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Rated: 18+ · Serial · Adult · #939722
Lorraine gets unexpected visits from her "friends".
Chapter One

         She didn’t mind the games, but this was going too far.
         Lorraine Ravenshire knew that someone wanted her to guess his, or her, identity. That would explain the lack of a note in the bouquet of flowers she had received. She had no doubt that the sender knew her on a familiar basis. Only someone who knew her well would send her favorite flowers. She remembered every person who was aware of her love for pink carnations. Yet, she could imagine any of them whom would wish to remain anonymous. Of course she asked Gene Logan if he sent the flower. Since they fought a week ago, she took it for granted that her lover sent the flowers as a form of an apology. What she anticipated didn’t materialize. In fact, the exact opposite happened.
         Lorraine had understood Gene’s anger from the ongoing bouquet deliveries. She didn’t blame him at all. After all, Lorraine had received a bouquet once a day at her home or her office. But his reaction went further than mere disapproval. At one point during their argument, Gene was almost enraged. Yet, his aggression did not surprise her.
         It went without saying that the change in Gene’s behavior was one that Lorraine did not welcome. Week by week, his temper had shortened. Things that he didn’t give a second thought to now annoyed him. Lorraine noticed that the fights over petty subjects were occurring more frequent. She also noticed how that each passing arguments was more aggressive. The one even involved a shove from Gene. He apologized, but Lorraine etched that moment in her mind. Not knowing how he would react to the flowers, she didn’t want to face another confrontation with him. She felt it was time for them to take a break from each other. She hoped that the separation would give them time to sort their feelings for one another and clear their minds of any animosity they held.
         In the meantime, she would find out who was sending the carnations. She wanted to thank the person who had showered her with such gorgeous flowers. She promised herself she would never stop searching for her mystery admirer, but she had other matters to contend with at the same time. For instance, she needed to focus her attention to the matter at hand; driving into this restaurant parking lot without running down the valets.
         “Good morning Ms Ravenshire,” he said as he opened the door.
         “Good morning Eric,” she replied. She stepped out of her Jaguar XJ8 and faced him. “Busy morning?”
         “No more than any other day.”
         Lorraine was relieved since she was in no mood to wait for a table, even if only to sip a cup of coffee. As she walked into the Duet Restaurant, the valet got into Lorraine’s car and parked it in the lot. He had his reason for returning to the entrance in a hurry. On occasion, he had the fortune to receive another glimpse of Lorraine as she chatted with a friend of hers. If he had his way, Eric would do nothing but gaze at this beauty all day long. Luck was with Eric today. He managed to catch a little more than a glance as they passed each other at the steps.
         He moved to Los Angeles two years ago. If he knew that this city that held such luscious creatures like Lorraine, he would have packed a bag and moved as soon as he graduated from high school. Who knew that the community of Baldwin Hills had so many gorgeous rich black women like her? Who cared if she was older than he was? He was more than willing to be with any woman as lovely as her.
         She wore an olive green dress that draped her body to perfection. The dress had to have been made special for her. No off-the-rack dress could do Lorraine’s figure that much justice.
         Lorraine was an Amazon in a past life, Eric thought. How else could a man describe all those luscious curves? After seeing her, he became serious about a pursuit for older women. He was loosing interest in petite girls. He looked forward to the day when he had a woman her could hold onto with ease. Why not? Old men had been grabbing up young girls for years. With a little luck, he too, would run into one with money. Of course he considered Lorraine. Actually, a better way to describe his affection would be a fantasy. Eric didn’t believe Lorraine was out of his reach- not when she herself dated a man ten years her junior. At least, that was what he heard. He had yet to see her lover. Perhaps that was a sign that the couple was not that close. Yet, Eric refused to let his hopes get too high. He would never be more than a valet to her, he thought. Well, there was always the next life to look forward to.
* * *

         Hard as she tried, Lorraine couldn’t shake the sensation that she was being watched. Yet, she had no fear of who was gazing at her. Her only wish was for that person to come forward. The sound of footsteps brought her attention to the man who approached her table.
         “Lorraine?” a man’s voice said as her stood next to her.
         “Yes?” she responded.
         “Lorraine Ravenshire?”
