Breaking of Barriers
For the past month, Taiwo’s time had been completely consumed creating rough sketches of skirts, dresses and shirts. She was truly taken aback when Connor asked for her opinions and experience, and even more so when he specifically lured her into creating the designs herself! At first she was concerned she’d royally screw up, but then she pulled from her early days of sketching. Her mother often needed someone to ink her images on paper since she’d not the skill herself. When she was satisfied with her final draft images, she encased them in sheet protectors and a white binder and placed it on Connor’s desk. Happy with her performance, she skipped back to her office to relax on her sofa. Before she could stop herself, she’d drifted off to sleep.
Entering his office, he noticed it was a little too quiet. Sauntering across to the connected room, he found Taiwo asleep, resting on her side. Leaning against the jamb, he crossed his legs and folded his across over his chest, drinking in the sight of her peaceful face. So this is what she looks like at rest, he thought. He’d been dying just to see a piece of her in a vulnerable state. When he wasn’t looking, he’d been given this gift and hoped there was more to come. Quietly he ambled in to sit next to her, surveying into her appearance. He ran his knuckle over her cheek and finger down the bridge of her nose. Sensing someone near, she opened her eyes, startled to find Connor sitting so close.
“Don’t get up.” Turning onto her back, she looked up at him, her mind racing.
“Why are you here?” she croaked.
“I work here.”
“You know what I mean.” Trying to sit up, she felt his hand press into the valley between her breasts.
“I told you not to get up. You’re a hardheaded woman.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Planting both arms at the sides of her body, he leaned over her, mere inches from her supple lips. Taiwo’s heart and throat constricted as she did her best to look past him. Connor wouldn’t allow anything but his presence and scent to dominate her senses. Closing her eyes, counting back from one hundred, she hoped to calm her fluttering heart. Of all the men that she’d crossed, he was the only one who made her nervous, made her unsure of herself, made her aware of the fact that she was still a woman. She shouldn’t have had to second guess what she wanted. When she opened her eyes, he was still there holding her wary gaze.
“What do you want Tai?”
She wanted to run, far away from this man. Panic began to crawl up her throat. The thought of being trapped against this sofa with him consuming her space, her air, was proving all too much. Connor knew if he pressed any harder she’d snap. That wasn’t what he was after just yet, he wanted her to bend just a little. Gently lifting his weight, he rose rose from the sofa, leaving her staring straight up at the ceiling. Releasing pent up oxygen, she ran over to the door and closed it. Leaning against the blinds, she slid down row by row listening the crackle until she rested on the floor. Connor reveled in her coming undone. She wasn’t as immune as she liked him to believe. Settling at his desk, he poured over the images Taiwo concocted. He was departing from the classic look in favor of something more earthy that had a kind of soul to it.
These drafts were exactly what he had envisioned. The pieces were more tribal yet elegant. One skirt bore a repeating block of white and green. Some of the tops were solids, others multi-colored. as he flipped through more drafts, he could tell where she was going, this line would tell a story unlike one that he’d ever hoped to convey. Tucking the binder into his satchel, he pushed back from his desk and knocked on Taiwo’s office door.
“What?” she squeaked.
“We’re finished for today. Allow me to take you home.”
“I drove.” she retorted from the other side.
“Okay, but the gentlemen in me is going to walk you to the garage. One ca never be too safe. Meet me by the elevator in five minutes.”
Hearing his footsteps die off, she opened the door peeking out. Smoothing out her clothes, she took a deep inhale then snatched up her purse. With each step, the clicking of her heels filled her with dread. She hoped she didn’t pass out being enclosed in this box with him. Her mind told her it’d be a huge mistake merging her body with his, but her flesh was ablaze with desire. It beckoned her to let go and taste the reckless abandonment that was waiting for her. Standing alone in front of the elevator doors gave her hope that her escape was near. Pushing the button, she heard the metal box start its assent. It’d felt like an eternity waiting for the elevator to arrive. Jamming the button in rapid succession made her even more antsy.
“That won’t make the elevator come any faster.” he whispered from behind.
