A seal upon your heart, p.29
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.29

           Pepper Pace
 

  Tim nodded and hugged his friend and then went over and hugged Elaina. “Okay. I love you guys. Thank you. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

  “We love you, too, honey.” Elaina said and then they left him to tend to Martier. Later that night Tim spooned against Martier, pulling her close into his chest and holding her tightly, hoping that she could feel his arms around her while she relived the nightmarish memories.

  ~***~

  Martier felt tired, thirsty and sore. Where am I? She sank back into the comfort of Tim’s arms and fell asleep again. When she next opened her eyes she was alone in the bed. Panic began to set over her like a cloud and she scrambled out of the bed…or tried to. Her limbs had grown stiff and the bed covers were suddenly restraints. She stumbled to her feet and out of the bedroom, to the front room where Tim was pacing and talking on the telephone. She felt awash in relief.

  Tim met her eyes, “I have to go. Yes. Thank you.” He hung up approached her carefully. “Martier?”

  Her dark eyes were filled with pain. “Tim, I remember it all. All of it…”

  He pulled her gently into his arms. “It’s okay, honey. I know it’s hard but it’s going to be okay.”

  Her body began to tremble. “It’s…” She couldn’t find the words to describe how horrible it was. Silent tears fell down her face and Tim lifted her in his arms and held her.

  CHAPTER 35

  They flew back home. Martier was very quiet and stared out the window of the plane for nearly the entire trip. Tim knew that she was trying to make sense of the new memories. He promised that they would get her someone to talk to about them but she only shook her head without responding.

  Tim insisted that Martier take off a few days of work but two days of roaming her home with only memories of death and blood to keep her company was too much. Elaina had tried to keep her company but Martier finally had to tell the well-meaning woman that she needed this time alone to sort through things. Besides, the well-meaning woman wanted to talk about therapy and psychiatrists as if she was insane.

  Why would she ever want to talk about it? All she wanted to do was to forget. Well that wasn’t completely true. Remembering her mother and father and her brother and sisters was a joy. And those memories kept her from sinking into a total funk.

  When Dhakiya visited her to see her purchases, Martier couldn’t help staring at her in newfound appreciation for her friendship. I am a Hutu and you are a Tutsi but we both lost our family due to the mass killings. There is no rhyme or reason to it all, there is just accepting it and moving on.

  This young woman had done that; had lived her memories of her own family’s massacre. And it was in that moment that she knew she wouldn’t share that she had regained those memories, not with Dhakiya or with anyone else. She plastered on a smile convinced that she would put it behind her.

  ~***~

  “You sure you want to go back to work?” Tim and Martier were cuddled on her couch. A movie was playing but they had barely watched any of it.

  She gave him a half smile. “I want to go back to work.”

  “Okay.” He placed a kiss on her lips and then sighed. “We should go to bed then.” He’d slept each night at her house. In actuality he wanted to take off work and stay with her but she wouldn’t allow it. It made her appear helpless and she didn’t want him to think that about her. She wanted everything to be normal but…there was a hopelessness that engulfed her and she couldn’t seem to shake it. She supposed that she was mourning—something that she hadn’t been able to do when she was six years old.

  The next day as they drove in to work Tim mentioned that Claudette hadn’t been in to work since returning from New York either. Martier suddenly remembered how Aaron had snubbed her. She felt bad that she hadn’t thought any more about her friend. She’d call her as soon as she got a chance today.

  Martier looked good in a gold and taupe Versace suit with a pencil skirt and a pair of Vivier pumps. Her hair was pinned in a French twist and she had donned a pair of small gold loops that Tim had purchased for her. She was a far cry from the young girl that had walked into the office months before wearing hand-me-downs from the church’s donation bin. Several of their acquaintances greeted the couple as they headed for their office and Martier didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious.

  She had several messages and a backlog of work to get straightened out. She was going to have a busy day—and that was a blessing. She managed to squeeze in a break at ten and hurried down to the lobby for a donut for herself and a slice of lemon loaf for Tim.

  “Martier!”

  She turned and saw Lois getting ready to enter one of the elevators. The white haired woman hurried to her. “Martier, did you hear that Claudette quit?!”

  Martier’s mouth dropped. “What?”

  “What in the hell happened in New York?”

  “Well…nothing. She seemed happy and…I need to call her!” She forgot about the donut and slice of lemon loaf and even that she was talking to Lois as she dashed back upstairs for her desk phone before remembering that she had a cell phone. She dialed her friend’s number while she was riding up the elevator.

  “Hello?”

  “Claudette!”

  “Oh, hi, Sugar.”

  “Claudette, did you quit?”

  “Yes. Yes I did.”

  “Oh, Claudette. Why?”

