Cole Richards sat across the table from his son.
"Are you guys going to be home tonight? I'm bringing Samantha home with me to meet you."
Cole knew that Samantha was the woman his son had been dating for a couple of months. This would be the first time he and his wife would get to meet her. He looked over at his wife and smiled. She looked as good as she did 22 years ago when they got married. Of course constant dieting, exercise and minor cosmetic procedures helped.
He looked down at his plate of baked fish and steamed vegetables, both dressed with a sprinkling of lemon juice and pepper. No, it was no wonder that she looked the same. She was bound and determined to stop any signs that she was getting older.
He looked back across the table at his son, a young man now. Cole remembered sitting up with him at night, playing soft lullabies on his guitar between stints touring.
"We'll be around."
At eight p.m. the front door opened and he heard Randy's voice float up the stairs. His wife was already downstairs in the exercise room and Cole put down his guitar and began walking down the stairs. Midway down he had to hold onto the oak banister to keep from falling.
He stared at his son and Samantha and memories came rushing back to him, nearly causing him to buckle under the weight of them.
Cole tore his attention away from Samantha at the sound of concern from his son. He looked over to his wife and found her gaze uncomprehending. His gaze returned to Samantha and he saw the stricken look in her eyes. He could see the thoughts running through her mind.
Walking further down the stairs, he extended a hand. "Samantha, I'm sorry. You reminded me of someone."
She reached out and his large hand enveloped her small brown one. She didn't speak and he could see clearly that she didn't believe him. She thought it was the color of her skin that made him pause.
No. It was those damn memories. Memories of things he'd left undone and unsaid. Nightmares of what he'd done. Twenty-three years earlier he'd closed a door and left his soul behind for a career and it had finally caught up with him.
Lisa broke the silence by inviting everyone into the living room. Cole didn't take his eyes off Samantha for more than a minute and he missed the glares directed at him by his wife and son.
"So Samantha, Randy tells me that you're a school teacher." Subconsciously Cole was glad that Lisa was taking over, welcoming her into their home.
"Yes, I teach fourth grade." Even the voice was the same, smooth and velvety.
"Is your family from Memphis?"
"Yes, both my parents grew up here and moved back when they got married so my sister and I could grow up with our cousins."
The conversation continued without any input from Cole.
"My father passed away last year and my mother Ann is a high school music teacher."
Cole finally gave in to the memories.
Twenty-six years earlier:
Cole stood in the bedroom, in the dim light cast from the vanity lights of the bathroom. Ann lay in bed, her hair disheveled and dark limbs askew.
Ann was one of Cole's backup singers. He'd been struggling as a country music singer for a number of years and had finally caught a break. He and Ann had been seeing one another for almost a year before his manager called to tell him that he'd been offered a contract with a small recording label.
Ann had been excited for him and the rest of the band and last night had been one big party.
His manager Roy had pulled him aside before the party ended to talk over the specifics of the contract, pretty standard stuff with one exception. Roy told him he had to end it with Ann.
Cole hadn't realized that anyone knew about their relationship.
Roy had looked him in the eyes and told him the straight truth. "Cole, you've been working on this for what? Six or seven years?" When Cole nodded he continued. "You've got to give her up. There's no way you're going to make it big if your affair comes out. Country music, today's country music, isn't going to stand for an affair between whites and blacks."
Cole hadn't argued with Roy because he knew it was the truth. It was 1980 in Nashville and there was no way it would be accepted in the mainstream. As much as he enjoyed his time with Ann, he'd worked too hard to get to this point to let their relationship derail his plans. It wasn't fair to him or the band.
Cole moved closer to the bed and reached down to place a kiss at the corner of Ann's mouth. His fingertips trailed over her shoulder and down her arm. Steeling himself for one last look he drew back the covers and gazed at what he considered perfection. Smooth skin and a waist that nipped in before flaring out to meet rounded hips. Full breasts that only needed a baby suckling at them to conjure up images of the Madonna.
Cole put the covers back over her and left a folded note on the nightstand. He knew she'd understand the one line statement. "You were right." She'd told him often enough that when he made it to the big times, he'd have to give her up.
Cole was sitting in his office when Randy came upstairs after having driven Samantha home.
"Dad, what in the hell was that about? You don't like Sam because she's black? Screw you."
Cole looked up at his son's reddened face. "Randy, it's not that."
"Bullshit. You didn't say more than a few words to her all night."
"Randy, I promise you that's not it."
"Then what dad?"
Cole looked into his son's eyes. "Randy, all I can tell you is that it has nothing to do with the fact that Samantha is black."
Nope, but it had all hinged on the fact that Ann was black.
Samantha never came back to the house. She didn't actually have a reason to, since Randy didn't live at home anymore. They continued seeing each other and it all went smoothly until dinner a year later.
"We're getting married."
"Honey, this is so soon, you're only 21. Why not wait a bit?" Lisa furrowed her brow and looked at Cole, willing him to speak up.
"Your mother's right Randy. What's the rush?"
"No rush, it's not happening until next year, I'm just letting you know. I asked Sam and she said yes." Cole looked at his son and wondered where his unbendable will and determination came from.
Six months into the wedding planning Randy and Sam thought it was time for the families to meet and Cole found himself upstairs, sitting on the closed toilet with his head in his hands. He didn't know how he would get through the party.
Lisa knocked rapidly on the bathroom door. "Cole, they're here honey. Come on down."
Cole stood and braced his arms on the sink. "Be right there."
His chest felt tight and he felt nauseous. He could only hope that he was having a heart attack. He waited a minute and when nothing happened he took a deep breath and opened the door.
