They walked into the courtroom side by side displaying for all who looked a show of strength. Harry was wearing a navy blue suit with a crisp white shirt underneath, and Desi had on another new dress she had picked out recently. Tony had definitely opened up a whole new world to her in the past few months and Desi was enjoying the attention and the new friendship.
As his anger toward Desi faded, Tony had found a confidant and friend he'd come to depend on. Desi was grateful to him for helping her to find her own style that would help ease her into Harry's life. She found it amazing Tony was not only knowledgeable about clothes and decorating, but he seemed a virtual fount of information when it came to makeup as well. She was so transformed that Byron's parents almost didn't recognize her when she and Harry passed them on the way to the front of the courtroom.
"You're coherent enough to function aren't you, Serena? Or did you have a late night last night?" asked Harry, arching an eyebrow. She wasn't above tweaking her friend a little even in light of why they were there. Harry figured it might lighten up the situation and bring a smile to Desi's face, which it did.
"My night is none of your business, Harry, and yes I'm coherent enough to get through the next two seconds. Cause believe me, ladies, after the pep talk I'm sure Jude gave the Grim Reaper this morning, that's how long it'll take for him to revoke Byron's bail. And rumor has it; both Byron and his brother are wanted for questioning in the Rose kidnapping case. Not to mention my boss has a grand jury almost ready to go. Translation, they's in some deep shit," said Serena a bit too gleefully. She crossed her arms over her chest and sat back on the table behind her. Life was so sweet sometimes when people like Byron found out there was a bigger bully on the block.
"Desiree Simoneaux, you should be ashamed of yourself, girl. Look at you, flaunting yourself like some common whore while your husband is being accused unjustly. It's time you start to remember your place and it starts with you coming home with us right now. I think you and I have a lot to discuss while we sit and wait for your husband to get back," said Byron, Sr. after he realized who the woman in the brace was. He had moved to the front where they were standing and grabbed Desi's upper arm in a vice like grip before Harry could stop him.
"Let her go," the voice sounded like it had been chilled on ice.
"Sir, I'm not sure who you are but if you don't let the lady go, I'll be forced to rip your arm out of the socket and stick it in your pocket for you." Harry's voice got lower and more menacing. She stepped closer to the two in challenge of Byron's father.
"Is that so, I don't recall asking for your opinion on the matter. This is family business and doesn't concern you so back off."
Harry placed her body between Desi's and the elder Simoneaux. Before the bailiff could make it over to them, she grabbed his wrist and squeezed. The action compressed on a few nerves and an instant shooting pain went up his arm. "Sir, I asked you nicely didn't I? But I find sometimes it takes a little action to get the perpetually stupid to catch on. From now on I want you to remember some very important facts. Desi is very much my business and if you come anywhere near her or put your hands on her it's going to make me really angry."
"Are you threatening me?" His voice came out in a whisper as he tried to break the hold she had on him. He stopped when it became clear that the more he tried to pull away, the sharper the pain got.
"No, I'm promising you I'll break every bone in your hand and name them as I do so if you touch her again."
"Harry, it's okay," pleaded Desi. She reached out just to make some contact with her trying to calm her down. The last thing they needed was for Harry to have any legal problems because of all this.
"It's not okay, Desi. No one is going to treat you this way again, especially this fat asshole who never learned any manners. Now back off." She pushed him back making him stumble into a small woman behind him.
Something in Harry's eyes told him she wasn't kidding about anything she had said so he stayed back. Byron wasn't sure who this woman was, but it was clear she was Desi's attack dog and he wasn't about to find out if she could back up her threats.
"Desiree, you know I'm right. It's time for you to stop all this craziness and come home where you belong. You know how Byron is, he didn't mean anything and he's sorry if he hurt you. You're a Simoneaux now, girl, so let's go," said Byron, Sr. trying a sweeter approach this time.
Desi stepped next to Harry and felt the comfort and safety of an arm drape around her waist. Just like at that bus stop all those years before, Harry would keep her safe. "No, I am home now and I'll never go back to the life I had before. Your son is an animal, an animal who'll never get the opportunity to hurt me again." She jutted her jaw out a little and felt wonderful for having the courage to stand up to this man she had feared as much as her husband.
"Don't count on it, Desiree, life is funny like that sometimes," was Byron's only response before he went back to sit with his wife.
From there he took in the actions of the two women at the front of the room. He watched the way Desi leaned into her companion and the way the bitch talked to her softly trying to comfort Desi. There was more to this relationship than he was willing to admit at the moment, but before he gave it another thought he had to find out who the intimidating woman was.
They all stood as Judge Reaper walked into the room and quickly called the court to order. He wasted no time in motioning to his clerk to call forth the first case, with any luck the asshole Jude had told him about was still out of town. Looking at Serena and Bradley before him the judge broke out into a smile. Serena returned it with one of her own and Bradley only managed to break out into a sweat. He really needed to ask his wife to loosen the buttons on his collars before they choked him to death in court.
"Good morning, Ms. Ladding. Are the people ready to proceed this morning?" asked Carleton. He focused solely on her waiting for her answer.
"Yes, your honor, the people are ready to proceed and in the interest of time and justice wave a jury trial if the defense is so inclined." She glanced over at Bradley who was tugging on his collar again and seemed to be turning a sickly shade of red. She then looked behind her for a moment to offer Desi a comforting smile letting her know everything would be all right.
"Thank you, Ms. Ladding the court will take that under advisement. And you, Mr. Blum," the leather chair creaked a bit as Carleton turned to Bradley. "Are you ready to proceed?" He waited a beat before adding, "Wait, you look so lonely, Mr. Blum. Where's your client?" It was the second question that deepened Bradley's red shade.
"Your honor, we beg the court's indulgence, but my client is out of town and couldn't be reached with the new court date. I tried explaining this to Judge Rose yesterday, I'm sure he mentioned it to you. I'd like to renew my request for a delay until Mr. Simoneaux can be reached." Tugging on the collar one more time he waited with fingers crossed for the judge's answer.
"I see, is he away taking care of a family emergency perhaps?" offered Carleton.
"A business engagement he couldn't get out of maybe?" Carleton tried again.
"Could it be that Mr. Simoneaux is wanted in the questioning of another unrelated matter and thinks the judicial system in New Orleans is as stupid as he is?" Carleton's voice raised until he could be heard out in the hallway. When he was done he was leaning forward in his chair with his hands flat on the desk before him. "As the terms of Mr. Simoneaux's bond states, he's not to leave the area without a means in with which the court can contact him. The reason we put those stipulations in place, Mr. Blum, for future reference, is for times like this. Everyone is ready to proceed and your client is nowhere to be found. Do you know what that means, Mr. Blum?" asked Carleton one last time, making it apparent he had also memorized Bradley's name.
"He is to be remanded back into custody as soon as he is apprehended."
"Precisely, Mr. Blum. He has until nine o'clock this morning to report, if not, bail is revoked. We're adjourned, ladies and gentleman," Carleton said as he wrapped his gavel once and stood to leave the room.
Ignoring Desi and Harry for the moment, Byron's parents went to the front of the room to intercept Bradley before he left. "What did all that mean?" demanded Byron, Sr.
"As I tired to explain last night, it means your son has precisely fifty minutes to report back to this court or he'll be considered a wanted man. That's not going to help his case any, and it will add some more charges to the mountain he's already facing." Bradley picked up his brief case and started walking to another courtroom to meet another client, but seriously considering heading to a local bar instead.
"But they can't do that. He didn't even know he was suppose to be here today," complained Byron, Sr. Everything he had worked for was in danger of going to some guy named Al who had secured his son's bail.
"They can and they will, Mr. Simoneaux. That's what happens when you break in and drag some judge's naked wife out of her bed in the middle of the night. You screw with the law and sometimes it'll stick it to you without benefit of lubricating first. My free advice for you this morning is to drive to where ever Byron is and drag his ass back here. If not, be prepared to ride out the storm until Jude Rose calms down, and this new judge well, let's just say they don't call him the Grim Reaper for nothing." Bradley had already made up his mind he'd tell Byron to find himself a new lawyer as soon as he resurfaced. No retainer was worth these kinds of headaches.
