Battered Bonds of Love
The alarm clock’s music filled the room at 4am and Liz reached over to shut it off. She was tired. As the years passed she grew more and more tired. She was 52 years old, a little heavier, a little softer, a little more mellow…and yes, a little more tired. She stood, tugging at the sheets and quilt as she made the bed. She would strip them this weekend and do the laundry. Same as every Saturday. She glanced around the darkened room, admiring the mahogany chest and dresser with the large oval-shaped mirror, the 35 inch television, the gold and purple paisley sofa and chair against the far wall, and the large oval-shaped gold rug. She hadn’t a clue how to decorate the room when she moved into it a few years ago. Her daughter had helped. Gia, her youngest child. The only child that visited. The only child that called. The only child that accompanied her to the hospital last year when he broke her wrist for the third time. She sighed, annoyed at the thought. She didn’t have time to think about this right now.
Gia was still on her mind as she showered and then donned a pink blouse and charcoal gray double-breasted suit. She frowned into the full-length mirror. What happened to the five-foot-five-inch, size eight beauty who used to greet her in the morning? Well, after two kids, a size 12 wasn’t too bad. She still looked good for 52. She slipped into a pair of gray leather pumps, admiring the power suit. It looked good on her. It made her feel confident.
Gia had been a surprise during the episode last year. Actually, she was a surprise in general. She had been such a quiet child, one who’d never performed well in school. Now, she was working on her PhD in Physics and had moved from the Bronx to Virginia. She owned a one bedroom condominium there with her 32-year old “friend,” Bobbi. Liz smiled, shaking her head. One day her 27-year-old daughter would “come out of the closet.” One day. But she wouldn’t push. Of course she wished her daughter were straight. What parent wouldn’t? But Gia was doing so well. Bobbi was good for her. And Gia smiled a lot more now.
Liz sighed. She was proud of both her children. The oldest, Paul, was a mechanic. He owned his own shop in Los Angeles. He wasn’t married, but she didn’t blame him for that. She hadn’t seen him in three years. She didn’t blame him for that either. What could she say? Both of her children were convinced she should have divorced their father long ago. That she should not have stayed with him for their sake. She never knew how to make them understand. If she’d left, she would have had nothing. Nothing. So, if she had to deal with chipped teeth, broken limbs, and a multitude of bruises periodically, so be it. As long as he never hit the children.
She shook her head, wondering why she seemed stuck on such thoughts today. She had to get her head on straight. Otherwise those 6 year olds would eat her alive. She applied lipstick and mascara quickly, admiring the caramel face returning her gaze in the mirror. She brushed the dark curls, peppered with white strands, remembering when the thick, dark mane used to hang midway down her back. She loved the shorter cut Gia had encouraged her to get. It was less maintenance. She returned the hairbrush to the dresser top, examining her reflection one last time. She’d always been an attractive woman. Wide, bright eyes with pupils so dark they looked black, arched brows, full lips, dimples when she smiled. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Okay, she was ready for those first graders.
She grabbed a matching gray leather purse and her black briefcase, closing the front door quietly behind her. She was always careful not to wake him. He became enraged when she woke him and she didn’t want to fight this morning. He’d insisted on taking the bedroom closer to the front door in their one-story home. He claimed he wanted to protect her should anyone break in. Her bedroom was closer to the kitchen, which housed the back door. A prowler would probably break in the back door, unless the prowler was an idiot. Their front door faced a number of other homes. And in this upper middle-class, predominantly white area of the Bronx the police rode by several times during the late hours. The back yard faced a neatly manicured, fenced in quarter acre of lush, green lawn. Of course a criminal would enter through the back. But she hadn’t felt like fighting with him about it.
She thought the real reason he wanted his bedroom closer to the front door was to monitor her comings and goings. Especially after she insisted on sitting for the teacher’s certification exam, taking a job at a private elementary school in Manhattan and moving out of the master bedroom. He was retired now and hated being home alone. He thought she’d be home to “entertain” him. That fantasy had been destroyed a few years ago. She’d insisted on going to work…and for that she had been confined to the house for two weeks. She told Gia she’d slipped. Would that cause a canlı bahis black eye? She didn’t know anymore. What did it matter? Gia knew she was lying.
