Monday, September 23, 2013

Hearts of Steel: Chapter Fifteen

I hated football. I absolutely despised it. It was idiotic and barbaric. I couldn’t find a single socially redeeming quality whatsoever in the game.

So when I found myself, two weeks later sitting five rows back from the fifty-yard line screaming my head off. I could only justify my behaviour conceding that I must be certifiably insane.

And each time I leaped to my feet, threw my hands in the air and shouted, ‘Goooaaal!” along with the other enthusiastic participants of the ‘wave’ I imagined that I could feel my little gray brain cells dying off – one by one.

“Look, Mike, there he is!” I grabbed on to my brother’s arm and pointed excitedly down on the field at Jack. “See him? That’s Jack.”

“Yeah. Yeah. We all see him. Mike yawned as if bored and brushed my hand off. He then turned to the complete stranger sitting behind us and said, “Everybody, look. My sister, Priye, has finally found a man. Everybody, look here!” he pointed with both index fingers, shouting loudly and drawing enough attention to make me want to sink down beneath the seats.

“Stop that!” I said, punching his arm as hard as I could. “Ow! What did you do that for?”

“See what you did? You made me miss the snap. Look, he’s going out for a pass! Go, Jack, Go! Way to go Flash.”

I grabbed Mike’s arm, just below the elbow and squeezed with both hands. He didn’t notice the grip on his arm. He was too busy trying to avoid my stomping on his feet as I jumped up and down.

“He’s going all the way!” Mike predicted as Jack broke free from one tackle, pivoted, then reversed directions to barely sidestep another tackle. In his effort to get away he nearly collided with his own teammate. The third t9ime proved not to be the charm as what I could only describe as King Kong in a football jersey launched himself at Jack. He wrapped his massive arms around Jack’s waist and slung him, back first, to the ground.

“Leave him alone, you chicken!” I shouted.

“Chicken?” Mike made fun of my choice of insults.

“It’s the first thing that popped into my head.” I shrugged. I turned back to the game. “Oh, now, that’s not fair! Look at them piling on my baby for no good reason. Why won’t the referee throw in a penalty flag? That hit was obviously a late hit.”

“Priye, let the boys play,” Mike complained. “Nothing makes a game drag on longer than officials who want to stop the game every two minutes.”

“They didn’t have to sit on his head like that,” I complained.

“Didn’t Flash tell you, Priye? Jack’s a player who uses his head.”

“You are so not funny.”

“Don’t worry about him, baby sister. Jack isn’t going to let anyone mess with that pretty face of his. He has to have something to fall back on when he’s too old to play anymore.”

Only three minutes left in the game. The score had been frozen in favour of the visiting team.

Would the Steeldogs play it safe and go for the first down? Or would they risk losing possession for the sake of scoring to go for the win? If I hadn’t just had them done, I would have bit my nails.

“Go for it!” I shouted, wondering why they were taking so long in the huddle. What was there to decide? They wanted to win, didn’t they? Go for the score.

“Go for it!” I shouted again, and to my surprise, the crowd around me picked up the chant, waving their pennants in time with the chant. “Go for it! Go for it!”

I knew if Jack had anything to say about it, there wouldn’t be any debate. A tie, in his book was just as good as a loss. A tie was just as bad as admitting that some other tram was just as good as the Steeldogs. Or, if they tied with a third team, a tie told their fans that the Steeldogs weren’t doing their jobs. They weren’t giving their fans their money’s worth.

“Ohhh! Tell me when it’s over, Mike. I can’t watch!” I exclaimed burrowing my head in his shoulder. However, I made sure that I left one eye uncovered just in case I found the resolve to take a quick peek.

I felt so ridiculous, holding my breath, crossing my fingers, and sending up prayers for a game against which I had become a one-woman crusader. I couldn’t help it. That was my man down there. It had taken a while to come to grips with that fact. Besides, who could resist? He looked so hot in that butt-hugging uniform.

“They’re going for it,” Mike said. “Jack’s a split out. My guess is that he’ll run a post right up the middle.”

“To play it safe, they’d better send someone across the field to draw some of that attention away from Jack if he’s going to be the go-to guy.”

“Look at you, Coach Cole.” Mike nodded in admiration of my play-calling ability. How quickly he’d forgotten Daddy and I used to sit and scream plays at the television as soon as we got home from Sunday service.
“If they’d just kicked that field goal when I told them to, instead of that weak quarterback sneak, we would have this game in the bag.”

