Did you miss any of Snowed or simply want to read it again? Below are the links for my romantic suspense novel set in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mike Ruben has a big problem—true, it might not seem that much of an issue to some men, but it’s bugging him. He got really drunk at his birthday party and had a great night with a beautiful brunette. Some problem, right? But he can’t remember her name, so he refers to her as Mystery Date. And all she left were fantastic memories and a note—but not her number. This wouldn’t be so bad, except now someone is trying to kill him and the clue may lie in the identity of Mystery Date. Read about the exploits and adventures of Big Mike as he tries to solve this deadly puzzle before it’s too late.
Sadly, Snowed is complete. I hope you enjoyed Big Mike’s adventures. Now, the big choice comes of what to share with you next? I’ll have to do some looking so that I can find the perfect story. The decision has been made and I shall introduce it Sunday, June 7, 2015.
Be watching this space on Sunday, June 7 for whatever new book I decide to share with you. Meanwhile, you can find and enjoy my published works on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords – Second Wind books and Smashwords – Tirgearr & other. I hope you’ll look for and buy my books!
Anisette Parker is in custody. She and Mike are being checked at the hospital. Her claim that she’s pregnant worries Mike. He feels responsible and doesn’t want to back out of a responsibility. If he’s going to be a father, he wants to know.
But try finding anyone to give me a straight answer. Apparently, there’s all kinds of laws that cover that kind of thing. They can’t even tell me yes or no, or they could violate all kinds of things. I finally found the lady cop and asked her. She looked around furtively, taking me aside.
“I’m not supposed to say anything. I could get in a lot of trouble.”
“If she is and it’s mine, I have responsibilities.”
“She’s not,” she said quietly.
“Thank God.” I thought I’d pass out from relief.
“I knew that would make you feel better.”
“I don’t even know your name. I can’t keep thinking of you as the lady cop. I want to thank you properly.” I held out my hand.
“Vanessa,” she said with a grin as she shook my hand.
“Thank you, Vanessa. You saved my life.”
“Don’t get all soppy on me,” she said with a smirk. “But you’re welcome.”
“Is she going to be okay?”
“That I don’t know, sugar. But you can be sure she’ll get the best help they can give her.”
“Thanks. For everything.” I kissed her hand, then pulled her into an embrace.
“You’re welcome, baby. You go on now. That girl of yours is bout to go crazy.”
“I’m gonna name our first kid after you,” I said.
“You name some boy Vanessa, he’s gonna hunt you down when he grows up.”
“How about Vance if it’s a boy?”
“Aren’t you a little previous?” She walked us out to Chester’s car.
“Yeah, well. . . . It pays to pre-plan.”
“Oh, we found out how your fire started. Miss Parker was the one who rented the place next door. She had it already in her mind to get closer to you. I guess if the party idea hadn’t panned out, she would have worked her wiles on you some other way. She had a key already. It was pretty simple to set up the gas to blow.”
“I’m gonna have a lot of explaining to do to the insurance company,” I said. “And the complex is probably going to ask me to move.”
“That’s okay,” Sarena said as we walked to the car. “When we go house hunting with Gabe, we’ll look for a place for ourselves.”
“With lots of extra space,” I said. “For all the little Vanessas and Vances running around.”
We stopped by the car while her father unlocked the doors, kissing languidly. Chester cleared his throat pointedly, opening the door.
“Before you go making us grandparents, shouldn’t you be married first?”
“We could do that,” I said.
“It sounds good to me,” Sarena agreed.
“Okay, Chester. But only on one condition.”
“Oh?” He looked at me, obviously confused.
“I get a cheeseburger and chili cheese fries at the wedding supper.”
“Son, after what you’ve been through, you can have whatever you want.”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
The police arrive and are able to help the kids off the bus. Mike manages to distract Anisette without getting himself shot. The lady cop comes up to speak to him, she asks him if that’s the crazy chick who caused all the trouble.
“Yeah,” I said, right before I passed out.
