Monday, May 08, 2006

Chapter Excerpt: Bag Lady

Bag Lady
By Alethea Pascascio

Chapter One

“Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust,” Pastor Bennett intoned with authority as he sprinkled my grandmother’s mahogany casket with small clods of earth. He began to recite the Twenty-Third Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…”

I listened attentively, trying to engrave the words on my heart. Each word hitched a ride on the warm spring breeze sweeping past my ears stopping briefly to kiss them. Then drifted on to only God knows where.

The melody of a sad song drew my attention to the oak tree towering above the pastor. There were three Blue Jays perched on the branches singing an octave lower than usual. It was as if they missed her too.

The mourners flanking my grandmother’s gravesite wore dark-colored garments. Most had somber, tear-stained faces that reflected how much they were going to miss the woman they had come to know affectionately as Mother Hill, a faithful and enormously popular member of the Greater Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church.

G-Ma (as her grandchildren so lovingly called her) often said that nothing pleased her more than doing the good Lord’s work. If today’s expensive displays of roses and trumpet lilies, and the throng of people mourning her death were any indication, her work would be long remembered.

Beside me, my mother rocked back and forth in devastated silence. If it’s true that a female doesn’t become a real woman until her mother dies, then Mama grew up six days ago.

After observing a few moments of silence, Pastor Bennett gave the benediction, concluding the services for G-ma. The crowd began to disperse, murmuring softly. Some of the people headed for their cars, while others walked up to the open grave to pay their last respects.

Flowers were strewn next to the mahogany casket, and some of the mourners selected a rose to take with them. As they made their way past Mama, most took a moment to touch her shoulder, offering condolences and words of gentle encouragement.

When most of the crowd had gone Mama reached for her husband, Mitchell’s hand, signaling her readiness to leave. He put his arm around her shoulders then tossed his car keys to my sister, Nicole.

Clutching the keys tightly, Nicole dashed toward the car as if she’d been given the opportunity to outrun the reality of G-ma’s death. She’s alone, I thought, with a flash of insight.

Before following behind Nicole, Mitchell turned to me and whispered, “Faith, we’ll meet y’all at the house.”

Leaning over, I hugged my mother around her neck then watched as they strolled carefully across the freshly cut grass. Mama looked like a fragile child, barely able to walk. Mitchell had to support her all the way to the car.
Watching them drive away, I wished that they had taken the limo included in the funeral package, but Mama refused to ride in it. She said limos were nothing but hollowed out hearses and she didn’t want to be inside of a hearse until she was too dead to know anything about it. But Mama, not wanting her money to go to waste, offered it to me and my husband, Justin and we kindly accepted it.

I sighed loudly, hoping to exhale the grief bottled up inside of me. Justin was running his warm hand up and down my back, his presence reassuring. He had become my soft place to fall during hard times, and this present moment was more proof of that than ever. Without Justin I could have been alone too now, with only bitter memories of my past and the loss of the one woman who represented the best part of me.

Justin was all that G-ma ever wanted for me, probably because she knew I’d finally be happy. It had taken me most of my life and a lot of pain to find him, but now, I would never be alone again. Even in death, I will carry a part of his spirit with me because his is connected to mine. And that is something that will last forever.

Clear as day, I recalled the first time G-ma had met Justin. I’d been dating him for several months when she came to visit me. After talking to him for about five minutes, she excused herself from the conversation and went into the kitchen. Seconds later, she called me to join her.

As soon as I entered the kitchen, G-ma grabbed me around the waist, smiled and whispered, “Finally.”

“Finally what, G-ma?” I asked, bewildered.
G-ma’s mocha-colored face broadened with delight. “Finally, you’ve found yourself a keeper.”
“For Heaven’s sake, G-ma, you only met him five minutes ago!” I said, blushing against my will.

Resting her hands on her ample hips, G-ma shook her head slowly back and forth as if I were missing her point. “That’s all it takes, baby. I knew that your grandfather was for me from the moment I laid eyes on him. And we were together until he took his last breath. I hate he died before you and Nicole were born.”

Then a devilish grin popped on her lips. Her eyes shifted to the white wall behind me for a moment of reflection. “Girl, how I loved that man! And how he loved me back. I can live the rest of my life off of all the love he gave me.”

It would take a minute for G-ma to see the amazement in my eyes. I was learning the hidden, suppressed side of a person I had known for my entire life.
“And the way he used to-" she added, almost forgetting I was her granddaughter.

