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STARTING OVER AND OVERT SEDUCTION
Blood was everywhere.
It was splattered across the bedroom of the posh penthouse. A psychedelic pattern streaked the white bedspread and soaked into the white carpet. Crimson beads stained the surface of the armoire, and red specks dotted the butterfly-shaped mirror. Half of a snow-white wall was blackened by a fire that, now, was as dead as the lifeless man on the floor.
Kayla Harmon covered her mouth in horror, smearing her lipstick. She stumbled backward and bumped into a large, rigid presence behind her. She whirled around.
"You're not allowed in here!" The reprimand was a stern whisper.
"I'm sorry," she tried to say through the fear clogging her throat.
"We're setting up the last shot. Go wait outside at the news van, Kayla," Adolfo Alvarez said. The suited anchorman took the pretty intern by her trembling shoulders and led her down the arching hallway, past a weeping woman with blood-stained hands. a team of cops, and a behemoth camera prepared to broadcast the tragedy into thousands of homes. "You'll get your chance to do this soon enough."
The shining sun above bathed a finely dressed sea of friends and families gathered below to celebrate, while the operatic sound of "Pomp and Circumstance" lingered in the ears of the crowd assembled at Columbia University.
"Thaddeus Coleman Carmichael, Jr.," announced the decrepit dean of the business school with his customary smug air. Turning in Thad's direction, the old man peered over the glasses on the tip of his red nose and dangled a folio in his hand.
The knot of anticipation in Thad's stomach tightened. Returning the dean's glare, he crossedthe imposing stage steeped in tradition, adorned with a rainbow of flowers in full bloom and a collage of prestigious pennants and whatnot. He confidently snatched his diploma and shook the hand of a man who had doubted that he would make it to graduation day. Thad left the stage, leaving behind his less-than-favorable memories with it. And, instantly, it was over. Life's pressure cooker was shut off, and he had been tossed out. But the handsome young man, often praised for his astuteness, didn't feel fully cooked or ready for the world waiting to eat him up, so he shot an empty smile at his other skeptic. His father, totally oblivious to other graduates getting their diplomas, had rushed the stage to film the moment.
Thaddeus Senior, a mammoth man in an expensive tan suit, handed the camera to his seventeen-year-old daughter, Cynthia, and vigorously shook his son's hand. "Junior, how does it feel to be a Columbia grad like your old man? Now, aren't you glad you listened to me? Three long years, but we did it. That diploma is proof. Anyway, we're going to do wonderful things together with the family business." He put an arm around his son and released an agonizing sigh. "Thought I wouldn't see this day. Guess I can rest easy now, huh?"
Thad tensed his body to avoid whopping his father with his fist. "Yeah, relax. Your work is done, Dad." Thad smirked, waving sheepishly at the lens that Cynthia pointed close to his nose. Thad detested being on camera. He perspired under his black graduation gown, while the camera recorded his every uncomfortable reaction for posterity, to be laughed at later by those who took pleasure in watching moments he could never take ack. With the weight of his father's arm across his shoulders, Thad longed to be in Brooklyn with his buddies.
"We're so proud of you, Junior," rejoiced Thad's mother. The slim woman in a chic beige summer dress gave her son a congratulatory kiss.
"Mr. Carmichael, Sr., and Mr. Carmichael, Jr.," a creepy voice suddenly greeted.
Turning around, Thad met familiar eyes of steel in a wrinkled face framed by thin silver hair. Thad gave the bearer half a handshake. "Dr. Hausbruck."
"As the long-standing dean of Columbia's Business School, I've seen many young minds come and go," Hausbruck commended Thaddeus Senior in a stale German accent. "Yet none quite as enthusiastic as your young Mr. Carmichael."
"Thank you. I'm just glad we can add another Columbia grad to the collection. I guess the MBA doesn't fall far from the tree." Thaddeus Senior beamed, patting his son on the back while sharing a hearty laugh with the old dean.
"He'll do well." Hausbruck forced a smile at Thad. "He certainly gave the administration a run for our money. He's a shrewd businessman. A real fighter."
