A seal upon your heart, p.19
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.19
 

           Pepper Pace

  “Wait, don’t dash off so quick.” She heard a man’s low voice. Claudette stepped into the office and closed the door discreetly but not before she heard him speak. “I want to see you tonight.”

  Martier couldn’t help it, her mouth opened in total surprise; Claudette and Aaron Rangbo?! She couldn’t believe it! The door opened and she quickly wiped the alarmed look from her face and pretended to be looking at the nicely decorated area.

  Claudette grinned. “Let’s go. And we’re not walking, we’re taking my car.”

  It wasn’t that Martier was judging Claudette but Aaron was so drab compared to her lively friend. And there was a big age difference. Wow…it was the same age difference that existed between her and Tim; twenty plus years…

  She was curious but it wasn’t her business and she decided not to probe into her friend’s love life, especially since she’d never brought it up. Martier climbed into a nice BMW and thought how great it would be to have a car; especially now that she’d decided to depend less and less on Tim. She needed to distance herself from him. She didn’t want to stop working with him. She loved her job and she loved her little house but the rides to and from work would have to end, as would the after work dinners and weekend chill out sessions. Besides, chances were that he’d be doing those things with someone else. There was no blame in it. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. She had.

  He’d told her no and in her brain it hadn’t meant no. Now she understood; there was never going to be a Martier and Tim. Period.

  She swallowed past the lump in her throat and focused on the future and not the terrible mistake she’d made. After a short drive they pulled up to a large mall with a huge red and white water tower in front that said FLORENCE Y’ALL. Martier got out the car realizing that they were in Kentucky now, which was just a few minutes from Downtown Cincinnati. They shopped with a purpose and were back in the garage not two hours later. In that time she had found a style that was purely her own and it hadn’t cost her thousands of dollars.

  Martier went back to work humming to herself. She checked Tim’s messages, updated his schedule and had all of her duties completed by the end of the day. She then grabbed her two shopping bags and left work.

  She always called Dhakiya or she called Claudette, but she had yet to enjoy the city on her own. She was curious and decided to poke around a bit now that she had time to linger. Martier discovered that window shopping was actually more fun when you had money to spend. She wasn’t rich by most standards but she’d been able to save a tidy sum that didn’t have to go towards rent.

  She had dinner at a fast food restaurant, found a shop that specialized in black hair care products and got well needed help in finding the right hair creams to tame her wild curls. Several people tried to sell her bootleg movies, tapes and knock-off purses. She owned the real things and could immediately spot the difference. She found an African shop that sold incense and oils to burn and became excited with the smells and the subtle African music piped in over speakers.

  The people were friendly when they saw that she freely spent money but it was getting dark and the streets were becoming less populated. She had too many bags to be walking around the city streets alone and asked the shopkeeper in the African store to call her a cab.

  He told her that he’d call her a bootleg cab driven by his brother who wouldn’t charge her as much as a regular cab company. She agreed and soon a man drove up in just a regular car. She gave the friendly shop keeper a nervous look but after some brief encouragement, got into the unknown car with a stranger as she tried to determine just what she’d do if he turned out to be a maniac.

  He wasn’t a maniac and got her home for only fifteen dollars. She accepted a card with his name and phone number on it and promised she’d call him whenever she needed a cab. Martier didn’t want him to pull into the drive-way and got out at the curb. He whistled long as he admired the house and she lied and told him yes when he asked if she worked here. It was just less complicated that way.

  It was a little after seven and she glanced at the main house as she hurried around to the back. The lights were on; Tim was home. She mentally shook herself when she remembered his protective arm around her when the police officer had questioned her. As she passed the pool she envisioned his lips on hers and the feel of their wet bodies pressed together. She grimaced.

  CHAPTER 23

  Tim had come home and hit the treadmill. It had been a long day and he was beat. He swilled back a bottled water and dropped onto the couch still wet from the sweat of his workout. He yawned and thought about getting into the shower but had fallen asleep before actually making it happen. It was nearly ten pm when he woke.

  He sniffed his pits and looked out the kitchen window. Martier’s lights were on. He wondered what time she’d gotten home. The light on his cell phone was flashing and he checked his messages. Priscilla had called.

  He checked it quickly. She’d invited him to dinner. Damn…She’d enjoyed their date. He sighed. A kiss is a promise. And he’d made that promise to two women, hadn’t he? He scratched his head and dialed her number before he lost his courage.

  “Hi, I hope it’s not too late.” He tried to sound pleasant but not too pleasant. “I just got your message.”

  “Tim, no. I’m happy you called. I wasn’t in bed.”

  “I uh…had fun with you yesterday…”

  “I did too, Tim.”