G-ma glanced in my direction, giggled, and cleared her throat. “Well, that’s enough about me. Now, you didn’t listen to what I said about the other jokers you got involved with, but I hope you’re ready to listen to me about Justin. He’s the one, sweetie. God gives us more than we deserve.” She pulled me into her arms wrapping me in a loving hug.

G-ma had been right about the losers in my life. More importantly, she had let me learn what I needed to learn by myself; offering support and encouragement without even telling me how to live my life or condemning me for my mistakes. And, boy, oh boy, had I made mistakes.

A clap of thunder in the distance jerked my thoughts back to the present. Hot salty tears burned slow paths down my cheeks as I looked at G-ma’s final resting place.
Justin lovingly wiped my tears with his hands.

I looked up into the most sincere pair of sparkling brown eyes I’d ever seen. “She deserved so much more than this. I wanted her to get to know you better. I wanted her to know that everything turned out right,” I whimpered to him.

Justin pulled me into the circle of his strong arms. “She knew it would,” he replied, kissing my forehead. “And she’s in Heaven with Jesus. That is her reward.”

I stepped back and pulled out a piece of Kleenex from my purse to wipe my tears. As I held the thin white tissue under my nose something came over me. “Can you give me a few minutes? There are some things I can’t leave without saying.” I sniveled.
“Sure, baby. I’ll wait for you in the limo.”

When Justin was almost to the car I moved closer to the grave. I felt more vulnerable and scared without him holding me. A mass of emotions sent tremors through my body. I couldn’t believe my grandmother’s entire life had been reduced to a cold slab of marble etched only with her name and the dates of her birth and death.

Clearing my throat and thoughts, I stood at the edge of the gravesite. I had to share my feelings with G-ma for the last time.

I opened my mouth the first time and nothing came out. I cleared my throat and tried again. There was so much I needed to say and I believed if I didn’t say it to her right then, I would never get the chance again.

“G-ma, it’s me, Faith. I know you can hear me,” I said out loud, my voice still trembling. “I’m sure you’re in a better place, but I miss you so much. I wish you were back here with us.” I stopped suddenly as the tears began to overtake me.

It was difficult, but I continued, wanting G-ma to know I understood why she had to leave us.
“I believe that God knows best, and you belong in Heaven now. Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me…” I paused. “And Nicole.”

I looked down at the smooth finish on the top of the mahogany casket and I smiled slightly. “You were certainly right about Justin! G-ma, I’ll always love you.”
As I turned to walk away, I thought about all the things G-ma had taught me. I had always believed I inherited my best characteristics from her. She’d given me a strength I didn’t know I possessed until I met Justin.

Now she was going to be buried deep—deep down, like some of the issues I had tried to bury in the recesses of my mind. Issues that had once threatened to destroy me. ‘Let the past be past,’ people always told me, not seeming to realize that the past is always a part of the present; the trick is learning from it.

I was trembling when I stepped into the limousine to go to Mama’s house. Resting my head on Justin’s shoulder with a sigh, I inhaled his signature Burberry scent. It triggered a memory, and for the first time that day I really smiled and let my mind wander back to the day of my marriage to Justin.

Two hours into our wedding reception, Justin grabbed my hand gently and pulled me from the dance floor. “Let’s go.”

“Already? What about our guests?” I asked, feigning concern but knowing that I was more than anxious to get to our hotel room.

“They'll understand, but just in case they don’t, let’s sneak out. I have a surprise for you.”

When the elevator door closed, Justin pressed the button that would take us to the second floor. Before I could protest, he softly covered my mouth with his hand and explained. “I know our room is on the third floor but, like I said, I have a surprise.”

After a few seconds, the doors slid open and we stepped off the elevator. Before I knew it, Justin had scooped me up into his arms. I giggled, throwing my arms around his broad shoulders. “What are you doing?”

Justin just smiled and walked down the hall without responding to my question. Then he stopped in front of Room 256. He grinned as he tried to insert the gold key into the lock without dropping me. “Close your eyes,” he said finally.

I closed my eyes, burying my face against his Burberry-spritzed neck. The masculine scent always aroused me.

Justin unlocked the door and carried me over the threshold.
My eyelids fluttered open once he laid me on the bed, and I gasped as I looked around at the elegantly simple beauty of the suite.
The white walls and sheer drapes framed an open balcony door, ushering in the beauty of the moonlight. I could hear the whoosh of the surf caressing the sandy shore below. Towering vases of red roses strategically arranged throughout the room covered the ceramic tile floors. It reminded me of a winter wonderland accented with promises of spring.