I woke up awhile later with a paramedic kneeling beside me.
“He’s awake,” he called to someone I couldn’t see.
My lady cop friend squatted beside me. “Can’t handle the buzz, huh?”
“Bitch drugged you,” she said.
“Something on her lips,” the paramedic said.
“So, I’m not just a horny bastard?” I struggled to get up.
The guy helped me sit up while the lady cop laughed.
“No. I think any guy who got dosed like that would act the same way. Make you do all kinds of crazy shit while it lasted. Then makes you pass out.”
“Hot monkey sex,” I agreed with a groan. “What is it?”
“It’s a designer drug. We’re starting to see it from time to time at parties. Girls are getting payback for the date rape drugs, using their own form of revenge. Dose a guy, then cry rape.”
“Dirty bitches,” I groaned again, holding my head.
“Could she really be pregnant?”
I started to nod, then decided against it because it made me want to throw up. “We weren’t exactly careful when we got together.”
“When was that?” Lady cop asked.
“Halloween. My birthday.”
“We’ll have her checked at the hospital,” the paramedic said calmly. “You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah. Thanks.” I leaned against the side of the car, my head whirling, my brain still trying to catch up. “So, it wasn’t my fault?”
“The hot monkey sex?” Lady Cop shook he head. “No, home boy, it wasn’t your fault.”
“Oh, thank, God.”
“Thanks for the distraction. We were able to get the kids out safely.”
“Did they see? I didn’t want them to see. Not like that. . . .”
“No, Mr. Reuben. They didn’t see. And even if they did, they know you did it for them. That was a brave thing you did.”
“What am I gonna do? Let her shoot up my bus? I’m responsible for that.” I laughed weakly.
Lady Cop smirked, helping me stand. “Might want to do up the drawers,” she said. “There’s someone here to see you.”
Actually, there was a whole crowd. Parents and students walked toward us, all talking at once. I turned away, zipping and buckling, so I was presentable when they arrived moments later. I’ve never been clapped, pummeled, socked, had my hair ruffled or felt quite so much like puking in public as I did at that moment.
After the odd eternity, it was over and they were gone. I could stand on my own, but I couldn’t drive myself home. Cleo’s rental was towed and I was taken to the emergency room. The doctor proclaimed me fine shortly after my arrival and gave me something to help with the after effects of the drug.
Sarena, Chester and my mother sat in the waiting room. They stood anxiously when the door opened. Ma damn near knocked me over in her enthusiasm to see me. Chester pulled her off, letting Sarena help me sit down.
“They told us what that awful woman did,” Ma exclaimed.
“Not an awful woman, Ma. Just a poor girl who was tired of being ignored.”
“What she did to you was horrible! How can you defend her?”
“I keep wondering what I did or said to make her think. . . . How did I encourage her?”
“Maybe something as simple as a smile,” Sarena said, kissing my cheek. “Don’t blame yourself.”
“I just want to tell her I’m sorry.”
“She’s not in her right mind,” Chester explained. “Nothing you said would make any difference. The doctor has her sedated.”
“Is she pregnant?”
“I don’t know. They didn’t say.”
“I need to find out. If she is, well. . . . I have to know.”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
Mike finds the bus at the park where they stopped for lunch when on the field trip. He knows that Anisette Parker is around somewhere. She hops onto the hood of the car, wielding a gun at him. He knows he has to calm her down.
“Then why are you with her and not me?”
“Because you didn’t leave your number. How’s a guy supposed to call?”
“You could have asked me for it.” She walked over, pointing the gun at my balls.
I gulped, considering the pissing option again. “Baby, you didn’t exactly give me a chance! You had me up inside you so fast, I didn’t have time. You blew me away, Ani. My head was still spinning the next day.”
“Then why did you make it with that old, blonde whore? The one from the coffee shop? Why?”
“Hey, a guy gets horny, Anisette. She and I used to date. You got me so sexed up, I couldn’t see straight. I was horny and had no way to reach you.”
