The first day was torture, the second wasn’t any better, and by the end of the week, he was wrecked. James felt like a lovestruck teenager again, staring up at his ceiling, tossing and turning missing the essence of Amina. He had it bad and there was nothing he could do to change his feelings. It was true, she hadn’t seen him for a week, but it didn’t stop him from driving past her home just to scout out the area. When he was working, he submitted his will and focus was razor-sharp in order to keep his mind from wandering to Amina. He was mentally exhausted and sexually frustrated, something had to give and quick.
James didn’t just want Amina for her body, he wanted all of her, good, bad and ugly. His life had been so easy without a woman, without urges he had to subdue. No matter how cool his exterior seemed, inside he struggled to keep his control in check. He hated seeing Amina collapse in a puddle of fear and as much as he tried to help, somehow his hands were tied. He had to wait on Amina to decide. He wanted to hand over everything he owned to her. James knew he could trust her, no matter what.
He should have resolved any residual feelings about his ex and let them be dust in the wind. Yet every time he ran into women like Chaunice, bitter memories, and emotions bubbled to the surface. James understood all women weren’t vipers or gold diggers just by being around Amina. She made him hope again when he promised himself he wouldn’t. Maybe there was a chance to build the family he knew he wanted and needed.
Tonight he could finally see Amina and hope she made up her mind to leave with him. It was getting more frigid by the day and he wanted to spend as much time out on the water with her as possible. Before long, he found himself knocking on her door in anticipation. When she opened the door it was like he was seeing her again for the first time. A broad smile broke over his face and God help him, he couldn’t have controlled it even if he tried. But she stood on the other side, staring back at him with an unreadable expression.
“Not happy to see me?” Amina stepped back from the entrance, and into the living room. James shut the door behind him wondering what had happened while he was away. “Amina?” When she finally faced him, her lips was twisted in some sort of protest he knew nothing of. Amina walked before him and popped him in the shoulder, burying her face in his chest. Hot tears dampened his sweater as he pulled her into his body.
“Don’t ever leave me like that again,” she commanded. Though he wanted Amina to miss him, it still came as a shock she had and that she’d taken to him so quickly.
“I won’t, I promise. If it makes you feel any better, I missed you like crazy too.”
“I never said I missed you.”
“Aww, come on, you know you did. You assaulted me, and if that doesn’t prove how you feel about me, I don’t know what would.”
“Tell me you missed me.” he urged.
“Let’s go sit down.”
“Tell me you missed me.”
“Admit it and I’ll stop.” he goaded.
“I don’t have to admit anything.” Pushing from his embrace, Amina walked over to the couch and plopped down on the cushion Indian-style. James drug himself over and sat next to her, staring at the side of her face.
“Since you won’t answer me about your missing me, which I know you did, what have you decided on joining me on my boat?”
“Ha! I knew you’d come through.” Amina turned toward him and stared into his eyes. “Don’t, Amina.”
“I haven’t said anything.”
“I know what you’re thinking and I won’t let anything happen to you. Trust me, okay?”
“Yeah.” she lamented unconvincingly.
“I mean it. I closed my shop for two weeks so we can spend some time together. I want your friendship and trust and I’ll do whatever it takes to prove it to you.”
“I’m taking a huge risk opening up to you. I don’t want to end up regretting my choice.”
“You won’t. But there is one thing I’d like to do if you’re up for it.”
“What is it?”
“It’s still early, barely noon. How about we take a walk?”
“Jesus, James! I agreed to accompany you on a boat, now you want me to go take a stroll with you? What more do you want from me?”
“Your whole life.” he answered matter of fact.
“That is crazy.” Amina huffed.
“You’ve constantly cornered me into doing things I don’t want to do.”
“You need to be pushed or you’ll never get out of this abyss you’re in. I want you to live again, to find out who you once were. I know it’s difficult taking the first step toward something that scares you, but it’s possible, especially since I’ll be by your side.”
“Can’t we go tomorrow?”
“Who says we have tomorrow? Shoes on, Ms. Moorehouse.”
“Eck, don’t call me that.”
“Yeah, yeah, shoes on. We’re only walking one block. I’ll be there every step of the way.” While Amina drug her feet, James located her keys and ankle length duster cardigan he’d seen her shrouded in before. “You’re stalling.”
“Don’t rush me.”
“Well, yes sir, ma’am.”
“I guess you were a hot tamale once upon a time.”