“What is this ‘we’ stuff all of a sudden? I thought you hated football.”

“Yeah. I hated it so much. I got us tickets for the next three home games. Are you complaining about my fanlike dedication, big brother?”

Mike turned an invisible key to seal his lips and tossed the key over his shoulder. His silence was short-lived. He let out a shout as Jack scored a goal.

“Did you see that? That’s my baby!” I screeched and blew him a kiss. Could he see me? I couldn’t be sure. It wasn’t as if I didn’t stand out. Correction – I would have stood out if I’d been walking down the middle of the street dressed as I was. I wore a Steeldog T-shirt – not the printed one, the classy embroidered one. A cap was barely jammed down over my recently done hair. Ouch! What a feat that had been pulling my braids through the rear opening of the cap. I wondered if he could see me if I waved the giant foam number one finger.

When the clock ticked down to seconds and another win for the team, like everyone else, I broke out into the celebration song.

It was only the first game of the season, with thirteen more games scheduled. Yet the mood was undeniably jubilant. Over fourteen thousand fans had crowded into the field. We were all singing with one voice – one loud, off-key, off-beat voice. That was okay. It was the thought that counted.

As the players filed off the field, the celebration song changed.

All of us waved good-bye to the defeated team. The chant echoed up to the rafters. Everyone was all hyped now, with two away game wins and one home game win under the team’s belt. I wondered whether the enthusiasm would last the entire season. We fans could be so fickle.

“Come on,” I said, edging past my brother.

“Where are we going?”

“Down there.” I pointed to the row of seats directly above the players’ exit. I didn’t wait to see if Mike would follow. I wanted to tell Jack congratulations. I wanted him to know how proud I was of him, before he got preoccupied with postgame wrap-up.

When I looked over my shoulder to locate Mike, I made a small noise of disgust. He wasn’t paying attention to me at all. He was too busy trying to get a phone number from a pretty little spirit leader of the Steeldog Show Steelers.

Moving against the flow of traffic, I made my way to the player exit just in time to see Jack swipe his hand across his forehead.

“Jack!” I called out to him, waving my arms in the air. But I was competing with a hundred or so other stragglers. They were all calling out to the players as if they were as intimately acquainted as I was with Jack.

Perhaps, in their minds, they were. That was all part of being a fan. When you followed their careers, celebrated their victories or mourned over their defeats, memorized their player statistics before they did, studied the game as that you could offer advice to make them better players, it brought you close to them – or as close as security would allow you to get.

I placed my thumb and middle finger to my lips, whistling shrilly. That had to get his attention. It was a sound I knew he’d recognize. He’d heard it the day my grandfather almost sold him off to several of my cousins.

Jack’s head snapped up, scanning the crowd until he zeroed in on me. When his face lit up in recognition, I blew him a kiss in answer to his wave. He held up both hands and opened and closed them twice rapidly. Twenty minutes. Give him twenty minutes and he’d be ready to go.

I nodded and gave him the thumbs-up sign. It was all prearranged. Underneath my T-shirt, I wore my going out clothes. All I had to do was pull-off my tennis shoes and socks. I’d stuffed my dress shoes into my large, leather shoulder bag. When Mike came up to me, I was sitting in a seat, sliding on my shoes and fluffing my hair.

“Well?” I asked, knowing full well from his expression that he hadn’t had much success with asking one of the Show Steelers out for a date.

“Those girls are tough.” He grinned at me. “Won’t give a brother no play.”

“Maybe,” I suggested sweetly as only a baby sister could, “it’s because your game is weak.”


“Good game, man. Good game.”

I shook the hands of my opponents, hugged those who had been friends and former teammates from previous jobs. It had been a close game, a hard-fought one, with both sides scratching and clawing for every inch, every point.

I hadn’t been sure if we would be able to pull this one out. It sure felt good to win. But what felt even better was seeing Priye’s face. Knowing that she was there pulling for me, cheering for me, made every blow worth it.

Speaking of blows, I think I took a hard one in the ribs. Each breath felt a little like sucking peppers into my lungs. I knew that I was going to be feeling the effects of this none for a while. At least, until the next game, when I would be psyched up with so much adrenaline that I wouldn’t feel the first few hits.