"But he's only on vacation, they can't charge him for that," persisted Byron, Sr.
"If you'll excuse me, I have another client waiting for me across the hall. When you hear from Byron let me know, we have a lot to talk about before he turns himself into police." Bradley gave Byron's mother a small smile before heading out of the courtroom. The woman always looked so sad that, if she had asked, Bradley decided he would do her divorce free of charge. Despite the fact Byron had paid his retainer, he was glad to see his wife Desi had found a new life for herself. Maybe there was hope for his mother.
As Byron Sr. argued with Bradley in front of the courtroom, Harry and Desi made their way out to the street. Since they were supposed to be in Florida for the weekend, Harry had taken the day off so they had the rest of it to kill now that they were finished with the legal proceedings. Holding the passenger side door opened for Desi, Harry helped her inside then put her crutches in the back seat. They had yet to talk about everything that had happened, and the way Byron's father had treated Desi that morning. She could see the tenseness in Harry's jaw. It was the only outward sign as to how pissed Harry truly was.
"Harry, I'm sorry again for all this," Desi started. She reached for Harry's hand as soon as she got into the vehicle. Part of her was angry too for not letting Harry loose to beat Byron Sr. to within an inch of his life. Maybe it would have taught him a lesson about how sometimes women fought back.
"Please stop apologizing for the behavior of other people. Your husband's father is an idiot, and that, my love, has nothing to do with you. He was raised by idiots and in turn raised two of his own. You just had the misfortune of hooking up with one of them, but that part of your life is over now. This may take a little longer than we planned, but in four months, you'll sever your ties with these people once and for all."
She was taking deep breaths trying to fight back the urge to hit something after the confrontation with Byron's father in the courthouse. After their exchange of words she found that her palms hurt from the tight fists she had balled her hands into, but she was glad she had controlled her temper. Desi had had enough violence in her life, she didn't need to add to it.
"Will it truly ever be over? I have a feeling Byron and his family will be a shadow over our happiness forever." She turned her head to look out the window so she wouldn't have to see the disappointment in Harry's eyes.
"Desi, you'll find money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy isolation from people like Byron. Whatever I've earned in my life is half yours now, and with that comes the security of knowing you never have to return to what those people put you through. I also don't want you to think of it as charity or pity. It's my gift to you freely given, and it's yours even if you don't stay with me. The only way the Simoneaux family will ever bother you again is if you invite them back into your life," said Harry with conviction.
She wanted to get her point across to Desi so that she could start to let go of some of the pain in her life. After her declaration, Harry slowly ran her fingers through Desi's blondish hair with light red highlights in an attempt to get her to look at her.
When she did turn around, Desi's eyes were watery with tears yet to fall. Harry expected an argument over why Desi couldn't take what she was offering, so she was pleased when she just smiled at her. "Thank you, Harry. I promise I'm not going anywhere and I'll spend the rest of my days at your side making you as happy as you make me. One day hopefully I can be just like you and you'll be proud of me."
"I'm already proud of you, honey. Look at yourself. You're a young, beautiful woman who has so much to offer. I'm not only proud of you, I'm honored you picked me to share your gifts with," Harry said as she leaned over and kissed Desi softly on the lips. Desi welcomed the kiss and threw her arms around Harry's neck to pull her close. It was a special moment witnessed by the older couple coming down the front steps of the courthouse.
"Clyde told me about some friend Desiree had in school he put an end to her seeing. Seems like she might be back and causing trouble between Byron and his wife," Byron, Sr. told his wife.
Looking at the two women holding each other, Monique Simoneaux's lips turned up into a ghost of a smile. It was too late for her to start fresh, but not for Desi. She too had heard of Desi's childhood friend from the girl's father and she had thought it a sin for Clyde to separate the two.
Desi was always as sad as she was, and Monique knew the reasons why. Her husband had taught his sons many things, and the lesson on how to treat women came in the form of watching him beat his own wife. In that arena, Byron Sr. had taught by example. The way the tall woman stood up to her husband told Monique she would fight anyone who hurt Desi, but she would never turn that anger on the woman at her side.
"Maybe it's time to let the girl be, Byron. She ain't ever gonna come back to our boy now, even if she wasn't with her friend. I think there's been enough trouble over this so let's concentrate on trying to work our way out of it instead of adding to our plate." She stepped away from him as she had her say, her hands working the leather strap of her purse nervously.
"There you go thinking again. You know it gets you into trouble every time. There ain't no way I'm going to live with the fact my son's wife threw him over for a woman. What'll people think? I'll tell you what they'll think, that we raised Byron to be some sort of fruit or something who can't keep his woman satisfied. No, Monique, Desiree is coming home even if it has to be in a pine box." With that said he grabbed Monique and pulled her down the remaining steps.
If only he could remember the bitch's name. He was sure Clyde had told him when they were making wedding plans. He did remember with sickening clarity when Desi's father told him about the night he saw his daughter on the front porch with that pervert. Byron had promised Clyde his son would handle the situation and make Desi forget she ever knew the woman.
Harry and Desi went home after court, with Harry looking in the rearview mirror to make sure they didn't have any unwanted tagalongs. The security guard would be making a come back until the situation settled down and Harry felt comfortable leaving Desi and Mona alone in the house. When they walked through the door they heard Mona and Butch in the kitchen together having breakfast. Rachel had yet to make an appearance and Harry had a feeling she was sleeping the morning away in the large duplex Serena owned in the garden district.
"Hello, little buddy, what do you have there?" asked Harry.
"Uncle Harry! You're home and it's the daytime," screamed Butch. His face broke out into a big smile and he slammed his hands down on the table for emphasis of his joy.
"That I am, bud, and I'll be home all day so what would you all like to do?" She went over and picked him up so she could kiss him hello and leaned him over so Desi could do the same.
"Let's go swimming," said Butch without hesitation.
"Sounds like a plan, but before we do that, how would you like to go shopping?" As soon as the words left Harry's mouth, Mona jumped up and pulled a thermometer out of one of the cabinets and stuck it in her mouth.
"You better put that child down with you being delusional and all," Mona said in a serious tone. Harry did many things, but she knew shopping was not one of them.
"Come on, Mona, get dressed you can come with us," said Harry putting the thermometer back and handing Butch back to Mona. "Let's go change and we'll meet you both back down here," said Harry as she scooped Desi up into her arms.
They all left the kitchen laughing as they made their way upstairs to get ready. The only hints Harry would give was that they were to change into some shorts or jeans, and they had thirty minutes to do so.
"What are you up to, Basantes?" asked Desi as she wrapped her arms around the strong neck for her ride up the stairs. The unpleasantness of the morning was washing away under Harry's helpful guidance, and she was anticipating whatever adventure Harry had in mind.
"You're going to have to bear with me here and wait. No more hints or it'll ruin the surprise, but I promise when we're done, you'll think I'm wonderful and you won't be able to live without me," said Harry with a smile.
"Too late on that one, I already think that." She whispered softly into Harry's ear, then sucked her earlobe into her mouth and waited for the moan she knew was coming. Harry, God love her, was never one to disappoint, and feeling the warm mouth sucking gently made her not only moan but made her knees go weak.
"You need to behave and work with me here, honey, before I drop you and break something else," pleaded Harry. That made Desi move her lips from her ear to her neck. Mona just shook her head as she heard the giggles coming from Desi as Harry slammed their door shut.
Forty minutes later Harry and Desi made it back into the kitchen and announced they were ready to go. Both tried to ignore the knowing look Mona was giving them, but Desi couldn't help the blush that ran up her neck to her cheeks. Harry just wiggled her eyebrows at Mona making Desi's cheeks turn that much redder.
"Okay boys and girls we're here," said Harry as she turned into Dixie Art Supplies fifteen minutes later. The announcement got Desi to jump in her lap, a cry of delight from Butch and a confused look from Mona. "Come on, baby, let's go shopping," she said as they got out of the car.
