A seal upon your heart, p.15
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.15
 

           Pepper Pace

  “Go on.”

  Crap! She had hoped he’d let her get away without telling it. “I saw…in the dream, that is! He was,” she coughed and cleared her throat, “naked.”

  “And what were you doing in this dream, child?”

  “Oh.” Her face felt hot. “Well I was kissing him. But then I saw that he was naked and I became afraid and I woke up.”

  “And that’s it?”

  “Yes, father!” Basically. His man-parts had looked like a hairless rodent. She knew what man-parts looked like; she’d seen pictures. But her dream was very different than what she knew to be fact. And the father didn’t press. So she left out the part where she thought about Tim’s man-parts a lot. Father Ashton gave her an act of contrition which she did twice as many. And then he surprised her by seeking council with her.

  “I’m concerned about you, Martier.”

  “Me? Why, Father?”

  “Sister Louise spoke to me about your dismissal from the school.” Martier looked at anything but him. “She feels guilty.” Her eyes darted to his quickly and he smiled. Father Ashton was as old as Sister Louise and she had known him almost as long. “Don’t worry, I’m not sharing her confession.” He began to pace as she continued sitting. “The sister thinks that you hate her.”

  Martier didn’t respond for a long time. “I don’t know how I feel.”

  “And then there is the matter of your living arrangements. You were raised in the church and you know right from wrong and what is expected of you. Giving in to lust is a sin.”

  She felt her face warming. “I understand, father.” She met his eyes. She wanted him to see that she hadn’t crossed any lines.

  “Good.”

  She was happy to leave his office and immediately sought out Sister Black Mary. Though she was devoted to church, she had only come today for one reason and there wasn’t much time to linger. The sister’s had to return to the school to prepare breakfast.

  She found the sister who smiled at her broadly. “I wondered if you’d keep with this church, especially when I didn’t see you after you moved out.” They hugged in greeting.

  Martier hadn’t decided if she would stay with St. Francis. She had only come to confess and to speak to the African American nun. There were other blacks, of course. But she had always known Sister Black Mary.

  “Sister. Something happened and I wanted to talk to you about it.”

  “What child?” She took her out into the parish garden. The sun was just now beginning to rise. Martier had taken a cab because she was too afraid to walk to the bus stop while it was still night. She couldn’t imagine how she’d feel if she saw that police officer again. It had cost her nearly $45 but she hadn’t complained. The girl’s at the firm indicated that you don’t complain about how much things cost.

  Martier took a deep breath and told her about what had happened with the police. She told the story slowly and didn’t leave out any pieces and in the middle of it the tears that she had tried not to allow to fall finally did and Sister Mary gripped her hand.

  After she told the story and Martier’s tears had stopped, Sister Mary spoke. “What you feel right now-- that feeling as if you are less; less important, that you have less feelings, that you have less rights—well that’s what that policeman wants you to feel. Then it makes him feel as if he has more.”

  Martier watched her intently, her eyes still watery. “I feel…powerless. Like I had to shut up and take everything he said and did. And if Tim; my boss, hadn’t been there than he could have done anything he wanted.” Tears sprouted in her eyes again and spilled over. “I think that’s why I’m afraid.”

  Sister Mary squeezed her hand lightly. “Martier, that won’t be the last time you face prejudice. There will be people that will treat you differently because of your color, your sex, your height, your beauty even your pretty accent. But you can’t let those people define you.”

  Martier smiled and nodded as she wiped her tears. Then she leaned against Sister Mary’s shoulders and cried.

  ~***~

  Tim knocked on Martier’s door to ask her if she wanted to go out for breakfast but she didn’t answer. He checked his watch. It wasn’t even eight o’clock. How could she not be home?!

  He drove to have waffles without her.

  Martier trudged up the walkway. The sun hadn’t caused the heat to sink in but she had walked from the bus stop and that was the reason that she was hot. She had decided not to give in to her fear and had taken the bus. And as she walked she became angry and decided that she would dare that officer to show his face and harass her again!

  She looked at Tim’s house and thought about how good it had felt to have his arms holding her. She knew that she was safe when he did that. She decided to tell him how much she appreciated it. She knocked on the door and let herself in with the key.

  “Tim? It’s Martier.”

  When she didn’t get a response she headed for the kitchen and opened the garage door where she saw that he had already left. She went back to her house feeling disappointed. Tired, she curled up on the couch and allowed her mind to replay the way Tim’s arms had gone protectively around her body, and then she fell into a restful sleep.

  Tim got home after breakfast and wondered if she was back, but didn’t check. He had no right to monitor her comings and goings. Jakob called and indicated that Elaina wanted to get together for a late dinner after the show. They had a 7:00 show and he decided that he didn’t care one way or the other.

  “Yeah, that’s fine.”