  “I uh…wanted to tell you that I think that you’re a wonderful person-lady…and…but I don’t think I’m ready for…um…” He struggled for the right word.

  “A relationship?” She filled in softly.

  “Uh…yes. I’m not ready for a relationship.” But that was a lie. Because he thought that he might be ready. He couldn’t tell her that there was a woman that he’d met and this woman had taken up every bit of free thought that he had. This woman made him want to wake up in the morning and actually live…not just get by. There was a purpose; he could see the beauty in the world again and enjoy the sound of music, he could allow himself to feel more than pain.

  “Tim I realize that you haven’t been a widower for long; it hasn’t even been a year yet. This must be a very difficult time. But I think…you’re someone worth waiting for. And when the time is right for you-”

  OH GOD…she wasn’t offering to wait for him?? He grimaced. He had to do this cleanly. He ran his hand through his hair and it felt oily and slightly wet.

  “That is a really nice thing for you to say but…I don’t really want you to do that.”

  “Oh.”

  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound like…” He was at a loss for words. Yeah, he did mean it to sound like that. “I guess I better go. Goodnight Priscilla.”

  “Tim, you take care.” He paused.

  “You too, Priscilla.” He hung up the phone feeling relieved. That had been hard. Hopefully the next discussion he had with a woman would be a lot more pleasant. He smiled to himself as he got into the shower.

  It was much too late to even consider going to Martier’s so he went to bed with an idea of just what he’d say to Martier Besigye. Tim smiled to himself and couldn’t seem to stop even while he slept and he had wonderful dreams about a wonderful girl.

  Martier’s dark eyes were troubled as she read the words that she had written just a few short days ago in her notebook. She looked out the window into the darkness of the night. Her eyes felt dry; too dry. The crease between her brow grew more prominent as she picked up her pen and began to scribble into the notebook.

  Dear God;

  and here i sit

  i only seem to be

  always on the outside

  never in focus

  what i think

  what i feel

  i do not understand

  i ask the question

  where does the answer lie?

  is it within me?

  am i supposed to wait?

  the longing

  the burning

/>   always there

  i hunger

  i thirst

  the food does not fill me

  the water does not quench

  so here i sit

  alone

  CHAPTER 24

  Martier slipped into Tim’s car and gave him a brief smile. “Good morning.”

  He watched her with a brighter smile. “Good morning.”

  “How was court yesterday?” She asked and they made comfortable small talk. As they walked into the office still chatting, Tim noted that she was wearing a new summer jacket and new clothes beneath it. He knew her entire wardrobe, and not just because it had once belonged to his wife, he just knew.

  “Martier,” he said suddenly. But then he just stopped.

  “Yes, Tim?”

  His face reddened slightly. “Never mind.” After work Tim, he told himself. He went into his office, hung up his coat, sat in his chair and allowed his eyes to rest on the pictures that sat on his desk. His brow gathered and he felt a surprised jolt as he stared at the same frozen smile that he had stared at every single day that he sat in this office.

  It suddenly occurred to him that the image of the past was but a mere second of his existence, now captured for all times as a one-sided reminder of something that could never ever return. He choked back a strangled sound. He couldn’t…he couldn’t look at that same unchanging picture…their frozen smiles…a ‘Corrine’ and ‘Tim’ that no longer existed. With shaky hands Tim reached out and quickly grabbed the photos and urgently thrust both of them into his desk drawer.

  Why had it taken him this long to realize that those photos were haunting him?

  Martier brought his coffee and immediately noticed the missing photos from his desk. She met Tim’s eyes and realized that he was watching her closely.

  She was wearing a simple wrap around dress. There wasn’t anything fancy about it. It was brown and she had on black pumps. Her gold crucifix was her only jewelry besides small gold hoops in her ears. But somehow she made it look awesome.

  “Do you need anything before you head off to court?” She asked. He quickly shook his head and cleared his throat.

  “No. Um…yeah, can you get with Claudette about booking reservations for the conference next month?”

  Martier gave him a confused look. “Conference?”

  “Oh.” Right, how would she know about the annual conference? “Once a year we go to New York for a three day conference Wednesday thru Friday. Generally we set arrival time Wednesday afternoon and return Sunday morning. The ladies generally like having time to shop and what-not.”

  The ladies…She straightened her back. “How many did you want me to book for you, Tim?” She said, thinking about Priscilla with the mysterious face but an image of a huge ‘rack’ burned into her imagination.

  He gave her a surprised look. “Just two; for you and me. I’m sorry…I guess I’m distracted today.” He looked down at the file that he had yet to open. “The conference is for the attorneys AND their assistants.”

  “Oh.” She was going to New York? New York?! She smiled.

  “Is it okay?” He said. Everyone always looked forward to it. Corrine included.

  “Yes.” She nodded enthusiastically.