Two hours later they finished making arrangements for the supplies Desi would need to be delivered that afternoon, and loading up the easel and finger-paints supplies they had gotten for Butch. Desi thought it would be a good way for the little boy to get to know her when he came over if she shared a part of her new haven with him so he could create his own art.
For the rest of the afternoon Harry and Mona worked as a team to clean up the studio so the deliverymen could install Desi's equipment when it came. They decided to leave the painting Harry loved so much hanging right where it was, since Desi had a feeling Harry would be spending more time out in the airy building. They left the guys to their job of putting in the wheel and kiln when they did arrive and took Butch swimming.
By nightfall the studio was ready for Desi's new career, they were grilling steaks for dinner, and there was a for sale sign on the front of Simoneaux's Car Repair. The only good news for everyone was that Vito, Al the bail bondsman's bounty hunter, was headed for Pensacola. After a heart to heart talk with Byron Sr., Vito was headed in the right direction since Al didn't want to be in the car repair business anymore than Byron wanted to lose what he had built, so it was in both their best interests that Byron and Mike be found.
Once this was all over and they had recovered the two Simoneaux brothers, Al was going to have to have another long talk with the elder Simoneaux to explain something would have to be sold to cover his cost of the bail. Byron Sr. had to understand Al wasn't doing this out of his kindness for his fellow man, and the way he saw it, the business was the only thing that would bring in the amount owed.
In Byron Sr.'s opinion, it was one more thing he blamed on his son's wife. Things were starting to unravel and only a show of force could upright his world again. Until that opportunity presented itself though, there was only Monique to take his frustrations out on.
When he came back into the house after telling Al and his people all he knew, Byron found his wife in the kitchen fixing dinner. He started taking deep breaths as she started to roll up his sleeves feeling the anger well up inside him.
To Monique it sounded like a wild animal getting ready to attack and it made her shoulders hitch in fear. She gripped the butcher knife in her hand and didn't move thinking he would just walk away. Silent tears started to fall because she knew Byron wasn't one to walk away.
The first blow knocked the knife loose and it went clattering across the floor. She ran as best she could still woozy from the blow, making it as far as the living room. There was only ten feet between her and freedom but Byron caught her before she made it to the front door.
"What have I told you about running you stupid bitch?"
It was an instant satisfaction to the animal inside him when his fist connected with the side of her head. The force of it arced her body backward giving it the appearance of a rag doll. A merciful blackness overcame her before her head hit with a sickly crack.
"Answer me," screamed Bryon as he picked up the first thing in his line of sight and threw it at her.
It was the blood pouring from her head that finally woke him from the frenzy.
Rachel and Serena showed up hand in hand just as Harry was pulling the meat off the grill and Mona was coming out with the salad. They were enjoying after dinner drinks by the pool when Serena's phone starting ringing. Apologizing for the interruption, she stepped a few feet away to answer it seeing from the caller I.D., it was the police precinct in the ninth ward.
"This is, Serena Ladding," she answered, pressing a finger into her ear to drown out her companions.
"Hey, Ms. Ladding, this is Roger Landry. I was the detective sent to interview Mrs. Desiree Simoneaux the night of her attack. I'm sorry to bother you but I thought you should know Byron Simoneaux Sr. beat his wife to death tonight. He called 911 after she stopped breathing but the paramedics couldn't save her when they arrived. The bastard crushed her skull when he pushed her into the coffee table in their living room and dropped some sort of doorstop on her. We have him in custody and are still looking for the two sons. Would you like for me to call Desi and tell her what happened?"
"I'm with her now, Detective Landry, I'll tell her. Thanks for letting me know." She had to lean on a chair to keep from falling over. Serena never had a conversation with Monique but she's seen her in court that morning. She looked depressed and beaten by life, but she was alive and breathing nonetheless. Serena felt Rachel step up and hug her and found herself crying over the death of someone she didn't know.
"It's okay, Serena, whatever it is we're here for you," cooed Rachel into her ear as she tightened her hold on her new friend. She looked back at Harry for help knowing that she'd known Serena longer than any of them there.
Harry just motioned by nodding to let Rachel know she was doing the right thing. Once she recovered her composure, she would share what had upset her so much. They were all thankful Butch had gone to sleep in Mona's lap and she'd left to go and put him down for the night. Seeing Serena so upset prompted Desi to sit in Harry's lap for her own comfort. Harry was also like sitting on a heating pad and the night had turned cool and windy.
Taking a shuttering breath Serena told them what the detective had informed her of and it was Desi's turn to cry. She and Monique weren't really close, but she did feel a kinship with her in that they were in the same situation. The silver lining here was that Desi had gotten out before she shared Monique's fate.
Harry led them all inside and up the stairs. She hugged Serena and Rachel goodnight and told them to go to bed. It would be better in the morning and none of them needed to be alone. Serena was about to protest when Harry told her Butch was already sleeping and Rachel needed the company. Walking Desi to their room, Harry undressed her lover and put her to bed as well. It was unfortunate that such a wonderful day had to be marred by the tragedy that ended it, but maybe Monique had finally found some peace in a life that had had so little of it.
"Harry, in case you don't know this by now, I love you," whispered Desi in the dark. She was finally relaxing feeling Harry's hands rubbing her back. They were the same big hands that would sooth away all her troubles for the rest of her days, and at that moment it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.
"I love you too, baby, now try and get some sleep. We can just bum around tomorrow and do whatever you want," Harry promised. In her head, as strange as the logic was, she recited a silent prayer of thanks for Desi's broken leg. Had it not been for that pain and suffering, she might have lost Desi to the same fate that had befallen Monique that night.
The weekend passed without incident and the girls stayed together at Harry's house much to the delight of Butch, who considered it to be a camping trip of sorts. They all helped Desi get settled into the studio, and on Sunday, Tony and Kenneth came over to help with the cleaning and painting efforts so by Monday, Desi was ready to start using her creative juices. It had been a cleansing time that had started with Desi shedding the brace from her leg around the house, and Serena opening her heart to new possibilities with Rachel.
Roger kept them informed on the search for Mike and Byron and what was happening with their father. The detective had taken a liking to Desi and wanted to see the young woman stay safe and out of the clutches of Byron and his brother. Harry called the security company and hired a new guard to come and walk the grounds when she was at work, to give her peace of mind.
On Sunday afternoon they all gathered in the kitchen and worked together to cook a late lunch since Mona was off visiting her family. They had to convince her to leave and spend some time away from the house and not stay and take care of all of them.
"Do we have any cheese?" Desi asked Harry. She had just finished grating a piece for the fajitas they were making but it wasn't enough. Harry was heading out to the grill to cook up the meat, chicken and shrimp they had marinated for the dish.
"Look in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, I'm pretty sure that's where Mona hides it," said Harry putting the platter she was carrying down. Walking up behind Desi she pulled her out of the refrigerator door and onto the kitchen counter so she could kiss her. There was just something about Desi in shorts and a thin-strapped tank top that was driving her crazy.
"Baby, everybody is waiting for us," said Desi without making a move to get down from her perch. Harry had been in a romantic and affectionate mood all day and there was no way she was going to put the brakes on that.
"Let 'em wait. I have an incredibly beautiful woman in my kitchen cooking me dinner and I'm supposed to just sit on my hands."
"No, but I'll be happy to sit on your hands," said Desi in a low sexy voice.
"We're hungry, love birds, so let's get with the program," complained Tony from the doorway. He had pulled the short straw and was sent to collect the missing two in their group. Actually, he and Kenneth were the only two not making out at the moment and he hated standing next to the hot pit.
"Get your own girl, Tony," yelled Harry.
"Bite your tongue, Harry, that would be just sick." Tony clutched his chest and made retching noises.
"That would be my job thanks. Anything to do with Dr. Basantes's tongue should be referred to the short blonde." Desi finally made a move off the counter but made a point to slide down Harry's body.
The motion made her nipples stand rigid against the fabric of the shirt she had on making Harry eyes zero in on the area. Desi slipped her hand into the front of Harry's shorts and pulled her out of the house, stopping by the platter so the now frustrated cook wouldn't forget it. Tony loved the look on Harry's face, finally seeing the light missing for so long. It was almost funny to him that the person who had put it out, was the person who had re-lit the flame.
