"Another diet? Aren’t you getting sick of trying all these diet plans that are not working?" her best friend Diana asked her as she hung up her coat and came into her friend’s small and cozy kitchen. "What is it this time?"
Sasha ignored her for a moment as she measured the vinegar and poured it into her glass of plain water. "I have tried the green juice for the past two weeks and it did not work. All the damn thing did was give me the runs. I had to be going to the bathroom every few minutes. It was really embarrassing." She put the glass to her mouth and drank, her face a mixture of revulsion and disgust.
"How does it taste?" Diana asked her sweetly as she put the glass away.
"Bite me," Sasha told her. The glass was half full, but she was not sure she could endure taking another sip. "I am seriously thinking about having my stomach stapled."
"You are not serious!" Diana followed her into the living room.
"I have heard of the complications so I am not so sure." Sasha lowered herself into one of the sofas.
"Honey, you are a beautiful woman and you are smart-"
"And I wear size twenty clothes. You are a size six, Diana, so you have no idea what it feels like to be the way I am." Sasha tried drinking the horrible concoction again and had to force herself not to gag! "I am determined to lose the weight."
"And you have been trying for years and it is not happening. Shouldn’t that tell you something?" her friend said in exasperation.
"It tells me that I am not trying hard enough," Sasha said firmly. "Now enough about me. What are you doing here on a Saturday afternoon? I thought you had a thing with Brian?"
"He blew me off," Diana said with a shrug of her slim shoulders. "He said he had to work."
"And you do not believe him?" Sasha asked her.
"Something is off about him, girl. He keeps coming up with excuses as to why we cannot go out." She turned to her friend. "Why am I doing this to myself, Sasha? Am I so hard up for a relationship that I am willing to take any crap that is handed out to me?"
"I don’t see why you should be, honey. You are an attractive independent woman who deserves more."
"I am afraid of being alone."
"What the hell does that mean?" Sasha asked her angrily as she put away the glass. That was enough for her. She could not endure another taste of that awful tasting drink and there was no way she was going to be drinking it three times a day! "Aren’t you alone now?"
"I am with you," Diana joked. "I am not like you, Sash. I have to have a man in my life."
"For crying out loud, girl! Get with the program. This is not the age where a woman has to have a man to complete her. If something is off with Brian, dump the idiot and stop having a fit every time he passes you over for something. Do you even know if he is being faithful to you?"
Diana stared at her in frustration. "I really wish you had not said that."
"You mean confirming your suspicions?"
"Yes," Diana said slowly. "I think he is seeing someone else."
"Then dump him."
"It’s not that easy," Diana said.
Sasha felt like tearing her hair out and she was wearing a very expensive weave! "Explain to me why not? When I was going out with Lambert a year ago and I found out that the bastard was cheating on me with a thin white girl, you encouraged me to get rid of him. Why are you different?"
"I have invested too much into this relationship," Diana muttered.
"You have been with the guy for six months!" Sasha said in exasperation. "That’s not long."
"I cannot just walk away, Sasha," she admitted.
"You know what, girl? Forget this damned diet of mine." She got to her feet.
"What are you doing?"
"We are going to the movies. And I am going to order the biggest carton of popcorn and we are going to gorge."
"What about your diet?" Diana asked as she followed her friend to the bedroom to get her coat.
"Screw my diet!"
But her bravado only lasted as long as it took her to come back home and stand in front of her mirror. She had really ordered the large carton of popcorn and had eaten too much she realized but at least it had taken Diana’s mind off her problems. She stood in front of full length mirror and stripped down to her panties, staring at herself critically from head to toe. She had always been big, even growing up, and had spent days peering through magazines at the slim beautiful models there, wishing that somehow she could wake up one morning and find that she had shed the pounds, but it had never happened. She had endured the ridicules in high school and had learned to deal with the haters and the bullies who referred to her as elephant or a truck and had learned to develop a tough skin and a snide tongue that had them backing off her. She had also learned to use her fist much to the despair of her single mother. She had finally accepted who she was and played up her assets. She had an innate style of dressing and bought clothes that flattered her full figure. She had small breasts and a flat stomach which was very good. She wore weaves even though she had thick shoulder length black hair which she kept natural but hardly anyone had ever seen her own hair, certainly not the people at the office she worked. Sucking in her stomach, she stared at herself for a moment longer and then with a sigh she went to the bathroom to take a shower and get ready for bed.
"Mother." Stephan sat on the side of the bed and took the dish from the nurse who had been feeding his mother. "It’s okay, I will take it from here," he told the woman with a nod. "How are you?" he asked her softly as he brought the spoon to her lips.
"Okay now that you are here." Her slate grey eyes so much like his own stared at his handsome face as she sipped the broth and swallowed. "You are home early."
