Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hump Day - Ch. 5

Why must I always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Tabitha mused.

Now she wished she hadn’t said a thing. Or at least narrowed her information down to include only her injury and not the damage that had been done to her child. After all, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t conveniently left that latter detail out before on other occasions.

“When did that happen, Tab?” Sebastian asked in a strained voice, using her nickname without even knowing it. He stared intently at her. The hand clenching the saucer of pie looked tight and rigid, as if he was holding it in a death grip. He was.

Although debating about whether or not she should veer away from her motto to be honest at all costs just this once, Tabitha knew that when she opened her mouth, she would tell the truth. She always told the truth.

Clearing her throat again, Tabitha answered Sebastian’s question in a whisper. “It happened ten years ago.”

Sebastian just continued to stare at Tabitha for a long silent moment as the realization that she’d possibly lost their baby washed over him. Why didn’t she tell me? he mused, feeling his heart break all over again.

“How did it happen?” Sebastian asked, still holding her gaze captive with his.

“Let’s just say that my new partner wasn’t as calm and alert as my old one,” Tabitha answered in a stronger voice. Fortunately, that partner was long gone off of the Leeward police force. The public backlash concerning that incident had seen to that.

Anger settled into Sebastian’s soul now. No doubt Tabitha had been matched with a partner that either didn’t want to be with a woman or didn’t want to be with a half-black woman. Therefore, that new partner hadn’t valued her life and had allowed her to get hurt.

“I’m truly sorry to hear about your injury and about the loss of your child. How did the father handle it?” Sebastian gently probed. He was obviously trying to confirm his suspicions about him being the father.

Tabitha swallowed hard. “I never told him.” Until now, she added silently. She couldn’t wait to leave now. It would give her time to think and clear out her mind, which was becoming cloudier the longer she stayed here.

“Why didn’t you tell him?” Sebastian wanted to know. His eyes were suddenly shiny with emotion as he stepped further into the den. That baby had to have been his. He could see the truth of that fact in Tabitha’s eyes now.

The moment couldn’t have been tenser. Even Alzora was holding her breath as she silently watched and waited to see how this thing would play out.

“I didn’t know I was pregnant myself until the doctor told me that I had lost the baby. Plus, the father and I were no longer together, so I saw no need to burden him with the news of my miscarriage,” Tabitha replied. Her voice sounded foreign to even her right now as deep emotion changed the texture of it. It was hoarse and scratchy as if a sore throat was coming on.

“Did you know the sex of the baby?” Sebastian prodded, desperate to know what his first child had been.

“Yes, it was a girl. I named her Savonya,” Tabitha squeezed out almost reverently. She felt fortunate to have carried a child in her womb for any length of time, especially since she loved children so much. In fact, she’d been her mother’s number one babysitter in caring for her brother Roland.

Then ready to put this moment and this subject to rest, Tabitha cleared her throat for the last time, forced a smile upon her face, and bid her hosts goodnight. “Well, like I said before, I really need to hit the road.” Her voice was slowly returning to normal as she regained complete control of her emotions.

“Got a full day ahead of you tomorrow, huh?” Sebastian asked, accepting her change of subject, though he was far from through with the miscarriage topic. They would talk about that in more detail later. He’d make sure of it.

“Not really. I have every Thursday off. I just didn’t make plans to stay overnight. Only brought the clothes on my back.” Tabitha touched her shirt and smiled genuinely this time. No need to tell Sebastian that she didn’t want to incur the personal expense of overnight lodgings since her department would not be reimbursing her much beyond gas and meals.

Although Capt. Meacham tried to get Tabitha a bigger travel allowance, it had been duly rejected. But she would not to let that hurdle discourage her. Instead Tabitha would use it as fuel to leap over that obstacle and many more like it in order to accomplish her goals in life.

Turning back to Alzora, Tabitha attempted to conclude her visit yet again. Would it work this time? Would Sebastian finally release her?

“That was a great meal, Alzora, particularly those broccoli and ranch-flavored russet potatoes you made. You’re truly a wonderful cook,” Tabitha said, issuing out sincere compliments.