"Uncle Harry, if my mommy marries Rachel will we be related?" asked Butch as soon as they made it outside.
"We're already related, buddy, so it doesn't matter who your mommy marries, that won't change."
"Yep, you're my family in my heart and nobody can tell you otherwise. Come over here and let me teach you how to cook some meat like a caveman." The comment caused Serena to break away from Rachel and roll her eyes.
"Harry, don't teach him anymore bad habits. Just wait until you have children, we'll have a standing appointment every week so I can impart some of this wisdom you're teaching mine," said Serena with a mock glare on her face. It had been so long since they'd had a good time that she was really enjoying the weekend.
"You think I'm going to raise ours any differently than my boy Butch here. Hell I think he's perfection just the way he is," teased Harry.
That got Desi's attention, it had been the first time Harry had ever mentioned wanting children, and the our was the most important part of what she had said. Just because she and Byron had never had children didn't mean she didn't want any, and she would give anything to share that experience with Harry. Desi walked over and leaned on Harry finding she missed her touch when they were apart.
"I think you're perfect too, Uncle Harry," said Butch holding a long fork like the one Harry had in her hand.
"Me too, baby, I think you're just perfect," echoed Desi. The two laughed as Tony stuck his finger in his mouth and continued his retching noises.
"Keep it up, sugar pants, and you're going in the pool," threatened Harry.
That night, the police car cruising in front of the Simoneaux home missed the two figures entering through the back door by seconds. Careful not to turn on any lights Byron and Mike wondered why there was police tape along the front of the house, and why there were no sign of life.
After checking their parents' bedroom they figured they must have gone out for the evening and by not turning on the lights they missed the large bloodstain still on the living room carpet. It was the last reminder Monique Simoneaux had lived there, and had given her life to satisfy her husband's anger.
After their conversations on the trip to Florida, Byron vaguely remembered a tall dark haired girl who was friends with Desi when they were in school. He had graduated a few years before them but his yearbooks should have a picture and name of the person who was giving Desi her hiding place.
So instead of heading for bed, Byron pulled the attic stairs down in the hall and spent the night looking for the books that contained the memories of a time in his life when he was a winner. Inside those volumes would forever live the good looking football player all the girls were crazy about. The allure ended when he was pumping their gas after graduation day.
Finding Desi's class he started at the beginning of the alphabet praying the face jumped out at him so he could finally just go and get his wife. "Ah ha, I got you now, bitch," he said putting his finger over the picture of a young Harry. Coming down the steps with the book under his arm, Byron went to wake his brother to confirm if that's who he'd seen Desi with.
"What? Leave me alone." Mike tried to roll away from the persistent hand shaking him awake. Didn't Byron understand he was tired and scared of what came next for them? His life was far form perfect before but now Mike was dreading each coming day.
"Look at this picture, Mikey, and tell me if this is the woman you saw with Desi?" Byron turned on the small lamp on the nightstand and held the book up. Mike squinted and rubbed his eyes for a minute before focusing on the picture his brother was pointing out.
"Yeah, looks like her," he said to Byron's back as he ran out of the room. The phonebook only gave Harry's office address and number; no home address. All he had to do was sit and wait for the doctor to drive home then he would get Desi back.
"No you can't get up," complained Desi when the alarm went off.
It was Monday and Harry had to get back to work. They had bid everyone a farewell and spent the night trying to kill each other from forceful orgasms. The result being Harry's doubting she could stand for any length of time today her legs were so wobbly, and it was Charity surgery day.
"Unhand me, woman. We both have dates with some unshaped clay today and it's time to get to it," said Harry as she tried to move to the side of the bed. No matter what position they fell asleep in, they always woke up in the middle of the bed with Desi lying on top of her.
"You're giving up medicine to make bowls, baby?" She moved with Harry trying her best to convince her to stay in bed a little while longer.
"No you have big globs of clay waiting to be bowls and vases, and I have big blobs waiting to be surgeons. Some days I think you might have better luck with your blobs than I have with mine. Don't get too carried away out there today, and I'll try and finish up at a decent hour so we can go out to dinner. Cooking once a week is my limit, and yesterday was it." Harry put her hands over the ones on her middle and turned her head for a kiss. "There's that and the fact I love taking my girl out."
"You have a date, baby." Desi got up after Harry and put on a robe so she could downstairs and make some coffee and breakfast. While she enjoyed having Mona around to cook for them, it was nice to take care of Harry's eating needs at least once a week. It made her feel like she was contributing something to their budding partnership. "Any requests for breakfast, love?" she asked before heading down the stairs.
"I'm sorry but Dr. Basantes won't be seeing patients here this morning. If you'd like, I can make you an appointment for Wednesday afternoon if you can wait that long," the receptionist informed Byron over the phone.
"But I just have to talk to her today. Is there anyway you could tell me where to find her?"
"She's staffing surgery at Charity today, sir, so she'll be unavailable for most of the day, I'm sorry. Dr. Vargas is available if you absolutely need an appointment today." Before Irma, Harry's receptionist, could say anything else the man hung up leaving her wondering what he really needed.
After parking across the street in the Tulane Hospital parking garage, Byron sat on the steps of the medical school, which faced the entrance to the doctors parking for Charity Hospital. He figured Harry wouldn't remember him from school, and she had never seen him with Desi.
Once he got a look at what kind of car she drove he would go and get the vehicle his father had lent him and follow her home. He looked disgustedly at all the vendors that had begun to setup in front of the large structure. The world was full of freaks and perverts, so Byron thought this was the perfect place for Desi's friend to work.
He saw the Range Rover pull into the drive and the electric window start to go down. It was her and she was motioning to the guy selling bags of mixed fruit over with a five dollar bill.
"Hey, Dr. B, how's it hanging this morning?" asked the tall African American man with long braids in his hair. He was a recovering drug addict who had found a job hawking fruit in front of the hospital, and Harry was one of his most regular customers on the days she worked. Always paid with a five, and always told him to keep the four she had coming in change.
"A little low and to the left, Henry. How's it going with you?" She held up her usual crisp bill with one hand, the fingers of the other drumming on the steering wheel.
"Okay, doc, I just have twenty bags to go."
"Good luck, and stay clean, buddy," answered Harry as she put her keycard into the meter making the wooden barricade blocking her path rise.
Byron was right, she never noticed him in the crowd of colorful characters that always seemed to adorn the outside of the medical facility. Harry was more concerned with maneuvering the suv in the tight parking lot. She had always thought it had been easier becoming a doctor than it was to try and get around in the parking facility built by some state engineer. Maybe I'll get a motorcycle and give Desi this thing, thought Harry as she backed into the first space she found.
The lot was close to empty when she pulled out at six that evening, punching the speed dial to the house from the car to talk to Desi. "Hey, honey, how was your day?" she asked when Desi answered the phone.
"Hey, you, it was great. I have a present for you. It's still cooling but I made my first vase and it's all yours." She was happy but didn't want to go into all the clay that had collapsed on her throughout the day, but the more she did it the more it came back.
"Too late, I already have your first creation. It's in my office uptown sitting on my desk," said Harry pulling into traffic.
"What creation is that?" Desi was standing in the closet in her underwear trying to figure out what to put on.
"It was an ashtray you made in the fifth grade that has your finger imprints on the bottom along with your name. I guess you had to add the name so I wouldn't get confused in case some other cute girl gave me an ashtray with her finger impressions on the bottom. I keep candy in it and it's a constant reminder of my favorite cute girl in the world." She was enjoying the conversation on the way home and it was grounding her to hear Desi was all right. Her last case of the day had been a broken jaw that had been a result of domestic violence, and it had thrown Harry for a loop.
"I see, well, baby, you get my second creation too. While you're waiting for it to finish creating would you like to share with your girl where we're going tonight so I can get dressed."
"Why yes, Harry, I am, and I'm waiting to get dressed so spill it."
"I don't know. It may take me the whole drive home to decide where we're going. How's this, if you are naked when I get home I'll even buy you dessert?"
