Good morning and Happy New Year, Folks! It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted something (a little over a month), so I missed a December posting and I apologize. I will definitely be making up for that and then some (more on that shortly).
During my time away, I’ve had time to reflect not only on who I am as an artist, but also as a person. I mulled over that cliche, but necessary question everyone asks at some point in their lives…who am I? In fact, I’ve been mulling that over for months now. Well, I discovered that the answer to that question is far more complex than I anticipated, but if I didn’t learn anything else (as simple as this is going to sound) I learned that I have to be myself…my highly sensitive-artsy-introverted-quirky-bohemian-afro-centric-spiritually inclined-creative self. The fact is I like writing about deep matters of life. Romance doesn’t come easy for me, even though I LOVE reading romance novels (particularly Beverly Jenkins). Stories with a Twilight Zone-esque vibe to it really tickle my fancy and if I have my way, I will be known as the Plot Twist Queen someday. That’s the truth of the matter and so I set out to be who I am as an artist through and through from 2016 on forward. With that said, I have decided to drop the pseudonym of June Imani Bell. I will be going by my REAL name STACIE DOBSON BELL. If I am to live in my authentic truth as an artist, I have to be authentically me.
The second decision I have made is to post not just one, but two shorts/poems to this page per month. I figure, for accountability and consistency sake, the more deadlines I give myself, the more art I produce! It’s 2016, for God’s sake! Time to step my creativity game up!
And now for the nitty gritty! This entry is actually a submission I sent to a publishing company I was hoping to become apart of, but sadly, they did not accept it. My very first rejected piece…I guess that makes me official, right? LOL In any case, I am still very proud of my work. Disappointed, but never discouraged! I hope you enjoy reading this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it. Oh and btw, it is LOOSELY based on a TRUE story, so let me know what you think! Ciao!
By: Stacie Dobson Bell
“Be the flame, not the moth.”
― Giacomo Casanova
It had been eight months, three weeks, and countless lonely nights since Xavier Graves’ last disappearing act, yet there he was, all six foot three, two hundred and twenty pounds of him materialized on my doorstep, bold as sin drenched by the rain, and wearing that signature smile I hated to love.
“Hello SquareBear.” His pet name for me from our college days rumbled from his throat to my beating heart.
“Hey.” was all I could muster.
He looked me up and down and nodded.
“You look amazing.”
Standing there in the door, dressed in a white t-shirt, a pair of frumpy Tweety Bird pajama shorts, no bra, tussled box braids, and sleep in my eyes, I doubted amazing was the word.
After a few beats of silence, he asked, “May I come in?”
Every ounce of sense in my head screamed for me to slam the door in his face after the way he treated me, but the whisperings of my broken heart found us sitting across from one another at my kitchen table fifteen minutes later. He stared at me while I gazed down into my Santa Catalina Island coffee mug, doing my best to avoid eye contact.
“So, are you going to speak or spend the entire time looking everywhere but at me?” he asked.
The rebel in me forgot that I was but putty in his presence and looked him in the eye. Just like that, I was lost in his perfection. His skin was the same, smooth mocha tone, just about blemish free. He wore the same thin lined mustache just above his full lips and his large, dark brown eyes stared back; magnified by the prescription glasses he wore. Something about the way glasses looked on men always turned me on, especially when Xavier wore his, but this time, all I wanted to do was crawl under a rock for fear he’d see right through me with them. On the outside, I was cold as steel. Inside, my heart had already melted into my slippers. I managed to pull myself together just enough to ask, “So…what brings you here tonight?”
He smiled and said, “You, of course.”
“I gathered…but why?”
“Well, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things while I’ve been away and-”
“Away? Xavier, it’s not like you were out on a business trip. You left me…for the third time. We were together practically every single day for a year straight and then POOF! Just like that, you were gone again…only this time, you thought enough about me to leave a note on a napkin saying so.” I said a bit more bitterly than intended.
He looked down into the coffee mug in front of him.
“I deserve that. I was wrong, I know.”
Already annoyed with this conversation, I leaned back in my chair and sighed.
“I’m serious, Sage. I want things between us to be different.” He said, meeting my eyes again.
“You say that, but you’ve been running in and out of my life, playing with my emotions for too long and I’m not going to have it anymore. You can’t play with me, break me, and then put me back on the shelf until you’re bored again. I’m not your plaything and this ain’t Toys R Us. That is not the way this works…not anymore.”
