Philippe refuses to take no for an answer.
"Afraid? Me? You have truly lost your mind."
From the moment he entered Lorraine's home, Philippe kept his eyes on her. He gazed at every part of her body. No matter what words she uttered from her lips, her body's movements revealed what her mind truly thought. He doubted that Lorraine felt any love for her present lover. His suspicion was validated with every breath she took. Everything she did declared all of the emotions, desires, and love that she still carried for him. Lorraine's level of discomfort had been high during the entire evening. Even the guilt derived when she ended the relationship began to surface as well. The intensity Lorraine experienced in their relationship was second to none
Lorraine allowed Philippe and his love to dominate her after their reunion in Baldwin Hills. While she was with him, nothing else mattered. Without a second thought, she placed her life in his hands. He was the only man she ever surrendered her entire self to. She didn't care what direction the affair traveled. She lived for their wild episodes of bona fide passion and lust. A lifetime of this was a state of bliss Lorraine welcomed with open arms.
As deep as Lorraine's love for him was, Philippe's went further for her. Bad or good, he adored every aspect of her. Simple daily activities became impossible to perform unless he was in daily contact with her. Several of his friends declared Philippe's so-called love to be an obsession. He consulted a psychologist to find out if his emotions were unnatural. "If my ex-husband loved me that much," the therapist declared, "I'd still be married. Your companion is a lucky woman, and the envy of the rest of the female population. However, you may want to think about coming to me again. I think you may want to discuss your temper with someone."
He left the office more relieved than he had felt in a week. However, he wondered why his temper needed attention. In his eyes, he was calm during the entire session. If it was a problem, it wasn't serious enough to visit a psychologist. He had made a mental note to ask Oscar one day.
"You have no idea what I desire," Lorraine replied. "When are you going to realize that we will never get back together? I can't believe how arrogant you have become. How did I even get involved with you in the first place?"
"The act is wearing thin."
"You need to face the fact that Gene and I are in love."
"Love? What does that- bum know about love? Does he know what you're feeling, like I do? Does he know that your favorite flower- is a pink carnation?"
Her face went blank. What an odd statement, she thought. Yet, he gazed at her with anticipation of an expected response. He received it as her insight came to her. "You!" she said. "You're the one who's been sending all those flowers!"
"Of course. Who else would remember besides me? By the way, who is sitting on your front lawn?"
A wave of panic entered Lorraine's body. How could he get out of jail so fast, she wondered. She doubted his ability to post bail for himself. She couldn't imagine who would come forward to get him out either. She ran to her window and peered through the curtains but saw no one outside. Surprised, and relieved, Lorraine turned to Philippe. "He isn't outside," she said. "Why did you say that?"
"I was curious about what you would do. Plus, I had a couple of other questions. It's nice that you answered all of them. That was very gracious of you. I'm delighted to know that you're alone in the house. I wouldn't want someone to walk in on us. I remember how bashful you are when you are seen in a passionate embrace."
He continued to smile over his recently obtained victory. Her reaction allowed him to conclude that she no longer wanted Gene in the house. He couldn't recall the last time she displayed so much fear from the thought a person's presence. At least, he had the satisfaction of knowing that Lorraine and Gene's last encounter ended on bad terms. Any possibility of competition for Philippe was diminishing by the minute. "I want you to stop playing the charade of Gene and you as lovers," he said.
"It's not a charade," she responded. "He's gone for the day. He'll be back in the morning."
"Okay, that's it. I've had enough of the masquerade."
In one abrupt move, Philippe opened the door, and crossed the hall to the guest bedroom. Startled by his reaction, Lorraine stood for a moment before she followed him. As long as Lorraine used Gene as a barrier between Philippe and she, there was no chance to rekindle their long term affair. As he entered the room, he made one goal for himself- to eliminate any evidence of Gene from this house, and Lorraine's mind.
"Philippe!" she called to him. She entered her guest bedroom to see him moving in a frenzied state. He opened and closed drawers. He looked over every inch of the walk-in closet. She was appalled that he dared to move through her house in search of an object he had no right to find. Without a response to her call, he departed from the room and headed for the stairs. Lorraine continued to demand an answer to Philippe's hunt. "I won't allow this to continue in my house!" she yelled as she followed Philippe up the stairs. "Stop!" she said. "You can't go through my home as if you live here!"