  “Well, I want you to call Priscilla and let her know.”

  “Eh? She’s your friend.”

  “Yeah, but she’s your date.”

  He sighed in annoyance and tried to remember where he had placed her phone number. “Fine.”

  “Call her today, Tim.”

  “Damnit Jakob, when will you butt out? You think I don’t know that this entire thing was a set up?”

  “If it was,” Jakob said innocently, “I had no part in it. You’ve been out of the dating game for a long time. You’re supposed to call the lady periodically, remember?”

  “I’m still not ready for this. Don’t push.”

  “My hands are off the controls.”

  “I’m coming in to the office tomorrow. I need to take care of some things.” The office was technically closed for the Memorial Day weekend but business hours meant little to attorneys, and several people would still be working.

  He hung up the phone and then stalked to the kitchen angrily. He opened the back door and stormed across the yard. When he reached Martier’s house he knocked before he could change his mind. This time he heard movement and then her face appeared through the window.

  She unlocked and opened the door.

  “Are you going to stay cooped up in this house all day?”

  “What?” She rubbed her eyes and he saw that she had been sleeping. He blushed.

  “I thought you might be hiding away because of…well what happened yesterday.”

  “I went to mass.”

  “Oh. Well, sorry if I woke you.” Now he felt like an ass.

  “No, it’s okay. I stopped by the house to thank you for…you know. But you weren’t there.”

  Tim watched the way her brown face seemed filled with the weight of the world where before it was filled with innocence. It broke his heart. He wanted to destroy that cop!

  He swallowed away his anger. “It’s going to warm up pretty good. Do you want to swim later?”

  She smiled and nodded. “And can we put on the rib? I mean unless you had too much yesterday-”

  “No.” He said quickly. “We didn’t have ribs. My friends are Jewish; no pork. So I could really go for ribs about now.”

  “I’ll get it ready and we can meet at about noon?”

  “Sounds like a date!” Then he blushed in horror at his words.

  “I’ll be over later.” Her dark eyes were like deep pools. Her nose sloped long toward narrow
nostrils and then full lips. Even full, her lips were artfully shaped as if she was preparing to blow a kiss. Her cheekbones were high, her skin a perfect shade of burnished mahogany. Dark curls framed her face, some that had escaped her bun fell softly along the span of her slender neck.

  “Bye.”

  “Bye.” He said, still standing there. Then he finally remembered to leave. Back at the house he put on swim trunks and then pulled on an athletic shirt. He was not going to walk around with his gut showing; even though after a month of cardio his body was pretty damned impressive. He would start adding weights. He thought fleetingly of Martier. Men with perfect bodies would one day be throwing themselves at her feet and he didn’t want her looking back on him thinking about the saggy white guy that she worked for.

  Deep down he knew that Martier wouldn’t be here forever. And he wouldn’t want that. She was smart, she was beautiful and she was destined to go forth into the world and shine. But the idea of her going forward made him feel desperately lonely. He grabbed towels, turned on the radio and went out to prepare the grill.

  Martier stripped out of her clothes and stared at herself naked in the mirror. Maybe she should shave her legs again. Only a few of the nuns shaved their legs and underarms. Some really should shave their chins and upper lips but you weren’t supposed to think that.

  She placed her hand over her mound. It was covered in black curly hair and would surely sprout from the white bathing suit. She’d never shaved her pubic hair before and her razor wasn’t the best tool for the job, but when she was finished and ran her hand over the smooth flesh it made her quiver and grow warm. She immediately moved her hand away and concentrated on the hair on her head.

  Removing all of the pins she let down her bun. Her hair fell into heavy waves along her shoulders and down her back where they bounced at the middle of her shoulder blades. Making sure that everything looked hair-free where it should be hair-free, she slipped on the bathing suit that Claudette had called a tool.

  Martier knew that Claudette had thought her too naive to understand. But she did want Tim to look at her as more than a charity case that he had to take care of. If it was a tool, then so be it. She didn’t bother with a towel or shoes. She shook out her thick hair, and then nervously left the house feeling naked; as naked and vulnerable as a newborn kitten.

  Tim added extra coals because he wanted indirect heat and for the meat to cook for hours so that it fell off the bone. He poked the coals until he was satisfied that they took up no more than half of the grill. He heard Martier’s approach and turned. The poker fell out of his hand and clattered to the ground.

  Tim’s mouth parted and he stared at the beautiful woman approaching him. If this was a movie the world would have converted into slow motion and everything except the sight of her would have been blurred out. She wore a simple white bathing suit. It was not cut high at the thighs, the neckline did not plunge down to show cleavage. There was nothing singularly erotic about the suit. But it seemed to Tim that it was the most erotic thing he’d ever seen. The contrast between the deep darkness of Martier’s skin and the stark white fabric was but one element. But then add to that the way the fabric clung to her every curve. And yes she was lean but she was curvy in a way that her previous wardrobe could have never told.

