A seal upon your heart, p.20
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.20

           Pepper Pace
 

  He hesitantly offered to take her to a Korean restaurant for kimchee. She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no, only that it sounded interesting. When the food came she found it very good and spicy. She even liked his spicy cauliflower and potatoes dish. He also had chicken curry and she decided that she liked Indian very much. It wasn’t much different from the food that she still remembered eating as a child in Africa.

  They couldn’t linger and headed back to the office. He took her hand gently as he led her back to her cubicle.

  “Thank you for a lovely lunch.” She grinned like a fool when he kissed her hand. Tim’s door opened just when Karl lowered her hand. He looked from one to the other.

  “Karl.” He said.

  “Hello Tim.” Karl responded.

  “How’s it going?”

  “Much better now,” he said while looking at Martier. Tim gave Martier a surprised look and then felt a twinge of anger.

  “Martier when you’re…through here, please come into my office.” Tim ignored Karl as he returned to his office, closing the door behind him.

  ~***~

  Karl? He looked ridiculous standing next to her. She towered over him for god’s sake! Tim paced his office. Was she with him last night? And was he the one that was going to take her to mass tonight? Well why hadn’t she ever asked him to take her? He felt his stomach take a nosedive. Shit, he’d screwed this up royally. He’d pushed her away.

  Tim sighed and ruined his hair by running his fingers through it. He’d kissed her and then had gone out with another woman without ever acknowledging it. What an idiot! Tim, you’re an idiot. This girl looked at you like…you had the sum of all the answers in the universe and you go and…ruin it.

  He sat down slowly in his chair and rubbed his cheek. Karl French; up and coming black attorney; smart, handsome, rich. She could do worse. She wasn’t just settling for the first guy to look her way, was she? He felt incredibly sad.

  When Tim got home that evening he changed into jeans, biker boots and a leather jacket. He walked out to the garage and started his Harley. He hadn’t ridden in a few years. He drove it out into the drive-way and checked the gauges. Everything looked good. He dusted off the helmet and slipped it on his head before zooming off.

  He rode into Kentucky and down Dixie Hwy. It made him sad. Corrine used to sit behind him, her delicate body molded along his back and he’d think about how much he couldn’t wait to get back home and make love to her.

  He went faster.

  He parked along the Ohio River and sat on his bike watching the sunset. The he drove to the Madd Crab and decided to have a few beers.

  Martier returned home at a little before eight. The lights in Tim’s house were out. She walked by grimly. She hadn’t gone to mass. She had nothing to say to God. Instead she’d walked to the library. She decided to borrow some movies and music along with books. The movies all looked stupid; stories about spacemen, boogiemen, fast cars and drug dealers. She asked the librarian to pick something for her. The older woman had been happy to do so.

  “Let’s stick with the classics. Do you like romances, mystery, suspense-?”

  “All of the above--as long as there is nothing scary in it.” She didn’t think she could deal with watching a scary movie and then turning out the lights and seeing the shadows of the trees against her darkened walls.

  The Librarian gave her a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie called Marnie, and another with Sidney Poitier called A Patch of Blue. Martier thanked the woman and after checking out a new romance novel she found a Mariam Makeba CD to listen to. She than called the African cab driver who again only charged her $15. She wondered if he would ever charge her more than that no matter where she was located.

  She gave him a quick goodbye and hurried into her darkened house. She turned on the light in the kitchen, lit one of the scented candles and slipped in the Mariam Makeba CD. It played softly as she quickly sautéed some fresh vegetables with a chicken breast for her dinner. She kicked off her shoes and hummed to the beautiful music. Martier closed her eyes and danced to herself. This music…it was home. She couldn’t remember but she knew the feeling it brought. She decided that she would listen to African music every single day of her life.

  It was after eleven before she climbed into her bed. She’d watched both movies and loved them, sobbing openly. Before climbing into bed she checked once more for Tim’s house lights. He still wasn’t home. Nodding she closed her eyes. Priscilla. Rich. White. Big rack.

  ~***~

  Jakob was cursing when he saw the bike. It was 12:37 am. “Damnit Tim. It’s not Friday! And I can’t freaking drive a motorcycle with a drunk man on back.”

  “I’m not drunk.” Tim slurred and weaved on his feet. The ground came crashing up to meet him. When he woke up again he was in a cab with Jakob. He touched his lip, split. He was a lot more sober now and tried to remember if he’d gotten into a fight this time.

  “Where’s my bike?”

  “Back at the bar.”

  He knew better than to respond. Jakob was glaring out his window. What a shitty thing for him to do; get Jakob out of bed on a work night. But somehow he had gotten into his brain that it was Friday and well…still not a good excuse.

  “I think I fucked up.” He mumbled and rubbed his face.

  “You think?” Jakob responded sarcastically while turning to him.

  His shoulders raised in concession. “I mean with Martier.”

  “Martier?” Jakob’s brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?”

  “I think I…have feelings for her.”

