Rocking the Boat

Come into the Light

James’s Timex beeped, waking him from his slumber. Normally he was a very early riser but after Amina kept waking up screaming, he’d fallen to sleep later than usual. Thankfully, her nightmares came to a close at midnight. He’d lain beside her with an arm wrapped around her waist, pulled snug into his body, while his nose was buried in Amina’s hair which smelled like Christmas morning spiced apple cider.

It wasn’t quite six yet, but he carefully left the bed to sate a hunger pang in the pit of his stomach. There also was the concern James didn’t want Amina to roll over and be startled by his presence. He could lose an eye or get a broken nose that way. On the way out, he quietly closed the door behind him and stalked down the dark hallway into the kitchen. He had a taste for coffee though he rarely indulged in it. Scouting her cabinets, he spotted a bag of coffee beans and the grinder nestled in the corner. Sitting the items on the counter, he snatched up a few eggs, asparagus, diced ham, a couple of cherry tomatoes and salt and pepper. James preheated the oven and began cracking eggs one by one for a medium sized frittata.

He poured the egg mixture in a cast iron skillet and shoved it in the oven then turned his attention to grinding some coffee beans. Luckily, he found a lone filter and added the grounds. As he began filling the reservoir, he thought he heard a noise come from outside the house. Walking over, he lifted the curtain and scanned the yard. Not satisfied, he unlocked the door and stepped out onto the porch, looking around for any sign of movement. All that he saw was a cat climbing down from a chair tipping his way. He was an animal lover but wasn’t fond of the way it put a hump in its back as it brushed up against his leg. Still, it was better than the trespasser Amina said she’d seen the night before.

James ran his fingers over the cat’s head before heading back inside. Locking up behind him, he put the pot on the heating plate and switched on the machine. Resting at the table, he looked at empty walls. No one would have known she had a family because there weren’t any pictures hanging up, or set in a small frame on her nightstand. Her home didn’t give any insight to her personality, but it was peaceful. It was about that time again for him to take off in his boat, to get away from work for a while and he wanted Amina to accompany him. Though he’d made progress, getting her out of the house was a whole other challenge by itself.

He’d been lost in thought when the combined aroma of coffee and a hot frittata assaulted his nose. After washing his hands, he pulled a mitt from a drawer and retrieved the skillet from the oven and set it on the stove. As he was pulling two mugs down, he felt a pair of eyes on him.

“Morning. Did I wake you?”

“No. I smelled the fresh brew.”

“There’s a frittata too. Are you normally up this early?”

“Sometimes.”

“Well, pull up a chair while I grate an unhealthy amount of cheese on this egg dish.” Amina complied, watching him move effortlessly around her kitchen. A warm, easy smile spread across her face as she tucked her head into her hand. Once upon a time she wanted this, for her husband to cook breakfast for her and talk about useless stuff, just to hear his voice. Instead, there was some strange man in her kitchen and surprisingly, she hadn’t minded. James walked back to the table with a large plate he slid the frittata on and went back for their mugs. “Ready to dig in?” Amina nodded as she picked up her fork.

“So, you’re a chef as well?”

“Not in the least.”

“You’re being modest.”

“Doesn’t take much to put together a simple dish like this.”

“What do you have planned today?”

“Work.”

“Oh.”

“I’m coming back, though.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Sure I do. And there’s something I want to ask you, have you ever been on a boat?”

“No, but I’ve wanted to, before…this.

“Would you consider accompanying me? I own a boat. It’s docked at the marina. We can go whenever you’re ready.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“I won’t force you but if you decide not to, I’d hate to leave you behind. I normally go around this time of the year, before winter sets in.”

“Well, I’ll think about it.”

“That’s a start.” he smiled back at her.

“So, when’s the last time you spoke to my dad?”

“Not long ago, why?”

“Just asking. You’re very close to my family.”

“It would seem that way, but I’m not. With your father, yes, but your siblings and mother, not so much.”