“Thanks.” Alzora smiled. She couldn’t help but like Tabitha. Not only was the blond woman absolutely beautiful on the outside with her gorgeous sapphire eyes and adoring freckles, she was beautiful on the inside with her upbeat personality and optimistic attitude. And Tabitha was a great storytelling, able to hold her audience’s attention to the very end.

“Now if you’ll just direct me to the nearest bathroom, I’ll do what needs to be done and finally be on my way,” Tabitha concluded, now counting down the seconds to her departure.

“It’s the first door on the right side of the hallway,” Sebastian replied as he returned to his recliner.

* * *

When Tabitha was out of earshot, Alzora turned to Sebastian and said, “I like her. But I wouldn’t want her staying in town for too long.”

“Why not?” Sebastian asked as he placed the saucer of pie on the wood area of his right side armrest. Inwardly, he wondered if Alzora had picked up on the lingering feelings he still had for Tabitha. It wouldn’t have been too hard to do so since he’d never been able to fully tame his feelings for his ex-partner anyway.

“Well, having a beautiful woman like that around on a regular basis can be very intimidating, even if she is so likable,” Alzora replied, half-jokingly and half-serious as she stood up and came towards him.

“No need to worry about Tabitha. She’s loyal through and through. She wouldn’t dare violate relationship boundaries, no matter how long she’d known you,” he said, speaking from experience.

Although Sebastian had been romantically interested in Tabitha since high school, he could never even get her to kiss him while he had a girlfriend. He’d had to get rid of all his women and his little black book just to be worthy enough to date her. And Tabitha had been so worth it, too.

“If you say there’s nothing to worry about, then I won’t worry, darling.” Although Alzora smiled at Sebastian’s words, she still wasn’t totally reassured. After all, this was the one partner that he never told her anything about. All the others Sebastian had mentioned on several occasions, even those like Diesel Broadus whom he’d worked with on special assignments.

Furthermore, many of Sebastian’s ex-partners had visited or called at various times. But not this one. It was as if Tabitha just popped up out of nowhere, bringing with her this long history with Sebastian. A history that started from childhood and abruptly ended ten years ago.

Deciding to take advantage of their moment alone, Alzora sat on the left side armrest and wrapped her arms about Sebastian’s strong neck. When she leaned in for one of his famous succulent kisses, she met with rejection instead.

“Not now, baby,” Sebastian whispered as he turned his lips away. His keen ears had heard footsteps coming down the hallway. “Tab’s coming.”

Tab’s coming? What does that have to do with anything? Alzora recoiled as rejection slammed into her whole being again like an eighteen-wheeler to a Volkswagen.

Sebastian had never behaved like this before. Usually he didn’t care who Alzora kissed him in front of. And what was that guilty look about? Alzora was the girlfriend, wasn’t she?

Once Tabitha leaves, you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do, Mister, Alzora mused. She stood to her feet again with hot ire burning a searing trail from her brain down to the bottom of her spine.

* * *

I hope I stay awake, Tabitha mused, wondering if consuming such a heavy meal of tender roast beef in gravy, stuffed baked potatoes, buttered noodles and apple pie had been such a good idea after all. Even now she was stifling a yawn.

Tabitha tried to suppress another yawn when she finally rounded the corner of the den, but it still escaped anyway. “Coffee, that’s what I need,” she said, more to herself than anyone else as she retrieved her metal fish key ring from the left pocket of her jeans. Tabitha didn’t usually carry a purse for such things and her backpack had been left in the trunk of her car.

“I can fix you some coffee. Or better yet, why don’t you stay here tonight and hit the road in the morning?” Sebastian offered as he abruptly stood to his feet.

Now two things were abundantly clear. Firstly, Sebastian wasn’t ready for Tabitha to leave yet, if at all. Secondly, Sebastian didn’t want a second helping of pie after all since the delicious dessert was now a forgotten entity beside him.

Alzora’s eyes widened in horror. She sunk back down on the sofa, too weak from shock to even stand. She couldn’t believe Sebastian had just asked Tabitha to stay overnight. He seldom asked her to stay overnight and she was his girlfriend.