"Well, if anyone here knows that I'm a real fighter, it's Dr. H." Thad chuckled. "Our dicey history has schooled each of us on the stubbornness of the other."
"Indeed." Hausbruck stepped close to Thad. "Good luck, Mr. Carmichael."
Bullets of different shades, their eyes locked. Instantly a new awareness hit Thad, who rested a hand on the shoulder of the short man with the tall ego. "Dr. H., don't forget my vow. It was a promise, not a threat." He flashed a smile that had the effect of a middle finger, as Hausbruck yanked his shoulder away and headed back to the stage.
"We're going to the chancellor's reception," Thaddeus Senior announced. "Some of my old classmates should be there."
"I'll pass," Thad replied. "I have a lunch date with Chelsea, and then the guys are having a party for me tonight."
A teary Mrs. Carmichael frowned. "Junior, don't you want to spend time with your family? You're cutting this special occasion short for us."
"Mom, the family's been here all week. I'm sure you've had enough of me."
"But, Thad, honey, this is the big day, the reason we traveled to New York." Mrs. Carmichael sighed, wiping lipstick from her son's cheek. "Okay, I won't pester you. We'll be at the Waldorf, and then we leave for Norfolk tomorrow. Call us with your plans, Junior."
"Hey, good job, Thad." Cynthia handed the camcorder to Thaddeus Senior to film her embrace with her older brother. "I'm proud of you."
"Thanks for flying in from the South to support me, Birdie," Thad whispered.
"Don't bring up my childhood nickname. This situation is corny enough." Cynthia slapped Thad's arm and looked shyly at the hem of her pink dress.
"Okay, well, I'm taking off. The professor who showed me the ropes here is leaving, and I just got schmoozed by the dean who wanted to lynch me with those ropes, so the energy in this space isn't tasting like celebration champagne."
"Junior, I told you I don't like you saying such things."
Thad ignored his father, removing his mortarboard and placing it on Cynthia's head. "Take care of that for me, Birdie." He handed his gown to his mother, which she folded over her arm with sad pride in her eyes.
"I'll take that!" Thaddeus Senior grabbed the diploma and tucked it tightly under his arm. "Good work, son. We'll talk about plans for the company later. Have a good time tonight. Let's go, arbara. Cynthia," he said, walking off without them.
"Dad's anxious to stake claim to his latest accomplishment."
Mrs. Carmichael released a conflicted breath. "No, Dad's enthusiasm just gets misdirected sometimes."
"Toward loving selfishness?" Thad suggested, while Cynthia rolled her eyes, assuring him she understood his irritation. But as his mother and sister disappeared into the mingling mass of pressed and pretty people, Thad wondered if she truly did.
On One Hundred Thirteenth Street, the smell from Thad's favorite hotdog vendor called his name. He instinctively reached into his pocket for change before realizing he was en route to meet helsea Fuller for lunch at the eatery a couple of blocks down. Deep in thoughts that made the walk seem shorter than usual, he crossed over to Fifth Avenue. Striding past the last of the chichi dress shops, Thad entered Primrose Café and spotted Chelsea at their usual window table giggling into her cellular phone. Her hair was styled in perfect fluffy waves, and she was dressed in a reppy peach pantsuit and tasteful platinum accessories.
The tiny, quaint café was busy with its usual lively, chattering clique of young corporate America old minds in young bodies; expensive ties on inexperienced necks; and hands that held tickets to filthy rich futures playing with the cute, desert rose napkins on the tables.
"Hi, Thaddeus." Chelsea stood to kiss him. "Congratulations, honey."
"Thank you, baby." Thad sat, squeezing her slender hand.
"Oh my God! I was just talking to Kayla. She's all broken up. I'm stuck in an office doing research, and she's up in the ritzy part of the Bronx on location at a crime scene with Adolfo Alvarez. Anyway..." Chelsea continued to speak, while Thad dove deep into her hazel eyes, trying to recall why he had not sprung for the chili cheese footlong with extra ketchup. "...Channel Two's running the broadcast all weekend. But enough about my drama," Chelsea insisted, petting his wrist. "So, my man got his MBA. Our future is looking oh so bright. I'm proud of you, Thaddeus."