“Really? I’m surprised Chaunice hasn’t dug her talons into you. Any man she wants, she gets.”

“She’s tried and I’m not interested.”

“Haha. Chaunice doesn’t take no for an answer. Watch your back and front as well, if that’s possible.”

“I’m very familiar with women like her.”

“And that means what in the grand scheme of things?”

“She’s not my type, besides, I have both my eyes on someone else.”

“Oh…well good for her.”

“We’ll see how good.”

“Tell me something personal about you.”

“Will you reciprocate?”

“Why do you always turn things back on me?”

“Share and share alike.” he laughed.

“Well, I hated growing up Moorehouse.”

“Really, why?”

“The burden of perfection and success was placed on our shoulders at an early age. My brother and sister fit right in with that false image. Me, not at all. Whenever we were forced to attend a function, I was the one who always stuck out. I was restless and my manners were always in question. I loathed the persona that automatically came with being associated with money. It was just a stifling life. My mom finally cut me out of her will, took her ages to do so.”

“So you wanted to be axed from her will?”

“Absolutely! I rejected as much as I could from her, including her money. I embarrassed the family name, so she blotted me out. Good riddance I say.”

“What did you do?”

“Stopped showing up to family and business functions, rejected high powered attorney’s sons. Those men couldn’t stand apart from their parents and did everything they were told. I didn’t want a man who couldn’t be his own person. So that ruffled some feathers. Let’s see, what else? Ah, yes, I stood up for myself in the presence of a judge my mother has known since childhood. He was rude and arrogant, not to mention, sexist. He had the nerve to say women should be barefoot and pregnant. Such archaic thinking!”

“That’s all? That’s all it took for you to get axed?”

“Well, those things and there’s the fact that I’m not longer with my fiancee.”

“You were going to get married?”

“Yeah, my mother set me up with him. Men swarmed around Chaunice and I was an afterthought, well, not a thought at all. She’s everything I’m not.”

“And what might that be?”

“Sophisticated, drop dead gorgeous and rich, not to mention well mannered. I suppose I was a rebel, I liked trying new things, taking risks. Chaunice doesn’t veer off the beaten path and it seems to work for her, she’s predictable that way.”

“Don’t put yourself down or compare yourself to your sister. People who never take chances are boring and too predictable. You’re beautiful, much more than your sister and I’d choose you every single time.”

“Don’t say what you don’t mean.”

“I meant what I said, and what exactly do you think of yourself?”

“I’m not blind, I know I’m not aesthetically pleasing when compared against Chaunice..”

“Your sister isn’t some Greek goddess and not all men fall over themselves to get a crack at her. I’m sure you know as well as I, men aren’t exactly interested in her as it is what she represents.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do. Who do you think she’s woken up beside this morning? Or any morning over the last five years?”

“Chaunice isn’t fond of letting men into her palace, she stays out to play if she’s going to sample the goods so to speak.”

“Exactly. She’s waking up to no one and I think there’s something wrong with using a man for the intention of sex and sex only.”

“Men treat women like that all the time.”

“Still doesn’t make it right. Would you deceive me in that way?”

“We aren’t in a relationship.”

“Answer the question.”

“Why are you getting so hot under the collar?”

“Still, answer the question Amina.”

“Seriously? I may be a recluse but I don’t use men and throw them away.”

“Yes or no?”

“No. I wouldn’t deceive you for the purpose of using you for sex! Relax already.”

“Good. That’s all I wanted to hear.” Amina pushed back from the table, with her mug in hand, jetted back to her room and shut the door. James mentally chided himself, his ex-wife’s deeds still ate away at him and he unintentionally took it out on Amina. Taking the empty plate and cold coffee to the sink, he washed the plate and dumped the cold contents. Pouring himself another cup, he walked back to Amina and stood outside her door and knocked.

“What?”

“I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

Amina charged at the door and shouted, “You should be. What kind of woman do you take for me, huh?”

