First off, I have to open this with a slight apology-- I had fully intended to write something original and even a little summery and fun for this edition of the tour, but revisions and life in general, got in the way, so I had to go searching through my files for something I could post. And actually, got a little lucky because I found this piece. It had originally been intended as the first chapter of a novella for an anthology that wound up falling through. Oddly enough, the piece stands on its own fairly well and for me, speaks to our theme of Women, Words, and Wisdom since this story begins with a young woman who's searching for something and in the background, is a man who is also perhaps a bit lost. Maybe one of these days I'll get back to this story and finish it—I suspect these characters have some interesting things up their sleeves.
Anyhow, here it is, I hope you enjoy it and as before, I'm going to ask a question at the end and I'm going to draw from the correct responses for a prize. The prize is also a bit unusual—I'm going to be giving away an iTunes gift card, as I have before, but I would also like to have the winner help me choose a charity to which I'll be sending a donation in honor of my friends who lost their little girl last week.
Now, here's the thing—I'm going to start with a base donation of $150.00. For every comment I receive, I'm going to up the donation five dollars and then the winner of the drawing will get to help me choose from among these charities:
Central Florida Preparatory School
Guide Dogs for the Blind
Lighthouse Central Florida
Central Florida Animal Shelter
Arnold Palmer Hospital
TransLife Organ Donor Program
So please, spread the word—I'd LOVE to be able to give a rockin' donation.
Here's my story,
He was watching again.
I don't think it's something he's actively aware of. In fact, I knew he wasn't. Because if he was, he'd stop in a heartbeat, turn away and busy himself with something at that big desk of his. Keep his gaze fixed on the two computer monitors that were the largest I'd ever seen, set side by side. Maybe even close the blinds. He's a decent man and he'd stop if he knew I was aware. Don't ask me how I knew. I just did. Sometimes I even think that he'd stop if he ever figured out just how much he watches.
I couldn't let that happen.
So I had to be careful. But I couldn't stop and more important, I didn't want him to stop. He always looked so drawn and sad—except when he was watching.
Then, he looked younger and sort of wistful. Like he was dreaming.
I remember dreams.
Today it's too tempting for me to watch back, the potential for being caught too high, so I had to keep the sheers closed. It dimmed the natural light and blurred the view. But if I wanted view, I could go into my living room where the windows faced the huge expanse of the Atlantic. In my bedroom the view was more limited. Which worked. For both of us. And keeping the sheers pulled allowed me the freedom to at least take the occasional peek as I went through the ritual of getting ready for an evening out—the showering and powdering and perfuming. The makeup that took me from average pretty to exotic, the clothes that accentuate every subtle curve and line. And no matter how much time it took, no matter how long I dragged each task out, that circle of light illuminating his desk remained on, his head angled slightly towards my windows even as he pretended to be focused on whatever it is he does for work. How long it stayed on after I left, I didn't know, but when I came back in, late at night—or early into the next morning—it was always dark.
But then, when I woke up, the first thing I'd do was glance over through my window, across the several hundred feet separating our two towers, to his window. And like a reassuring beacon, that light was always on.
"So, how's the kept woman?"
I glanced from beneath my lashes and took a long sip from whatever fancy-assed foreign water was "it" this week. "You know I don't like that, Karenna, not even as a joke."
"Liani, darlin'—that sweet Argentine sugar daddy of yours has, in the last year, bought you a Brickell Ave condo, that adorable little ride, and this month, it's the membership at Agua. Tell me again how you're not kept."
Best friends. Had to love them. She actually wasn't trying to be a bitch. Just joking, in her own, tacky, strawberry blonde, Florida Panhandle trailer park sort of way. So because she was my best friend and couldn't always help her tacky trailer park ways, I was able to smile as I replied, "But I don't sleep with him. I've never slept with him and I never will sleep with him. Nor does he expect to sleep with me. Which, one would think, is a large part of the definition of kept, right?"
She pursed blow-job pink lips that were perfectly outlined, filled, and brushed with She-Lac so they'd remain flushed and moist enough to tease and outlast even the hardiest club boy. "One would think, yes."
"And I pay all my own bills. And the insurance on the Aston."
"All right, sugar. I give." She held up her hands, miming surrender and managing to hail one of the hard-bodied waiters at the same time with an elegant wave of a couple of fingers. "What's the bubbly, Paqui?" she asked, checking out his loaded tray.
"Moët's one of the sponsors tonight."
"Sponsors?" Karenna took a long look around the rapidly filling club, no doubt noticing that there seemed to be more press than usual. "So not just any old Monday?"
