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Authors: Bonita Thompson

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BOOK: Vulnerable
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She's got to come back to retrieve her cellular.

When he stepped out of the shower, water glistening against his satin skin, Rawn reached for a towel and fixed it around his waist. The telephone rang. He expected it to be D'Becca. After all, she left her cellular and he knew she would eventually want to get it back.

“Oh good, I caught you,” Sicily greeted Rawn when he answered the telephone.

“Hey, what's going on?”

“I'm procrastinating doing laundry so I'm on my way to the mall on CI. I can drop by and pick you up. You want to come? We can grab something to eat.”

Rawn entered the kitchen and opened his fridge and saw nothing he had an appetite for. “Nah, I'll pass.” He grabbed an apple in the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. He cleaned it with his towel and walked through the apartment.

What exactly do you have to do today? Are you playing at the Alley tonight?”

Rawn sat at the piano and placed the apple on top of it. His shoulder balancing the receiver, he began to caress a few keys. “No.”

Sicily sensed Rawn was not telling her something.

Before she started making subtle inquiries, he stated, “I might be hooking up with someone later.”

Straightaway, Sicily was intrigued. “Hooking up? You mean like as in a

In serene spirits, Rawn laughed. “Not a
per se. But I might be…I could be spending time with someone later.”

Sicily sat, legs folded in the lotus position, on the sofa holding a water tumbler. “So what does it depend on? You or her?”

“Neither, actually.” Pecking at the piano keys gingerly, Rawn cradled the cordless with his shoulder.

“So did you finally get up the nerve to ask the waitress at Café Neuf on a date?”

“Come to think of it, I haven't seen her in a couple of weeks. Maybe she quit. But, no, it's not Imani.”

Silence played through the telephone wire. Rawn continued to peck delicately at the piano keys.

“Okay, I get the hint. When it's share-worthy, you'll share. But if you change your mind, you can reach me on my cell.”

Walking to the kitchen, Rawn took one last bite of his fruit and tossed the apple core to the trash like he would if he were shooting a ball into a hoop. He washed his hands and while drying them leaned against the counter. His mind traveled back on the night before, the day before, and the intoxication and anticipation that defined the entire day he spent with D'Becca. He recognized the verve that infiltrated his soul. He felt this feeling before—the rush that came with learning someone new and getting caught up in the start of something fresh, unfamiliar. When learning someone new came with a rush, a tease, everything else paled in comparison. But
thing—whatever it was—had a different feel. It was far more tangible than anything he explored in the past. He could not help but wonder was the whole experience no more than a spontaneous evening of memorable sex.

•  •  •

Sicily decided against going to the mall on Crescent Island since Rawn chose not to go with her. Besides, she had not been to a yoga class in over a week. On her way to class, with the yoga mat slung across her chest, she strolled leisurely through the neighborhood that she often thought she shared with every tourist that made its way to Seattle. It was a blissful smell—late summer; and yet her heart ached. Sicily never recalled feeling lonely and had no clue when the loneliness kicked in. For years her life was shaped by education, career aspirations and career demands, and a host of friends and family that sustained her. While in graduate school, as a thesis, she wrote a play and it impressed her thesis advisor. Sicily had no way of knowing how writing down her own self-discovery in a thesis would dramatically hijack her life. Before she could catch her breath, the play she wrote was being produced off and then
Broadway, and went on to receive several Tony Awards.
Her life was moving so fast back then, and people she trusted and loved were dropping out of her life and people she would come to learn were not to be trusted were becoming the center of her life. All kinds of invites came at her left and right: art gallery openings, network morning talk shows,
Charlie Rose, Nightline,
speaking appearances, and stays at five-star hotels at the expense of anyone but her. She spent much of that time numbed by the exposure that accompanied her public success, and she was emotionally unprepared for the dark side of high-profile achievement. So caught up in the rapture of the lifestyle, she forgot what sincerely mattered. Sicily, for a short period, was riding so fast and so high her attainment blurred personal boundaries: the values she had always lived by, and her spiritual ideology. The expectations that came with her height of success rocked the foundation of her worldview and she struggled between two worlds.