That, weirdly, seemed to satisfy her. For the moment. Her face clouded again.
“But you’re with her, now!” she screeched. “Not me, her! Why?” At least the gun was pointed away from me and the bus, gesturing toward town.
“She looks like you,” I said softly, seductively. “I couldn’t find you. I didn’t know who you were. When I saw her, I thought she was you. I wanted her to be you.”
“Take me now,” she demanded, tossing my coat aside. “Here, now!”
“Ani, in front of the kids?”
She looked at the bus in confusion as if she’d forgotten it was there. “Fuck them,” she said. “They can watch.”
“I don’t much like an audience, Ani. I’m shy. Big Mike can’t come out to play if you make me do this in front of them.”
“In the car.” She grabbed me, dragging me toward the backseat.
I opened the back door, pressing her up against the side, fumbling with her clothing. My mouth locked on hers, but my eyes were wide open, looking around for any sign that the police were there. I saw movement in the bushes and the flash of metal in the sunlight. I had a feeling they were going to get the kids out of the bus before they came to my rescue. Great! I was gonna be bare assed naked before they helped me out.
Anisette’s hand with the gun wavered, the weight of it pressing against my side. I worked it out of her fingers, tossing it away from us after holding it up for the cops to see. One of the officers had worked his way to the bus. A kid up front opened it for him. It squeaked and I thought that Anisette would hear it, so I groaned, rubbing myself against her. Honest to God, I hoped they would hurry, because even if I was faking, this proximity was having an alarming effect on me. Memories of things we had done came flooding back. Hot monkey sex had nothing on the kinky shit she and I did that night. Her hands were all over me, grabbing, rubbing. I could feel myself getting hard and hot, pressing her body against the car.
“Inside,” I growled. “I don’t want an audience.”
I pushed her down on the backseat, tearing at her pants as she pulled at mine. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking that my bus full of students is watching me practically rape this woman, and I didn’t care. I wanted her—now! She wiggled out of her jeans, lying there in a pair of sexy panties against the backseat. She pulled them down too, reaching for my pants. I shoved her hands away, pulling them off myself. Dressed in my jacket and boxers, I was all but inside her when a burly police officer came up on one side of the car and someone else came up behind me.
“You bastard!” She screeched, grabbing at my junk.
I dodged, but just barely, pulling my pants up before I tripped over them.
“You dirty, rotten, lying, cheating. . . .” She scrambled around trying to find her clothing while the cops kept her covered from outside.
I backed up, easing slowly away from the car, my belt open and my pants unzipped. My balls were beginning to ache, but not because she’d made a grab at me. I had a passing thought that she’d drugged me again. I staggered, leaning against the car.
“You saw him!” she screamed from the backseat. “He tried to rape me! You saw!”
The police officers moved in carefully, reaching for her inside the car.
“I’m pregnant,” she yelled as the big guy took her shoulder. “I’m having your baby,” she spit in my face. “You can’t send me to jail, I’m having his baby!”
“Lady, I don’t much care if you’re having Jesus Christ himself. If you don’t get out of that car, I’ll put a hole in you so big, he can crawl out on his own.”
I liked that damn cop.
“Step away from the car, Mr. Reuben,” the woman behind me said. My pal from the paintball incident had arrived. “This the crazy chick that caused all that trouble?”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
Mike spends another blissful night with Sarena, but gets a frightening phone call the next morning. His boss at the bus depot calls to ask where he is and what he’s done with the bus. Mike realizes that Miss Parker probably stole it. The truly frightening thing is that she is probably picking up his students with the intention of using them as hostages. Mike thinks he knows where she’s going. His boss calls the police while Mike gets dressed.
“Do it! I’ll find some transportation and try to follow her. Maybe I can figure out where she’s going.”
I hung up and grabbed my coat and boots. Cleo was happy to loan me her rental car. I hated to do it, and hoped she’d picked up the extra insurance, cause I had a feeling it was not coming back the same condition it was leaving in. Sarena wanted to come, but I flat refused.
