me whilst Mike walked round greeting everyone. I tried to ignore the tingle I felt deep within myself, but the closer Mike was getting to me, the more I felt my heart race and my legs tightened shut together. I felt Josh’s chair scrape out as he rose to hug his brother. They both gave each other a firm pat on the back, which didn’t last enough for me to compose myself. So I decided staying seated was my best option. Mike bent down to hug me, wrapping his strong arm around my neck as our cheeks touched each other briefly – but enough to spark a flame within me. I made sure my face didn’t replicate the feelings I felt within me. The tension that was becoming almost too much for me to bare, the way in which my insides had tightened to a tight ball waiting for Mike’s touch to unravel it. I took a deep breath as his arm unwrapped from my neck and he moved to the next family relative.

“Oh Mike why don’t you sit next to mum!”
Anabelle offered as there was no other available seat apart from the one opposite my seat. Mike was going to decline, but when he realised he had no option, he gave Anabelle a small smile and pulled the seat beside his mother out and took his position. I looked back at the only place I seemed to have found solace today, wishing I was anywhere but here when Josh randomly reached for my hand and this time, with more care, started to caress my skin gently, ever so slightly rolling his finger across my wedding ring as he watched Mike greet his father.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Toxic – Part 4

“What’s wrong baby, did someone hurt you?”
Why did men think all signs of emotion from women meant we were hurt? It was me who had caused pain. If only Josh knew, I’m sure his anger would dissipate. I shake my head, throwing tears left and right.
“Then why are you crying?”

I took a deep breath, in attempt to inhale the overflowing emotions that threatened to show itself.
“I just…I’m sorry.” Sorry for going out yesterday, sorry for making him scared and definitely sorry for being intimate with his brother – all the things I wanted to say but kept it trapped within the deepest depths within myself.
“Sasha…what happened last night? Where were you?”
God, here it comes. The fabricated truth, the story smeared with hazy lies. I fear to look him in the eyes, so I keep my gaze to our feet and take a deep breath in.

“I drank too much,” Lie. “Then I saw Mike,” Truth. “I’m not sure how, but he was worried…I think.” More lies. “So he took me home and then I woke up this morning embarrassed and left to go home.” It was more or less what had happened. The bare outlines of yesterdays events. I look at Josh through my wet eyelashes and see the concern in his facial expression.
“Why didn’t you go home with Clarissa?” It was then I remembered Clarissa had lied I was with her. I needed to explain why Clarissa would have lied without mentioning that I was aware I knew she tried to make an excuse for me.
“I think I wondered away from the group a little…”
“WHAT THE FUCK WAS YOU THINKING?!”
His outburst made me jump. I didn’t expect this from Josh. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that I had said that had caused his reaction.
“Sasha you’re acting stupid! I knew Clarissa was bad influence – what if Mike wasn’t there to help you?”
My lip trembled as I couldn’t quite fathom a response. I had been more than stupid – in fact I had been out right brain dead. But I was prepared to take stupid over him knowing the truth.
“Never, you’re never going out with her again!” Something bubbled in me, who was Josh to tell me who I could and couldn’t see.
“She’s my best friend!” I said through tears, from both sadness and a slight hint of anger.
“I don’t care Sasha! What if something happened to you?”
“Nothing –”
“Wait,” He interrupted me, looking at me like something didn’t add up. “When did you drink that you’re that out of your mind that you can’t even get yourself home?”

I shrugged, not having the brain power to think of a response. I wiped my tears with the back of my hand and internally told myself to control my emotions. Stop the tears that continued to be rebellious and show itself even though I fought so hard to keep them at bay. Stop trying to defend Clarissa, there was a time and place that I would be able to bring justice to Clarissa’s name and today was not the day. For now, I just needed to accept that I was wrong and then clear the grey areas at a later stage.

“Something’s not right Sasha, why didn’t Mike let me know you were with him?” Because we were fucking on the floor and then on his couch and then literally on every appliance until we reached his bedroom. My insides flare up with small voices reminding me how good it was with Mike. How he made me scream, how I grabbed him with passion leaving scratch marks on his body as he plunged deeper and deeper. God, the thoughts were so real, I could feel myself tensing up. My core tightening and slowly getting moist as I thought about our passion.
“I was scared you’d be upset, I was a mess.”
My voice came out huskier than necessary – thicker almost with Mike still on my tongue. Just as Josh was about to say more, his phone rang, pausing him in his tracks. He gave me another glare and reached for his phone.
“Mike…” My eyes dropped to the ground, what if our lies hadn’t matched? We didn’t thoroughly think this through. I looked back at Josh who had me under strict scrutiny whilst speaking to Mike. “Yeah she’s home safe…thanks for your help Mike…fuck I forgot about that. We’ll see you at mums.”