"If you bring home dessert you could lick it off of me now that I am an expert in the field," Desi bantered back. All she heard was a growl over the line and the sound of the front gate opening up. Putting her robe on she went out to the balcony with the phone and bent over the side to get a look at Harry. Waiting for the scrub-clad woman to bid the guard goodbye Desi smiled down at the one person who made her world spin.
"Are you still naked under there?"
"Come on up here, doc, and find out," said Desi as she disconnected her end of the line.
Running back into the bedroom she stripped off the robe and lace bra and panty set she had put on and jumped on the bed. She laughed when she heard Harry running up the stairs taking them two at a time from the sound of it. Not seeing Rachel's car in the driveway Harry reverted back to her old ways and started stripping on the other side of the door. She opened the door and made it to the bed in three big steps.
"I missed you today, baby. Would you like to see how much?" asked Desi.
Seeing Harry naked at the door and heading toward the bed made it apparent that another shower would be needed before heading out to dinner. Feeling Harry roll them over so Desi was on top doubled the wetness between her legs when Harry's hands closed over the cheeks of her butt and squeezed. Getting back to what she had in mind before Harry shot her concentration Desi broke off their kiss and moved down Harry's body.
"I've been thinking about you all day. Thinking about how you look when you're turned on, and how you taste. Running my fingers through all that wet clay had me thinking about running my fingers over you, baby," Desi told her in a low voice.
The whole time she had been talking she had been running just her nipples over Harry's body making Harry's breathing speed up. The late afternoon sun lit the room enough for Desi to see the effect of her actions on Harry as she came to rest between the muscular legs.
Running blunt nails up from Harry's feet, Desi finally used her two index fingers to part wet slick folds. Taking one finger she put it just under the hard, slick spot and pressed down making her clitoris protrude even more. Desi decided to try something on Harry her sister had told her about and said it would get her great results.
Spearing her tongue, she started to write out the alphabet on Harry's point of need. Deciding on the lower case letters because it involved more swirling motions made her realize Rachel did have good advice every so often. By the letter 'g' Harry's hips were moving trying to increase the pressure Desi was applying, and the letter 'i' earned her an "Oh shit, baby."
She didn't make it passed 'k' before the urge to suck it into her mouth won out over Harry's education. Sliding two fingers into her, Desi sucked until she felt the walls around her fingers contract signaling Harry was coming. Desi knew Harry was enjoying what she was doing when the pressure from the fingers threaded through her hair keeping her mouth in place turned slightly painful.
Desi hadn't made it all the way back up to the head of the bed when she was flipped over and pinned to the comfortable surface. It was Harry's turn and having studied Latin, she knew a whole new alphabet Desi hadn't experienced yet, but just as she was about to return the favor Desi held her in place.
"No, lover, I want to look in your eyes when you make love to me tonight so don't move."
Harry shifted to be able to slide her right hand between their bodies and started to carry out Desi's wishes. Holding her weight off Desi with her other arm, she started with some slow kisses on Desi's neck moving quickly back up to her lips. Long fingers stroked between Desi's legs softly at first but turning hard and determined when she wrapped her legs around Harry's back. Harry rocked her hips in time with her hand giving her strokes an extra push into Desi, her thumb slamming into the hard nub every time she came down.
"Yes, baby, just like that. Oh God that feels so good, look at me, Harry, look at what you do to me," screamed Desi as her pupils dilated and she clamped her sex around Harry's fingers.
Once was not enough, so after she came, Desi lifted her leg until it made contact with Harry and started them rocking again. Harry was primed after all the talk Desi had provided while she had been making love to her. Desi dug her fingers into Harry's butt when she heard the grunts in her ear telling her Harry was close again. At the last minute Harry pushed up with her upper body so that she could speed up their thrusts getting them to their destination.
"Baby, you're very good at that. Maybe that early retirement you talked about wouldn't be such a bad idea," said Desi. She was shifting around under Harry trying to find a comfortable spot after she had collapsed on her after they came in one big grunt.
"If I did that all day I'd be dead in a week," said Harry rolling over to her side. She was still mostly on Desi trapping her with spent appendages. This was the best way she could think of to come home.
"Okay, baby, now you have to take me out to eat. You really know how to build up an appetite in a person, so get moving." She slapped the closest butt cheek she could reach with one hand and pushed up with the other. "And you have yet to tell me where we're going." She followed Harry into the bathroom intent on sharing a shower.
"Gosh, Desi, where's your sense of adventure."
Harry leaned into the shower stall and adjusted the water to a tolerable scalding temperature before jumping in. She felt the warm body press up against her back the moment she put her head under the stream of water. "Do you think I'm dirty?"
"Yes and you're incorrigible too, so hands off me or I'll never get anything to eat." Desi continued to run soapy hands over Harry's body knowing she was a sucker for the sensation.
"How about if I bought you a Port of Call burger, would you let me touch you then?" asked Harry as she turned and faced Desi.
"Honey, for one of those suckers with the baked potato, I'll have your baby."
"Deal." It came out quickly before Harry lost her nerve.
The answer left Desi stunned for a moment and Harry thought she had crossed the line. They had never really talked about it, Harry always thinking it was too soon in their relationship. But the fact was it would have to be brought up eventually if it were to be a healthy pregnancy because of the age factor.
"Okay…did you mean deal in the sense of you want to have a baby with me, or deal you want to buy me a burger?" asked Desi. She crossed her fingers so Harry wouldn't chicken out and give her an answer she thought Desi would want to hear. "Before you answer, I want you to do me a favor."
"Remember that you own my heart because I gave it to you freely, so if you love me, tell me what's in yours." Desi kissed the spot over Harry's heart when she was done.
"Both. I want to have children with you soon, and I want to buy you a burger tonight. If you don't want kids it's okay, I'll just live vicariously through Butch." Harry leaned her cheek on the top of Desi's head nervous that she may have given away too much of what her dreams were too soon.
"Nope, I want my own and they have to be a part of you so my suggestion to you, Dr. Harry, is you call your brother and ask him for a favor. No beating around the bush and no long waits, I think we're ready and we're entitled to our own little bundle of joy. Now move that fine ass out of the shower and feed me," demanded Desi. She didn't move until the water cooled a bit since she was soaking up the wonderful hug Harry was giving her. They were finally getting it right, and all it took was complete honesty and open lines of communication.
Dressed in jeans and sneakers the girls headed out to their old haunt, never noticing the old car that kept behind them for the length of the ride. Byron had waited outside the gates to see if they were staying in for the evening and formulating his plan on how to get into the house.
He followed them to the restaurant and stayed long enough to watch them go inside then left, figuring they'd head back to the house once they were done. It was making him sick to watch the way Desi threw herself at this woman she was with. When she was with him she had never reached for his hand, and never leaned over to initiate a kiss. All this time he should have known there was something wrong with her. It had nothing to do with him.
He parked his car on one of the side streets and then jumped the fence to Harry's property staying in the shadows until he reached the house. Armed with a pair of bolt cutters, glasscutter and another surprise he waited for the lovebirds to get home. He wasn't going to spend time in jail over a fucking freak.
Coming out of the eating establishment that looked like a hole in the wall dive, Desi asked, "Do you remember the last time we ate here together?" They had just finished and were walking back to the car holding hands.
Since their last venture to the restaurant that served mostly natives, the area around Esplanade Avenue had become the mecca of gay bars and restaurants. No one really gave a second glance to two people being affectionate in the area since it had become such a common sight.
"Of course I do, my love. I had that old two seater that was perfect for getting you to sit close to me. God I loved that car. We had the squirt with us and just like tonight you socked away that huge burger and even bigger baked potato. The only difference would be the addition of two beers to go with the meal," said Harry. She deactivated the alarm when they reached the Range Rover, then pressed Desi to the side so she could kiss her before she opened the door.
"That's different too, baby, though I would've welcomed it back then as well." Desi looked up at Harry with a dreamy expression on her face then moved so her chivalrous date could open her door for her.
They drove back to the house in a companionable silence just enjoying each other's company having already talked about their day over dinner. When the gate at the front of the house slid open after Harry pressed the key attached to her visor, nothing looked out of the ordinary.
