Excerpt from the unfinished novel, Leaving September
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By Sandra, firstname.lastname@example.org
M'Taii drove to her carport and brought the Kia to an abrupt stop. She noticed lights in her house and wondered if she was in for the same shock of having her house explode or was it Alex back for a heart to heart.
She slid off her seat belt and wondered if she was up for another confrontation with whomever it was this time. She grabbed her attaché and briskly made her way through the warm night air.
No car, doesn't look like forced entry. What is this? come and waltz into my house year or something? I have to get a security system in place or I'm liable to get hurt. These people have no respect for my joint. All I wanted to do was come home for a nice workout and a relaxing bath. Now this, it better be good.
She stepped up to her door and turned the knob to enter. She peeked her head in.
"You know, whoever is in here should at least lock the door lest the owner, meaning me, comes in and find you here." She yelled into the door as she opened it and was immediately surrounded by smells of apple pie, smothered chicken and fresh steamed vegetables. She heard the sound of a low radio playing soothing jazz and the sound of a small voice imploring to stir the pot.
"Please Mama! Let me help to make Ms.M'Taii's dinner too!!"
"Ashley sweetie, why don't you help Mama by setting the table just like Grandpa showed you, okay?"
M'Taii walked in on the cooking duo and placed her hand on her hip, moving her navy jacket to the side, exposing her ivory button down blouse and her matching pants.
Sam startled, then flushed.
"I didn't hear you come in."
"I know." M'Taii placed her attaché on the counter next to the plates.
"Ms.M'Taii!!! You're here!! I miss you so much!! Me and Mama gonna make you dinner and I was just gonna put the plates on the table like Grandpa showed me!!" Ashley hugged M'Taii in the knee area. M'Taii reached down and picked up the apron clad Ashley and hugged her.
"Well, you're probably not surprised but I missed you too Ms.Ashley."
"See Mama, I told you she missed us. You missed Mama too right?"
"Very much." And M'Taii watched as Sam tried to busy herself with the food on the stove top.
"Dad thought it might be a good idea if we came by. I saw you weren't home yet, so me and Ashley decided you might be hungry when you got home, so we cooked you dinner."
Sam brushed her hair behind her ears and sunk her hands into the pockets of the apron. M'Taii kept her distance, not sure if Sam was really ready for her this time.
"I'm glad to see you both." She kissed Ashley on the cheek and made soft eyes at Sam.
"So Ash, what's for din din?"
"Well Mat we got chicken, it was squishy and slippery to clean but we did and we cooked it! Mama let me put the pepper and salt on, right Mama?"
"Well, is it ready yet?"
"I dunno. Mama!! Is it ready yet?"
"No Ashley, dinner will be done in another hour."
Sam came around and patted M'Taii on the back.
"We have apple pie too."
"Mmmm! That sounds so good. Too bad."
Ashley perked her ears." Too bad?"
"I was gonna do some karate but I don't have anyone to practice with."
M'Taii shrugged her shoulders. Ashley raised her arms in the air.
"I'll practice with you, I will!!"
"Are you sure? I mean positive?!"
She nodded her head and wiggled to be put down.
"Okay, then meet me upstairs in the workout room. If you look in the draw, you should see some uniforms that look like pajamas, you have to wear one."
And Ashley yeah'ed herself to the upstairs room.
M'Taii shrugged out of her jacket and threw it on the back of the sofa in the living room. She un did the top button of her blouse and unbuttoned the sleeves, then pulled the bottom of the blouse out of her pants. Sam tried to keep her balance against the counter as she watched M'Taii. She could see the fatigue in her tense shoulders and the desire in her casual stance against the sofa back.
M'Taii dug the heels of her palms into her eyes then rested her arms on either side of her on the sofa back. She smirked.
"You didn't have to cook me dinner." She waved at the half set table and the boiling pots. Sam kept her ground in front of the counter. Her knees wanted to turn to Jell-O but she prayed they'd stay solid long enough for her to watch M'Taii make her way up the stairs to Ashley.
"I know... but I wanted to." She undid the strings of her apron and removed it from around her neck. She wore a sky blue sleeveless shirt dress that M'Taii could almost see through and beige leggings. M'Taii placed her hands softly against the butterflies in her belly.
"Then I have to thank you." She bowed deep. She stood straight and scratched her temple.
"Thank you for bringing the little one. That means a lot to me." She made her way toward Sam until they were standing inches apart. M'Taii could feel Sam's heat and gravity. She noticed how Sam kept her hands crossed in front of her, so she crossed her hands in the back, balling her fists against her impulse to kiss Sam's lips.
"Will we have time to talk?"
Sam looked at M'Taii's open collar and answered.
"I bought an over night bag in case. Dad knows if I don't call, not to worry." Her gaze finally met M'Taii. Her eyes were filled with questions.
