Dez quieted. “Did I? Was I that bad? Why didn’t you slap my face or something?”
“Your father believes in that kind of punishment. I don’t.
There are other ways to discipline a child.”
Dez remembered her mother refusing to speak with her until she calmed down. Those brown eyes going flat and cold had been more effective than any beating her father ever gave her. “No kidding.”
“But really, love. Tell me. I want to know you again. Tell me everything.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t.”
Dez glanced down at her hands then back at Claudia. Her mother’s eyes burned with a warm fire, the long elegant hands—so much thinner now—loosely clasped around her wineglass. Light from the candles winked around them, reflecting in the diamond studs in Claudia’s ears as she cocked her head to one side. She smiled.
“I hated you for being weak,” Dez said. “Warrick just threw us away, all three of us, and you folded. You let him walk all over us.” Her mother shook her head quickly in denial, and her mouth opened, but she said nothing. “Whenever he talked shit about Aunt Paul, you never called him on it. Not once. I thought part of it was because she was only your half sister. When I grew older that wasn’t even an excuse anymore. And later that made me feel ashamed about being gay. I felt that you loved me less somehow.”
Now Claudia did interrupt, shaking her head more violently. “I never loved you any less. Nor Paulette. She was my little sister. She was the one who forced me to see that there was more to life than just sacrifice and preparing eight course meals. Whenever Warrick said those things about her, I told him to stop. I usually took him aside so you and Derrick wouldn’t see us arguing. It never did any good, but I told him that it wasn’t okay. He got worse about it when you told us you were gay, too. He felt that it was somehow Paulette’s fault that he lost his little girl. Warrick has issues of his own, separate from us that make him the way he is. I’m not making excuses for him or for myself, that’s just how it is.”
Dez nodded. She could tell her mother was trying her best to react logically to all this instead of with her emotions. The strain showed on her face. “I can understand some of that now, but before, I couldn’t. When Aunt Paul died, I felt, suddenly, completely alone. I knew you were there, and I knew Rémi was there, and”—she laughed ruefully—“I guess that was it.” She laughed again. “Anyway, I felt like my whole world became different overnight. I went on to college because I promised her I would. I went off with Ruben because he made me feel something else besides pain and loss and loneliness, which is pretty ironic right now, but that’s a subject for another time.”
“No, sweetheart. Tell me now. Everything, remember?”
Dez sighed and pressed her fist to her mouth. She blinked down at the table.
Emotions are very scary things
, she thought for the millionth time in her life.
I’m never ready for them
. The fire and flood of her relationship with Ruben had left her in ashes. With the news of her mother’s illness coming so close to his leaving, she hadn’t really made the time to feel what he’d done to her. She poked at the remnants of it, and it still burned.
“On my worst days, I feel like since I was fourteen, my life has been hell. I came out, and my father, the person I’d relied on before to protect and love me no matter what, shut every door in my face. Then your marriage was gone barely a year later. Before I could even think about being a well-adjusted adult, Aunt Paul left me, and I fell in love with a gay man who opened me up and broke me down emotionally only to dump me for another woman.” Dez rubbed her hand over her eyes and cursed softly. Her insides hummed with pain, but it felt good to get it all out. “And last, but certainly not the least of it, my mother had or has cancer. The injury on top of injury is that you never told me, but you told my brother and my father and God knows who else.”
“Sweetheart . . .” Her mother’s voice broke. “My sweetheart.”
“I know that my life isn’t just misery. I
that. But sometimes, I feel it all come down on me at once. And it’s too much.”
Dez’s throat ached from talking and her voice was a bare rasp that Claudia had to lean closer to hear. She finally looked up to see her mother’s quiet tears. Her lashes swept down against the suddenly unbearable glare of the candlelight.
“I did ask if you were sure,” she said.
Claudia’s hands reached across the table and cupped hers. “I’m still sure.”
laudia was here, but for how long? The question haunted Dez long after their dinner plates had been cleaned and put away. Still, she tried to run away from it. When Dez was younger, people used to ask how it was that she managed to stay so even-tempered—they would never go as far as to say “cheerful”—all the time. When her parents were going through their divorce and she told someone about it, they thought she was joking. After her aunt died, no one could have known how devastated she was. Truth was that she just didn’t think about it. She banished it all from her mind like a bad dream. Voluntary amnesia. These days there weren’t many people around to see her smiles, or lack of them. Dez threw herself into sex or food or other sensual pleasures the way some did drugs. With thoughts of Claudia and her illness and Ruben creeping back to her, Dez escaped the house after giving Rémi a call. Drinks? At their favorite straight bar? Why not? Rémi was always up for just about anything.
Dez sat on her bike outside the bar, smoking a cigarette and waiting for her best friend to show. The night’s entertainment seemed promising. Women walked past her, darting their eyes over her even as they clutched the hand of the men by their side. Dez’s tank top stretched taut over her chest, cleaving to the tight body, the small high breasts, and flat stomach. Worn blue jeans, a thick leather belt, and Timber-lands completed a package that Dez knew was fuckworthy. She didn’t have to see the want in these women’s eyes to know that. But it didn’t hurt.
“When you’re done posing, you want to come with me into the bar?” Rémi rode up on her bike, the laughter rich in her voice even under the dark helmet. She wore all black today. And spurs on her motorcycle boots.
Inside, they turned their helmets over to the bartender and parked themselves at the bar with two shots of tequila, a pitcher of beer, an ashtray, and a pack of cigarettes between them. The crowd was hot tonight—affluent, beautiful, a nice mix of races and cultures. A conversation in Spanish tickled her ear from halfway across the room and from somewhere else a hint of Jamaican patois rubbed up against Haitian-accented French. Rémi knocked back her tequila.