  Her breast weren’t large but they didn’t have to be. Their perfect roundness was evident even beneath the fabric. Lithe and tall didn’t mean skinny, far from it. Her narrow waist swelled toward hips that swayed softly as she walked. Her thighs and legs were toned and nicely formed. His eyes moved up to where her face was haloed by luxurious waves of cascading black hair. She wore no make-up, no jewelry and yet he thought she could rival any Hollywood actress or any Parisian runway model.

  “Martier…” He managed.

  She smiled and tried for brave, maybe even alluring but she thought it only ended up as embarrassed. Tim blinked. His eyes darted away; only then could he think those thoughts that needed to be thought. Because when she had smiled at him, in just that second when she was innocence mixed with seduction, Tim Singleton’s heart soared.

  “You look…beautiful. Your suit! I mean…you.” He stammered and then wanted to palm his face for sounding like an idiot schoolboy.

  She tried not to duck her head, or wrap her arms in front of her, but to stand still and accept his compliment with good grace.

  “Thank you.” She cocked her head and glanced at the grill. “Is it ready? I left the meat in the refrigerator-” She gestured back to the cottage.

  “I’ll get it.” He was already darting across the yard to the little cottage. Once inside he shut the door and took a moment to try to reign everything in. He pressed his erection with the palm of his hand, but that actually felt way too good. Walking to the kitchen he tried to think of things to curb the sudden spike of desire. Nuns didn’t work this time. He just kept picturing Martier.

  “This is no good.” He muttered while storming into the kitchen. He gripped the counter. “Tonight you will jerk off like a beast, but right now pull it together Tim!” She is beautiful, but she is innocent. Help her the way Corrine would have wanted, but keep your hands off!

  Martier had seen the look on Tim’s face. He found her desirable. She smiled faintly. But…he’s been without a wife for nearly a year. And more than feeling desired she felt manipulative. She should have never done this. Just because a man desired you didn’t mean he loved you.

  Tim returned with the ribs. He avoided looking at her from the neck down as he explained that he would slow cook it over indirect heat for several hours.

  “We could swim for a while.” He wanted the coolness of the water to hopefully cool his desires. “And don’t worry, I won’t let you drown.”

  “You’ll show me how to swim?”

  “It’s easy.” He punctuated his words with a nod. They walked to the pool and Tim swept off his shirt and tossed it to the lounge chair. Martier tried not to stare. In recent weeks, from their time outdoors, Tim’s white skin had tanned slightly with a healthy glow. His torso, by comparison, still maintained its paleness. The contrast of tan to white captivated her attention—almost as much as the sight of his muscled arms and torso. He was big, but not the least bit fat.

  The light covering of hair on his chest was both white and dark and it made her want to reach her fingers out to run along the cut plains of his chest and the slight swell of his belly and then over his big arms where she was surprised to see a tattoo.

  “You have a tattoo.” She said aloud and he looked down at his bicep, a serious expression on his face. There he had tattooed three bands; two thick the other thin.

  “Machu Picchu.”

  “What?”

  He shook his head slightly. “Corrine and I went to Peru for an environmental cause that she was involved in. And while we were there we got matching tattoos, hers on her ankle. They are Incan tribal bands.”

  Tim stepped into the cool water and offered her his hand. She thought of the years of history he had with her; Corrine. He probably looked at her and thought that she knew nothing of the world.

  The water felt wonderful and almost too cool. She shivered and he kept hold of her hand. “Here it’s only four feet.” He looked to the far end. “There it’s ten feet.”

  “Feels good.”

  He nodded. “Hold a sec. I’m going to dip my head.” Without releasing her hand he dipped below the surface momentarily and then used his free hand to wipe the streaming water from his eyes.

  “We didn’t have a real pool at the school; just a few wading pools for the little ones.”

  “That’s sad. Every kid should learn to swim.” He walked her around the shallow end and soon her body became acclimated. He placed her hand onto the edge. “Don’t let go of the edge. I’m going to take a lap.”

  He did a backstroke watching her before turning to swim the length. When he got to the far end he checked to make sure she hadn’t let go. She was watching him and had allowed herself to f
loat a bit as she hung onto the edge. He swam back to her.

  “Want to float?”

  She nodded slowly and then looked at the water nervously.

  “I won’t allow your head to fall below the surface.” He assured her. “You’re going to have to trust me.”

  “I do.” She stared into his blue eyes. “I know you won’t let me drown.”

  “Right.” He placed his hand on her shoulder. “Lean back.”

  She immediately did as he asked, allowing her feet to leave the floor and her hand to stop clutching the edge. Immediately she felt his hand beneath her, supporting her body. She looked at him and grinned.

  “I’m floating.”

 
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