Prior to this weekend, neither Lucretia nor Layne rarely engaged in any type of similar melodrama. Both led somewhat mundane lives for the past decade in regards to adventures romantic or otherwise. They purposely avoided any type of sentimental incidents with anyone other than each other; Lucretia for practical reasons of being too busy and Layne for what she described as self-preservation. The fact that both, this very evening, found themselves entangled in such was most unusual.
“I don’t believe in coincidences. This kind of thing is expected for someone like you, but me? No. And on the very weekend you chose to attend this? And do what you’re doing? No.”
Lucretia looked at Layne. “What does that mean: someone like me?”
“Well, it certainly wasn’t meant to be an attack if that’s what you’re implying.”
“I’ve never been a party girl, if that’s what you were implying.”
“You’re Miss It girl. I’m sure you’ve had to turn down a few proposals in your time. Don’t deign to convince me otherwise.”
“As a matter of fact, I have not,” Lucretia replied. “Regardless of what others say. And I am not an it girl. That label is derogatory.”
Pondering this, Lucretia refused to disclose aloud whether her agitation stemmed from the fact she had not received any such proposals or that Layne presumed as much—or something else entirely, while Layne, feeling ignorant in her assumptions, knew that Lucretia constructed her life around a certain set of parameters and fame was most definitely not on that list—notoriety never the objective. The public, via the internet, did what they typically did regardless of a person’s desire for privacy—stripped and made into a chimera of whatever formed in their hive minds, they saw Lucretia as someone she wasn’t, shaping her into parts of a sum that never was; the criticisms endless; the dismantling and reconstructing into something transient and illusory; projections distorted into fun house mirrors forever altering; usually in one of two ways—neither correct.
Lucretia berated Layne for having made the same presumptions; Layne accepted this.
“I haven’t bothered with matters of the heart in quite a while. Unless you’re Jennifer Aniston, thankfully being a single middle-aged woman grants respite in regards to that type of unwanted burden. As much as the tabloids and public wish otherwise.”
That type of inattention had since gradually abated and age no longer factored—notoriety did. Lucretia knew this knowing that Layne agreed. Over a decade since both danced to that particular tune, they refused to believe that every person must now and for always be paired off with someone.
When Lucretia first hired Layne, the gossips reported that they were a couple. Given Lucretia’s mysterious romantic past and having been in the company of all manner, the gossips never knew what her sexual orientation was, and she never identified as much. Both Lucretia and Layne played along with the rumors for a time refusing to answer. This while acknowledging privately to each other their attraction went beyond sexual yet still could eventually evolve into something more; neither refused to rule it out as they did not deal in absolutes. Lucretia, though, insisted, since she was the boss, it would be an inappropriate abuse of power over someone within her employee. This became a philosophical discussion on attraction, sexuality, age, and at what point in middle-aged life one became asexual after an abstention from sex for so long. All this while smoking a joint in front of the fireplace on the floor of Lucretia’s beach house on Martha’s Vineyard in the pit of a cold, blustery winter.
What happened next, reader, they revealed little while conceding lots. Experiments, they reminded themselves, signified an essential part of life whereby failure or success was not the goal, exploration and examination was.
“I need more time to think about this. We need a beach weekend,” Lucretia insisted.
“Yes, because there is nothing more appealing than being a third wheel while you and Jason think about things.”
“I won’t take him,” Lucretia said then regretted it as soon as Layne raised an eyebrow at her. “Okay then, back to D.C. we go, but first, we gotta wrap this up.”
The two women walked into the room where they met Jason with a glass of water of which he handed to Lucretia almost shyly. Fingers touched while briefly exchanging a look heated, Lucretia and Jason maintained politeness and composure as consistent with their station.
Of this, Layne watched with a curiosity clinical and slight while Lucretia ignored it focusing on the room.
Skeptical of Jason’s intentions prior and his part in this chaos, Layne now believed his roll to be larger than planned. She wouldn’t deny her own mistrust prior conceived from a worry that what she witnessed between the two could displace her own relationship with Lucretia. She acknowledged how ridiculous that was now and how little regard she showed for Lucretia’s ability to distinguish and represent the plan and Layne adequately if not equally. As much as she wanted her friendship with Lucretia to grow, they were first and foremost employer/employee and the plan represented the principal concern.
Layne would do best to remember that. Put succinctly, green was a color best left to her wardrobe and not her attitude. Her pallor of late consisted of extremes as she recalled her own wall mounting. Frowning at her turn of words of which dampened the enthusiasm of both assignations that heated her prior, she had only to conjure the pair to feel that flame burn anew. Having a front-row preview to Lucretia and Jason’s wall mounting, Layne recollected that production in whole—the silhouettes dark against a red dusky lit room as viewed from a long dark hallway. The opening at which they lingered, a hell-mouth font of flames licking across their bodies pulling at them eagerly. Her surprising voyeurism notwithstanding, she found watching them enjoyable oddly enough.
She avoided picturing a reproduction of her own rendezvous.
As did Lucretia. Both equally flummoxed.
Almost immediately, Layne’s eyes sought his in the crowd. Brody vanished leaving Layne grinding teeth in confusion.
