Chapter Ten: Secrets
I heard a noise in the middle of the night, not quite a month after my eighteenth birthday party. It had awakened me in my bed. It was late, on a Saturday; I knew this because I myself had come home late, after an exceptionally good date with Myra.
Now, it was a few hours later.
I glanced out windows of my room, facing the side of the house where the noises had originated, and saw nothing but darkness. I lay there, silent, waiting to see if I’d hear anything further.
I didn’t have to wait long.
A high-pitched squeal came out of the night, followed by a deeper, huskier laugh. Both had come from the side yard, most likely the deck. It was man and a woman, stumbling, laughing, on the ground floor right outside my windows. I frowned. There shouldn’t have been anyone lurking about. My mom and my siblings had left for Corona to spend the weekend with my mother’s side of the family. My father told me when he awoke me for school on Friday that he wouldn’t be around either. Something about a company retreat to Mandalay Beach. This was a Hotel and Spa on the coast, west of Oxnard, California. It was a place his company went for quarterly meetings, but he’d never gone at this time of the year in the past.
I knew he was talking bullshit again. I knew the only retreat he was going to visit was the one between Roxanna’s legs. But, after the conversation with my mom at the beginning of the month, it didn’t bother like it would’ve before. Instead, I felt sorry and disgusted of him at the same time. Though he had worked hard to get himself where he was in life from a professional standpoint, he was a pathetic failure when it came to his personal existence. The way he conducted himself on a daily basis was crass. And, so was his dalliance with this other woman.
I could say it had something to do with my love for Myra. Maybe I was so wrapped up in our relationship at the time that the idea of cheating was abhorrent. Though Myra and I have had a good marriage, it isn’t perfect. It’s just like the thousands of others out there in the world. We’re human. We have human needs, desires and moods. Sometimes, in the past, we’ve been out of sync. There have been times when one of us has flirted with the idea of being with someone else.
And, let me say this, it’s not about time vested or children involved. It’s about knowing the moment, understanding what the other is going through, unearthing resentment and finding it false. It is a journey, a long, winding, curling journey. Some people don’t have the fortitude to deal with it. Some folks don’t look at marriage in the same fashion. Maybe to them it’s a status symbol or a corporate merging.
When I look back, twenty-twenty being operative, I know my inability to understand what my father was doing was grounded on the basic incongruity of our minds. The thought of him being with that other woman made me writhe, made my skin crawl. I know I asked myself many times, how could he look at his reflection in the mirror and not be appalled by his own behavior.
The answer is always fast upon the heels of that question. He didn’t give a damn one way or another. He wasn’t a sharp enough intellect to peruse such metaphysical musings. Those thoughts just didn’t elude him. They were virtually invisible to him. He had no capacity to think on that level.
But, that still didn’t reveal who was outside…
I crept from my bed, tip-toeing to the window sill. I remember I shivered violently, because I’d forgotten to turn up the thermostat. The downstairs gauge was something my mom had always monitored. It not being a regular part of my routine, caused it to slip my mind. I had gone to bed, and all the while the air within the house had chilled.
I had just pushed those thoughts from my mind when I saw them. Only it wasn’t a man and a woman, it was a woman and two men. Who in the f-, had been on the tip of my tongue, but I didn’t vocalize it, because I suddenly recognized my father as one of the party down below. That focused me immediately. I craned my neck, turned my head, trying, from my limited vantage to see more.
The woman turned and said something to the other man. He replied. She laughed, her hand coming to her neck as she tilted her head back with mirth. There was no mistaking her. It was Roxanna.