         She stared at him for an instant. She noticed that he allowed her to gaze at him for more than what most people would allow without feeling uncomfortable. She tried to recall the last time she shared the company of this tall, husky ebony man. He wasn’t a business associate. Yet, his was a face she was very familiar with.“Oscar?” she said. Lorraine paused for a moment to ensure her of the answer. “Oscar Wilson!” she yelled
         “You do remember me,” Oscar replied.
         Although quick, the next moment was affectionate. Oscar lifted Lorraine out of her chair and wrapped his arms around her. She had no chance to return his warm, loving gesture until he released her. She touched the side of his face as she looked at him.
         A year has passed since they last spoke. Seeing him again brought back many memories. Most of them were good. Some of them were difficult. What was most peculiar was that most of them had to do with Oscar.
         “Please,” she said. “Sit down.”
         “As if you could stop me,” he replied.
         Oscar pulled up a chair and sat close to Lorraine. She signaled to the waiter to bring another menu to Oscar. He turned to her, while noticing the intense glare she had.
         “What?” he asked.
         “How did you know I was here?” she said.
         “I didn’t.”
         “So, it’s a coincidence that you’re here. Or, is it?”
         “You’re not the only one who eats here.”
         As they exchanged their delighted glances of their reunion, their minds shared the same thought. He was just as happy to see her as she was for him. Yet, she sensed his anticipation to focus this chat on matter. His idea for talk was not one she looked forward to discuss today. For that matter, she never wanted to hear about “him” for the rest of her life. Lorraine’s joyous gleam began to fade, and Oscar deduced the reason.
         “That look isn’t needed,” he said. “I haven’t been here long enough to upset you.”
         “No,” she replied in agreement. “I’m not upset.”
         “Have I offended you in anyway?”
         “You couldn’t do that if you tried.”
         “Then tell me. How did a year to go by without a phone call?”
         She frowned. Oscar was ready to chastise her, but not for lack of communication. Nor, was it the year’s void of contact. They shared a mutual “friend”- one whom Lorraine wanted to forget about. Avoiding the Oscar’s inevitable confrontation was impossible. So, Lorraine proceeded to her next, and only, option- evade the issue for as long as possible, or until she finished her cup of coffee.
         “Just because you two split up doesn’t mean we can’t talk,” Oscar said. “I mean, we’re still friends, right?”
         “Always,” Lorraine answered. She saw no reason why he would ask this question- already had the answer. Although separation had not affected their friendship, Oscar had a point he wanted to make, one that she had no desire to talk about. Lorraine wished he would speak his mind now. Anticipating his opinion, she was prepared to keep the topic of conversation succinct and concise.
         Oscar studied Lorraine as she stirred her cold coffee. He didn’t want to add to the anxiety she carried, but his message was important. Uncomfortable or not, he had to reach her. He had to make her understand what was most important in her life. He owed that to both of his friends. “Picking up the telephone and calling can be difficult,” he said. “You could’ve sent an e-mail. I can read, you know.
         He succeeded in bringing a small grin to her face.
         “I miss that,” she said.
         “What?” he asked.
         “Your sense of humor.”
         “You don’t have to miss it. We can still talk, even if you aren’t involved with him.”
         “It hurt too much. I had to break all ties to him.”
         “But that’s Philippe. You still haven’t explained why you won’t talk to me.”
         He waited for an answer as he looked at her. She remained silent as she continued to stir her coffee. She meant no disrespect. Yet, how could she continue to communicate with Oscar, knowing Philippe McIntyre was his best friend? Even now, Oscar reminded Lorraine of all the pain she endured from her affair with Philippe. She hoped that the passage of time would have healed her injured heart, but was wrong. She refused to endure anymore than this talk with Oscar about Philippe. His profound, continuous stare in her direction didn’t help matters either. Not wanting to confront him, she turned away.
         “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
         “You’re going to have to,” he answered.
         Oscar wasn’t the type of person to interfere in others’ affairs- unless it was very necessary. Even while Lorraine and Philippe drifted apart, Oscar remained silent. He reminisced over this affair’s demise. From now until the day he leaves this earth, Oscar would regret his lack of interference between Lorraine and Philippe until it was almost too late for his friend. He thought that he was doing enough by being there for his friend. He soon learned of the grave mistake this came to be.
         “It wasn’t easy for you,” Oscar said. “It wasn’t easy for him either. Do you have any idea what happened to Philippe when you left him?”