Jason, however, scrambled back to his perch almost a bit too readily. Having removed the husky wall-mounted aspect from his demeanor, he returned to his prior visage of stoic-vigilance most known for people in his profession. One had to wonder if that qualification was essential over all others—an inherent robotic-response to all things affecting? It wasn’t enough to veil it in some kind of bravado enforcer veneer.
Layne saw through it in glimpses as the heat in his eyes revealed all.
“What is wrong with you?” Lucretia asked watching her.
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
She examined Layne carefully, grinned then laughed. “It seems mine wasn’t the only parlay tonight, eh? What happened?”
Layne mumbled something incoherent—so low Lucretia had to lean in to hear her.
“Are you saying you shoved him against the wall and gorged on him?”
“Gorged? That’s rather crude.” She paused. “I suppose it fits though, so, yes, I did.”
Layne’s grin burgeoned into something fiendish causing Lucretia’s eyes to widen. “I see. Perhaps I should try it again then,” she said looking wistfully over to Jason.
“Really? I thought you said…”
“Never mind what I said. I like to experiment.”
Layne laughed. “You like what you sampled?”
“Yearning for more, are ya?”
“Shouldn’t we be focusing on this?” Layne asked pantomiming around her.
“This will always be here.”
“I am not y’all’s magical mammy. One black woman cannot possibly fix what white people broke so stop asking and to be quite frank, Black women have no obligation to fix what white people and white supremacy fucked up in the first place. I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do and have fun while doing it. Do you have a problem with that?”
“No,” Layne, wide-eyed, quickly replied then raised her hand slightly.
“Are you serious with that?”
“What do you want me to do with…our little project?”
“No but. Release it.”
“Will do.” Layne did as instructed.
Standing at the hell-mouth, Broderick and Brody joined them as they watched the pandemonium evolve. The news quickly went viral. The Senator in question released her own version, as did a hacker group, in addition to the young woman in the video being serviced. Said young woman unsurprisingly penetrated the somewhat lax security and was currently trying to escape the remaining Secret Service agents. This after she negotiated extensive and detailed interviews to a select few within the resort, along with AirDropping said video accompanied with the stills available also on her newly branded website she commodified especially for this. Guests stood around the edges of the room with smart phones held aloft recording events, laughing, applauding and enjoying the show.
Of the many amphitheatres, these venues characterized their colosseum. These guests—the spectators—cheered on the mock battles; the racism and bigotry—violence against lesser subjects. All theatre and sleight of hand tricks to keep the aristocrats regaled and plump on the fruits of state violence depicted as comedic caricatures; and, to also keep the people entertained as a means of social control while corruption flourished and freedoms waned.
“The entire administration is like a depraved Laurel and Hardy skit,” Broderick remarked as the woman in question ran back and forth crying and laughing while dodging the agents handily. Perceived comically by the majority, the scene soured those in the corner where they stood watching morosely.
The cruelty is the point. This on their mind as the chase gave way to capture—a brutal takedown that sent the woman hard to the floor with a sickening thud, much like the sound of fists hitting bare skin.
After a brief generic introduction of Broderick to Layne by Lucretia, the discussion turned to the abject failure of journalists to adequately convey the craziness of everything their country experienced during the last few years. At least not without an active, healthy and uncensored Twitter feed before it was eventually also censured. They agreed that fiction novels were the likeliest mediums to communicate the absurdity. Lucretia lamented on how white historians and journos couldn’t possibly do it justice as they were still grappling with how to satisfactorily describe slavery and the overall Black experience without passively romanticizing and centering whiteness. She agreed to defer to the Black professional critics and historians who were exceedingly well qualified to do so naming a number of them—mostly women—to which all agreed adding a few of their own.
Lucretia looked at Layne who stood silent listening till she no longer could. “I imagine if we did live in a true meritocracy, all experience and knowledge would be conveyed equally without censure, but seeing as that is not the case, we have…this.”
“A true meritocracy does not exist. Not here.”
As the drama unfolded, Lucretia’s thoughts gave way to many. Lured back to Jason, she considered the implications of what happened between them from this point forward.
Lucretia couldn’t stop thinking about Jason’s mouth—his lips and tongue; the taste so heavy on her very existence, she savored it still, lingering like the most finest of wines. What little she had partaken of such things. Along with the feel of his hands, the sensations bewitched her like an antidote to everything sinister happening presently—or ever.
Though, not really.
It only felt like it now, she told herself trying to keep a perspective pragmatic in response. Never one for romanticism, she donned the context occasionally to see what, if anything, she missed and found it lacking in reality. She waved it off and continued her course. This, though, she couldn’t seem to shake. Like the present socio-political moment, something irregular was occurring; something perplexing not of the sinister nature—unlike the present historical juncture—but of the fascinating kind. A dualistic-type situation to remind her of something pleasing and true in opposition to all that was happening. But was the situation with Jason true? It felt like it as she touched her lips again unconsciously.
Lucretia could argue that these dualistic-type events started on meeting Layne. She didn’t want to dismiss that as simply fate because she didn’t believe in such things; one of many virtues that her and Layne had in common. With Layne though, she could see a friendship burgeoning. With Jason? Something else entirely. She wasn’t prepared for it.
Avoiding looking at Jason, Lucretia glanced at Layne and felt a spiral of shame hit her in the chest like a fist.
“What have we done?” Layne asked low enough for only Lucretia to hear.
© 2020 Alex Shea/Pamela Gay Mullins