If there was an animal in the entire animal kingdom she resembled, it would be a raven. Everything about her was dark – her eyes, her hair, the cast of her face, her demeanor – all of it. She was a couple of inches shorter than me, making her an inch taller than my dad. She was big breasted and wide-hipped, what men would’ve termed ripe for mating back in the Renaissance. My father’s generation would’ve called her voluptuous. To me, she was the epitome of what Kool and the Gang would’ve said about a woman like her. She was a “Brick House”. She had pouting lips and big eyes, a broad forehead framed with big, looping curls of the deepest obsidian. She was wearing a leotard of some sort, skin-tight, as black as the night with four-inch heels, also black, though the soles were bright red. She had an elastic or spandex-type belt around her, which was purely cosmetic. She was using it to amplify the inches between her hips, her waist and her breasts. I could see that spongy flesh from where I stood. The leotard was cut with a plunging neckline, rounded along the upper edge of her bra, leaving very little to the imagination.
Of her ancestry, I never had the time to find out. She looked Cubana, only she was of lighter persuasion, so it was difficult to pinpoint the wellspring of her genetics.
I could see why my father had a thing for her. Watching her that night it wasn’t too difficult to see what kind of woman she was. She was what we High-Schooler’s would call a “freak”, and that didn’t merely translate to the bedroom. Although, it did imply she knew what she was doing there too. No, a “freak” was also a party-animal, someone hip to the latest scene, a mild drug-user, who chased the wilder side of life. A “freak” only comes out at night…
I could tell as much as I watched her long neck arch, her long nails rake down her chest toward her big tits, while she laughed.
She was “a freak… with long, long hair…”
But what in hell was she doing here? Why had my stupid-ass father brought her to my mother’s house? Didn’t he know I hadn’t gone to Corona? I told the idiot I’d stayed behind, because Myra and I had plans. I didn’t say our plans included going to Planned Parenthood to arm ourselves with a little knowledge about safe sex, but shit, I’d told him I’d be around. Why was he bringing his fuck-slut to our house?
To this day, I really don’t know why this angered me as much as it did. Here I was, newly eighteen, a young buck, and yet the idea he’d brought a woman (in my mind) as low and debased as her into our house pissed me off. This was my mom’s domain. This was Mrs. Gates sanctum. This place was special. Why would he soil it with her presence?
Because, lame-o, he doesn’t see things the way the rest of the world sees things. Don’t you remember, the sun revolves around him…?
Oh, yeah, stupid me, there was no Copernicus in his universe.
I scurried back to the edge of my bed, feet searching for my slippers. I walked quickly, but quietly out of the room and down the hall once I’d found them. I was wearing old sweats and t-shirt. I stood at the top of the stairs and probably would’ve ventured no further, if I hadn’t heard something fall and break. I heard all three of them giggle, stumble some more. They were drunk, possibly wasted on something else too.
The fuckers were messing up my mother’s house!
Of their own volition, my feet moved me down to the first floor, through the back porch and the kitchen before I realized what I was doing. I stood there, leaning around the hutch, my neck stretched to the fullest, my eyes straining to see through the dark.
I heard them closing the sliding glass doors, the unique clicks made when the locks engaged were unmistakable. They were in the Master Suite. They were in the same room where my mother slept at night, sometimes with Eli. How freakin’ gross was that?
I edged my way to the door leading to the small hallway. It was halfway opened already, so I could use the crack at the end closest to the door jamb to see through. It hampered a wide-angled view, but, to my detriment, it turned out I didn’t need one.
My eyes focused to the brightness of the room as they turned on the two bedside lamps. It was obvious, my father had forgotten I was there. There was absolutely no modesty in evidence.
The man with them was black, about five-foot-eleven with close cropped hair and chiseled features. He was built as if he visited the gym a on a regular basis. Between his weight and his height he was at least twice the size of my dad. He was clad in a navy-colored, pin-striped suit without a shirt. Though I couldn’t see what sort of shoes he wore, because the bed was blocking my view from the top of his knees down, I could see he had on a thin, Louis Viton belt about his waist, what looked like a Dunn Hill watch on his wrist.
He had money. I could tell by the way he held himself, they casual way with which he wore his expensive clothing.
“Strip, both of you, now!”