  “Claudette will help you. Please run everything by her. I’ll be back later. I’ll have to make some client calls and I’m going to need you to fax the petition for adoption and there are five motions I need faxed no later than noon. We should be done by quitting time. Maybe we can stop at the grocers on the way home-”

  Martier’s mouth opened and her eyes darted away from his. “I-I’m going to mass tonight, straight from work.”

  “I can drop you off-”

  “I already have a ride.”

  Tim smoothed his hand over the folder on his desk. “Oh.”

  “I better get back to work.”

  He reached for his coffee with a frown. She was avoiding him.

  Martier wished Tim good luck when he left for court. She faxed the required documents, filed the motions, typed the client letters and then checked the time wondering if she had time to get with Claudette about the New York trip before noon.

  New York, for free! Even if she had to work it didn’t matter. She was going to New York! She decided that she’d shoot her friend an email instead. She’d get with Claudette after lunch. Now her belly was twisting and turning. Maybe she should go to the restroom and check her appearance.

  Martier stared at herself in the mirror. She slowly reached up and removed the pins from her hair. The hair care products that had been sold to her by the Asian’s had done wonders in taming her curls. Her hair no longer looked like a lion’s mane. She finger combed it and then fluffed it into place. Her dark curls ran down her back completely frizz free. Hmm, she should have had that when she’d tried everything from Baby oil, to body lotion to tame her locks.

  She checked out her slender body and made sure that her bra wasn’t peeking out from the folds of the dress. Claudette had thrust four pretty bras into her hands and she was happy because the dress had a low neckline and she wouldn’t want anyone to get a peek at one of her old white bras.

  She returned to her desk nervously and wondered what she’d do if Karl didn’t show up. Well that wasn’t to be the case. He was standing at her desk at 11:58.

  “Hi there, beautiful.” Her face warmed. And then she took in his perfect appearance. Karl was no slouch in the looks department. He wore a simple black suit with a thin tie. His tighter pants made him look very hip and it didn’t hurt that he had a nice body to showcase it. She stood up…too bad he was a good four inches shorter than her.

  He didn’t seem to notice, or he liked her height. But she noticed.

  “You look fabulous.”

  “Thank you.” She beamed and grabbed her purse. They walked to the garage together and several people looked at the couple. She knew that she was far from the slouching convent girl that had worn ill-fitting navy skirts and squeaky shoes to work. Well at least on the outside she was different.

  “And where would the pretty lady like to go for lunch?” He said once they were in the garage. She heard the chirp chirp sound as he disengaged the locks of a black Porsche. She gave him a look of respect. He couldn’t have been thirty and he was driving a Porsche.

  He opened the door for her and she shook her head. “You decide.”

  Once he was inside he studied her. “Do you like ethnic food? I know a great Indian Restaurant in Oakley. Have you ever been to Baba?”

  “I’ve never had Indian.”

  “Really?”

  She smiled shyly. “But I like to try new things. If you’ll help me decide I’d like to try it.”

  “Excellent!” He turned the radio on to jazz and she liked that he asked her if she liked jazz. She told him she did.

  “So have you been in the states long, Martier? Your accent is very hard to place but I’ve heard African dialect spoken before.”

  “I’ve lived in the states most of my life.” So that he wouldn’t think of asking her what part of Africa she was from she turned the tables and began asking him questions.

  “What kind of law do you practice?”

  “I work in Aaron Rangbo’s department as a tax attorney.”

  “Oh! So you know Claudette.”

  His face became closed. “That busybody. Yes I know her.”

  Martier’s stomach sunk. “Busybody?”

  “That one likes to poke her nose into everybody’s business. Since you’re new here I’ll give you some advice, stay far away from that one. Once she knows your business she spreads your business.”

  Martier didn’t respond. Karl changed the subject and talked while Martier listened and they finally reached the small Indian restaurant. He placed his hand at the small of her back as he led her into the restaurant and she couldn’t help but to shiver at the contact.

  After they were seated he stared deeply into her eyes and she became slightly uncomfortable. “Martier.
I hope you don’t mind me asking but…have you ever modeled?”

  She almost guffawed at that. “No!”

  “Why are you laughing? You are absolutely gorgeous. Men must tell you that all of the time.”

  She shook her head and looked down shyly. Perhaps if she had ever been allowed around men. Other than the Priest and such or professionals, Martier had rarely been in the company of males. Sitting across from Karl was a first for her…well other than Tim. And this was…well it was like a date, wasn’t it?

  The waiter came and Karl helped her to order. He suggested chicken tiki masala and aloo nan bread. He promised to share his aloo gobhi with her after determining that she liked cauliflower. After that they talked at length about ethnic foods and she could tell that Karl liked trying new things just as she did.

 
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