"I'm just glad to be away from all those philistines and phony intellectuals. Damn, you should have seen them all in a hurry to staple their new validations on their foreheads. As if that Columbia diploma means a damn thing in the real world."
"Hello! I still attend that school you're insulting."
"Sorry," Thad whispered. "Really, I simply wanted to get away from my father."
"Thaddeus, your father merely wants the best for you."
"Yeah, but it's hard to look at him as anything other than a well-intentioned bully. I wanted to be happier than I actually elt. In fact, in a corny kind of way, I'd hoped my graduation day would feel more like one of those UNCF ads."
"A UNCF ad?"
"Yeah, you know." Thad drifted off dreamily. "The universe was upposed to move in slow motion as a gospel choir harmonized an inspirational hymn. Mommy, Daddy, and baby sister were supposed to bawl like big babies as I proudly displayed a black man's greatest passport to the good life my kente-cloth-covered diploma."
"Oh, for the love, Thaddeus. Please, stop with the Roots soap opera."
"But the pedigree on that lawn made reality set in. I felt leaguesapart from the whole scene. You should've seen Cynthia."
"She's such a doll. Doesn't she have my effervescence?"
"She had that wistful look in her eyes that always makes mefeel like she's about to ask me something deep that baby-sisterlook that melts all the macho out of a big brother. She needs toget out of Norfolk in the worst way."
"Thaddeus, she's not trapped in some cage under your parents'roof."
"If you only knew. Cynthia's got a passion to do so much morethan Dad lets her."
"Don't worry. In no time, she'll leave home for college, and she'llblossom like I did. I know what it's like to be Daddy's little girl."
"Chelsea, on my way here, my graduation hit me like an avalancheof hard reality rocks. Today is the beginning and the endof many milestones for me. I'm through trying to be a carboncopy of my father and battling the forces of Hausbruck's type ofthinking. They both made my last three years a living hell."
"Are you still paranoid that the dean's after you?"
"Listen to me, Chelsea. Hausbruck's lackadaisical la-di-da-ismno longer fazes me. For so long, pressure from all sides determinedmy direction at any given moment. From here on out, I'mcutting loose ends and fulfilling the promises I've made to myself."
"That's beautiful, Thaddeus. Honey, I'm so sorry I missed thegraduation," Chelsea cooed. "The people at the station have merunning like crazy with the local political scandal and now thismurder up in the Bronx. It's a wonder they let me have my fulllunch hour, but I told them I will be with my man today."
"That's okay, baby."
"I ordered a chicken salad for you," Chelsea stated matter-offactly.
"I'm in the mood for something other than the chicken salad today, Chelsea."
"Thaddeus, honey, don't be silly. Remember our pact to follow the menu in Health for Now, Forever. You will have the chicken salad." The victorious Chelsea sat up tall in her chair. "Besides, it's your favorite and here comes the waitress."
The waitress set a big, leafy pile of roughage in front of Thad. Suddenly, he felt it coming on, the spontaneous disorientation and the chaotic slideshow that plays in his mind when things became too much to bear. All at once, frightening images flashed in his brain: Chelsea in a wedding gown; behind a news desk; with a screaming baby girl; with a leash around his neck...
He snapped out of his temporary coma. "We need to talk."
"Why are you so tense? Jesus!" Chelsea dug into her salad. "Anyway, just think, in another year I'll have my journalism degree and a job with Channel Two. You'll be in the family business, then we'll get a cute place in ""
"Chelsea, you never listen to me. Did you hear me say we need to talk?"
"Thaddeus, relax, work on that salad, and let's have a nice lunch."
"Why don't you just call me Thad?"
"What do you mean? Why the sudden interest in my habits?"
"People close to me just call me Thad or Junior. As long as we've been together, why are you the only one who can't call me that?"
"First of all, I would never refer to you as 'Junior.'"