"I decided to come home and spend some time with you." He gave her another spoonful and then put the bowl away. He used the napkin to dab at her lips. All the money he had at his fingertips and yet he was helpless to save his mother from terminal stage four cancer. It was frustrating and heartbreaking! He had the best oncologists on speed dial and all they could tell him was that she had less than a year to live. She was the only family he had and he was fighting his damnedest to save her, but he was losing the battle.
"It’s a Friday night, darling, you should be out somewhere with a nice woman and having a very good time," she chided him softly as she smiled at him. She knew she was dying and it was her greatest regret that she would never get to see him married and giving her grandchildren. He was not serious about anyone and she had a feeling that it was mostly due to the fact that she was so ill.
"I would rather be here with you," he told her lightly as he plumped up her pillows. He had around the clock help for her in order to make her comfortable and made sure he came home as soon as he could. He ran a billion dollar company that dealt with a wide range of beauty products which meant he had models, technicians, actors, and the whole works to deal with. He was the CEO of the company that he had started ten years ago when he was only twenty years old and he was high profiled. He had women wanting to sleep with him with or without attachments, but he was not interested. He had spent too much time building the company only to lose it in some divorce proceedings. He had been seeing someone six months ago and she had left when he told her that he was not ready for a wife. He had not been with anyone else since. He had no time to build a relationship right now. He had too much going on.
He got to his feet and pulled the drapes closed. It was a dark and starless night and the beginning of December. It was as cold as anything out there and there was a cheerful fire burning in the hearth in his mother’s large and comfortable room. His father had died five years ago from an aneurysm and years later he had discovered that his mother had cancer. It had hit very hard!
"What do you want to do?" he asked as he came over to the bed. He pulled up a chair at the bedside. He had come home a few minutes to seven and realized that he had not eaten anything since lunch. He would go over to his suite of rooms as soon as she was sleeping and he was sure the chef had left something out for him. He was supposed to have gone to a party tonight, but he had decided against it.
"Talk." Elizabeth Coleman reached out a thin hand and touched his strong arm lightly. "What’s going on at the company?"
"You want me to talk business?" he asked her teasingly, a glint in his grey eyes.
"To you it is not business. You love what you do," she said gently.
"And I have no intention of boring you with the details of it," he said firmly.
"When you talk about the company with so much passion I have no time to be bored," she said with a laugh. "I hope there will come a time when you talk about a woman with that kind of passion, darling."
"I certainly hope so but not right now." He took her hand in his. "I wish I could do something more for you, Mother."
"You have done enough, more than," she told him honestly. "I am so proud of you, darling. You have done so much! Every time I see an ad on the television that advertises something from Skin Deep, I smile in delight and pride. I am sure the nurses are tired of my constant conversations about you."
"I am sure they are," he said with a quirk to his lips. "Maybe you should stop before you end up having them looking for something else."
"You pay them too much for them to leave," she teased him. "When I am gone."
His hand tightened on hers briefly. "That time is not yet."
"It will be soon and I want you to find someone. I don’t want you to be alone, Stephan."
He lifted her thinly veiled hand and brought it to his lips. "Don’t worry about me. I am fine." He saw that she was getting tired. "You are falling asleep on me."
"It’s the pills," she said with a smile. "Go and get something to eat."
He kissed her hand again and placed it onto the sheet. He stood there and looked at her for a moment and then left the room. "She is falling asleep," he told the nurse on duty. "See to it that she is comfortable."
"Yes, sir." The nurse nodded as she got to her feet. He strode off and she looked after him for a moment. She admired the devotion he had to his mother. She knew that the nurse before her had been young and attractive, but she had heard rumors that she had made advances to him and he had gotten rid of her immediately. He had nothing to worry where she was concerned. He was an extremely attractive man, but he was way out of her league and she was a married woman!
Stephan swirled the liquid in his glass and watched the dark red ripples curiously. He had showered and changed and ate the stuffed chicken breasts the chef had had delivered to his room and was now enjoying the wine before trying to get some sleep. His schedule was hectic and he had a new line of lipstick and eyeliner coming out which meant that he needed to sit in on an ad campaign and select the best one. He had his own in-house advertising and distribution department, but this time he had decided to outsource. He had been looking at the same tired ads and he needed something that was going to blow people away. He had an idea in his mind what he wanted and was sure he could identify it when he saw it. He had a meeting on Monday with Pryce & Sullivan and was hoping that he would not have to look elsewhere. He sipped his wine moodily. He had told his mother that he was not interested in a relationship and that was true, but he had been seeing someone to relieve his sexual tensions for the past three weeks. He had told her how it was going to be and she had agreed to them only being physical. She made no demands on him and was there whenever he felt the need. The sex was good but not spectacular and it served its purpose. He gave her trinkets and she accepted them. They did not have much conversation and she did not demand when she was seeing him again which was fine by him. He tossed back the wine and put the glass away. Stephan Coleman had been photographed with models and actresses and had been called one of the sexiest men in the beauty industry, something he was not sure he agreed with. He was very tall, almost topping six-foot-three with broad shoulders and a thick head of very black hair. His slate gray eyes depending on the mood would change shades. He worked out frequently which was indicated by his long lean muscled body. He walked with a prowling restlessly which meant that he was always on the move. He worked hard and played hard, expending his energies on the various courts the Elite Club of which he was a member of. He was also a dirt bike fan and would find the time to ride his bike to counter the restless energy he had inside him. He prowled the length of his very large bedroom for a moment and then biting of a sigh he retreated to his study to get some work done.
