Authors: Marilyn Lee
A confession by
Dedication: To the members of Love Bytes. Thanks for your support. A special thanks to Lavern, Kenya, and Leigh for proofing Yours, Only And Always.
Copyright 2010 Marilyn Lee
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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This is a work of fiction. All references to real places, people, or events are coincidental, and if not coincidental, are used fictitiously. All trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, and registered service marks are the property of their respective owners and are used herein for identification purposes only.
I’ve always been suspicious of people who say they’re not prejudiced. I mean if you’re not, you don’t have to go around telling everyone you’re not. Right? Having said that, I have to say that I’m not prejudiced. Never have been. But I still never expected to fall in love with a black woman, no matter how sweet or beautiful. That’s exactly what happened to me—when I least expected it.
But I should start at the beginning instead of in the middle of the love triangle I found myself mired in. As usual, it started with a problem I inherited from Jim. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, he sprang his latest surprise on me.
He came to the garage where I worked to drop the bomb on me. As soon as I saw him, I sighed.
To my surprise, he cut right to the chase and asked if I’d bail him out of his latest jam by taking his pregnant girlfriend in while he left the state in search of a tv career.
Having been burned once too often while doing favors for him, I said no. Instead of accepting my decision, he lurched into the second phase of his attack plan. He pulled out what I thought of as the trust card.
“You’re the only one I can trust with her, Tom.” Translated that meant Jim had already used up all of his favors with his friends.
“Really?” I continued working on the car engine. I’d promised the boss I’d have it finished by the end of the day. It was nearly four o’clock so I didn’t have much time to argue with Jim.
“Yeah. Haven’t I always said you’re as solid as a rock?” He demanded.
“Yes. You say that every time you want a favor,” I pointed out.
“That is so unfair, Tom,” he protested.
I smiled. He actually managed to sound indignant. He clearly had a career in front of the cameras. “Life’s not fair,” I reminded him.
“Which is why I need your help. So will you do it?”
“No.” This was one Friday night I didn’t intend to spend cleaning up another one of Jim’s messes.
“Because I have plans that don’t include babysitting your latest hussy.”
“She is not a hussy!”
Hearing the genuine anger in his voice, I shrugged. “Whatever.”
“She’s not a hussy, Tom!” He insisted, a hint of steel in his tone.
She was either a hussy or an idiot since no sane woman would have unprotected sex these days with a man as commitment shy as Jim was. Still, I wasn’t in the mood to argue the point. “Okay. Fine. She’s not a hussy. Now can we move on?”
“Yes—as soon as you promise to do this for me.”
“Forget it, Jim!”
“Oh, come on, Tom! You have to do this for me.”
As usual he said that as if the whole mess was my fault. But it wasn’t. None of the bad things that have happened to him were my fault. It wasn’t my fault our father died when we were kids, anymore than it was my fault that we’d been placed in different foster homes for nearly two years while Mom overcame her grief. From that moment on, I gave up all hope of going to college. As soon as I turned eighteen, I took a mechanic’s course, landed a job with the largest car repair shop in town, and became Jim’s guardian.
But he never made any allowances for all the sacrifices I’d already made for him. He just kept demanding I make more. And idiot that I was, I kept making them. Well, enough was enough.
I finished tuning the engine, put the car hood down, and turned to face him. I’d been rescuing Jim from one scrap after another ever since I was nineteen and he was eleven. Now nearly thirty, I was tired of being his keeper and cleaning up his endless messes.
“You’re wasting your breath,” I told him, moving around the late model sedan and slipping into the driver’s seat. “Not to mention my time. I have to test-drive this.”
Jim’s eyes narrowed, and a frown marred his handsome face. “You mean to tell me that now, when I need you the most, I can’t count on you?”
“That’s about the size of it,” I said and started the car.
“Tom! Wait! Please, do this for me, and I promise I’ll never ask another favor.”
“You mean until you need another one?” I shook my head. “I’m not falling for that lie again.”
There was no denying the genuine distress in his voice or his gaze. I frowned.
“She’s special, man.”
“I’ve heard that too.”
“But she really is! I can’t let her down. I can’t.”
I’d never known Jim to really care about any of his throw away lovers. While I wasn’t convinced this one was special, I was convinced he thought she was. And that in itself was surprising. I’d long ago lost track of the number of women he’d bedded and discarded without a care.
“I’m glad to hear you’ve finally met a women you don’t want to let down.”
He sighed. “I knew you’d help.”
I shook my head. “Help? Not me, buddy. While I’m glad you plan to stand by her, I’m not bailing you out this time. This is just asking too much.”
“Come on, Tom.” he pleaded. “I really need you to do this for me. It’s only for a few weeks—two months max. And you’ll hardly know she’s there. Honest, Tom.” He grinned, revealing the dimple in his left cheek. It always amazed me how much he looked like Mom when he smiled. “Surely you don’t want to see your niece or nephew in a shelter.”
