Read an Excerpt
Quench My Thirst
By R. MOREEN CLARKE
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 R. Moreen Clarke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Women
Every Sunday, sister-Denise stood in her bedroom facing the standing full-length mirror angled into the corner of the room. She knew when she purchased the mirror it was an extravagance. Its mahogany framed oval mirror accented the mahogany four-poster bed. Off-white folds of silk, which made up the canopy drapes, hung dramatically from the posts. She deserved it, she reasoned. She had worked very hard to become as successful as she was. Currently the top auditor at Miles and Cavish bookkeeping firm, she had started there as an apprentice and worked her way up while going to college full time to get her degree. Denise Jenkins was well respected amongst her peers and clients. A no-nonsense kind of woman, she displayed a very polished and austere presence.
She adjusted the chignon she wore and patted down any stray strands of hair that might dare to escape. Collecting her pale lavender hat from the chaise in the corner of the bedroom, she carefully placed it on her head, making certain to give it just the right tilt. She did a slow pirouette in the mirror as she smoothed the matching lavender suit over her ample hips. Everything was in its proper place. She picked up her purple purse and white leather-bound bible from hernightstand and walked out the door.
Within fifteen minutes she pulled into the parking lot of the Mount Calvary First Baptist Church. Emerging from her white Cadillac Seville, she once again smoothed the skirt of her suit and proceeded to the front of the church.
Mount Calvary boasted a large congregation. So large, in fact, there was a separate satellite feed going into the basement of the church for the congregation members who could not fit inside the church. The basement could hold at least another two hundred people. The church proper sat a good three hundred and fifty congregants. You needed to get to the service at least an hour early in order to ensure you got a seat, and sometimes not even this guaranteed you a seat. This was especially the case on holidays, when the once-a-year worshippers showed up to repent and try to pretend they came every week. They usually showed up late and got stuck in the vestibule trying to peek through the doors because the church and basement were filled up. You could count on seeing them at least on Easter Sunday and Mother's Day, too, because it was only a month later, and they were generally still feeling the Holy Ghost spirit. After that they usually went back to their slacker ways.
Sister Jenkins, as she was called, suffered no patience for slackers. She believed she was the example all should follow. She was there bright and early every Sunday morning for the sunrise service. After which, she taught Sunday school. Every Tuesday and Thursday night you would find her faithfully attending Bible Study. She was a model of Christian womanhood.
"Good morning, Sister Jenkins," a congregant called as she ascended the steps of the church.
"Good Morning to you, Brother James. How's Sister James doing?" she inquired.
"Not so good, Sister Jenkins. She's still ailing pretty badly. Do you think you could stop by this week? She's been asking after you," Mr. James replied as she walked up to him.
"Sure thing, Brother James. Did you put her on the prayer list? How about food? Do you have enough food? We're delivering some meals tonight. I'd be happy to stop by," she said, reaching out to touch his old wrinkled hand.
"I'd sure appreciate it, sure would. I know it will make Ma feel better if you could just sit with her for a while." He looked up into Denise's face with grateful admiration and patted her gloved hand resting on his. Sister Jenkins was one of a kind. She always had a good word and a kind heart. That's why everybody loved her, he reasoned.
"I'll be there around five tonight. You go sit down now, Brother James, and rest yourself." She said kindly and proceeded into the church.
"Denise," a female voice called from the far corner of the vestibule. She turned to see Audra Turner waving to her anxiously. Taking a deep breath, Denise plastered a cordial smile on her face and walked over to where Audra was holding court with a few other women.
"Good morning, ladies," she said, walking up to the group. A quick glance around the circle allowed her to see and assess who was assembled there: Bonnie Newcomb, biggest gossip in the church, next to Audra; Marla Thompson, a lush who could barely remember her own name, let alone anyone else's; Debbie Smith, a tramp who should be ashamed to show her face in God's house; and, finally, Inga Jones, a quiet little church mouse who let these losers lead her around by the nose.
"Debbie was just telling us of a wonderful idea for a fundraiser for the women's auxiliary. How about a male auction? We have so many single women in the church, it is sure to bring in a bundle," Audra said excitedly.
"I don't think the church is in the business of procuring men for the single women of the congregation. God knows we have enough women around here shamelessly throwing themselves at men who are already here, even the married ones." Denise looked pointedly at Debbie in her tight red dress and voluptuous bosom nearly bubbling over the bodice of her dress.
"Now, wait a minute!" Debbie said and stepped into the middle of the group to confront Denise. "Look Miss Holier Than Thou, just cause your tight a-"
"Please! Ladies. we're in the church, for crying out loud," Bonnie interjected.