I took another sip of carbonated water. "Launch party for some boy band. First CD drops tomorrow."
"Whatever. Whoever's fronting this gig at least has good taste in grapes." With a skill I completely envied, she managed to select the filled flute from dead center in the tray and lift it to her lips without spilling a drop, all the while batting those baby blues at the very hot and getting hotter by the second, Paqui. Good thing the waitstaff wore tank tops with their sharp black shorts. Gave the sweat a chance to evaporate before it could stain the clothes—big no-no for any South Beach club, but especially for Diamond, the latest see-and-be-seen club on Collins.
"That takes mad skills, baby," he finally said on a long breath. His first one since he'd walked over if I had to guess.
"Maybe one of these days you'll get lucky and I'll show you some of my other mad skills, darlin'."
I thought the man was going to up and die right there. One more flirtatious glance might've done it, but before Karenna could so much as work up a good eyelash flutter, some boy who looked like he was trying to grow a goatee and who could only be one of the boy band members sauntered past, shoving past Paqui as he eyed first me, then Karenna, down.
"Oh please, child." Karenna took another delicate sip from the flute. "You'd have to grow a much bigger pair and maybe some hair around your hooha before you could keep up with me. Save it for the little girlies who'll buy the CDs."
I hid a smile behind another sip of water as I watched his face register shock, then anger.
"Dyke," he hissed, his pathetic little soul-patch quivering.
"Oh honey, don't you wish. Is that your fantasy? A little girl-on-girl while you watch?" Karenna punctuated the suggestion with the tip of her tongue coming out and rimming the edge of her flute and just like that, anger faded into good, old-fashioned lust as the images no doubt played through his mind. Probably in 3-D. God, they were easy, these little boys.
Junior's gaze shifted from Karenna to me, hopeful to the point of pathetic. Kind of gratifying to see him take that step back as I did nothing but stare. Stared a little longer, just to get the message across before glancing away because I just couldn't be bothered. Karenna was the master of the smart-ass remark and teasing put down, I'd worked the freeze 'em out stare until it was an art form. The others party girls called us Fire and Ice. Ironic, really, since she had the delicate, fair Ice Maiden looks and I was the clichéd epitome of the fiery Latina. Why it worked so well, I guess.
"Fuck both of you." He stalked off while Karenna laughed and drained her champagne.
"More fantasies, no doubt." She reached out and exchanged flutes on Paqui's tray, taking a long drink.
"Girl, one of these days…"
For once, he wasn't smiling, not that it bothered Karenna one bit. "I sure hope so. Come on, Liani, let's go." Blowing a kiss at Paqui as she set her flute back on his tray, she grabbed my hand and dragged me to the flashing dance floor where Enigma throbbed hard, underscoring mash-ups of Marc Anthony and Scissor Sisters and Thalía and Thievery Corporation. This was what I lived for, letting the heavy beats and flow of the music fill me and guide my body, sinuous, sensual, everything I could only be when rhythm and melody were my muses.
Karenna and I, we owned the floor. It was our thing, our bodies moving in sync, curving around each other, breaking apart, drawing others in before guiding them to new partners, coming back to each other and repeating the ritual all over again. The DJs knew our styles and played the tunes that let us work it. And the more we worked it, the more people danced, until the floor was a constellation of bodies, with me and Karenna, the center from which it radiated. Made for great pics in the magazines and newspapers.
Not to mention, the more they danced, the more they drank. And liquor and money? They tended to flow in pretty equal measure. Lesson learned my first week out.
Going on four, I saw the signal and tapped Karenna on the shoulder.
We made our way through the still-huge swell of bodies, weaving along to the beats, keeping the spell alive as we climbed the narrow curving stairway and pushed our way into the small office tucked in behind the DJs booth. First thing I did after the door closed behind us was flop onto the leather couch and slip off my strappy Louboutins, groaning with the sheer bliss of it all. From the other end of the sofa, a similar groan, as Karenna did the same.
"You're never gonna get those back on your feet."
I looked at Darius' dark head, bent over his large, business checkbook.
"Do I look like I care right now?"
"Your feet." He shrugged while continuing to write.
"Which have endured far worse."
Now he looked up and smiled, teeth brilliant and white. "Don't I know it." He ripped the checks free and rose from his desk, handing one to Karenna, then me. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a wad of cash, counted it into two piles and gave us each one.
"That little cabrón from the band asked me to give you this bonus. He very much enjoyed your show ladies."