Relaxed, he stood behind her with his hands shoved in his pockets smiling. He could sense her nerves standing on ends. Knowing in the midst of silence, it made him feel good that she was ultra aware of his presence. If she could stand anymore erect, she’d have made an outstanding candidate for an army recruiter. Finally, the box reached their level and opened for them. Stepping inside lowering her eyes, she punched the first floor button then watched the doors close them in. They rode down in silence and emerged at the lobby. Her heels clicked and clacked with rapid approach of coming to the entrance door. Pushing through, she picked up her speed upon spotting her car. Warm air swirled around her enticing her to breath in that familiar male scent. Just as she went to reach for the handle on the drivers side door, Connor blocked her pressing her against the car. “I said I’d walk you.”
“As you can see I’ve made it to my car safe and sound.”
“Tai,” she could hear the need in his voice and that made her knees begin to buckle, “stop running away from me.”
“This is not a good idea.”
“I want you to be my woman.”
“Connor-” Quelling her protests, he leaned in and captured her lips between his teeth suckling and nibbling. Slowly he coaxed her lips apart and dove in tasting her tongue. Moans escaped her throat and her breath hitched as he ran his hands up her thighs.
“W-wait, somebody could catch us.” she tried breaking away only to be pulled back in to his sure but firm grip.
“I don’t care.”
“Well I do. I don’t want anyone to think I got this position because I slept with you.”
“I don’t care what other people think and neither do you. This is about you being afraid.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“I asked you not to lie to me, remember? My intentions was and remains to get to know you. I realize that I want you. Don’t you want to explore this, us? Don’t you want me?”
“You can’t force me to answer that.”
“Yes or no.”
“Yes or no.”
“Answer me Tai.” Running his hands through her mass of curls, he claimed her mouth again, flooding her senses. Taiwo placed her hands on his shoulders to steady herself. It was like her body had a mind of its own pressing itself against his manhood. A loud groan escaped through his lips as he stamped kisses down her throat. Hoisting her up, back against the car, she wrapped her legs around his waist and rested in his kisses.
“Yes.” she sighed.
“I want you.”
Breaking away from her lips, he looked at her through heavy lids and smiled. “So we’re dating, then?”
“Yeah, whatever.” she breathed heavily. Connor set her down on solid ground but her head was still swimming, trying to find her balance.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He kissed her forehead then helped her inside her car. She watched him out her rearview mirror sliding into his car flashing his lights at her. Sticking the key in the ignition, she backed out headed towards home.
The next morning she awoke to aching shoulders and an annoying hum singing across her lips. Sleep hadn’t supplied the ample rest that she needed from last night’s jolt. How could she have possible admitted that she wanted him!? Working around him would be awkward. Never had she ever felt the crashing waves flip flopping in her belly. Any butterflies would have been crushed and drowned in the torrential storm that her nerves stirred up with a vengeance. Snapping up her phone from the nightstand, she scrolled through to check the weather but a red box tempted her to check her emails. At eleven she had received an email from Connor, curious to know the contents, she opened and scanned through the message. Much to her delight she’d get to view mock pieces of her sketches. Before heading home, Connor dropped off the sketches to the lead Creative Director. The employees kept odd hours and thus the mock pieces were sewed as they were pinned and cut.
Worming around in the bed, Taiwo couldn’t have been more excited and anticipated what the full scale model would look like. As she did every morning, she sifted through her fitness DVD’s and chose Winsor Pilates. She was going to leg lift and elevate those clams like she had never done before! After torching her legs and thighs, she cooled them off in the shower. Leisurely she washed her skin and suds up her favorite luffa and painted cucumber body wash from head to toe. Feeling reinvigorated and refreshed, she washed the suds down the drain and prepared to work on her hair.
Climbing out of the shower, her moisturized skin glistened as did her tresses. Standing bare in front of the mirror, she began applying curling custard to her strands then cornrowed her hair back to dry. Prancing back to her bedroom, she pulled out a blue and green box print A-Line Midi Skirt and a Button Back Sweater Tee from her closet and rounded out the look with black flats. Peeling on her undergarments, she walked to the kitchen to spy out her breakfast. She didn’t want anything fancy, so she put together a parfait and two sticks of mozzarella on her breakfast table. Skipping back to the bathroom, she exfoliated and washed her face and brushed her teeth and checked her reflection to see if any residue had been left behind.
