Indulgence: Prologue

PROLOGUE                 The motorcycle slowed to a halt. Vincent maneuvered it into a parking space adjacent to the entrance of the Olive Garden. It was a Tuesday night, so business was slow, giving him his choice of parking spaces. He pushed down the kickstand and held his Gold Wing steady as Bonnie got off. She removed her helmet and shook her wind-tangled locs free. She untied the knot in the bottom of her maxi dress that kept it from being caught in the wheels and rubbed the wrinkles out of the fabric. It was a nice night, so she pulled off her short sweater, throwing it over her forearm, the lights from the parking lot making her seem to glow in the night. Vincent sat still, enjoying her beauty. Even in moments as simple as this, she was breathtaking. He was grateful to be able to spend time in her presence again. He didn’t spend too much time in admiration of her, though, because he was on a mission. Getting off the bike, he removed his helmet and extended his hand in a motion that said, ‘after you’. He knew that he was slightly taking advantage of her. If she weren’t hurting, her mind and emotions all in disarray after the custody hearing today, he would’ve never gotten the chance to explain himself. He had been trying to call her since he’d seen her leaving his house last weekend, but she hadn’t taken his calls or responded to his texts. He’d fought the urge to show up at her door because he knew she had enough to deal with in preparing to fight her ex-husband, Keith, for custody of Zion. As they walked up to the door, helmets snuggled under their arms; he took a few swift steps so that he was far enough ahead of her to open the door for her. She smiled her thank you and walked up to the Hostess counter. He lagged behind a bit, this time, watching her small frame and the way that the fabric of the maxi dress hugged and released her figure as she moved. Everything about her was perfect. From the toned back and shoulders, exposed by the razor cut of the dress’ back, to her small waist, hips slightly spread from carrying a child, to her round, soft behind. She turned from a conversation with the Hostess, Joy, a well-aging light-skinned woman with freckles and a perfectly tamed bob haircut sprinkled with silver strands, and giggled, catching him admiring her. “Vince,” she asked, calmly, trying not to embarrass him anymore than he’d already embarrassed himself, ‘Honey, I asked if you wanted a table, booth, or to sit at the bar.” Vincent walked swiftly to the Hostess counter and smiled at Bonnie and Joy. “Booth, please,” he responded. Both women exchanged a glance and giggled. “Follow me, please,” Joy, the Hostess, said, still giggling. She escorted the couple to a booth by the window and placed their menus on the table beside the green cloth-wrapped silverware. “Your server will be Rachel. She’ll be with you shortly,” Joy announced. She shot Bonnie one more womanly glance, saying so much without saying anything at all, and returned to her post at the door. “Enjoy the view?” Bonnie teased, trying to keep the mood light. “Very much,” Vincent said his voice filled with sincerity. “Bonnie, I missed you so…” “How are you guys doing tonight?” Rachel, a thick, brunette server with a round face full of life and gentle eyes greeted them, interrupting Vincent. “We’re doing well, thank you,” Bonnie responded, happy for the interruption. She wasn’t ready to hear Vincent’s explanation just yet. “Awesome! My name is Rachel and I’ll be your server tonight. Would you all like to try a sample of our house wine, it’s…” “No, ma’am,” Bonnie stopped her; “I would like a bottle of Lambrusco, please. Vince?” She looked at him, waiting for him to place his drink order. She didn’t mean to come across as rude, but she was in a hurry to get some alcohol in her system. “I’ll have a Peach Bellini Tea, please,” Vincent ordered. “And two glasses of water, please, with light ice,” Bonnie added. “Coming right up,” Rachel responded, “did you want to go ahead and place an appetizer order?” She hadn’t missed a beat with Bonnie’s cutting her off, much to Bonnie’s relief. “Yes, may we have the sampler?” Vincent asked, looking at Bonnie to see if she wanted something else. She smiled her approval. A nervous smile that made her look like a child who had something to tell her parents that they knew would end in punishment. Vincent could tell that she was a ball of nerves. He hated to see her like this. It awakened his maleness. He wanted to fix it and was filled with frustration at the knowledge that there was nothing he could do. His knowing that he was part of the cause filled him with even more guilt. He should have told her about Saundra but he hadn’t known how. He never expected Bonnie to pop up at his house. They hadn’t spoken in weeks, both of their schedules being so hectic. Hers with the custody battle, work, and Zion. Him with his new contract, his regular patients, his family, and, of course, Saundra and her pregnancy. He had just gotten off the phone with her attorney, Karrie, when he turned onto his street and saw Bonnie sitting at the stop sign. Her face was filled with hurt and confusion as she exited his street. He’d been furious with