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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

EXCERPT: Courtney's Collage

Courtney's a college student who finds herself pregnant by her sister's boyfriend. She's determined to rebuild her life and relationship with her youngest sibling, Majesta. That is, until baby sister does the unthinkable. Join Courtney on her journey as she travels through a collage of life-altering episodes that will leave you suspended in time...

Courtney's Collage

By Sherille Fisher and Barbara Joe-Williams

Chapter one

Courtney Marie Charles opened her sable eyes, quickly surveying her surroundings. The bed she’d awakened in wasn’t hers. How did this happen?

Her head was aching and for a moment she started to panic. Then she remembered yesterday with all the great mid-term grades she’d made. That was why she’d gone to the Club Highlights last night.

Courtney was in her senior year at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. It looked like she was getting her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Affairs after all. She was proud to be a part of the spring semester class of 1991. Courtney wanted to celebrate this achievement, but the few friends that she called had something to do last night.

So, she dressed in her finest clothes and dancing shoes and ventured out alone to the nearest club. When she arrived at Club Highlights, “Where Will You Go” by Babyface was playing. She looked around for a minute but didn’t see anyone she knew. Sitting at the bar, she ordered a gin and tonic, heavy on the lime. Then in steps this fine black man with a familiar face.

“May I buy you a drink?” he offered. Courtney refused because she was already starting to feel woozy.

“May I sit beside you?” he politely asked.

“Sure, no one’s sitting there.”

After taking a closer look at him, she realized that he was also a student at the university she attended. Steven Palmer was his name, and according to what she’d heard, he had a good reputation.

Courtney was attracted to him as soon as he sat down. Standing about five feet eleven inches tall, he had ebony skin with a great smile, perfectly aligned teeth, full lips, and a well-kept mustache. He was indeed a good looking well-built man with sparkling dark brown eyes, nice thick eyebrows and lashes, and his wavy hair was cut close. Wearing all black attire, he looked like a handsome knight.

As Courtney lay in the full-sized bed looking at a sleeping Steven, she couldn’t help but feel bad. She didn’t remember much of what they discussed last night, but she knew what they’d done. By the time they arrived at his place she wasn’t that drunk, just light-headed.

Steven and she connected so well last night, maybe too well. Her body was still moist from their heated actions. The passion was certainly there, and it had felt so right to be with him last night. I wonder if the gin and tonic made the sex more exciting.

He was so gentle. His kisses were so soft. He kissed her butterscotch skin in places she’d never been kissed before. Feeling the fire burning within her soul with every touch, her body ached for all he could offer.

The smell of their bodies mingled together still lingered in the room as the morning sun shined on them. Feeling a sudden mood change, Courtney’s head began to spin.

Jumping out of bed, she ran to the bathroom fighting the urge to throw up. Once she entered the bathroom directly across from the bed, she dropped to her knees and released everything she had in her stomach.

Sitting on the cold tile floor beside the toilet, she placed her face into her hands and began to cry. Reflecting on her loose behavior, she felt ashamed. Why did I let lust overwhelm me? Drinking like I did wasn’t safe. I may not even be safe now. Where are my clothes? I need to leave now.

Suddenly, Courtney felt someone’s presence. As she lifted her head she saw Steven, the one who made her lose her mind last night, standing over her. Admiring his muscular shape, Courtney recalled how their bodies had blended together in harmony.

Steven was standing in the doorway of the bathroom with nothing on but a bath towel wrapped around his waist. At least he had something to cover his private parts; she was still nude. Steven reached his hand out to help Courtney up, but she refused it. After wiping her face with some toilet paper, she flushed it away. Standing up, she asked, “Where am I? How did I get here?”

He replied, “Courtney, you had a lot to drink last night. I picked up on it when I heard you talking. I didn’t think that you should drive home in your condition.”

Feeling the frustration coming over her, she said, “I think that we did more than talk by the look of things.”

“Listen, Courtney, we had sex, and it was great. You just started taking off your clothes and got in my bed so I got in bed, too. I guess that the chemistry was there.”