Her voice surprised me. It sounded so different than it had only moments before. I knew my face betrayed bewilderment as I blinked, my vision shifting toward Roxanna when they reopened. I hadn’t been paying attention to her, and was shocked to see she’d shed her leotard. She was standing on this side of the bed in nothing but a G-string. Her feet were bare, her skin honey-hued. Her hair was fixed in a bun as if she didn’t want it to get in the way. She held some sort of riding crop in one hand, the kind with a two-inch folded strip of leather at the end. I could just make out one of her full breasts. She had areoles as dark as her hair, her nipples constricted, rigid, as if she was cold. I knew she wasn’t though. This was a reaction to a different sort of stimulus.
Repulsed, but unable to look away, I watched as my father took off his clothing alongside the hulking black man.
What the fuck is this shit? I asked the silence in my brain. There was no reply. I was utterly dumbfounded.
Within a minute both men were naked. The black man was limp, but still long against one of his legs. My dad was a whole other sort of visual.
My mouth went dry. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what I should think. This was what he chose over my mom? My mother was gorgeous. What the heck was this idiot thinking? Some sort of sick ménage-a-trois was better, really? This was better? This is what got him off? This was better than us? This was something to choose at the chance he’d lose me and Valerie and Eli, because of it?
Who was this man? Who was this pitiful man, who bullied us every opportunity he had only to…?
My thought scattered like so many fragments of broken glass.
“Take him, Teej.” Her voice was silken, rich - sultry. “Bend him over right where he’s standing and make him yours.”
I gaged, pulling back from the door, covering my mouth with my hand, hoping I wouldn’t have to corral a flood of puke.
“You want me to bareback him?” His voice was deep, musical but so low on the scale, it seemed like it could carry for miles.
I heard Roxanna breathe heavily, in and out, in and out, for nearly a quarter of a minute. “Skin to skin, baby, that’s the only way to fly.”
Teej rumbled with laughter. “How ‘bout you, lil’man, you ready for the black snake to borrow?”
I guess a part of me still felt this was all a sick joke. I guess I had lived a sheltered life up to that point, because I really didn’t expect to hear what I hear next. I‘d been waiting for the “big” denial, the “are-you-fucking-serious?” sort of response. The yelling and the outrage were soon to follow, right? Wasn’t my father a class-A asshole?
It never came.
“Don’t just stand there and talk about it, man. Do it!”
I was about to run from my bedroom when a tremendous shriek rang out. It was so loud. It froze me in my tracks, my hands clamped over my ears. Then the potted plant atop a wooden stand, the one on the far side of the fireplace toppled to the ground and crashed against the hardwood floors of the living room with a thunderous thud.
“Lenny! Someone’s here!” I heard Roxanna exclaim, but that was all.
I bolted for my room and for some semblance of rationality.
Never in a million, million years would I have suspected my father was bi-sexual. Never would I have guessed he was more than willing to take another man’s penis up his ass. Never!
I tried to move silently, but I know I wasn’t. I couldn’t, not with the perverse thoughts I had coursing through my head. I felt my hip hit the side of the kitchen counter as I passed it on my way to the back porch. I hit my shoulder against the jamb marking the beginning of the stairs leading to the second floor. I cringed at the amount of noise my feet made against the stairs as I climbed, clawed, cried my way away from the debauchery in the Master Suite. I had to get away. I had to put distance between me and them. I had to make sure my father didn’t suspect I’d seen.
But how was that going to be possible genius? She had yelled. She’d been watching alongside me. She’d been as disgusted as I’d been and she wailed with loathing.
Oh my god, it had been so loud! He’s going to think it was me! He’s going to blame me.
I hurtled myself right, then left down the hall. I came to my room, panting like a dog. I swiftly closed the door and locked it. If he came in, I wanted it to be on my terms. I searched for the wooden baseball bat I always kept underneath where I slept and stuffed it under my pillow. I wasn’t going to take any chances. Not after what I’d seen. No way! His secret was out. The true Leonard Favor had been revealed.