Tabitha’s keen eyes saw several things all at once. She saw Sebastian fighting hard not to show how disturbed he still was about the loss of their child. She also saw him trying to use her drowsiness as an excuse to keep her there longer so that they could talk about it.

If that wasn’t enough, Tabitha also saw Alzora horrified in the face of certain truths about their past. Tabitha and Sebastian had been more than partners. And that baby girl she’d lost had belonged to him, too.

“No, thanks. I’m sure I can make it back okay,” Tabitha said, finally responding to Sebastian’s question. “I’ve had to stay up longer than that for stakeouts, remember?”

“Well, at least call me when you make it back just so I won’t worry,” Sebastian insisted. He began to look around for pen and paper so that he could write his number down for her. His mind was so muddled right now that he couldn’t even remember that he kept his writing materials in the storage drawer of the television console on the south side of the room.

“That’s right, Tabitha. In fact, let me give you that number,” Alzora agreed, moving quickly to get pen and paper from the TV area. Deceptively, the number she wrote down was not Sebastian’s. It was hers. There was no way Alzora was going to let those two communicate on a personal level again without her being around.

* * *

Tabitha wasn’t all that surprised when Alzora answered the phone a few hours later. As Sebastian’s girlfriend, the dark-haired woman probably stayed overnight at his home all the time. However, Tabitha was a bit peeved that Sebastian wouldn’t even get out of bed to talk to her personally. Especially after he’d gone to the trouble of insisting that she call him tonight.

After leaving a message with Alzora, Tabitha hung up the phone and went to bed herself. The whole time she lay there in the dark she tried hard not to think about Sebastian. About the fact that he was probably lying in bed tired after making love to another woman for hours.

Knowing Seb, he’d made every minute count, Tabitha recalled with memories of earlier times taunting her.

* * *

Meanwhile, Alzora quickly called Sebastian’s house. She had to cover her tracks after pretending to be at his home and lying about him being sound asleep. Alzora knew full well that she’d left Sebastian’s house soon after Tabitha did. How they’d had a brief argument, yet only verbally made up because he claimed he was too tired for sexual reconciliation.

When Sebastian answered the phone on the first ring, Alzora cringed on the inside. It was clear that he hadn’t been as tired as he advocated earlier. And, in fact, had waited up for Tabitha’s call. Besides picking up on the first ring, his voice was alert and a television set could be heard in the distance. Yet Alzora persevered anyway since this was the man that she intended to marry one day, once he made peace with his past. All of it.

“Sebastian, its Alzora. Please don’t be mad with me, darling. But I made a mistake and gave Tabitha my number instead of yours. I guess I must have been pretty sleepy, too,” Alzora said. She yawned for good measure, even though she knew she was wide awake and had been waiting up for Tabitha’s call, too. “Anyway, Tabitha just called to say that she made it home safely. I wanted to make sure that you got her message before I went to bed.”

She’s lying, Sebastian mused, instantly noting the change in his girlfriend’s voice like the good detective that he was.

Yet because he understood Alzora’s motive for lying, Sebastian excused her lapse in judgment. He would have felt threatened, too, if he suddenly discovered that his girlfriend was withholding such a large part of her life from him. Especially if that part included a very attractive ex-lover.

Plus, in the time that he’d had to think, Sebastian came to the conclusion that it was better that he didn’t push the issue with Tabitha after all. They both still wanted different things in life. He learned that over dinner when she talked about how committed she still was to Leeward and how she wasn’t thinking about leaving it anytime soon.

Whereas Sebastian still didn’t want anything to do with Leeward. The fact that his parents had moved from that city was all the more reason not to go back. He didn’t even want to check on the Armstrong property they still owned there, yet he did because he was a smart businessman.

Yes, we are better off just being teacher and student, Sebastian mused. Aloud he concluded his conversation with Alzora on a positive note. “Thanks for giving me that message, baby. Goodnight and sleep tight.”

Baby? Alzora mused with unspeakable joy. That endearment could only mean one thing - Sebastian still wanted her.

After biding him goodnight, a happy Alzora hung up the phone and finally went to bed. So complete was her joy that it no longer mattered that she was going to bed alone tonight.

© 2006 by Suprina Frazier

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