         “It wasn’t that serious,” Lorraine answered, almost mumbling. “Besides, you know how he over-reacts.”
         Oscar rubbed his temples with his thumb and second finger. He forgot about her stubbornness. He assured himself with the fact that in the end he would get through to her, but it would cost him a few grey hairs.
         Perhaps Philippe did over-reacted after they split up, but Oscar didn’t blame him. He wished he loved a woman as much as his friend loved Lorraine. Theirs was a relationship that was destined to last forever- or so he thought. Oscar did not expect Philippe to survive the break up. He remained neutral as Philippe transformed into a shadow of his former self. Not wanting to loose Philippe forever, Oscar finally intervened just long enough to save Philippe’s life. Pondering over the events again almost brought him to tears. He took Lorraine’s hand into his. He paused for a moment to recompose himself.
         “You haven’t forgotten,” he said as he stared direct into her eyes.
         “No I haven’t,” she answered. “But I didn’t see him after we separated. Did he bother to mention that to you?”
         She proclaimed her relief to the end of the relationship once before, but Oscar never believed her. Although she ended the affair, Lorraine was as devastated as her lover.
         “You don’t have to do this,” he said.
         She looked at him and wondered. Surprised by this new talent of mind reading, she’d enjoy it more if Oscar revealed what he referred to. She thought it to be fair for all parties concerned to reveal what she was thinking about.
         “You don’t have to put up a front for me,” he continued. “I’m not one of you’re your girlfriends who can’t keep her mouth shut. I’m not going to talk to anyone about the two of you. You should know that by now.”
         “This may be hard for you to believe,” she said, “but I wasn’t as traumatized as Philippe led you to believe. I have to admit it was a little difficult in the beginning, but I got past the pain.”
         She divulged only half of the story, Oscar thought. Lorraine’s misery happened before and after the couple parted company. Even if she refused to admit it, Oscar was sure her torment endured long after the break up. What else would explain her disappearance without a word to anyone?
         Oscar had stayed by his friend’s side as Philippe searched for Lorraine. Out of desperation, Philippe hired a private investigator to locate Lorraine. He waited two agonizing months before she was found- in Hawaii. Even after he arrived in Honolulu, she refused to disclose her reason for leaving. He tried everything to convince her to talk to him- pleading, demanding, even begging. Finally, she agreed to meet him at a café. Instead of an explanation she gave only three words- “it’s over Philippe”.
         She walked away from the table. He remained motionless. A dream or nightmare, but this can’t be happening to me, he thought. He prayed to be awakened to his life that was before she disappeared, but it wasn’t to be. He hoped for a retraction on her part, while she said that it was all a big mistake. That expectation diminished with each step that Lorraine took. He stayed at the café until closing time, but she didn’t return. Not wanting to force himself upon her, he made no further attempt to contact her. Instead, he had remained in his hotel room for three days. In his despair, Philippe packed his bags and returned to Baldwin Hills.
         “Philippe’s still in love with you,” Oscar said.
         “Oh is he?” Lorraine said with sarcasm.
         “This is serious. And don’t pretend not to love him. The dumbest thing you ever did was leaving him.”
         “Oh please. It’s not a big deal. We just grew apart and went out separate ways. It looks like Philippe had been feeding you a lot of stories.”
“He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. What I saw him go through after you two split up was more than enough for me.
         “After you disappeared, he became frantic. I was afraid he had lost him mind. It seemed as if he couldn’t get any worse when-” Oscar hesitated, almost reluctant to continue. “When he came back from Hawaii, he started wasting away.”
         She stopped stirring her coffee and moved it to the side. “Oscar,” she said, “you’re going to have to do better than this. You think that I’ll run back to him after you throw me this- bull? Well mister, it ain’t going to happen.”
         The battle had engaged, Oscar thought. Once Lorraine made up her mind, it was almost impossible to change it. Even Philippe had difficult in changing her inflexible mind. Oscar witnessed the tactic he used, and he was prepared to do the same. From now on, he promised retaliation to all of her denials of emotion no matter how minute it may seem. His success to persuade her depended upon his steadfast determination to remain as rigid as she until she conceded to this contest of wills.
         “You really have no idea of what happened,” he said.
         “I already know,” she answered in a sarcastic tone. “Perhaps you know more. Like, he got sick or something.”
