There was a wave over the house
there was fear choked in my mouth
you were there you left your mark
as I stumbled in the dark
Into the Dark
CHAPTER ONE: The flood
She tried to tell herself, as she waded through her darkened living room, that all was not lost. The water damage would be expensive; she’d definitely have to take out a second mortgage because they were already in the hole. Getting it all back from FEMA would probably be easy since that branch of the government already had its wallet open, but it would be just her luck if the flood-money bonanza suddenly ran dry.
No, not all was lost, except the new living room set, the cabinetwork in the kitchen, only two years old, and the mold that would grow on the sheetrock as everything dried out…Tisha would freak to know there was mold in the house, hiding behind the walls.
“Tisha,” she stood at the base of the stairs and called up to her wife.
She got no answer and sighed angling the flashlight down at the black water that came up to her thighs. Damn. In just the past half hour, the water had climbed up four steps. Things would be a lot worse for Shavonne Nash and Tisha Pembry if they did not get the hell out of dodge.
“Baby,” she called up the stairs, letting a bit of panic slip into her tone, “We gotta get outta here.”
She waited for an answer bobbing the flashlight’s beam against the wall; the wake of her movements at the stairs broke staining the dark green paper a darker color just above the actual water line. Just a feet above hung their Holy Union portrait, a close up outside on the beach in Martinique where they said their vows, cheeks pressed together, their hands clasped, sepia and mahogany, the blue sky and sunshine behind them.
She gently lifted the frame from the wall and carried upstairs taking others that Tisha had hung, a shrine to their relationship, mostly snapshots of vacations and holidays, on Vonne’s old bay boat or just Tisha messing around the house with the camera.
She climbed to the top of the stairs, carrying the pictures, soaked from the waist down, and dripping water on to the beige carpet. Tisha waited at the end of the hallway in the doorway of their bedroom, holding a candle. She was dressed in a gray Dillard sweatshirt and cropped jeans, her brow pulled down anxiously, her mouth stretched into a thin line obscuring usually luscious lips.
“Babe,” Vonne said coaxingly, cradling the pictures, “You forgot about these.”
“Yeah,” she said softly, reaching her arms to take them.
She divided the frames and together they carried them to the bedroom, and by candlelight, carefully arranging them on top of the bedspread. She watched her wife gazing down at them, then touched her arm. She still had Tisha. Though that past year had tested them, there was still a connection. She had felt it that afternoon when despite the rain they made love for the first time in a little over a year. Vonne was not about to lose her now.
“Come on, Tish, Babe, its time to go,” she said softly.
She shook her head in reply, put her palms to her cheeks.
“I don’t think I can,” she said.
“You have to,” Vonne said urgently, “The water is getting higher by the minute-”
Tisha lowered her head, her palms moved just below her ears. She did not want to hear but she had seen for herself that water pooling into their little foyer, into the living room, Vonne standing before her dripping wet.
She went to her, held her close; felt the tenseness in her body, usually her touch could bring some ease, but not tonight, not much in the past year. She held on burying her face in Vonne’s damp blue jean jacket just below her shoulder.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” she said, “I know this house had been your sanctuary from the world, but I’m going to need your help.”
A sob escaped her and she straightened.
“Vonne, can’t we just wait until morning?” she asked, “Can’t we just go back to bed?”
Dr. Greene had warned that it would be hard to get Tisha out of the house, suggested sedating her, by force if needed. They had all sat around the kitchen table that morning and discussed it civilly when the water was just past the curb and it was easy to refuse the doctor when she saw the uneasy look on her wife’s face when the topic of sedation came up.
“By morning,” she said, “Shit, Tisha, I’d hate to think-”
But she already was thinking and seeing the haunted images of the horrors that happened two years ago on the Gulf Coast, not far from their neck of the woods, of cars underwater, and bodies trapped inside, stories of people found drowned in their attics, coffins strewing I-10 exhumed by water.
A small shivering panic ran up her spine to think of her and Tisha found in their bed, skin darkened by the bloating of water, nibbled by fish. The ultimate lesbian bed death for real, she thought with grim sarcasm.
“I’m scared,” Tisha said, tears beginning to stream down her face, but Vonne could no longer be moved by falling water. She had spent the entire day watching it fall and collect, not moving, even when their neighbors began fleeing.
“I’m here,” she said, “We’ve got the boat, there’s no one out there that can hurt you, they’re all gone.”
Except for the looters. There was certain to be a few bastards who would brave the rain for the chance to scavenge what the water did not ravish, but Vonne had something for their asses if tin any way they tried to inhibit her escape.
She took her wife’s trembling hand, led her out of their bedroom, to the stairs. Tisha let out an audible gasp when she saw how high the black water had risen. She stopped in her tracks.
“You can’t worry about that,” Vonne told her, “It’s just water.”
“No,” Tisha whimpered, “It’s from out there.”
“Babe,” Vonne, more stern now, “It’ll be worse if that water creeps up to the second floor and we can’t get to safety…I’m not going out like that.”
“You don’t know-” she argued.
“I do,” Vonne shouted still holding her arms, “The rain’s not stopping, even if it does more water is going to come rolling down from the north, we’ve waited long enough.”
“Ok,” her breathing was labored now, “All right.”
“Ok,” Vonne said walking two steps, her wife lingered behind her, then took the first.
“You don’t have to look,” she assured her as they ascended, scouting the beam of the flashlight ahead into the blackness, once their cozy living room.
Earlier, she had managed to haul most of their stuff up to the attic. The flat panel television, their electronics, a few antique end tables that Tisha loved, along with other knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, a fire safe with important documents, everything would be fine if the roof held, and the water did not reach the second floor.
She guided Tisha to the foot of the stairs, watched her regard the black water with a mixture of fright and disgust as she clutched Vonne’s jacket.
“You ready?” she asked handing her a pair of fishing boots, and a parka she had waiting.
Tisha donned them and inched forward into the water, holding tight to Vonne. Where the water came to her thighs, Tisha sank a bit past her waist. She mewled like a cat as they waded through the living room. The humidity of the late summer remained, and without the a/c the house was stuffy, and already beginning to smell like a swamp
Vonne shinned the light into the little parlor off the kitchen, the walls were bare, the sofa’s and chairs nearly underwater, their headrests islands of submerged mountains. The reflection of the water turned the ceiling into a carnival mirror.
They were nearing the front door, which was open revealing the night beyond, dark and glittering from the rain. In the past nine months, Tisha had not gone past the mailbox without getting nauseas. She wondered how she would handle it.
Back one evening in November, Vonne realized that her wife was taking too long on a park excursion with her collie puppy, and she had gone to look for her. Legacy Park was a wooded trail around the bayou of the same name, with a picnic area, and a playground.
Vonne remembered how her heart had shuddered to come upon Tisha’s Camry after dark, her wife nowhere in sight. She had been a timid girl who grew up to be a timid woman. She would not have been out so long after dark.
Vonne had hit the trail running, armed with a flashlight from her glove compartment, calling for, then screaming at the top of her lungs for her wife. Never before had she experienced any premonition phenomena, but that evening in November, she knew something was wrong, had known when she stepped out the door to look for her wife.