When she was approached by one of the most elite private schools on the West Coast, Gumble-Wesley Academy, to consider the position of headmistress, Sicily jumped at the chance. In doing so, she managed to recapture a lifestyle she was most comfortable with prior to her public persona and the social pressure that came with it. The first few years were calm and her life unfolded so simply in Seattle. And now—and it appeared to come from nowhere—Sicily deeply wanted to be with someone. She felt this desperate need to share her body, her mind, her

When she relocated to the Emerald City, she felt terribly isolated. With an East Coast background, and having been raised and educated in the Northeast, the first few months in Seattle, Sicily was dreadfully out of her depth. The Pacific Northwest was vastly different; with its gloominess and dampness and intense overachievers. Quickly, she crammed her days with long hours at work. Time she had to spare went to charity, although she admitted to Rawn
her altruistic nature was not altogether sincere; Sicily did it principally as a means to network. At some point, though, the time she gave to the community began to touch her spirit and it then no longer mattered what it could do for her social and career connections.

The overcast days that blended one after another began to take its toll. She would take weekend trips to visit friends in the naturally cool but sun-drenched climate of San Francisco, which balanced things out for Sicily. And not long ago, after five years on the West Coast, she began to notice a shift—first subtle, but gradually overt. She was at ease in Seattle and carved a wonderful life for herself; still, something not quite definable was missing, even while her life was uniquely harmonious. It was not until recently Sicily managed to figure out exactly what that vague lack was. Like many women her age that were childless and unmarried, her life was a balance of career, people she loved spending time with, and activities that filled up the empty spaces. She put herself out there time and time again and went on dates as often as she could make it happen, but of late she was becoming more and more pessimistic. Besides, it had been difficult to meet professional and single people in Seattle. Even though it attracted talent of all types from anywhere and everywhere because high-profile cultural icons—Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks—were locally headquartered, Seattle was, even though culturally adept, nothing more than a bedroom community.

Sicily browsed through shops along Rainier Square, her mind preoccupied. School would soon start and thus would rearrange her schedule. This was the time of year she longed for—a new season, and the striking hues of fall. It was this time of year Sicily truly loved. Her heart opened and felt light, and she grew increasingly curious at what might be coming around the corner.
There was a sense of anticipation. Every Pacific Northwest autumn brought her something special, something random.

Z Gallerie was one of her favorite stores in Rainier Square. She could stay all day. When she purchased her Pioneer Square loft, Sicily dropped in Z Gallerie expecting to get decorating ideas but ended up staying for nearly two hours, and she overspent. Afterward, and despite feeling a tad guilty, she stopped at Torrefazione Italia and overindulged in a decadent pastry and a blissful double-shot latte. Now, while browsing through the surprisingly empty store, she was less excited, more disheartened. In spite of that, she was determined to buoyant her spirits. She caressed chic, comforting pillows and admired exotic colors that gave her a hint on how she might redecorate the dining room. A splash of different hues would redefine its look. Perhaps a new piece—say a vase—in the corner of the room would jazz it up just-so. When Sicily turned to walk toward the vases nearby, a tall woman looking at shower curtains caught her eye. Although her back was to Sicily, it was without question she was the same woman Sicily saw at Kingfish Café in the company of Henderson Payne.
What the hell did she mean by blowing me that ridiculous kiss?