She glanced at her watch as she walked past their parked Honda Accord. 5:15am. Right on time. She took a deep breath. She loved this time of the year. It was mid May, a nice time in New York. Cool weather, chirping birds, only a few people on the street at this early hour. She held onto her briefcase, brushing a strand of hair from her forehead. The private school’s faculty shuttle would be along soon. Her heartbeat increased just a little at the thought.
She loved her job. She’d waited long enough to do it. And she was good at it, or so she was told by her principal. The kids adored her, she got along well with her fellow faculty members, and the parents had nothing but good things to say about her. Her principal was already trying to fast track her into an administrative position. He even offered to pay for her schooling if she went back for her Master’s degree. But she knew Peter would not allow her to return to school. So, she’d have to be content with teaching.
But her love for the job was not the only reason she was so excited this morning. The real reason she looked forward to leaving her house so early in the morning was the shuttle ride. Or, more specifically, the driver.
She was 18 when she married Peter and it wasn’t until years later that she realized her attraction to women. Peter had accused her of being a bulldagger long before she understood her feelings. She’d sworn to him that she was not. She still didn’t consider herself one. She just loved women. Loved the way they smelled, the sway of their hips, the swell of their breasts, the shape of their calves, the curve of their buttocks…all shapes, all sizes, all shades of brown. They were…absolutely titillating.
She’d never done anything about her desires of course. She was a married woman after all, and from a different era. Everyone had expected her to marry young and have children. So she had. The option of living a gay life hadn’t been available to her. And now? It didn’t make sense to leave her husband after thirty-four years of marriage. Well, to be honest, at this point Peter probably wouldn’t let her leave…
The shuttle rolled to a stop in front of her home. It was a nice comfortable bus with wide, plush, burgundy seats and the school’s name scrawled across the side in bright colors. The bus was one of five that catered to the faculty members who lived in the “other” boroughs. Peter had never cared for Manhattan and had bought their home in the Bronx at a steal while the area was still “up and coming.” The neighborhood board wanted a professional black couple to “balance” the area out. She found out later they needed a black couple in the area to qualify for a development grant. She didn’t really care. She didn’t like the fact that her kids were some of the only black children at the local schools, but they had a nice home and the schools were excellent. At the time, her children were all that mattered to her. She sighed impatiently, shrugging off the disturbing thoughts once again, anxiously waiting to board the shuttle.
The driver opened the shuttle doors and smiled. Immediately Liz’s heart began to race in her chest. This was the reason she left her home early every weekday morning…Terri (Theresa actually, but she preferred Terri). Every morning, when the doors of the shuttle opened, and Terri smiled at her, she could barely stop her heart from leaping from her chest. She and Terri had a standing breakfast date.
Terri stood, as she did for no other passenger and extended a hand to help Liz on board. Liz smiled, trying to calm her erratic heartbeat. To her, Terri was enough of a reason to leave her home an hour and a half early every morning. Enough of a reason to risk angering Peter. Terri was 41 years old, five feet nine inches tall with dark chocolate skin, a dazzling white smile, and mysteriously haunting blue-gray eyes. A gift from her great-great-grandmother, she claimed. According to Terri, her great-great-grandmother, a slave, had been raped. Her master had the same blue-gray eyes.
Terri was a broad woman with squared shoulders, a narrow waist, slim hips, and a flat stomach. She was a stark contrast to Liz’s curvaceous figure. Liz knew she had driven the school’s children’s bus for two years, applying for her current position when the driver of a faculty shuttle retired. They’d met about a year ago when Liz was forced to ride the shuttle because of her broken wrist. She’d been riding the shuttle ever since.
Liz was Terri’s first stop in the morning and the two, after a while, found themselves chatting quite amicably. Months later, Terri shocked Liz by inviting her out to dinner. Liz remembered the invitation as if happened yesterday. The school day was over and Terri was returning faculty members to their doorsteps. Liz was her last stop. Once Claire, who bahis siteleri lived about fifteen minutes from Liz, waved goodbye and disappeared into her backdoor, Terri pulled off, heading for Liz’s house. Liz noticed Terri had been unusually quiet that day and it disappointed her. She always looked forward to their talks at the end of the day. She typically rattled on about her students while Terri listened. But that day Terri simply stared out of the large windshield into traffic. When they pulled up to Liz’s home, Liz noticed the Honda was gone. That meant Peter wasn’t home. She was glad she could take a moment.
