The Gateway

DISCLAIMER: The following excerpt is from my incomplete collection of stories (working title), “From Darkness to Light: A Journey.” This particular excerpt is from a story titled, “The Gateway.” I will post more of this and other stories at a future date, God willing. Please let me know what you think by providing feedback in the comments section. Thank you!

Aziza

 

The Gateway

            Tina was alone in bed again on a Saturday night. She was watching a movie, or rather the movie was watching her. It had been about an hour since Tina last smoked. She could feel herself slowly coming back to reality. She couldn’t stand the thought of her high wearing off. Not tonight. It was after 2 am and James still wasn’t home. Despite Tina’s little habit, she wasn’t a slouch. She was an attractive, professional with expensive taste. Her hair and clothes were always neat. Her long, manicured nails painted in her signature shade of red wine. Tina kept her recreational activities under wraps. What started as a coupe of lines of coke at parties had morphed into a crack pipe during the week.  She was the regional manager for a large bank and enjoyed the lifestyle her hard work and education afforded her. Tina didn’t need a man. She had regretted thinking the opposite. If it was a lapse in judgement, or maybe loneliness. Tina wasn’t entirely sure. Either way, she felt her decision to be with James had been the wrong one.

Tina met James when he was the lead security guard at one of the banks she managed. James was hard to ignore. He was 6’4 with a large, muscular build and smooth brown skin. His hair was full and coily. He kept it cut in a high and tight style. James served 10 years in the Marine Corps and still carried himself as such.  He could easily be mistaken for a drill sergeant. He had a presence when he walked into any room. He was assertive, confident and well-mannered. His radiant smile coupled with his charm were intoxicating. Needless to say, James had no issue with getting a date. Fortunately for James, he hadn’t fathered any children that he was aware of. Other than his insatiable love for women, James was a catch.

If there was one thing Tina didn’t like, it was a man who thought too much of himself. She knew who James was. She had to walk past his desk every Tuesday on the way to her board meeting. Of course, she found James attractive, every woman who walked through the building noticed the tall, dark, and handsome security guard in his perfectly tailored uniform. On this particular Tuesday, James made his first move on Tina. He had been observing her for a couple months. He knew she came in every Tuesday, and was hands down the most beautiful woman he had seen. Her exotic features added to his intrigue. Tina had long, curly light brown hair that she wore pulled back into a bun. This hairstyle accentuated her piercing green eyes, and soft freckled face. James never saw Tina full lips part into a smile. This woman was truly all business, or it was a front. James had to know. James put down his book as he checked his watch. It was a quarter to 9. Tina would walk through those double glass doors any second. She was very punctual. James quickly checked himself over and adjusted his badge. He wanted to make sure he was looking sharp when he approached this woman. Like clockwork. Tina walked through the doors. Her patent leather black high heels clicking with purpose, James looked up and saw Tina on her usual route. Her black suit displayed the right amount of class and sex appeal on her petite, curvaceous frame. James could see the sway of Tina’s hips in her black pencil skirt. This woman was a force. Or, was she? James was about to find out. James stared at Tina has she approached his desk. James cleared his throat,

“Excuse me, ma’am.” Tina’s high heels clicked to an abrupt halt. She turned towards James as if annoyed.

“Yes?”

“I’ve watched you walk past my desk for the past 4 months and you haven’t smiled once. It’s unfortunate that a beautiful, accomplished woman such as yourself wouldn’t have a reason to smile this early in the morning. With that being said, I’d like to take you out on a date.” Tina laughed out loud as she looked at her watch. Inside she was flattered that James had approached her. She hadn’t been on a date in a while.

“Is this your idea of a joke?”

“No, ma’am. Not at all. My only agenda is to make you smile and get to know you.” Tina looked at James’ nametag.

“James. You seem like a very nice man. But I have a meeting in 10 minutes that I have to attend. Have a good day.” Tina proceeded to walk past James desk to the elevator. James was dumbfounded. Did she really just turn him down? As Tina pressed the “up” button for the elevator, she smiled. She wanted to accept James’ offer, but right before her meeting didn’t seem like a good time to work out details. And besides, she didn’t want to come off as desperate. She’d give it some time. The elevator doors opened, and Tina walked in. As the doors closed, she was still smiling.