"You make it sound so juvenile and unsophisticated."
"Your mother named you Thaddeus, did she not? Now, you can't be serious. This is what you're jumping out of your chair to talk to me about? Thaddeus, please."
"See! Things that are important to me are so damn insignificant to you. Your way is always a step above, huh?" Thad set down his iced tea, and the force rattled the cubes in the glass. "Look at me!"
Chelsea looked up from her plate. She paused for effect, stroking his cheek. "Honey, it's your graduation day. That's important. I mean, let's face it. Columbia is one of the top schools in the nation and you conquered it. You ought to be proud."
He picked at his salad, his fire within dying down. "Thanks, sweetheart."
"Especially considering where you got your undergraduate degree from, you should be thankful that "
"Damn it, Chelsea!" His flame was re-ignited. Thad slammed both hands on the table and shot up like hot toast from a toaster.
"Excuse me. Is there something else I can get for you?" The timid waitress slowly approached to calm the storm.
"Thaddeus, sit down!" Chelsea's whisper was tight. "People are staring!"
"As usual, you're concerned with saving face, with your glossy appearances!"
"Here we go again with your highly flammable nerves."
"This isn't my idea of a celebration you throwing cheap shots from your ivory tower! My friends will support me, as usual, so save your cheap cheer for those tight-asses in your newsroom! Go chase more dirt with your stupid news camera."
"Thaddeus! Your family's in town. You'd rather spend tonight with those low-class rats of yours?!" Chelsea caught herself and lowered her voice. "What about me? What about lunch?"
"This lunch is over. You I'm not so sure about." Thad tossed a twenty on the table and stormed out of the café, holding pride in his gut like indigestion.
Thad wandered aimlessly along Broadway, where faceless New Yorkers rushed to work, to dental appointments, to the gym, to the immigration office. Some rushed to do what they wanted but did not need to do, others to do what they needed but did not want to do. The rest didn't know why they rushed, didn't know what the heck they needed or wanted.
Brick and stucco loomed over them all. The colossal buildings jutting up to the far reaches of the sky could have collapsed onto the river of activity between them at any moment. Thad pondered what prevented that awesome inevitability given all the wheeling and dealing conducted behind their walls and the hysteria lurking behind the scowls of the intense people swarming about.
Mediterranean diamond smugglers use that unassuming office building for their underhanded transactions, and that tough-looking kid in the baggy jacket is not a thug; he's going to visit his sick grandfather uptown, Thad thought. That limping old lady has a pistol in her purse and she's heading to midtown to take out her insurance adjuster for screwing with her health benefits. This bizarre people-watching, secret-guessing game kept Thad busy whenever he traveled the city streets. He found it an easy game to play because he assumed that everything and everyone hid behind barriers, shields of veiled insecurity, masks hiding what lived underneath the surface.
Taxicabs and commuters inhabited every square inch of Manhattan's avenues, while tourists packed Times Square. Bored with the bright lights and commercialism, Thad escaped to Central Park in search of a nonexistent solitude. He walked along the park's winding paths and grassy knolls until he found a bench near a spot where children played.
The sun's remnants spoke waning warmth through the trees. Thad sat, quietly entranced by the youthful activity nearby. In time, the children's laughter crept into his mind as he watched their sneakers skip about. Long ago, Chelsea had introduced him to the habit of noticing cute dogs, adorable kids, and other precious slices of life, but Thad knew that his Brooklyn-based buddies would kill him if they caught him thinking cotton-candy thoughts of cribs and crayons. Instinctively, his thoughts scampered back in the opposite direction.
Unable to think of anything but the typical American Dream, Thad's mind became occupied with the idea of the packaged deal kids, a wife, conditional liberty, and the pursuit of shrinkwrapped happiness. Time was irrelevant. Eventually, the evening sky crept up on the residue of the afternoon, and Thad took twilight easing over Manhattan as a hint to hop a subway train to Brooklyn.