Saundra when she’d told him what happened. He was becoming angry again, just thinking about it. Vincent took deep breaths to calm himself. He and Bonnie were both sitting there, silently, caught up in their individual thoughts when Rachel returned with their drinks, the glasses of water, and their appetizer. His knowledge of the human body made him appreciate her ability to balance the large, circular brown tray between her shoulder, head, and neck. She sat it down on the stand and poured Bonnie a glass of wine. Placing the bottle back in the iced bucket, she placed their salad and breadsticks on the table and, at Bonnie’s request, grated almost an entire block of cheese on top of it. They placed their orders, Vincent choosing the Chicken Marsala and Bonnie requesting the Steak Gorgonzola with extra Gorgonzola sauce. When Rachel walked away, Bonnie took Vincent’s plate and filled it with salad. She pulled two breadsticks from their bowl and placed it on the side of the salad plate. “Which of these would you like?” She asked, picking up another plate and motioning towards the appetizers sitting in the middle of the table. “A little bit of everything, please,” Vincent answered, watching, in complete awe, as she made his plates before she even thought to feed herself. This woman, he thought to himself, a smirk on his face, she’s rare, indeed. He knew that she was just doing what came naturally to her. However, she would spoil a man by just being herself. It bothered him that she was so unappreciated by so many. She placed the appetizer plate in front of him and began preparing her own food. Vincent seized the opportunity. “Bon,” he started, “I know what happened the other night when you came to see me.” “Do you, Vince?” She asked, never looking up from the task at hand. “Yes,” he responded, “I know that Saundra told you that we’re engaged and the baby that she’s carrying is mine. But…” “Did she leave out the part about having a gun pointed at me? And why are you saying ‘Saundra told me’ as if what she said was untrue?” Bonnie asked, observing Vincent’s choice of words. “It’s not true, Bon,” he explained, “and what gun? There aren’t any guns in my house.” Bonnie laughed aloud. Let the lies and bullshit commence, she thought to herself. “You may wanna check under your fiancée’s pillow when you get home, Hun,” Bonnie said, her words shooting sarcastically from her mouth. “There was definitely a fuckin’ gun pointed at me when I walked into your house last Friday.” She began stabbing at her salad and shoved a forkful of lettuce into her mouth. As she chewed, her eyes met Vincent’s for the first time since their appetizers had been brought out. She looked at him, the shattered pieces of her heart shooting across the table at him. Vincent chose his next words, knowing that she was in a very delicate state right now. Bonnie continued to eat, taking sips of her wine in between bites. After four or five bites, her wine glass was empty. She poured herself another. “Bonnie, I’m so sorry,” he spoke, his food sitting untouched in front of him on the table. If he couldn’t get through to her, he knew he wouldn’t be able to eat, sleep, or care to breathe again. He was in love with this woman and was pissed that Saundra had caused this drama. But, in reality, it was partially his fault for not telling her what was going on. “Your food is getting cold,” Bonnie pointed out, obviously trying to calm herself. Vincent picked up his fork and began to eat, obediently. The food had no flavor. He may as well have been chewing air. Bonnie was almost done with her appetizer and salad. Her second glass of wine gone when Rachel brought out their entrees and a fresh batch of breadsticks. “You’re trying to make me fat with all this bread,” Bonnie joked, “I’m gonna have to be rolled out of here at this rate.” “Honey, where do you think these hips came from?” Rachel joked back. After grating cheese onto their food and clearing Bonnie’s appetizer plate from the table, Rachel, who could obviously sense the tension between the two of them, took her leave. “I’m gonna let you all enjoy your meal, but I will be close if you need me for anything, ok?” Rachel said on her way to the back of the restaurant. As soon as she was out of earshot, Bonnie lit into Vincent. The wine had loosened her tongue enough to let him know exactly how she felt. “I don’t want a fuckin apology, Vincent,” she explained in a hushed tone, “I’ve been here before. But you could have let me know I was the sidepiece instead of feeding me all that shit about us being together. You met my child. This whole custody bullshit is because I let you in. Let you meet Zion before the six-month mark. If I had kept you at bay, I would have found out about your Atlanta family and I wouldn’t be fighting to keep my baby at home with me. If I hadn’t been playing house with you, all out in public with Zion and shit, I… I…” she stuttered, beginning to get emotional. “You would still be a slave to Keith and his shit,” Vincent completed her statement. “You would still be cowering at the thought of confronting your mother… of protecting Zion from the same fate as you when you were a child. This was going to happen, Bon. Me being there