         “No something. He became ill.”
         “I suppose now you’ll tell me he almost died.”
         Lorraine froze. His voice as well as his words stopped her from making another move. He never sounded as solemn as right now. Oscar was not the type to exaggerate, but Lorraine couldn’t take any chances.
         “If I didn’t know better,” she said. “I’d think that you are serious.”
         “Why would I lie about something like this?” he replied. “You know better than that. I never play with you, or Philippe, at least, not that kind of game. I know how close you two were. Have you even thought that your viewpoint has become clouded when it come to Philippe?”
         “I find it hard to believe that Philippe nearly died.”
         “How would you know? You haven’t seen him in two years.”
         Oscar had no intention of embarrassing Lorraine. Once she faced the love she still carried for Philippe and the tragic break up, he promised to lift the pressure off of her. He took both of her hand and cupped them into his. The anger she held made no difference to him. All that mattered was for her to learn of the other half of that affair’s conclusion.
         “After Philippe came back from Hawaii, he shut himself off from the world,” Oscar said. “He locked himself in his house and refused to leave. For days, I called on the phone and knocked on his door, but got no answer. I gave one last try a week later. For some reason, I’ll never know why, he opened the door…”
         “I can finish. I grabbed him and carried him to my car. We went to the hospital. I stayed there all night with him. Even the doctors weren’t sure if he would see the next dawn. He drifted in and out of consciousness for two days. During that time, he uttered one word- ‘Lorraine’”.
         To see Lorraine, one would think she had no care of what Oscar disclosed to her. Her face showed no emotion, but not from lack of concern. She was shocked of what happened to Philippe and the part she played in his misfortune.          She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was relieved that she was able to subdue the guilt that almost overwhelmed her. She refused to break down and cry inform of Oscar. She had to keep her composure, appearance, and pride in tact. For she was Lorraine Ravenshire, the woman who let nothing bring her down.
         “Philippe?” she said struggling to keep her voice from trembling. “Is he…”
         “Dead?” Oscar asked. “Does it make a difference?”
         “Of course it does. What do you take me for? I’m not made of stone.”
         “That’s hard to tell right now.”
         “We may not be together, but I do have feelings. I don’t wish any harm to come to him.”
         “That’s as far as your feelings go for him?”
         “For Philippe? I suppose. He’s still a friend of mine.”
         “He’s more than that. He belongs to you. He’s your Lorraine. He loved and adored you. He still does. Did you ever read Wuthering Heights?”
         “A long time ago. What’s your point?”
         “Heathcliff is not a fictional character. He’s alive and walking. His name isn’t Heathcliff anymore. It’s Philippe.”
         “Heathcliff is Philippe,” Lorraine echoed. He has gone too far this time, she thought. “It’s a sweet sentiment, but you’re getting too romantic.
         “Catherine was more than the love of Heathcliff’s life. She was his very being. He lived because of her. He loved and hated because of her. She was the reason that he existed. He didn’t care if the almighty himself sent him to hell forever. As long as she was by his side he would gladly go.”
         Lorraine’s statement carried no bearing on her case. Oscar stared at Lorraine, as if expecting her to be aware of his thoughts. When he realized that she was still clueless, he proceeded to enlighten her. “Congratulations,” he said. “You just gave a perfect description of Philippe.”
         Her eyes were closed as she shook her head. “You won’t give up, will you?” she said.
         “Not until you come to your senses,” he replied. “And I haven’t heard any disagreement from you either. Now, why is that? Philippe was right. The relationship became too intense for you.”
         Lorraine forced herself to laugh. “This had become too outrageous,” she said. “It’s nice that you want us to get back together, but this is too much. No one in his right mind will believe that a man can love a woman that much.”
         “Then why did you run away?”
         Her laughter ceased. Oscar had put forth questions which did more than annoy her. They touched the center of her being. She buried this part of her life, and she wished it to remain that way. The only she could continue with the rest of her life was to bury this part of her past and consider Philippe a person who no longer existed. “I don’t want to hear another word from you,” she said.
         “That’s fine by me,” he replied. “I’m not the one you should listen to anyway.” He pointed to her heart. “Pay attention to that. It agrees with me.”
