I love reading Romance, music, NKOTB, my dog, baseball and J.J. Hardy.
And whoever was making their way to the water.
I put the footsteps out of my mind and stared at the sea.
Then it hit me the footsteps stopped.
Then I felt him behind me.
Then I tensed as I felt him move.
Then I closed my eyes tight when all that was him, and damn, there was a lot of him, surrounded me.
He sat behind me, right at my back, his long legs on either side, knees bent, insides pressed to the outsides of mine. His long arms circling me. His massive front pressing into my back. His jaw pressing into the side of my hair.
And there he whispered, “Mama.”
That one word tore through me like a blade.
I opened my eyes and saw sea.
“How did you find me?” I asked the waves and the minute I started speaking, his arms convulsed.
“Tate,” he answered.
Right. Of course. His bounty hunter friend.
Scratch Tate off my Christmas list.
“We gotta talk,” he said gently.
“Nothing to talk about,” I replied.
“You know there is, baby.” He was still talking gently. It was nice. I’d heard him be gentle. I’d heard him be soft. I’d heard him be sweet. I’d heard him be quiet. But none of them were as gentle, soft, sweet and quiet as the way he was now.
But it didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered anymore. When shit mattered, it could hurt you.
So nothing mattered anymore and I was determined to keep it that way.
“No, there isn’t,” I told him.
His arms gave me another squeeze, “Lexie –”
I cut him off. “Unless you brought the divorce papers. You said you’d deal and all I had to do is sign. Is that why you’re here?”
His arms tightened on the words “divorce papers” but they didn’t loosen even after I was done speaking.
And his answer was instantaneous.
“No it fuckin’ is not.”
“Then you wasted a trip.”
“Lexie, baby, listen to me.”
“Think you said enough.”
His tight arms gave me a gentle shake. “I was pissed –”
“Yeah, I got that.”
“Babe,” another gentle shake, “listen to me.”
I fell silent. The sooner he did what he had to do the better. Then he would be gone and it would just be me and the sea.
He waited a second then he went on, “You know why I was pissed.”
I didn’t reply.
“Five years of my life, Lexie.”
I still didn’t reply.
“I lost it. Pissed and powerless, the Carnal PD wanted to play with my woman, I had no play of my own. Been powerless a long time too, Lex, man like me, any man, fuck, baby, any woman loses their power, it does not fuckin’ feel good. And there I was, they were fuckin’ with you, I could hear your fear on the goddamned phone and I had not one, single, fuckin’ play. I went to Tate to calm my ass down so I didn’t do somethin’ stupid and really lose you and he decides to lay it out for me, what he’s been doin’, how you instigated that shit. I lost my mind. It wasn’t smart, it wasn’t right, too much comin’ at me at once, I acted out, fucked up and hurt you again. But all that, you gotta know from all you do know, was understandable.”
“You’re right,” I told him.
A hesitation filled with surprise then, “Come again?”
“You’re right. I figured that all out right away and you’re right. It’s understandable.”
Ty was silent.
I decided I was done.
“The thing you don’t understand is, I’m used up, Ty. I am so done. And that, well, that used up the last I had.”
His arms tightened again and his legs pressed in, pulling me deeper into him all around.
I interrupted him. “My parents were crackheads, I was born addicted. Did you know that?” I asked and didn’t wait for an answer. “No. You didn’t. I don’t talk about it, I didn’t do it but still, it’s embarrassing. Baby born in a crackhouse addicted to crack. That was me. I made the papers just being born. Bad luck right off the bat. Luck so bad, it hit the papers day one I was on this earth. And Lady Luck wasn’t done. I told you my Mom OD’ed. And I told you she never held me. They took me away from her and she didn’t even notice, never came back to take a shot, never came back to see her baby, never came just to hold me. She probably held a million crack pipes to her mouth but she never held her baby. Not once. I also told you my Dad got killed by a loan shark, owed so many people for the dope he was smoking, he went to a loan shark and then couldn’t pay him. My grandfather hated him so much, he’d never let my Dad see me and he never did see me, my Dad didn’t. Then again, he never even tried. Then there was Granddad, you know all about him being a dick. My first boyfriend a pimp. His drug dealer best friend used me as an errand girl.” I shook my head. “I’m done. So fucking done. I have no more to give. And you. You need to find a woman who’s got a lot to give, see you through, whatever fucked up shit you decide to do, find a woman who’s got what it takes to stand by you.”