Harry walked around and let Desi out of the car, then fumbled with the door lock since Desi was draped over her back tickling and trying to distract her. It was as if Desi didn't want to lose the playful mood they had been in since their call on the way home. Desi was already planning many more nights like the one they were finishing up, since they had been able to cover a multitude of topics without difficulty.
Harry walked up the stairs with Desi's legs wrapped around her waist. The fact she had made this trip so many times it had become rote, helped in that she didn't have to break the kiss they were sharing. When they got to the bedroom Harry sat on the bed with Desi still on her lap and leaned back so she could feel Desi's body press into her own. It was the uncommon noise coming from the closet that broke their kiss.
Looking at the clock on the nightstand and seeing the usual digital read out was missing, Harry knew the electricity was out. Having what had happened to Jude fresh in her mind, she eased Desi off of her and looked at the closest house noticing their upstairs lights were still shining. The blip from the closet alarm panel was still working because of the battery backup and it indicated a breach through the kitchen doorway.
Walking back to the bed, Harry put her index finger to her lips as a signal for Desi to keep quiet as she retrieved something from the under the bed. With a duffel bag draped over her shoulder Harry brought Desi with her through the balcony doors where she dumped out the bag and whispered in Desi's ear what she wanted her to do.
"Baby, I want you to climb down and make your way over to the studio. The electric feed comes to that building first before it comes to the house so there should still be power in there. Call the police and tell them there's been a break in and the guy is still in the house. Whatever you do don't come back until I come out to get you or the police do and tell you it's okay. Now go and I love you."
"Harry, you're coming with me aren't you?" She watched as Harry unrolled a small ladder that fell to the ground below. They were common in the old houses made mostly of wood, making it easier to get out in case of a fire.
"No, I have a feeling I know who it is and he and I have some unfinished business, now come on, baby, get moving," said Harry with urgency.
She kissed Desi quickly on the lips and helped her over the side of the railing watching as she made it to the ground and ran off in the direction of her studio. Harry turned and headed back into the room and stood in the center for a moment to get her bearings. Listening to see if Byron would give her a clue as to where in the house he was, she used the time to let her eyes acclimate to the darkness.
Glad that they hadn't undressed yet, she headed for the hall and down the stairs using the outside edge so they wouldn't creak. At the bottom she paused before heading to the sunroom knowing Desi's estranged husband would have to come through it to get to the main part of the house. Marshalling all her calm, Harry sat on one of the couches in the room and waited. Listening hard, she could hear the man panting in the kitchen.
He sounded as if he was afraid and was trying to decide what to do next. What you do next, asshole, is serve a very long prison sentence unless I decide to beat you to death before the cops get here, thought Harry. She had pressed the police key on the alarm pad before leaving the bedroom, which quieted the blipping noise. Harry didn't want anything scaring Byron off before she had a chance to get her hands on him.
Okay, Byron, this is just like the last time. You make your way through the house and grab Desi. Only this time I know it's her. He stood in the kitchen a minute and went through his plan one more time before moving. After looking through the windows while the women were out, Byron saw the doorway through the big glass room was the easiest way to get into the main house. There he was positive he would have no trouble finding the stairs and his wife.
Even though it was a full moon and a clear spring night, he never saw the figure staring holes into him. When he made it to the middle of the airy room Harry's voice broke the silence that had prevailed until that moment.
"Hello, Byron, it's been a long time. Welcome to our home, though most people use the bell and the front door." He pulled the gun from the waistband of his pants and pointed it straight out making a circle in place trying to pinpoint where the sound was coming from.
"I don't want to hurt you, I just want Desi then I'll be on my way."
"There in lies the problem, old pal, Desi doesn't want you," said Harry as she moved further into the shadows. She hadn't planned on the idiot having a gun, and it was not in her plans to get shot that evening.
"Well you lost, you sick fuck. Desi married me and that's the way it's going to stay. I'm not going to let some fancy attorney, that you paid for I'm sure, make it otherwise. Now where is she?" screamed Byron. He was sweating now and the gun was getting slippery in his hand. Why had it been so much easier the first time?
"Put the gun down, Byron, and let's talk about this like two adults. Desi's not going to leave with you tonight, or on any other night for that matter. Don't you want what's best for her?" Harry sounded almost reasonable. She was watching him and it wasn't a comforting sight.
"I tell Desi what's good for her, I'm her husband goddammit. That's the way it works."
"Your daddy tell you that one, sport? If you were a real man you'd put the gun down and deal with me the way he handled your mother. You are a man aren't you, Byron?" Her voice had taken on a sarcastic edge figuring the only way she was going to prevail was to push all his buttons.
"I'm the one who's normal here, and yes, I'm a man. My father is a real man who taught my brother and me how the world works, so don't you go insulting him. You got me, bitch?" The sweat was dripping into his eyes now and he was having trouble seeing anything in the room.
"I'm sure that's what he was doing last night when he beat your mother to death in his living room, teaching her how the world works. Only problem with that is, who's going to do his laundry and cook his meals? Come on, little boy, put the gun down and deal with me the way your old man dealt with your mother. He was a real man because he let his fists do the talking for him. You're nothing but a fucking coward hiding behind that thing in your hand. No wonder Desi picked me over you. God you're pathetic, losing your woman to another woman no less." Harry kept up her taunting until he yelled at her to stop.
"You're nothing but a pervert and a liar. My parents are just out of town."
"Sorry, pal, your mother is lying on a cold slab down at the morgue, and your daddy is playing hide the soap with some big bubba down at central lock up. I know it doesn't seem fair to you but it's against the law to kill your wife, even if it seemed like a good idea at the time. Come on, Byron, you afraid of me or something?"
He pulled the trigger and shot. Hearing her hit the ground made him feel better. She kept talking about his family, so he was justified in his actions. Now all he had to do was find Desi.
Desi was out in the studio still on the phone with the emergency operator when she heard the pop come from the house. The phone slipped from her hand as she sunk to her knees in tears. "Harry!" was the scream the operator heard from the other end. She raised her voice from her end trying to get Desi to pick up the phone again so Desi could tell her what was happening. After hearing the name Harry screamed a couple of more times, the only sound the operator heard was the sound of running feet and the slam of a door.
Desi ran to the house as quick as she could ignoring her promise to Harry not to do so. She just knew Harry needed her and she wasn't going to leave her lover alone in the house with that animal. As she made it through the kitchen door, Desi heard the crash of broken glass coming from the sunroom. Not thinking of her own safety she moved in that direction.
"This if for that broken leg you gave her you bastard," screamed Harry as her fist connected with the side of Byron's jaw. They were in the yard and Byron was trying his best to land his own blows, which Harry had no trouble sidestepping.
"This is for all the other times you laid a hand on her," Harry continued, this time aiming for his nose. When he swung out clumsily she grabbed his hand and folded all his fingers back until she heard the crunch of bone.
"Hurts like a bitch doesn't it?" asked Harry, not letting go of the hand. Sending a punishing kick to Byron's side, she added to the bone breaking total with two ribs. As he stood there swaying she continued her monologue not noticing Desi was watching them.
"Let me explain something to you, pal, Desi belongs here with me, not because I own her, but because here is where she wants to be. I'll never let anyone especially you hurt her again. I love her too much for that." She paused a minute and delivered another swing that broke his jaw. The scream of pain he released shook Desi out of her trance. She yelled to Harry, as she was about to hit him again.
"No, Harry, that's enough. He's not worth it, baby, please stop," she walked through the broken window out to Harry. When Harry let go of his hand, Byron fell in a heap on the grass. Not caring that Harry's hands were full of blood, she just hugged her and pulled the strong arms around her in a plea for Harry to hold her.
"What are you doing here, honey? I thought I told you to stay in the studio until I came and got you?" asked Harry not letting go of her.
"I heard a gunshot and I couldn't stay in there knowing you might be hurt. Harry, what in the world is the matter with you? You could have been killed in there. Next time just leave if the person has a gun. I swear you make me so mad." She pulled away from their hug and hit Harry gently in the stomach. "You're all right aren't you?" she thought to ask as she started checking every square inch of Harry's body.