Philippe pushed the door open to a second, larger bedroom. He repeated the same process of slamming drawers and doors. As sudden as his investigation started, he did likewise to completing his task.
"This is my bedroom!" she said. "How dare you invade my property this way. Are you crazy?"
"No my dear," he answered, almost out of breath. "I can assure you that I am quite sane. As I said before, I have grown weary of your games. So, I put a stop to them."
"What do you mean?"
"I have gone through two bedrooms. Funny, I see no signs of a man living here. I'm sure that going through the rest of your house will prove the same results. You kicked him out, didn't you? Well?"
She looked towards the door, but relinquished her present option. She already attempted to run for the door and with embarrassing results. Philippe's confrontation was upon her, and with it, the pressure that accompanied such a conversation.
Her struggle within herself commenced as well. The last thing she wanted was to cry in front of him. Yet, she could not halt the tears from filling her eyes. "He's gone," she said in a humble voice.
She held her breath and covered her mouth with the back of her hand. A hard as she tried, she couldn't stop her tears. "Please," she begged. "You have to leave. You made your point. There's no reason for you to stay now."
While pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, Philippe walked to Lorraine. He turned her around before wiping her face while she stifled her weeping.
"Pity," he said. "All of those tears wasted on that moocher."
"That's not nice," she said. "You shouldn't call him-"
"You're not defending him?"
"It's not that at all. It's the opposite. You don't know what happened today. I- I-"
She bent her head in shame. She never wanted anyone, least of all Philippe, to see her in this condition. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop her sobbing. She covered her face with her hands, ashamed of the weakness she displayed in front of him. Yet, Philippe wanted nothing more that to extend comfort to her. However, now wasn't the right time. He knew that holding her now would only increase her humiliation. Lorraine needed to pull herself together on her own and regain her pride.
"You must go now," she said as she finished wiping her eyes.
"No," he responded.
"I told you, I came here for a reason this evening. I won't leave until I accomplished what I set out to do."
He would give anything to erase her shame. It didn't matter to him that she cried. More than anyone, he understood her desire for the image of strong black woman who needed no one, but, it wasn't needed now. They were alone. She didn't need to endure the superwoman ideal in front of him. He recalled the last time she fell ill with the flu. He stayed with her from the time he drove her to the emergency room until she returned to work at her salon two weeks later. He summoned his butler to deliver clothing to Lorraine's home to last the duration of her illness. He now wished that same woman would appear to him. "I'm here to give you what you need the most," he added.
"What is that?" she asked.
"Me. There's nothing you want more than having me in your life to care and protect you."
"I'll agree that you were kind to me when we were friends."
"We past friendship twenty-five years ago. The only reason we aren't married now is your parents forced you into that dead-end marriage."
"You know I'm right. Your pride is holding you back. Leaning on me for support shouldn't be an issue now. Forget what the world thinks. All that matters is that you and I are together." He held her shoulders with his hands. She was sure her heart stopped beating. God only knew what he would do now. "Give yourself to me," he said.
Her movement was abrupt as she backed away from him. "Maybe we had something going on two years ago," she said, "but that's over. If you want to stay in the past, that's your choice. Don't expect me to be a reminiscent as you."
Philippe had seen Lorraine in fear more than once. Yet, she never displayed fright to this magnitude. This went past his unannounced visit to her home. He loathed the task that lay in front of him. He was convinced that balancing the state budget was an easier job than getting her to talk about what troubled her. He took her hand in his. "Something is bothering you," he said. "Please, talk to me."
"There's nothing to say," she replied as she pulled away.
"There's plenty. And it's killing you." He's out to get her again, she thought. This time, she held onto his hand, making a point not to look into his eyes. "Are you afraid of me?" he asked. "Was it something I did?"
"This isn't about you."
"Then why? Why did you leave me?"
Lorraine tried to pull her hand back. He tightened his hold. "Not anymore," he said. "I won't let you go."