His friends' brownstone wasn't far from the subway station on Eighth Avenue, but Thad couldn't get there quick enough. His craving for relaxation directed him as he bounded up the dingy front steps and charged into the apartment. Once his feet hit the creaky wood floor, he was greeted by the usual easygoing ether of his friends' parlor pad the frat-house energy, the rhythmic music, the soulful vibe. It all fit like an oven-warmed glove over fingers reaching back to Thad's college days at Howard University, where he met Rushon McKinney. A young Duke Ellington in appearance, Rush was a former sociology major and a philosophical thinker capable of imparting deep insight on any situation.
"Thad, you're early, man." Rush set a platter of cheese and pepperoni slices on the dining room table. "We just got in from work. Sorry we couldn't make it uptown to watch you walk that ceremonial walk."
Rush's roommate, Saadiq Abdul, was in the corner, shuffling through a stack of CDs. Music was the only thing that moved the tall, creative guy with dreadlocks dangling past his broad shoulders. If it wasn't funky or jazzy, Saadiq didn't want to hear it. He threw up a peace sign without missing a beat. "Congrats, Thad. Columbia gave you the paper. Now, we'll give you the party," Saadiq said, slipping on an acid jazz tune, closing his eyes, and slow-grooving with himself.
"Thanks, fellas. I always feel reconnected when I hit Brooklyn." Thad inhaled the place dressed in rootsy character the Aaron Douglas print on the wall; the antique green velvet couch; the giant potted palm near the hand-carved Ivory Coast mask. The usual musk oil scent mingled with wafts of salsa and pina colada mix.
Thad plopped down onto the couch next to Virgil, who yapped to his current woman, Rozalyn, on the phone. A stocky and cocky dark-skinned man built like an NFL player, Virgil Davies broke from his conversation long enough to flash a smile at Thad and quip, "What's up, Mr. Executive?"
"Madness. It's been one of those days."
"Who was it this time? Daddy Dearest or Miss Evening News?" Rush, Thad's personal unlicensed psychologist for the last seven years, knew the routine.
"What am I going to do with her?" Thad sighed. "It's like, she's proud of my graduation, but she's such a selfish aspirant always lumping our successes and futures together. And I told you how she's always living life according to some damn book. It's either her Cinderella fantasies, a crazy self-help book, or some new-age health guide, and I'm only along for the bumpy ride."
"Yeah, blah, blah, blah. But you 'love' her, right?"
"Yes, I do. I do."
"But it's always a pressure beat with Chelsea, Thad. I mean, your relationship's a time bomb, between her mood swings and your stress. You're moving in different directions, man," Rush observed for the zillionth time. "You've got us and NRK, and..."
"She's got herself," Saadiq piped in.
Rush resumed his thought. "The couple of times you've brought her here, she's never seemed comfortable."
"I've had it with the wicked head games and the whole prima donna act. I'm twenty-five, almost twenty-six, and I feel so childish for letting Chelsea's antics get to me. I want to stabilize my plans, before I consider bringing Chelsea or anyone else in to share them. As bad as I want to, I still haven't told her about NRK."
"You haven't told her yet?" Saadiq exclaimed. "Look, Thad, Chelsea was spoon-fed all that buppie-yuppie crap from her parents. She looks down on anyone who isn't up to par with her, and that includes us. You need to tell her what we're doing and why you won't be at the country club with her this summer!"
"Thad, she's got you sprung, dig? True, Chelsea's gorgeous. She's a fox, but is that the only reason you're with her?" Rush asked.
"You've never seen her in a lace thong." Thad smirked. "But, I mean, of course she's more than a pretty thrill to me. Chelsea's a great girl. She's bright. The station she's interning for is bound to take her on full-time."
"When you met Chelsea at that student mixer a year ago, that's what you were thinking? She's bright? Spare me." Saadiq sucked his teeth, limping coolly to the stereo. He gestured, mocking a game show host's voice. "Miss Chelsea Fuller is an A-plus, journalismco-ed with perfect hair, a pageant smile, and impeccable speech. Let's hear it for contestant number three, the super-bright "
"Saadiq, don't clown me," Thad shot back, leaning far back into the couch. "Actually, it is easier to list things about Chelsea that work my nerves."
