Tuesday, September 05, 2006

SEP06 - EXCERPT - Deeper Than Love

Deeper Than Love
by Linda Wattley

What could be Deeper than Love? Join Leona Tillard as she reveals the answer to this question. After being Daddy's Girl, she finds out the true meaning of love and the price of not knowing. Sexuality, Sensuality and Spirituality are the powerful forces determining our choices in life.

Chapter Eight

I made it to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. If I had a choice between being at Fort McClellan, Alabama, Fort Ben Harrison, Indiana and this gloomy place, I’d rather be in Indiana. Fort Sill sat square in the middle of nowhere. I was actually in the desert. As soon as I got settled into my barracks, I found a pay phone to call Tony. He wasn’t home. So, I called my parents to let them know I was all right. When I called home, Mom gave me Dennis’ phone number. When I called Dennis, he was too high to make sense, so Jennifer took the phone.

“Leona, thank God it’s you; your brother is flipping out.”

“Are you far from the base?”

“Call a cab, Leona. I’ll pay for it. Hurry!”

I got a cab and went to Dennis and Jennifer’s apartment. They lived in a nice part of town. As I got out the car, Dennis ran up to me and put his arms around me.

“Sis, you made it. Come in and have a drink. Come see my kids.”

Dressed still in his fatigues and barefoot, he walked me to the door of the apartment, then turned around without a word and went next door to the neighboring apartment. I knocked on the door and Jennifer let me in. She wouldn’t look at me. I saw Lamont; he was growing up fast. There was a baby crib near the wall of the living room. The place was a mess.

“Jennifer, what’s going on?”

“Dennis jumped on me again just because I asked him to help me with the kids. He’s drunk.” I had heard tales off and on for the last few months that Dennis and Jennifer were having problems—serious problems.

“You can’t keep letting him do you like this. You need to get out of here before he messes you up for the rest of your life and hurt your kids.”

“He isn’t going to hurt the kids; he doesn’t touch them. He tells me I pick them up too much. And, he acts like he hates me for giving them a bath. That’s Rachel,” she said, nodding towards the baby girl sleeping in the crib. “She’s almost a year old. He loves her, but he acts like he’s scared of her. He’s a good provider, but he barely touches his kids at all,” Jennifer cried.

“I thought Dennis was doing fine. When I last talked to him, he trusted God with his life.”

“Yeah, he did until he started smoking dope and drinking. When he isn’t high, he’s the sweetest man.”

“Who is that next door?”

“His get-high buddies. They smoke reefer all day and night. They’re not in the service.”

“I’ll talk to him, later. I’m going to help you straighten up this mess. You’ll feel so much better once that’s done.”

“Thanks. I’m going to put the Lamont to bed.” She said.

I started picking up broken glass and putting furniture where I thought it belonged. While I was cleaning up, I thought about getting high. I was so close to letting it happen. But I didn’t want to be around those heathens Dennis was hanging out with. Just when I had washed the last dish, Dennis came home with his friend, Harold. He didn’t look like a junkie to me. I thought those guys next door were trash. Harold was fine with a tall, thin frame. You could tell he was high; his dreamy bedroom eyes were just about closed. But he didn’t let it rule his demeanor. He was able to handle himself very well. His clothes were well matched, with perfectly creased jeans and a jacket to match.

Dennis grabbed Jennifer by the arm and went into the bedroom. Harold and I just stood there in the living room, thinking they were coming right back. After twenty minutes went by Harold invited me over to his house to play cards. I went.

“Hey, everybody, this is Dennis’ sister, Leona, from Columbus, Ohio.” There were a number of people sitting around a table playing cards and some lounging on couches and chairs in the living room.

“I’m Terry.”

“I’m Tim.”

“Have a seat. I’m Venus, Harold’s woman.”

“I’m, Angie, people call me Duchess,” she said as she reached out to shake my hand. I reluctantly shook her hand. Something about the way she held it made me uncomfortable.

“Let’s play spades.”

“Leona, you can be my partner,” Duchess insisted.

“Come on, Vee. Let’s show them who lives here,” Harold said as he rolled a couple of joints. They were all drinking beer. I didn’t like beer, so I drank pop. As soon as he lit the first joint, I secretly inhaled deeper breaths hoping to catch a contact. I couldn’t believe I was secretly stealing their reefer smoke from the air. Now, that’s desperation. My mind wasn’t made up if I wanted this set of people to know I get high.