“My parents would say so, especially my mom.”
“Why don’t you tell me about her while we walk. Stay beside me.”
Amina’s tongue felt as dry as the Mohave desert for more than one reason. She didn’t know which was worse, this walk that was sure to feel like an eternity or the fact she and her mother didn’t get along. They clashed at every opportunity. It wasn’t that Amina was trying to vindictive or be an embarrassment, but Rania never let her breath. There was a laundry list of things she hadn’t wanted her to do, basic life skills that she almost hadn’t learned had she not bucked against her mother. To Amina’s knowledge, she was always the screw-up according to how her mother treated her. All Amina wanted was to be loved and accepted for who she was, but when you had a mother who constantly tried to change and mold her into the Rania 3.0, acceptance was pretty much non-existent.
James laced his fingers around hers and moved toward the front door. With each step, Amina inhaled deeply and exhale a long stream of air. He exited first and waited for her to step out onto the porch. Amina’s vision doubled and blurred as she fell against the frame before dropping to her knees.
“I don’t want to do this.” she cried.
“You can do this. I’m right beside you, every step of the way. Just breath.” James rolled his thumb under her wet eyes and wiped away her tears. “Whenever you’re ready.” It took a while to compose herself and stand on wobbly legs. With his hands around her waist, he secured her and took things slow, helping her take her first step onto her porch in five years. She jerked back and buried her head in the crook of his shoulder. She didn’t want to see anything or anyone, she wanted darkness to consume her, to go back to her safe space. But of course, James wasn’t having it, he talked her out of running, calmed her out of her hysteria and raining encouraging words over her tortured soul. She stood before him, unable to meet his gaze. Amina was so embarrassed so the only thing she could do was keep her head down.
Turning her around, he settled his hands on her waist and coaxed her forward. He was met with resistance as he pushed her on. The soles of her Mary Jane’s skid over the concrete as he pushed her forward. A car blared past rustling up dry brown leaves in its wake, startling her causing her run into James. She tried climbing over him back to her house was a here three steps away.
“Let me go!”
“No. You’re doing well. You don’t have far to go. Keep at it.” He had to fight her off and set her back on solid ground. She began hyperventilating and started making erratic gestures. Soon enough she was going to black out if he didn’t do something. He knew he pushed her and that this could be the reaction and it hurt him, but it was far better for her to freak out now than another five years down the line. Who knows if she would have made any progress by then. So, James did the only thing he could do in situations like this, tick her off. “Are you going to be afraid all your life? I don’t want a woman who hides, who’s afraid of her own shadow or jumps at the things that go bump in the night. Are you a woman or a little girl?”
“Shut up.” she hissed.
“Why? Is the truth too bitter a pill to swallow?”
“I said shut up! You don’t know what this is like, what my life has become!”
“Then get up and do something about it, for Christ sake. Get off your knees and stand up, or is that too hard for you?” Now he had done it, she was pissed and rushed toward him with nails ready to rip his face off. Ducking, dodging and running had become his best friend. The more she tried to dig her nails into his flesh, the further away her house became until it was a dot. Realization hadn’t struck that she’d cleared three and a half blocks before she gassed out. Heaving in fresh air, her gaze burned into his grinning face.
“What’s so funny?” she puffed out.
“I’m proud of you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Let’s go home.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you. You’re the most inconsiderate bastard I ever met.”
“I won’t take your words to heart. You’re angry right now, as you should be. I haven’t done anything that hasn’t helped you.”
“Helped me? How have you helped me?” she retorted.
“Look around Amina, on your quest to skin me alive, you’re somewhere you haven’t been in a long time had I not pushed you over the edge. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean what I said, I just wanted you to face your fears.” Amina squinted trying to understand what he meant until it dawned on her. Looking around, she was surrounded by barren trees, people standing on their front porch staring at her and a cat that appeared from nowhere brushed up against her leg. Before she yelped to the heavens, James had already gathered her into his arms. “You did well.”
She looked up at him dazed and replied, “I hate you.”
“I know, I deserve it, but you’ll get over it. We’re going to go back and I’ll fix us something to eat, how does that sound?”
“I’m not hungry and I want you to stop touching me.”
“Okay, but how do you plan to get back without me.”
“I can do it by myself.”