Courtney remembered having sex, but she didn’t remember taking off her clothes. Some parts of last night were still a blur. Giving Steven a cold stare, she walked right by him in her nakedness.

Steven felt his body respond as she past him. He wanted her again and wondered if she felt the same. He desperately wanted to reignite the fire they’d shared. She was so sweet, smelling like fresh fruit. Her body was soft almost like a new born babe and the color of butterscotch candy. She had curves and breasts that seemed too large for her small frame and long black thick hair. Steven could look at her beauty all day.

Courtney suddenly felt dizzy as she walked towards the bed to retrieve her clothes. Sitting down on the side of the mattress, she eyed Steven as he walked over and sat next to her.

“Are you all right, Courtney? Can I get you anything?”

“I just need to lie down. I really feel sick.”

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

“Steven, you don’t have a lady friend who might pop up, do you?”

“I’m not dating anyone right now, Courtney. So lie back down and relax, okay?” Steven stroked her face and then kissed her forehead. He wanted to kiss her lips again but decided against it.

“Do you need something for your headache?”

“Yes, I think so.”

He walked to the bathroom and returned a couple of minutes later with some over-the-counter pills and a glass of water.

Steven also gave her a large t-shirt to cover herself. He was surprised at how comfortable she seemed around him. She was blessed that he wasn’t a violent person. If she’d been in the wrong hands, she could be in danger right now.

Leaving the room with Courtney lying across his bed, Steven gently closed the bedroom door. Courtney raised her head looking around the room. She couldn’t remember how the front of the place looked; she didn’t even know if it was a house or an apartment. If she wasn’t so sick she would leave.

Something about him made Courtney feel safe. Maybe the fact that they attended the same university eased her feelings about him.

Steven was a good guy from a respectable family, and had a good reputation at school, where he was admired by both the staff and the student body. His father, Dr. Samuel Palmer, was a respected gynecologist.

Courtney’s family was pretty well off, too. Her father, Victor James Charles, was injured in an accident while performing his duties as a postal worker. The accident was with an eighteen wheeler from a major company. Fortunately, the trucker was at fault. After the case was settled, Mr. Charles was a very rich man. Courtney’s mother, Diane, who’d been a nurse for ten years, retired to take care of her husband. The girls were able to get whatever their hearts desired.

Steven walked back into the room to find Courtney asleep. He couldn’t believe he brought this woman to his place. I wonder if she does this often.

Remembering the horror stories his father had told him about having unprotected sex, Steven was careful about sleeping around. Being in good health, he donated blood twice a year. I hope that she’s as clean on the inside as she appears on the outside.

Sitting on the bed, Steven watched Courtney sleep. He envisioned her in his arms while wanting to lie beside her. It was good to see that her hair was real since he hated weave. He’d spent most of the night running his hands through her thick mane. Lately, the women he dated seemed so fake. Steven was just sick of fake hair, fake eye color, fake nails, and fake personalities. He could go on and on with the fake things that women put on their bodies. It was quite refreshing to know that Courtney didn’t fit that description. She was a natural beauty.

At that moment, Steven thought about a girl from his past that died two years ago from heart failure. Catrina was real inside and out. He’d loved her with all his heart. There hadn’t been anyone else like her. They’d dated two years before her sudden death. Could Courtney be the answer to his prayer?

The way he’d felt last night was better than ever. It felt so right. Am I falling for Courtney?

Steven left the room to fix something light for her to eat. About thirty minutes later, Courtney woke up. She lay in bed thinking about her sisters. She really missed them. Two of her sisters lived in Miami, Florida, and one was attending Texas Southern University in Houston. They would be astonished by Courtney’s actions. Getting picked up at a bar really was very dangerous.

The fact that she had sex with Steven would blow their minds. Kimberly, the oldest, would tell her right off that she was being a slut. Jessica, who’s a year younger than Courtney, would say, “You should be more careful, girl.” But at the same time, she would want to know all the details. Majesta, the baby sister, would just want to know, “Why and how could you?”