The game got started. The joints started making their way around the table. When it came to me, I finally gave in and took it. I wasn’t trying to stand out like a sore thumb by turning it down. Besides, I wanted it badly. The first drag went straight to my brain cells. I was higher than I could ever remember being. After that first drag, the rest of the drags were sucked in lightly. I had to work at maintaining my cool. I was tripping for sure. The cards looked like they were floating out of my hands. I didn’t remember anything like this happening to me before. We were laughing at every little thing we said or done. The only reason I didn’t fall apart is because everybody else was tripping too. Some kind of a way, we were actually able to keep playing cards. Duchess and I kept winning.

Dennis and Jennifer came over about an hour later. They sat down and joined the party. I was feeling so good; I decided to try a beer. It wasn’t so bad. I was having fun. Jennifer got to play a couple of games too. Every now and then, she or Dennis would run next door to check on the kids.

“Hey, it was nice meeting everybody. I got to go now.”

“You smoke up our dope and leave?” Duchess jokingly asked.

“I just got here today. I’m tired. I’ll be back.”

“Play one more game and I’ll take you back on post. I got to leave myself,” Duchess said as she shuffled the cards.

“All right,” I agreed. “One more and I got to go.”

“Watch her,” Dennis leaned over and whispered to me, laughing a little. “She goes both ways.”

But Duchess heard him. “I’m bisexual, so what?”

“You’re just greedy,” I said, too high to stop the smart comment before it came out.

Everybody burst out laughing. I wasn’t expecting that. She looked offended by those few words, and it was too late to take them back. I didn’t know what else to say.

Duchess brushed the hurt look off her face. “Not really, I just like all of God’s creations.”

“Not really, you only like all the humans.” Everybody burst out laughing again.

“Let’s play cards, please,” said Dennis.

After the game, everybody cleared the table and threw away their beer cans and trash. Once everything was cleaned up, I saw Harold had a really nice apartment. I wasn’t sure if Duchess was going to take me back on post, so I asked to use the phone to call a cab.

“I told you could ride with me. I meant it.”

“See you all later, Dennis. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“See ya, sis.”

Duchess and I walked to her car. She got in first and reached over to unlock the door to the passenger side.

“Hey, I didn’t mean any harm.” I attempted an apology.

“It’s no big deal. People talk about me all the time.”

“That wasn’t my intention. I figure, if you like both sexes, you have to be greedy. I would say that to anybody.”

“That’s not why I’m like that. I just enjoy men and women. Is that a crime?”

“You’re asking me? I just feel it’s a cop-out. I mean, it sounds like you let sex determine whether you like people or not. I can like you. I can like Harold. But, if I’m having sex, it won’t be with both of you. That’s the same in any relationship. You can’t always let sex come into play when there are so many other things you can enjoy in life? It seems to me that if you let your sexual nature rule your life, that’s not good for anybody.”

“Dang. I just asked you a simple question. You didn’t have to get so deep about it.”

“Well, you asked. I always speak my mind.”

“You should’ve been a preacher. I can tell you are spiritual. I like you. Now, don’t think I want to have sex with you. I’m just intrigued by you. That’s all.”

I got back to the barracks too late to call Tony. When I got to my room, there was a message on my door. I pulled the note off the door to read it. Dang, Tony called me. I went to sleep; hoping tomorrow would hurry up and come so I could call him back.

Everything was going well for me at boring Fort Sill. Duchess and I ended up being good friends. I never saw her with one person in particular. She had lots of friends of both sexes, but she would always find time to spend with me. At first, I was uncomfortable around her. Eventually, that went away once I got to know her. Rumors were spreading around that I must be gay because I hadn’t had sex with any of the men on post. I was saving myself for Tony, which was getting really hard for me to do. I could never catch up with him on the phone.

One day, I was over at Dennis’ apartment. I was holding Lamont while we were watching TV. Dennis came in the house drunk and snatched Lamont off my lap.

“Put him down, Leona. He doesn’t need that freaky stuff!”

I didn’t know what to say at first. I was shocked. Jennifer gave me the signal to not say anything. I sat there becoming angrier by the minute. If I didn’t say something, I was going to get sick.

“What’s wrong with you, Dennis? You’re trying to tell me I can’t hold my nephew?”

“For what? That freaky mess isn’t going on in my house!”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know. We grew up in that crap. It’s just not going to happen!”

“Dennis, we know the difference. Kids deserve to be nurtured. I would never do to a child what was done to me. How could you think such a thing?”

“How can you be so damn sure? I’m not sure of what I would do!”

“Dennis, you won’t cross over. It’s not in you.”

Dennis broke down and started crying. I had to hold him. He wouldn’t embrace me at first, but, finally, he held me tightly.