“If she can, she’ll use you against me. I can go head to head with her, but only if I know you’re safe. Stay with Jesse and Cleo until your dad gets here. He’s taking you three to the motel. You’ll be safe there.”
“You be careful,” she said, fighting tears.
“I promise.” I kissed her with the same wild abandon I had the night before, but kept it short. “I have to go. I love you.”
“I love you too.” She burst into tears.
It nearly killed me to leave her, but I had to find Anisette Parker. I had a feeling I knew where she would go once the had the kids, and I wanted to get there first. I called the police and told them who I was and what I was doing. The dispatcher thought I was insane, but connected me with the woman who had handled my paintball incident the day before.
“And why do you think she’ll head to that park?”
I tried to explain about the field trip, but she didn’t understand.
“I’ll take your word for it. I’m calling for back up and heading there right now. Don’t you do a damn thing until we get there. You hear me?”
“I can’t let her threaten my kids,” I said.
“Mr. Reuben!” I hung up on her.
I sped up, nearly running a couple red lights, as I headed to the park. If a cop followed me, so be it. I didn’t care. I couldn’t let that crazy woman use those kids as hostages.
The bus was there, but the cops hadn’t arrived. I could see the kids sitting ramrod straight in their seats, staring ahead. They were clearly terrified. What was she doing? I couldn’t see her anywhere and wondered if she was on board. My question was answered before I even pulled to a stop. She stepped out of the woods in front of the car and I nearly hit her. I might have ended it all if I had just run her over, but I wanted to give her a chance.
The smile on her face filled me with dread. I stopped the car, but didn’t get out. Ani crawled on the hood of the car, eyes fixed on mine, a feral expression on her face. She was dressed in some of my clothing. She must have taken it when she was in my apartment. Not that it mattered, but I kind of liked that jacket she was wearing and had the fleeting wonder if there was any way to get it back. It’s amazing the shit that goes through your brain when you’re facing certain death, huh?
“Coming out—lover?” She lay with her chest pressed to the windshield, face inches from mine.
What was I gonna do, sit there and piss on myself? This seemed like a viable option, until she stood up, jumping on the hood of the car.
“Get out!” she bellowed. “Get—Out—Now!” She emphasized her words by jumping on the hood.
Her performance was made even more convincing when she pulled out a gun and aimed it at me. In her small hands, it looked like a pretty big gun. I could give a shit what caliber. At that distance, she wasn’t going to miss. I got out slowly, swallowing hard, hoping the cops were almost there. I prayed for the right words to say to calm her down.
“Ani,” I mumbled. “What’s wrong? Can’t we talk about this?”
“Oh, now you remember me? Now that I have your full attention, you remember? You bastard! You two timing, fornicating, dick weed! You didn’t even call me!”
She went on like that for awhile, getting more creative as she went. She waved the gun around, making me very nervous. Even though the safety was on, I was worried. One wrong move, we’ve got someone dead or bleeding. I didn’t want it to be me, but I was more concerned about that bus load of kids.
“Ani, we can talk about this. Honestly, I didn’t know it was you. I was drunk that night. And the stuff you gave me, it made me forget. . . . I wanted to call you, but you didn’t leave your number—or even your name. How can a guy call if you don’t do that, huh? I wanted to call—and say thank you. To tell you—how great it was. It was so great, Ani. . . . So great.”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
Suddenly, the impact of everything hits home with Mike. He realizes that Sarena and his mother were right. He’d taken the wrong woman to bed and he feels as if it’s all his fault. Chester talks him down.
“Then taking the blame for this is rather silly, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “But we could have been over there.”
“But we weren’t. Bizarre as this sounds, Molly’s episode the other night probably saved all our lives. Had she been here, we would have been at your place and then things would have been horribly different. As it is, except for the obvious, everything is alright.”
I nodded, seeing he was right.
“You have renter’s insurance?”