was just the catalyst. What would have happened if Keith had come over there and jumped on you and no one had been there to stop him? Or worse, if one of your flings had been there and decided defending you wasn’t worth it to him?” Bonnie’s eyes grew wide in her head. She wanted to scream. She wanted to throw her water in Vincent’s face. He had some nerve. “I would have made things right myself,” Bonnie responded, her tone less hushed now. “When?” Vincent asked, frustrated with her delusion. “Eventually!” Bonnie answered, matter-of-factly. “Bullshit,” Vincent scoffed at her lying to him. To herself. “He cut into his chicken, never breaking eye contact. She was fuming. He sighed, knowing this was not what she needed right now and had certainly not been his intention. “Bonnie, I was just the Universe’s catalyst. You need someone to be here with, and for, you when you were pushed into this inevitable situation.” He spoke calmly. Rationally. He needed her to see past her anger, past the hurt. He needed her to see what was real. “With me? For me?” Bonnie’s frustration made her voice crack. “The Universe has a sick sense of humor, then, got damnit. Send me a man with inability to commit, a fiancée and baby living with him while he comes to town and fucks me between visitations with the family he’s already abandoned. I wonder if your lack of discernment with your dick was the reason your first marriage failed.” Vincent’s chewing slowed. Bonnie knew how to hit a nerve. He cleared his throat. “You do remember us having sex the night we met, right?” Vincent reminded her of how their first night together went. “Oh, I remember,” Bonnie responded, pouring another glass of Lambrusco, “I also happen to remember you being the one who took me to those cotton fields, which I’m almost certain you had been to before. How many other women have you fucked out there?” “I suppose a hotel room would have been more your speed, huh?” Vincent asked. “Or would I have been invited to share your bed sooner if I had just been a one night stand?” Vincent reminded her of her own indiscretions. “Vince, I walked into your damned house and was greeted by a half-naked woman pointing a gun at me. I find out that you are engaged and have a child on the way but you want to talk about my shortcomings? I trusted you! And was betrayed during the time I needed you the most,” Bonnie decided to express what was truly bothering her rather than continuing taking shots. “I was there today, Bonnie,” Vincent reminded her, “and I’m here right now.” “Where is your fiancée while you’re here with me?” Bonnie asked in between bites of her colding dinner. “Bonnie,” Vincent said through gritted teeth, “she’s not my fiancée,” he stated emphatically. “Right,” Bonnie responded, sarcastically, “she was just some lunatic, half-dressed in your house, claiming to be pregnant with your child.” “Why are you so quick to believe a complete stranger over me?” Vincent posed the question. “If you really wanted to know what was going on, why didn’t you stay until I got there or turn around when you saw me turning onto the street? I’ve been trying to call and have this conversation for days now.” He put a forkful of his chicken into his mouth, washing it down with a few sips of his tea. Bonnie said nothing. She had no answer. She remembered feeling punked and manipulated by Saundra when she left the house. She should have stayed. “I honestly think you were looking for an out. I’m not afraid of commitment, you are. This felt too real to you. Too much like right and it scared the shit out of you. So you jumped on the first opportunity to bail that presented itself.” Vincent slapped Bonnie in the face with his analysis of the events that led them here. More silence. He was right and Bonnie knew it. She didn’t have much to say. They ate in silence for quite some time. Rachel came to clear the plates out of their way and offered them dessert. Both declined. “Take care of this whenever you’re ready,” Rachel laid their check on the end of the table. Vincent reached into his back pocket and pulled his wallet out. He slid his credit card into the clear, plastic slot in the check booklet. He motioned for Rachel to pick up his payment. “Now, do you want me to tell you what’s going on?” Vincent asked, grabbing Bonnie’s hand around the remaining dishes on the table. “Or would you rather continue to make assumptions based on emotion and misinformation?” “I’m listening,” Bonnie prompted. She would listen, but that was all. “No, you’re not,” Vincent said, a defeated expression on his face, “you just say that you are. Your anger is blocking you from truly hearing me right now.” “Miss me with the psycho-babble bullshit, Vince,” Bonnie said, disgustedly, “tell me what the business is with this girl who could pass for my twin walking around your house pregnant with a big ass rock on her finger.” “Well, first of all,” Vincent said, deciding to get on with it, “the big ass rock on her finger,” he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a black velvet box. He placed it, softly, on the table, “was for you. I was going to surprise you with it today after court. It’s my way of showing you that I’m in this with you, and