“I love my family. I don’t want to screw them up like my daddy did us. I don’t trust myself. If I hold my kids, I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel. If it feels too damn good, then I think it’s wrong. I don’t know what normal is; I don’t think I ever did.”

I grabbed Dennis by his face. “Look at me. I’m your sister. I’ll always love you. I know you well enough to know you will not hurt them.”

“I want to hug my kids; I really do. I just don’t want to be like my father.”

“Listen. Your private parts tell the whole story. As long as you aren’t throbbing down there when you touch anybody, you should be fine. Your private parts shouldn’t touch anybody you wouldn’t want God to see you touch. You understand? You are normal. Jennifer loves you a lot. Love her back; enjoy your beautiful family.”

For the first time since his daughter had been born, he picked her up out of her crib and held her close to his heart. He started crying as he sat down with Rachel in his arms. He even reached for Lamont to sit close to him. Jennifer started crying, as she hugged and thanked me for helping her family.

Back at the barracks, I lay on my bunk wondering why I hadn’t heard from Tony. I was beginning to worry. I hadn’t had a period since I was in Indiana. I felt fine though. Maybe it was the stress from Doug’s death.

To get my mind off Tony, I walked to the window and looked outside. All I saw was a broad, muscular chest covered by a pure white T-shirt moving along the sidewalk. The chest had a dark face above it with perfect, white teeth. He was large and moved with the grace of an athlete. I saw him, but he didn’t see me. My mind was made up. One day soon, I was going to lay my head on that chest. Tony shouldn’t have left me hanging this way.

A few nights later, we had a party down in the day room. And there was the face to that chest. I smiled inside because I liked what I saw. That was intriguing to me, to desire someone’s body without knowing that person at all. I kept my eye on him the whole time. I soon learned they called him Nate.

I was beginning to feel more comfortable around my new friends. Most of them were men. They felt comfortable around me too. I was like their sister. They loved to get me high, so I would say some off the wall things. We loved playing cards, especially Spades. One night, Big Ben, one of the most popular guys on post, gave a big party for Nate. Everybody was there. Duchess and I went together since she had a car. I would tag along wherever any party was. When we got there, the reception area of the apartment complex was packed with people from our unit on post. Duchess and I smoked a joint before we got out the car. I was feeling exceptionally free tonight. I followed the crowd, and they led me right to Nate.

He sat in his chair like he was the king of the world. He was so high and happy. People literally sat at his feet. It was his birthday. He had money pinned all over him. I spotted a space on his shirt just right for me to pin some money on. I made my way to him. Standing in front of him, I smiled and pinned five dollars on his shirt, turned and walked away.

“Yo! Hold up; who are you?” He asked.

I felt like being dramatic, so I walked off into the crowd like I was a figment of his imagination. I felt him reading my every move. I could tell he was a deep-minded person. I recognized it from being with Tony. We were attracted to each other because we were deep thinkers. But I needed to be careful because I was still patiently waiting for Tony to reach me.

After planting my seed, I was ready to go back to the barracks. I wasn’t interested in the crowd tonight. I wanted to go to bed and fantasize about Nate, especially if I couldn’t reach Tony.

“Specialist Tillard, come here, sweetie.”

I turned around to see who was calling me. It was the birthday boy himself. Close up, Nate looked like a god. He stood almost six feet tall, and he was all muscle. I just stood there waiting for his next words.

“Where are you going? You can’t leave now. We haven’t danced, yet. It’s my party, and I get what I want.”

“Okay, one dance.”

He took my hand and led me to the dance floor. “Be My Girl” was playing. I couldn’t believe our first dance was a slow one. He gracefully pulled me into his body. My head landed right on his chest. I was so glad. He couldn’t see the wide smile on my face. The disc jockey moved right into another slow song by Heat wave, “Always and Forever.” Those two songs left us no other choice but to be close to each other as our bodies swayed to the music. I didn’t resist staying in his arms a little longer, but after the dance, the crowd closed in on him and swept him away from me.

When I got to my room, I felt extra light-headed. I threw up twice even though all I had was one drink. I was so sick I stayed in my room for two days. Surprisingly, I wasn’t missed by anybody but Nate. He sent Duchess up to my room to check on me. I was weak and sweating through my clothes.

“We got to get her to the hospital.” Duchess said when she saw my sorry condition.

“I’ll take her.” Nate volunteered, as he swept me up off my bed and carried me to his car.

Duchess grabbed my ID and purse. They got me into the emergency room on post. The doctor took me to the back immediately. IV needles were poked into my arms, and then he checked me out thoroughly. A nurse drew blood from my other arm.

“When was your last period?” She asked.

“I don’t know. I think about two months ago or longer.”

“Are you pregnant?”