“Yeah. One thing Ma taught me, be prepared. Or maybe that was the Boy Scouts?” I started to laugh.
Chester joined me, clasping me behind the head. “The ladies are worried,” he said quietly. “Perhaps we should join them?”
I nodded. He unfolded his legs, rising quickly. He helped me stand, pulling me up as if I weighed nothing. I finished washing my face and combed my hair with my fingers. I still looked rough, but at least I felt a little better.
Sarena and Ma vied for number one position by the door. Each wanted to be first, but neither wanted to shove the other out of the way. I opened my arms, embracing Ma on the right and Sarena on the left. I gave Ma a kiss on the cheek and Sarena a full throttle, no holds barred kiss right on the mouth.
“Sorry about that,” I murmured when I could speak again.
“Nothing to be sorry for,” she whispered. “I just want to get rid of all these people and go to bed.”
“Me too. I love you.”
Between Chester and the police officer, the room got cleared out and Sarena and I went next door to Molly’s. Our parents went back to their motel, the neighbors went wherever they were going and Jesse and Cleo shut their door firmly against the rising cold.
Once Sarena and I were alone in Molly’s apartment, I took her in my arms, never wanting to let her go. I kissed her with a wild abandon I had never felt before for any woman in my life. Even Miss Parker, in her disguise as Mystery Date, hadn’t filled me with the passion that Sarena did just by saying my name. I knew I loved her. Even in such a short time, there was a spark, a connection. From the first moment I heard her voice on the phone, I was hooked. I’d fallen deeply in love to a point where I knew I would never climb back out again and I didn’t want to.
Our love making that night went beyond anything we’d done before. I don’t know how long we went, it felt like we never stopped. All I wanted was to be with her all night, holding her body next to mine. Eventually, we fell asleep in a tangle of mangled bedding and didn’t wake up until my cellphone rang. I had to dig it out of my pants pocket, by which time it had stopped.
“Work. Oh, shit!” I had, of course, forgotten to set my alarm.
Sarena tossed the coverlet over me as I sat naked on the floor, calling my boss. “Yeah, it’s Mike. I’m sorry I’m late. . . .”
“We got a situation here,” Bill said abruptly. “What the hell did you do with my bus?”
“Huh? I didn’t do anything to it. Why?”
“It’s gone, missing. What am I supposed to do with all your kids? You’re not here and your bus is gone. What am I supposed to think?”
“I’m home. I overslept. I had a big night.” I rushed to explain as I searched for my clothing. It smelled like wet smoke, but my ass was freezing.
Sarena found me clean underwear and a some jeans as I dug through my duffel for a shirt and sweater. I tried to dress and talk, but couldn’t. Eventually, I put Bill on speaker phone and talked that way.
“So, what about the bus?”
“I think Miss Parker stole it.” I tried to explain my rationale, but Bill interrupted me.
“Wait, wait. Slow down. You think that teacher stole the bus? What the hell for?”
I told him again, more slowly, but he didn’t want to believe me.
“This doesn’t make sense, Mike.”
“I never said it did. Do crazy people make sense, Bill? I mean, seriously.”
“I’m wondering why I’m not getting calls,” he said all of a sudden. “I should be swamped with calls about the bus not coming.”
“Oh, God,” I groaned. “I know where the bus is. I know where Miss Parker is! She’s driving my route, Bill. Oh, dear God, that crazy woman is driving my route!”
“Oh, my God. Holy Christ! I got the call the cops!”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
While they are chatting, Jaqwan tells them the identity of Mystery Date, none other than the young teacher, Anisette Parker. Mike, who had only ever seen her in the long dresses with her hair pulled back, hadn’t recognized her.
“She’s some sort of religious freak,” Cynthia said. “She borrowed that dress from my sister and Maddie did her makeup. She had no idea Ani was gong to go so crazy on you. If she’d known, she never would have done it. She really liked you, Mike.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, wanting to hide myself in a cold, dark place. “I didn’t know she liked me.”