The whimpering of Shug got her attention. The collie mix had been a birthday present from Vonne, barely a year old she lay there with a cone around her head placed there to prevent her from licking her healing spay wound it kept her away from a lethal gash on her side that exposed the sheen of the dog’s innards. Blood stained the ground all around Shug, always skittish around Vonne, now confused by the trauma, she barked and growled at her approach baring her bloodied fangs.
There were few instances in her life that frightened her, but seeing her wife’s beloved, sweet, cowardly dog who peed if anyone raised their voice, turned vicious, scared a squirt of her own urine on out.
She screamed for Tisha, edging past the dog, the beam of her light catching the reflective laces of tennis shoes she recognized as her wife’s purple and white New Balances. They were off the trail among some shallow brush. At first Vonne did not see that the shoes were still on her wife’s feet, she did not want to believe they were.
The closer she got the more of Tisha she saw, track pants around her ankles, her underwear torn off and discarded, her matching hoody and t-shirt her only clothing, ripped in places and disheveled, her long, black, wavy hair pulled from the knot she tied it in behind her head.
Vonne crashed through the tangled underbrush to claim her unconscious wife, cradled her in her lap, trying to speak to her, only able to babble and whimper, fumbling with her cell. Back on the trail Shug joined her in the mournful cry, by the time the ambulance showed up the little dog was dead.
Tisha spent two weeks in the hospital, mostly because of the psychological damage done. Because her attackers knocked her unconscious (the evidence revealed there was more than one sick motherfucker involved), she could not remember seeing their faces or any other physical description. Her only memory was of Shug bleeding, and crying which led the psychiatrists to believe that Tisha had simply blocked the rape or was pretending to have blocked it.
Vonne knew her wife well and agreed with the latter. Tisha had that type of avoidant personality, had inherited it from her mother, and father the king and queen of denial. Of course, no one could get a word about the attack from her, so she was sent home under the strict care of a psychiatrist.
Once home, she perked up significantly, she went to her appointments, visited the school where she taught pre-k to check on her kids. Vonne barely noticed that her wife was beginning to avoid leaving the house. After Thanksgiving she confessed that public places made her anxious, and panicky. She did all of her Christmas shopping online, and claimed she was too depressed to make their usual holiday party circuit at friend’s houses.
Vonne, determined to remain patient secretly worried as she counted the days her wife remained indoors, leaving only to visit her psychiatrist. By February Tisha was diagnosed with agoraphobia after a panic attack in the elevator at her doctor’s office.
Vonne altered their lifestyle to keep Tisha comfortable, she did the grocery shopping, and any chore that involved going out into the fray that was society. Vacations and excursions were out of the question, as if they could afford to do anything on one income, with the mortgage and the medical bills.
Then came the week it would not stop raining, and that very day, Vonne waited until the water was seeping under the front door, and their neighbors were evacuating, just to make Tisha comfortable. At least she had not sold her boat, a NauticStar bay boat. Though it was on the chopping block, Vonne was waiting for one more fishing season, but she never took the time to go down to Houston bay or Lake Bastrop over near Austin.
Looks like you got your last excursion, sailing through the eerie waters of Lake Coolwood, she thought bitterly, as she entered the doorway, sloshing out onto the submerged porch.
She turned to check on Tisha, found her wife standing there leaning on the doorpost, her chest heaving, a hand between her breasts.
“You alright?” she asked, normally her wife could go to the mailbox, as far as a few feet on to the sidewalk without fear or dread. Perhaps it was the water, and the drizzling night beyond.
“I can’t,” she said gasping in a breath, “Vonne I can’t.”
She splashed backwards a few steps, retreating into the flooded foyer. Vonne lunged after her, catching her by the arm and pulling her close, bracing her against her body, felt Tisha’s heart beating fiercely against her ribs.
“Hold on now,” she said calmly, as her wife struggled to get free, “Hold on, Baby.”
“I will not,” Tisha shouted, “I’m going back upstairs.”
“I can’t let you-” Vonne began but Tisha wrenched in her arms with a violence that started her into opening her arms and releasing her.
She retreated further into the house. Outside the rain began to fall harder, Tisha folded her arms and ducked her head.
“You don’t understand,” she said, and then whispered so low if Vonne had not heard the phrase before she would not have known what her wife said:
“It’s always trying to find a way in.”
“What?” Vonne challenged, “What’s always trying to find a way in?”
Tisha raised her head, startled.
“What is it, Babe?” she asked, “You’ve got to talk to me.”
“It’s always trying to find a way in,” she repeated, louder this time, “They said they would come back for me and you too Vonne, they want you most of all.”
She grabbed her wife’s shoulders and gave her a stern shake. It had finally happened, what she feared most since the rape, Tisha breaking from reality chased into a world of delusion by her fears.
“Babe. Are you trying to scare me?” she asked, “Cause it’s working, you’re scaring the hell out of me.”
Tisha shook her head, would not stop crying.
“No more,” Vonne said catching her face in her hands, “You hear me Tisha? You stop this right now. Stop the hysterics and the crazy talk before this flood swallows the both of us.”
“You promised,” Tisha sobbed, “You promised you’d never hurt me again.”
“I’m certainly not going to let us die,” Vonne said reaching and taking one of her wife’s hands, “I’m going to get us out of Coolwood safe and sane.”
She gave Tisha a gentle tug towards the door, and she followed splashing out onto the porch, her step growing more reluctant as they neared the boat.
The Durango was ruined, up to its door handles in water. They used it as a dock using the front bumper to climb on to the hood, then on to the roof. Vonne went first, then pulled Tisha aboard. Her wife had always been apprehensive of water and only joined fishing expeditions when she was feeling brave.
Vonne leased the boat a year before she met Tisha. She had been hired on to coach the volleyball team at her al ma mater, Poindexter College after playing a few years on the professional indoor volleyball circuit, which proved to not be as gratifying as she anticipated, Vonne returned home to Coolwood to settle down at the ripe old age of twenty-five. Of course she never planned to get married, it was going to just be her and the boat, she would go fishing every weekend and whatever woman happened to be in her life would join her if Vonne felt like inviting her. Then she met Tisha at a party one summer and it suddenly became very important to have one woman in particular at her side.
She went to work untying the boat, getting behind the console raised from the deck for comfortable piloting. The courtesy lights glowed above the dash, she pressed the throttle button to prime the engine, waited while the one hundred and fifty horses powered up to push the nineteen-foot red and white fiberglass bay boat.
Tisha stood close by watching, cowering in the rain like a cat. Their eyes met and Vonne reached out for her hand, found that her wife’s was ice cold despite the muggy night.
“We’ll be on dry land in a few minutes,” she said presenting to her a spotlight with a yellow case, “I’m going to need you to light the way…”
Tisha hesitated, backed away a bit as if Vonne were handing her a gun.
She bent her neck so they were eye to eye.
“Can you do that for me, Tisha?” she asked taking her wife’s right hand, using her own fingers to curl hers around the heavy-duty gray handle.