         “It will say nothing and I’ll tell you why. My heart isn’t living in a fantasy world like you are. I’m in the present. You should do the same. I hate to be cruel, but we’re not getting back together Oscar.”
         She assumed that the feeling of someone watching her left when Oscar sat next to her. Yet, it came again. She frowned as she scanned the room, wondering if paranoia was the next demon to enter her life.
         “You all right?” Oscar asked.
         “I’m fine,” she answered. She looked at her cup of coffee. “I guess it’s time to cut down on this stuff.”
         He let the answer go without a response, but he didn’t believe her. He pushed her for enough answers and persuasion, and it was still morning. Throughout their conversation, Lorraine viewed the restaurant. She gazed at every table and the entrance every fifteen minutes. If she was waiting for a date, she should just say so, he thought. He couldn’t stop her from dating whomever she chose. He was willing to leave the table if that look of panic would leave her face. “I’m fine,” she said. “Really.”
         “If you say so,” he answered.
         “I do. And what about you? All this time we’ve sat here, we haven’t said a word about what you’re doing.”
         “What’s there to talk about?”
         “Like we both said, it’s been a year. Don’t sit there and tell me you’re not seeing anyone.”
         “I’ve gone out, but nothing serious.”
         “I’m supposed to believe that?”
         “Believe is or not, it’s the truth. I bet I can say the same for you.”
         I’ve dated since Philippe and I broke up.”
         “But no one serious, right?”
         Her silence confirmed his unanswered question. “Do me a favor,” he said.
         “Anything,” she replied.
         Promise me that you’ll think about Philippe and you. Trust me. You’ll see no other love in your life will come close to the one you have for him. You have no reason on earth to fear him or his love for you.”
         Lorraine threw her hands in the air as if conceding to a debate. Neither of them planned to back down from this meeting of the minds. Oscar did more than debate this issue with Lorraine. He campaigned for his friend with the attempt to defrost Lorraine’s ice cold heart. “I’ve never been afraid of Philippe,” Lorraine said.
         “I wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Oscar replied. “He’s very forward. Once he sees what he wants, he turns into a bull and goes after it. God help anyone who gets in his way.”
         “You see? Even you admit it. He’s overbearing. He over-compensates everything he does. How is a person supposed to live with that?”
         “Not everything. Only what’s most important to him. But, it’s not something he likes to do. Philippe regrets when he gets that way. He doesn’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late. You’ve seen that with your own eyes.”
         Oscar leaned towards Lorraine in anticipation of agreement of his statement. She sat without response, refusing to concede to his request. This wouldn’t last for long. Peace would not belong to her until there was a compromise now. So be it, she thought- as long as she ceased to talk about Philippe.
         “All right,” Lorraine said. “I’ll think about Philippe and myself. That’s all I will do.”
         Oscar smiled. “That will be more than enough,” he answered.
         He took her hand and held it with tenderness that one extends to a delicate flower. Lorraine wasn’t offended when Oscar kissed it but she was surprised. He’d give all that he possessed to know what her mind contemplated. She interpreted the gesture as a display of fondness to a good friend. She did wonder if he attempted to send a message. She glared at him with a look of indifference. To ponder the thought would waste time. Oscar wasn’t one to hold back his opinion any matter. If he had a motive, she’d find out in the near future.
         “Who’s on your mind?” Oscar asked.
         “I’m not thinking about anything,” Lorraine answered.
         “I didn’t ask what. I asked whom. You haven’t wished for Philippe to sit next to you? Don’t you prefer him to me?”
         “Is that the reason for the kiss on the hand?”
         “I did that because you’re a good friend, like I do with all the other ladies I know.”
{indent“You’ve made your point,” she said.
         “Have I?” he responded. “What point might that be?”
         “Are you giving quizzes now?”
         “Don’t need to. I just need my question answered.”
         “Whatever point you’re trying to make must have Philippe in the middle.”
         “You next to him.”
         She squinted at him. “Point taken,” she said.
         Oscar allowed Lorraine to withdraw her hand. “Finally,” he injected, “a step in the right direction.”
         “Oscar, please,” she responded. “I’ve handled enough of Philippe for one day."
         “You haven’t spoken to him today. How can you say that?”
         “My tolerance level for him is low.”
         She picked up a menu and pretended to look at the selections. She finished the conversation and refused to inject another word into it. He conceded to her action and followed suit.
