“We should go back to the club,” Reuben is telling me as he pulls up at my place.
“I’m not going back there.”
God knows if Desean has told Sean about me being out with Reuben as of yet. There was no way I was going back to that place.
“Garrison. You and I were in a picture together from 1965.”
“It couldn’t have been us.”
“It looked just like us.”
“It’s impossible,” I explain shaking my head, “Be serious. They are just two guys that looked like us. You told me before. You’ve never been in a jazz club a day in your life. Remember?”
“That was us in that picture,” Reuben argues, “I know it was. You can sit here and pretend all you want to but that was us in that picture. The least we can do is maybe see where the owner got the picture from. And what’s this Trampoline Club? Have you ever heard of the place?”
“No, I haven’t and I don’t care to,” I explain to Reuben, “I have to go.”
“Can we hang out for a minute? What’s the rush?”
“Are you serious!”
“Are you mad?” Reuben asks me.
“My brother-in-law just saw me with you.”
“As friends. Can you relax? It’s not like we were fucking in the middle of the Jazz floor,” Reuben explains at that moment, “We were just holding hands. It’s nothing you can’t explain. You act like you’re terrified of your own husband.”
I get quiet.
“I have to go.”
I start leaning outside of the car but Reuben grabs my hand, “Are you…OK? Is everything alright with you?”
“Everything’s fine,” I tell him.
He doesn’t believe me. I don’t wait for him to question me. I get out of the car and start walking away. Halfway towards the house, I turn back to the car for some reason. Reuben is still there. He’s still staring at me. There is a way he looks at me that no one has ever looked at me before. It was almost like he knew me. It was almost like he knew everything about me. I had to remind myself at that moment as I look back at him that we barely knew each other.
I force a smile at Reuben as hard as I can.
I walk in the house and I look to the right.
Sean is standing there waiting for me...
My husband. The man that is supposed to love me gives me a stare and he does it from the dark. He has a phone in his hand.
His eyes are full of tears and anger.
I take a step back, making my way towards the door.
Sean has spoken to Desean.
I wake up in the hospital. I’m connected to a machine. I don’t feel much of anything. I’m connected to something. It’s clear that I’ve lost my consciousness. The doctor walks over to me. She checks on me. She asks me a million questions that I’m not able to answer about how I’m feeling. I don’t remember a thing. All I remembered was seeing Sean and then black.
I wish I could say this is the first time I have ended up in a hospital but it’s not. I lay there and I want to feel sorry for myself but I keep hearing Nina Simone in the back of my head.
Here comes the sun, little darling.
Here comes the sun.
It’s all right.
I sing it to myself over and over again. Sean is in the room with me and it’s clear that the doctor has called the police when they show up.
“You called the cops?” Sean asks the doctor.
“It’s protocol,” the doctor says.
“I told you guys that he fell,” Sean tells the doctor, “What the fuck is the matter with you? Garrison fell. You call the cops for every accident?”
“Sean what’s the issue here?” a cop asks.
There are two cops there. It’s clear both of them know Sean. I watch from my hospital bed as they lean in and hug Sean at that moment. They had to have been really close. I had no doubt. Sean grew up in the police force. He didn’t just work with these men. These men respected him. They were afraid of him because of his father’s influence.
“Hey Tommy, I don’t know what the issue is,” Sean tells the other cops.
“Hey Garrison,” one of the cops says.
I smile slightly. I can barely lift my head up.
“He doesn’t look so good Sean. What happened to him?” the other cop asks.
“He fell. Took a nasty fall, actually. He came home last night. Garrison, he’s a little clumsy. You guys know that right? He just got carried away with his walking. And he just fell….”
“Like down some stairs or something. I thought you guys lived in a Condo,” the cop asks Sean.
“There’s stairs leading up to the condo. One set, Tommy. You remember. You were there before.”
“One set of stairs did this to him?” the cop asks.
“Like I said. Clumsy,” Sean laughs, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with this fucking guy. I swear.”
The cop nods, “Well then I guess it’s a false alarm. Garrison was there anything else you wanted to say?”
The cops look at me. I shake my head.
I mutter the words, “Real clumsy.”
Even if I told them that I didn’t remember it wouldn’t matter. Sean’s dad would protect him no matter what. Even if I told them Sean had a history of being like this ever since he came from the military it wouldn’t matter. Sean knew I wouldn’t hit him back. I loved him way too much.
The cops tip their hats to me and leave. They leave me with Sean. Sean gives me a hard look when they leave. He walks over to the side of my bed.