"Please," she said, begging to him. "We can talk about this at another time. Let me go. Let me be alone."
He continued a firm hold, yet, her hand shook in his. "You trusted me before now," said. "Do it now. Tell me what's wrong."
"I- I- can't," she said, shaking her head.
He held both of her hands now. He moved his hands around her waist and pulled her closer to him. He felt his shoulder becoming damp. Her body was stiff, but it didn't remain that way. As the tears decreased, so did the stress and tension in Lorraine's body. Confident she would not try to run again, he released her.
"You're taking advantage of me," she said.
"I'll take advantage of anything to get you back," he replied.
"I can't do this, I'm too-"
"Yes! I am. I hate feeling this way. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
At last, the honesty he sought from her began to surface. She needed a man to lean on- one who was exceptional in every aspect. Hearing her declaration was more than he dreamed to receive this evening.
"That is exactly what I wanted," he said smiling at her.
"So, you approve. You realize you're going through a lot to get me in bed with you."
Her remark compelled him to lean back. She couldn't be serious, he thought. His physical yearning for her was strong, yet, he wanted more. He came to reclaim all of her: body, mind, and soul. "You're confusing me with your former lover," he said in a hostile tone.
"All right," she said. "There's no reason to get upset."
She took a step back. She had no desire to leave, but she wished to have space between them. Philippe had tired of Lorraine's wish for something that was of no good to their love. He pulled her to him. He gripped her waist with one hand, and the side of her face with the other. His hold was firm, yet gentle, as if he intended to dance with her. "Please let me go," she asked.
"No," he replied. "Look at me."
"You're scaring me," she said.
"Our love scares you. That's been the main problem all along. That won't happen anymore. Tonight, you're going to start facing your demons."
This situation was improving by the minute. He had the love of his life in his arms while standing in her master bedroom. The best part was she no longer struggled to get away from him. Her shaking subsided. In its place came an increase of heavy breathing.
"What are you trying to do to me?" she asked. "Hasn't it occurred to you that Gene is on my mind?"
"If so," he answered, "he's a passing thought. He's in your mind, but I'm in your heart. When I'm finished, you will think of no man but me."
"What are you going to do, brainwash me?"
"Cut the sarcasm. I don't need to use force. I have much more enjoyable means of persuasion."
Philippe moved his face as close as possible to Lorraine's. With his mouth slightly opened, she felt his warm breath as he moved his lips along her cheek. Her entire body tingled as he overwhelmed her neck with an abundance of soft, moist kisses. "Isn't this more pleasant than fighting?" he said.
"Yes," she answered in a voice just above a whisper.
"Now, tell me what I came to hear."
"You know what I want. Just say it."
Their confrontation had ceased. Lorraine considered this to be a moment of weakness. For Philippe, it was one of triumph. He managed to persuade her to let her guard down. He was unsure if this was a permanent state, and he knew better than to take anything for granted. "You want my love," he said. "Tell me you want me."
Any denial of her love for him would be disregarded. She feared a heart attack if her heart rate increased any faster. The gentle hold he had began to tighten. Lorraine was sure that Philippe would suffocate her, but she didn't care. It was what her body yearned for. So entranced by his presence, she didn't realize she was clinging to him as if holding on for her own life. She wished to stay this way forever. She had not noticed that she parted her lips to breathe easier. However, he did, and he took absolute advantage with a very long, wet kiss.
As sudden and quick as he started, Philippe stopped kissing Lorraine. "Tell me," he said in a deep, low voice, "did that bum ever kiss you like that?"
"No," she answered.
"I didn't think so."
He released his hold on her. Startled by his abrupt end to their romantic endeavor, she opened her eyes to see him near the door.
"Where are you going?' she asked.
"I'm leaving," he answered.
"You've got a lot of nerve mister."
Philippe laughed. It had been awhile since he aggravated her. She was angered by his mind games, and refused to stand for it. She was quick to voice her opinion of the situation. "You can't possibly leave-"
"Make up your mind," he said, still grinning. "Twenty minutes ago you told me to leave. Now you want me to stay. It would appear that my kiss had more power than I gave it credit for. Or is giving you other ideas?"
