Sheena Daniels rubbed her eyes before looking over at the clock that sat on the bookshelf in her office. It was almost quitting time, and this day couldn’t be over soon enough.
She had been working for the United States Department of Education as an attorney since the year she graduated from law school. This is where she and Jason Jackson had come to know and love each other. He had worked in this same office up until a year ago. Now he worked out of the Atlanta office and she missed their Thursday night bowling practices, their intense games of Scrabble or Monopoly, their Friday night movie marathons, and she even missed arguing with him about politics.
Sheena wiped the tears from her eyes telling herself that better days were ahead, she just had to get through this day. She had cried more today than when Jason first told her on Sunday that he would no longer be seeing her. She turned her swivel chair to face the window. The weather on the outside was just as dreary as it was on the day their relationship took a turn for the worse. Just thinking about that day brought on a deep depression. They were supposed to be friends, the very best of friends, and that decision was made by the two of them. It was Jason who had changed his mind about their agreement. He didn’t want to be just friends any more. He wanted to be her husband, her lover, father of her children, and now she felt betrayed. He had promised they would always be friends and he reneged on his word.
Though that conversation had taken place more than a year ago, she remembered it as if it were yesterday. Sheena could hardly speak after Jason told her he was in love with her. As the words came from his lips, she saw the sincerity in his eyes and knew he meant what he was saying. “I love you, Sheena. I can’t help how I feel about you.”
“But we agreed to be friends, Jason. We’ve discussed this, and we came to the same conclusion: that we should remain friends,” she had told him.
“I don’t want to be just your friend anymore,” he protested.
“Why, Jason? Why have you changed your mind now? I don’t understand. We agreed long ago to just be friends.”
“I can’t help how I feel about you. I can’t help how my body reacts to you. I love you, Sheena. I’ve tried to tell myself we are just friends but my mind and my body just won’t agree.”
For a long time no one spoke. Then she turned to him. “So, what are we supposed to do? Just act as if the other doesn’t exist?”
He walked over to where she stood. “I know a solution.” He positioned himself directly in front of her.
“Which is?” she asked nervously.
“We can take it one step at a time. We’re already the best of friends; we already do everything couples do. We just never had the romance. We can just add it as we…”
“No, Jason. I like things the way they are.”
“Then, I guess it’s settled.” He moved away from her, heading toward the door. “I asked for a transfer and it’s come through. I’m leaving.” There was tremendous pain in his voice, and she could feel the tears pressing against the backs of her eyes.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” she choked out.
“Yes, it does. I don’t want… I can’t be around you.”
She physically jiggled herself to ward off the memory.
Sheena had been unable to concentrate on work today. The case she was writing an answer to should have only taken a few hours, not the entire day. She heard a tap on her door.
“Come in,” she answered putting away her self pity for the moment.
Carol pushed the door open and leaned against the door jamb with her overcoat draped across her arm. “You’re not pulling another late night, are you, Sheena?” Carol was the department’s Administrative Assistant, ensuring that the Attorney’s Division was run efficiently. But she was also nosey and knew everyone’s business – something that wasn’t too hard to do since most of the calls came through her.
“No,” she answered using her thumb and index finger to rub her eyes as if they had been strained by the computer screen, when in fact; she was attempting to hide the truth about her red puffy eyes. “I’ll only be here another half-hour or so. I’m meeting Marshall for dinner.”
“Marshall?” Carol asked with curiosity.
“Yes, Vincent Marshall.”
“Oh, are you talking about, Mr. Tiger?”
Sheena found humor in her description. “People really call him that?” she asked, always amazed at hearing that expression.
“Girl, the man is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom.”
Sheena smiled. “So I’ve heard.”
“Well, I’ve seen him in action. If it weren’t for Vincent Marshall, my cousin Chanel would have lost her children to her ex-husband. So … how did you meet him? Inquiring minds want to know!”
“I clerked for his partner, Bill Hart, my last year of law school.”
“Oh, then you’ve known him for a while now?”
“Well, let’s just say we’ve been acquainted for a while.”
Carol moved to sit in one of the visitors’ chairs in front of Sheena’s desk. “I didn’t know he was available. If I had, I would’ve hit on him myself!”
Sheena leaned her head back and bellowed with laughter. “And, what would your husband have to say about that?”
“Nothing! I wasn’t married when I first met Marshall, and that means my whole life could have been different. Let me think about that for a moment … well, for starters, I probably wouldn’t have married Glenn!”
Sheena shook her head. “Then, it’s a good thing for Glenn you didn’t know Marshall was single.”
“Well, you better not let Jason find out you’re going out with Marshall.”
“Jason and I are just friends.”
“Oh, so I guess Josephine was lying when she told me that you practically knocked him down when he walked into your office last Friday surprising you with his presence.”
“I hadn’t seen him in a long time. We’re friends and I’d missed him. So yes, I was glad to see him.”
Carol was silent for a minute, “Okay, you’ve told me that about a hundred times. I guess I need to believe it, especially now that he’s moved to Atlanta and you’re still here in Philly.”