Her wife nodded with great resignation, then tightened her grip on the spotlight as Vonne embraced her, proud that the fears were not stronger than Tisha’s will to live, and was glad that their love was part of that will.
“We’ll get through this,” she told her, “Just light the way for me, Baby.”
Vonne returned to the console, caught the wheel and throttle turning toward her pier, the Durango while giving the boat slow forward power, letting the stern pivot away from the SUV. Vonne then powered the stern backing the boat away from the makeshift pier the bow grazing the bumper. Tisha climbed into the fishing chair pointing the spotlight into the night, the wide beam creeping over the abandoned water logged houses.
Debris floated on top of their street, now a dark canal lined by bowing oaks. Curiously, Tisha skimmed the water with the light and Vonne knew she was marveling at the transformation the rain brought. It was surreal, and despite her timid ways, Tisha had always been drawn the strange.
They motored out on to the main road, a narrow vein of U.S. Hwy 90 Alternate, two lanes, the only median two yellow lines.
Tisha pointed out a submerged car on the starboard side, and Vonne gently steered them away from it. The boat was made for shallow water, the motor at the tail end raised and protected from bay beds, and in this case curbs and debris covered by the flood.
“Do you think we’re the only ones left?” she asked.
“I can’t say,” Vonne said, “I didn’t hear anything.”
But then again she had been so deep in her post coital bliss she would have missed the entire town’s evacuation by a thousand Blackhawk helicopters flying over their house one at a time.
Vonne sighed at the helm.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said aloud, but Tish did not hear her, she was peering over the side of the boat, “We’re on our way out of here.”
They were nearly at Coolwood’s eastern border, where Vonne hoped to find higher ground. Up ahead was what the locals always referred to as ‘the strip’, a series of shops and businesses crowned five years ago by a Wal-Mart.
“Do you see?” Tisha asked pointing the flashlight at the water, “It’s moving.”
Vonne had felt the current as soon as they hit 90, it was strong, but no match for the boat’s motor.
Something grazed the bow of the boat with a hollow thump. Tisha startled, pulling her bent arms to the sides of her breasts, the flashlight handle in her curled fist.
Vonne gripped the wheel bracing her body. “Let’s just keep our eyes on the road, Babe,” she said.
Tisha nodded and turned shining the spotlight on the dark water before them.
CHAPTER TWO: four days ago
She was only watching some videos of girls from several high schools in Houston, scouting from her office chair with a couple of her seniors. If she only had a bit of patience, the situation could have been quickly resolved making her Tisha’s hero instead of her tormentor.
Tisha called her cell in tears, the mushrooms were back though they had been scooped up the day before, could she please drive over and get rid of them.
“Not now,” Vonne told her, “I’m busy.”
“Honey, please,” Tisha pleaded, “Fifteen minutes is all it’ll take.”
“I don’t have the time, just relax yourself,” Vonne told her, “Take a nap.”
“I can’t, not with them out there,” there was a tremor in her voice, and she knew Tisha was crying freely now, those wine-red stains on her brow and cheeks, her version of getting flushed.
“I’m not dropping what I’m going here for that,” Vonne said sternly, “It’s not up for discussion.”
She then promptly ended the call with a furious mash of the end button that made her Motorola creak. She ignored the startled stares of her seniors, they knew of her relationship with Tisha but they feared Coach Nash too much to show disrespect, and of course they adored her wife who brought baked goodies to practice and drove all over Texas to watch their games.
During the months following the rape, her wife acquired a plethora of fears, she kept a broom by the door to sweep the threshold obsessively each time someone entered of exited. Spotting rust, lime of calcium deposits could result in days of nausea, while mold and scum terrified her. Rubber sink and tub stoppers had to be replaced every few days, and Tisha would not bathe until she cleaned the drain with baking soda chased with vinegar followed by a pot of boiling water.
Vonne tolerated the fears, sometimes she remembered to go ahead and remove her shoes before she came through the door, and she bought dozens of drain stoppers at a time, she went to social functions without her lovely wife, but most her days were spent resenting the hell of them.
Her cell rang again and one of the girls politely excused her self, and Vonne was officially pissed off.
“What is it Tisha?” she asked trying to reign in her bucking temper.
“Vonne, please, I’ve made lunch,” she said, “Come home and have lunch with me.”
“No, Tisha,” she said.
“I’m calling Hink, then,” Tisha said in a panicky, rebellious tone.
“You better not,” Vonne shouted, “I don’t got time to be playing with you, Babe, if I drive by there and Hink’s fuckin’ truck is in my goddamned driveway…”
“I don’t understand,” Tisha whispered, Vonne’s timbre driving her deeper into hysterics, she then said in an even low hiss, but not so low Vonne could not make it out, “It’s always trying to find a way in.”
“You want me there?” Vonne yelled, “I’m on my way.”
Her phone creaked in her hand as she ended the call, she looked around her office for her keys feeling thrilled, that strange exhilaration her anger brought like an old friend she never missed until it arrived. Always a pleasant surprise.
“Coach,” the remaining senior said when the keys were found and snatched.
Vonne looked at the girl through the red haze that clouded her head, saw fear and worry in her eyes.
“What?” she asked.
“Maybe you should cool off a minute-” the girl began.
“No,” Vonne answered, “You stay the hell out of my business.”
Later, she had to apologize, admit that the girl was only trying to help, she had seen something in her coach’s eyes that made her frightened.
She was home in five minutes, Tisha stood on the porch looking dazed, it fueled Vonne’s anger. Instead of following the flagstone path to the house she walked on to their damp lawn to the cluster of off white colored mushrooms, two large with caps as round and pitted as the moon, four others small and phallic-pointed. Was that was frightened Tisha on an unconscious level did they remind her of what happened in the woods the year before?
Vonne did not think of that until later, at the moment her anger was propelling her. She pulled up a handful of the lawn mushrooms, she had never touched them before, always warned that they were so poisonous, to just stay away.
They were more fragile than they looked, and crumbled in her hand as she straightened and headed to the porch, where Tisha stood, she was familiar enough with Vonne’s temper to flee inside the house and lock the door behind her.
Enraged Vonne flew up the porch steps, banged on the door, she remembered the keys in her other hand and quickly unlocked the two locks, turned the knob and pushing. The bolt on the other side only allowed a few inches.
“Goddamnit, Tisha,” Vonne roared at her tearful wife who shouted back:
“You are not bringing those things in here, Vonne, you hear me?” she shouted back through the window, “I won’t let you bring those things in my house.”
Never having heard her wife shout at all only provoked her more; stubbornly she pushed against the lock, remembered the back door, and raced around the house.
“I got you now,” Vonne had thought. There was no bolt on the back door, and Tisha would not go past the threshold of the front. She would get over this fear, Vonne would see to it personally.
She entered the back of the house, stalked through the kitchen calling for her wife, she entered the main hallway to see the foyer bright from the light of day, the door wide open.
Tisha had run outside.
Vonne heard her Durango’s door close and stalked onto the porch, saw the sky-blue flip flop in the grass, lost during her wife’s flight. She sat on her knees in the driver’s seat looking out fearfully.