He glanced over our shoulders, a smile tilting up his wide mouth. I didn't have to follow his gaze to know what he was looking at. What looked like a wall of mirrors from the dance floor was from this side of things, a giant window through which Darius D'Amboise kept an eye over his latest, glittering, celebutante-pleasing—and therefore big money making—venture. The boy from Little Haiti had come a long way. First the dance scholarship to New World School of the Arts, where he and I first met, to Miami City Ballet, to leaving it all behind because he didn't want to sweat it out in the corps while waiting for a big break that might never come. He was insanely talented, but also insanely smart. Smart enough to know that ballet wasn't going to take him the places he felt he should go. So he'd left, not long before I'd had to. And then, he'd been the only one from those days who remained my friend.
"He's convinced it was an elaborate act, just to work him up. He's planning on coming back." Another one of those brilliant white grins. "I should give you a bonus myself. He's going to bring in a lot of money. At least until the next flavor of the month comes along."
Karenna rolled up the cash and stuck it between her cleavage. "Beats working the pole."
Darius stroked his hand along her hair. "Baby, you were never meant to work that gig long time."
She smiled up at him. "Didn't have to, thanks to you, sugar."
Yet another one of those incongruities. The Ice Maiden had been discovered by Darius while exotic dancing at one of the hottest gentlemen's clubs in Miami—using the proceeds to pay for her little sister's education. Again, ask anyone to guess and nine times out of ten, they'll point the finger at me as the one who was uninhibited enough to spend my nights with my leg wrapped around a stainless steel pole and grinding my G-stringed crotch against it.
Uh… no. I was loose on the floor, but not that loose. My body was my own. No judgment on Karenna—just not something I could ever do. Truth was, sometimes, I envied her that ability.
Darius glanced through the glass wall again. "Looks like Paqui's waiting, K. You ever gonna give that boy a break?"
"More like break that sweet Dominican boy if I give him what he wants."
"I think you underestimate that sweet Dominican boy." I rose from the sofa and stretched before shoving my feet in the four inch heels that had shrunk half a size. Damn Darius for being right. But it was only until I got to my car. Then I'd lose the shoes until I absolutely had to put them back on again.
"He's a nice boy. Too nice for me." Karenna stood, but rather than shove her feet back into her stilettos, picked them up by the straps. She didn't have my reservations about what might be on the floor.
"I think you underestimate that sweet Dominican boy," Darius echoed my words as he returned to his desk and glanced down at his book. "Tomorrow night?"
"Sure," Karenna answered around a yawn while I shook my head.
"Alessandro's coming into town."
Darius nodded. "Let me know when, then."
"I'll call." I rounded the desk and kissed him goodnight before following Karenna down the curving stairs. As she paused to flirt some more with Paqui, I waved goodnight and hit the front doors, flashing a smile at the few paparazzi who were left while nodding at the valet. Less than five minutes later my gunmetal Aston Martin glided up to the curb and I was off into the warm Miami night, my hair blowing because the top was down and I didn't have to give a shit about looking good for anyone. At least not for several hours.
At home, I showered, then stood at the vanity, absent-mindedly combing through my damp hair as I surveyed my choices. It had been a hard night. Not sure that ibuprofen, even eight hundred milligrams would cut it. And I needed to get at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep because with Alessandro in town, I'd have to revert to a more normal schedule. Awake during the day, sparkling at night—just not all night.
Percoset or flexoril, then.
Downing the pill and chasing it with water, I glanced over at the nightshirt hanging on the back of the door. No. Not tonight. Everything was too sensitized—the fabric would drive me insane. At the bedroom window, I stood and stared at the window across the way, predictably dark but even so… I'd come in tonight hoping that maybe, for once, I'd see the glimmer of light through the sheers. Just something to welcome me home. There was light coming through my windows, but it was the cool soft light of approaching morning, not the warm glow of a desk lamp.
I slipped into bed, gingerly drawing the light cotton sheet over my body. All I could do was go to sleep, knowing that when I woke up, he'd be there. Watching. Like always.
FROM AFAR Copyright © 2008 Barbara Caridad Ferrer
Well, there you have it. Again, I apologize that I didn't write something original as planned, but I promise, next tour—definitely.
Now, the question for the iTunes gift card:
Where did Liani and Darius first meet?
And remember, for every comment, the donation goes up five dollars and the winner gets to help me choose which charity gets the donation. Check at Lara Rios' blog tomorrow to find out who the winner is.
One final note, if you're commenting and you don't have a Live Journal account, please remember to sign your name in the body of the response. Otherwise, I don't know who you are in case you, you know, WIN.
Thank you all!
- Chica Lit- My story and a request for help