“This conversation would be best, face to face don’t you think?”

“I don’t want to see your face.” A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he went in for a sip of coffee.

“Amina, open the door.”

“Don’t sound like that.”

“Like what?”

“You know.”

“I don’t. Tell me.”

“Forget I said anything.”

“Will you let me in?” Silence filled his ears waiting for her response. When he didn’t get one, he sighed and bent down and settle his back against the door. “I was married once. I thought I’d found the right woman, turns out I was wrong. I worked for corporate America making a lot of money, but I was miserable getting up everyone morning slaving day and night for something I despised so much. I took the high paying job for her, so she could be comfortable. I didn’t want her to lack for anything. I was her husband, I was supposed to take care of my wife. I just couldn’t stay on that job, I would’ve rather slit my throat. When I gave up that job, she left. Last I heard she was with some media mogul.” Amina opened the door and James fell on his back with the mug held straight in the air.

“So she used you.”

“Warn me next time you open the door and I have hot liquid in my mug.”

“So, you think woman are vipers.” he stated ignoring his request.

“I wouldn’t say that.” He lay looking up at her, the mug still in his hand.”

“Well, what would say?”

“Like I said before, I know women like your sister. These type of women aren’t good for any man. Nothing ever satisfies them and I found out the hard way. Been single ever since.”

“I’m not that way.”

“So you’ve said.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I, and I believe you. I apologize for being pushy. Will you forgive me?”

“I don’t know. I’m hurt right now.” Amina couldn’t hold back her smile and neither could James. He sat up and got to his feet and embraced her.

“You’re not going to hit me?”

“No.”

“Good. I do have a suggestion, though.”

“What is it?”

“Perhaps you said open your curtains to let some light in.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No. I like things the way they are.”

“Let the light in. You let me in.”

“Barely.”

“The light exposes the dark, come into the light Carol Anne.”

“That’s not funny.”

“Yet a smile just crawled over your face. Let’s start with just one curtain, the one in the front room.”

“James…”

“Amina…” he countered. “We’re supposed to go boating, remember? You have to get used to the light before you actually leave the house.”

“I never agreed to join you, I said I’d think about it.”

“Same difference.”

“You’re pushy.”

“You force me to be. I want you on my boat and I’ll stop at nothing to achieve that goal.” James grabbed her hand, leading her into the front room. She stood a few feet away while he went for one one of the curtains. “The sun is fighting its way through the clouds, come look.”

“No thanks.”

“Come on.” He went over, stood behind her, gently guiding her to the window. Her whole body was tense and he was sorry forcing her to take another step, but it had to be done. Amina finally stood in front of the blanketed window, heart kicking in her throat, ready to bolt at any hint of danger. “Ready?”

“That’s a stupid question to ask.” James expected her retort to be a little bitter, but he’d live on just fine. Slowly he pulled open the curtain with both hands then secured them and felt her step back, bumping into him.

“See, you didn’t die.”

“Shut up. I’m doing everything I can, not to run.”

“I’m here. Nothing is going to happen to you.”  Wrapping his arms around her waist, James pulled her in close hoping to ease her apprehensions. Amina’s breathing slowed as she felt the warmth and comfort of his body. Nothing could hurt her when he was this close. Feeling relaxed, she shut her eyes and rested in how easy it was just to be in this moment. She didn’t know how long they stood there but when he released her, she felt so cold and wide open.

“Where are you going?”

“I need to go home, shower and get changed for work. I’m giving you one week to prepare yourself to leave this house. We’re simply going to go out like normal people and eventually we’re getting on my boat. So one week it is.”

“I won’t see you for a week?” Amina started to panic.

“That’s right and in that time I expect you to miss me. See you soon, Amina.” James exited her home and she watched him through the window get into his car vehicle and drive away. How could he just leave her like that after seamlessly tearing down her walls, making her feel protected? A frown crawled over her face as she ripped her curtains shut again.

Next part here, Rocking the Boat

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