Adrenaline could only take you so far, however. The rest was training, conditioning, and willpower. I would keep going out there, game after game, hit after hit, until by the end of the season I was a walking mess of sprains, bruises, and pulls.

How I loved this game!

I welcomed every tackle. The harder they bite me, the more I enjoyed it. Sounds masochistic, but nothing could be further from the truth. I didn’t want to be hit for pain’s sake.
The fact that I was a target let me know that I was doing my job. If the opposing team’s players didn’t fear what I could do to run up the score, they wouldn’t bother with me. If I was a candy-ass, not worth their effort, I could run fake routes by them all day long and never get a scratch.

Let me nurse my wounds. Each ache, each twinge, each minute soaking in a tub of salts or icing down a limb brought us that much closer to the championship. By next game, I’d be out there again – goading them to bring it on.

“Say, Flash. Is that your latest?” The big, offensive lineman whose block made it possible for me to get into the end zone slapped me on the back of my head to get my attention.

“What’s the matter with you, Flash? Look up there.”

I looked up and saw Priye waving frantically at me. I grinned and waved back.

She put her fingers between her teeth and whistled shrilly again – long and loud. So that’s where that noise had come from. I’d heard it before, just as the game had ended, but hadn’t paid it too much attention. I suppose I was still in game mode, completely focused, drowing out any noise that didn’t help me make my plays.

Now that the football game was over, my thoughts turned elsewhere. To her. As far as my heart was concerned, Priye was now the only game in town.

“What do you mean latest? That’s my last, my only. Hopefully sooner rather than later, my baby’s mother.”

“Damn, Flash. You serious?”

“As a heart attack.”

“You sure you didn’t take another shot to the head on that last play? Since when?”

I shrugged. “Since Paul rode off into the sunset with his one and only. It’s got me thinking.”

“Yeah, right. Thinking with the wrong head. What did Paul say to you to convince you to let your brain make decisions without women? Do you realize what you’re passing up if you go one-on-one?”

He waved and grinned at a couple of ladies leaning so far over the safety rail, I was sure security would be scraping them up with a spatula before long. When they caught Big Dog and me looking, they leaned even farther – giving us unrestricted views of their bountiful cleavage.

“Been there. Done that. That stuff gets old man. Either that or I did. The older I get, the more I realize it doesn’t make any sense to pass up something. . .someone. . .you know is right.”

“What did she whip on you? Some kind of Western Black Voodoo Magic?”

“I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s working pretty strong.”

I held up my hands, indicating how long I expected to be in the showers.

“Why don’t you bring her by the crib tonight? I’d like to meet the woman who took Jack Deneen down.”

“Why? So you can try to take her away from me? No, thanks. I’ll keep Priye to myself until I’ve had a chance to warn her about you dogs.”

Big Dog chuckled. “Nothing’s going to happen to your friend, Flash. I’m having a little after party to celebrate our humiliation.”

“Did I hear you invite some of their players to the party, too?”

“Yeah, so? What about it?”

“That’s like fraternizing with the enemy.”

“Fraternizing? Who’s fraternizing? I’m just getting my party on. Are you coming or not?”

“I don’t know. Priye’s only in town for the weekend. I don’t want to waste a minute of it jacking around with you clowns.”

“Are you sure?”

“That you’re clowns? Absolutely positive.” I laughed.

Big Dog shook his head and tsked at me. “Crying shame. Lost your manhood and your sense of humour at the same time. That girl’s got you totally whipped.”
Big Dog snapped his wrist – his rendition of crackling a whip.

“We might stop by later,” I conceded. It did no good to earn the grudging respect of your opponents, yet have your own teammates ridiculing you. We might go, if only for just an hour to show our faces.

“You know the party won’t get good and started until after midnight. You’ve got enough time to handle your business.” He took another look at Priye and made a small sound of appreciation. “Or get your business handled. She’s a tiny thing, Flash. Don’t hurt her.”


It was something more than a gathering of closest friends and just shy of an orgy. Jack inched along, maneuvering his car past the line of illegally parked cars to get a parking spot that was secluded, yet close enough to the road to not get blocked in.

“Is it like this all the time?” I mused, watching a steady flow of people moving in and out of the house and all about the grounds.

“What do you mean?”

“So many people. Does your friend – what’s his name?”

“Big Dog,” Jack supplied,

“Oh, yes. How could I forget?” My tone was pure sarcasm. “Does Big Dog know all these people?”