“Why do you make me do this to you?” Sean asks me.
He has tears in his eyes. A part of me is sure that he’s sad about what he’s done, but another part of me thinks he doesn’t really understand where he goes when he does things like this. Memories are coming back to me slowly. Sean hitting me with a frying pan after chasing me into the kitchen. Sean hitting me with the pan over and over and over. I can feel the cold metal against my face all over again.
“I didn't make you do anything. Sean…if you do this to me again…”
“Sean,” I stop him, “If you do this to me again. I’m going to leave you. I know you came back with pain. I don’t know what you saw when you served. For years, I’ve tried to understand because I love you, Sean. I remember what we used to be. I don’t want to forget Sean. I don’t want to forget how good we were but Sean…I will.”
Sean shakes his head, “You blaming this all on me. How do you expect me to react? You out with this guy. Who is this fucking guy to you?”
“Why didn’t you ask before you overreacted?”
“Because I can’t lose you,” Sean explains, “You’re the only good thing in my life. I get scared. I get scared because I start thinking that maybe I’m didn’t come back as the man you loved. Remember France. Remember Nina Simone? Remember our wedding song. Ne me Quitte pas…remember what that means?”
How could I forget Ne Me Quitte Pas?
“Don’t leave me,” I state.
Sean has tears in his eyes at that moment, “I lose it. I really lose it. I don’t want to do this to you. I rather kill myself than hurt you, Garrison. I just black out and I’m just afraid of what things will be like if you weren’t in my life. Why would I live without you, Garrison? Do you really think I want to do this all the time? The doctor says you had a concussion. You think I like to hear shit like that?”
“Then stop doing it.”
“I can make it up to you.”
“I promise I can. We’ll figure it out together,” Sean tells me, “Just don’t see that guy again. No matter what OK. Just the two of us from now on and we will take on the world. Just like we promised one another. Ne me Quitte Pas. Don’t leave me. Ne Me Quitte Pas, baby…”
Ne Me Quitte Pas.
I can hear Nina singing to me again.
Ne Me Quitte Pas.
“My family wants to have a get well thing for you,” Sean explains to me.
“Sean I don’t want to go…”
“Come on. They’re just worried about you,” Sean explains, “They just want to make sure that everything is OK.”
“Everything isn’t OK.”
Sean touches my hand, “Stop saying things like that. Everything is fine. You got my back right?”
“You want me to hide the fact that you did this to me?” I ask Sean.
“It’s no one’s business,” Sean explains, “I promised that things will change. Remember. So please just go with me to this dinner. Please for my sake. Just come to the dinner. Nothing has to change. No one has to know anything. It’s just us. OK?”
Sean grabs my hand. He’s hard at first. I shiver at his touch. Sean reacts when I do it.
“Damn, are you really scared of me?” Sean asks.
When he sees me react Sean gets emotional. He looks at me. For a moment I see those eyes I fell in love with. His skin is the color of sand. A lot of people say he looks just like Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy, but with light brown eyes. There is a softness in those light brown eyes of his. His white teeth smile at me and for a minute I think he means it with his entire soul.
I can feel his love on his shoulders as he stares at me and every part of him means it.
“I don’t know anymore Sean,” I tell him.
Sean pulls something out. I pull back when he does. When I flinch he seems to get emotional again. This time, tears are coming out of his eyes.
“I know I don’t earn it. I know I go to this place that I can’t come back from sometimes,” Sean tells me, “But I wanted to give you this.”
It’s beautiful. I have to admit that the ring Sean pulls out is flawless. It’s better than the engagement band that he gave me before.
“I know we can’t afford it right now,” Sean explains, “I sold my motorcycle for it…”
“You love your motorcycle. You spent years saving up for that,” I say confused.
“I love you more,” Sean reacts shaking his head, “I can lose everything baby. Everything can go. Everything can go but you. This is just a token that I’m going to change.”
“Talking about it isn’t going to help.”
“Then you can help me.”
“How can I help you?”
“I’ll do anything? How can I fix this?” Sean asks, “I want to stop doing what I do. I want to stop getting so angry but I can’t control myself when I think about losing you.”
“We’ll reach out to Pastor Corry.”
Sean shakes his head, “I don’t want anyone to know my business. Pastor Corry is close to my dad.”
“If we don’t talk to someone then I’m going to leave,” I warn Sean.
Sean takes a deep breath, “Ok. Anything. Ok…I’ll call him after we meet our family.”