I hesitated. I really didn’t know. The nurse continued to stare at me suspiciously, then announced to an orderly that came in to get my blood samples, “Tell her friends they should leave. She’s going to be here a while.”

The guy must have followed her orders because I heard Nate’s big voice booming.

“What’s wrong with her? Is she going to be all right?”

“They are working on her. It’s a good thing you got her here. I’m not allowed to discuss her with friends. Please come back tomorrow.”

A doctor came into my cubicle a while later reading a lab form.

“Leona, did you know you were pregnant?”

“No, I was sick a couple of months ago. I was stressed out. I just thought it had something to do with that.”

“You have a urinary tract and bladder infection. The fever has almost made you lose your baby.”

“Baby? I can’t be having a baby. I’m in the Army.”

“That’s kind of obvious. We’re keeping you still so that you don’t lose the baby.”

“How many months have I been pregnant?”

“Probably just a couple of months if your period hasn’t been gone that long, but we won’t know for sure until an obstetrician examines you. We would have a better idea if you could pinpoint your last period. Anyway, we’re going to take care of you two.” He patted my leg through the sheet. “Don’t worry about a thing. Rest and try to relax.”

I lay in bed that night, holding my stomach. Something was in it. It’s alive. More than that, I might be having Doug’s baby. But then, there was also a chance it could be Tony’s, as well. That night with Tony could have been the night a life was made. Our bodies were so electrified. We didn’t even think about the possibility of having a baby. Oh, God, this couldn’t be happening.

The next morning, my fever was finally broken and I felt better. I wanted to get up, go back to the barracks, and act like this visit to the hospital never happened.

“Good morning, I see you feel better. I can tell you exactly how far along in your pregnancy you are if you let us give you an exam. You want to know?”

“Yes, please, I need to know as soon as possible.”

“We will be examining you in about an hour.”

That hour crawled by. I needed to know who the father of my baby was so I could grieve appropriately. When I thought about all the times Doug and I had sex, all sum they didn’t compare to that one night with Tony. Even the night I touched him, I didn’t generate the power of the lovemaking that Tony and I shared. The exam was finally over. The ultrasound revealed I was nine weeks into my pregnancy. I was carrying Doug’s baby while I was making love to Tony.

As soon as the nurse and doctor left the room, I cried for all the right reasons. Inside of me was a part of Doug. My baby had no father. I couldn’t do this alone. I curled into a fetal position. Holding my stomach, I cried myself to sleep.

“Leona, you have a visitor,” the nurse said, intentionally waking me up. I sat up with my eyes open just enough to see it was Nate.

“Hey, you all right?” he asked. “They wouldn’t tell us anything. What happened?”

“Urinary tract infection; I’m better now. What’s up with you?”

“I’ve been worrying about you. I haven’t gotten a chance to know you yet, and you still got me concerned.”

“Sorry, I didn’t plan on getting sick.”

“When will you be able to leave here?”

“Couple more days; the doctor just wants to make sure it’s all gone.”

“Where are you from?” He asked.

“I’m from Columbus, Ohio, and you?”

“I’m from Gary, Indiana.” He was quiet for a minute, then, “Hey, are you seeing someone?”

“Yes and no. I have a friend back home, but I haven’t heard from him in a while. I don’t know what’s up.”

Nate nodded his head sympathetically.

“If you need a ride or anything, let me know. I’m going to let you rest now. By the way, my whole name is Nate Watkins.”

“I was wondering about that. Thanks for stopping by and for getting me here. I owe you.”

“Remember that,” he said with a smile.

I already knew. I didn’t want a baby at this time in my life. But this baby was all I had left of Doug. I couldn’t kill it. Tony would never understand this; nor would he want me with somebody else’s child. This was too much for me to bear. I just knew God would forgive me for one abortion. He had to. What was I thinking? Abortion, pregnant, Tony, Nate, and now I was trying to bring God into this mess. Maybe this was a good time to kill myself. I could forget about my parents understanding this situation. The bottom line—touching one time too many had me in this position. Now I knew why I was gaining weight and staying sleepy. I had thought I was depressed.

When I got back to the barracks, there was a message on my door. It was from my mom. She wanted me to call home immediately.

“Hi, Mom.” I tried to sound cheerful.

“Why didn’t you tell us you were sick?” She demanded, obviously concerned.

“I didn’t know it until I went to the hospital. I’m fine, now.”

“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”

“No, Mom. Why are you asking me that?”

“My motherly instincts tell me you are.”

“I’m not pregnant. I had a bad urinary tract infection; that’s all. Mom, somebody else wants to use the phone. Love ya.” I hung up the phone.