She used her remote to unlock the doors as she walked purposely towards the S.U.V. Once they had taken a midnight trip to Galveston and made love inside of it, parked on the beach with the windows down.
Vonne went to the driver’s side snatched at the door handle, Tisha quickly pushed the lock down. She tried again, but her wife was faster.
“Get out of the truck,” she roared, not giving a damn about making a scene, fuck Pennsylvania Street, and fuck the neighbors.
“You think I won’t bust this window?”
Her wife shook her head, not as an answer to the question, just a silent plea.
“Open the door, Tisha,” she said with a feigned calmness, she dropped the mushrooms still crumpled in her hand, they landed with a dry plop at her feet.
Still, Tisha did not open the door, but she allowed Vonne to, demurely scooting into the passenger seat. She leaned in and caught her by the arm, and dragged her across the center console out onto the driveway. She did not struggle.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Vonne asked, dragging her on to the lawn.
Tisha got the message and began to struggle.
“Vonne, you’re hurting me,” she whimpered, and gasped, trying to plant her feet in the slightly over-grown wet grass.
Vonne was stronger, she pulled her over to the remaining mushrooms, and Tisha turned to cling to her like cat trying to avoid a bath. She buried her face in Vonne’s shoulder, smothering the mewling sounds she made.
“How am I supposed to do my job, Tisha?” she asked, “I have to work so you can sit at home all day with nothing to worry about but mushrooms in the fuckin’ yard.”
“All right,” she cried, “All right, let me go Vonne, please, don’t make me look at them this close.”
She pried her wife away roughly, Tisha landed on her feet and fled, halfway across the yard she grabbed her stomach and wretched. Vonne grimaced listening to the sound of vomit raining to the grass.
She turned as Tisha finished throwing up and threw a scornful look over her shoulder, then half-crawling, half-walking up the porch steps into the house. At that moment, Vonne officially felt like shit. She stood out there towering over the mushrooms listening to the whining beep coming from her car’s interior because the driver’s door was ajar. She went and closed it, then walked around the side of the house for the hose. After carefully watering the vomit on the lawn to nothing, she re-coiled the hose, then collected Tisha’s flip-flops and placed them by the front door.
CHAPTER THREE: downpour
Coolwood started as one of the many black towns around Texas and the south after slavery ended. The men who worked down at the ports and docks and mills bought the cheap land close by. The industrial age was lucrative for everyone, but what kept Coolwood growing was crime. Gambling and prostitution ruled the nights after honest working class folks were tucked in after a long day of work.
In 1906 a lawyer from Ohio came down and bought up land and began plans to build a black college that would rival Prairie View A&M focusing on academics rather than trade skills. His name was John Pointdexter, an idealistic, successful black man, who wanted to give his people the gift of knowledge that had so long been denied them. He dreamed of a utopian society of learned black folks living off the land, independent of the white man.
In 1910, he started out in a sort of barn with about twelve students. By the summer 1911, he was down to two. The stress killed him and his college was closed for a short time before white missionaries reopened it as the Christian Trade School for blacks. Not exactly what Pointdexter dreamed of, and anyone who bothered to look into the history of the school just knew that the man was stewing in his grave.
The 60’s revived his ideas, and Pointdexter Christian College was reborn; a black bohemia in the middle of nowhere, a place for free thinkers, which was back then the perfect label for closeted gays and lesbians. There were rumors all over the state about what went down at Pointdexter and the state would have pulled its funding if not for the Christian in its title.
The college attracted lackluster students, and less than mediocre staff. Still, Pointdexter provided a higher education for several generations of black folks, a second chance for girls like Shavonne Nash a pretty good volley ball player with a permanent record marred by her violent temper.
She was a Nash after all, even if her father’s family would not claim her. They were water people, with a history of joining up with the Navy, and working down at the shipping yards. They were temperamental on land. Her father, Sam, took off a few months after she turned five. He was the town bully, always in a fight with some Coolwood resident. His trade was driving barges, but he ran numbers too. He was a tall, broad man who broke the arms of his debtors. He also bullied his way into a number of women’s bed all around town, spreading his seed all over. His mother, an equally mean woman denied most of her grandchildren, and Sam did not bother to claim most of them.
Vonne knew though, that for a time he loved her. She remembered he like to carry her on his shoulder, and everyone would say how much they looked alike. She was a stout girl, tall for her age, with the same dark brown, sepia colored skin, the same rounded forehead, and gap in the middle of her two front teeth, even after they fell out and grew back.
Daddy Sam taught her how to swim before he left, perhaps that would come in handy tonight as she sailed the streets of Coolwood.
Her mother was an alcoholic by then, she did not seem to miss her lover, the father of her daughter at all. Vonne learned to be self-sufficient long before her Daddy left. Momma had to work, so she left her at home in front of the television, told her not to turn on the oven or answer the door, or play around with electrical sockets or she would beat her ass.
Vonne played alone hoping that Momma would come home before dark so she could go down to the park hang with the other kids. It angered her to peek out the window and see them playing in the street, of course their parents worked too but allowed them to run loose.
When Momma did get home she would serve Vonne a T.V. dinner or something wrapped in foil from whatever job she happened to be working, then retreat to her room with a brown paper sack, the neck of a bottle peeking over the rim.
As the years went by Vonne learned to get herself ready for school, get her own dinner, be in by the time the streetlights came on. A few sound beatings kept her on track, as Momma would say.
With every bottle the old lady, as Vonne referred to her privately, grew a little more dimmer, a little more apathetic to the trials and tribulations of her daughter, though she could bitch when she was in the mood for it.
Vonne learned to placate her, keep the house neat as a pin, do the shopping, and not overheat the T.V. because it would cut off right in the middle of her shows if it had been on too long.
A loner by nature, Vonne stayed out of trouble until her eighth grade year when her first girlfriend’s father caught them kissing and grabbed her by the back of her jacket, and Vonne kicked him in the inside of his thigh. She was aiming for his balls and missed, but from the way he was limped into his truck when she ran away they had shrank into his kidneys. He chased her all the way home in his rumbling Dodge.
Momma was already shitfaced when she burst through the door; she saw the look on Vonne’s face and pursed her lips.
“What the hell you done Shavonne?” she slurred, “And don’t lie to me.”
She fought Momma that night. She would have beat her to death from embarrassment, what was worse than her daughter being caught in some man’s daughter’s panties was the fact that he made a scene in front of the neighbors dragged her into the yard to show everyone how drunk she was on a Tuesday night.
That was the first night Momma locked Vonne out of their sagging house. She slept on the back porch and went to school in the same clothes she wore the day before. School became a battlefield, people called her names like pussy-biter, and dyke. She fought them all too. Every time she got kicked out of school, she slept outside. At least the girls were suddenly plentiful, they fed and clothed and housed her on many occasions.
Then she met Louise Hinkle, the owner of the Coolwood Carwash. Everyone called her Hink. People respected her even though she wore men’s clothes and her hair short and dapperly slicked. Any kid cool enough to have a car hung out at her establishment, as well as the numbers runners, the loan sharks, the shade tree mechanics, the winos, and the hangers on; the women and girls waiting for their men, admiring them from afar.