The way Sean says ‘our’ family gets to me. The fact that I didn’t have a family and he was sharing his family with me made me feel wanted. I guess it was everything that kept me there. Sean meant well. I know it sounds stupid. It sounds like I’m making excuses for him, but the man loved me something crazy and there were demons that Sean had that he just couldn’t fix.
So I nod. I agree to go.
We meet his family at a restaurant. It’s been a week that I’ve been released from the hospital but I still haven’t fully recovered. Sean’s mother has balloons. A lot of them have "Get well" on it. When Sean rolls me into the restaurant in a wheelchair I can see the expression on their faces. Supposedly Sean had slammed the fridge on my back that night and fractured my spine. I don’t remember but that’s the only thing I could assume would have done it.
His father gives me a hard look at that moment. Desean is there. Monica hasn’t arrived yet. Desean just looks at me though and his eyes get wide when he sees me.
“Jesus...Lord,” Sean’s mother Dianne says to me when she sees me, “Does it hurt Garrison?”
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” I tell them with a forced smile, “Plus I’m on so many drugs that I feel like I'm in OZ right now.”
I force a smile. Dianne and Sean laugh with me. Desean doesn’t laugh at all. He just sits there and crosses his arms. Sean’s dad is standing over me. He’s looking down at me at that moment with this questioning look.
“You have to be more careful,” Sean’s dad says, “The guys at the station said you fell.”
“Fell…?” Desean asks.
Desean isn’t believing a word of it. I just look down. I don’t want to lie or make him feel bad. It’s his fault that Sean got upset. He called Sean. He told Sean that I was with Reuben.
Sean rolls me in, “He’ll be OK. My baby promised me he’ll be more careful from now on.”
Captain Carmichael smiles at him, “You’re a good man Sean. I like to see you taking care of your household. Stepping up. You see this Desean. If you were more like Sean you might still have your wife…”
Desean looks at the Captain and sighs, “So Garrison just fell down the steps?”
“He was drunk.”
“Really when I saw him that night he didn’t look too drunk to me,” Desean states.
“He was drunk, isn’t that right babe?” Sean asks me.
I nod, “Yeah. Had way too many drinks...”
Captain Carmichael shakes his head, “Well maybe this is for the best then. Now Garrison can stop running the streets all the time and partying in these clubs. Focus on getting some Carmichael grandkids…”
Running the streets and partying? I look at Sean with an angry look wondering if Sean had been feeding that bullshit to his father. When have I ever run the streets and partied? My heart races and Sean seems to know that I’m pissed off at that moment because he leans in and gives me a gentle kiss.
He pushes me up to the table but I’m still steaming that the Captain thinks I’m some party boy or something like that.
“Where’s Monica?” Sean asks, changing the subject.
“Running late. She had to go pick up her date,” Dianne says.
“Date?” I ask, “I didn’t know she was dating.”
“I’ve met him. He’s a real party boy. Really not classy at all,” Captain Carmichael states, “There they are now. Jesus…”
I turn at that moment and my heart stops.
Monica walks in and she walks in with REUBEN!
My heart drops when I see Reuben. He has on a blazer and it isn’t like the kind the rest of us are wearing in this fancy restaurant. Reuben’s blazer is this pure blue. He has no shirt underneath it and nothing but chains falling down. I can see Dianne Carmichael clutch her pearls when she sees Reuben. We are all used to Monica dating some off the wall characters and they always react the same each time. The fact that they are reacting like this to Reuben doesn’t surprise me.
What surprises me is that Reuben is out with Monica at all.
Our eyes connect. Reuben is about to approach me but Monica cuts him off. She comes over to me and seems shocked, “Oh my god. My poor Garrison. Look at you! You look like you just had a fight with a bull…”
I smile, “And lost.”
“Monica, isn’t this your client?” Sean asks.
Sean is staring at Reuben. Reuben is staring at me. Reuben’s facial expression says it all. He hasn’t moved his eyes off of me at that moment. He hasn’t stopped looking at me at all. He just stares at me with those sexy eyes of his.
“Oh please,” Monica states, “I don’t need you judging me. Yes…this is an artist of mine and he also happens to be my date for the night. Sean, I’d like you to meet Climax.”
“Climax?” Sean laughs, “Seriously?”
“Stop being a dick,” Monica states, “His stage name is Climax. You knew this already. His real name is Reuben.”
Sean seems annoyed. I feel so uncomfortable. I just want to run away from this table. The thing is I can’t. I can’t run away from the table because my legs are still a little sore.
“Sean…” I tell him.
