Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hump Day - Ch. 1

The following Wednesday, Tabitha made that hundred and fifty mile drive down to Pavilion City, Florida. So excited about all the possibilities awaiting her there, she cared little about the fact that she’d had to get out of bed at 4am that mid-February morning just to make it in time for her 8am class. Never mind the fact that she’d hardly slept a wink late night anyway due to her excitement at finally being able to walk in an answered prayer.

Just watch, Lord. I’m gonna make You proud of me, Tabitha mused resolutely as she watched the sunrise in the eastern sky. The pastel colors that preceded the sun’s appearance were soothing to her eyes, to her very soul.

When the colors eventually became more vivid in nature, Tabitha felt her excitement level rise even higher. It was a great feeling to be walking into one’s destiny. It was an even greater feeling to know that ten years of waiting had finally paid off.

After finding a good parking space for her navy-blue GMC Sonoma, Tabitha got out and stretched her svelte, slightly bow-legged frame, allowing the tension from the long drive to ease out of her muscles. She looked down at her slender diamond dial watch for the time.

Although class didn’t start for another twenty minutes, Tabitha couldn’t wait any longer. She yearned to start her new life now. Pronto!

Besides, it’ll probably give me some time to talk to the instructor, Tabitha reasoned, looking for any excuse to get inside of that classroom. After retrieving her black backpack, she headed to class with a light step in her walk on that beautiful clear day.

* * *

Chief County Detective Sebastian Armstrong readied his classroom for today’s students. He aligned the desks into neat rows, disposed of any stray paper from yesterday’s class, and erased the previous instructor’s notes from the black chalkboard at the front of the room.

After subbing a few times last quarter when needed and yielding excellent results, the Pavilion City Police Academy persuaded Sebastian to head up his own class. Actually Sebastian let the powers that be think he’d needed persuading when he’d, in fact, been considering doing this for quite some time now. Although he loved his life as a detective and had spent the last decade carefully building his impressive career, teaching others how to be good detectives excited him much more.

Today Sebastian couldn’t wait to look at the fifteen new faces he’d been assigned to. He was eager to impart the knowledge he’d learned over the last ten years of his life.

Ten years? Has it been that long? the thirty-two-year-old man mused, recalling how long he’d been in Florida. How long he’d been away from Georgia, most specifically, how long since he’d last seen…her.

Tabitha Montebello had been everything Sebastian could ever want in a friend, everything he could ever want in a partner, and especially everything he could ever want in a lover. They’d grown up together in the small town of Leeward and no one had understood him quite like Tabitha had.

As the only two biracial kids in their school, they hadn’t known where to fit in. Because of her olive complexion, freckles, straight wheat-colored hair, and sapphire-colored eyes, Tabitha wasn’t deemed black enough for the black crowd. Ironically, she wasn’t deemed white enough for the white crowd, either. Especially when her skin became extra tan during the summer months.

Although Sebastian had deep mahogany skin and did occasionally hang out with the black crowd, he also knew that he stood out like a sore thumb even among them. His thick silky hair - inherited from his mother - had made sure of that. Therefore, Sebastian and Tabitha had been drawn to each other like magnets. In a way, the two outcasts had needed each other. They’d certainly fought many a bully together and separately.

As friends, Sebastian discovered that he and Tabitha had a lot of things in common. They both loved the open airy feel of the country town they lived in and the way being around nature helped them to think clearly. They’d both had an interest in law enforcement and upon high school graduation, had entered the Leeward Academy together. Then because they were both so ambitious, they chided each other on to excellence, causing them both to graduate with top honors.

It was a happy day for Sebastian and Tabitha to discover that they were partnered together. Little did they know at the time that that was only because no one else wanted to be their partners. And that being together would make it easier for certain department heads to question their every move and decision in order to set them up for failure later on.

Fortunately, Tabitha was just as sharp as Sebastian. Together they overcame every obstacle set before their partnership. It was no surprise to anyone that they fell madly in love along the way. Sebastian and Tabitha spent a little over three years working together and loving together. It was a magical time in both of their lives, despite all the hurdles they had to jump together.

Over that three-year period, Sebastian learned that if there was ever anyone he could trust with his life, it was Tabitha. She had sharpshooter abilities and although she was slender at 5’4, she still could pack quite a punch. Plus, to increase her odds against any opponent, Tabitha took all kinds of martial arts classes, which eventually made her a walking weapon of destruction.

Sebastian had loved almost everything about her. The one thing he hadn’t loved about Tabitha was her idealism. She actually thought that in time they could bring about a positive change in Leeward. Sebastian didn’t share that view and after being passed over for a third promotion that he knew he’d earned, he put in for a transfer.

Sebastian paused from erasing the blackboard when he remembered Tabitha’s devastation upon learning about his transfer. She’d been angry that he hadn’t discussed it with her beforehand, angrier about how covertly he’d gone about the whole situation. He hadn’t even told his parents the news until the last minute.

But Sebastian had known exactly what he was doing by keeping that secret to himself. He’d been trying not to be talked out of leaving by his parents and especially by Tabitha, who seemed to have the power to change his mind about most things. When he finally told her of his transfer, Sebastian had hoped that his departure would spark a desire in her to leave, as well. In fact, he downright asked Tabitha to come with him.

Unfortunately, Tabitha hadn’t wanted to leave Leeward. The main reason being the fact that her mother was ill at the time with an unexpected mid-life pregnancy and Tabitha wanted to be there for her. She also reminded Sebastian of her desire to help the city of Leeward itself. She practically begged him to stay and partner with her in this mission, especially since she believed that they were soul-mates.

When Sebastian didn’t budge from his decision, Tabitha gave him an ultimatum. He was told that he could either stay in Leeward with her or it was over between them. Unfortunately for them both, Sebastian chose to leave anyway. That marked the end of them as partners, as a couple, and the end of them even as friends. They hadn’t spoken since.

Remembering their emotional breakup caused a rush of old feelings to tumble forward in Sebastian’s heart. The pain of those memories hit him like a swift kick in the groin. He almost fell to his knees from the agony, if not for him quickly sitting down on the edge of the teacher’s desk.

Although Sebastian’s heart had wanted to stay where the love of his life was, his mind knew that he had to get away from Leeward, lest it smother him to death with its racial intolerance. Especially the subtle intolerance that had reigned over the Leeward police force. The kind of intolerance that one could feel, but had no tangible proof that it existed. That way, no one could ever be held responsible.

Although Sebastian had sighed in relief the minute he’d left the city limits of Leeward, his heart had ached terribly for the woman he had to leave behind. Ever since then his one regret had been the fact that he hadn’t been able to have the career he wanted and the woman he thought heaven had created just for him.

After taking several deep calming breaths, Sebastian returned to his task at the blackboard. Hearing the footsteps of someone about to enter the classroom from the left, he turned to greet his first student of the day. Sebastian’s eyes bucked when he saw that that first student was none other than Tabitha Montebello.

© 2006 by Suprina Frazier

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