Courtney’s sisters were her best friends. She missed them so much and was looking forward to the sister reunion in May. This was something the sisters did every year or whenever they could. It started when Courtney went off to college. Most of the time, they met in Miami. That was a better location for their parents. This year they would meet in North Carolina since Courtney was graduating in May. She looked forward to seeing her family and friends.

It was the first of March, and Courtney really didn’t have much time to plan for the big event. She was still disturbed by what she’d done. If she wasn’t more careful, they’d be planning a funeral soon.

Courtney was in the bathroom getting dressed and rinsing her mouth out with a bottle of newly opened mouthwash. She hoped that Steven didn’t mind her opening it. After washing her hands several times, she finally dried them off using paper towels.

Re-dressed in her black strapless dress and open toe heels, she pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Although she felt dingy, she decided to take a bath at home, if she could ever leave. Courtney felt like Steven wanted her to stay.

Hoping she could find her way back to the club to retrieve her car, she exited the bathroom. When Courtney entered the room, Steven was standing there with a tray in his hands. The stainless steel tray held grapes, strawberries, and a grapefruit sliced in half with a cherry in the center. He also brought her some ice water and a cup of decaffeinated coffee. “It’s good to see you up and about. Are you feeling better?”

“Is that for me?” Courtney inquired, raising her eyebrows. She smiled at the pleasant surprise.

“Yes, you need to eat something. Can I take you to your car later?”

“Are we far from the club?”

“We’re about three blocks away.”

Courtney sat down on the side of the bed. Steven laid the tray on her lap.

“Steven, this is so sweet of you.”

Sitting next to her, he watched Courtney eat the food he’d prepared. Although she wasn’t very hungry, Courtney ate most of the light breakfast anyway.

“Are you gonna eat, too?”

“I’ll eat something later,” he replied. “Is Courtney your real name?”

“Yes, of course. I was too drunk to make up a fake name.” Courtney knew that Steven was his real name because she’d seen him around the campus and had heard about him.

“I’ve never seen you before last night. But I would love to see you again. I’m sorry about what I did last night. It’s not like me to pick up girls.”

He paused for a second, looking down and then up again. “Courtney, I really don’t want this to be a one-night stand. If I give you my phone number, will you call me?” he asked. After she responded with a nod of her head, Steven wrote his phone number on a small piece of paper and handed it to Courtney. “Take your time and eat. I’ll take you to get your car whenever you’re ready.”

Steven left the room to watch television while Courtney finished her breakfast. Then she walked to the bathroom to freshen up and wash her hands again.

Feeling at ease with Steven, she believed that he was different from any guy she’d ever met. She just hoped that he didn’t have anything she could catch.

Courtney had just come out of a relationship with someone, but it had been months since she’d had sexual intercourse. It had been foolish last night to have unprotected sex. Thinking that she really needed to do some praying, Courtney decided to walk to the club where her car was parked.

“Steven, thank you for offering to drive me, but I could really use the walk since it’s only a few blocks away.”

“Are you sure? I don’t mind driving you.”

“It’s okay,” she replied, walking towards the front door.

Steven followed behind her but stepped in front of Courtney to open the door. He placed a good-bye kiss on her lips as they stood in the open doorway. Then, his eyes followed her as she walked to the end of the driveway.

It was a clear Carolina morning with large houses sitting high on hills all along the street. Courtney remembered an accident that she’d had coming down one of those steep driveways. On that particular day, she was leaving a friend’s house that just happened to be like the ones she was passing. Courtney decided to ride her bike down the driveway instead of walking. That turned out to be a bad choice on her part. She went down the driveway so fast that she lost control of the bike and ran into a cactus bush that was planted along side the driveway. Wearing a tank top and shorts at the time, she was left exposed and hurt.

Walking down the street, Courtney thought about Steven. He’s so fine and too nice to be true. I didn’t expect him to be so polite. At that moment, her thoughts shifted to Alex Reyes. He was a guy from her past that she’d dated in Miami. He’d left Courtney to go to Belize to take care of his ailing parents. In the beginning, they kept in touch with each other every other week. Then one day, Courtney received a letter saying that he’d met another girl. Alex told her that he’d met the girl about a month ago. Feeling like she’d lost a part of her heart, she stopped dating for months after that. Her plans were to attend the University of Miami, but after receiving that letter, she wanted to leave the state. That was the last time she’d heard from Alex. Now four years had passed, and Courtney still had deep feelings for him.