         “I feel like eating a steak,” he said.
         “I wouldn’t know about the steak,” she said. “I usually have the fillet mignon.”
         Whether of not Oscar like it, Lorraine’s curt manner surfaced. He expected it to stay until the end of this meal. Yet, their meal would never be more pleasant as it was now.
         Oscar thought it strange how a man who stood next to the door stared at him with so much intensity. At least, that was his first impression. After shifting to the other side of the room, Oscar deduced the man had his sights focused on Lorraine. Oscar wondered if this man was the reason for her anxious behavior. Lorraine kept her eyes on the menu, unaware of her unknown admirer.
         “Do you know him?” Oscar asked.
         Lorraine her head from reading the menu. “Who are you talking about?” she asked.
         Oscar pointed in the man’s direction until Lorraine focused on who he was referring to. “Yes,” she answered. “But, I don’t know why he’s walking around the restaurant like that.”
         “Maybe he’s trying to spy on you.”
         “He shouldn’t. He has no reason to do that.”
         The man realized that both Lorraine and Oscar were aware of his presence. Knowing that he could no longer keep on his present path of course, he walked to the table.
         His name was Gene Logan. His appearance did fit into the restaurant’s atmosphere. He was neatly dressed and shaven. His clothing consisted of a navy blue woolen jacket and matching pants. For Oscar, that was the only trait of Gene’s that was appropriate for the present establishment. Anyone who behaved as this man did wasn’t wrapped too tight. He would hold off on a final decision of Gene’s movements. But Oscar would not allow his eyes to leave this man until he either he or the weird man left the restaurant
         “What’s going on here?” Gene asked.
         “Gene!” Lorraine replied. “It’s funny that we’re both here at the same time. We could’ve driven in the same car and saved gas. That’s not important, though. Since you’re here, I’d like you to meet an old friend of mine. Gene, this is-”
         “I don’t care who he is,’ Gene responded with rudeness.
         “I was simply introducing-”
         “I said I don’t want to know him!”
         This outrageous display had manifested for too long. Gene’s relationship to Lorraine didn’t’ matter now. She had been disrespected, and Oscar refused to allow this display to continue in front of him.
         “Lady?” Gene said as he laughed. “Slut would be a better description.”
         Lorraine and Oscar exchanged puzzled glances. Feeling embarrassed and shocked let her almost speechless. “You’re not making sense,” she said. “That’s not true, and you know it. Why did you say it Gene?”
         “Because that’s what you are. Look at yourself. The minute my back is turned, you’re running after the first man you see. How long before you’re in the bed with this one?”
         “You’re being rude to the lady,” Oscar said. “I strongly suggest that you apologize to her now.”
         “To her?” Gene said. “I have a better chance of being a lady that she does. I don’t care if you have a million dollars in clothes and cars. You’ll never be more than a slut to me. I bet this is the jerk who’s been sending the flowers.” Gene grabbed Lorraine and pulled her out of her chair. “You are coming with me,” he added.
         “Take you hands off of me!” she yelled. “I’m not going anywhere with you!” she struggled to break away from his grip, but failed. For the next few seconds, the world moved in slow motion for Lorraine. Even Oscar’s intervention seemed to take forever. He rushed to her, grabbed Gene’s arm and pulled her away from Gene. He stepped between Lorraine and Gene to prevent any further assaults to Lorraine.
         “Hey man!” Gene yelled. “What do you think you’re doing?”
         “It appears I should ask you the same question,” Oscar replied.
         “This is between Lorraine and me. It’s none of your business.”
         “The second you put your hands on the lady made it my business.”
         Gene studied Oscar’s build. He had no doubt that his new adversary participated in football as a linebacker at some point in his life. I have intelligence on my side, gene thought. He felt confident to assume that Oscar’s I.Q. was no higher than his shoe size.
         “Are you with this clown?’ he asked.
         Lorraine gazed at Oscar. He retuned the look with anticipation of an explanation of Gene and his aggressive behavior.
         “He is a good friend,” Lorraine answered. “We’ve know each other for many years. If you hadn’t interrupted me, you’d know that by now.”
         “That proves my point,” Gene replied. “You have you legs opened for any man you run into. You were five minutes from getting on your cell phone and calling for a hotel room.”