  “Shit…don’t do that to her, Tim. From what you told me-”

  “Don’t do what to her?”

  “You don’t fuck with a girl like that, Tim!”

  “I wasn’t going to do that! That’s what you do Jakob, not me.”

  “It’s the same thing Tim!” He snapped. “Except the girls I’m with know the deal. That girl that lives in your back yard doesn’t. You won’t do that to her-!”

  “I wasn’t…I’m not. Look if I just wanted that then I’d do like you and hire assistants for how big their tits are. And you’re fucking wrong if you think they all know the deal—some of them really think you love them, Jakob.”

  They rode in silence all the way back to Tim’s house. Before he got out the cab, Tim reached into his wallet and pulled out enough money to cover the ride. As the cab drove off he looked at his best friend feeling sick but not from the alcohol.

  “I’m sorry Jakob. I was out of line.”

  Jakob made a face and finally turned to Tim. “Whatever.” He got into his car without waiting for Tim to enter the house and drove off. Tim cursed grimly. So this is what it felt like to lose Jakob’s friendship; like total shit.

  CHAPTER 25

  Tim again had family court for the entire day. Martier accepted another lunch date with Karl and it was Korean this time. He ordered something called ban chan to go along with the grilled meats and vegetables. She loved it, including the kimchee.

  “You pack it away for such a small woman.” But his words were spoken with admiration. She found out a lot about him. He was 27, owned a $600,000 condo in the city. And he had a 4 year old son.

  “His mother and I just didn’t work out. But I see him every other weekend and I get him two weeks in the summer.”

  “That’s sad.” She said. He tilted his head at her. “I just mean that a little boy without his Daddy there.”

  “I’m just a phone call away. But you are right. I’d love to have children with a woman who will actually stick around.” She gave him a rueful smile. He just watched her steadily. “Martier…would it be too forward if I asked you out to dinner tonight?”

  “Tonight? Well, I’m not sure…”

  “I know its short notice. But one of my favorite places to be in the summer is one of the Jazz in the Park sessions. It’s just some local talent. It’s real casual, jeans and things. We’d pull out the lawn chairs and listen
to some good music for a while, have a few drinks…?”

  It sounded like fun, and she needed to do things like that; make new experiences. But maybe Karl was moving too fast. And she wasn’t sure if she wanted him to know that she rented Tim’s guesthouse. Also, he didn’t like Claudette and she wanted to talk to her about it. Not that she wanted to say, “Hey, Claudette, Karl French doesn’t care for you.” But maybe there was a way to find out what that was all about.

  “You seem in deep thought.” He said with a smile. “Anyone who has to think about it that hard really should just say yes. It will be fun and I promise not to keep you out too late.”

  Martier smiled. “Okay. Yes, it sounds like fun.”

  “Great. I can pick you up at about seven?”

  She nodded. “Seven.”

  She explained that she was renting Tim’s cottage, which required her to explain that she had just recently lived in a convent, which required her to explain that she had been left orphaned . And that is how your entire life story gets told in one afternoon, Martier thought.

  Karl reached out and took her hand, offering it a quick squeeze before politely releasing it. He had a serious expression when he told her that he was sorry for her hardship. Then he smiled. “I hope that things for you are only up from this point on, hmm?”

  She nodded. “Me too.”

  Upon returning to the office she checked to make sure Tim wasn’t in, which he wasn’t then she left a message for Claudette that she’d need her help to get everything booked for the New York trip. Claudette showed up at her desk ten minutes later.

  “I’m never at my desk, but I have my messages forwarded.” She explained. She came around Martier’s desk and sat down in the spare chair. “We’re going to have so much fun! New York is the big perk of being an assistant. They won’t really need us except to take care of little stuff at the end of the day. We can do whatever we want with a daily per diem. Ka-CHING!”

  Martier laughed. “Well the firm has to be losing money on this trip. Why do they do it?”

  Claudette shook her head. “Networking? They get lots of money and make mass connections. Plus it’s payment for all the hard work we do. Honey WE are Rangbo, Singleton, Bradbury and Marx, Attorneys at Law just as much as THEY are.”

  Martier conceded to that. Short of passing the bar and going to court she did nearly everything for Tim. Claudette showed her how to use the company account to request a payment when you don’t have a credit card. Claudette saw something that made her brow move upward and she gave Martier a cheeky smile.

  “Tim’s ordered you a cell phone.”

  “Really?”

  “Yep. Says it right here. You should get it in about a week. Blackberry. Nice.” Claudette gave her a brief smile. “How are things working out, hon?”

  Martier’s smile faltered. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean…” She picked with the corner of her notebook. She felt Claudette’s hand on hers.

  “What’s wrong, sugar?”

  “It’s just…” Her voice cracked and she couldn’t meet her friend’s eyes. “I thought—but he’s not interested.” Her eyes stung. She felt Claudette’s fingertips beneath her chin. When she met her friend’s eyes the other woman was smiling.