Sean looks down at me. He promised to change. Sean takes a deep breath at that moment as though trying to calm down at that moment. He forces a smile on his face when he looks at me. Then he transfers somehow that smile to Reuben.
I can see that Sean is trying. He’s forcing it…but he’s trying.
Sean reaches out his hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Sean offers Reuben his hand.
Reuben doesn’t shake it. Sean attempting to make nice right now is more than I can say for Reuben. Reuben doesn’t seem to be interested at all. He isn’t even acknowledging Sean. Reuben just stares at me as though in some drug-induced daze.
“What happened to you?” Reuben asks me.
“You two know each other?” Dianne Carmichael asks Reuben.
“They know each other alright,” Desean adds at that moment.
“I wrote a song for Reuben,” I tell the family.
“Waste of time,” Captain Carmichael adds his usual two cents.
“What happened to you?” Reuben asks.
It seems like a parade could walk into this room at this moment but Reuben could care less. He is ignoring everyone else and he has one concern. That concern is me. My heart is racing seeing this sexy guy in this room so concerned with me but I have to remind myself that Sean is there and Sean is attempting to remain cool but he clearly doesn’t like Reuben staring at me the way that he is.
Sean steps in between Reuben and I. He blocks us.
“My husband fell,” Sean blocks Reuben’s view of me.
Sean and Reuben are glaring each other down. It’s like a showdown in the Wild West. If my spine wasn’t still fucked up I would get up and separate them. I couldn’t though. So I just let them stare each other down and it’s really awkward to everyone at the table.
It’s Monica who grabs Reuben by his muscular arm and pulls him to the table, “Reuben why don’t we sit…”
Reuben sits across from Sean and I. I think he does it on purpose. He looks pissed. He isn’t hiding it. Sean is trying his best to remain cool. He’s never been the type to lose his cool in front of family. Sean had to keep up the image of being the perfect couple. For some reason, that façade seemed to be chipping especially with Reuben sitting across the table from us.
The only person more uncomfortable in this situation then I was, was Sean.
“So Reuben, Monica tells us you do some amazing music,” Dianne states.
“We are working on his fourth studio album,” Monica flaunts at that moment, "His comeback album as a grown a man."
“All my music is shit,” Reuben states staring at me, “The only song I’ve made that is worth while is the song I did with Garrison.”
Our eyes connect.
Captain Carmichael gives Reuben a hard stare, “Young man, we normally don’t speak like that in these kinds of settings.”
Monica rolls her eyes in embarrassment. Captain Carmichael being controlling is an understatement. Etiquette meant everything to the Captain though. He was raised like that. They were all about their appearances. Sean got that kind of personality from somewhere after all. I grab one of the pieces of bread off the table. I want to just disappear. I can’t believe that Reuben is here. Reuben keeps looking over at me.
Reuben clears his throat, “I apologize…”
“So are you and my brother-in-law good friends?” Desean asks Reuben.
“Maybe we should stop bothering Reuben,” I state.
Captain Carmichael blows me off, “Nonsense. He’s the new addition here. I’d like to know who my daughter has been seeing.”
“I’m an open book,” Reuben states, “Garrison and I aren’t good friends. We barely know each other. We just have a connection. Neither of us can really explain it. It’s kind of like we met before. You ever hear a melody or a beat and you’ve felt like you’ve heard it before? You can’t put your finger on it. You hear it in passing and it brings you back to a time that you can’t recall. Just for a moment, you feel the connection of that time. You remember everything about that time…but then it goes again. You’ve lost that feeling. You ever feel that?”
The Carmichaels look at one another all confused.
It touches me though.
I know exactly what he’s talking about though and I have a feeling that Reuben isn’t talking to the Carmichaels really. Reuben is talking to me. He takes a sip of his water. I watch as the droplets of water settle on his pink kissable lips. Damn this guy turns me on with everything he does. I never met someone who turned me on by how they drunk water.
“No. That sounds like some weird shit. Reuben, you been giving your friend some of your drugs or something?” Sean asks with a laugh.
The other Carmichaels laugh. Monica is laughing so hard that she chokes a little bit. Reuben and I aren’t laughing, though. We are staring at one another from across the table.
Desean smirks a little bit, “Well they may not be sharing drugs but they are definitely sharing drinks. You guys must have gotten really drunk that day I saw you for Garrison to look like he does now…”
“Desean that’s rude,” Dianne counters her son.
“He wasn’t drunk that night,” Reuben states.
“What?” Captain Carmichael jumps in, “Garrison you said you were drunk…”
I get quiet. I look over at Sean. Fuck. This was embarrassing.