Hink took Vonne under her wing, called her the daughter she never had, praised her toughness, and laughed when she heard stories about the young girls that sought Vonne out. Hink had the same sort of reputation except real women wrote their phone numbers down for her. Grown women.
She taught her young charge how to survive in a man’s world as a dyke, and there was no shame in that word, it was what they were, they could own it or hide the rest of their lives. So Vonne owned it, she was only what her Momma and Daddy made her to be, hard-hearted. She did not understand that being tough, being downright brutish had nothing to do with being a dyke, it took the will of a preschool teacher to show her the truth.
She watched Tisha’s silhouette as she swept the spotlight back and forth across Hwy 90, the roofs of submerged cars like islands in the dark water. Vonne negotiated around each one as Tisha pointed them out. The rain fell at a steady drizzle. They were just past the Walmart and the bank
“What’s that?” she asked training the flashlight ahead illuminating the form of a partially over turned trailer with a semi still attached. It rocked violently as the water pushed past, through the hitch and wheels, straining itself into white spray.
“Shit,” Vonne muttered and killed the boat’s engine.
Tisha bounced the light from end to end of the eighteen-wheeler thrashing like an undiscovered sea beast wounded and brought from the depths to the middle of a flooded little town..
“We’ll go around it,” she said, and pointed at the tail end of the trailer. She turned a bit to face her at the helm, “What do you think?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
She started the motor and pushed the throttle, turning the wheel to move around the creaking trailer quickly before it succumbed to the insistent water.
Tisha lit the way, and Vonne could not have been more proud of her wife overcoming her fears to navigate the flood.
A groan drowned out the static hiss of the drizzling rain. Up ahead the semi and its trailer wobbled threateningly. A tortured, metallic pop signaled the release of the big truck’s load, it rocked forward revealing a wave of black water rolling over the top.
“What the fuck?” Vonne shouted, she looked to her wife, “Babe, get down.”
Tisha cowered over the spotlight as the trailer tilted, water rolled from either end towards the boat. The first wakes were no match for the boat’s motor; Vonne continued her course around the trailer accelerating.
With another wet groan, it fell over and was covered by the flood. The boat rode the new tide with ease.
“Tisha, light,” Vonne called as they rounded the trailer. She was going to goddamned fast. Panicking. Her heart stalled in her chest like a hesitant inboard/outboard motor as her wife straightened, shined the spotlight into the roaring darkness.
Vonne squinted her eyes seeing their point of escape out of the torrents. Coolwood High was not too much further away, it was higher ground, and there was a shelter set up there. Hink had told her so that morning.
A fast moving, pale blue object skirted through the searching beam. Tisha followed it, barely able to keep up with a nearly totally submerged Volkswagen Beetle. It bobbed out of the water like a submarine exposing the entire front windshield. The water carried it swiftly in their portside direction.
“Hold on,” Vonne said jerking the wheel to avoid the car, missing it by inches. The horn blared as the Beetle rushed past, Tisha screamed and covered her ears. Vonne looked over her shoulder watched the car float away its brake lights flashing like angry red eyespots.
Then the current changed.
She saw it slant before her very eyes, it happened in an instant dragging the car in the direction of the boat, faster than before.
“Oh hell no,” Vonne shouted, pushing the accelerator as far as it would go. She saw the beam of the flashlight slant up into the sky as her wife slid backwards falling on her ass in the boat.
“Shit,” Vonne shouted looking over her shoulder for the car, “Tisha hold on.”
She tried to turn the wheel but the fucking Beetle was chasing them. Or was it the flood? That did not seem to matter after the impact, fiberglass on fiberglass, it sounded like a car crash with a lot of splashing.
The car struck her starboard side, Vonne clutched the wheel still trying to steer out of it’s path. She lost her footing and slipped on the slippery deck. She pulled herself back up; found herself staring past the windshield of the Beetle at the form behind the wheel.
She squinted until she was certain she was seeing a body in the driver’s seat, as the car’s bumper grated across the side of her boat before floating away. The current had changed back to its original directs, moved sluggishly now, nearly still.
“Tisha,” she called, looking for her wife’s cowering form in the glow of the fallen flashlight, did not see her.
She walked toward the bow calling her wife’s name.
Tisha was gone.
Vonne screamed her wife’s name, snatched up the spotlight, the handle wet, but still warm from her hands.
“Oh shit,” she groaned as she searched, “Oh no, no.”
She peered over the sides of the boat, combing the perimeter, looking for Tisha in the black water.
The flood had taken her.
“No,” Vonne argued with the thought, “She fell in, the crash knocked her overboard, oh, Tish, Babe, I told you to hold on.”
But the life jacket. She should have remained afloat; Vonne had taught her how when she realized there was no way she could teach her wife to swim. How could anything stay afloat with water changing directions, carrying wayward Beetles with the owner drowned in the driver’s seat?
“Drowned?” she asked herself, not sure why. If the dude in the Volkswagen was still alive, he was on his own.
“Tisha,” she shouted into the night, she killed the engine, continued calling for her wife, the rain fell harder and sounded on the water like mocking laughter.
CHAPTER FOUR: earlier that afternoon
The rain would not stop. At times, a steady drizzle it would thicken into sheets that poured from the gray skies, or pound to the earth, street, and the roof of their house in slanted nails that shattered on contact.
On the third day of the downpour, every local television weather personality declared the Houston and surrounding areas under flood watch, advising no one to go anywhere, several parts of I-10 were flooded, as well as various neighborhoods from downtown to the little towns further south.
Shavonne Nash stood, dressed for work, at her front window watching the street in front her home, officially a stream now, neighborhood kids released from school pulled each other along on round inflated floaties, bobbing on the shallow current. The children laughed thoroughly enjoying the “snow day-south Texas style”
“Bad ass kids,” she muttered under her breath, as her wife Tisha came from behind and hugged her around the waist.
“Oh look at that,” Tisha commented, a bit of concern weighing on her voice, “There’s no telling what’s in that water.”
“Sewage, mercury,” she said, “I hope they get hepatitis.”
“Vonne,” Tisha scolded, “Don’t be sour because you have to spend the whole day with me.”
“I’m not sour,” she said turning to face her best friend, confidant and lover for the past ten years, her wife, “It’s the beginning of the season, there is a game at the end of the week, I need to work with my team.”
A sorrowful expression briefly crossed Tisha’s face, a familiar look that once was rarely seen, but in the past year, Vonne saw it mar her wife’s face frequently. Her face would turn as if someone was slapping her in slow motion, her eyelids would flit and lower.
“Hey,” Vonne said softly, “How about a decent, sit-down breakfast?”
“All right,” Tisha said taking her hand, leading her into the kitchen, “What shall we fix?”
Vonne chuckled, and paused in the hall to pull her into her arms.
She caressed a red brown shoulder sliding aside the skinny strap of the pajama tank Tisha wore. Her skin was what first attracted Vonne, as velvety smooth to the touch as it looked, as rich as the coloring promised.