Zi, until death do us part.” Bonnie sat, speechless. Her large eyes almost popping out of their sockets as she stared, a doe in headlights, at the black box with Jared written on top in gold letters sitting between them on the table. “As for Saundra,” Vincent said with a deep sigh, “she’s a very troubled young woman. I grew up with her brother, Sam. He and I were close, best friends, actually.” His eyes welled up with tears. He sniffled loudly, pressing his thumb and index finger on alternating sides of his nose to stop the tears before they fall. This snapped Bonnie out of the shock. Her face contorted with care as she reached her other arm across the, now empty, table and offered her upright palm to him. Her body language asked him what was wrong but her lips couldn’t process her thoughts well enough to allow her concerns to fill the space between them. Vincent looked so sad and it frightened Bonnie. It made her that much more curious about who the hell this Saundra was. After a few moments, Vincent gathered himself and continued his explanation. “You think you know someone…,” his voice trailed off. He cleared his throat. “Sam,… Saundra’s brother was a good dude. He took care of their mother while she was dying from Ovarian Cancer. Gave up his teenage years to work and take care of Saundra once their mom passed.” He paused, shaking his head. He was, apparently, having a difficult time processing things for himself. “What is it, baby?” Bonnie coaxed, knowing that this was probably the first time he’d said any of this aloud to anyone. She set all of her feelings, all of her emotions, to the side and decided to be there for him. He was speaking of his friend, Sam, in the past tense. This led Bonnie to assume that he was dead. “It’s just hard, my love,” Vincent said, holding her hands and looking her endearingly in the eyes, “see, he dropped out of school to work and take care of Saundra. He was really overprotective of her, to the point of whoopin’ on her boyfriends and shit.” Bonnie nodded, wishing she’d had a protective big brother like Vincent was describing Sam to be. “Well, that’s natural, babe,” Bonnie validated, “he was all she had left and vice versa, so he was just looking out for her.” “That’s what we all thought,” Vincent said, darkness coming over his eyes, “until about three months ago when she called me asking if she could come stay with me. I knew Sam’s wife, Alexis, didn’t care for Saundra, but I thought it was because of her partying and the drug dealers and thugs she was always dating. It wasn’t until she came over that night that I found out the real reason…” Rachel coming to the table and taking their check interrupted Vincent. She let them know that the restaurant would be closing soon but assured them that she wasn’t trying to rush them. They nodded silently and neither of them spoke once she left. They just stared at one another across the table. When Rachel returned with the receipt for Vincent to sign, they broke their glance and Vincent wrote in her tip. After he signed the receipt, they collected their things and walked back out to Vincent’s motorcycle. Their pace and somber expressions resembled a funeral procession. It was unspoken that the conversation would continue once they were within the privacy of Bonnie’s home. Vincent had motioned for her to get the ring box when they were preparing to leave the restaurant, so now, it was in her pocket, the weight of it as heavy as the thoughts on her mind. Time seemed to fly by on their way back to Montgomery. Bonnie saw nothing. It was all a blur. When they arrived at her apartment complex, she suggested that they take a walk through Downtown to continue their conversation. Something about being trapped inside the walls of her home didn’t sit right with her. And, Bonnie knew, with all of the emotions they were both wrestling with, it wasn’t a good idea to be in such close proximity to a bed, a couch, even a table right now. They walked halfway into Downtown Montgomery before either of them spoke. Vincent took the lead, seemingly eager to unload the burden he had been carrying for months. “Bon, what I was trying to explain,” he began, his voice filled with urgency, “is that I found out that Saundra was pregnant and…,” he paused, “the baby is Sam’s.” He waited before continuing, allowing that tidbit to sink in. When Bonnie’s face shifted to confusion from disgust, he continued. “Saundra and Alexis had apparently gotten into one of their many arguments, and Saundra, in the heat of anger from being called a whore one time too many, had thrown in Alexis’ face that her bastard was also her nephew,” he explained, exasperation in his tone. “What the hell are you telling me, Vincent?” Bonnie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She was filled with anger and frustration. She wanted to hug Vincent because the pain on his face was unmistakable. She wanted to hug Saundra, too. That poor girl, she thought, to lose your mother, suffer abuse at the hands of your brother, the only person you have left, then fight with his wife all the time and be carrying his child. Damn. It’s a wonder she’s still sane. Bonnie shuddered at how deeply their similarities ran. Vincent had