“Prove it.” He let her go and stepped back allowing her to take the lead. Watching her was like watching a toddler unsure of her footing and eventually you suspect a tumble would take place. Amina’s clenched her hands so tight, they turned a pale brown but yet she couldn’t lift her leg to take one single step. She could feel eyes burning her through and chatter intensified swirling around her ears. The roof of her mouth felt rough like sandpaper every time she ran her tongue over it. The neighbors probably thought she was a basket case for the sudden shift in her behavior. Here she was standing like a fool after rejecting James’s assistance, her anger and fear made her look completely incompetent and she didn’t want to be either. Amina had no other choice but to accept his help. No sooner than she finished that thought, he wrapped his arms around her waist coaching her through her impediment. “Left foot, right foot.”
Before long she’d made it clear down one block without noticing he had released her. Turning back, she spotted James just a few feet behind, trailing casually with his hands stuffed in his pant pockets. To his surprise, Amina turned around and finished the stretch until she reached her front door. Closing the gap between them, he handed her the key ring and she let them inside. Staggering through the front room into the living space, she sank into the couch and quickly dozed off. For all Amina’s resistance, she did well and soon her fears will be obliterated. His job would be finished, still, he didn’t wouldn’t to let her go, not without a fight. James knew how Charles felt about his daughters, he’d fight tooth and nail for them, especially Amina. Even he knew she was someone special, and hoped in the end, Amina chose to be with him.
She hadn’t had a clue how long she’d been asleep, but she was leaning against something solid. Turning her face up, James looked down at her with a cloudy gaze as she realized she was tucked away safely in the crook of his shoulder. His scent made her feel secure and warm. Sandalwood and leather threatened to take her under for the second time leaving her murmuring something that made his chest rumble.
“What are you laughing at?” she asked drowsily.
“Nothing, sweetheart. How about we watch a little television?”
“I don’t even know if it works.”
“I saw all the dust on it. When was the last time you used it?”
“Hmm, since it’s an old model, say, seven years ago. I don’t know why I kept it.”
“Let me take a look at it.” James dusted off the flat screen with a microfiber towel he found in one of the drawers in the kitchen then plugged it in. When he turned it on a blue screen was staring back at him, so he fiddled a little more until he heard a voice. “Ah, there we go.” Searching around for the remote, he made his way back beside Amina and flicked through the channels.
“I thought I canceled my cable service.”
“Glad you didn’t. But it is a waste of money paying for something you don’t use.”
Amina clucked, “Whatever.”
“I’m just pulling your leg.”
“Give me the remote.”
“Hey, the one who did the work wields the remote.”
“Not in my house. Hand it over squirt.”
“Ha! Squirt? I’m certain I’m older and taller than you, runt.”
“I thought you said you were going to fix us some food.”
“You said you didn’t want it if I remember correctly.”
“Well, I’d like something now.”
“You just want this remote.” he teased.
Amina smirked and asked, “How old are you, anyway?”
“Not even close.” he snorted. Handing her the remote, he earned a bright smile before she turned back to the tube. Carelessly, Amina surfed through the channels until she heard a shot sound bite of a voice she knew she recognized. According to the coverage, there was to be a huge function next Friday and the couple on-screen were hosting it.
“I know those people. I can’t remember their last names but, sometimes they vacation here. I got the opportunity to meet…Nora and Slater…no, no it’s Simon. He’s a funny guy, not what you’d expect from the filthy rich. And Nora’s a sweetheart.”
“So you’re quite fond of them?”
“Though I’ve only met them once, absolutely. They have three children, I’ve met two but the other one is missing.”
“Yeah, I heard he’s not one for fancy outings. There’s not even a picture of him online. He’s a ghost.”
“I suppose you can’t blame him.”
“Mmm hmm. I understand the need for anonymity. But I never did understand why they’d travel all the way from Tennessee to Vermont, there’s not much here. I guess one of the perks for when they get here is to get reacquainted with my family.”
“Your father knows them?”
“Yep. That’s how I met Nora and her husband. Aren’t you supposed to be in the kitchen? I’m starving.”
“Yes ma’am, I’ll get right on it.”
He pushed himself from the couch and scrounged around for something to put together. Cold sandwiches and milk were all that were to be had. He thought it strange that Nora and Simon vacationed here as well, but as long as he didn’t run into them, he’d be fine. Sitting back on the couch, he slid Amina a plate and a glass of milk then flicked the channel to something other than those two people.
“No problem. Let’s eat.”
Next chapter here, Rocking the Boat