“Not by name. But I’m sure if you ask him, he’ll say that there was something familiar about the faces.”

I looked over at Jack. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask whether he’d ever thrown a party in which he only “remembered the faces.” I didn’t want to ask. I thought it sounded tacky, suspicious, and jealous. Things had moved incredibly fast for us. Too fast for me to think I could exercise any claim of ownership.

“And what sort of parties do you put on?”

The words came out anyway. So much for being tactful and discreet.

“The private kind,” he said, lifting my hand to his lips.

“The kind where I not only remember the faces, but cherish them.”

I smiled despite myself. Even if he had thrown a wild party or two in his lifetime, for the moment his answer mollified me. It wasn’t only his words that soothed my anxious spirit. When he’d held me in his arms tonight, I’d felt nothing less than cherished.

As he eased into a parking spot and shut off the engine, I took a deep breath. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this – to be thrust into the limelight as Jack’s latest conquest. I didn’t want anyone who might have known Jack’s other girlfriends to compare me with them.

I’m no slouch, but I’m realistic about my body. If I could, I’d trim a few inches off of my thighs and slap them up on my breasts. If I was doing the sculpting, I’d make myself a little taller, a little sleeker – at least enough so I wouldn’t look like a munchkin walking in on Jack’s arm.

He saw me hesitate. He’d already opened the car door and was climbing out, and I hadn’t taken off my seat belt yet.

“Are you all right, Priye?”

“Of course. What makes you ask?” I opened my purse and put on a show of searching for my lipstick to justify my hesitation. I don’t think he was convinced.

“We don’t have to go, if you don’t want to,” he offered.

“Don’t be silly. You drove all of this way. Of course we’re going in.”

“Are you sure? Say the word and we’re out of here.”

“I dare you to try to back out of that parking spot after all of the maneuvering you did to get me here.” I smiled at him. “Just give me a minute to fix my face.” A quick flick of my wrist to take the shine off my nose and forehead. Pucker. Swipe. Voiler! Instant luscious lips. I was as gorgeous as I was going to be; so I unbuckled my seat belt and climbed out.

The path to the front door was marked by white lights running along both sides. As we approached the door, someone stumbled outside, leaned against the pillar, and proceeded to be violently ill in the bushes.

Jack looked down at me and said sympathetically, “We won’t stay long. I just want you meet some of the guys.”

“That isn’t one of them, is it?” I asked hopefully.

Jack took a few steps back, lowered his head to try to get a good look at the face, then shook his head. “No. . .no, I don’t think so.”

“Oh, good!” I said with exaggerated relief to show him that I had a sense of humour.

He placed his arm around my waist as we walked up the stairs. Jack rang the doorbell as we entered, only as a matter of courtesy. The door was wide open. I doubted if anyone would have heard the bell over the music anyway.

“Keys, please.” A young woman dressed in what looked to me like a bikini made of mint-green dental floss held up a huge, wooden salad bowl in outstretched hands.

Jack fished his keys out of his pants pocket and dropped them into the bowl.

“Thanks, Flash.” She eyed him for a moment – too long of a moment to make me comfortable – and disappeared into the crowd.

“I take it that when we’re ready to leave, we’ll have to hunt her down to get the keys back.”

“Uh-huh,” he said distractedly, looking over the heads of the partygoers as if he was searching for someone. He didn’t appear to notice the key keeper. But I wasn’t taking any chances.

“I’ll tell you what,” I suggested. “When it’s time to go, you let me hunt her down.”

Something in my tone must have caught his attention. He looked at me as if he was actually pleased that I was the teeniest bit jealous.

“Come on. Let’s see if we can find the big man himself. The sooner we show our faces, make introductions, the sooner we can get out of here.”

We left the foyer, past the formal dining room, back through the kitchen, and finally outside where someone said they might have seen Big Dog. The house, in square footage, wasn’t that large. But it was packed with more people per square inch than I’m sure the fire marshal would consider acceptable. I could almost see the sign on the door being torn down and trampled: MAXIMUM OCCUPANCY NOT TO EXCEED 200.

There was maximum partying going on here. There were people everywhere, in groups of twos, threes, and more, all trying to hold conversations and the ever-present thump of music. There was a definite lack of chairs. Some had found seats on countertops. Others leaned on stair railings or sat on tables. I don’t think anyone minded the bumper-to-bumper bodies. Nobody but Jack and me.

