It was happening again.
She hated this house, hated him. He smiled menacingly into her face as she lay bound to his bed. Amina’s skin crawled as he ran the dull side of a blade down her throat to her navel. Flipping the knife over in one swift motion, sliced the first layer of her skin. Laughter rang in the air as he inflicted more pain into her flesh.
“Oh, Amina. I wanted to share an intimate night with you but you had to go a mess it up.”
“Just let me go.”
“Let you go? Go where?”
“I just want to go home. I won’t tell anyone about this. I swear.”
“Do you think I am stupid?” he yelled in a shrill voice, “You’re going to give me what I want one way or the other.”
Blood, so much blood. The pain wrought on her body was nearly unbearable.
Her muffled cries suffocated in her throat. When was it going to be over? Reality returned when he lifted his weight off her body and left the room. Hot tears rolled down the sides of her face. She never imagined she’d end up like this, violated, on deaths doorstep. She had to get out there. By some miracle, the rope loosened enough to snatch her wrist free. Quickly working on the second knot, quietly she slipped from the bed searching for her clothes. She only managed to find her pants and shirt in a hurry and her sneakers were nowhere to be found. The dark hallway provided cover to slip past the slightly ajar bathroom door. She heard water running and him singing gleefully.
Tip-toeing, her heart inched up her throat over the slightest sound the floorboards made. Their light protest made her cringe and stop. The exit was only a few feet away, she couldn’t die like this! The water stopped as she bolted for the door. “Amina!” She heard ring behind her. Pushing forward, not stopping was her only chance to make it out alive. The bitter ground was freezing with the first snow. Branches and twigs snapped and bit into the soles of her feet, cold air stung her lungs as she rapidly inhaled, and she stubbed her toes on a snow covered rock. Amina didn’t know how far she ran or if she was free from his clutches, but she wouldn’t let the elements consume her.
It was twilight when she reached the road, her feet were numb and just beginning to turn a bluish purple. Shivering, Amina kept walking until something looked familiar to her. She made a mad dash from the road every time she heard a car at a distance, approach from behind. Luckily, it was a caravan loaded with three adolescents and what she expected to be their parents commanding the car. Popping from behind coverage, she waved her arms and screamed as loud as her lungs would allow. They must have heard her because she saw rear lights flash red. The woman climbed out staring back at her in horror. That was all she remembered until her world went dark.
Shooting straight up in bed, Amina pulled at her throat gasping for air. Her heart was racing like a V6 engine. Sweat beaded her upper lip and forehead and she felt too weak to move from the spot in her bed. Listlessly she fell on her back and curled into a ball unable to stop her body for jerking. Crying herself to sleep was terrifying, she didn’t want to dream of that nightmare anymore. It happened year after year when the weather turned cold. It was if her body knew, remembered in a way she couldn’t understand. The past would creep up on her without warning and gave her no reprieve until spring returned once again.
She hated she could no longer enjoy the winter wonderland that fell over Burlington. Painful sounds of snapping twigs, the crunch of snow under her bare feet, and wind that lashed her through, like a rebellious child its punishment, kept replaying in her ear, driving her to the brink of insanity. Up until five years ago, she spent time at the family estate with her family observing Thanksgiving and Christmas, sometimes New Year’s Eve. Though she and her siblings were adults, they still made time to dive in piles of leaves or make snow angels and chuck snowballs at each other’s faces. But she’d been stuck in this house, afraid of the outside world, what it could do to her. More importantly, Amina was afraid to leave her house in fear of running into her ex-fiancee.
Becoming a recluse was not how she planned to live the rest of her life. Seeking an asylum and peace introduced her laziness. Never had she ever not bounced back from hardship, but she was so broken not even she could find the pieces to put herself back together. So wanted so much to live again but she didn’t know how because fear held her fast in place. Amina tried many times just to walk out her front door before anxiety took over. Yet she had convinced herself that that was all she could do, that she tried her best, that she had to settle for a life with no further opposition. It sounded good to her chaotic mind at the time, but now she could see it had done her no good in the long run. The ring of the telephone sucked her from her self-pity as she reached over and pushed Talk.
“Amina, this is James.”
Her breath hitched before replying, “How’d you get my number?”
“I asked your father for it. I’m outside your house. I brought you lunch.” Looking over at her clock on the nightstand, it was indeed noon. Her day was wasting away the more fear controlled her psychological state.
“I told you not to stop by anymore.”
“And I clearly stated I’d be ignoring your request.”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“I told you, I’m curious about you. That isn’t a crime, it’s human.”
“I know you’re up to something. You’re waiting for me to let you in so you can take advantage of me.” Amina accused.
There was a pregnant pause on the other end and had she not heard the scatter of leaves, she would have thought he hung up on her. “If I’m reading this right, you’ve just labeled me a rapist. Amina, I’m not at all fond of that title. Don’t ever allude to such a thing when I’m involved. I’m not perfect, but my character isn’t that morally corrupt.”
“I don’t know that. For all I know, you could be a psycho.”
“If I was any of those things you’re accusing me of, do you think I’d let a door or glass stand in the way of getting what I want?” She hadn’t thought about that, he could have easily picked the lock or busted her windows to gain access to her. Anyone could have. “I’ll leave your food by the door.” The phone disconnected and she was left staring in unbelief. He’d hung up on her! Adrenaline surged through her body, shooting her from the bed through the living room and at the front door. She’d flung the door open wide and pointed her finger at him.