My best friend Ryan was forever telling me that Jim would be a better man if I allowed him to sink or swim on his own. But how could I leave him floundering when he needed help? He was my only sibling and he was younger. I knew Mom would’ve wanted me to look out for him. So I’d done my best to do that.
I bit back the urge to remind him I wasn’t the one who’d knocked some hussy up. What was the point when he’d hit me where it hurt? I wasn’t going to see his child in a shelter when I had an empty bedroom.
“Fine!” I snapped, caving. “But I am only having her for a couple of weeks. And this is the absolute last time I’m doing you a favor,” I warned and then sped away before he could even thank me.
I blasted the car radio, angry with myself for my inability to insist he stop making me responsible for his problems. Jim was always getting into trouble, knowing his big brother, Tom, would come to his rescue. I’d spoiled him in that respect, and in the process I was ruining my own life. Not many women stuck around once they realized they’d play second fiddle to my younger brother.
But as Dad used to say: promises were made to be kept. At the end of the work day, I made a pit stop at my apartment. After a quick shower and change, I headed out of town to see this woman Jim said was so special.
That’s what he says about all of them—until he dumps them
, I thought sourly as I drove onto the interstate. He’d had far more girlfriends than I’d ever had. I wasn’t jealous of my brother’s ability to attract women. But I didn’t understand his need for an endless succession of women in his bed who meant nothing to him.
I’d never wanted or needed a different lover for every day of the week. I just wanted one special woman I could spend the rest of my life with. So far, such a relationship had eluded me.
An hour later, I was in Delaware County. I turned onto a quiet, tree-lined street and parked the car in front of a small single home. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the address Jim had given me: 929 Juniper Lane.
The address above the door read 929. I’d arrived. Great. Now to meet Ms. Special. I stepped out of my truck.
I rang the doorbell quickly; half hoping there’d be no answer.
But the door opened almost immediately.
Great. My bad luck was holding, I thought as I found myself staring into a pair of warm, brown eyes. The young woman looked about fifteen, but what really startled me was the fact that she was black.
Then the answer hit me. “I’m sorry,” I said quickly, backing away. “I must have the wrong house.”
“What address are you looking for?” She had a soft, slightly husky voice.
“Nine twenty-nine…” I trailed off as my eyes fell on the numbers above the door again. Right number, wrong street, I reasoned, “Could you please direct me to Juniper Lane?”
“This is Juniper Lane.” She stared at me a moment, then her eyes widened. “Tom Martin?”
“You’re Jim’s brother?”
Her startled reaction didn’t surprise me. Most of the people Jim knew were shocked the first time they met me. I guess they were expecting an older version of my dazzling brother. We're both just about six feet tall with dark hair and eyes. But he looks like he just stepped off a movie set. I'm just an average-looking guy.
“I’m Tom Martin and I’m looking for Tanya Kimball,” I said, ignoring her question.
She grinned and extended her right hand. “You’ve found her.”
I couldn’t help it. I just stood there staring at her. This couldn’t be the Tanya Kimball I’d agreed to let stay in Jim’s room while he was in California trying to land a role on a new sitcom.
“There’s b-been a mistake,” I stammered.
The smile left her face, and she bit her lip. “He did tell you about me, didn’t he? That Mrs. Ashton needs my room for her sister? You’re here to take me back-with you. Aren’t you?”
There was no way I was taking her anywhere. But before I could answer, a middle-aged woman with hard green eyes appeared in the open doorway. She glanced at my truck, parked at the curb, then; looked me up and down. “So you’re the one,” she said with obvious distaste. “A man your age should know better than to go around taking advantage of young girls.”
I blushed as I realized she thought I was Tanya’s lover. “I’m not—”
“Well, come in and get her things,” she interrupted. “She’s going to be carrying your baggage for nine months. The least you can do is carry hers.”
I had no intention of doing any such thing. That wasn’t the deal. Jim never told me she was a pregnant teen. This was his problem. At twenty-two he was an adult. This was between him and her. The sooner I got out of there, the better.
I started to back away, but the woman pulled two suitcases from behind the door and pushing them onto the steps.
Tanya turned to look at me. “You’re not leaving without me. Are you?”
I froze, shaken by the frightened and confused look on her face. My options were limited—either I went through with the plan, or I ran the risk of her ending up in a shelter or worse on the streets where she’d be pray to God only knew what.
Disgusted by my brother’s irresponsibility, I grabbed the bags and threw them in the back of my truck.
When Tanya climbed into the front seat, I slammed the door behind her, got in, and drove away.
She made several attempts at small talk as I tore down the interstate, but I turned the oldies station up and ignored her. I was too angry to trust myself to speak.