“What kind of idiot wouldn’t want to spend a rainy day with you, Tisha Pembry?”
She could only grin in response before Vonne kissed her. Tisha clung to her in that helpless way she found endearing since their very first careless embrace and surrendering kiss ten years ago.
“How do pancakes sound?” Tisha asked keeping her hand and tugging her into the kitchen.
Vonne grinned and nodded.
“Turkey bacon?” she asked.
Vonne grimaced and thought of what she would give for a good, fatty, blood pressure raising slice of crispy bacon, the only real kind in her book the kind that came from a pig.
But she had to watch her weight these days, a few years ago her metabolism had slowed and when she turned thirty six it grinded to a halt. She gained twenty unseemly pounds around her tummy and hips she could not get rid of. She still considered herself to be in pretty good shape, she always worked out regularly with the college volley ball team she coached, and she could still get higher off the ground than most of the eighteen to twenty-two years on the squad, and she still had a hell of a jump serve.
She had always been tall, 6” even, amazonish, cornfed, and her skin dark brown, Sepia. Her eyes were almond shaped from Native American ancestry mixed with the blood of African Slaves. She kept her hair cut to the nape of her neck, had it relaxed every six weeks.
She moved around the kitchen gathering ingredients and watching as her wife mixed them. Tisha had rounded out nicely over the years; she was half a foot shorter, and perfectly comfortable in her skin. They both joked at their increasing doughieness. One of their favorite-shared hobbies had always been deserts. They were quite the connoisseurs of chocolate in all of its forms. But they loved each other’s bodies, Vonne loved to run her hands over the curves of Tisha’s hips, and Tisha enjoyed tracing the definition at Vonne’s arms and shoulders.
Well once, they had enjoyed each other, she could not remember the last time they enjoyed each other all the way. Yes, she could remember, she chose not to, it had been a year ago, back when Tisha was not terrified of leaving the house, before Vonne drove her away, and waited too late to retrieve her, the wolves had gotten to her.
It was those memories she would have braved the flood just to escape, Tisha was the constant reminder, the sorrow that turned her head, the fears she lived with daily, so Vonne could never forget the wrong she had done.
She noticed that their breakfast had slipped into an anxious silence they often shared over the past year, because it was always hanging over their heads like the storm clouds over their town, that betrayal running rampant like those rapists the police was never able to I.D. because Tisha could not remember their faces.
“Don’t you have an appointment with Dr. Greene?” Vonne asked as they sat down to eat.
“I doubt she can get through,” she answered, “We’ll probably talk over the phone.”
Vonne made an effort to conceal the relief she felt, today would have been the perfect opportunity for Dr. Greene and Tisha to corner her for a bit of couple therapy, she had promised to participate in more often.
The psychiatrist was not Vonne’s biggest fan after she blew up last week and lost her temper with Tisha.
“So what are you going to do with yourself today?” Tisha asked breaking the silence once again of their breakfast table.
“Check out some day time T.V. on the couch with my baby,” Vonne grinned relishing the smile her wife beamed across the kitchen table.
“I suppose I can fit you in,” Tisha said, she had several projects in the air that she kept busy with during the day between keeping house and cooking dinner and her fears. There was origami, watercolor painting and a bodice ripper romance novel lesbian style about a Haitian pirate and a slave.
As they cleared away the breakfast dishes Vonne could not resist grabbing her around the waist and pulling her close. She missed the closeness of her wife, sure they talked things out more than the previous nine years, but Vonne missed being able to chase her around the house the both of them laughing their heads off until she caught her and they really got down to business.
“I sure know how to fuck things up,” Vonne said bending her neck to kiss the bruises her fingers had made three days before.
“Vonne,” Tisha nearly whispered, “We don’t have to go there this morning.”
“I hurt you again,” she said.
“And you apologized,” Tisha spoke just as quietly as she had before.
“I promised I would never hurt you again,” Vonne said, “And I went and did it.”
“What can I do about that?” she asked, “Leave you?”
Vonne slowly shook her head.
“I can count the times you’ve lost your temper with me, Vonne, I can handle it,” Tisha left her arms and turned to the sink.
She was keeping a count. A list of the times Vonne had blown up and yelled, once or twice swiping something breakable crashing to the floor, the time she punched a dent into the hood of her Protégé when Tisha has been careless enough to bump the Durango in the driveway and then the mushroom incident, a deliberately cruel act.
“After what you’ve been through you should not have handle that kind of shit,” Vonne insisted, “I’m promising again, this time I’ll die before I break it.”
“Don’t,” she said.
Vonne could hear the tears in her wife’s voice, she moved close, took her in her arms once again. “It’s too late,” she said, “I’ve already said it.”
They embraced for a minute longer before adjourning to the living room for what day- time television had to offer.
Of course, there was nothing to watch, flood coverage held every station hostage, a man forced to the roof of his truck by a sudden rise of water rescued by a helicopter, and a woman giving birth to her baby on the back aisle of a convenience store.
“Gross,” Vonne said wishing they had not decided cable was an unnecessary expense.
“It’s looking pretty serious out there,” Tisha got up from the couch to peer out the window as if disaster were just arriving.
“Don’t worry,” Vonne said, “Legacy never overflows.”
“I don’t think Legacy has seen this much rain,” Tisha said of the bayou several miles away from their home surrounded by wooded parkland.
“I’m sure it has,” Vonne said, “Come on back over here, we’ll watch some old movies.”
Tisha returned and together they shifted through the DVD’s on the shelf for something to watch. The phone rang halfway through their deliberations and Tisha went to answer.
“Good morning Dr. Greene,” she said then frowned, “Will you be able to make it through?”
She looked over at Vonne. “We haven’t talked about it yet. Ok. I’ll see you soon.”
She hung up and returned to the couch.
“Dr. Greene is leaving town,” she said, “The water has reached her front stoop, she says we’re going to be under a flood watch for the next twelve hours.”
Vonne rolled her eyes, a hysterical, agoraphobic wife was the last thing she needed right now. Then again, perhaps the flood would scare Tisha out of the house.
“You think we should leave too?”
“The water’s not even past the curb,” she said straightening to peer out the window.
“What if we have to?” Vonne asked, “Do you think you could make it?”
“I don’t know,” Tisha said, her shaky voice giving away her true answer.
“We’ll be all right,” Vonne reassured her, “We got the boat if we need it, I’ll go out later and move it into the drive way, cover it with tarp…we’ll be ready.”
Tisha did not seem to hear her. “I’m going to change out of my pjs.”
“Babe,” Vonne said, following her to their bedroom, “We’re going to be all right.”
“What if the power goes out?” Tisha asked pulling off her tank top, opening the bureau to look for a shirt.
Playfully, Vonne grabbed her around the waist startling her.
“Hey,” she said holding her, “If the power goes out we’ll just have ourselves a romantic, candle-lit evening at home.”
She nuzzled Tisha’s neck, and smiled as she felt the tension there give a bit.
“The rain will stop and by noon tomorrow our street won’t look like a Venetian canal.”
“I don’t think I could leave,” she murmured, “Promise me we won’t have to leave.”
