Solid Ground

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Chapter 12

Simone’s Jerk Chicken

8oz onions, quartered

1-1½ scotch bonnet or other chillis according to taste, halved and seeded

2oz root ginger, peeled and chopped roughly

½ tsp ground allspice

Small bunch fresh thyme, leaves only

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4fl oz white wine vinegar

4fl oz dark soy sauce

1 lime freshly squeezed

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Pour over your chicken and allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. *** Chicken must be thoroughly cooked to avoid the risk of salmonella. When cooking on a barbeque, it is advisable to pre-cook in the oven until done then finish off on the grill for that charcoal flavor.

Jill looked out across the Jackson’s packed backyard. When she and Simone had discussed a small get together for the unit, this was not what she had expected. Music was blaring from the speakers next to the back door. The sizeable built-in barbeque pit was blazing, the smell of Simone’s jerk chicken tickled her nose. Everyone from the chapel plus a few more crammed into the yard, the house, and pouring out onto the street. Thankfully, they did not have to worry about the neighbors complaining since most of them were at the party.

Althea, Jess, and a dozen other teens squeezed into the decent sized above ground pool, but it was still a tight fit. The teen had flatly refused to participate in the wedding, choosing instead to sit sulking on the front row. And that was only under duress, her father threatening to ground her for a month. No soccer. No television. It was not until he had said no internet that she had acceded. But the moment the brief service was over, she had made her escape to hide in her room, her head bent over the computer as usual.

Jill remembered well how upset her youngest son had gotten when she began dating again three years ago. Of course, Darren happened to be right, at least about her choice in men. She sighed and brought the glass of wine to her lips. She had long since lost count of them, but she would worry about hangovers later.

The words to the old song, ‘it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to,’ kept racing through her mind. And Jill did feel like crying. After her little run-in with Daniel in the laundry room, her deepest fears had been realized. She had lain awake until the sun began to rise, staring at the ceiling, counting, and re-counting every doubt she had. She had weighed them all carefully on the scales of life against the love she already felt for Bel, Ashley, Britney, and even Jess. And despite it all, she decided not to run.

Of course, that would have been bad enough, but just as the dawn was approaching and the hour was decent enough for her to get out of bed and begin the day, her wedding day, she had finally fallen asleep. Even then, it was filled with turbulent dreams. David was smiling as he rose from the surf that first day. Shaking his dark curls and flinging water about as he and his mates laughed. Daniel’s brown waves rumpled and his eyes dreamy as he stood in the kitchen doorway wearing nothing but those damned white boxers.

It only got worse from there. Taunts and jeers. ‘Fat, obnoxious slut.’ ‘Old and worn out.’ ‘No man could ever really want you.’ The words had rung in her ears until Simone had woken her late for the big event.

If that was not bad enough, the kiss that she had spent the whole morning worried about, as Simone and a couple of the other wives got her dressed, did her hair, and make-up, had turned out to be anti-climactic, to say the least. After the flames that had flared between them in the laundry room, Jill had not known what to expect, but it certainly was not the brief and formal brush of Daniel’s lips across hers. Signing the papers on a new car was more exciting than that kiss.

The kiss had only served to confirm Jill’s worst fears. After her wanton behavior the night before, Daniel was having second thoughts about the whole thing. Hell, if he did not need a nanny so damned bad, he would have probably run from the church as fast as he could. And Jill could not blame him.

The sarong wrap that she wore tied between her breasts hid well the one-piece swimsuit that was the official attire for this pool party, barbeque, and wedding reception. Jill was thankful to have the wrap. Its folds encompassed an array of sins; cellulite covered thighs and a not so flat tummy, just to name a couple.

Of course, the assortment of beautiful younger women around her served only to fuel her insecurities and her drinking. The only good thing was the bright floral swimsuit that Simone, in all her ‘big beautiful women’ glory, was parading around in. She envied the woman’s confidence and acceptance of her body shape. She craved, too, the way that Samuel seemed to adore every single inch of his wife’s character.

Jill looked around the yard once more. It had been so many years since she had done headcounts as she called them with her sons. Once her third son was born, it had been merely easier to count heads at the parks than to call to each boy individually.

She noticed that Jess was still safely staring daggers at her from the pool. Bel and a couple of other girls around her age were on the screened-in back porch. Their Barbie and Ken dolls dressed in wedding finery. Bel herself was still dressed in her prettiest pink dress. It was a present from a fancy shop in New York, she had boasted to Jill as they arranged her blond curls on top of her head. ‘Only the finest,’ her Grandma Janice said for her girls. After the wedding, Daniel had tried to coax the child to change into her swimsuit and shorts like her sisters, but Bel insisted that her dress was ‘a-pro-pri-ate’ for the party as well as the wedding. In the end, both he and Jill had caved into the child’s ‘cute face’ as she called it.

Ashley and Britney were in the small wading pool that one of the wives had insisted the guys bring over for the event. There were four or five young mothers, who were much soberer than she was at the moment, watching over a half a dozen toddlers.

That left only Daniel unaccounted for. Her husband, she thought as she drained the glass and headed off to the bar that Simone and Samuel had set up opposite the barbeque bit. Jill knew that if she concentrated very hard, she could make it the fifteen or twenty feet from her plastic chair near the back door to the bar without stumbling or weaving or doing anything else that might embarrass herself or Daniel.

Of course, that was not counting on the five or six young boys that came barreling along out of nowhere, water guns blazing. One of them, who could not have been more than seven or eight, ran straight into her. Any other time, the impact would have barely been felt. But with that many glasses of wine in her, it was a recipe for disaster. She felt herself toddle and began to fall forward.

Until a pair of strong arms wrapped about her waist from out of nowhere, Jill righted herself and shook her head, ready to make her apologies. When she looked up, it was into the hazy blue eyes of the person she had been looking for, the one person she was trying hardest to avoid this night.

“Daniel,” she whispered. She battled to keep her hands at her side. Not to give in to temptation and reach up to caress his freshly shaven face. Her breath caught at the pure male beauty of him. If she had found him handsome beneath the layers of facial hair, this clean-shaven version of a Naval Commander was like a sucker punch to the gut, knocking the wind from her. While his hands about her waist steadied her, they were also a painful reminder of the night before. The kiss. The real one.

“You alright?” he asked.

Jill could do nothing more than nod. Whether it was the wine warming her blood, or the dreams, or the man himself, she did not know, but she swore that her skin beneath his hands was blistering from the heat. Holding up her empty glass, she purred, “Just getting another glass of wine.”

Daniel took the glass from her fingers. “You sure that’s a good idea, sweetheart?”

His casual use of the term brought anger bubbling up inside her gut. After that weak excuse for a kiss in front of everyone. Then hours spent avoiding her at the party; she was in no mood for his patronizing. “What do you care? Go, find your buddies again. I’m just fine,” she said, trying to pull out of his grasp, but he refused to let go of her now that he had found her, it seemed. The wine had loosened the sharp tongue, that a quarter of a century of British reserve had taught her to curb. Turning to him, she whispered, “What? Is it time to pretend to be a ‘real’ couple for our company, commander?”

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