“I don’t know what he told you but when he was with me he didn’t have a single drink,” Reuben explains.
Desean raises an eyebrow, “Wait. So Garrison, were you drinking or not?”
“It’s none of our business,” Monica states, “Can we just order food or something?”
Monica wasn’t here for the drama. She’d always been like that. She was about her business and drama got in the way of that. She wasn’t protecting Sean. I think she just honestly didn’t want to know. She got that from her mother who seemed uncomfortable at that minute as well. Her mother Dianne was drinking heavily on a glass of wine she ordered and looking away.
“I…don’t remember,” I state.
“You don’t remember?” Reuben asks.
Desean doesn’t seem to be buying it, “That’s one hell of a fall for a sober guy. Convenient loss of memory or what not. I could have sworn the guys at precinct put in the report that he was drunk. I actually pulled the report myself just to make sure.”
“You pulled the police report?” Sean asks.
“I just thought it was weird. I tell you Garrison is hanging out with his friend and all of a sudden he has an accident,” Desean states, “Now why would Garrison lie to the cops?”
“That’s between them, Desean,” Captain Carmichael adds in.
“Convenient that it’s between them now,” Desean adds, “Every other day you are throwing their perfect relationship in my face. So perfect right? So perfect he had to lie.”
Monica clears her throat. Reuben stares at me. Dianne drinks her wine. Captain Carmichael stares at Desean.
Then there is Sean. He’s smiling. He’s keeping up his façade no matter what. I want to defend him. I do but the more we talk about this the more upset I get. Desean is right. This isn’t a perfect relationship. I had to stop lying to myself.
“Maybe he had some drinks at the house,” Sean tells his family with a smirk.
“That makes sense,” Monica states.
I roll my eyes at Monica.
"Yeah," Sean agrees, happy with his explanation.
“Makes sense? That would make sense because he was so scared of you,” Reuben states, “Maybe he went into the house, got drunk and started beating on himself. That sounds like it makes more sense than anything else right?”
Captain Carmichael stares at Reuben, “Are you insinuating something about my son, young man.”
“Maybe we should all have a prayer before we eat,” Monica states.
“Prayer isn’t going to fix it. God isn’t listening,” Reuben replies, “Sinnerman.”
Reuben looks at me hard.
The way he talks about God is weird. I don’t know what his issue is with religion but there is definitely something there. The other Carmichael’s have all held hands at that moment except for Reuben and I.
“Take my hand,” Sean says.
I look at Sean’s hand. I don’t take it.
“No…” I state.
Captain Carmichael looks over at me and has a harsher tone than Sean uses, “You need to take your husband’s hand.”
“God's not coming to save you, Sinnerman,” Reuben tells me, “But I’m here…sinnerman. I’m here to save you.”
“Like hell you are…” Sean says getting up.
He is about to get in Reuben’s face but Captain Carmichael jumps up on his feet at that moment, “Sean, sit down. Monica, please remove your date from the table.”
Monica grabs Reuben, “Maybe we should leave…”
“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t care what any of you say. Sean is beating on Garrison and I’m not with it.”
The table gets quiet. The entire room actually gets quiet. Reuben says it so loud that the other tables are staring our way. Captain Carmichael’s face gets red with embarrassment. Sean sits back at the table all of a sudden. It’s almost as though a mirror is being shoved in his face. For a moment, I feel bad for him but then I feel anger. Sean did this to me. He did this to me not the other way around. I should be mad at him. I shouldn’t be forgiving him all the time.
“Sean, is this true?” Captain Carmichael asks.
Sean doesn’t answer. He just sits there for a second. It’s so awkward. Then in the next second Sean just starts wailing. He starts crying.
“I don’t want to keep doing it. I don’t know what comes over me. I love him. I just…I can’t----“
The family is embarrassed. Everyone.
It’s Reuben who gets up, “I’m taking Garrison out of here. None of you are going to stop me…”
Maybe it is embarrassment that none of them replies. Maybe it’s sadness or regret that they’ve never noticed. I’m not sure what is going through the head of the Carmichaels. None of them stop Reuben from walking behind me grabbing my wheelchair and walking off leaving even Monica behind with her family as they stare at Sean with judgmental eyes.
“Where are we going?” I ask Reuben as we are halfway out the restaurant.
“You’re coming with me. I told you, didn’t I Sinnerman? I heard you calling for me that day in that song. And I’m here for you.”
To read the next chapter go to www.crushedcrown.com