“You’re very quiet today,” she began softly.
Liz waited a moment, “did I offend you in some way?”
When Terri turned to her, Liz was taken back. As naïve as she was, even she recognized something raw in those mesmerizing blue-gray eyes. She could feel her body respond against her will and the rush of intense feelings confused her. Suddenly very uncomfortable, she stood to leave, but Terri also stood, blocking her escape. They were standing very close…too close. Liz could feel the warmth radiating from Terri’s form, could smell Terri’s cologne. She was afraid to look up into those eyes, afraid of what she might see…afraid of what her own face revealed.
Liz watched in a trembling silence as Terri reached out and softly, tenderly, stroked her cheek. It was the first contact between them. Liz heard a sigh, she didn’t know if it came from her or Terri. She only knew her body was betraying her, consumed by an unfamiliar heat, an almost physical ache. She took a deep breath. This could not be happening. Not here, not now. She stepped back, but not before Terri’s lips tenderly brushed her forehead. The touch of her lips seared Liz’s skin and she felt goose bumps rise on her flesh. When Terri spoke, her voice was a warm, raspy caress against Liz’s cheek.
“Have dinner with me,” Terri demanded softly.
Liz closed her eyes, taking another deep breath. “I—…I—” she couldn’t form the words. She couldn’t possibly dine with this woman. Not if her body responded like this when the woman simply looked at her, simply touched her cheek.
She tried to speak again, after taking in another deep breath, but couldn’t form the words. Eventually she strangled out a suggestion for breakfast instead. Just one breakfast, she promised herself. Breakfast was safe. It would take place during daylight for goodness sake. And surely she could keep her emotions in check for one breakfast meeting, couldn’t she?
When she glanced up into the depths of those blue-gray eyes, she was rewarded by Terri’s intoxicating smile. She found herself wondering why the smile of this woman, this bus driver, made her blood boil. She didn’t allow herself to dwell on the thought for long. Instead, she hurried from the bus, fumbling for her keys and quickly bolting the front door behind her. She ran to her bedroom, making certain the shower’s water was cool enough to soothe her heated flesh. She had to get her pulse back to normal before her all too observant husband came home.
They had breakfast every day of every week after that, unless school was out of session. And Liz tried to bury the feelings awakened that night. She didn’t understand why her heart pounded wildly when she saw Terri. She didn’t understand why she dreamt of this woman’s hands caressing her, the feel of that tongue burning a path from her lips to her neck and down toward her…she didn’t make much of an effort to understand any of it. She simply ate breakfast with Terri as often as possible and tried hard not to enjoy their time together too much.
Liz took her seat on the shuttle, the same seat she occupied every morning, the seat that allowed her the best view of Terri. When Terri told her she looked beautiful, Liz blushed, trying not to read anything into the compliment. And she forced herself to ignore that pervasive look of hunger in Terri’s eyes.
“How did you sleep?” Terri asked, her husky voice sending a chill down Liz’s spine. Liz smiled, she asked that same question every morning. “I slept well. Thank you.” It was a necessary lie. Liz could never tell her of the erotic dreams that usually plagued her. “You?”
“Dreamt all night…didn’t get much sleep.”
Liz wanted to ask what she dreamt about, but thought better of it. She played with the latch on her briefcase instead. Jesus, it would be nice if her heart would just slow down a little. She was going to have a heart attack at this rate. She swallowed. “Breakfast” with Terri was getting harder and harder as her dreams about this woman became more and more erotic.
They were quiet as Terri drove toward the diner they frequented, finally pulling into the parking lot. Terri stepped from the vehicle first, extending a hand to Liz. She held Liz’s chair once they were inside, sitting across the table from her. Bea, their regular waitress, was there almost bahis şirketleri immediately.