“We won’t,” Vonne said, “This isn’t New Orleans.”
“Please,” Tisha shivered against her, recalling the tragedy last year.
“I push comes to shove we’ll get in the boat and shove off,” Vonne said, she sighed and sang, “Saiiling.”
Tisha laughed. “You’re so silly.”
“And you’re so damned fine,” Vonne replied moving her fingertips under the bra clasps at her wife’s back. It had been a long time since she dared to touch her like this, most of the time Tisha would not let her come to close and often covered herself when she was undressed. But in the past few months they had been able to have such shirtless encounters, and Vonne had to be very perceptive because Tisha would never say a word, only nod when asked if she wanted the moment to end. Then the mushroom incident happened shoving them several steps backwards.
“Let me get dressed, Vonne,” Tisha said and actually giggled when her bra was unclasped.
“Opps,” Vonne said as she slid down one strap.
“Real smooth,” Tisha laughed, and she had to step away to get a look at her, “What?”
“I forgot how much I love to hear you laugh,” Vonne said touching her wife’s face tenderly, her heart fluttering when she did not shyly look away but matched her gaze.
What kind of idiot would not want to be flooded in with Tisha Pembry? She had forgotten so much. If only she could carry that look around in her head, a mental snapshot to flash at her consciousness whenever the anger threatened.
“You make me feel safe,” she said as she had said before.
“Still?” Vonne asked, and searched her wife’s face and only saw the truth when she said yes.
Even after I hurt you? After I left you to the wolves, and they came all right because they did not sense my protective presence?
“Yes,” Tisha said again and she had to turn away because there were tears in her eyes, suddenly she was on the verge of weeping like a child.
“Vonne,” her wife had hold of her arm, would not let her turn away, “It’s Ok, it doesn’t make you weak, you’re still as strong as ever in my eyes.”
She nodded, allowed Tisha to reach up and wrap her arms around her, it felt good to be comforted by her wife.
The doorbell chimed and they parted.
“Oh, shoot,” Tisha said, “Could you let her in Vonne?”
“Yeah, I could,” she answered, not looking forward to entertaining the therapist while her wife dressed and preened. She stood there staring at Tisha who blinked as she refastened her bra and covered her breasts.
“Well?” she asked when the doorbell chimed again, “Vonne?”
“I’m thinking about it,” she chuckled.
Tisha laughed. “Go.”
Vonne took her time getting to the door grumbling under her breath, it was bad enough she over-paid some learned broad to highlight the inadequacies of their marriage, she actually had to see Dr. Greene and squirm under her scrutinizing gaze.
“Shavonne,” she said in greeting, she stood on the stoop in blue waders and a bright yellow raincoat. She was a short reed of a woman with a graying fro beneath the red kerchief tied on her head to keep dry.
“Dr. Greene,” she answered stepping aside, a gesture for the therapist to enter. She paused to step out of the waders revealing woolen gray socks. Vonne gallantly helped her out of her raincoat, hung it on their empty coat hanger.
The doctor thanked her, politely accepted coffee, and Vonne thankfully went to fetch it, grateful to be in a separate room. But the precocious old woman followed her, sat silent at the kitchen table while she busied herself about the kitchen.
“Will you be joining us today?” she asked.
Vonne felt her anger began to rise.
“No,” she answered simply.
“No?” Dr. Greene asked as Vonne ceremoniously presented with a steaming cup of coffee, a covered sugar bowl, and a carton of creamer.
“Tisha and I have discussed this already,” she said in a dismissive tone, struggling to keep her voice low, so her wife would not hear.
“I’m sure you have,” Dr. Greene said half disbelieving, “But I wanted to discuss it.”
Vonne leaned against a counter and folded her arms.
“She called me very upset the other day,” the old woman said, “I was frightened for her-”
“I’ve never hit Tisha, that never will happen,” Vonne said.
“I was not frightened over what you would do to her,” Dr. Greene said, “Only the consequences of what you had done.”
“We’ve discussed this, we’re past it, Tisha has forgiven me,” she said.
“That does not undo anything,” Dr. Greene said, “I’m sure Tisha would forgive her rapists if it meant undoing what happened over at the park.”
Vonne felt her anger boiling, she clenched her jaw to her mouth closed, pulled her arms closer, tighter around her body to keep them from lashing out.
“The fear she feels, if she is traumatized again she could suffer a lapse, a break from reality. At this point in time even with the fears she is basically unchanged, she’s a survivor and within the year she’ll be teaching again, I’m sure of it, but if you truly want to lose your wife, pull another stunt like you did the other day and I guarantee once she’s gone over the edge, you won’t know her anymore.”
“I got angry,” Vonne said, it was happening again, “I lost my temper. It won’t happen again.”
“Of course it will,” Dr. Greene said, “You have sadness inside of you, it’s always been sadness, Shavonne, it manifests in anger, but anyone who cares to can see right through you.”
“Don’t,” Vonne said, “Don’t fucking shrink me in my own kitchen.”
“Tisha was able to see,” Dr. Greene said, “She fell in love with you because she saw past the anger, saw that you were broken, she says it broke her heart and won it at the same time.”
Her anger died suddenly like an undernourished orgasm, faded fast and she wanted to call Dr. Greene a liar, because she and Tisha often compared their personal accounts of their courtship from beginning to end, and sadness had never been on the roster.
The good doctor raised her eyebrows in a challenging gesture that wavered as she lifted the coffee cup to her lips. Tisha entered the room, the silence nearly fooled her, but she only had to look at Vonne to see the remnants of the storm that had passed through the room.
She smiled when Vonne offered her a cup of coffee, then began to chat with the doctor about the rains.
“You know we’re right below Houston,” Dr. Greene said, “The receding waters are just going to roll down on us…” she paused, “The chances that you’ll have to leave are growing higher, if this rain does not stop by the afternoon…”
She looked up at Vonne as she brought Tisha a steaming cup of coffee. She saw that look of sorrow pass her wife’s face.
“Sit down with us,” Dr. Greene said.
She did, there was gravity in the old woman’s voice, weighed concern for Tisha’s safety.
“You can be on the safe side and leave now with me,” she said, “My daughter has plenty of room for ya’ll.”
She looked from the doctor to Tisha who hung her head.
“I could sedate you,” Dr. Greene said, “You could sleep through the whole journey, once we reach Austin and it’s too much I could keep you mildly sedated.”
Tisha gave no answer, just stared down at her coffee, Vonne reached over and took her hand.
“It doesn’t sound like a bad idea,” she said, “I’d be right there with you the whole time.”
“I can’t,” Tisha said, “I can’t go out there, especially not now.”
“You can,” Dr. Greene said, “If you want to ensure Vonne’s safety and your own, you don’t want her to have to drown alongside you in the attic.”
Tisha covered her face with her hands, Vonne exchanged glances with the good doctor who sighed.
“That won’t happen,” she said removing her hands, “We have the boat, if the water gets too high, Vonne will get us to safety.”
She could have poked holes in her own plan for possible escape, but found she could not refuse her. She felt guilty for jumping on the doctor’s sedation bandwagon so soon. It would hurt Tisha to leave and Vonne had promised to be no part of that ever again.