He led the way, his tall frame parting a way through the crowd like Moses and the Red Sea.

“Hey, Flash. Glad you could make it, dog.”

Dog. It was the universal greeting of all the men here tonight – whether they were on the Steeldogs’ rooster or not.

“Big Dog.” Jack greeted his friend with some sort of complicated, soul-brother handshake that I’d sometimes seen my brothers give when they met up with their friends.

“And I see you brought some class to my little soiree.”

Big Dog looked me up and down like a pit bull eyeing a cut of prime rib. He smiled at me with a mouth full of gold-capped teeth. The top row spelled out Big. The bottom row spelled out – you guessed it – Dog.

He was a big man, not as tall as Jack, but with a tree-trunk neck, wide shoulders, and squat, muscular legs. If I were the man he’d blocked trying to make room for Jack’s run into the end zone, I would have stayed down until the team trainer came to check on me, too. There was no way I would have tried to get up and risked having him hit me again.

I was having a hard time imagining how something so big, that looked so unwieldy, could move so fast. I must have stared a little too long, a little too hard. It was Jack’s turn to call up the green-eyed jealousy monster. He tightened his arm around me and said with an edge in his voice. “If you could spell soiree, Big Dog, then I’d believe you could hold one.”

“Why don’t you introduce me to your new friend, Flash?” Big Dog suggested.

“Big Dog, this is Priye Cole. Priye, this is my boy, Dolan Cantrell. But everyone calls him – “

“Let me guess,” I interrupted. “Big Dog?”

“In the flesh,” he said.

And plenty of it, I thought. I lowered my eyes. Staring too long might send out the wrong signals. I didn’t want to give Dolan Cantrell any ammunition for locker-room tearing. Boys would be boys. And for the first thing boys did together in the locker room was talk about girls. I wasn’t going to give Dolan Cantrell anything he could use to strain his relationship with Jack.

“Thanks for inviting us to your soiree, Mr. Cantrell,” I said, putting extra emphasis on the us. I wanted to let him know that Jack and I were a couple. We were together. Make no mistakes about it.

Holding out my hand to him, I hoped that he wouldn’t try to greet me with that soul-brother handshake as he’d used to greet Jack. It was too complicated for me, never the same shake twice.

“You’re always welcome in this dog’s house,” he replied and leaned in as he took my hand. “With or without Flash.”

I pulled away, without responding to his comment. That is, I didn’t respond verbally. Instead, I moved closer to Jack, practically sealing my hip to his.

Big Dog stepped back. “Make yourselves at home. There’s plenty to eat. Whatever you want to drink; if I don’t have it we’ll send for it.”

He’d slaughtered the phrase, but we got the gist of it. So did everyone else. The way his house was being used, you’d think that the guests paid the mortgage here.

“Are you hungry?” Jack asked.

“You mean fight that crowd to get to the snack table?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. “You’re a braver man than I thought.”

“It did look swamped,” he agreed.

“There probably isn’t anything left worth fighting the crowd for anyway,” I suggested – the very model of sour grapes.

“Probably right. Maybe some leftover cold cuts.”

It was stupid, boring, party small talk and we knew it. But we were here and here we had to stay until we’d made a decent showing. We stood, pressed against a far wall for a moment, each of us in our own way trying to determine when would be a good time to make our exit. I didn’t want to be here. Judging from Jack’s expression, he really didn’t want to be, either. He was there because his teammate had asked him to come.

“So,” he said loudly. He had to. The music had been cranked up another notch.


“Do you want to dance?”

“A chance for what?” I shouted back.

“No. . .dance!” he corrected, pointing to an area by the pool where the patio furniture had been cleared.

Because of the type of music that was being played, there wasn’t as much dancing going on as there was stomping, flailing, and pumping it up – that stupid lift-your-palms, raise-the-roof motion. Geez, I’ll be glad when that fad dies.

I shook my head and shouted, “Maybe the next song.”

He nodded in agreement. But the next song wasn’t much better. Or the next. Or the next.

Was I getting old, or was this music really bad? I remember when people went to parties to dance. Even if we didn’t hold each other, we at least looked at each other,

Jack leaned against the wall, one arm around my shoulder. His free hand clasped the neck of a long-necked beer, which he seeped very, very slowly. In the twenty minutes that we stood there and people watched, I don’t think he went through a third of it. Still, I kept an eye on his intake. With the other eye I kept a lookout for that string-bikini-clad babe to make sure she didn’t come over and jiggle her ample set of. . .keys at him.