"Yes I'm all right, the picture on the far wall of the sunroom didn't fair so well though. Come here you," said Harry pulling Desi back to her. This was finally over.
"Thank you, Harry. No one has ever stood up for me the way you do and I love that about you, even if you are an idiot. You've been my savior since I was in pig tails, and I have a feeling you'll still be filling that role when I'm old and gray."
The police found them in that exact position when they finally arrived. After answering their questions, they were assured Byron had been brought to the hospital to have his injuries tended to with an armed escort. As soon as he was done he was headed to central lock up where he would join his father and brother. Mike had surrendered peacefully when the police surrounded the house after a neighbor called and said they had seen movement.
Roger Landry left a unit at the house over night so the girls could stay there even with the broken window in the back. He was glad to see this case end on a high note and not with the dragging off of body bags. The Desi Harry led up the stairs that night was so different than the one he had interviewed all those months ago. Now she appeared to be happy. Roger figured Harry who held her hand throughout the night had a lot to do with that.
"Baby?" asked Desi. They were lying down in the middle of the bed relaxing and trying to calm down after the night's events.
"What's on your mind, Des?"
"Can things get back to normal now?" She propped herself up a little so that she could look at Harry. The smile that creased her lips couldn't be held back when she saw the love staring back at her from those incredible blue eyes.
"Count on it, lady. From here on out it'll be family dinners, pottery, medicine and two point five kids. I'll teach them to throw their clothes on the floor to keep Mona on her toes. You'll become rich making little expensive bowls so you can keep me in my old age, and we'll all live happily ever after." Harry sealed her predictions with a kiss.
Harry walked up to the old house and noticed the two little girls playing on the porch next to the old swing. "Hello, is your mom at home?" she asked when they turned her way. The smaller of the two ran in the house and yelled for her mother, leaving Harry to look at the condition of the place she remembered.
"Can I help you?" asked the tired looking petite woman who came out. The front of her shirt was covered in baby drool, which Harry assumed came from the infant she was holding and she released a long sigh after she asked the question.
"Yes, ma'am, my name is Harry Basantes and I'd like to buy your porch swing."
The woman shifted the baby to her other hip and stared at Harry like she had lost her mind. "What is this, some kind of joke?"
"No, ma'am, I'm serious. See my girlfriend grew up in this house and I fell in love with her sitting on that swing," said Harry pointing to the swing hanging at the end of the porch. "Today's her birthday and I'd like to give it to her as a gift, so name your price." She brought her hand up to her forehead and smiled as she shielded the sun from her eyes.
"Your girlfriend's birthday huh?" She studied the swing as if appraising how much it was worth before giving her answer. "A thousand dollars," the woman said seriously.
If some nut came to her door and wanted to play games, she would oblige her. It was a good way to break the monotony of her day anyway. Harry looked at her and the smile grew bigger. After seeing the worn toys strewn about the small yard and the condition of the house she thought she would do this woman a kindness.
"I won't pay a penny over five."
"Five dollars." The outrage was evident in the woman's voice when Harry counter offered. "This is an antique, and supposedly you fell in love sitting on it. Five bucks is all you think it's worth? Maybe this girl of yours should reconsider, since you're so cheap and all."
"No, ma'am, not five dollars, five thousand. I got the money right here," said Harry as she pulled the wad out of her front pocket. She fanned the hundreds out and held them up. "Desi's worth a lot more to me than this, but that's all I got on me."
"Look, lady, I was just kidding, but if you're serious I sure could use the money. My son has to have surgery for a birth defect on his legs and I don't want it done at that charity hospital. That place is full of quacks and nuts from what I hear, and he deserves better than that."
"Do we have a deal?" asked Harry.
"We sure do. Enjoy," she said moving aside so Harry could join her on the porch and claim her purchase.
She put the money in the pocket of her shorts and watched as Harry unhooked the swing that had hung on the porch for years. Maybe her mother hadn't been full of bull when she always said that God works in mysterious ways. This was after all the last thing she'd expected to happen to her today.
Harry carried the swing to Land Rover and then came back into the yard. Pulling a small leather card case out of her back pocket she handed a card to the young mother. "My girlfriend Desi thinks I'm a little quacky but I'll be happy to look at junior there for you. Just give my office a call and I'll see him in my private clinic uptown, that way you can do something else with the money. With the new baby I'm sure there's some things you need."
The young mother dropped her eyes to the heavy linen card with raised ink and then looked up at Harry. All she could think to do was lean over and kiss her on the cheek. "Thank you, I don't know why you came here today but thank you. You're like an answer to my prayers in more ways than one. I take back what I said, that girlfriend of yours must be the luckiest woman on the planet."
"Nope, that would be me. Don't forget to call my office and set up an appointment. You get a free vase with every surgery," said Harry before closing the car door.
She didn't quite know what that last part meant, but she put the card in the same pocket the money had gone into. In her head, she was already planning a trip to the store to buy the kids some new shoes. It was possible now after the visit from their angel with beautiful blue eyes.
Desi walked slowly back to the house thinking about the past year as she admired the multitude of flowers blooming in the garden. In that time she had come to think of the big house as her home, and Harry as her partner for life.
Gone were the security guards, and the fear that Byron was lurking behind every corner. He, his father and brother were all locked up in Angola State Prison for many years to come assuring them peace. Judge Carleton Reaper had seen to that by handing down the maximum penalty after the jury came back with a guilty verdict in all the trials they'd sat through.
"Byron Simoneaux, a jury of your peers has found you guilty of attempted murder in the first degree. It is with extreme satisfaction I hand down a sentence of thirty years in the state prison system. This court is now adjourned. See you next week, Byron, have a nice day you hear." Carleton had told him as he left the courtroom with a smile and wink for Desi and Harry.
Between that trial, the one for kidnapping and the one for breaking and entering, Byron would leave Angola only in a body bag. Mike got off easier with a sentence of fifteen years for his part in the kidnapping of Monique Rose by confessing. He cut a deal with the District Attorney's office to avoid a trial and possibly a longer sentence, after he agreed to testify against his brother since Byron was still denying the whole thing.
For Desi it had been a moment of relief and justification when they walked out of the courtroom for the last time. She and Harry had stayed long enough to watch the deputies take Byron out in handcuffs.
They hadn't attended Byron's father's trial but they knew from Serena that he had also been found guilty in the beating death of his wife, and it would be unlikely that he would, considering his age, get out of jail alive. Carleton had joked at one point the state should get a family rate after having the parade of Simoneauxs through his courtroom.
After all that was done, Desi had been able to concentrate on her pottery and Harry. They had settled nicely into their relationship with Desi doing as much as she could to take care of her partner and the home they shared. On most mornings she still felt the urge to pinch herself her life was so different now, especially when she woke before Harry and just watched her sleep.
The person she had fallen in love with so many years before had changed and grown into a remarkable woman, but for all that had changed there was still so much of what had attracted her to Harry still in her heart. She had discovered that one of the biggest changes in Harry was that she'd become the sweetest romantic. The past year had been sprinkled with presents, candle lit dinners and romantic evenings in front of the fire in their room. Harry was always affectionate, gentle and kind and Desi had soaked up the attention she lavished on her.
The passage of time had also eased the fears of everyone in Harry's life that Desi would walk out on her again, and now Desi enjoyed a good relationship with all of them including Harry's parents. Visits to Florida had opened their hearts to her, and it had been another source of support for her.
And Mona, bless her heart, had become the mother Desi had never known. She was one of the main reasons this felt like home to Desi. When Harry left for work in the mornings they spent time together cooking or talking, but most of the time just laughing and enjoying each other's company.
"It's about time you called it a day, baby," said Mona. A glass of milk was placed in her hand the minute she walked through the door of the kitchen, and the look in Mona's eyes told her not to argue about drinking it.
"All I do is sit behind the wheel, Mona, so don't worry so much. Did Harry make it home?"
"She came in about forty minutes ago and went up to take a shower. I warned her to be ready and out of your hair by the time you got up there. So go on and get bathed and call me if you need anything." Desi took her glass and a waved before heading upstairs to get ready.