It had been about a month since James greeted Tina that Tuesday morning. It was a slow day in the bank lobby. James was deep in thought as he read The Outsider for the fourth time. James was a prolific reader and kept an eclectic yet impressive collection of books in his two-bedroom apartment. James wasn’t on his game when he heard the familiar clicking of high heels. He raised his head and saw Tina walking towards his desk. He looked at his watch and was surprised to see her. It was not a quarter to 9, and it wasn’t a Tuesday. Tina was wearing a lavender pencil skirt, and a fitted white long sleeve blouse. With her purposeful walk, Tina made it to James’ desk. He stood up as though he was still in the Marine Corps and his commander was in front of his desk.

“Good Morning, ma’am.”

“Good morning” Tina paused, pretending she had forgotten his name. She looked at his nametag.

“James”

James motioned towards the doors with his hand. “I haven’t seen you walk through those doors in a while. And I have certainly not had the pleasure of you standing in front of my desk voluntarily.” James chuckled.

“Well, you were actually quite nice when we chatted that time. I just wanted to return the favor and wish you a good morning. I’ve done that, so I’ll be on my way now. Take care, James.” Tina began to walk towards the elevator.

“Ma’am” Tina stopped walking and turned towards James.

“With all due respect, your manners could use some refining.”

Taken aback, Tina was somewhat insulted. Who was this wannabe cop to tell her she was not refined?

“Excuse me?”

“Ma’am, you never introduced yourself to me. And you walked away without allowing me the opportunity to bid you farewell. That’s only common courtesy.”

Tina bit her lip. This wannabe cop James was not only bold, he was arrogant. He called her out. In her effort to not seem desperate, she came off as rude. Tina took a deep breath and walked back to James’ desk.

“James, I’m sorry that I came off in a way you perceived to be rude. However, my time is limited to exchange pleasantries.”

“Well, how about we exchange pleasantries when you’re not so busy. Maybe, over dinner?”

Tina smiled inside. He was serious about taking her out. Tina took the bait, but measuredly.

“I won’t go out to dinner with you. But, I think lunch would be ok.”

James’ radiant smile spread across his face. The ice surrounding Tina’s heart may have started to perspire a little bit. Not a complete meltdown, though.

“Alright, if lunch is more in your comfort zone. Then that is fine by me.”

“OK.” Tina said.

“For starters, may I have your name and number so we can discuss the details.”

Tina smirked. “No, you may not have my number. My name is Tina. We can meet at Lotus Garden on Saturday at noon.”

This woman is very guarded James thought to himself. But those walls might be worth breaking down. “Sounds good, Tina. I’ll see you then.”

Tina nodded, and continued to the elevator.

The rest was history between James and Tina. He broke down those walls. By all accounts it was a whirlwind romance. The couple had a lot in common, but they also had some differences. Although James appeared to be a disciplined military veteran. He had another side to him. This other side of James was reckless. He liked to occasionally experiment with drugs. Tina was well-aware that James liked to have fun. In fact, they would attend these upscale parties together. Tina had never used drugs and had no interest at first.  The daughter of an Irish, Catholic mechanic and a black Sunday school teacher, Tina had a sheltered upbringing. But her love for James had a significant influence. The first time Tina tried cocaine was a year after the couple married. James took Tina to a fancy party at Foxwood Estates. The party was not a typical drug den. It was masked in an ornately decorated mansion, swarming with  distinguished guests. After two glasses of wine, Tina was relaxed. Her hips rocked to the superb selection of music. James came behind Tina and pulled her to him squeezing. He spun Tina around as they continued to dance. They were locked in an embrace. James large strong hands gently caressed Tina’s face.

“Come with me.” James whispered.

“Where to?” Tina said. James grabbed Tina by the hand and guided her away from the bulk of the guests. The walked down a long hallway decorated with paintings that looked as though they belonged in an art museum. They stopped at a door with a white doorknob. James turned the knob and pushed the door open allowing Tina to enter first. It appeared to be a guest bedroom. The canopy bed was white, with an extravagant white fur rug in front of it. Even the carpet was white. Tina looked around and saw a white recliner to sit in. James followed her and sat on the white ottoman in front of the recliner.