"I'm just saying, I don't think this is an image Mount Calvary wants to have. I'm sorry, I did not mean to offend anyone," Denise replied contritely, knowing full well that that was her intention. She couldn't stand these fake Christians. Every Saturday you could find Debbie Smith shaking her booty at the After Five till the wee hours of the morning and then she dragged her butt in here on Sunday morning, sometimes reeking of smoke and sex and then repenting for the evilness of her ways. She never came to Bible Study or helped with the meal delivery. Denise was so tired of these women. All they did was show up on Sunday to gossip and see who was wearing a new hat or outfit. She'd have more respect for them if they did some Christian good work. Then she might think they were worth saving. "We've got meals to deliver for the shut-ins tonight. Can I get any of you to help with the preparation or delivery?" Denise asked, though she already knew the excuses she would get.
"I've got relatives coming from out of town," Bonnie replied.
"There's a pancake breakfast at the Lodge. I promised to help with that. Sorry," Debbie said.
"Marla?" Denise queried.
"Uh-uh. No, I can't," Marla replied, too hung over to even think of an excuse.
Audra and Inga just looked away, trying to pretend they had missed the question.
"Enjoy the service ladies," Denise said as she turned on her heel and dismissed them as clearly as if she'd physically swatted them away like annoying bugs.
"Who does she think she is?" Debbie hissed at the group. "Strutting around like her shit don't stink. She makes me sick!"
"Debbie!" cried Inga. "Please, we're in the church."
"Well, then, just wait till I get outside. I'll finish this later, and I'm not dropping the idea of the male auction either. I think it would be fun, and it can raise a lot of money," she finished and stormed away.
SURVIVOR-Paige wiped the steam off the mirror in slow circular motions. She stared at her reflection through the foggy circles. Her dark brown hair hung loose and wet around her shoulders. Her café-au-lait complexion was a striking contrast to her Caribbean Ocean-blue eyes. Her gaze trailed to her shoulders, small and broad. She slowly unwrapped the white towel she'd put on as she'd stepped out of the shower and allowed it to drop to the floor. No matter how many times she saw herself, she could not get used to the sight. Perhaps one day she would look in the mirror, and after the towel dropped she would see two breasts capped with dark brown nipples as she remembered them. It was her dream; this was her worst nightmare. Her eyes took in one perfectly perky breast on the right and nothing but a flat, ugly scar on the left where her breast used to be. She tentatively touched the scar with her right hand. It still tingled to her touch, but no one ever touched her there anymore. Her focus strayed farther down to the small waist, the gentle flowing hips, the small triangle of neatly trimmed dark hair covering her pubic area. She was beautiful once, she thought. Not anymore. No man would ever think her beautiful again. Her fiancé had managed to stay for one whole year after the mastectomy, and then he left her for another woman. Jamal said it had nothing to do with the loss of her breast; she never believed him.
She turned away from the mirror and walked naked into her bedroom. Picking her robe off the bed, she tied it around her body and headed to the kitchen. She turned on the teapot and made herself a cup of tea. Strategically placed around the room were pictures of family and friends. There was a picture of her mother and father, both in their early fifties; her mother was tall and light-complexioned, with sandy brown hair and deep brown eyes; her father more chocolate in complexion, with an engaging smile and dimples. There was an old restored black and white photo of her grandmother; her pale white complexion and straight blond hair were unmistakable, but the blue eyes she had passed on to her granddaughter could not be distinguished in the colorless photo. Paige had torn up all the photos of Jamal after he'd left. Feeling betrayed, she'd wanted no reminders of him in her home. But his face was forever etched in her mind. He was a competitive tennis player with a classic tennis player's body. His mocha-colored skin often glistened in the sun. His body was strong and wiry. She was drawn to him immediately. She loved his smile. How long ago, it seemed.
She collected her newest erotic romance novel from the coffee table and curled up on the couch to read. This was the only kind of romance she trusted now. The kind that didn't hurt you or leave you, and when you tired of it you just went to the store and got a new one.
SATISFACTION NOT GUARANTEED-Grunting from the exertion, he rolled off her and lay on his back on the bed. He leaned over and kissed her briefly on the lips. "Good night," he said.
"Good night," Naomi replied, staring in the darkness at the ceiling above their heads.