Because of it, he would be furious with me, though it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t the one taking up the behind. That was him.
But, it wouldn’t matter. It would be my fault in his eyes. I’d been the one to unearth what he and Roxanna had been doing all along. He would say I was the one to blame for his unorthodox sexual appetites. He would say if I’d minded my own business, none of this would’ve happened. It didn’t matter he’d been the one who forgot I hadn’t gone to Corona with the rest of the family. It was my problem he’d brought his twisted friends over to the house, not his. He was never the cause. He was never the issue. He was the perfect man living in an imperfect world with an imperfect wife and imperfect children. We were the ones with the problems. It was his job to point them out to us as many times as he deemed necessary until we learned just how much better he was than the rest of us.
He’s an asshole, you know this.
Yeah, but he’s going to take this out on me!
What do you mean, “so?”
Aren’t you bigger than him?
But, he’s my father.
And you’re his son. When has that fact ever stopped him in the past?
It wasn’t the first time I’d ever entertained thoughts of that nature. He had made me furious before, and I had notions of standing up to him in the past, especially physically. Yet, this was much more than fanciful musings of an angry child. This was real. This was about to happen. My father would come for me. I knew this, and it left me trembling with fear and anticipation simultaneously. Maybe a part of me wanted this. Maybe, after all this time… maybe, I wanted something physical. Maybe I wanted to let go.
I heard the front door slam, scrapes and clacks down the walk, and voices in the front yard. They were leaving, Roxanna and Teej. They were laughing and carrying-on like kids. They must’ve thought it hilarious, I’d caught them in the middle of their sick, bi-sexual, Dominatrix role-play. Fucking tools!
Then came the inevitable stomping through the house, and I knew he was coming.
I jumped on the bed, ripping the covers off it, then back onto myself in two fervent motions. Pretend you’re asleep! Pretend you’re asleep!
Less than half a minute later, he was pounding in the door. “Open up, you nosey little fuck! Open up!”
“What do you want?” I asked, feigning innocence.
There was a demented chuckle through the door. “You know goddamned well what I want. Now open this door before I break it down!”
Yeah right, you don’t have the strength to do that, you shriveled pencil-dick!
“I’m sleeping, dude. What’s wrong with you?”
The door shuddered in its’ frame as he assaulted the door with hands and feet. “Open this door now!” It was a shriek, high-pitched, almost effeminate, which immediately put a horrible picture in my mind.
I was out of my bed with a sweep of my arm and a push. Anything to get the thought of his butt getting slammed by a guy named Teej out of my head.
Ah god, Myra, I could really use some thoughts of you and me right now…
“Alright, alright!” I yelled back. “Come down before you scratch my door all to hell!” There was no way he was even going to crack the darned thing. He’d only scratch the paint off like the nerd he was.
I threw open the door widely, hoping to catch him off balance.
It didn’t work, he had already taken a few steps back as if he was about to rush the door.
He stopped, straightened. “What the fuck did you see?”
“See? What’re you talking about? I was asleep.” I was going to keep up the rouse for as long as I possibly could. “Well…,” I continued, purposefully drifting off.
He leaned toward me, his face a mask of fury.
“…I heard some people on the deck. Did you have friends over?”
He didn’t reply, but remained as he was, frozen, slightly stooped over. His look was flat, devoid of emotion. His dark eyes were pools of nothingness, boring into me, searching, trying to intimidate me with their lack of humanity. He wore only a pair of blue jeans. He was shirtless, barefoot.
I knew he was naked underneath. I didn’t want to think about that. I couldn’t! I couldn’t! Now, I knew what he did when his pants were off, when his ass was bare. Stop it! Stop it, NOW!
A minute passed.
I continued to stare back.
Another passed. His brow knitted, so slow it was like watching ice melt.
I didn’t move.
He licked his lips.
I didn’t want to think about his lips.