“I’m playin’ it Tate’s way,” he told me and my heart leaped.
But I didn’t let on.
Three week crash course in pokerface and I found I was a natural.
“Good,” I replied immediately but emotionlessly. “I’m glad for you. That’s smart.”
He responded to my tone or, more accurately, his body did and I knew this when I felt it go still all around me.
Then he whispered, “Lexie –” but I cut him off again.
“Ty, just go. This is done. It’s done. It was done the first time you told me my pussy came with a chain but that used to be me, thinking Lady Luck would eventually smile at me. She doesn’t. She hasn’t. She never will. I’m her favorite toy. Keep sticking my hand out hoping to grasp onto something good and she keeps slapping it. That shit stings. Not gonna stick my hand out there.”
His body again moved, drew me deeper and he started, “Mama –” but I didn’t let him continue.
“Tate found me, he can find Ella. You get the divorce papers to her; she’ll get them to me. I’ll give you one last thing, Ty, my signature but that’s the last thing you, or anyone, gets out of me.”
His head moved, his chin pulling my hair back then his mouth found my ear and he whispered, “Baby, please, God, just please fuckin’ listen to me.”
And that’s when I lost it. I couldn’t take much more. Not without breaking and I couldn’t break again. The last one left too many scars, too many wounds that didn’t heal in a way I knew they never would. I couldn’t be torn apart again. There was no way in hell I’d survive it.
So I lost it.
But a different way.
“Just go,” I hissed. “Fuck, Ty, if I make the decision that I want to just be, can’t I just fucking be without all this fucking bullshit? My grandfather controlled my life and with that, I had no choice. Then Ronnie did and with that, I did but did I make the right choice? No. Then Shift controlled it and my choices were limited but I still didn’t make the right ones. Can you give me one fucking thing in this nightmare and let me make my own fucking choice?”
When I was done speaking I felt his body had gone still again, stone still.
Then he asked quietly, “Nightmare?”
“Nightmare,” I replied firmly.
Ty didn’t move.
By a miracle, I held it together.
Then he moved but it was to rest his chin on my shoulder and I closed my eyes because I needed him to go, go, go so I could fall apart again on my own.
Then he said, “Your nightmare, mama, was my dream.”
My heart clenched.
He kept going. “Never had a home until you gave me one.”
My breath started sticking.
“Never had anyone give to me the way you gave to me.”
My breath stopped sticking and clogged.
“Never thought of findin’ a woman who I wanted to have my baby.”
“Never had light in my life, never, not once, I lived wild but I didn’t burn bright until you shined your light on me.”
“Whacked, fuckin’ insane, but, at night, you curled in front of me, didn’t mind I did that time that wasn’t mine ‘cause it meant I walked out to you.”
He had to stop. He had to.
“Your nightmare,” he whispered, turned his head and against my neck he finished, “my dream.”
Then he kissed my neck, gave me one last squeeze of his long, strong, powerful arms then he let me go, shifted back, got to his feet and I heard his footsteps walking away.
When I couldn’t hear them anymore I opened my eyes and saw sea.
I didn’t move for a long time and anyone studying me from the huge, cement patio with rusted lounge chairs would think I was lost in my thoughts not sitting in the sand with rivers of salt flowing down my face.
When the tears were spent, I let the breeze dry my cheeks until they felt scratchy and tight.
Then I got up and wandered up the beach, up the stairs to the patio and to my room. I needed to call Bessie in hers and talk about dinner. I didn’t eat much but she’d wait even if I picked at my food while she ate hers and I knew this because that’s what she’d been doing for weeks.
I dug my key out of my back pocket, put it in the lock, twisted it and walked into my room. The sun was setting but it was still light. When the door closed behind me, I couldn’t see anything because the drapes were pulled.
I flipped the switch, took two steps into the room then froze and stared at the bed.
A pile of rolled bills of cash sat in the center of my bed next to four, distinctive-colored boxes.
My eyes darted around the room, half expecting Ty to walk out of the bathroom, pop out from behind a curtain.
The other half, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me, was hoping.
He didn’t walk out of the bathroom and he certainly didn’t pop out from behind a curtain.
And because he didn’t, my legs gave out from under me, I sunk again to my ass, shoved my face between my knees and cried fucking more fucking rivers of fucking salt.