Once Taiwo was dressed, she slipped into her shoes, grabbed her parfait and mozzarella then scooped up her clutch bag and headed for the door. She was greet with the sweet floral scent that always seemed to linger in the air. She was also shocked to find Connor standing mere feet away from her front door. She hadn’t even had the chance to consume her breakfast before her stomach began twisting and knotting.
“Good morning Tai.”
“What are you doing here?”
“We’re going to work.”
“I have a car, remember?”
“I sent you an email about your designs. We’re going to take a ride to my company.” Wrapping his arm around her waist, he pulled her close guiding her to his car. Awkwardly she climbed in sitting stone stiff as he closed her in. Filling the drivers side, he punched the start button and began their drive onward. Five minutes into the drive she still had her hand clamped around her parfait and cheese sticks. “Are you going to eat that?”
“Huh? Oh, yes, when I have time.”
“There’s nothing stopping you now.” There was no way she was going to eat in front of him. She was too worried she’d drop the contents on her skirt. She swore if it wasn’t for her birth certificate, she’d have never known she was a thirty-seven year old woman. Kids behaved in a love struck manner. It wasn’t supposed to happen to her! Crunching the cup, the top popped off and fell at her feet.
“Give me that.” he put the cup in the holder. “Relax, I’m not going to jump you. Besides, it’s too early for foreplay.” he teased.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better.” How could he be laughing, so at ease with whatever this is?
Pulling up to a medium sized studio, they exited his car, with clutch and parfait in tow and marched toward the front door. Opening the door, employees flitted around drafting, cutting and pinning.
“Good morning Linda.”
“I didn’t know you were coming by.”
“You never know when I coming by. I like to keep you on your toes. Linda this is Taiwo Yona, she’s the one who came up with our current designs.”
“Ah Ms. Yona! It’s wonderful to meet you. Your sketches are very fresh, nothing like I’ve ever dealt with before.”
“Oh, thank you.”
“Do come, I have a mock dress finished. The model should be out soon.” Taiwo’s eyes lit up at all the controlled chaos of bodies and chatter. Linda blew off to another part of the room, snapping and clucking her tongue in disapproval.
“Linda is the head Creative Director. She makes sure nothing less than perfection leaves our warehouses.” He handed her her parfait and commanded her to have a seat. Watching him with his staff surprised her. He was attentive and warm, asking questions when he didn’t fully understand, and he listened to hear. Apart of her felt childish for pushing him away. She just didn’t want to experience what her mother went through with her father. No amount of sensual whispers gave him the right to blast her life to shreds. This was something she couldn’t allow.
Linda snapped everyone to a hush as the model walked down their makeshift runway. There she was all blonde haired and blue-eyed. Pink pouty lips protruded from her striking face. She clomped down the runway like a giraffe, spinning and twisting, showing off her lines. The mock dress was fabulous but irritation bubbled and sat on the tip of her tongue. Running a hand down her face, Connor saw Taiwo’s brows knit together and her lips were downturned.
“What’s wrong, you don’t like it?”
“I do, but it’s all wrong. The model. She can’t represent what it means for my people to wear this dress. This dress isn’t a fashion statement, it is who we are, who I am and I don’t approve of someone other than my people to represent who we truly are.”
“What?” he asked startled.
“Let me find someone more suitable.”
“Come here.” He took her by the hand and led her to a quieter section of the building. “Don’t make this about race Tai.”
“I’m not.” her eyes widened. “Even if I was, it’s not fair to take something from another group of people without playing proper homage to those who created it in the first place!”
“You’re being unreasonable.”
“Unreasonable!? You said you wanted to know me. Me! This is only one way! How dare you dismiss what’s important to me. Come with me to Nigeria, then and only then will you begin to understand who I am, who my people are.”
Stomping away, she exited the building leaving Connor behind.
“Is there something wrong Mr. Fletcher?”
“No. Continue as usual.”
*The next chapter can be found here, By Design (6)