“You have every reason not to believe me, but I’ve changed. That’s why I’m here. I want to show you how ready I am to make things work…”
He pushed his coffee mug to the side and reached into his jacket pocket. A moment later, he produced a pair of what looked like airline tickets and slid them across the table.
“Starting with this.” He said.
I looked from him to the two boarding passes. The one on top read Negril.
“Jamaica?” I asked, unable to hide the surprise in my voice.
He gave me a crooked smile this time, clearly impressed with himself.
“It took me months to save up for this…and all you have to do is say yes.”
If he would’ve asked me to go to Jamaica eight months ago, I would’ve already had my bags packed and waiting by my front door. But this time was different. As much as I wanted to believe him, I needed a money-back guarantee or something to show that he wasn’t just taking me for another ride.
“I don’t know. The last time you left, you left me in pieces and I had to put myself back together alone. I can’t afford to trust you again just for you to pull another one of your disappearing acts.”
Without warning, he reached across the table and gathered both of my trembling hands into his. Because it had been so long since he’d touched me, eight months worth of tears flowed and I hated myself for it. He looked up into my watery eyes and said, “The only way I will ever disappear on you again is if you tell me to.”
I felt my throat tighten into a lump. I tried to pull my hands away from him, but he squeezed them even tighter and kissed the tips of my fingers just as tenderly as he used to. I melted once more, yet again putty in his presence and in his hands. With an unwavering gaze that wouldn’t quit, he whispered, “Please SquareBear…just say yes.”
Our plane made its descent upon the island of Jamaica by sunset, the very next day. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. It was everything I’d ever read about, seen on TV, or heard about from friends and family who’d already gone before me. Half an hour later, I stepped out onto the airport terminal, marveling at everything from the natural wildlife to the beautiful people. Sure, the air was permeated with the smell of ganja potent enough to make Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson do a double take, but that paled in comparison to the high I felt just being in paradise, especially with the love of my life. He stood beside me in his white linen slacks and shirt, Armani glasses, and white fedora. Reaching over, he grabbed my hand and whispered, “Are you ready?”
“Born ready.” I purred.
Our shuttle took us from the airport to the most beautiful beach front resort I’d ever seen. It literally looked like my desktop screensaver. I was amazed that a place so pristine and lovely could exist. The suite was just as jaw-dropping as the scenery outside, with its Caribbean flavored blue, green, and yellow tones, luxurious jetted hot tub in the corner of the room, and light linen canopy draped over the giant king sized bed. We would’ve made love that evening, had we not been so jetlagged. We didn’t even make it to the bed before crashing onto the various duvets for a much needed nap.
The morning after, we arose for breakfast along the white sandy beach, where I fed him passion fruit and got tipsy off of one too many Jamaican rum mimosas. We spent the first half of the day at the spa, indulging in full body couples’ massages and mud baths.
By noon, we were zip lining through the lush, green jungle. A couple of hours later found us parasailing among the turquoise waves, snorkeling along the colorful coral reef, and hiking to the top of the mountains, overlooking the entire island. Standing there in my beloved’s arms as the sun set over the horizon was the closest I’d even been to heaven. By midnight, we danced the night away at a local dancehall club to the latest hip hop, R&B, and Reggae sounds, for once not worried about the future. We just reveled in the moment of bliss where I belonged to him and he belonged to me.
But the highlight of the entire trip came that evening as the subtle, soft breeze flowed through the open terrace window and between the sheets of our king sized bed, riding in tandem with the melodic sounds of the ocean waves rolling onto the shore. Our soft moans mingled together set the perfect mood and I couldn’t imagine life getting any better. I was being made love to by a man who held me within his strong arms as if I were a precious, erotic dream that would fade if he didn’t hold on tightly enough. He made me feel sexy and desirable; a woman being loved thoroughly and completely…something I had been longing to feel ever since he walked away from me months earlier. After riding the euphoric wave of ecstasy, he collapsed in a sweaty heap on top of me, resting his head between my small, parted breasts. I wrapped my arms around him, caressing his back, attempting to soothe the scratches I’d placed there.
“Shit, that was good.” he panted.
I closed my eyes and sighed.
“I can’t believe I almost forgot how well you could put it down.”
“Well, then I will just have to do my best to remind you every…single…night.”
He placed kisses along my throat as he spoke while teasing the throbbing, warm, beating between my thighs with his fingers.
“Oh, that’s good,” I sighed.