It was 1:30 in the afternoon when Courtney arrived at her car. Unlocking the door to her emerald green convertible Corvette, she slid behind the wheel, and drove straight home.

Taking a long hot bath, she soaped her body and rinsed off several times before exiting the tub. Courtney changed into her conservative work clothes and headed to the law office where she worked part-time. She wanted to look over some paperwork that needed to be filed. There were some personal letters she also wanted to read and respond to.

When Courtney arrived at the firm, Attorney Dawson Parker was in his office reading a newspaper. He always worked long hours including most weekends. He was an attractive man in his early forties with pale skin and dark blondish hair.

Courtney had started working in the law office during her sophomore year of college. One of her friend’s from school, Nicole Carter, helped her get the job. She got along great with both attorneys, especially Attorney Parker. He was so cordial to Courtney and had often treated her to lunch. He’d even given her extravagant gifts, making her his right-hand girl.

Their relationship started a year after she had been employed with the firm a year. One Friday afternoon, Attorney Parker invited her to dinner, and she gladly accepted. They went to a seafood restaurant that was almost an hour away from the office. This particular restaurant sold conch, a delicacy of the islands. Attorney Parker had heard Courtney often talk about conch and he enjoyed it when he’d tasted some in the Bahamas while on vacation last year. The firm was doing well and the attorneys took several trips a year to unwind.

The attorneys’ success was connected to a case that they’d settled for five million dollars about six months before they hired her. Courtney could hardly believe that she got the job. Her girlfriend, Nicole, really had put in a good word on Courtney’s behalf. There was also a Caucasian guy working in the firm as a clerk when Courtney was hired.

On this particular Friday, the office closed early, around 4:00 p.m. Courtney didn’t think they would ever get to the restaurant. As they entered the building, the waitress gave her a funny look. It was obvious that she knew Attorney Parker.

Looking around, Courtney noticed that she was the only person of color in the restaurant. The waitress looked at Courtney with an “I don’t like the fact that you’re with a white man” expression. However, she seated them and handed them a menu. Courtney was impressed because the menu didn’t have any prices on it. She knew that it had to be an expensive place. She also liked the valet parking.

Courtney looked at Dawson with an uneasy expression on her face. He responded with a friendly smile. She noticed that conch was on the menu. She’d grown up eating seafood and loved it. The last time she had conch was in Miami. Attorney Parker remembered that Courtney liked it, and this was the only restaurant that he knew of that sold the delicacy. He planned to have some, too. The way they prepared it at this restaurant was great. It was cooked in a lemon butter sauce with mushrooms.

Dinner was delicious and Attorney Parker was a lot of fun. On the way home, Courtney asked him several questions about his private life. She even felt comfortable asking him about his love life. “Are you dating anyone?” she inquired.

“Yes, but she’s out of town.”

At the office, he’d never talked about dating anyone. He never got personal calls at the office either. Courtney liked his honesty, but she immediately changed the subject.

When they arrived at Courtney’s place, she invited him in. He eagerly accepted her invitation into a spacious two-bedroom apartment.

Directing him to the sofa, she said, “Please have a seat.” Then, she excused herself. Her bladder was full from drinking so much water at the restaurant. She rushed off to the bathroom.

Dawson admired the way that Courtney’s apartment was decorated. She had beautiful artwork displayed and unique furniture. Courtney was a neat freak and her apartment was clean and well kept at all times. She had been diagnosed with a mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as a child. So she had to have certain things placed in a certain way in her room. Courtney liked things to be organized. Since she was worried about germs, she washed her hands many times a day. But the medication and therapy had helped her lead a semi-normal life.

Courtney was also excessive with collecting things. With a large picture collection, she had been collecting photos since elementary school.

Courtney walked out of the bedroom and asked, “Would you like a drink, Dawson?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine.”

