Monday, April 03, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 1

Friday 4pm
“Angel, I’m telling you not to go on this cruise. I have a bad feeling about it,” Kenya Spur said as she stood at the white-coated booth they both shared in the travel business they owned together.

Angel Truxton watched her best friend and business partner tighten the green bow that held her long black hair in place as they talked. Kenya was always mindful of her appearance. Not only had she picked out a green silk pantsuit that looked great against her caramel complexion, she also kept that complexion flawless. Except for the wrinkles in her forehead caused by the concerned frown she wore, Kenya’s skin was basically baby smooth all thanks to years of using the right beauty products.

Angel Truxton tried to reassure her best friend of many years again. They’d been talking about this trip for the last hour now. “Kenya, I checked all the weather reports from Lorenzo Beach to Miami. It’s going to be a great weekend. The ship we’re traveling on is a luxury 20-sleeper with a full crew. It has a mini-spa and its own personal chef.”

Angel put a thoughtful finger to her nose and added, “Although I think the first night is going to be a catered affair.” Then she shrugged. “Anyway, Montez is going with us, so it’ll be even better.” Returning to her computer, Angel typed in the last reservation for the day. After pressing enter and clicking on the save icon, she logged off of the computer before turning it off.

Kenya went to the oak desk behind her and finished organizing the files on it. Suddenly she paused and turned to face her bronze-skinned friend again. Her expression was still very serious. “That right there may be the main reason I’m having these feelings of dread. Montez is not your friend and you should not be taking her along on a romantic cruise with your boyfriend. She’s too loose to be a real friend to any woman. That girl has no boundaries. You better watch your back with her.”

“For your information, Montez is bringing her boyfriend, too. Bobby wouldn’t miss this cruise for anything. So you see, everything will be fine after all.” Angel leaned her head to the side, her brows rose encouragingly above her green eyes as she held her hands palm side up in a gesture of reassurance.

When Kenya’s concerned expression didn’t change, Angel threw her hands up in surrender and got ready to clock out. She had to get home to pack. Besides, she could stand here all night and Kenya still wouldn’t be convinced.

After grabbing her leather purse, Angel gave Kenya a tight hug goodbye. “I’ll call you from the ship tomorrow. And don’t worry; it’s just a weekend trip. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Kenya shook her head as she watched Angel leave. Something about that hug had seemed so final. Then not able to shake that feeling of dread, Kenya prayed for the first time in years. Please let her be okay, Lord.

***

As Angel drove through the cobblestone gate entrance of her childhood home, she already knew that she would be coming to an empty house. It was the weekend and her older brother, Mel Jr., a confirmed bachelor, would be skiing up in northern Maine with friends. He was a true jetsetter, always visiting someone, always going from one fashionable place to another.

Angel’s parents were no different. Melvin and Annie Truxton were always traveling, too. This Labor Day weekend they would be in Las Vegas, possibly throwing away a fortune at the casinos. Angel was also an experienced traveler, although she traveled far less than the rest of her family largely due to the fact that her business was still relatively new. Her parents’ textile company has been in operation for over forty years, so they could afford to leave town at a moment’s notice.

Angel hadn’t wanted to say anything to Kenya, but this was the first time she’d ever been remotely nervous about a trip, albeit for different reasons. But then again, this was her first trip alone with Vincent Ridgecrest, her boyfriend of three months. Angel knew he was expecting more than the usual chaste hugs and kisses that he’d been receiving from her since their relationship started.

I’m ready to give him what he wants, Angel told herself for the fifth time today as she parked her red jeep in the six-car garage, careful not to scratch her mother’s black Mercedes. She’d done that before as a teenager and barely lived it down. Annie Truxton had treated that incident like it was the unpardonable sin. Even today, it wasn't unusual for Angel to find her mother checking her car for scratches.

Angel unlocked the side door that led into the house, very focused on what she had to do tonight. Pack, leave a note for Mom and Dad, call Montez to pick me up, try not to be so nervous, were all on her list of things to do. The last thing would be the hardest to do. Maybe having Montez there will help.

Besides this being the first trip alone with her boyfriend, this was also Angel’s first travel adventure with Montez. Because of her hectic work schedule, Angel has not been able to travel a lot lately. And if it hadn’t been for Montez’s repetitive and compelling relationship advice, she wouldn’t be going now.