He smiled, clearly pleased with my reaction to his sensual tribute. Although this man was single handedly responsible for every heartbreak I’d endured in the past two years, I could not deny that he was sinfully gifted between the sheets. The truth was I could live without the shopping sprees and the lavish and exquisite restaurants he liked to shower me with. I’d never been that materialistic of a girl in the first place, but the way Xavier loved me from the inside out was what every woman’s dream was made of and if I had my way, I would never wake up.
The sound of my name jolted me from my thoughts.
“I thought you might’ve fallen asleep.” He chuckled.
“No, I was just thinking how glad I am to be here with you.” I answered.
He leaned up on his elbow above me and whispered, “I’m glad you’re here too. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I intend on showing you every day of the rest of our lives together.”
My kiss swollen lips spread into a wide smile at that last part.
The rest of our lives together?
“Which reminds me…wait here.” he said, smiling.
Like a child on Christmas morning, he spilled out of bed and hurried in all of his stark, nude glory to the closet. I watched him unzip one of his bags, reach in, and return with a small, navy blue velvet box. I sat up, my curiosity completely piqued.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Finally giving you what you’ve always deserved.”
He held up a small, silver box and flipped it open, revealing a gorgeous, three stone diamond ring. I brought my hand to my gaping mouth and gasped.
“Oh my, an engagement ring?!”
“A promise ring.” He corrected.
My smile dropped a little.
“A promise ring?”
“Yes, the three stones in this ring represent our past, our present, and our future. I know the past hasn’t been what it should have, but I will be there for you from this moment on until the end of time. I promise. I love you Sage Marie Franklin.”
I had to admit, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t an engagement ring, but I figured it was just as well since he had yet to promise me anything before, let alone propose. I wrapped my hands around his clean shaven face and cried, “It’s beautiful.”
He grinned, kissed me deeply, and slid the ring onto my finger.
“I live to love you, you know that? If you’ll let me, I can show you so much better than I can tell you.”
Before I could respond, he lifted me up into his arms and carried me to the bubble filled jetted tub in the master bathroom, eagerly anticipated more rounds of him demonstrating how much his life depended on loving me.
The next day, I awoke and purred like a sated kitten after a well-deserved siesta. After our erotic bath, I’d slept most of the day away and the sun was once again setting over the westward horizon. I stretched and turned over, only to find that the spot Xavier slept in was empty. There was a note sitting on the nightstand. Heart racing and expecting the worst, I snatched it up and read:
You’re beautiful when you’re sleeping. I’m downstairs in the front lobby renting our jeep for tomorrow. I love you and I’ll be back as soon as I can -X
Glowing with relief, I exhaled, grabbed my cell, and dialed my sister, Paprika’s, number. She answered on the first ring.
“Hey, girl! How’s that island life treating you?”
“Hey Pap! It’s a total dream. I can hardly believe it’s real.”
“Uh huh, well get all you can out of the deal because you know with Xavier’s triflin’ ass, it won’t last.”
“Actually, that’s what I called to talk to you about. Last night, he did something I never thought he would do.” I said, holding my right hand up and admiring my new piece of bling.
“One sec…” I said. I held my phone out and snapped a photo of my hand. I sent it to her and placed the phone back to my ear. The line was silent for so long, I wondered if the call dropped.
“Yeah, I’m here.” She said.
“Well….what do you think?” I asked.
“I think it’s about damn time he proposed. Lord knows it took long enough.”
“Actually, it’s not an engagement ring. It’s a promise ring.”
“A promise ring? What is this, high school?”
I sighed. Paprika hated Xavier something terrible for the heartache he’d put me through and wasn’t willing to cut him a break, even if I was.
“Can’t you just be happy for me?”
“I want to. I really do, but come on Sage, a promise ring? Xavier couldn’t keep a promise with a bottle of super glue.”
“He’s changed, Pap. I know it’s hard to believe now, but it’s true.”
“How do you figure that?”
“He didn’t have to come back, Pap. Not only did he do that, he brought me to paradise and gave me this beautiful diamond ring. Isn’t that proof enough?”
“All that proves is the man knows how to show a girl a good time.” She tossed back.
“I know he’s put me through hell, but I’m telling you, he’s changed and if I can let go of the past, then you should too.”
This time, Paprika let out a sigh.
“Fine, if this is the real deal and the two of you are an official item, then I’m happy for you…he did say you two are together for sure, right?”