  There was a long sigh. “Martier…I can’t go into it over the telephone-”

  “Then I’ll come over there.”

  There was another pause. “Ok.”

  “I’m on my way.” She disconnected just as the elevator door opened and then she hurried to Tim’s office. She knocked once and stuck her head in. He looked up quickly from a file that he was leafing through. “Tim, I need to leave.”

  “What?” He frowned. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah. I just…I need to borrow the car for a little while. I need to run an errand and I’ll be back before quitting time.”

  “Martier, what’s wrong?” She stepped fully into the office and closed the door behind her.

  “It’s Claudette. She quit. Did you know?”

  “No.” He looked at her surprised. “Okay, go ahead. I’ll talk to Aaron and we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

  “Thanks, honey.”

  “Anytime.”

  She knew where Claudette lived although she had never been to her friend’s home. Claudette had a pretty house in an upscale suburban neighborhood. She rang the bell and was surprised when her friend opened the door and Martier could see moving boxes cluttering the hall.

  “Claudette?”

  “Come in.” Claudette gave her a brief kiss on the cheek and allowed her in.

  “You’re moving?”

  “I’m going back home to Alabama.”

  “But why?”

  Claudette led her into a nearly empty living room where there was still a couch and love seat but little else. “I’d offer you some refreshments but I already cleaned out the refrigerator.” Claudette looked around. “I’ve sold my bigger furniture and the couches. I have someone picking them up in the morning.” She looked at Martier again, “and then I’m going to fly out.”

  “You weren’t even going to say goodbye?” Martier asked, voice reproachful.

  Claudette reached for her hand. “Actually…I wrote you a letter. I know that was the chicken way out but…I’m happy you came over because this is better.”

  “Claudette, what happened?”

  “Well I wised up. I realized that I’ve been a fool.” Martier looked down, so it was about Aaron and the way he had snubbed them, snubbed her. “I thought I was so smart. I thought I had everything under control in my life and was running it just the way I wanted to run it. But then I realized that I was nothing but some man’s dirty little secret.”

  Martier looked up sharply, shaking her head in denial. Claudette just squeezed her hands. “I loved Aaron for more years than I care to admit. I forgave him for not wa
nting to broadcast our relationship in the workplace. And I convinced myself that I didn’t need more; marriage, kids because we were perfect just the way we were--when it’s just between the two of us it’s perfect.” She swallowed and looked away. “I lied to myself because he didn’t act like the other men in the office. He didn’t cat around or even look at any other woman. So I told myself that we were just too evolved for marriage. Our relationship was modern and sensible.” Claudette looked at her and her eyes were narrowed.

  “The truth is…Aaron is ashamed of me.” Martier shook her head. “He doesn’t want to be the man that they talk about at the country club, or during his family dinners. Maybe he even thinks that being married to a black woman is beneath him—I don’t know.”

  “Claudette, have you talked to Aaron about this?”

  “The minute a woman tells a man what she needs from him then she can’t really accept it from him. If I tell him that he didn’t love me enough to marry me and that’s the reason that I’m leaving…and then he asks me to marry him, then it’s meaningless!”

  “But you shou-”

  “But I did it anyway!” She looked at her sharply. “I told him that he was too scared to face his colleagues and family with a black wife! I told him and guess what? He made no attempt to correct the ‘mistake’.”

  Martier bit her lip.

  “It’s okay, Martier, because it finally dawned on me that all this time I’ve been waiting for him to come to me. I haven’t been living, I’ve just been waiting.” Claudette finally smiled and there was something in her smile that caused Martier to nod. She understood. She leaned forward and hugged Claudette.

  “I’m going to miss you. You have no idea…” She didn’t want to lose someone that she cared about right now when she was in the midst of reliving the biggest loss of her existence. But that wasn’t Claudette’s burden. She smiled at her friend.

  “I’m going to miss you too. You are…the daughter I wish I could have had.” Martier choked on a sob and looked down and nodded quickly.

  “Thank you.” She managed. “You’re the mother I wish I had.” Claudette placed her palms on the younger woman’s face and looked at her earnestly.

  “You take care of yourself. You come first, do you understand?”

  Martier blinked away her tears. “Yes. I understand.” Claudette kissed her and Martier went back to work. She told Claudette that she’d bring her personal effects from the office just so that she would have another opportunity to visit her before she disappeared from her life. Although the two friends had made promises to keep in touch, Martier knew that realistically it probably wouldn’t happen. She knew just from the convent that close friends were made but once those friends left, then the friendships ended because out of sight meant out of mind.

  ~***~

  After finishing up with some things in his office, Tim knocked on Aaron’s door.

  “I’m busy!”