In a matter of seconds she could hear his deep, jagged breathing and knew he was already asleep. Three minutes, from start to finish. That's about how long it took him to climax. He usually spent the first two minutes on foreplay, rubbing her clitoris to get her wet for his entry. Then he would mount her; after penetration, he was good for about five strong strokes, and then he would ejaculate. At first she tried to be sympathetic to his problem. He was apologetic and promised to do better. Then she began to get more and more frustrated as she realized this was his regular routine, and as a grown man he couldn't seem to hold off his orgasm more than two minutes. Occasionally they would exchange oral sex. It seemed he could do that for a long period of time, but whenever they stopped and shifted to intercourse, it was guaranteed the lovemaking would be over in a flash. She missed the feel of his penis inside her. They'd been married for ten years now, and nothing ever changed. She just learned to live with the depressing fact: she had married her worst lover. There were a few lovers before him. Some were good lovers, and some not. Each man seemed to have a different style. But they all exhibited more stamina and staying power.
She fell in love with Greg during a six-month courtship. He never rushed her into sex, and it was almost three months before they finally made love. She didn't suspect anything at the time. Naomi loved everything about Greg: he treated her with respect, he was caring and tender, and he helped around the house and cooked meals for her. The only area in which he wasn't perfect was the bedroom.
In the beginning she often initiated the sex between them. After a year or two of frustration and tears, she stopped trying. They would still have sex now and then. Sometimes a week or two would pass and they would not have sex. Greg never seemed to mind. She could count the times on her hand when he would actually initiate sex. She chalked it up to him having a low sex drive. Because it seemed to be his only shortcoming, she tried to dwell on all his other good qualities. Eventually her desire for sex waned, and she no longer missed it or wanted it as much as she used to. Lately, though, she was experiencing cravings for fulfillment she had thought were long buried.
She rolled over onto her side and pulled the covers around her shoulders. She knew it would be at least another thirty minutes or more before she would be able to go to sleep.
Naomi awoke the next morning to the smell of Jamaican Blue coffee brewing in the kitchen downstairs. It was Sunday morning, and Greg was already out working in the yard. She had lain in the bed until three in the morning, wide awake and unable to sleep. She looked around her bedroom and sleepily wiped her eyes. She could hear the lawnmower going outside. Greg was an early riser, and he preferred to get the yard work done before the blistering heat of the midday afternoon. Wrapping her bathrobe around her, she slipped on her socks and made her way downstairs to the kitchen. She loved this kitchen. The cabinets were made of natural oak, and the granite countertop was a mixture of black and tan flecks. There was a center island with a mini sink. Greg wanted plenty of counter space for food preparation, and she wanted a pantry. This kitchen accommodated both of those needs. There was a built-in computer desk at the far end of the counter. They had placed a flat-screen computer monitor there to save on space. It worked out fine. They spent many hours in the kitchen with a new recipe on the computer screen while they prepared gourmet meals together.
She retrieved a coffee mug from the cabinet and filled her cup from the coffeepot. She added a dash of half-and-half and one pack of sugar-free sweetener. Collecting the newspaper from the center island, she sipped her coffee as she headed into the family room to read.
Moments later, Greg came into the kitchen. "Good morning, baby," he said as he walked behind the sofa and planted a kiss on her upturned face. "You didn't sleep too well last night?" he asked.
"No, not really," she replied, sipping the coffee.
"Why? Is there something on your mind?" he asked with concern.
"No, I just couldn't sleep," she replied.
"I'm sorry, you should have awakened me," he stated.
"Why? So we could both be awake? You need your rest, too," she said.
"I could have stayed up and watched TV with you or something," he offered.
"No, baby. It's okay. Just remind me to take a sleeping pill tonight. I hate taking them after ten at night because it makes me too groggy when I wake up in the morning."
"Okay. What do you want for breakfast?" he asked.
"That's okay, I'll make it. What would you like?" she asked in return.
"Grits, eggs, sausage, and muffins?" he suggested.
"Okay, let me shower first, and I'll start breakfast." She smiled as she got up from her seat and headed back upstairs. As she passed him, she kissed him again briefly and wrapped her arms around his waist. He squeezed her back and then turned away to pour himself a cup of coffee. She looked back at him wistfully as she ascended the stairs. I really do love him, she thought.
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS-Agnes Garfield pushed through the revolving door and walked determinedly to the reception desk. "I have a nine o'clock appointment with Stanley Greenberg," she said to the receptionist. The receptionist looked up and took in the woman standing before her. She was nattily attired in a navy-blue Donna Karan suit with a crisp white silk boatneck blouse and a single-strand pearl necklace and matching pearl-drop earrings. Her hair was coiffed to perfection in a French roll. Freshly manicured red nails at the end of slim brown fingers drummed the counter while she waited for the receptionist to announce her. It was eight forty-five.
Excerpted from Quench My Thirst by R. MOREEN CLARKE Copyright © 2007 by R. Moreen Clarke. Excerpted by permission.
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