Engaged, Sicily studied her closely. She was some number, that one. Her black Lycra pant clung to her toned curves, and the sleeveless black V-neck sweater exposed a tattoo.
Self-centered, obviously.
Of course it was blatantly apparent at Kingfish she demanded to be looked at, noticed. The woman turned so that her face was revealed to Sicily. When the vain woman looked in her direction, Sicily turned her back to her, dreading the idea that she might have spotted her. On impulse, she ducked behind a shelf of cookery and watched the tall woman reaching for her ringing cellular. Sicily was too far away to eavesdrop on the conversation, but the tall woman did not appear to be disappointed in hearing from the
caller. She began to walk toward Sicily—either toward vases or candles. Not aware that she was even reacting viscerally to the total stranger, Sicily dashed toward the rear of the store and out into the seating area of Torrefazione Italia to steer clear of having a face-to-face with Henderson Payne's Kingfish Café companion.

•  •  •

“I didn't think you'd notice I even left, Henderson,” Tamara said, reaching for a tall scented candle. She sniffed the candle to get a whiff of its bold fragrance. “I had back-to-back appointments with clients. I had to go home, shower, change clothes—I needed to look respectable. Remember, I hadn't been home in two days. And look, one of those clients is Sebastian Michaels's wife. I'm not name-dropping! No, look, my clients—and yes, Sebastian Michaels's wife is a client—they trust me because I present a certain…” Her laugh was free and girlish. The weak spot she still had for Henderson surprised her, but a year ago Tamara accepted the truth: Henderson would not leave Daphne, not even for her. “Well, I'm glad you made it home safely. Okay, baby. Love you, too.” She released the call and pressed her lips together. For a few moments she stared at the cellular before replacing the lavender-scented candle.

Tamara was good at sensing when she was about to make an emotional purchase. Exactly why was she feeling so
all of a sudden? Could it have anything to do with spending time with Henderson for the first time in nearly a year? Did he open up places she thought she had closed? If she could get someone trustworthy to babysit the boutique, she might visit friends in Seville. She loathed Seattle when it began to segue into fall. Not only was it too wet and too colorless, it was equally so-so dull. She made her way toward the Fourth Avenue exit, and her mind started
Why am I still in this dismal town? It's time to find something new, and challenging. This place no longer serves me. It's only been three years and I am already sick of this place. Why do I keep doing this? What Henderson said to me the other night—was it true? Am I always running away? And if he's right, what am I running away from?

She headed toward her leased townhouse near her “by appointment only” boutique, and Tamara could feel her heart grow heavy. Usually she could pinpoint exactly what she was craving, but she was losing her edge. She had absolutely no clue what she was in the middle of. Every now and then she felt something lacking in her life, and when the feelings barged in, they were concentrated and she began to get this gnawing hunger. Tamara would jump up and pack a bag and get out of her familiar surroundings, like she had been on the run and authorities were closing in on her. She was the type to circumnavigate her way in life; she never chose to go through whatever she needed to go through. Especially intense feelings. When she regrouped, her mood inevitably subsided and she became homesick.

By chance, having been around Henderson, she was beginning to feel the need to find some
or some
to contribute to her life in a much deeper way. By chance she needed to stop being so caught up in herself and consider having a child. A child would have to come before her own neediness; it would redefine and reshape her life, but was that what she wanted? Seeing as how she would turn forty in a few weeks, was time running out? Did she want to raise a child simply because she momentarily felt that in doing so it would add something to her otherwise empty life? Tamara never felt the least bit maternal.

For years she convinced herself that Henderson would leave his wife. In the beginning, when they first started seeing each other, Tamara was merely attracted to him, and for all the superficial
reasons: his sex appeal, bad-boy façade, financial worth, who he knew and the fact that he could afford her companionship. In time, she came to know a deeper side of the man behind the controversial image and she fell in love with him. She dared not share it with another living soul, but Tamara waited for him like a desperate woman; like a first-class fool.

She used the keycard to unlock the entry to her building. When she reached into the metal mailbox to retrieve her mail, her cellular chimed. Not in the greatest of spirits, Tamara waited for the number to appear and debated whether she was really in the mood to talk to Pricilla, who was currently on a book tour. She wrote a self-help book about something having to do with
Can I deal with this fraud right now?

BOOK: Vulnerable
6.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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