“Nice.” Her glance traveled around the bar, taking in the view.
It didn’t take long for the festivities to begin. A silver-bangled arm nudged Rémi’s, then the accompanying body did the same.
“Excuse me,” the stranger said. “I didn’t see you sitting there.”
Liar. The brown-skinned mami licked her gaze up and down Rémi’s body, taking her time at the highlights—breasts, hips, ass. She wasn’t bad either, with her curvaceous form poured into a Donna Karan the same luscious tone as her skin. But she had on too much makeup.
,” Rémi said, moving neatly back and out of her way. Turning to ash her cigarette in the heavy silver disc in front of her friend, she turned to Dez. “I wonder what’s keeping Ricky. You can’t trust boyfriends for shit, huh?”
The girl almost swallowed her tongue in surprise. She ordered a drink she probably didn’t even want and fled.
“That wasn’t nice.”
“What do you want me to do, give her a pity fuck just for trying?” Rémi snorted and took a sip of her beer, balancing her cigarette between her fuck-fingers and the glass. “I didn’t see you offering your pretty little self in my place.”
“It was you she wanted, not me.”
“These days I’m not settling for just anything.”
“When have you ever had to settle?”
“You’d be surprised.” Smoke spiraled up from Rémi’s cigarette and she squinted against its bite. “Nowadays any pussy that comes to me has to be good pussy, or at least interesting pussy. It can’t just be any old shit.”
“I still don’t know when the hell you’ve ever had to take just whatever.”
“Two years is a long time, isn’t it?” Rémi put down her drink and looked at Dez. “There’s actually someone—”
“Baby, you must be a model,” a voice interrupted. “That body of yours is just
Dez looked past Rémi to the guy with the midnight skin, beautiful teeth, and asshole leer.
“You play ball?” he asked.
Rémi turned to look at the two men. That was an original question. What else would two six-foot-tall black women do for a living or for fun?
“We don’t play with balls.” Her amused eyes flickered over them, then turned away in dismissal.
His friend eyed Dez and tried a leer of his own. Whenever they were out together and straight boys saw Rémi first they always asked if the women were models, trying to lure them into some vanity trap because of Rémi’s pretty skin, quiet self-confidence, and devil’s mouth. But when they saw Dez first, the lead-in was usually about basketball or some other height-required sport. Never mind that the two women were the same height.
“No, thanks, I already got what I’m drinking,” Rémi said.
“What about you, baby?”
“Same thing,” Dez said, holding up her beer. “I’m good, thanks.”
Admittedly, most men often saw what they wanted to where women were concerned, but wasn’t it obvious that she and Rémi were dykes? Or was this about the challenge and a potential foursome? The men looked expectantly at them.
“We’re not interested,” Rémi finally said.
“You sure?” The first one asked, looking Rémi up and down.
The two women found something much more interesting to look at when a dark-skinned honey slid up to the bar, insinuating her body between Rémi’s and the interloping men.
“Hey, handsome,” she murmured, leaning in even closer to Rémi. “I would
to eat your pussy.”
The silence in the immediate area was deafening. Dez and Rémi sized her up—striking features with pillowy lips touched by a hint of lip gloss. Low-cut hair and long silver earrings dangling to her shoulders. Short skirt showing off lean legs and a juicy ass. Very nice.
The two women exchanged a look. Very, very nice. “Want to make it a three?” Rémi looked her over again.
“My friend here really loves your ass.”
The woman glanced from one to the other. This was probably the best two-for-one deal she’d ever had. “Sure. My place is just up the street.”
“Damn! It’s like that?” The cocky boy who hit on Rémi first was the first to speak. A domino of speculative murmurs fell around the bar.
Dez and Rémi quickly settled up with the bartender, grabbed their helmets, and followed the woman out of the door. They rode the short five blocks behind the woman’s black Infiniti truck. It turned out that her name was Jeanne and she lived in a town house near the beach. No roommate, boyfriend, or girlfriend at home.
The two women parked the bikes in her drive, refusing the use of the space behind her in the garage. They weren’t going to stay that long. Once in the house, Jeanne’s cool composure melted.
“You are so fucking hot,” she grabbed Rémi, touching her through her clothes and kneading the solid muscles with wonder.
The tall woman let her, chuckling while the slim hands burrowed beneath the leather and cotton. She grinned at Dez over the woman’s head. Rémi lived for moments like this, when a woman appreciated how much time she spent making her body look perfect.
Jeanne reached back and tangled her fingers in Dez’s shirt, pulling her up hard and rubbing the sleek, denim covered thighs as she angled her head up to sample Rémi’s mouth. She pressed herself deep into the soft chest and purred.
The woman felt hot against Dez’s breasts. She nuzzled the back of Jeanne’s neck and reached around to cup the heavy breasts in her hands.
Oh. What’s this?
She fumbled to unbutton Jeanne’s blouse, but the woman eluded her, pulling back from her and Rémi both to watch their faces as she tugged off her blouse and the tiny skirt.
Jeanne wore nipple clamps. Silver beauties pinched tight to her fat nipples with a chain dangling low on her belly and attached to the matching clamp on her clit. Rémi’s eyes became megawatt bright.
Jeanne stood posing in the middle of the spacious living room, the light bouncing off the Y-shaped chain attached to the clamps. “Would you two like a drink?”
“We don’t want anything to drink,” Rémi said. “We want to fuck. Isn’t that what you brought us here for?” She took off her jacket, then pulled a pair of latex gloves from her back pocket and put them on. “Come here.”
Jeanne came obediently, but still teased with her head held high and her mouth curved in a secret smile that said she was doing Rémi a favor by walking across the room to her. The chain wriggled against her skin as she moved.