“Maddie’s not the type to strut it,” David said. “But she kind of hoped you’d notice her at the party. She thought she was doing pretty well until Ani got involved.”
“She was,” I admitted. “I could’ve taken her home instead.”
“Why didn’t you?” Cynthia wasn’t mad, just curious.
“I don’t know. Something happened and all of a sudden, she wasn’t there. I was pretty drunk. I can’t believe I lost control of myself like that though. That’s totally unlike me. Even drunk. . . .”
“I think ‘at bitch drugged you, man,” Tim said. “I was watching you and all of a sudden you started acting all hot and horny like you were going to do her right there on Molly’s couch. You had your hands all over both of them. They helped you get your gifts home and you stayed with the brunette. Maddie come back screaming how she was gonna kill her and went home to throw her shit out in the snow.”
“We convinced her to pack it,” David explained. “But the lease is in Maddie’s name, so she was in her rights to toss Ani out.”
“Looks like I have an apology to make,” I said quietly.
Sarena took my hand, holding it close to her cheek. The police arrived shortly after that and I had to tell my sordid tale all over again so the officer could get it down. Jaqwan and the others identified Anisette Parker as the woman I’d taken home that night. I could feel my mother’s eyes on me and I felt dirty. I wanted to bathe for a week to get the stench of embarrassment off my body.
“Do any of you know where she’s staying?” The officer asked.
No one had a clue. All we could give him was the name of the school she worked at.
“And the hospital,” I said. “She had some women she carpooled with. One of them might know.”
“Do you know their names?”
“No, but they may know at the hospital. She works evenings on weekends.”
“I’ll get right on it. Thanks, Mr. Reuben. Sorry about your loss, sir.”
“Just find the crazy bitch before she does something else,” I said.
I could hardly swallow. I wanted to throw up all of a sudden. Six people could have died, and it was all my fault. Because I couldn’t control myself, took the wrong woman to bed, all this had happened. I gagged. Running to the bathroom, I slammed the door almost in Sarena’s face. I dry heaved over the toilet for several minutes, wishing I could puke. I’d feel better if I could.
There was pounding on the door. Several people spoke at once, but finally one voice drowned them all out. It was a calm voice, gentle, deep.
“Mike.” It was Chester. He never called me Mike. “Let me in, son. Let’s talk about this.”
I reached up, turning the lock. He came in, blocking the doorway when others tried to follow him. Holding up his hand, he pushed them back without touching them.
“It’s okay,” I heard him say softly. “I’ve got it. It’s okay.” He sat down on the floor next to me, legs crossed. “This is not your fault,” he said quietly.
“If I hadn’t. . . .”
He held up his hand, putting a halt to my babbling. He closed the toilet and damped a washcloth at the sink. Sitting next to me on the floor, he mopped my face.
“The girl is obviously unbalanced, obsessed. You aren’t responsible for her reaction. Did you do anything at all to encourage that girl?”
“You mean other than fuck her repeatedly?”
“I meant before that.” He reddened somewhat and I realized my language had offended him.
He nodded as if that was the answer he was after. “I didn’t think so. Did you ever give her any indication, before that night, that you wanted to be with her in a sexual way?”
“Honestly, Chester, I barely knew the girl existed. I mean, except in the general sense. She never looked like that. She’s mousy with long skirts and collars up to here,” I put my hand under my chin. “We’ve spoken on field trips, chatted about the kids. . . . But nothing ever to indicate that I wanted her. I try to be very professional on the job. I don’t use it as my own personal dating service. It’s just a goddamn school bus!”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
One of the firefighters tells Mike that the gas water heater next door had been purposely rigged to blow up. He and Sarena both have near panic attacks when they realize they could have been killed. Amazingly, it’s Ma who stays calm. Their neighbors come over to Jesse’s to check on them.
“You didn’t see anyone, did you? Someone sneaking around?” I asked.