As I sat up on the bed to take in more of the view, I watched Justin placing a CD into the stereo. “This room is wonderful. When did you arrange this?” I asked, admiring the décor.

“I slipped away before the ceremony and asked for an upgrade," he said, scanning the room with a pleased look. "Yeah, I like it, too.” He pointed to the white-washed nightstand beside the bed. “Look. They even left a bottle of champagne.”

Lying back on the white satin-dressed bed, I traced circles on the covers with the palm of my hand. “I don’t want anything else tonight, but you. Come over here, Mr. Herrera.” I patted the empty space beside me.

Justin winked at me, reaching on top of the stereo and then quickly put his hands behind his back.

Pulling myself back up on my elbows, I studied him. “What’s in your hands?” I asked as he strolled to the side of the bed.

Justin stepped out of his shoes, being careful not to reveal his secret possession. “Just trust me, Mrs. Herrera,” he whispered, going down on his knees and coming up empty-handed.

When “The Very Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers” escaped from the speakers, Justin seductively snaked his pelvis, making me giggle. Then he danced over to the foot of the bed and removed my satin sling-back shoes.

Reclining on the bed, I wiggled my dress up to pull off my white fishnet stockings. Before I could free myself from the constraints of the stockings, Justin sat down beside me and took my hands in his. Without resistance, I allowed my arms to fall onto the gleaming white comforter, surrendering control to my new husband. Justin maneuvered his hand under the top of my pantyhose then traveled down between my thighs. I threw my head back, almost breathless. “Stop that,” I purred weakly.

“Stop what?" Justin gave me a wicked smile. "This?” He glided his forefinger half way into my moist femininity. His finger robbed me of some of my wetness, which he used to circle my throbbing bead tantalizingly. “Or that?”

My head began to move from side to side. I could barely speak. “Yes. Yes. This and that,” I managed with a moan, spreading my legs wider to give him better access to the very core of my being.
Suddenly, Justin leaned forward, covering my mouth with his. Our tongues made love to each other while his hand slipped from my hidden place to guide my thong and stockings down my legs, letting them fall to the floor.

Justin eased his lips away from mine. Then pulled at the hem of my cream strapless Vera Wang dress with no effort.

I lifted my hips a little to assist him then rested on the satin covers in front of him, totally nude. At first I felt a little embarrassed and tried to fold the bedding over me.
Justin brushed the cover away. “Don’t,” he said huskily. “I want to look at my wife.”
He pulled his cream Armani shirt over his head, and then leaned over me and caressed the delicate points of my breasts with the tip of his tongue.

“You’re teasing me,” I cooed, my voice barely above a whisper.

“I know,” Justin said, and got to his feet. In one fluid movement, he pushed his white linen pants and cotton briefs down his muscular legs, allowing his member to spring free.
I reached out and gently stroked his massive manhood.

Justin placed his hand on top of mine, guiding my strokes to the beat of the music. His breathing became warm and shallow.

“Ooh, baby,” he groaned heavily, squeezing my hand around his pulsating shaft. “Not yet.” He reached under the bed and retrieved two pairs of wireless Bose headphones.
After pushing a few buttons, he put a pair on me and then on himself. The music that had once filled the room was now coming through the headphones.

Justin covered me with his smooth golden brown body and used his tongue to stroke and tease my mouth. With supple agility, he slid down my body as if I were an Aspen ski slope—fresh, smooth, and ready, stopping at the damp folds of my sex. He flicked his tongue eagerly, caressing the sensitive area of my core, and I moaned with excitement.
I placed my hands on each side of his head, barely able to grip his soft, closely-cropped hair, and threw my legs over his shoulders as his tongue danced with the essence of my femininity to the rhythm of Bob Marley’s lyrics.

Just when I couldn’t take it any more and was ready to detonate, he slid two fingers deep inside of me and rubbed my g-spot.

The intense pleasure was indescribable.

Suddenly, my body began to convulse in a chain of spasms, and I felt as if I had gone to the brink of death and back. I think I saw God.

Before I could come to my senses, Justin entered me. He touched places I never knew existed and our bodies moved rhythmically in unison to the tempo of “Could You Be Loved.”
Our gazes locked, sweeping me further out of reality on a tidal wave of emotion. I knew Justin had connected with my spirit when tears rolled down my cheeks.

Justin’s body finally stiffened and his heated essence shot inside of me. Groaning with pleasure, he collapsed on top of me, removing his headset and then mine with trembling fingers.

“You were great, my love. We have to meet like this more often,” he teased. “I don’t think so,” I said with a giggle. “I know for a fact now that too much of a good thing could kill you…”

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