"Like the fact that she's from a bourgeois family and talks big about the future. Oh, wait a minute. I just described you, Thad."
Thad was devoid of patience. "Saadiq!"
"Thad, you do talk large about the future. But which future?" Rush asked rhetorically. "Chelsea's fantasy is you and her as cookie cut-outs of her parents."
"Yeah, but Chelsea's more like a female version of my father."
"Hmm, interesting," Saadiq noted. "But you can't stand to be alone with him, and you can't stop sexing her."
"Thad, we've got big plans, and we, or at least I, respect what you have with Chelsea. But how much longer can you hide our grand scheme from the woman in your life? I'm not asking you to choose, but "
Thad stopped Rush with a raised index finger.
"For godsake, man. Don't you see the changes she puts you through?" Saadiq persisted. "Is it worth it? She's always interfering and trying to break up our cipher. Nip it in the bud, man! There's no stopping us. You said that, remember?"
Before Thad could profess his loyalty to their Revolution, the doorbell rang.
Virgil sprang up from the couch and opened the door. A few f Thad's Columbia classmates filtered in, followed by Kahlil Mousawi and Benny Broom, who arrived with the upstairs neighbor, Arianna Killborne, and her friend, Nenna Reid.
The Ivy League world Thad had left some hours before was suddenly a universe away as bass-heavy music, balmy incense, and hip chatter filled the apartment. The groove hovered, and Thad was lost in it, bobbing his head, digging the scene. With a brew in hand, he squeezed out a spot for himself on the couch between José Escobar and Caesar Ramirez, who had brought kung fu flicks on videotape. With the TV's volume muted, the crew performed their ritual of cheering fight scenes set to hip hop music. Shaolin Showdown was in the VCR; the reigning East Coast rap star was on the stereo.
Thad's groove lasted until Rush pulled out the rolling paper for the crew's other ritual. "Damn!" With a frown, Thad retreated to the window, as Benny whipped out the paper's filler.
Virgil torpedoed next to Thad, nearly spilling his beer. "What's up? It's over. You just got your freedom papers. You're supposed to be celebrating."
"I don't get down with that." Thad pointed toward the smoking cipher. He shook his head and rested against the windowsill. "For all intents and purposes, Rush is the most clear-headed guy I know, but he gets on that weed like it's his woman. That stuff irritates me."
"Ah, lighten up, man." The beer seeped into Virgil's speech. "You've seen ganja heads light up before."
"That doesn't mean I agree with it," Thad spat. "Rush says the lifestyle calls for it, that pot 'feeds the creativity,' but I don't buy that nonsense. Not with the money in my pocket."
"Man, did those hoity-toity college folks steal your soul? Relax, you're not running for the Republican drug control task force. Take a hit of that joint and get over yourself, brotha." Virgil limped away, rubbing his smooth head.
An hour into the party, Thad tired of watching his breath fog up the windowpane. Reaching for a bottle of cognac, he glanced at the front door and was surprised to see Tyler McDermott, the sole white guy he considered a real friend at Columbia, and his girlfriend, Nikki. Through the chronic cloud in the air, Thad watched the couple scan the room and stroll over to him.
"Thought we'd never find this place." Tyler lightly punched Thad's arm. "We did it, man! I saw your dad jump the stage with his camera. It was hilarious."
"I'm still laughing," Thad said without a smile. "What brings you two here?"
"Rush invited me. He thought it would trip you out."
"I am tripping. The ever-preppy Tyler in the middle of this raging Brooklyn scene? Hey, let me introduce you to some people," Thad said over a soul singer's vocals fluttering from the speakers. He escorted the latest guests to the area where his crew lounged. "Hey, guys, this is Tyler and Nikki. This man helped me through advanced accounting." Thad nudged Tyler. "We used to study together and debate racial politics for hours, swapping perspectives. Remember those discussions, Ty?"
"Of course. I'm not done schooling you, either."
