Loose Ends (Chapter 7)

30 03 2009

The car was filled with only the sounds of Brian McKnight coming from Grey’s sound system. By the time the evening had rolled around, neither Grey nor Bren felt like sitting through a movie or across a fancy dinner table. Instead, it had been fast food and a long drive as they both poured out their stories to each other.

In another world and another time, both would have been more hesitant but a barrier had been crossed earlier that day and there was no turning back. Grey was betting his heart, his life and his secrets that the woman holding his hand was the one woman who could see past his mistakes and love him anyway.

“Wow!”

Bren let out a long sigh and settled into the seat — she hoped to dissolve her confusion in the comfort of the chocolate Napa leather seats… Ironically, when Bren first laid eyes on Grey — Stringer Bell, the character from a TV series, The Wire came to mind. She thought her crush had merely taken on a life all its own… little did she know how accurate her gut was. This could be problematic, Bren thought.

Bren was a victim. Grey victimized. Grey poured out his life to Bren and she was almost full. Though Bren was comforted knowing Grey was attempting to empty his life of any secrets that could affect her — she didn’t know how much more she wanted to hear. How much more she could take…

Grey’s father had been a high-level drug dealer and employed or mulled Grey at a very young age. When his father was killed in a car accident, Grey became the man of house and had to care for his mother and four sisters; he turned to the only thing he knew — the only life he’d lived. His contacts knew and trusted him and being so young they were less concerned with punitive measures, if he was caught. As he grew older his sole involvement continued to reside in interstate trafficking — and he’d acquired quite a lifestyle because of it.

Bren’s mind was whirling and she began hearing in fragmented sentences — tragedy, mother, sister, dead, change, past…

“Bren!” Grey said, a little to loudly — startled, Bren looked up and met Grey’s gaze.

“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to take this all in and make some kind of sense of it.” Bren said.

Grey reached over and cradled her face in his hands. “My life… my past… Don’t try to make sense of it, we’re different, I just need your acceptance… when you’re ready.” Grey continued, “I do promise you this: I am guilty of my past, but I am now totally and completely free of any wrongdoing and illegal activity.”

Bren wasn’t one to judge and she had no right to but Grey’s admittance to a life on the wrong side was a flashback to her own past, one she left behind and never wanted to revisit.

“I guess we have more in common than we thought,” she said, looking him in the eye.

Grey turned off the radio to give her his full attention. In much the same way he had, Bren poured out her story beginning with the stepfather who abused her and of her mother kicking her out when she reported him to the police.

Bren did not stop until she told him of the years spent in a high-class prostitution ring, the drugs, the abortions and being left for dead by a john. Bren had shared this story many times with the women at the shelter but telling this man, a stranger until recently and someone who was taking a hold of her heart brought a new freedom that she had not expected. 

“I am not as courageous as Trish is to live in the world that caused so much pain. I came to my sister’s because it is far removed from my indiscretions. LA was another time and another place. I would like to believe I could never go back to the streets but I don’t think I can say that yet.”

Grey understood what she meant. It had been hard to live clean. Money, power, the women were addictive and he had spent most of his childhood and adult life in that world. More than once, he had slipped up and made some deals to help out a friend but one too many brushes with death showed him he had lost his edge and this life would kill him.

“You are stronger and more courageous than you know Bren,” encouraged Grey. “It’s about making the choice one day at a time. We only have the grace for today. I’ve been praying for you. God’s got your back and I want to have it too, if you will give me the chance.”

Bren tried to blink away life-filled tears but her composure was shed at Grey’s loving kindness. She wanted his strength and was overjoyed he mentioned the presence of the Lord…. She knew she could never make it through without Him and she was glad Grey was willing to stand by her side.

Grey, by all accounts seemed to be a different person — he owned a large manufacturing company similar to Caterpillar and was quite successful but his reluctance to move from his old neighborhood was keeping one foot in a world he thought he had left behind.

“You are wondering why not leave if I have the money to do it but the truth is I love this place and I have found that I can help those young men trapped in the same world I was in,” he answered. “When they can see another alternative to the darkness then they are willing to listen. I want to be here when they are ready to talk.”

Bren scooted closer on the seat and laid her head on Grey’s shoulder. He brought her even closer and kissed her forehead.

“Are you hungry? Revisiting memory lane has left a big whole,” she said with a smile.

“My house is about 10 minutes from here, I can whip you up something in no time,” was his response.

Grey’s statement was loaded and he knew it. It was both a test for him and Bren. Was she ready to go beyond the casual and enter his heart, the same way he wanted her in his home?

Was she ready? Bren’s thoughts raced with his suggestion to come home with him. She could fool herself and say this was just a meal but it would be a lie. He was really asking if she was willing to see where they could lead, now that they knew each other’s story.

Grey was reaching… grasping — he felt helpless… He wanted, so much, to be Bren’s frog-turned-prince but he didn’t want to press. Instead, Grey took Bren’s hand, placed it on his heart, and began, “Oh precious Father God, touch our lives on this day, Lord God Sustain our strength and order our steps. Bless Bren, oh Father, wrap her in your love and wash away her feelings of guilt. Teach us how to be, Lord. We ask your forgiveness of our sins of dishonesty and incompleteness — we know that you know our hearts desires, we ask forgiveness for all our sins and ask that you cover us oh God. Forever and ever, in Jesus’ holy name.”

In unison they declared “Amen.”

Bren was shaken… she was taken! She looked at Grey and loosed the only words that came to mind –

“Lordy! Lordy! What I’ms gone do?” She laughed mockingly.