M'Taii relaxed her fists and bought her open hands to her sides. She circled Sam's elbows and spidered her way up to her bare tanned shoulders. She wrapped her arms around Sam's torso and pulled her in. She took deep breathes of her hair, savoring the warm floral scent that came from it. Sam tried not to let in too fast but found herself releasing her arms from their crossed position and circling M'Taii's solid medium waist. She slid her hands beneath the loose blouse and felt the sleek contours of M'Taii's back. Her cheek rested on the smooth skin of M'Taii's neck and her knees wobbled a bit as she let herself rest into M'Taii.
M'Taii whispered into her ear,
"I'm sorry. Let's talk later." And she kissed Sam's cheek. She backed away slightly and bound up the stairs with renewed energy.
M'Taii made quick work of changing out of her work clothes and into her gray bike shorts and matching sports bra. She put her many little braids into a large one and tied the end with a dark rubber band and a white ribbon. She found her Seido uniform and jumped into it, then made her way down the hall to the padded work out room.
She pretended not to see Ashley struggling with her uniform top and tried even harder not to laugh at how the shirt engulfed her. Instead she walked slowly to the glass sliding door and opened it, pulling the screen to keep out the bugs.
"Are you ready?!"
A bewildered Ashley turned to attention, posing in her most menacing martial arts stance, which was half way between a run and a karate chop. Ashley blew her tousled hair out of her eyes.
"First, we do push ups."
Ashley relaxed from her pose and put her hands on her waist.
"But push ups aren't karate!"
M'Taii came closer and knelt in front of Ashley with a white bundle under her arm.
"I know, the push ups are to get your arms ready for the karate and the name of it is really Seido. Karate is another kind of Martial arts."
"Ohhh. Will I be able to cut down trees?" Ashley turned her face at the idea.
"Not yet. That might come later. First though, lets get you in the right kind of uniform."
M'Taii unfurled the bundle that was hidden under her arm, it was a miniature version of her own uniform.
"This use to belong to Tyler, when he was about your age. It is called a Gee. And it is what we wear when we're going to do Seido."
She inspected the clothes and shrugged out of the over sized uniform top she wore and wiggled into the new uniform M'Taii held opened. M'Taii helped her into the small roomy pants and tied the belt.
"There, that fits a lot better. Now, let me get your hair together, cause you aren't gonna be able to see anything if it's in your face."
M'Taii removed the ribbon from her hair and tied Ashley's back into a loose ponytail. Sam stood at the door, watching, un-noticed.
"Okay, now, we're ready. Push ups, those are always first. They make here," M'Taii pointed to Ashley's tiny biceps,
"... strong. Let me show you how to do it." Then M'Taii illustrated how to do simple knee push ups, since Ashley was too young to do the toe push ups. She helped her do a set of tens.
"Oh Goddess! I've never been that good at doing push ups like that before! I am impressed!" She hi-fived Ashley and continued.
"Now, we do stomach crunches!" Ashley moaned at the sound of what she would have to do next. Sam giggled in her corner as she watched Ashley struggle and was touched as she noticed how M'Taii encouraged her and helped her think she was doing the exercises on her own.
In the middle of one of the warm ups Ashley stood up and demanded. " Where is the Seido?!"
"We're getting to it. We have to warm up, to make sure our muscles are ready for it."
"My muscles were ready downstairs!" Ashley shook her head matter of factly.
"Okay, okay, first you have to learn how to stand." And M'Taii began her lesson.
Sam had reappeared in the doorway and announced that dinner was ready. M'Taii bowed to Ashley and instructed her to pickup her dress and fold it, then they freshened up and made their way downstairs to dinner in their uniforms.
Dinner was a calm event, with Ashley mostly filling M'Taii in on all her adventures since the last time they were all together. She told her of how her frog, Herman had died while trying to cross the street and how she was allowed to hammer her first nail and how she had the best looking tied dyed tutu in dance class. Sam noticed how easily the two got along, as if time never lapsed. She secretly hoped things would be as smooth when it came time for her and M'Taii to talk.
M'Taii toted Ashley and her knapsack upstairs and proceeded to run her bath, complete with rubber duck and bubbles. M'Taii took off the top to her uniform and adjusted her sports bra were it began to bunch. She turned and started helping Ashley out of her clothes. Ashley splashed her feet in the lukewarm water as M'Taii eased her in.
"Wow! You have bumpy muscles!"
M'Taii smirked and sat Indian style on the other side of the bath tub.
"I know." She flexed her arm for emphasis and rested her elbow on the edge of the tub so Ashley could see.
Ashley tilted her head to the side. A dark brown curl flopped onto her ear.