"Sasha Fullerton! It’s been a long time," Minister Brady said as she made her way up the steps of the small Baptist church. She had grown up here coming with her mother to Sunday services when she was alive. She had been sitting at home this morning going through some of her mother’s stuff when a voice reminded her that she had not been to services for close to two months. She had left everything and gotten to her feet and went to get ready.
"Pastor, it has not been that long." She squirmed a little as he took both of her hands and squeezed them.
"Too long, child," he said gently as he looked at her. He had baptized her when she was a little girl and had buried her mother when she passed. "How are you?"
"I am good." She waited for him to release her hands. She had wanted to just come in and listen to the service and be on her way, but she had not been that fortunate. "The congregation has grown a lot."
"Several young people joined us and gave their hearts to the Lord." He took her hand and placed it onto his arm. "Come and sit with me for a little bit. I promised Ina that I would look out for you, but I am afraid I have not been keeping that promise."
"Pastor, I am sure you have lots-"
"Nonsense, child," he said, brushing off her protest as he led her to his small office and opened the door. "Make yourself comfortable while I make us some tea."
Sasha rolled her eyes and prepared to spend maybe the next hour talking about her life. The man never took no for an answer! She supposed that was what made him so good at what he did!
He came back shortly and handed her the steaming cup of tea. "It’s getting so cold out. I can barely make it to my visitations anymore," he said with a laugh. "I suppose I am in fact getting old."
"You, old?" Sasha scoffed as she sipped the insipid tea and tried not grimace. "You still look the same from when I was a little girl siting in the front pew with Mama."
"I remember how curious you were about the Bible and the questions you would ask," he said with a whimsical smile. "We have started a soup kitchen with the help of some of the local people. I am hoping you will come and help us out some Saturdays."
She opened her mouth to tell him that she had things to do and closed it. "Of course."
"Good." He patted her hand. "You are a beautiful woman, Sasha, I hope you realize that. I know in the past you were so worried about your size."
"I still am," she admitted.
"My dear!’ He shook his head at her. "I always tell people that God made people in different packages, but we are all so precious to him. Always remember that, my dear."
Stephan felt the bracing wind against his face as he cleared the hurdles. The Elite Club had a ranch that they had added a few years ago with thoroughbred horses. The members were given the options to purchase their own and have them housed there for when they were at the club and fancied taking a run. Stephan had taken up the offer and had purchased an Arabian black beauty he named ‘Liquid Darkness.’ It was freezing cold, but he had not felt the desire to stay indoors today. It was Sunday, and after making sure his mother was okay, he had left out for the club where he intended to spend the better part of the day. He reined in his horse sharply and settled him as he pawed the air before settling down. The air was crisp and clean and even though the snow had not come yet he knew that it would be very soon in coming. It was almost Christmas and apart from the various ads and the flurry of shopping for his products, it did not mean anything to him. He intended to spend the day with his mother and try to get her to eat something. He nudged the horse to a natural stream, and dismounting, he looped the reins around a sapling. His booted feet made crunching sounds on the loose stones as he walked over to the stream and studied the water. He pulled off his leather gloves and slapped them against his thigh as he studied the terrain. It was a beautiful place, he thought as he looked around. He did not remember coming this far before. He absently ran a hand against the horse’s flank as he looked around. He felt a sense of peace filtering through him, so much so that he did not feel the cold seeping through the layer of clothing he had on at first. His phone rang and he took it out impatiently wondering if something was wrong with his mother. "Claudia," he said briefly wondering why she was calling. She knew the rules.
"I know I am not supposed to call," she said hastily. "But I need a companion for the opera on Tuesday if that is okay with you."
"Not exactly a date, Stephan. I just need someone to go with me."
"I will see what my schedule is like."
"Thank you. Are you okay?"
"I am. Thanks."
If she had been hoping that he would ask her how she was, she was doomed to disappointment. "Well, I will see you when I see you."
"I will let you know when." He hung up from her. "Let’s go, boy," he told his horse softly. "It’s getting too cold out." He mounted the horse and turned sharply, digging his knees into his flanks to give him full rein!