"And you definitely haven't heard everything I have to say. Anyway, you met Rush when he visited me on campus. This is Nenna. That's Felicia, Caesar, and José. And this is Saadiq and Virgil, they're members of Rush's group, Subconscious Soul."
Nikki discreetly fanned smoke from her face. "What style of music do you play?"
"Actually, we go beyond music," Saadiq piped in with authority. "It's a mixed experience. We combine a montage of elements. Our performances are a fusion of soul and jazz, drumming, and spoken word poetry. I play African talking drums, and don't let Virgil's stature fool you he plays a mean wooden flute with the grace of a little girl."
"Shut up, man. I play my piece like Bumpy Johnson on a Juilliard scholarship," Virgil snapped, ignoring Tyler's offer of a handshake.
"Virgil's fighting an identity crisis. The muscles and the music don't mix for him," Rush teased, beginning to soar as a joint dangled from his lips. "I'm the voice," he bellowed with syrupy richness. "And I hold the maraca."
"Over there, that's Kahlil and Benny." Thad pointed toward the kitchen. "They're the newest and youngest members of the group."
"We've been tweaking Subconscious Soul's tonal blend, and it's finally complete with Kahlil's djembe drum and Benny's sax."
"Cool." Tyler's face lit up. "I'd love to check you guys out some time."
Arianna interrupted them, tugging Thad's elbow. "Come to the door."
"Why? What's going on?"
"Some chick is in the hallway, said she's looking for 'Thaddeus." Arianna imitated a haughty tone and tossed her long braids like a prep-school cheerleader. "I invited her in, but she got real salty with me and insisted on waiting in the vestibule."
Thad trudged reluctantly to the front door and found Chelsea standing, arms crossed, in the hallway. Sitting on the stairs, legs crossed, even more removed from the scene was Chelsea's best friend. "What's she doing here?" Thad pointed to Kayla as the girl in the canary-colored, cutting-edge dress rolled her eyes at him.
"Don't worry about her, Thaddeus. You left me humiliated at the Primrose, and I don't appreciate that!"
"Oh, now you're ready to talk? So you just barge in on me and my friends, and we do it your way, right?"
"Thaddeus, you're being unreasonable. The slightest thing sets you off these days. Forever and a day, you've hinted that you want to tell me something, but you never get around to it. Instead, you get all hot in the pants whenever I suggest we look seriously at our future."
"That's what I'm trying to deal with my future!" Thad clapped his hands. "I'm doing things I can't even confide in you about!" Chelsea's eyes doubled in size, as Saadiq poked his head through the doorway, bringing the bumping beats of hip-hop music with him.
"Thad, what's keeping you " Saadiq stopped when his eyes met Chelsea's.
"Saadiq, I'll join you guys in a minute," Thad said, breaking the tense spell between them.
Saadiq disappeared behind the slamming door.
Chelsea's mood suddenly softened. "Thaddeus, don't be like this," she purred, tickling his cheek. "Let's go back to my place, and we'll talk. There's a cab waiting outside for us. What do you say, hmm? J'adore toi. Tu es un joli garçon."
"Ugh. I should've never taught you to speak French," Kayla grumbled.
"Chelsea, my friends are..." Thad struggled to express himself as the dim light of the hallway cast playful shadows on Chelsea's honey-dipped face.
Inches away from him, Chelsea brushed herself against Thad's rising sensitivity. "We'll go back to my place..." She lightly kissed his chin. "We'll talk..." She swept her lips across his cheek. "And we'll make up," she whispered, slowly biting his earlobe.
Feeling adored in all languages, Thad's nose was open wider than bell-bottoms. He went into the apartment and bid farewell to his friends.
When the taxi pulled in front of Chelsea and Kayla's apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Kayla grabbed an overnight bag from the trunk and walked a block to the condo of their friend Shola. Meanwhile, Chelsea grabbed Thad by the hand and commandingly led him upstairs and through her dark apartment to her bedroom.
"What?" Chelsea asked, unbuttoning his ivory dress shirt.