         Oscar moved closer to Gene. He required more than an enormous stature to intimidate me, Gene thought. Both stared dead into the others’ eyes as if standing off before a boxing match. “I don’t appreciate that you’re breathing in my face man,” Gene said with a gazing leer.
         “My breath is the least of your worries,” Oscar replied. “You will leave this restaurant now.”
         “You don’t own this place. You can’t force me to do anything.”
         “That is not an issue. I said leave. I will not repeat myself.”
         “You’re going to throw me out? You better get an army.”
         “Not necessary. I am the army.”
         Gene re-evaluated Oscar’s physique. Although covered by an Italian suit, the evidence stood before him that Oscar was a force to be reckoned with. He could land a couple of punches, if he were lucky. In the end, the battle would declare Oscar victorious and at a very high cost price to himself.
         “You’re not worth my time tramp.” Gene turned and walked out of the restaurant. Oscar’s eyes followed him until he vanished. This is wrong, Oscar thought. A man comes from out of nowhere, attacks Lorraine and simply walks away? Intolerable. No man on this earth held the right to raise his hand to a woman. To hold every man accountable of this horrid was impossible. However, Oscar made sure to protect his small corner of the world.
         Lorraine slumped into her chair. “I can’t believe that happened,” she said. Her shaking hand reached for a glass of water. She used both hands to bring the glass to her lips, preventing any possible embarrassment to herself.
         “Are you all right?” Oscar asked Lorraine.
         “Yes,” she answered. “Let me catch my breath.”
         Oscar’s view of the restaurant’s opening endured minutes after Gene’s departure. He succumbed to his furry and walked to the door. Lorraine’s attempt was almost a failed one- as she grabbed nothing but his jacket to stop him from going to the door.
         “Don’t Oscar,” she said. “He’s not worth it.”
         “I didn’t like the way her treated you. Are you sure you’re okay?”
         “I’m fine. He didn’t hurt me, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
         “Say, who was he?”
         For the first time she remembered, she did not possess an adequate answer to the question set before her.
         “Lorraine?” Oscar said. “You did know him. You called him by name. Gene, if I’m not mistaken.”
         “His name is Gene,” Lorraine replied, forcing her to confirm Oscar’s inquiry.
         I can’t say anymore, she thought. Lorraine forbade herself from any revelations to Oscar concerning her relationship to Gene. If Oscar made any demands her response would be that Gene and she were merely acquaintances. She recalled Oscar’s intolerance of abuse towards women. She thought it best to retrain from making any response about Gene. She did not want Oscar to construe any remark from her as a one in defense of Gene.
         “Don’t tell me you’re involved with him,” Oscar said.
         “Not anymore,” she replied.
         “Since when a second ago?”
         “Dear God, does, he have a job? He must be great in bed. I see nothing else he has going for him.”
         “That is enough!”
         “No it’s not. Lorraine, you’ve got to get away from him. A man who hits a woman will do it again.
         “He didn’t hit me.”
         “Only because I was here. If he tried anything again, call me, okay? Lorraine?”
         He placed a hand on each of Lorraine’s shoulders while he guided her into the chair. “You’ve got to get away from him.”
         “I can take care of myself.”
         “You’re a strong woman, but those weren’t fatty bumps on his arms Lorraine. Don’t five him the chance to put his hands on you, understand?”
         She was reluctant with answer. She loathed asking for help. She felt that in doing so, she exposed herself as a weak person. That opened her up to vulnerability- the most undesirable flaw she could possessed. A venerable person was opened to her enemies. She spent her life fighting to prevent this predicament from happening to her.
         Oscar reached inside his jacket and pulled out a business card. He gazed at Lorraine as he reached again for a pen. He scribbled on the card before passing it to her. “That’s my home number on the back,” he said. “You’re not living with him, are you?”
         “Not exactly,” she answered.
         “What’s that supposed to mean?”
         “He visits a lot.”
         “You let him do this to you before?”
         “I don’t let any man hurt me. Even you know that.”
“I know it’s not my business, but you need to get away from him. You have everything going for you. There’s no reason on this earth for you to tolerate that kind of behavior. And…one more thing.”
         “Something else to think about?”
         Oscar held Lorraine’s chin. He looked straight into her eyes so he had her undivided attention.
         “Philippe would kill himself before ever raising a hand to you.”

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