As the music played on, I felt a fresh longing rise up inside me. Jack had done a pretty thorough job of taking care of my needs – enough to see me through to next month when I got back into town again, I’d thought. Evidently not. Through no fault of his own, I was the needy one. Definitely time to make an exit.

Jack was feeling it, too. He pressed me closer to him, his arousal evident as he throbbed against my pelvis.

“Let’s get out of here,” he whispered harshly against my cheek.

“I’m with you,” I agreed. “But I’ve got to make a stop first in the ladies’ room.” I stood up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.

“Don’t get lost,” he said, squeezing me in the small of my back.

“I won’t.”

When I left him, he was talking to a group of fans who’d taken advantage of my absence. As long as I was by his side, and he was obviously interested in no one but me, we were left mostly in peace – except for an occasional fan who swooped by, fast enough to get a steely look from Jack for the interruption.

The first bathroom that I tried downstairs had a line that snaked all the way around to the den. The bathroom in the downstairs master bedroom was also in great demand.

I jostled my way up the stairs to a guest bedroom and adjoining bathroom. The anteroom had his-and-her sinks and enough track lighting to illuminate a small airstrip. It made the perfect congregating place for female guests to reapply their makeup and tighten up that hair. Nothing like a good, dancing sweat to loosen up those bonded weaves. Bottles of hair bond passed back and forth almost as much as unopened foil packages of condoms. I would have passed this room up, too, and taken my chances on the long drive back, but the door leading to the commode was ajar.

“Are you next in line?” I asked the girl standing closer to the door.

“Nuh-uh. You gon’ ahead.”


As soon as I shut the door behind me. I heard a burst of laughter that the door couldn’t muffle. Something told me that they were laughing at me. It wasn’t something. Someone. A group of someones. As I listened to the conversation that followed, I realized that I was the topic of conversation. They’d raised their voices deliberately so I could hear them. Three distinct voices.

“Was that. . .?”

“It sho’ was.”

“I know that wasn’t that whore all over J.D?”

My jaw dropped. Who were they calling a whore? Which one of them was it? If my panty hose hadn’t already been down around my ankles, I would have stepped out and made some very serious corrections to their perceptions.

“Damitra, girl, wasn’t J.D. supposed to be your man? What’s he doing pushing up on her like that?”

“I don’t know. . .but I know one thing, I know he’d better not be doing her in the same bed that he and I did it.”

“I told you that you shouldn’t have given it up to him so fast.”

“What did you expect me to do? You know the man’s attention span aint nothing but that long.” I heard her fingers snap. “He stays as horny as a dog. Whenever he wants some, he wants it right then, right there. If I’d said no, he would have been out sniffing around somebody else that much sooner.”

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, Sandra. He’ll get tired of banging that cow. You wait and see. As soon as she drops her panties, he’ll drop her. Kick her to the curb like trash.”

“That’s right. Don’t even worry about it. Don’t even think somebody like her could take your man.”

“I wish she would try. I’m going to burst up that heifer’s action right now.”

I strained, but I couldn’t hear how she was going to do it. Their voices faded. Either they’d gotten tired of shouting through the door, or they’d moved on.

Though tears of white-hot anger scorched my cheeks. I told myself that it didn’t matter. Whoever that Sandra was, she was just jealous. She was jealous of the fact that she wasn’t woman enough to hold on to Jack. She’d called me a heifer. A cow. So what if I had a little extra going on? That only meant that I was woman enough for both of us.

I told myself that she was just one woman. Only one. But what if there were others? How many others? How many times would I have to listen to variations of this conversation? How many times would I have to compare myself against the women in Jack’s life and tell myself that there was nothing wrong with me? It was all them. Sooner or later, however, would the stacks of them grow insurmountable?

Just listening to this once was more than enough for me. I didn’t think I could stand any more like Sandra, out there, ready to clue me in on Jack’s past.

As I sat with my cheeks propped on my fists, my elbows resting on my knees, I wondered how I was going to get through the rest of the evening without letting Jack know that my feelings had been hurt. I wondered if I had the courage to continue to nurture the relationship even though I had doubts.

Mostly, I wondered which one of those heifers had used the last of the bathroom tissue and left without replacing the roll.

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