“No. I was gonna grill tonight, but it got too cold, so we fixed steaks inside. But that other place the gas shouldn’t even of been on. I mean, it’s been empty for months.” Jaqwan told him.
“It had been rented,” I said. “They were supposed to move in soon. The power, gas, everything, got turned on a couple days ago.”
“Da-yam,” Jaqwan said softly. “They gonna be pissed.”
I was glad I’d picked up renter’s insurance, but I wasn’t sure how much of my possessions would be covered. I had nothing but a few clothes and my shaving kit. I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. It meant nothing, the fact the new tenants couldn’t move in as planned. They’d get their money back, find a new place.
“Dammit,” I fussed. “I just bought an entire new box of condoms and left ’em in the dresser drawer.”
Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Everything I owned was gone and I was moaning about a box of condoms? It finally struck them that I was making a joke. It took a moment, but soon they were all laughing with me. The guys thumped me on the back or chucked me on the shoulders.
“I’s gonna say, man. I’ll front you a couple,” Jaqwan said with a smirk. “Fine lady like this by your side. . . . Mm mm mm. . . .” He introduced himself to Sarena. “So, this what you substituted for that teacher?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That girl, at your party. She’s that teacher, isn’t she? The pretty, quiet one. Used to room with Cynthia’s sister. . . .”
He paused as all eyes in the room turned to him in confusion. I think my mouth dropped open, but I can’t be sure. None of us knew what to say.
“Y’all’re all lookin’ at me like I’m flat crazy.”
“What teacher, Jaqwan?”
“That one that’s always pulling you in on field trips, specially requesting you an shit. You didn’t know that was her? You blind?”
“I guess? Drunk off my ass. She was here? At my party?”
“Yeah, she come with Cynthia’s sister.”
“Which is Cynthia’s sister?”
“The six foot blonde babe that was kissing all over you until Miss Thang drug you of to fu. . . . Umm. . . for an assignation,” he said after a quick look at my mother.
“Was she the roommate? Your sister’s roommate?” I asked Cynthia.
“Yeah. Madelyn got pissed she did that and threw her out on her ass the next day. Maddie’s had the hots for you for months, but you wouldn’t give her a second glance.”
“Shit!” I sat heavily on the arm of Sarena’s chair. “God, it all makes sense now! She told me at the hospital she’d lost her apartment.”
That took a long explanation. By the time I was done, the firefighter was talking on his radio to the police dispatcher to send over a squad car.
“Do you have any pictures of this woman?” he asked.
“Molly’s camera!” I ran next door. The camera was on the coffee table. I took it back to the cop and started flipping through the pictures.
I passed the one with the women kissing me, hoping for a better shot. I found it a few frames later. After cutting the cake, each of the women fed me a piece of cake. Anisette Parker was standing next to me in a very abbreviated dress and I was licking icing off her fingers. She was smiling directly at the camera. I hardly recognized her as the mousey teacher who always wore modest long skirts and high collars. The dress was a micro-mini, black tube that fit like a second skin. Her breasts were round and firm, nearly out the top of the dress. Her long legs were shapely, curvaceous in the high heeled black strapless shoes. I could feel my body reacting to her like it had that night.
“I’m an idiot,” I said. “I never even recognized her.”
“I wouldn’t have either,” Jaqwan said. “Except Madelyn was furious with her and started yelling about it after the party broke up. She was packing the bitch’s stuff while you got your freak on.”
I reddened, turning away from my mother and Sarena. I was mortified, humiliated. I couldn’t believe I was so blind drunk that I didn’t recognize her. But all the other times I’d ever seen her, she was in those funny dresses with her hair all slicked back.
© Dellani Oakes 2014
After dinner and an improvised concert by Mike, Chester and Sarena, they decide to call it a night. They are gathered on the porch saying goodnight when a strange sound catches Mike’s attention. It came from the apartment next door to his.