“If you say anything about this, Jerry, I’m going to beat you to death. Do you fucking hear me?” His face was warped with a snarl.
I felt my own frustration rise. It wasn’t my fault!
“I will beat the living shit out of you…,” he trailed off, trying to dangle the threat.
“You can try…” Yeah, bitch, two can play at that game.
I think if there was ever a time when he and I were ever going to go toe-to-toe with our fists, it would’ve been right then. But then, the rationale of a bully kicked-in as he began to weight the outcome of a confrontation between the two of us. I saw his eyes dart about my form. I saw him realize how much bigger I was than him, how much younger, how much more toned were my muscles.
I was an athlete. I had been ever since I decided to join the Jessie Owens Track Club when I was seven years old. The moment I got into competitive sports I was hooked. I played basketball, baseball, and flag-football. I did it all.
Lately, though, as the shortcomings of my genetic pool began to manifest and it became apparent I wasn’t going to grow beyond my five-foot-nine, my participation in the more main-stream sports began to diminish and I began to focus on one in which I was the most talented. That was Track and Field. Since my sophomore year I’d been running year-round, working out and lifting weights, gaining strength. I looked different than I had eighteen months prior. At first, I had shrunk as my muscles condensed. Then, I’d begun to fill out, my chest expanded, my wings broadened, my waist narrow and my legs turned into stone. I’d developed hyper-active reflexes, precise hand-eye coordination and endurance like I never had since. I was a horse.
He was seeing all of me now. He was gazing upon the “me” of today and not the little boy he still thought I was in his mind’s eye. As was the case with all bullies, the moment he realized the fight would be difficult, if not unfortunate, he backed down. His body became less rigid. He no longer appeared as though he was going to pounce.
Though it would’ve looked pathetic, him leaping after me, I was relieved. I really didn’t want to fight my father. I mean, I would if I had to, if it meant keeping my mom or one of my siblings safe, but over a disagreement between me and him…? Well, it didn’t seem worth it.
“You just keep your fucking mouth shut or I’ll hurt you, bad.” His jaw was still clenched. His words escaped his mouth as if the lower portion of face was in the throes of rigor-mortis.
I was about to reply, but he forestalled me.
“Remember, asshole, I don’t have to hurt you in order to hurt you.” The usual wicked gleam in his eye turned to something evil, pure and concentrated.
I figured he was talking about my mother, but as I scrutinized his visage a moment longer. I realized he was talking about Elijah. I felt a shiver of ice-cold dread race up and down my spine. He was going to hurt my baby brother? Over this, over his mangled sexuality, really?
He saw the fright in my orbs.
It was plain as day. I knew it. I could feel the heat of it on the skin of my face.
He smiled - a long, lethargic stretching of his face. There was no joy in it. There was no warmth or pride or sense of accomplishment. There was nothing, but the smile itself. It was as false as a studio back lot.
He chuckled to himself. “You remember, you fucking peeping-tom.”
He turned to walk down the hall, toward the stairs.
He got two feet and no more.
The air directly in front of his face seemed to thicken, to coalesce. I could see streamers of air come into existence out of nothing, thin filaments growing into thicker strands, only to thicken even more.
My father stopped dead, his head angled away from the fantastical mist.
A second passed.
Suddenly, the air itself screamed.
It was so piercing I had to cover my ears for a second time that night.
The effect on my dad was worse. All he could do was wail back, a horrific peel threatening to rip his vocal cords.
I stepped back, deeper into my room, shutting my eyes against the onslaught.
I heard my father hit the floor with a resounding thump! He’d been knocked out cold.
The scream stopped as quickly as it had begun.
I opened my eyes. There was nothing there. Whatever it was, it was gone now.
I could tell, from someplace where things of this nature have a shred of understanding within the human brain, this wasn’t Mrs. Gates. This wasn’t the protective or slightly annoying companion we’d come to know over the course of the past few months. Whatever this was, it was new. It was enraged.
And, it was strong.