Sheena nodded. “Good idea.”
Carol leaned forward in her chair, “You do know Josephine has a crush on you?”
“More office gossip, Carol?”
“This isn’t gossip, it’s the truth. You could see the jealousy on her face when she came out of your office after Jason arrived. I was standing right there at my desk minding my own business when I saw her walk past clearly upset. And me, being the concerned Christian person that I am, went into her office to make sure she was all right and see if there was anything I could do to comfort her.”
Sheena shook her head, “You went fishing for information.”
“Only to use it to help her.”
“Well, anyway, she was clearly upset and I thought maybe you had said something to hurt her feelings. Now, you know I’ve noticed the strain on the working relationship ever since y’all stopped being bowling partners. So tell me… did she make a pass at you? Is that why you decided not to have her as your partner anymore?”
Everyone in the department knew Josephine Knight was a lesbian. That is, everyone except Sheena. She found out a few weeks after she’d asked her to take Jason’s place in the bowling league becoming her new partner. One evening after practice, Josephine confirmed Sheena’s newly forming suspicions. Sheena decided to end their bowling partnership because during her confession, Josephine assumed that Jason had asked for a transfer because he realized that Sheena was just like her, a lesbian. She further told Sheena that for that same reason she was uncomfortable around men. Then, to add insult to injury, Josephine finalized her comment with, “they always find out about us, even if we deny it, what’s in us comes out.” Sheena had felt so insulted that she walked away from her knowing that they could never truly be friends.
Josephine was half right. Sheena had indeed been struggling with her own sexuality but the thought of her being a lesbian was unthinkable. She didn’t want anyone to know she’d ever even contemplated it.
Maybe her friend Miranda had been right. After Sheena complained to her about men looking at her as if she didn’t have any clothes on, Miranda’s reply was, “men are gonna be mesmerized by your beauty even if you don’t want them to be.”
Josephine didn’t know her, so why had she listened to anything she had to say in the first place.
Sheena gave Carol a direct stare, “You know I’m not telling you anything. You know that don’t you?”
“Yeah, well, you can’t blame a girl for trying.”
Sheena raised her eyebrows, “No, not at all.”
“So, tell me, how did Marshall get you to say yes to a date with him? I mean, you’ve known him a long time – and you’ve never dated!”
“No, we’ve never dated, and for your information, this isn’t a date! He helped a friend of mine out of a legal jam, and after everything was settled in mediation, he told me I owed him dinner and I agreed. That’s all. So I feel a little obligated, especially since he didn’t charge her one thin cent for his services.”
Carol laughed. “Wow! He’s not only smooth in the courtroom, but with the ladies as well! I’ll tell you, girl, he sure did pull a move on you.”
“Stop it,” Sheena protested. “It’s not even like that. It’s only dinner. Besides, how many lunches have I purchased for you because I owed you one?” Sheena looked her co-worker straight in the eyes. “Yeah, you’re remembering, I see you are. Believe me, I’m not interested in Marshall, and Marshall is not interested in me, not in that way,” she said with finality. Sheena stood up, went to a file cabinet, pulled out a folder, scanned it, and pushed it back in place. When Sheena turned, Carol was looking at her suspiciously. Sheena hunched her shoulders responding to her glare, “What?”
“We’ll just see, ‘cause if he’s as smooth as I think he is, it’ll only take one dinner date for him to weave his charm all up and through here,” Carol said as she fanned her arm in an up and down motion from Sheena’s head to her toes.
“You are seriously tripping.”
Carol’s cell phone rang just as she began to laugh. “I’m not even going to answer it. I know that’s my husband telling me he’s downstairs waiting at the curb.”
“Must be nice,” Sheena remarked.
“Oh, don’t give me that. Jason Jackson gave you curbside service all the time!”
Sheena half smiled, remembering how she and Jason had shared so many great times together … and now they weren’t speaking at all. “Well, don’t keep him waiting. I’m going to finish up this file and get everything off my desk so I can have an easy Friday.”
Carol stood and headed for the door. “Okay, I’m leaving. Everyone else is gone.”
Sheena nodded. “I won’t be too much longer.”
“Is your car parked across the street?”
“No, I’m in the garage.”
“Okay, then. You have a wonderful evening!”
“You do the same.”
Sheena sat at her desk another twenty-five minutes before heading to the garage elevator. She checked her watch. “Quarter to seven” she whispered to herself. I’ll make it to the restaurant by seven-thirty, she thought. The Ben Franklin Bridge will be the best route to take.
She spotted her car as soon as she stepped off the elevator. Taking her keys from her purse, she aimed the black remote to unlock her car. As she reached for the door handle, though, she was suddenly jerked backward.
“Jesus!” Sheena cried. Someone hit her in the face. She cried out again as she was knocked to the ground and was being kicked and punched at. Sheena tried instinctively to defend herself, but the garage started spinning around her and she stopped being able to fight back. Intuitively she balled herself into a fetal position and prayed.
She knew she was going to die.
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