James reached into his pocket and retrieved a tiny glass container. There was a white powder inside. James began to set up his workspace. Tina knew what this meant. James was about to complete his party ritual. He always became distant when he was high. Tina wanted to connect with him.

“J-James” Tina stuttered. You know I don-“

“Yeah, I know that you don’t. And I’d like to keep it that way. “James carefully sprinkled the white powder on the ottoman. He began to organize the powder with one of his business cards.

“Can I try it?”

James’s posture became rigid, he almost scattered the white substance over the ottoman.

“WHAT? Can you what? No, no no.”

“Why not? You said it’s not a big deal!”

James shook his head. “For me, it’s not a big deal for ME. For YOU? I can’t allow that to happen!”

Tina scoffed. “I don’t understand.”

James sighed, “Look, Tina, you didn’t grow up how I grew up. These things are not for souls like yours. You have a purity about you.” Tina looked at James.

He collected his powder again in silence. He rolled up the business card. His name, James J. Dupree Jr., Executive Security Consultant could be seen in black letters as he put the rolled card into his nose. Tina sighed as she heard the sound of James snorting the white line.

“Did you ever think I feel left out when you do this?”

James emerged from his abyss. He sniffed and wiped the white residue from his nose with his large hand.

“You should be left out of this.” James snapped.

“Then why do you do it? It’s bad for me, but good for you?”

“Tina, I never said it was good for me. It’s just the way it is.”

Tina folded her arms and sucked her teeth.

“So, I have a husband that I can’t even connect with!”

James laughed, Is that what this is about? You think if you do a line you can connect with me? Tina-”

“It’s something you enjoy! I want to be a part of that!”

Tina was messing James’s high. It was a mistake bringing her here.

“Tina, this isn’t some kind of game. If you’re not smart, with it, it’ll take over your life.”

“I just want to try it James. I don’t have an addictive personality”

James leaned over the ottoman and stared at Tina. “You don’t know that.”

“Don’t be silly James! It’s not like we’re on a street corner or some condemned house! I need to know!”

James sighed. Tina was stubborn. James had a long list of regret in his life. Was he prepared to potentially add more? His shoulders dropped. “Tina, please.”

“James Dupree, you’re a hypocrite!” As Tina stood up to leave, James grabbed her arm.

“Alright, you win! Look we need to set some ground rules first. You do exactly as I say, when I say, and how I say. And you will under no circumstances touch the stuff without my supervision. OK?”

Tina dropped back into the white recliner. “Ok, I’ll do as you say”

James picked up the small, glass container and sprinkled more of the white powder on to the ottoman. He rolled up a new business card for Tina.

The movie had ended. Tina angrily push back her satin blue comforter. She held her face in her hands. How did her life come to this? The waiting, the humiliation. She still had her daughter Keisha to think about. Keisha was a by-product of Tina and James’ passionate, sordid and dysfunctional union. Tina sighed as she slid out of the California King bed. Her small, red wine toenails touched the plush gray rug on the floor. Her green night gown moved with Tina as she walked out of her bedroom. Tina wanted to check on Keisha to make sure she was still asleep. Sometimes Keisha liked to wake up at the middle of the night. If Keisha was still asleep, Tina could go about her business.  She walked down the dimly lit hall Keisha’s bedroom. Tina peered through the small space between the door and the frame. The pink night light by the bed surrounded Keisha’s face with a soft glow. The child was in another world enjoying a peace she would never experience again until years later. Tina focused on Keisha with a disturbing mix of animosity and love. Keisha looked just like James. Recently, Keisha had become a reminder of James infidelity. She loved the child deeply, but she couldn’t shake the feelings that were brewing inside of her. Tina hoped her daughter would always stay close to her. She had to teach her that a man, was not to be trusted. Especially her father. He was nothing more than a philandering loser. Tina walked back down the hall to her bedroom. She needed to get high gain before she went on the hunt for James.

 

 

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