With time her art had become sought after in the shops in town because of its uniqueness, so Tony had arranged for one of the larger art galleries in the city to mount an exclusive show for her that would open that night. It was something she had been working on for months and was really looking forward to. In her own way Desi felt like she had become someone Harry could be proud of and it motivated her to keep improving on her skills.
That morning Harry had promised she was only going to work the morning, and as always, she'd kept her word. She was standing in the middle of their bedroom slipping into her shoes when Desi walked in and she had to stop and lean against the door for a minute to admire the view. The black suit draped magnificently over broad shoulders, and the black silk shirt under it brought out Harry's tan and made her eyes look that much bluer. She swept her eyes over the tall sturdy body and the dazzling smile aimed at her and sighed. Sometimes she did pity the poor women who looked at her like they hated her for taking Harry out of circulation, but only sometimes.
"I'll be the most envied woman at this thing tonight. Know what I mean?" asked Desi. The smile on Harry's face got bigger and she chuckled softly, which told Desi something was up.
"Are you kidding me? Anyone in their right mind would do whatever they could to get close to you. You, my love, are a beautiful and extremely sexy woman." Harry ignored the specks of clay that were splattered on the front of Desi's shirt and moved closer with the intent of kissing her. She was until Desi put her hand up stopping her from coming any closer.
"I don't want you to mess up that great suit so stay put."
"Come on, honey, I just want to give the birthday girl a proper hello. Did you have a good day?"
"I have great days all the time now and it has nothing to do with turning a year older."
"Well today you are turning a year older, but you're still beautiful so go take a shower so we can get on with the festivities of the day."
Desi put her hands on her hips and tried to sound scolding. "Harry, you've already done enough today."
"Okay, I've done enough. Go take a shower, we don't want to be late," Harry gave in quickly.
It was too quick for Desi. "Okay, spill it. What are you up to?"
"Do I have to be up to anything just because I want you to go take a shower? I just want the love of my life to enjoy her night. Go on, get cleaned up and I promise I'll be waiting when you're finished. Once you're clean maybe I can collect on that kiss."
Desi took a quick shower and donned a simple black dress so she would look like she was with Harry. She was putting in the diamond earrings Harry had given her that morning for her birthday when she noticed Harry leaning against the railing out on the balcony. Sitting next to her were two champagne flutes, full and waiting to be enjoyed.
"Are you ready for tonight?" asked Harry. Desi had walked out and stood in between the long legs.
"Ready as I'll ever be. My agent tells me most of the stuff is sold already, so this will be more of a chance for people to see what I've done rather than me begging them to buy something." Desi pressed her face into the front of Harry's shirt to get a whiff of the familiar cologne she had always worn. It was a clean woodsy smell that Desi had missed for years. Only Harry smelled like this wearing it, no one else even came close.
"Before the your admiring fans get a hold of you, I wanted to tell you how proud of you I am, honey. You're the best thing in my life and I'm just happy that I get to share this with you." Harry told her as she ran her fingers through Desi's hair and kissed her. "I have a feeling this is going to be one of many openings we're going to be attending through the years. You found your passion, baby, and you're going to be a success." She kissed Desi one more time before running her hands down to her hips. "So I want to ask you again, are you having a nice birthday?"
"I did have a nice day and thanks again for these great earrings. They're the nicest gift I've ever gotten next to waking up next to you." She gave Harry a kiss on the chin.
"Those aren't your gift. That is." She pointed to the right and to the end of the balcony. At the edge of the wide space hung the swing they had spent so much time on in their childhood. In the morning it would get scraped then a fresh coat of paint, but for tonight it would have to do as it was.
"How in the world…" Desi started as she walked toward it. Leave it to Harry to play with her already wrecked emotional state. There wasn't a day that went by lately that something didn't mist her up. It could be a commercial on television or a collapsed bowl, but it was always something.
"Come on, honey, this is suppose to make you happy not make you cry. Wanna try it out and see if it still has any magic left in it?" Harry helped ease her partner down then went and retrieved the glasses on the railing.
Handing Desi hers, Harry put her arm around her and clinched their glasses together. "Here's to more happy birthdays and to the best girl anyone could ask for." She took a sip and noticed Desi not drinking. "It's okay, honey, it's just sparkling grape juice. You won't be killing any of my kid's brain cells if you take a drink."
"Your kid missed you today, I guess that's what all the kicking was about. There was no one around to sing any sappy songs." Desi rubbed her swollen midsection and took a sip of juice.
She laughed when Harry immediately put her glass down and joined in the rubbing. It was getting harder for her and Mona to push Harry out the door in the morning to go to work. Given a choice Harry would follow Desi around all day finding some excuse to touch her midsection.
Desi was due in a month, and if everything went according to plan they would have a healthy baby with dark curly hair and big blue eyes. Once they did they would have Raul, Harry's brother, to thank, and after seeing his kids it was a distinct possibility.
From the moment they had found out she was pregnant, Harry had become a big mother much to the amusement of Desi, their friends and family. She had been so gentle and protective with her it cemented in Desi's mind what a wonderful parent she was going to be. As a partner she was already perfect so it was only natural to Desi that Harry would be the same when it came to their family.
After their announcement at the beginning of November, Serena volunteered to have Thanksgiving dinner at her house. The reason she gave was there was no way she was eating any turkey that had been basted at their house. Tony had put aside his agent duties and helped Desi decorate a baby's room next to the master suite. It had been Rachel's room until she moved in with Serena and Butch. All the new relationships she now shared that she could count on had also been responsible for her letting go of the past.
"We love you, Harry. Me and baby Basantes," whispered Desi from the circle of Harry's arms. "This has been the best birthday ever. I have you, a baby on the way and all these people who love me. It's just been a miracle for me. And now you brought our swing. Thank you for always thinking of the things that mean so much to who we are."
"I love you too, and I wanted to give you a little bit of your past that carried good memories with it. At least I hope it's good memories, and it gives us a chance to make new ones out here just the two of us. Well for a month more anyway." There was a swift kick under her hand reminding Harry that they'd soon have company.
"We can come out here and swing the baby when it's fussy and tell him or her how special this swing is. Like I said, this has been the best birthday ever. Thanks for all my gifts."
"I have one more thing for you. My mother will be there tonight, so it makes this gift imperative."
"Really, baby, you've already given me too much."
Harry pressed her hand to the side of her face and kissed her. "Between us there can never be too much. I was teasing about my mother, that's not the reason I wanted to give you this."
"Are you all right? You look kind of nervous," said Desi before she pulled Harry's head down for another kiss.
She slipped off the swing and down to her knees. Harry took Desi's hands into hers and laughed when she noticed how hers were shaking. " I've known you all my life, Desiree Thompson. You've given me love, pain and redemption. All I can give you in return is my love. I pledge to you my love and my promise to always be here to take care of you and our family for as long as you'll have me." Harry pulled the small velvet box from her pocket and opened it. Sitting inside was a large emerald cut diamond ring. "I want you to wear this as a sign of that promise, and hopefully it'll remind you everyday that I belong to you. Will you marry me?"
The tears she had tried to fight after seeing the swing finally won out but Desi was nodding. "Yes," she was finally able to choke out when she pulled her left hand free and held it up to Harry.
Before slipping it on Desi's finger Harry read the inscription on the inside of the band. "Thank you."
"Thank you?" It seemed like an odd thing to inscribe. She looked at Harry as she rubbed her thumb on the bottom of the band Harry had placed on her finger as if to convince herself it was real.
"You're the only way to mend a broken heart, so I wanted to thank you," said Harry. They finished the commitment with a kiss before they got up to leave.
When Harry closed the back door and locked it she missed the news report that played on the small set in the kitchen. The anchorman read the news teaser as Harry helped both Mona and Desi into the car.
"Stay tuned to the ten o'clock new for more on the jail break earlier today. Ten inmates are still missing including the Simoneaux clan from here in the New Orleans area. The father and two sons, as well as seven others, were last seen heading into the marsh surrounding Angola State Penitentiary."
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Continued in "All It Took Was You"
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