Sitting down beside him on the sofa, she studied his face. Gazing into his dark green eyes with an inviting smile, she let him kiss her hand and claim her lips with his own. Courtney could feel the hunger for sex just from his hot touch. They kissed passionately until Courtney stood and walked towards her bedroom. Dawson followed her with his eyes and body.

They didn’t waste any time undressing each other. That night, Courtney and her boss sampled each other’s bodies. It was a new and exciting pleasure for both of them. Being with a white man, an older man wasn’t all that bad. He began to kiss her full lips and found that she tasted good.

Kissing her neck and shoulders, he inhaled her sweet fragrance. “Courtney, you smell delicious,” he whispered again and again into her ear. Within moments, their bodies connected in passion.

Things didn’t change that much around the office after that night. Courtney was still the dutiful secretary. She did her office work like always, not expecting any special privileges. There were some days when she and Dawson would make love in the office, but most of the time it was at his ranch.

“I love you, Courtney. And I want to marry you.”

“I’m not ready for a commitment,” she replied.

Courtney felt that she shouldn’t be intimate with anyone else while they were dating, and Dawson felt the same. He loved Courtney with all his heart and wanted her to be his wife as well as have his children. Dawson didn’t have any children, and he wanted a child that looked like Courtney. He loved Courtney’s natural complexion.

After confiding in his partner, Attorney Robert Smith, about his feelings, Dawson was told, “It’s not smart sleeping with your secretary.” But he didn’t care, he was in love, and trusted Courtney with all he owned.

He hoped that she wouldn’t grow tired of him since she was so young and full of life. Dawson wondered if he had fully satisfied Courtney.

After months of being with only Dawson, Courtney decided that it wasn’t fair to date him when she didn’t want to marry him. Being that he was older, he wanted to settle down and have a family. Not only had he often talked about wanting a child within the next year, he already felt that he’d waited too late. Any woman his age would be too old or not willing to conceive.

Feeling that he was becoming too possessive, Courtney decided one day to break it off. It had only been two months since their separation and he’d never stopped trying to place himself in her life.

Desiring her so much, he told Courtney that she was still needed in the office. Courtney felt it was okay to stay with the firm because she could handle him since he always respected her wishes.

“Hi,” Courtney spoke, passing Dawson’s office.

He replied, “Hello.” And then went back to reading his newspaper.

Courtney decided to organize the inside of her desk then type some important letters. This was “must do” work that could not be delayed. Since she’d taken Friday off due to testing, she was behind on her office responsibilities. But two hours later, her work was completed.

While Courtney was finishing up her work, Dawson called her into his office. She put her papers together and stamped the letters so that she would be ready to leave after talking with Dawson. Upon entering his office, he asked, “How did you do on your exams?”

“Looks like I’m going to law school.”

“Does that mean that I have to find another secretary?”

“Yes, it looks that way. I told you, I’m going to Thurgood Marshall Law School in Houston, Texas.”

“Well, Courtney, it’s going to be hard to find someone to replace you. You’re an excellent typist, great with people, and you run the office flawlessly. Not to mention how you keep things organized around here. I’m going to miss those moments, your kiss, your smile, and those radiant eyes.”

“Thank you,” she replied, avoiding his stare. That was the best she could do.

“May I wine and dine you until you leave for Texas?” he asked, standing up, and walking towards her.

Courtney wondered what he was up to as he kissed her ever so gently on the lips. Then he pulled her into his arms.

Feeling the passion radiating from his kiss, Courtney pulled away from him. She knew it disturbed him to see that she didn’t return his affection.

Stepping back, Courtney said, “Please don’t do that again.”

They hadn’t been intimate for months and it shocked her.

Dawson sighed, realizing that he’d lost her; he didn’t push it. He just stared at her with his piercing eyes.

Looking at his profile, his dark blondish hair showed hints of gray. Although he was in his mid-forties, he looked at least ten years younger. With a muscular body from college athletics and working out at the gym, he was an attractive man but just not the one for her. Without saying another word, he returned to his desk. Courtney left the building reminiscing about the night she’d spent with Steven.

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