Montez warned Angel on numerous occasions that Vincent wasn’t the kind of man that one could put off forever. He was a handsome, successful lawyer who no doubt had hundreds of women waiting in line to be with him. Sometimes Angel wondered if Montez was one of those women, but then she would fling that disturbing thought away. After all, the vivacious woman had helped her to finally begin living again after her messy divorce. And out of appreciation for that alone, Angel didn’t want to think ill of her.

Angel met Montez Cullum at a Christmas party last year through a mutual friend named Faye Milledge. Faye knew that Montez loved to travel, too, and what better friend to have than a fellow globe-trotter? Especially one who owned a travel agency? That’s how their friendship started. Then as the relationship progressed, Angel and Montez found out that they had quite a few other things in common, too. They both were thirty-years-old, came from wealthy families (who pretty much allowed them to come and go as they pleased), and had both been through very public divorces.

Angel thought that she’d never live down the disgrace stemming from her messy divorce. Her ex-husband, Sean Starnes, sued her parents, claiming that they promised him a sizable dowry in exchange for marrying their socially challenged baby girl. That had been so far from the truth.

When shy Angel first met Sean at the local gym they both frequented, she could barely look him in the eye. Then after months of him pursuing her with flowers and love letters, she finally consented to a dinner date even though she insisted that the dinner had to be at her parents’ house. Angel thought it was a wise decision at the time, but in hindsight that was one of the worst decisions she could have ever made.

When Sean walked into her parents’ enormous house, he looked as if he’d just struck gold. Then after Angel’s father joked over dinner that he thought he’d have to pay someone to marry his shy daughter, Sean looked determined to do just that. No one seemed to understand the fact that Angel preferred being left alone. Neither did they get it that although she didn’t immediately warm up to strangers, that didn’t mean she was a social invalid.

Montez was different from Angel in that aspect. She was a true socialite, relishing in crowded, smoke-filled places with loud music thumping all around her. Another difference in the two women was the fact that Montez was quite comfortable living off her parents and spending their money. Whereas Angel preferred to make her own money and as such opened her own small business – the travel agency she partnered with Kenya.

Much to her husband’s displeasure, Angel willingly gave up her parents’ generous allowance when she married. Sean thought her ludicrous for doing so, especially since their lives would have been that much easier with the extra funding. But Angel stood her ground and even after her divorce two years ago, she never returned to the allowance. Since her company was doing so well, she never really had to.

Angel did, however, return to her parents’ estate. She believed that being alone and living alone were two totally different things. She enjoyed sharing living space with people, even if they were hardly ever at home. Besides, just knowing that her family was due to return home some day brought a level of comfort to her.

As she filled her designer suitcases with carefully selected garments, Angel smiled, thinking of her best friend. Kenya would definitely have something to say about this, she mused, packing a racy, gold-colored halter-style dress that was not only formfitting and short, but was made to draw attention to her shapely petite body.

Kenya would say that the dress was probably purchased with Montez’s influence. She’d be right, Angel mused as she hastily threw in a couple of oversized t-shirts and jeans to appease her conscience. She still had some decorum. Kenya would be pleased to know that.

Montez was relatively a new friend compared to Kenya, who’d been in Angel’s life since grade school. It was no secret to anyone that Kenya and Montez didn’t like each other. Both women made no pretense about it and would often verbally clash during any type of contact, however limited it was.

Angel knew exactly why Kenya didn’t like Montez since her partner had made no secret of her resentments. Montez’s wild streak was just one reason to dislike her because it was in direct contrast to Angel’s conservative nature and high morals. After all, out of all of her friends, Angel had been the one who’d waited until marriage to have sex. She was the one who was always there when anybody needed her. It was Angel who could be counted on to visit a sick friend with soup and orange juice in hand and even stick around to read to them, if they wanted her to.

Angel thought about the other reason Kenya disliked Montez and shook her head in disagreement. She didn’t believe that Montez was trying to make her into a carbon copy of herself, despite the fact that she was dressing more provocatively these days. Didn’t Kenya see that Montez was simply someone that Angel could identify with concerning rising up from a messy divorce? Would she ever understand that Angel needed to change her image just a bit in order to start life and love anew?

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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