"Will I have boobs and muscles when I get big?" M'Taii gave a quizzical look.
"Sure, if you want."
"Mama said boobs are the best part of being a woman but I want to have muscles like yours too."
M'Taii laughed and reached in the lukewarm tub water for the washcloth to scrub down Ashley's back.
"I don't know much about boobs but muscles are pretty cool and you can have muscles if you want."
Ashley nodded in affirmation.
"Come on, let's get you in your jamas." M'Taii stood and grabbed the towel off the back of the door. She wrapped the towel around Ashley and swept her to the bottom bunk of the bunk bed the boys used to sleep in.
M'Taii pulled a gown out of Ashley's overnight bag and helped her put it over her damp hair. She towel dried the rest of her hair and kissed her to sleep.
M'Taii turned the light of the bathroom off and switched on the night light.
"We didn't pray."
M'Taii tip toed to the edge of the bottom bunk and knelt down besides Ashley.
"Thank you God for everything, for Mama and Grandpa and M'Taii. Say hi to Herman and Grandma Molly and Uncle Fred. Thank You God for making Mama happy and for her cooking a good dinner. Amen."
M'Taii chimed in her humble,"Amen."
Ashley stood up and patted M'Taii on the back, then kissed her cheek. " Good night M'Taii."
"Good night Ashley. I'm going to leave the light on and the door open. If you need anything, just come on over to my room."
She nodded her head and slipped in between the covers. M'Taii tucked her in and left the room. She stopped short on the other side of the door and closed her eyes. She felt another session with Dr.Tercen would be much needed. She rubbed her hands into her face and walked her bare feet down the stairs to the kitchen.
She found Sam had cleared the table and was making work of clearing out the dishes. M'Taii took her position at the sink and filled it with water, then some soap and started washing the dishes while Sam put away the leftovers.
"Dinner was great. I thought my Cousin Sara was the only one who knew how to make smothered chicken like that." M'Taii shot over her shoulder and went back to concentrating on the dishes. Sam beamed as she covered the last of the apple pie and slipped it into the refrigerator.
"Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it." Sam felt the silent tension rise between them. She took her stand next to M'Taii and rinsed the dishes. " You haven't said much tonight."
M'Taii looked out the side of her eye and nodded.
"Sometimes the right thing to say doesn't seem right at all." M'Taii rinsed her hands and stood with her back facing the sink and her arms resting on the counter.
Sam turned and tilted her head to the side.
"I know things between us were kind of tense last time, it's hard to find what to say, I've been thinking about it since I got here."
M'Taii turned and searched out Sam's deep brown eyes.
"I'm sorry for such a rude introduction. I should have been more careful. Things got a little ahead of where I've been lately and I freaked. For that, I'm sorry."
Sam looked down and closed her eyes, trying to clear the emotion from her throat.
"You and Ashley are the greatest thing to happen to me in a while. I'm just having a hard time dealing with seeing my sister still hating me after all these years, my nephews leaving, work, Alex going off to Chile. You were trying to help. I just messed up." M'Taii stroked the tear from Sam's lip.
She turned the water off and slipped her hand into Sam's. They made their way to the back and sat at the edge of the pool with their feet dangling in. Strong moon light lit up the pool making the subtle waves seem like an endless stream of pearls. M'Taii kept her and Sam's hands in her lap.
"You could have told me, I would have understood." Sam barely whispered, afraid to break M'Taii's thoughts.
"I probably should have. That would have been the best thing."
"Why do you make things so hard? Especially when you have so many people out there who are on your side?"
M'Taii looked out into the empty pool.
"I probably think in some twisted way that I deserve it." She smirked, splashing the water a bit. Sam scooted over and pulled M'Taii's hand into her lap, then rested her chin on M'Taii's shoulder.
"I don't think it's fair that you blame yourself for everything. Dora sounded like a wonderful human being. I'm sure she wouldn't be happy to see you like this."
"She would have been here if it wasn't because of me."
"No, no, don't think that way. I blamed myself for my mother's passing. I thought that if I would have had my beeper on or if I wouldn't have stopped at the mechanics to check my car, maybe I would have made it. But you know what? When I told my Dad what I felt, he told me that he was there from the time she had her first sign of heart attack until the ambulance arrived and he could do no more than hold her hand. It was just my mother's time to go. It was just her time."
M'Taii closed her eyes and let the tears seep out the sides. Sam held on to her and rocked her silently, stroking her back in small circles. M'Taii sat up, then wiped the tears with the backs of her hands then ran them through the water. She looked away. Then came Sam's soothing voice.
"It's okay." M'Taii turned and smiled a faint smile, then pulled her and Sam into the tepid water.
"What a thank you!! Acckk!! I'm all wet!!"
M'Taii smiled wider, then kissed Sam's lips.