become silent. Bonnie reached out and took his hand. They walked, silently together, until they reached Court Square Fountain. Sitting down, side by side, on its railed edge, Vincent looked at Bonnie longingly. His eyes showed pain and confusion. She saw, for the first time, that he needed her just as much as she needed him. But, she knew, from experience, that nothing good came from two damaged people leaning on one another. She stuck her hands in her pockets. Her left hand fondled the ring box. She really didn’t know what to do at this moment so she decided to be present. Be there for him like he had been for her today and so many times before. The rest, she would deal with when it came. When she came out of her thoughts, Vincent had a face full of tears. He was so vulnerable, so open right now, and it shook Bonnie to the core. “Gotta penny,” she said, softly. “I need a couple dollars’ worth, baby,” he said, his voice trembling. She jokingly patted her chest, then her pockets. Reaching into her pocket, her hand slid across the ring box as she searched for her wallet. She pulled it out, and removed her Visa card. She handed it to Vincent. “Let’s start a tab,” she joked. He burst into laughter, the light returning to his eyes for a few moments before delving into the full story. “When Saundra got to my house, she was a wreck. She told me that both Sam and Alexis had jumped on her. She was pretty fucked up. Eyes swollen. Lip busted. Hair all over her head. She was limping. Poor thing was all bloody and shit,” he paused, remembering the sight. “She was scared out of her mind. Didn’t want to call the police. Even after her brother turned on her.” “More to cover his own ass and keep his secret,” Bonnie seethed, getting angry with a man she didn’t know. “Exactly,” Vincent agreed, “Saundra still refused to sell her brother out. She was overly apologetic, saying that she shouldn’t have said what she’d said to Alexis,” he sighed. “But, you got her to call the police, right?” Bonnie asked, wishing to accelerate the story to a happier place, if there was one. “Yes,” Vincent said, sadly, “they arrested Sam and Alexis for assault and battery; I think there’s an attempted murder charge because of Saundra’s pregnancy. They also charged Sam with the rape. Saundra, the poor thing, had nowhere to go so, I let her stay with me,” Vincent sighed again. Bonnie knew that there was more. She reached over, resting her hand on his thigh. When he looked at her, she nodded her head, urging him to go on. “She knew about you, baby,” Vincent plead with Bonnie to believe him, “but the child has always had this obsession with me, you know. I’ve always seen her as a little sister so I never entertained it as more than a crush on her big brother’s friend, you know.” Bonnie began to understand the situation a little bit more. That girl had been through so much. She wanted Vincent for herself and Bonnie had almost let her have him. She felt guilty not putting up more of a fight for the man she claimed to love. It was silent, again, as the reality sank in for both of them. Bonnie felt like this was a second chance for herself and Vincent. Vincent was just grateful to be able to set things straight with Bonnie. He loved her so much and thought he had lost her. Not wanting to risk losing another moment, Vincent slid off the seat and onto one knee. “Bonnie,” Vincent grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes, “I have known since the night I met you that you were special. I had no way of predicting that I would fall in love with you…,” he paused, “and Zion. I would love to spend the rest of my life with the two of you, offering the stability and happiness that the two of you deserve.” “Vincent,” Bonnie stated, awestruck, “what are you saying right now? What are you doing?” She asked alarmed. This day just got crazier and crazier by the minute. “I’m asking you to pull that box out of your pocket so that I can do this right,” Vincent said with a smile. “I’m asking you to pull that box out of your pocket so that I can do this right,” Vincent said with a smile. Bonnie freed her hand from his and stuck her hand into his jacket pocket. She ran her fingers across the box and froze. A man she had told herself she never wanted to see again was proposing to her. What was she going to say? Was she ready to move to Atlanta, away from all of her friends, uproot Zion from everything she knew, to be with Vincent? Was the story he just told her even true? I can check the arrests. They’re public record, just have to get their last names, or maybe not, Bonnie thought, planning to confirm what she had been told. “Bonnie,” Vincent’s voice jolted her from her thoughts. She pulled out the ring box and handed it to him. Still on one knee, he eased the box open, revealing the ring once again in all of its 2 ½ carat Princess-cut beauty. It shone in the moonlight, entrancing Bonnie. “Baby,” he asked, “will you do me the honor of allowing me to be your husband and Zion’s father, for the rest of my life?” © 2014 Joi Miner Visit www.joiminer.com to purchase a copy of Vices and for more information about the author and her other publications.

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