Her face was hot so she leaned over and placed it on the cool glass — this gave her an excuse to break Grey’s gaze and gather her thoughts. No matter where life took Bren she could always bring it back to faith — she knew that anyone she considered a future with would have to have similar values.

Grey was truly — literally, a Godsend. Bren had never considered praying for a man but she had prayed for blessed companionship and helpful strength. And now, not only did she have Hope House and the women of… but also she had Grey. Yes, she had Grey. She would let it be. She smiled and squeezed his hand as they headed in the direction of his house.

……..

Trish didn’t think twice about dialing Hunter’s number. She needed him and she was not going to be brave about it. When she showed up at the morgue he was there. Trish barely made it out of the car before he hauled her into his arms and squeezed her close.

“I got you love. We will do this together,” he breathed into her ear.

She only nodded and took his hand to walk inside to identify Randy’s body.  Randy’s face was bloodied almost beyond recognition. In a reversal of fortune, someone had done to Randy what he had done to Trish many times. It should have been a sweet moment of comeuppance but all she felt was sad. What a wasted life. She had many good memories with him too but he could never fight off the darkness long enough to fight for the good.

The sun was going down by the time Hunter drove Trish towards home. He had made arrangements to have his sister return her car to the shelter. Trish called ahead and made sure all was well, accepting Leah’s assurance that they were fine. The on call assistant had arrived and would stay all night, so there was no need for Trish to rush back. 

“I don’t want to go home Hunter. Can we go to yours?” Trish asked without hesitation.

She had no idea where the confidence had come from but she wanted to be with this man without the eyes of others around. Hunter’s reply was to flick on his indicator, change lanes and reach for her hand.

Trish was on autopilot and she knew it. All of the lessons on dealing with your emotions in a crisis were the furthest from her mind. She didn’t want to think like a counselor tonight, she just wanted this man to hold her. Hunter had Trish ensconced in a comfortable chair and a mug of peppermint tea in no time. He hadn’t bothered to turn on the TV, the radio or too much light. He now sat across from her; simply happy she was in his house.

It wasn’t much but it was home for Hunter. Having been out of work for most of the past eight months, he had sold off most of his furniture and rented the small studio, which now double as his office. Who would have thought that his knack for being a helpful neighbor and reliable chauffeur would become the heart of his business? But he was now an employer, rather than someone’s employee. Did Trish have any idea what she had done for him that day she reworked his resume and showed just how many skills he was taking for granted? He didn’t think she did.

Trish was pondering why she was not having second thoughts about being in Hunter’s apartment. She knew she was vulnerable after seeing her ex-husband’s body but she didn’t care. He was dead and she could no longer hide behind all the excuses she used over the years to keep men away. Even though Randy eventually stopped stalking her, she had let him control her from afar, never letting any man into her life.

Hunter had made it this far because he was persistent and made himself a valuable asset to the shelter. Without knowing when it happened, Trish couldn’t think of a day that didn’t include seeing or speaking to the man now waiting for her next move. Trish didn’t realize she was wringing her hands until Hunter grasped them softly… and not as if he were commanding her to stop but rather — as if he would join her if he could.

This was Hunter — always willing, always available, always able… always. Trish’s nerves showed in her hands so she tried to steady them before she spoke softly.

“Hunter, you deserve as much of me as you have given to me. You are a beautiful surprise and a wonderful addition into my life.” Trish knew that to be true… even as she fought feelings of inadequacy.

Times of grief were difficult enough to handle alone — if Hunter ever wanted an excuse to make a quick exit — this was prime time. Yet, here he was, comforting her while she seemed to grieve for a man who had brought immeasurable pain to her life.

“I was focused on the wrong thing. I was trying to choose rather than trust in God and have faith.” She paused, giving the next few words careful deliberation. “Hunter, I love you… and this isn’t vulnerability speaking to you — it’s… release,” she added. “I don’t need you to respond, I just need you to hold me. On this night, Hunter, please hold me.”

Hunter, in true Hunter fashion held her with an authority and passion she finally welcomed and with her head nestled into his muscular chest he rocked her softly and sang into her ear the lyrics of a Luther Vandross song –

”Let me hold you tight

If only for one night

Let me keep you near

To ease away your fear

It would be so nice

If only for one night”

He didn’t know if Trish had fallen asleep when he murmured into her hair — “One night is fine but I’d much rather… forever.”

……..

You could cut the tension between Grey and Bren with a knife. The flesh was very willing but Spirit was saying “Wait, do things in order and in the right time.”

Bren knew if Grey insisted, she would stay the night but he hadn’t. He created the fastest pasta surprise with a shrimp Creole sauce that made her swoon. He lightened up a very heavy evening with his favorite music tracks and the two spent the better part of an hour dancing.

Shortly before midnight he walked her to the door of her sister’s house with a soft kiss on the cheek and a promise to call her in the morning. Morning was too far away, Bren thought.

Mary J’s “Just Fine” playing on her cell jarred Bren from a dream starring Grey.

“Morning My Love,” she crooned into the phone.

“Morning Baby Sis. I want to know the man you expected to be calling you at this hour of the morning,” Hunter said, causing Bren to sit up straight.

“Oh my gosh. Sorry Hunter, I thought you were someone else.”

“Yes, I got that much. So I don’t need to ask how is the love life?” he replied with a smile in his voice.

“How is Trish? Is everything ok?” she asked, checking the time on her clock.

“No, Bren. I think this is a good time for her to take you up on that offer to come and visit,” he said. 

“Tell me,” Bren said, with less desperation than she actually felt…. Hunter, “Tell me.”

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