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“There was something about Alberta. The woman was empty and longing for something, just like Freda, and like Freda she didn’t know what it was.”

***

All she had were a few pieces of clothing she had thrown into a large crumpled plastic shopping bag. They were all she needed. The less the baggage, the better. She knew she was running but had no idea where. What she knew for sure was that she needed go. Now. Freda felt guilty leaving this way, like she was fleeing the scene. Still, the thought of staying frightened her more than a guilty conscious. Taking a quick glance around the tiny bedroom, she grabbed her bag and headed to the door.

Freda had loved Alberta, or rather thought she had. When she met Alberta, she was so confused. All she knew was that she was the opposite of her fiancé Robert, and not just because of her gender. Alberta was kind and thoughtful. Gentle. Robert was…well, he just wasn’t any of those things. The day she decided to end the engagement, a weight had lifted.

She, along with her mother, and Robert’s mom had been planning the wedding for almost a year. Right down to the last-minute details of the size and shape of the ice cubes for the refreshing beverages. Cylinder cut, no more than three inches thick. Freda didn’t think she had ever loved Robert. He was dependable and reliable. He worked at a Fortune 500 company. Director of Operations or something. The point was, he made good money, and her mother was pleased. He would be a good provider. She was on her way to having the life her mother always wanted. Another reason she called it off. She had finally realized that living a life to please her mother was no life at all.

Freda’s thoughts were interrupted by the shrill ring of the telephone. Glancing down at the caller ID she saw it was Alberta calling from work. Two weeks ago, Freda had thought she was madly in love with the woman. She realized she was recovering from post-traumatic stress. The after-effect of living someone else’s life. She had been an emotional wreck. A feeling of guilt washed over her as she thought about Alberta coming home and finding her and all her things gone.

The thought of writing a note had not even occurred to her. She debated picking up the phone, impulsively grabbing it on the last ring before voicemail.

“Hi Alberta,” she said in a tired voice. Trying to sound sick.

“Oh, Freda. Thank God,” Alberta said exhaling a sigh of relief. “I was worried. I called the store and they said you didn’t come in or call out either. I tried your cell and it went straight to voicemail. You didn’t say anything about not going in this morning. Are you okay baby?”

Freda cringed at the word baby. What had once made her feel warm and protected now just made her feel uncomfortable. It seemed foreign.

“Yeah, I’m all right. I just felt a little nauseous after my shower this morning. I lay down to catch my bearing and then the phone rang, and it was you. I must have dozed off. Just tired, I guess.”

“Thank God.So many crazy thoughts went through my mind when they said you never made it to work. I’m just so glad you are okay. I should come home and take care of you. Make you feel good,” she said seductively.

Hearing her talk like that, Freda thought she was getting queasy for real this time.

“No,” she said quickly.

“That would be silly. I’m feeling much better. As a matter of fact, I’m going to make that turkey chili you love so much,” she lied.

Freda felt sorry as soon as the lie left her lips but it was unavoidable. Alberta could be so suffocating at times. If she let her leave early and rush home, she would have to delay her plans. If she stayed another day, she was sure she would lose her mind.

Alberta gave a high pitch squeal of excitement, so loud that Freda had to move the phone away from her ear. Goodness, the woman was at work in a cubicle. Surrounded by co-workers, who she guessed were used to Alberta’s bubbly if not often annoying demeanor. Alberta continued in her sweet voice.

“Oh, sweetie I would love that,” she gushed. “Are you sure? You do need your rest and I can take care of you.”

“Alberta, I said I’m okay. Now please stop fussing over me,” Freda said trying to keep her voice steady, without showing the aggravation she felt. “Go back to work. I have shopping and dinner to prepare,” she lied again.

“Okay, okay,” Alberta said, sensing Freda’s annoyance.

Freda had been so touchy as of late. Alberta felt like she was walking on eggshells. Heck, she had been downright grumpy the past two weeks or so, Alberta had noticed.

“I’ll pick up a bottle of that wine you like. It will go great with the chili. I should be home around six. I love you.”

“Me, too,” Freda said. She quickly hung up before Alberta could continue what felt like a ridiculous conversation.