The phone was off. He gave me one last look and then left. But before he was out of ear reach he shouted, “It’s my grandfathers anniversary, we’re going to my parents. Get cleaned up.”
I rushed to the shower and took a long bath. I thought things were already difficult, but now we had to play happy family in front of his actual family was really not ideal or even part of the plan. This was going to be one extended day.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Toxic – Part 3

Throughout my journey home I can’t help but question who I really am, who’ve I become? It was bad enough that I had thought about cheating on my husband on multiple occasions, but the fact that I had actually committed the act almost left me bewildered. Who was the woman that sat in the black cab, wearing a body con on a early Saturday morning? Because I sure as hell knew it couldn’t have been myself… I risked my marriage for what? A night that I probably wouldn’t forget for the rest of my life. It sounds exciting when I think about it, but was it truly worth it?

I should have thought about my actions in more depth. Even though I’ve felt like this for a year, I’m not sure if I had truly contemplated the aftermath if I had went ahead and actually slept with Mike. I’m not even sure why now, sitting silently in the back seat of the cab driving me to where I thought was home, but now sounds weird to call home is where I contemplate my actions. I knew what I was doing yesterday – I could hardly blame it on the alcohol, I barely drank any. And even if I drank a glass or two…or the whole bottle, I knew what I wanted from the start. The way Mike had touched me in the club and even more so when our lips touched was enough to remind me that I knew exactly what I was doing.

My conscious was beyond clear at that point, maybe if I was intoxicated it would be a better pill to swallow, rather than having the guilt slowly choke and suffocate me silently in the back of the cab. Before I had even knew what I was doing, I asked the cab driver to stop and requested to walk the rest of the way. I paid him the fare and got out of the vehicle, clutching myself tightly as the cold London air blew wildly on my bare legs and in my short outfit, more suitable for 7PM than 7AM. I ignored the quizzical stares that Londoners couldn’t help but do and hugged my body as I walked home. Getting some air should help me think.

I needed to plan how I was going to approach Josh. What I was going to say, in which way would I say it and whether he would believe me or not. The lie Mike had told me to stick to sounded ridiculous. Far too close to the truth for me to remain settled, but the more I thought about other lies that could replace Mike’s one, the more I realised why Mike had wanted me to stick to his own lie. The guilt from cheating and the hint of truth would make it more believable to Josh and with Mike as a sturdy alibi – Josh would know I was telling the truth.

I cannot believe I have come to this. Thinking of ways to lie to my husband to get away with infidelity. Where was the determined and strong woman who knew exactly what she was doing the night before? Because if she could show herself now, then maybe confronting my husband wouldn’t feel as hard as it did now. I wasn’t strong enough for this, even as I think back to Mike, back to the night we shared, I can’t help but shudder. Thoughts of us constantly replaying in my head as I ponder when the next time will come…hoping it would be sooner rather than later.

But what was done was done, right? The damage has been created and it was now sealed. I was a fragile glass yesterday that shattered under Mike’s touch – my only hope now was that the cracks that were more than evident didn’t reveal themselves to Josh.
I was coming up to the house now. 17…15…13, the more steps I took the more my heart crashed into my chest. I have never feared my husband – never needed a reason to, but today the fear that resided in me, was wrapped around me like another layer of skin. It wasn’t welcoming, but I was aware I gave it room yesterday to take place in my body.

Sucking in my breathe, I open my white wooden gate, wishing I was returning with a clear mind. But after having spent the night with Mike, my mind was far from clear. Even now, when I remember how our lips touched in the club makes my libido dance in excitement. God even thoughts of him can spark me to life, even in such situations as the one I was in currently. Before I get to open the door, Josh has it opened. Rushing to me like a mother reunited with their abducted child. He hugs me tightly, too tight and very one sided. I think because I’m too stunned to move my arms let alone my body I am left in a one-sided embrace. He stands back to watch me and then draws me inside the house.

Walking in silence, my breath comes out shorter, he faces me again and embraces me once more. This time with less worry but with more love. It was then I realised I was a horrible human being, weak and selfish. My husband stood in front of me, me in his arms, his breaths coming out in short rapid spurts, and I can tell he is happy to see me safe. And there I stand, arms planted to the sides of my body, scared that if I touch Josh, I’d ruin him like I have done so with this marriage. I feared tainting him but was too emotional to pull away. That was when I found myself in tears, a flood of emotions rushing out of my chest before I could stop it.

What had I done? Was it truly worth it? Could I just erase such mistakes from reality and act as though none of it occurred – was that a possibility? Because if it was I was ready to do anything to undo my mistake and go back to the woman I was only just a few hours ago.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun