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Attorney, Prudence Payne, seems to have it all: beauty, intelligence, love and a sure path to making partner with her law firm. The reality is her boyfriend, James, is unable to commit. She’s dealing with recently revealed family secrets and lies. And, she’s doing it all without her best friend who died a year ago.
Richard Mayweather is a single father raising two daughters. He’s been in love with Prudence since they were tweens, and now he thinks it’s time that she knows it. But when James decides to finally commit, is it too late for Richard? Or will Prudence realize, at last, that the love she’s always searched for has been right in front of her the whole time?
The truth lay somewhere beneath the wide brushstrokes of reds, blues and greens, crafted into a portrait of a life unfolding. Its existence had been transformed like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. It was a new translation of itself. A vision imagined. An innocence provoked. A thought transcribed upon its face. Life was just like that for Prudence Payne, so many layers of ideas, dreams, visions and thoughts were cast upon her that she no longer recognized her own truth: her hopes, dreams and vision for her life.
James was one of those broad strokes in Pru’s life. She wrestled with how far she’d come in her relationship with him. In the beginning it was exciting. He moved heaven and earth for her. If he could’ve given her the moon, he would have. His emails were poetic professions of his love for her. She’d look forward to hearing his soothing voice before going to bed. She’d long for his passionate kisses and slow hand caressing her milky brown skin. She’d languish in his embrace while he took his time with her, placing her satisfaction above his. Now, a few nipple twists and a wet sloppy tongue in the ear constituted foreplay.
The alarm sounded. Pru hit the snooze button without looking at the clock. She knew she had another ten minutes to ease out of bed. She lay quietly trying to regain focus through her partially open eyes. Peering across the room, her blurred vision rested upon the easel in the corner; the painting she’d been working on sat on the weathered tripod, paint brushes still soaking in the murky water. The self-portrait was shrouded underneath a paint-stained canvas cloth. The portrait wasn’t quite right, the interpretation was off. She had trouble with self-portraits in the past so she thought she’d give it another try. This one, well, it wasn’t that the portrait didn’t look like her. It did. Her dissatisfaction was more about how she felt when she looked at it. The colors, the strokes, even the choice of paint brush made all the difference. What made it difficult for her was that she tended to be too careful, too calculated. And when her decisions weren’t the best ones, with each mistake and overcorrection, she was forced to work with the choices she had made. She couldn’t ‘unpaint’ the canvas.
She rolled over and nestled her face into James’ chest, feeling his heartbeat against her cheek. He wrapped his arm around her, clutching her shoulder to pull her closer. In only five minutes, the alarm would beep again, signaling their final warning to get out of bed. She hated parting with him even though she felt a tinge of resentment towards him. These days, her moments with James were bittersweet. She wanted him, yet, at the same time, she didn’t. The dichotomy baffled her. Nonetheless, she accepted whatever time he gave her as she always had.
The alarm blared once again from the clock radio beside her bed. She bypassed the snooze button this time, slapped her hand on the off switch and pried herself from James’ grasp. He grunted as he felt the brush of cool air replace her warm body.
“Get back in bed,” he grumbled in a husky hoarse tone.
“Come on, babe, you’ve gotta get going,” Pru insisted without looking at him.
She brushed her bangs away from her face with her fingers. She’d usually make sure he was up and getting ready before she left for her weekly tennis match with Jessica. If he was still lingering in her condo when she got back from the tennis club, she expected she’d have hell to pay for not getting him out on time. Not because James would have a problem. He preferred to spend a casual morning with Pru. It was the Hell-in-Heels that concerned her — Nadine.
She grabbed her robe from the bedside chair and slid her recently pedicured feet into her slippers. She turned around and gazed at James who pulled the covers over his eyes to block the blossoming daylight. When they met eleven years ago, his hair was thick and curly. Now it was thinning at the crown forming a small bald spot. His once jet black hair was graying slightly at the temple with speckles of gray throughout. She liked the salt and pepper look on him. He looked even more distinguished than before.
Pru made her way to the bathroom to run the water for her shower, allowing it to warm up. She stood in front of the mirror which hung over the sink that now had small spatters of toothpaste on the lower half. She reached under the sink for the Windex wipes and cleaned the mirror then looked closer at her reflection. Her brown hair with spiraled tight curls was disheveled, matted, even. I hate my hair. She thought back to earlier years when she’d awaken before James in order to freshen up, brush her hair, and even add a little gloss to her lips and a light touch of blush to her cheeks, giving her a morning glow. Now, James was lucky if she got up to brush her teeth before kissing him.
She tapped her iPod docked on the rack above the commode. A few moments later Marvin Gaye’s velvety voice was crooning Let’s Get It On. As she disrobed to step into the shower, she heard James’ footsteps thumping against the wood floor. She smiled. Ah, movement. He won’t be late again. She hoped he’d get the coffee started. Instead, he crept behind her, grabbing her breasts into the palm of his hands. His erection pressed against her back. He leaned down to kiss her neck and worked his way to her ear, whispering in tune with Marvin, “let’s get it on, sugar, let’s get it on, ooh ooh ooh”. His breath was warm and moist against her cheek. His tongue outlined her earlobe just before he planted a wet one close to but not on her ear. She pulled away.
“Come on, James. You’re going to be late.”
He grimaced and continued to caress her naked body while singing along with the Motown classic.
“Really, James. Why don’t you go start the coffee, babe?”
His advances were usually welcomed but it was more important to get him out of her condo on time. He couldn’t be late anymore. Besides, Pru was growing weary of the same old routine. Perhaps the right word to use would be bored. He didn’t excite her like he used to. Sure, he was sexy and desirable, and she mostly felt lucky that he wanted her. But something was brewing deep down in her subconscious or maybe it was in her gut or her heart; it was certainly somewhere out of reach. She couldn’t quite get to it, pull it out, or give it a name. Yet, she felt it, like the aches that came before the rain.
She managed to free herself from his grip and turned to face him. His tall frame towered over her. His deep brown eyes were piercing. It was hard for Pru to say no to him, even though she struggled with whatever was brewing down there in her gut, in her subconscious. He was handsome. Dashing, even, in a Richard Gere kind of way. His fair, nearly pale skin, which was in perfect contrast to her brown skin, was smooth and hairless. His hands were soft — softer than hers. He believed a man’s hands should be soft against a woman’s body, not calloused and rough, scratching her delicate skin.
“Just one for the road, Pru, baby?”
She smirked. He could be irresistible when he begged.
She placed her hands on his chest to create distance between them.
She continued, “Will you just go make the coffee and let me take my shower? I really don’t want a replay of what happened the last time you got out of here late.”
She leaned forward on the tips of her toes to kiss him but he backed away, removing her hands from his chest with a slight shove.
“Why do you always bring up my wife?”
“You really know how to kill a moment, Pru.”
Pru rolled her eyes and stepped into the shower, sliding the door closed as he stood watching. She wasn’t going to allow him to suck her into another argument about his wife. Not today.
“Because I’m sick of it, James. All of it.”
He slid the shower door slightly, just enough to see her.
“You just won’t get it, will you? You—” he sounded exasperated. “When I’m with you, Pru, I don’t want to be reminded of my wife.”
Emphasis on wife. Once again, it was about Nadine. His firm tone resonated in the natural acoustics of the bathroom. Aretha Franklin was belting out “you make me feel like a natural woman.”
It was bad enough she had to face her guilt every time Nadine called, but to not have the support of the only other person who was as guilty as she was hard. She wanted to scream and say ‘it’s over.’ But she loved him. It was her heart that kept her with James. It was love that made her ignore her conscience. It was her guilt that made her endure Nadine’s endless abuse.
She looked over her shoulder at him. “I don’t want to be reminded of any of it, James, but I am…constantly.” She squirted body wash onto her sponge.
Before sliding the door closed again, his eyes roved the length of her medium frame. Muscular. Athletic. Her long wet hair dripped down her back as she lathered the soap on her body. He watched her hands slide in and around the slopes and curves of her body.