“I’m sure she’ll be ready to get out of here if the water rises,” she said to Dr. Greene, “There’s no present danger, this isn’t a hurricane.”
The good doctor studied her, she knew as well as Vonne that Tisha was manipulating them, or at least her fears were. She would hold Vonne to the promise she made earlier, even if it meant the two of them drowning in their own home.
Dr. Greene glanced at her watch.
“Well, Tisha would you like to talk a minute before I go?”
Vonne watched her wife nod carefully, then excused herself from the table announcing that she would be in the garage
She left them in the kitchen, and walked out to the garage where her weights were set up. She opened the garage door to let the moist air inside. She pressed the play button on the little boom box next to the bench and stretched before laying back. The first strains of Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper started. She liked to do her reps to old 70’s rock, just like Coach Reeves who taught her everything she knew about volleyball.
Reeves had been a gruff old dyke with piercing blue eyes and a blond mullet. To young Vonne she was just a crazy old white woman. To adult Vonne the tough old bird was a lifesaver, she took a wild kid kicked off the basketball team for fighting, and showed her peace in the form of a floating white ball, a discipline.
Nearly twenty years later Vonne did some molding of her own, coaching Pointdexter’s volleyball team to nationals the year before. She wondered what happened to Reeves, if the old woman had happened to pick up a paper or catch the news and see her former student teaching other youngsters.
Vonne was happy as she began to feel the aching strain in her muscles; pain was good, she could eat for breakfast like so much turkey bacon. She smiled to herself as she extended her arms raising the one hundred and eighty pounds of iron as she puffed out air, grunting a bit. The music drowned out the sound of the rain, but not the familiar rumble of a diesel engine.
Vonne rested the weight bar on the forks above her head and straightened to see Louise Hinkle climbing out of her big black dual wheeled pickup with her landscape company’s logo emblazoned on the side, a red fox on a patch of green grass. Hink sold her carwash about eight years ago and went into the yard business. The woman was a testament that dykes softened with age, just like men. She had allowed her close-cropped hair to grow out; always gray her hair was all silver-white and tied back into a ponytail. In her over-alls and straw cowboy hat she looked like someone’s truck driving granny, not the tough old butch Vonne admired as a kid.
“How ya’ll doin’ in all this rain?” she asked brightly.
Vonne narrowed her eyes.
“Fine I guess.”
“Dr. Greene here?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Vonne said folding her arms, “What you want Hink?”
“I want to make sure ya’ll are ok,” she said shifting her weight, fishing boots squeaking on the smooth concrete of the garage floor.
“We’re fine,” Vonne said.
“A lot of people are leaving town,” Hink said, “If things get bad we’re going to set up a shelter at the highschool, anyone with a boat is volunteering for a rescue squad.”
“Mmm Hmm,” Vonne said, flashing her smoldering disdain for the old woman, despite her efforts at playing good citizen, denizen of the community with her rescue squad and her flood shelter.
“You can be pissed at me all you want,” Hink said, “What’s past is past. Right now is not the time to hold grudges.”
“I can take care of me and Tisha,” Vonne said, “Right now she ain’t ready to leave town-”
“Don’t be foolish, Shavonne,” Hink told her, “You got to get her out of here.”
“When she’s ready,” Vonne said.
“Aw shit,” Hink said, “You got to persuade her to get ready, she ain’t right to make executive decisions, she’s terrified of mushrooms for god’s sake.”
Vonne stood in one smooth movement the narrow bench in the V of her legs.
“She won’t be calling you no more for anything like that,” she said.
“She can call me anytime,” Hink grunted.
“The hell,” Vonne shouted, “I told you the other day I don’t want to find your goddamned truck parked in my yard.”
“And you told, Tisha?”
“Tisha got the message,” Vonne said, stepping over the bench, “We both agreed that what happened between you two cancels ya’ll’s friendship, as far as I’m concerned you and me were never friends, you were just waiting for the day when you’d stab me in the back-”
“You pushed her away,” Hink said, “What was I supposed to think? She needed me so I went to her; don’t forget that it was her who called me-”
“Get the hell out of here,” Vonne roared, “Off my goddamned property, Hink, before I lose my fucking temper.”
“Go on then,” the old dyke stepped close so they were face-to-face, caramel colored skin reddening beneath the surface, gin blossoms glowing on the tip of her nose, “Lose it. Drag me across the yard, like you dragged Tisha the other day, you little coward.”
Vonne grabbed the front of her overalls, pushed her backwards, the squeal of the wet rubber boots echoed out of the garage.
“That’s enough,” someone grabbed the back of Vonne’s Pointdexter polo, pulled her backwards and she was looking into Dr. Greene’s eyes.
“Ignorant ass-” the good doctor hissed, “She can hear ya’ll in here, and its upsetting her.”
She looked at Hink.
“You’re not welcomed here; just go about your business.”
Hink adjusted her clothes and left immediately. Vonne and Dr. Green watched her swing into her big ass truck like some villain from a western indignantly mounting his horse.
She turned to Vonne as the engine roared to life and grumbled up the street, spraying jets of water as the truck sped away.
“Can’t you control your self?” Dr. Greene asked, “Can’t you handle anything with a little fucking tact?”
She stepped away from the smaller woman not sure what to do about the sudden flare-up of temper. She tried to stammer an answer but nothing intelligible would come out.
“I really want ya’ll to make it, Shavonne,” the doctor said her voice slightly louder than a whisper, “I want to believe in ya’ll but if you don’t do something about your little anger issue Tisha should not stay with you, and she won’t once she gets better.”
“Alright,” Vonne said, “I get you.”
Dr. Greene reached out and touched her forearm, let out a sigh leaning on her a bit.
“I’m too old to be breakin’ up fights,” she said.
“Nobody was fighting,” Vonne said.
“It looked like you were two seconds from burying your foot in that old woman’s ass,” Dr. Greene said.
“She’s in love with Tisha,” she said turning to look outside at the latest shower falling from the sky, “She always has been.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Dr. Greene said, “Her heart belongs to you, just like yours was always with her and not with what’s-her-face, Stella.”
Vonne frowned at the name she had worked to hard to keep out of her conscious just so she would not have to suffer through the flashes of memories of ebony skin just as soft as Tisha’s but so unfamiliar, she could not be satisfied until she mapped every inch of it.
The affair started the whole ball of tragedy. She had driven Tisha away, ashamed, because she was caught red handed so to speak in the private shower in her office behind the gym. One minute she had Stella Hampton, the ex-Miss. Texas, the new history professor at Pointdexter pinned against the tiled wall of the shower, her hand between her legs, fingers even deeper, whispering a chant of delicious smut into her ear, the next she turned to see her wife standing there.
They were separated for several weeks, trying to reconcile when Tisha went on that fateful walk, Vonne pushed her away into the woods, and something awful had happened.
“I want us to make it too, Dr. Greene,” she said watching the rainfall, “I’ll stay here as long as we can just to ensure her comfort.”
To be continued in chapter five:undertow
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