His eyes immediately went to Ann when he entered the living room. She was as beautiful as the last time he'd seen her. Prematurely graying hair cut short and sitting on her head like a silk cap.
She turned towards him and her eyes sparkled briefly before she turned back to Lisa. Early on in their relationship her eyes had caused him to ask if there were any Asians in her family. She'd arched one perfect brow at him in question.
"You know, your eyes are slanted."
"Yes I know Cole. Slanted eyes are not the sole domain of Asians; it's also a heavy African trait."
That was the first of many lessons, even though she jokingly once told him that she was not the walking encyclopedia of all that was black.
His eyes were then drawn to the young woman next to her. He looked into eyes that were the mirror image of his own and felt lightheaded.
"Dad, this is Sam's sister Dana."
Cole automatically offered his hand only to be met with reproachful eyes.
Ann stood and leaned down to whisper something to her child before kissing her on the forehead. She then turned to Cole and smiled before hugging him.
"It's been a while Cole."
There was no recrimination in her eyes, just understanding and a trace of pain.
"Dad, why didn't you mention that Sam's mother had been one of your backup singers?"
Cole turned to face Randy, away from the glare that pierced his heart. "I didn't realize it was Ann. She had a different last name then."
"Why didn't the two of you keep up with each other Ann? Why didn't you continue on with the band?"
Ann smiled at Randy. "The touring life wasn't for me." At that Dana snorted and opened her mouth as if to speak before being silently chastised by her mother.
Cole sat on the arm of Lisa's chair and restrained himself from asking how and when. He was certain from looking at Dana and the looks she was giving him, that he was her father. Ann hadn't mentioned being pregnant and had never contacted him. He'd walked out on her which made him hurt, but to know that she'd carried his child, made his actions that much worse.
Lisa went into the kitchen to check on dinner and Sam and Randy drug Dana with them to look at the backyard, which they had decided to use as the site of the wedding.
Cole stared at Ann. Her face filled out by the years. "Why didn't you tell me?"
For a moment the pain shone through. "What would you have done with the information Cole? If I didn't fit in the plan then there's no way a black mistress and an out of wedlock child would."
Cole looked away from Ann's clear gaze.
"Listen Cole. I'm not angry anymore. Maybe I should have let you know. I can't go back and undo things and I'm not sure that I would even if I could."
Cole wanted to ask her what Dana was like. How she had wound up as a music teacher? Who she'd married? Instead he stayed silent. He knew that every action had a consequence and he was finally facing his.
Excusing himself, Cole wandered into the kitchen and found Lisa leaning against the sink, staring out the large window that overlooked the backyard.
"You know she's yours right?" She turned around to face him, her eyes lightly rimmed with red.
"Lisa, I didn't know."
"Cole, I want Randy to be happy, but him marrying Sam means having them in our lives and I don't think I can handle that. Not with me knowing that I was the backup because you couldn't have her."
Cole moved around in front of Lisa, and gathered her in his arms. They'd spent 22 years together, through thick and thin and there was no way that he would ever hurt her.
Looking over Lisa's shoulder he stared into Ann's eyes. She'd come into the kitchen and stood in the doorway. Before he could say anything she turned and walked out of the room.
"I'll handle it Lisa, somehow."
That night Randy sat up in bed leaning against the headboard and watched Sam paint her toenails. Her long slender leg bent at the knee and pulled up against her body, provided him with an enticing picture. She wore panties and a long t-shirt, both of which he planned to remove as soon as she was done.
He was waiting for her when she slid under the covers and he reached over and brushed her soft cheek. She turned her face into his palm and kissed it before reaching under the covers and removing her panties and then her shirt.
Wordlessly, he moved over her and settled between her thighs, leaning down to kiss the hollow at the base of her neck before moving on to her mouth. Her smooth legs rubbed against his and her hands smoothed down his back, gliding over his ass.
Looking into her eyes, he watched them change from brown to black as he parted her slick folds and slid inside her wetness. He looked to the mirror opposite the bed and watched as she snaked her legs around his, spurring him on.
Holding himself up by straightening his arms, he looked down at their joined bodies and almost came. Sliding almost completely out of her, he watched as she raised her hips, seeking out his hardness and attempting to force the connection.
Giving in to her silent demand, he thrust back inside and then pulled back, leaving her warmth completely. He smiled at the pout on her face but made up for it by stroking his cock over her clit. Back and forth, repeatedly, until she made the sounds he wanted to hear. Little gasps punctuated by soft words that sounded like music. He leaned forward and kissed her as he sunk back inside, whispering "I love you" against her lips.
"I know, I know, I know" was all Sam said, even as a tear squeezed out the corner of her eye. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She'd wanted to repay Cole Richards for his cowardice, not fall in love with the son.
Just then Randy licked away the tear and stopped thrusting. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, her eyes showing every emotion: fear, desperation,love; before closing them again and digging her nails into his cheeks. She urged him against her harder and harder until he was afraid that he was hurting her.
Randy rolled and reversed their positions. He lay smiling into her face as she straddled him. He wanted the opportunity to watch her in motion. Reaching forward he hefted the weight of her breasts in his hands, tracing the barely visible veins with callused fingertips.
She wiggled her hips, getting comfortable. She'd resisted this position for a while, she thought it presented her in an unattractive light and she still didn't believe that he loved the rounded swell of her belly. He shifted his hips and winked at her and she began rising and falling along his length.
A long breaking wail signaled her release and he left himself go immediately after.
Standing at the foot of the bed a while later, Sam watched her lover sleep. She walked into the living room and made a phone call. "It's me. I'm sorry, but I can't do it." She hung up and walked slowly back to the bedroom, sliding into his waiting arms.
"You made the right choice Sam."