  He opened the door and came inside anyway and Aaron glared at him.

  “Where’s Claudette?”

  Aaron began to sputter. “I’m getting someone to fill in for her.”

  “I heard she quit.”

  Aaron’s mouth opened and then snapped closed. “She’ll be back. She just needed a little time. What do you want Singleton?”

  Tim closed the door behind him and sat down in the chair opposite the older man. Aaron was tall and thin and while not quite handsome, he possessed a quality that appealed to people. His hair was silver and his face was clean shaven. He normally carried himself with an air of quiet confidence. But today he seemed anything but quiet and confident. Even his suit was rumpled as if he’d slept in it.

  “Claudette is the sweetest woman in the world. And she’s devoted to you. What did you do to her?”

  Aaron began typing something on his computer. “Mind your own business, Singleton.”

  “Did you cheat on her?” Aaron snorted. “Well what then?” Aaron didn’t speak. “It’s not as if there are millions of people that you can talk to about this. I’m one of…well I’m the only one. So what’s going on?”

  Aaron sighed. “Claudette accused me of being ashamed of her. It’s completely ludicrous. Everyone knows about us, for god’s sake!”

  Tim frowned. “Do you love her?”

  “Of course I do!”

  “Well, not everyone here loves the person their sleeping with.” He held up a hand before Aaron could sputter at him in anger again. “But I have no doubt that you love that woman…but she obviously does.” Aaron quieted and regarded Tim.

  “We’re like…one in the same. It might be foolish to say but Claudette is my better half. She knows me like no other person ever could.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m seventy-two years old, Tim. I’m not interested in getting married and…we have a comfortable life together just the way it is.”

  “Aaron, it’s my experience that when a person says they don’t need something that their mate desires—then more than likely it’s something that they really don’t want but they aren’t willing to admit it.”

  “That’s not the way it is,” he shook his head in denial. “I’ve ALWAYS been honest about my feelings concerning marriage—and it has nothing to do with Claudette’s race. I didn’t want children either…I see the world we live in and I wouldn’t want to bring any human being into this gutter!”

  “I’m too old for children, I can’t imagine myself with little ones,” Tim said. “And I’ve already been married and know that it doesn’t reinforce your feelings for the one you’re with. Marriage is not something that I need to repeat.”

  “So you understand?”

  Tim looked at him grimly. “I understand that if you love her then you’ll do what it takes to make her happy.”

  Aaron grunted.

  ~***~

  Martier was placing Claudette’s personal items into a shopping bag that she had found in one of her desk drawers. When she heard Tim’s voice inside the office, she couldn’t help but to listen to their faint conversation.

  “I’m too old for children, I can’t imagine myself with little ones, and I’ve already been married and know that it doesn’t reinforce your feelings for the one you’re with. Marriage is not something that I need to repeat.” Martier heard those words and they crushed her. He didn’t want to be married…

  CHAPTER 36

  “I think this is it!” Dhakiya said. Martier rolled her eyes discreetly. She’d heard the same thing at least once a week. She looked at the dress that her friend was holding up against her body and could have sworn that it was one that Dhakiya had already selected and rejected. She feigned interest and found the words to exclaim about everything she liked about the dress and to downplay any of Dhakiya’s concerns. And then she remembered why it had been rejected; the price tag.

  Dhakiya was in the process of hanging it back up when Martier slipped it out of her hands.

  “We are getting this dress.”

  Dhakiya made a sad face. “We’re on a budget-”

  “I’m buying you this dress.”

  “No-”

  “You said it was perfect for you and you only get married once-”

  “Martier this dress is three thousand dollars; a dress that I’m only going to wear once? I can’t do that. I can find a dress I like for half that, I just have to look harder-”

  “Listen to me,” she said firmly, “I have the money. Let me do this for you and we’ll consider it your wedding gift.” Dhakiya gave her an unsure look and seeing her hesitation Martier went in for the kill. “Now that we have something new we’ll just need something borrowed and something blue and we’re almost there.”

  Dhakiya bit her lip and smiled and then pulled the dress out of Martier’s hands and hugged it. “Eee!” She squealed. She pulled Martier into a hug. “Oh thank you, sis!” Martier smiled as much for the fact that the wedding dress shopping was finally coming to an end as she did at her best friend’s happiness.

  “W
hen you get married, sis, I’m going to make sure it’s everything you want! Just think, pretty soon we’re going to be two married women and we have to have kids right away! I want our kids to be the same age so that they will be best friends. We’ll synchronize our pregnancy watches!”

  The smile fell from Martier’s lips and she turned away.

  “What’s the matter, honey?”

  “I…” she forced a smile and squeezed her friend’s hand, “nothing.”

 
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