I couldn’t take lying to her any longer. Reality was kicking in. I was going to have a baby. Doug’s baby was growing inside of me. He was depending on me to let him come into the world. I was starting to feel a little selfish. What was going to happen to my world? I was alone. I didn’t get it. I never felt like Doug and I gave enough to our sexual encounters to have a baby. If anything, this should have been Tony’s baby.

As I was about to walk back upstairs to my room, Nate came out of the break room. He was looking good in his sleeveless muscle shirt and stone-washed jeans. He had such a beautiful smile on his face. With a beer in his hand, he walked over to the stairs to talk to me.

“How are you doing?” He asked politely.

“I’m fine. I guess.”

“You seem a little down. You want to go for a ride? It’s beautiful out there. I got something I think you would like right about now.”

I only hesitated for a fraction of a second. I didn’t want to think about Doug or Tony or this baby. I just wanted to spend some time alone with Nate.

“Okay, let me run and get my purse. I’ll meet you in the front.”

When I got in his car, I wished we could keep driving until we reached a new world. We had the same taste in music. It made it easy for us to relax and enjoy the ride. We headed to Mount Scott. As soon as we got off base, he handed me a joint.

“How did you know I liked smoke?”

“I know you are a trip without it. You’re different from most people.”

“How do you know that?”

“I’ve been checking you out, and I have heard people talking about you. They never met anybody like you.”

I lit the joint. It was good; I was impressed with the quality. We passed it back and forth between us until it was gone. We were so high by the time we got to Mount Scott, everything was funny to us. We talked about everything. We seemed to have known each other for a long time. Everything was fine until we got out of the car and started walking into the mountains. Then, Nate got serious. I didn’t know how to take it. Holding my hand as we walked slowly on the trail, Nate stopped and leaned against the side of the mountain.

“Leona, you remember the night of my birthday party?”

“Yeah, I had a lot of fun.”

“Do you know what I remember the most?”

“Getting all that money?” I laughed.

“I remember your touch. When you touched me, I felt it. I wasn’t trying to feel it, but it couldn’t be ignored. I felt the warmth of your hand as you pinned that money on me. It made me feel different. I can’t explain it. I just know it never happened to me before.”

“I don’t know what to say. You think I got the Midas touch?” I said jokingly, hoping to change the mood. Nate was getting a little too heavy and messing with my high.

“I think you’re special and you should be careful how you live your life. A lot can happen to a person like you.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“God has plans for your life. “You better have your fun, now because you’re going to make a difference in this world.”

“Nate, you’re acting weird.” I laughed, moving a little away from him.

“You know I’m telling the truth.”

“Tell me about your girlfriend.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Why not? You have what it takes to have one.”

“When it’s right, it will happen. I’m choosing to wait instead of jumping in bed with somebody just because I can do it.”

We reached the middle of the mountain and decided to cool out there. He leaned against the mountain and pulled me close to him. With my back turned, I relaxed in his embrace. Just for a while, I was not pregnant and we were the only people in the world.

“I better get you back. I don’t want you to overdo it.”

“You’re right.” I agreed.

That night, I lay in my bunk wondering if I should sacrifice Doug’s baby to have the life I wanted. Did I have a right to want anything other than what was? How could I consider killing our baby? I finally said it, our baby. This life inside of me was my child. Did God feel this way about me when he conceived me in his mind? Even though He knew what I was capable of doing and being? Oh, God, I must be losing my mind. This baby was coming out of me just like I came out of you. He didn’t abort me when He saw my disturbance of His perfect plan. Dang. I couldn’t kill my baby. I wouldn’t do it. I’m sorry, baby; Mommy is so sorry.

Two weeks had gone by; I still hadn’t told anybody I was pregnant. I was busy trying to decide if I was going home or stay in the Army and have my baby. Nate and I spent a lot of time together. I wanted to tell him, so he wouldn’t build his hopes up too high about us having a future. I just couldn’t tell him yet. One evening, I was standing in formation when my NCO ordered me out of formation. Usually, it meant you were in big trouble. I followed orders and fell out of formation. He handed me a note.

When I finished reading the note, I felt real dizzy. My NCO caught me just before I fell to the floor. They fanned me and made room for me to have more air. When I came back to myself, I went to my room to cry privately. I couldn’t believe I had to go back home now. I had better check on Mom. I knew she must be having a hard time. She and my daddy were so close. I tried to call several times; nobody answered the phone. She had to be at the hospital. I had to go be with her. I called Dennis, but for some reason, he didn’t get the message. When I finally caught up with him later I told him my dad was in the hospital. He got leave and met me at the airport.

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