There was a flash of light and another, larger one. Chester and I shoved the women roughly back into the apartment just as the place next door blew up! A hug fireball engulfed my place and the apartment next door. The roof of Tim’s place behind was covered in flaming debris. Grabbing my phone, I called 9-1-1, then ran over to Tim’s to see if they were alright.
He and Jaqwan were standing outside, watching their roof catch fire. The trucks got there moments later and the attacked the fire with everything they had. They got Tim’s roof fire out, and tried to contain the blaze from my poor, shattered place so it wouldn’t spread further. My Jeep was a charred mess of twisted metal and glass. As I stood there, watching my life burn, I was glad I’d gotten my guitar out. Most of them, I had left with my mother, but Clarabell was special. She was a gift from my father for my twelfth birthday, just before he died.
I was stunned. I don’t think I said a word to anyone, not even Sarena. She stood by me the whole time, holding my hand, shivering. I think it was her shivering that finally got my attention. I put my arms around her and she buried her face in my chest, weeping. I don’t know what she was crying about, not really. Could have been fear, or sorrow for my loss. I was numb, both from cold and the fact my home was burning to the ground. Just about everything I owned was inside that flaming chaos, including all my birthday presents. Then it struck me, Sarena and I could have been in there and I started shaking too.
Chester saw us a moment before Sarena slipped out of my grasp. He caught her as she fell. He helped her inside and I stumbled in after. Jesse, Ma and Cleo were, wisely, sitting in the living room. Chester helped Sarena to the nearest chair.
“Oh, my God!” She kept saying that over and over like a broken record. “Oh, my God!”
Chester tried to get her attention, but he couldn’t. I tried too, but it was Ma who finally took the matter in hand. She slapped Sarena on the cheek, something her father and I would probably not have resorted to. She didn’t hit her hard, but it stung and it got her attention. Instead of staring into space, she fell on Ma’s shoulder, weeping.
The firefighter in charge came to the door. “Mr. Reuben?”
“Yeah, that’s me.” It took all I had to keep my voice steady. I could barely stand up.
“No one lives in the other apartment, correct?”
“Yeah. I mean, no. You’re correct, no one lives there. Sorry. . . .”
“Quite alright, sir. This isn’t an easy thing to experience.”
“No. No, it’s not.”
“Son, would you like some coffee?” Jesse offered.
“Not right now, thanks,” he replied.
“Just curious, why weren’t you in your place?”
I explained to him about the vandalism with the paintball gun and the brick. Nodding, he took me aside.
“It wasn’t an accident, Mr. Reuben. Someone rigged the gas heater in the other apartment to blow.”
“What? What are you saying? Someone tried to kill us?” I yelled, terrified. “What the hell is going on? We could’ve been next door! Oh, my God!”
I’d like to say that I took it better, but I fell apart. We could have been in my bed, making love, when that went off. We would have been killed, both of us. I would have been dead, and my mother would have been next door watching me burn. Or maybe not. Maybe we all would have been in there, cutting up and having a party when it went.
“Oh! Oh, my God.” I leaned over, gasping.
“Michael,” my mother said sharply. She raised her hand, and I flinched away. “Don’t make me hit you, too.”
“But, Ma, you don’t get it. We could’ve all been there, you, me, Chester, Sarena. . . . Even Jesse and Cleo. We could all be dead!”
“But we’re not,” she added stoically. “By the grace of God, we’re not.”
Moments later, Tim and Jaqwan and their neighbors, David and Cynthia, dropped by to check on us. Jesse greeted them all with hugs and hot coffee.
“Looks like we got us a houseful tonight,” she said. “They can’t stay in their place with no roof.”
“It’s okay, Jesse. We’re staying across the way with my sister,” Cynthia told her. “She lives on the other side of the pool. Her roommate moved out, so we can use the guest room.”
“You boys need a place? Me and Cleo can bunk.”
“We’re going to my girlfriend’s house,” Jaqwan told her. “We wanted to make sure y’all were okay before we left. We’re all like family around here,” he told the firefighter. “We watch out for each other.”
© Dellani Oakes 2014