  “I can guarantee you that you’re wrong.”

  Martier shook her head. “I…we kissed.” Claudette’s smile deepened. “But then he backed off.” Claudette nodded, still smiling. “And then he went out with another woman…” She paused not able to meet Claudette’s eyes. When the other woman didn’t respond she looked up and Claudette was still smiling.

  “What?” Why was she smiling? Tim loved someone else and her heart was breaking and she was smiling.

  “He is just a man. And he’s going to make mistakes. But he generally doesn’t make them for very long…you mark my words.”

  Martier frowned not sure what her friend was trying to say. “Are you saying I should wait for him to realize that I’m here?”

  “Wait…no. What I’m saying is don’t give up on Tim.”

  This had turned into the perfect segue to Karl French. “I actually went out on a few dates with someone else.”

  “Oh?”

  “Yes.” Martier fiddled with the notebook again. “An attorney from the firm.”

  Claudette’s smile slipped away. “Who?” She asked sternly.

  “Karl French.”

  “Karl French.” Her smile had completely disappeared. “Oh Martier!” She leaned forward. “That man is a WHORE.” She said quietly but insistently. “Karl is a pig! All he does is see a pretty face and goes after them. Girl, that man has had sex with half the woman that walks through the door.” Claudette sat back and shook her head. “You need to stay away from him, Martier, trust me on this. He is nothing but bad news. Martier, most of the attorney’s here are…” She cleared her throat. “Well, Tim isn’t.”

  She wondered about Aaron Rangbo. Was he one of the people that Claudette was talking about?

  Martier closed her eyes. Why did everything have to be so difficult? Once Claudette was gone she picked up the phone. She was going to cancel with Karl.

  “Hi beautiful.” He said as soon as he heard her voice. “I was just thinking about you and looking forward to Jazz in the Park tonight.”

  “Karl…about Jazz in the Park, I’m sorry but I have to cancel.” Karl was quiet.

  “Is everything okay?”

  “Yes…I just…” She cleared her voice and felt nervous sweat beads forming on her forehead. “I’m… I think things might be moving too fast for me.”

  “Stay right there, Martier. I’ll be at your desk in sixty seconds.” The phone went dead.

  Oh no.

  She grimaced and looked around nervously. She was not going to hide so why was she looking around?! She smoothed out her hair and tried not to look as nervous as she felt. She heard Karl’s rapid steps a few moments later. He came to a panting stop in front of her desk.

  “Martier.” His handsome face held a slight frown. “What’s wrong? We had a great lunch, right?”

  “Um…” She rubbed her hands together. “Yes.”

  “Well, I’d like to see you. I’m going to be honest, I find you to be very dynamic. A lot of people I meet act the same way, look the same way and it’s very refreshing to meet someone such as yourself. You are very unique. I know…your circumstances; the convent and all and I don’t want to push you but I do want you to see that I’m a bit more than just casually interested. I like you Martier.”

  Her mouth hung open. She closed it with a snap. “Karl…” She didn’t have it in her to be completely deceitful. She had to tell him her concerns. “Claudette is a friend of mine-”

  “Claudette?” His expression turned frosty. “I see she’s been poking her nose into other people’s business again. A friend of yours, huh?” She saw him clench his teeth. “Well that friend of yours is nothing but a white man’s whore! She accuses me of doing the same thing that she is doing. But she whores herself just to be his assistant and get fake status. Claudette is nothing more than Aaron Rangbo’s black bed wench!”

  Martier came to her feet quickly. His words sickened her. “Karl leave.”

  He gave her a cold look. “Maybe I misjudged you, Martier. Maybe that’s all you want, too. You’re living in Tim’s house, are you warming his bed, too?”

  A deep voice spoke. “What did you just say? What in the hell did you just say?!” Tim rounded the corner carrying his briefcase and jacket in one hand. He dropped them on the floor and loosened his tie his feet moving rapidly. His eyes were bright red.

  Karl looked at him. “Back up old man. This is none of your business.”

  “The hell it isn’t.” Tim’s fist landed square in Karl’s face. His head jerked back. He held his nose and a trickle of blood flowed freely. Karl gave the older, larger man a surprised look.

  “You broke my nose.” Tim’s hand was still formed into a fist. “Thank you Mr. Singleton.” Karl smiled as his
mouth filled with blood. “This firm will now be known as Rangbo, French, Bradbury and Marx, Attorneys at Law.”

  Tim smiled evily and Karl looked suddenly less smug. “Thank you Karl. Now I can freely kick your ass without worry since you plan to sue my ass anyway. Might as well go out with gusto!” His fist landed in Karl’s stomach. Karl went over with a loud whumpf and then with a banshee yell he ran forward and tackled the bigger man.

  Tim spoke between gritted teeth. “College football, asshole!” Then he slammed the younger man to the floor using his elbows and his powerful body. Karl went flying across the room and landed with a loud crash into the dry flower arrangements.

 
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