“Don’t you dare hang up on me,” Amina shouted. Her nostrils flared and lips tightened. James turned around, caught off guard. Staring back at her, a little tickle rubbed at his throat.
“You heard me. Where are your manners?”
“My manners? You called me a rapist and you expect me to like it?”
“I didn’t call you a rapist, you jumped to that conclusion yourself.” Before he could stop himself, his feet carried him closer to the house and face to face with his lovely accuser. She hadn’t shied away from him. Interesting.
“Let me help put your mind at ease. I have never nor will I ever abuse a woman for my own selfish needs. And I definitely wouldn’t lay a finger on you.”
“What are you trying to say, my appearance doesn’t meet your approval?” Amina asked insulted.
“Now look who’s jumping to conclusions. You’re a piece of work, you know that? You can give it but can’t take it.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. So, take your insults and leftovers back with you!”
“This is freshly made might I add. I left my shop to have lunch with you and you give me attitude? Where are your manners?”
“You…” she pointed a frustrated index finger at him. Amina couldn’t find the right words to combat his cavalier smile. Her blood was boiling just thinking about all the ways she could pay him up for his insolence until his eyes turned into a soft turquoise ocean.
“Have lunch with me if it’s not asking too much.” A dumbstruck look plastered over her face and she didn’t know what to do.
“I won’t force you Amina. Maybe next time, hmm?” Snatching the plastic container from his hands, she pulled the screen shut and secured it.
“You stay on that side and eat.” He was relegated to eat outside in the cold while she was surrounded in warmth. He sighed but thought this was progress, one inch at a time. Funny, they just had their first argument. Again, he absentmindedly thought of them as an item, he had to stop doing that. James stared through the screen at her as she did him, neither made a move, yet there was a stirring in his soul. All it took was gazing into her large almond, deep brown eyes to turn his insides to mush.
Had he no spine?
She had a doe-like innocence to her, skittish, but innocent nonetheless, and darn it all, he was partial to their beauty. It was the southern boy in him that respected all things wild; never did he try to tame them, including women. The more Amina was provoked, albeit, accidently, she lit up like fourth of July fireworks. As much as he wanted to deny it, he took pleasure getting her all riled up.
“You’re leaving me to stand while I eat?”
After finding her voice, she replied, “There’s a chair on the porch…” James went over and pulled the chair in front of the door and sat down.
“Sure you won’t come out and enjoy the cold weather with me?” he prodded.
“Can’t or won’t?”
“I said I can’t alright?”
Amina disappeared from his sight for a spell but returned with a chair of her own. “I’m not a princess.”
“No? The Moorehouse’s are a cut above the rest. Everything they wear is expensive, cars, expensive, even the pool is Olympic sized. And what’s so good about caviar?”
A ghost of a smile pulled at her lips then disappeared. “Aren’t you supposed to be eating, your lunch break will be over soon?”
“I’m the boss. I can stay out as long as I please.” He was waiting for the inevitable question that always came and the usual response, disdain.
“What’s your occupation?”
“I’m a cobbler..hmm, a more archaic term would be cordwainer.”
“You like wordplay I see.”
“I do. When it suits me.”
“I thought handmade shoes went extinct like the dinosaurs.”
“You’re right, the trade almost has no life to it at all. That’s why I wanted to do my part and revive as much as I could.”
Not what he was expecting at all. “You don’t have an opinion about my job?”
“No. A jobs a job.”
“Is that so?”
“Look, just because I grew up on a lavish estate doesn’t make me stuck-up. You’ve judged me unfairly.”
“Well then, make me a pair of shoes. I should be able to afford them.”
“That would require measurements, I’d have to personally do it, that and the fact I don’t do deliveries.”
“You can’t make an exception?”
“Your privilege is talking.” he chuckled.
“That’s not funny. I’m not who you think I am.”
“Tell me then, who do you think I think you are?”
“Selfish, rude, spoiled, and most of all, crazy.”
“No Amina, I don’t think you’re crazy. You are a little rude, though, with the name calling, that’s below the belt. But I forgive you…this time.” A bold smile broke out over her face, pearly white teeth and all she treated him to. When he recoiled, not out of disgust, but shock, she retreated back within herself and looked away. “I have to go.”
James stood to his feet dragging the chair back to its rightful place leaving her wondering what just happened. A small lump formed in her throat as she tried to swallow it down. She watched him hightail it back to his truck and drive off. Amina’s eyes stung at the absurd pang she felt in her heart. Why should she shed a tear when he was nobody to her?
If he were a swearing man, he’d call himself all kinds of names and deservedly so. He probably left Amina thinking and feeling she was ten ways of ugly. That wasn’t it at all. First, her beautiful eyes left him weak and thank God he was sitting down when she flashed her perfect pearly whites or he would have ended up on his backside. But when she smiled, my goodness what he wouldn’t do to have his lips on hers. He knew he shouldn’t be thinking about her in this way but come on, what was he to do when she made him feel again? Amina was more dangerous by the second whether he saw her or not. She was the first person he thought of when we woke up and the last person he wanted to see.
Love was happened to him again, and he was helpless to stop it. If Amina had been anything like her sister, she would’ve been easy to handle. He couldn’t deny she was like home to him, how he didn’t know. But she possessed something indescribable no other woman could hook him in with. His southern ways told him to look but don’t touch but the primal side of him told him to go all the way without stopping. It was fair to say the gentleman in him was going to be tested, repeatedly. James was not looking forward to all those cold showers he’d be forced to take, like the one he was going to have just as soon as he got home.
Next chapter here, Rocking the Boat