Liz smiled, “hey Bea, coffee and the usual please.”
“Ditto.” Terri echoed.
Liz could feel Terri watching her from across the table. Terri had shared on numerous occasions that she thought Liz was a beautiful woman. Although Liz thought her looks were fading, Terri assured her they weren’t. She was heavier now, but as she watched Terri take in the curves of her hips and the swell of her breasts as if they were down right delicious, she couldn’t help but feel good about herself. Terri always made a point to tell her that her face was beautifully etched with laugh lines and that her smile could light up an entire city block. And she blushed every time Terri mentioned her legs, insisting they turned the heads of both men and women alike. Liz had been a track star in high school and knew she had nice legs. She hid them most of the time, but June was approaching and sometimes she wore a skirt above the knee and she would enjoy watching Terri shift uncomfortably behind the steering wheel when she occasionally caught a glimpse of a garter and stockings.
She shook her head, she’d missed Terri’s comment. “Sorry, I was daydreaming. What?”
“I said you look beautiful this morning.”
Liz smiled, pleasantly embarrassed. Terri reached over to cover Liz’s hand with her own. This was the only time of day Liz would allow Terri to touch her. Bea brought their food and Terri sipped at her coffee, watching Liz go through her daily preparations before she ate. She wiped the silverware free of water spots, then rearranged the place setting as if she was sitting at a formal dinner. She bowed her head and said a quick prayer, then picked up her fork and began with her over easy, lightly salted eggs. Terri chuckled, it was the same each time they met. Liz looked up, her eyes filled with humor. Terri had teased her about this before.
“Oh shut up,” she laughed. Liz ate her eggs, played with her bacon (she never finished the bacon), and nibbled at a piece of toast. She had a few sips of coffee and was then ready to leave. She realized Terri had sat back to watch her eat yet again. Terri rarely ate the bagel she ordered in the mornings. In fact, she seemed more than satisfied just watching Liz.
Liz stood in front of her home at 5:15 the next morning, waiting patiently for the shuttle. She’d selected a black knit dress and wrapped a bright red print scarf around her shapely hips. Her short hair framed her face in an ebony and gray cloud that barely brushed her shoulders. She felt good and hoped Terri liked what she saw. Then she quickly chastised herself for the thought.
She was glad it was Wednesday, the middle of the week. Her students had a project due today. A collage. Their assignment was to find four pictures in a magazine that reminded them of their families. They then had to write a sentence about each picture, explaining why they chose it. She was looking forward to the presentations. Some of them spent so much time on their work, she knew she would be pleased. Yesterday, she had helped two students put the finishing touches on their collages. The only two black students in her class. She had to wrestle with herself frequently about the special attention she rained on them. It presented a problem for her only because it was evident to her principal when he observed her class. She discussed the matter with him often. They were two of the eight black children in a private school of 500 students. They needed special attention, she insisted, or they would never make it. He agreed, but continually asked her to make that “special attention” less obvious. It was an almost impossible task for her.
She glanced at her watch. It was chilly this morning and the shuttle was a few minutes late. Ah, there it was.
Her heart stopped. She’d been so preoccupied she hadn’t heard the front door open. She turned, flustered.
“Peter…I’m just waiting for the shuttle.”
She watched Peter look her over and grew anxious as his face clouded over. He was a very attractive man, light-skinned with a squared jaw, sultry brown eyes, long dark lashes, and black hair peppered heavily with gray. He was tall, over six feet, and rather muscular. He had always spent a lot of time at the gym, but he went almost every day now. Probably to stave off boredom, Liz had surmised. Recently, he had taken to watching her more closely, accusing her of having an affair. Why else would she leave at the crack of dawn and return after dark most days, he asked. She smiled more often, took more time with her appearance…all the telltale signs according to him. They had fought about it. He demanded she allow him to drive her to work and pick her up, she refused. She won…sort of. The bruise on her thigh had healed rather quickly. It was only a few kicks that time, not too bad.
“It’s 5am, what kind of school expects you to get there so early?” He growled. She was silent, taking a few steps back as he approached her. She didn’t want to fight this morning…and Terri was pulling up to the house.