Alberta was what Freda called a true-blue lesbian. She had never been with a man. Alberta knew the female body so well that when her fingers touched Freda’s body it seemed to hum from the inside out. Especially when Alberta’s lips traced across Freda’s nipples until she popped one in her mouth making Freda moan and sending waves down to her toes. Alberta would kiss down Freda’s body until she reached her womanly entry, forcing the lips open with her tongue, sucking and licking until Freda’s entire body throbbed with so much pleasure it brought her to tears. Freda had never had one orgasm, let alone the three that Alberta could give her during their lovemaking.

Alberta never expected Freda to return the favor, and she never did. Instead she had shown Freda how to please her with her fingers. The thought of putting her tongue in Alberta’s privates turned Freda’s stomach. In fact, after Alberta finished pleasuring her, Freda would insist she immediately brush her teeth and gargle. She couldn’t imagine kissing Alberta and tasting herself. Alberta never complained and continued with the farce of a relationship as if it had a real future.

Freda had never been with a woman before Alberta. Her only connection to women had been sisterhood and friendship, but there was something about Alberta. The woman was empty and longing for something, just like Freda, and like Freda she didn’t know what it was. Being with Alberta she had experienced different types of discrimination. The kind she probably had practiced unconsciously and quietly in her head. The kind exhibited by Mrs. Peterson across the hall, except Mrs. Peterson didn’t keep her thoughts to herself. Since her first meeting with the neighbor, she never greeted or even hinted any acknowledgement when she passed Freda in the building.

When Freda had first moved into Alberta’s place, she had met Mrs. Peterson when they were both coming into the building. Mrs. Peterson was carrying grocery bags, too many for her thin arms. One was slipping and close to crashing to the floor. Freda rushed over to help the elderly woman, taking the bags. Mrs. Peterson gave her a grateful smile, and they chatted while walking to the elevator. Freda said she had just moved in right across the hall from her. The old lady stiffened and roughly pulled her bags from Freda’s arm.

Freda stared in shock, as the old woman began to rant at her. She said she knew what kind of woman Alberta was from the constant train of women she had seen coming and going from her apartment. And now she had the nerve actually to move one of them in. Her pastor said they were all sinners and needed constant prayer to help guide them through their sinful ways. She left out the part of the sermon about being kind and offering guidance in addition to prayer. Easy for Pastor Luke to say, he didn’t live a stone’s throw away from them.
Freda’s cheek reddened at the onslaught of rage emitting from the woman. It was all so new to her. She didn’t know how to react. Hell, she didn’t even understand if she was a real lesbian. In the end, she had said nothing and hurried off the elevator to her apartment. She hoped that would be her last encounter with Mrs. Peterson while she stayed there, but she didn’t have to worry. Mrs. Peterson avoided her as much as possible and when they crossed paths she passed by as if Freda were not there. Life was hard enough, Freda decided, without taking on trials that didn’t belong to you.

Well, that was over, Freda thought. The spell was broken. Sure, she would miss the orgasms, but she couldn’t use that as an excuse to stay. Once she realized she wasn’t gay and never would be, she knew it was time to get moving and stop wasting her time and Alberta’s. She had been hiding out, pretending she was someone else yet again. Who the hell was she? What did she want out of her life? She had to know. It was time to find herself and start living her life instead of living the life of someone else. She finally rushed out of the apartment and quickly made her way down the stairs to the door to outside. She breathed in the crisp autumn air, feeling free. Today would mark the first day of a life of her choosing.

 

 

**************

Post image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Flickr

About the Author:

WIN_20161215_22_41_09_Pro-2Tahirah Asturias-Lawrence is former business analyst for a large financial corporation. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Service Management. She recently relocated to Georgia from New Jersey with her family, where she is pursuing her lifelong passion of writing. She currently has an article that has been accepted for publication in Nia Magazine for 2/7/2017.

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3 Responses to “Pieces of a Still Life | By Tahirah Asturias-Lawrence | Fiction” Subscribe

  1. pius 2017/03/19 at 08:46 #

    Beautiful piece. Alberta would be so heartbroken

  2. Gwen Suehunu 2017/03/21 at 03:44 #

    Great piece!

  3. Mona 2017/03/23 at 00:31 #

    Great Job on the story!!

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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