I thought about it a moment and said, “Well, he didn’t say those exact words, but I know that’s what he meant.”
“Eh, I think you need to check back in with your boy. The last thing you want is to be the only one who knows the two of you are a couple.”
Just then, the door opened and Xavier stepped in.
I smiled and said, “Hey, I gotta go. He just walked in.”
“Okay, don’t forget to ask him, Sage.”
“You’re going to ask him?”
“What did I just say?”
“Answer the question!”
“Yes, I’ll ask him, alright? Bye!”
I hung up the phone before she could say anything else, tossed it across the bed; smiling as he approached.
He looked at me and grinned.
“Hey Beautiful. Who was that on the phone?”
“Oh, it was just Paprika. I was telling her about my brand new bling.” I said, beaming at the brilliant rock.
“It suits you.” he nodded.
“That it does. May I ask you something?”
He nodded, but didn’t look up at me as he was too busy scrolling through his iPhone. I took a breath. Deep down, a part of me wanted to take the ring for face value and not spoil the happiest moment in our entire relationship…but Paprika was right and the alarm bells going off in my head showed no signs of silencing either. If he was as for real as he said he was, this was going to be an easy, open and shut conversation.
“Are we Barack and Michelle or Richard and Elizabeth?”
What do you mean, Baby?” he asked, as he continued paying more attention to what was on his screen than me.
“I mean, what do we mean to each other? Are we a committed couple like Barack and Michelle or are we just kicking it until we go our separate ways again, like Liz and Dick?”
He stopped scrolling through the phone long enough to look up at me and stare for a moment. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking and therefore didn’t know if I should be glad or sorry I asked.
After a few silent moments, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, we’re not quite Barack and Michelle but we’re definitely not Liz and Dick either. I’d say we’re…right in the middle.”
“Okay, well what does ‘right in the middle’ mean?”
“It…just means what it means. We’re in the middle.”
“Xavier, how do you expect me to be alright with an answer that vague? It’s a simple question that requires a simple answer. Is we is or is we ain’t? Are we a couple or not?”
His eyebrow raised and he looked at me like I was the bugging.
“Why are you sweating me about this all of a sudden?”
“I’m not sweating you. I just want to know if this ring means I’m your lady or just another kept booty call.”
He sighed and said, “You were never a ‘kept booty call’ and you know it.”
“Do I? Think about it, X. I’ve yet to meet anyone from your family or hear you introduce me to your friends as anything other than my name in the two years and some change that we’ve been involved.”
“We’ve been over this a thousand times, Sage. It’s just been bad timing.” He growled.
“Oh, I see, but it’s always perfect timing when you want to call me up in the middle of the night for some ass, right?”
He glared at me as if warning me not to cross some kind of fucked up invisible line he drew.
“Don’t be that girl. Playing these tit for tat games is not a good look for you and I didn’t bring you all this way to listen to you bitch and moan about things you don’t understand!”
I fell silent and stared at him, too stunned to cry. Cursing under his breath, he walked over to my side of the bed, sat down, and pulled me into his arms. I tried resisting, but my efforts were in vain. He firmly held me close, took my ring hand in his.
“I’m sorry, Baby. I was out of line, but there is something I need you to understand. This ring isn’t about official titles, meeting families, or even love. It’s about the promise I made to always be by your side. You have been, are, and always will be my best friend. For as long as we both draw breath, that’s all either of us needs to know, alright?”
I looked up into his eyes and found my reflection looking back. Two long years of the hellish, emotional rollercoaster he’d put me through left nothing but a shell of the vibrant, strong, fiery woman I once was and suddenly, understanding set in like an anchor to the floor of the sea. I looked up into his face and said, “Alright.”
Xavier stepped out of the shower, wrapped the white, terry cloth towel around his waist and walked into the suite. With the room plunged into near total darkness, he made his way to the bed, ditched the towel, and climbed in; eager to “make up” after that awkward conversation earlier. But when he reached across the bed, he came up with nothing but cold silk sheets.
“SquareBear?” he whispered.
Confused, he reached over, turned on the lamp beside him, and scanned the suite for any signs of Sage. There were none. No clothes, no shoes, no luggage, nothing. All that remained as evidence she was ever there to begin with was the lingering scent of her perfume and a flimsy napkin sitting on the nightstand with the promise ring he gave her resting atop of it and one word scribbled in bright red lipstick…
“POOF” is an unpublished literary work
© Copyright by Stacie Dobson Bell
All Rights Reserved