He walked to her bed and laid on it. He crossed his arms and gazed at her. "Well?" he asked.
"You want something?" she said.
"Let's not pretend. I'm a man. You're a woman. Need we say anything else?" He stretched his arms forward as if reaching for her. She wished he didn't have so much fun at her expense.
"Really Philippe," she said. "You can act like an adolescent at the wrong time."
"Come on. Where's your sense of humor?"
Lorraine squinted her eyes at Philippe. She had no desire for his wit. "I find nothing amusing in what you're doing."
"That's a shame."
He stood up and straightened his clothing. "I do owe you're an apology," he said as he brushed his pants. "It was bad timing on my part. I should've called first."
"Or...left a note with one of the bouquets."
He walked to her and kissed her on the cheek. "Good night, beloved."
Philippe headed for the door again. As angry as Lorraine was, she didn't want him to leave under these conditions. She wasn't ready to share a bed with another man so soon after Gene, but she didn't want to be abandoned either. "Do you have to go?" she asked.
He stopped in the doorframe and returned to her. He smiled, took her hand, and led her out of the room. "You're lacking in faith," he said. They both left the room and walked downstairs. As long as he stayed for the evening, she didn't care which room they were in.
Without a word between them, they entered the living room and sat on the sofa. He put his arms around her. For the first time, in a long time, Lorraine felt safe and protected. She wished she could stay this way for the rest of her life.
"Stay for awhile," she asked.
"Of course," he replied. "You thought I would leave?"
"You walked to the bedroom door. Not once, but twice. What else am I supposed to think?"
"I had to know if you still loved me."
She moved out of his arms and sat forward. She was relieved that his visit was not for a mere tease of her emotions. However, Lorraine did not approve of her love being put on trial, either.
"So," she said, "what's the verdict?"
He pulled her back against the sofa and pulled her closer to him. "We are not going to waste time discussing established facts," he answered.
Lorraine's stare towards Philippe was the longest since she opened the front door. She placed her hand on his cheek as she continued her glaring at him.
"I wondered if you noticed," he said.
"I am a very observant person," she replied.
"Do you like it?"
"I'm not sure. It's different, for sure. The gray is a nice touch. I would need time to get used to your beard."
"Take all the time in the world. The women at my office think it makes me look more sophisticated."
She frowned. "I'm not interested in the opinions of your secretaries."
"Of course not," he said with sarcasm. "You don't give a care what any female feels about me. Even if she finds me very attractive, that doesn't bother you."
Not at all."
"Then explain yourself."
She succeeded in locating the focus of his attention. By then, it was too late- he noticed that she tapped her finger on the side of the sofa. He grinned when she ceased her movement. "Don't worry," he said. "I belong to you. Besides, I think it's sweet that you're jealous. But, you don't have to be. You're the only one I want to be with. They don't mean anything to me." He brought her hand to his lips. "You should know that by now."
Philippe felt Lorraine's hand relaxing in his. He was sure the rest of her body followed this condition. The circumstances to allow him access to Lorraine's honesty were manifesting before his presence. He wrapped his arm around her and eased both of them back into the sofa. "Now," he said, "tell me you aren't in love with me."
"Why are you pushing so hard?" she asked. "You can't expect me to fall into your arms after a long separation."
"And that is exactly where you are."
Once again, Lorraine felt Philippe's lips brushing against her neck. Her body remained relaxed as her heart raced- driven by the desire that Philippe aroused in her. "What's for dinner?' he asked between embraces.
"I've had dinner already," she answered.
"But I didn't eat. You wouldn't send me away cold and hungry?"
"You're neither of those things," she answered.
"All right. Maybe I'm not chilly, but I was looking forward to a light meal. Basia was a good cook from what I remember."
"As I said before, Basia isn't here tonight. If you're that hungry, there are leftovers in the refrigerator. If you want, we can talk and catch up on the past two years."
He stood up and took her hand into his. Both left the room and proceeded to the kitchen. "I don't care about the past," he said. "I'm only interested in where I am and- whom I'm with right now."