"Uh, well..." Thad stuttered, watching her work quickly. "Your bedroom's already prepped in seduction mode? I mean, you've got the aromatic candles lit, silk sheets turned down, condom on the vanity. I thought you were supposed to work late at the station. You knew my parents were in town, and after the argument at lunch, I assumed...never mind, my mind's already on making up."
"So's mine," Chelsea whispered huskily, flipping on a Sade album for a ménage à trois via the CD player. She pushed Thad onto the comforter with force. She continued undressing him, stripping his limbs of their covering, pinning down his eager hands. Restraining Thad with one foot, Chelsea slithered out of her clothes and threw her naked body against his. They locked mouths. Chelsea slid the condom to Thad.
"Baby, I like you to put it on for me," Thad grunted, licking her face.
He shoved it back in her hand, and Chelsea sprang up and straddled him.
"Oh, don't worry, big boy. I'm gonna put it on you," she growled, as her eyes became narrow slits. She reached for a red silk scarf on the nightstand and dangled it over his face like bait on a sharp hook. "But first, I'm gonna put this on you."
"Ooh, kinky. We've never done this before." Thad sat up and allowed Chelsea to take control.
She slowly wrapped the scarf over his eyes, blindfolding him. She tied a knot tightly behind his skull with an angry desire, causing him to flinch in pain. Placing her palm against his forehead, she pushed him back to a flat, vulnerable position.
"Have mercy." Thad was breathless. "Damn. Hurry, baby, put it on."
Chelsea leaned over and blew out both candles, enveloping the room in blackness. She grabbed Thad tightly, massaging between his legs. She ripped the plastic square with her teeth, tugging viciously at the packaging. Slipping the condom onto his solid sword, she rolled it down slowly, driving Thad mad with anticipation. She slid herself on top of him and kissed his mouth greedily.
In a quick motion, Thad flipped Chelsea on her back and positioned himself for good leverage. Ignoring Sade's soothing plea from the stereo, Thad thrust wildly, as Chelsea screamed and clawed his lower back. He went deeper and deeper, digging as if he'd lost something inside of her and desperately wanted it back. Thad rammed himself against her, and, with each forceful pump, the day's worries propelled from his body.
The blindfold helped him to avoid seeing the torture he pounded onto her tiny body intimate torment she welcomed, wished for, wanted.
Chelsea wailed, accepting Thad's venting. She reached up, slapped the sweat on his neck, and pulled him toward her, licking and biting his ear. Then she suddenly pushed him off of her and onto his back. She grabbed him tightly, squeezing his manhood in her hands until he let out a deep guttural scream.
"What the hell are you doing, baby?" Thad barked. The piercing pain down below shot straight up to his brain. He felt one last violent tug before Chelsea clasped him in the grip of her thighs. Swallowed in hot moistness, Thad tore into the sheets as the sensation he felt quadrupled. "Mmm. Damn, that's good!"
Whimpering and hissing, Chelsea relentlessly rocked back and forth to Sade's musical breakdown. She leaned over, licked Thad's face, and bit his chest. Again, she rocked herself on top of him, back and forth, gripping, clutching him inside. Harder, faster, with animalistic hunger, until she felt his entire body tense up into human steel.
Thad's torso and pelvis jerked forcefully, and he squeezed Chelsea's breasts, growling like a grizzly bear. Sade hit her high note, and Thad released everything he had as, for a moment, his mind was in a dark new world other than the real one.
Chelsea collapsed next to Thad on the soaked satin sheets, both of them panting, dripping. She leaned over and pulled off the blindfold.
"I still can't see you." He tried to chuckle but was too weak. "That was beautiful music."
"It's okay. I can see you," she said, as if she possessed powers unavailable to mere humans. She planted soft kisses all over his face and chest, massaging the good pain away. "And you'll hear the music we made forevermore, because I love you, Thaddeus."
"And I love you."
"Say you love me forevermore."
"Oh, of course...forevermore."
She pulled his arm around her and cuddled close to him, as the two drifted, breath by breath, into a deep sleep.
© 2009 by Andrew Oyé