The Arrangement Ch. 09byTara_Neale©
Warning: For some of you that have been following Daniel and Jill's journey this chapter is going to blow your mind. It will certainly challenge certain societal views of what love and romance truly are. Please keep an open mind and heart for the rest of this amazing journey into true love, soul mates, and redemption. But hold onto your seats, folks, because things get really interesting from here.
Jill nibbled on pretzels as the three women giggled and laughed. This it seemed was another tradition. A sexy shopping trip to end all shopping trips. She was just glad that they had separated once they got to the mall. She blushed as she thought of the contents of the purple and gold bag on the floor next to her.
As if reading her mind, Simone lifted her pink and silver one, "Show and tell time, ladies," she announced to her friends.
Jill was glad that Trisha moaned along side her, at least she would have an ally, but from the willful and determined look on her best friend's face it would be a futile fight.
"Come on, Simone," pleaded the stunning red-head that looked out of place in their curvy women's club. But the only response was a stare down.
"I'll go first," Simone offered. "Rule is just one item, but it has to be your wildest purchase."
Jill fought back another wave of nausea at her words.
"You sure you're feeling better, sugar?" Trisha placed her perfectly manicured hand over hers on the table.
She nodded but the action only made the situation worse. "I'll be fine. The doctor said these things could take a few days to clear up," she smiled.
"You went to the doctor?" demanded Simone.
"No, what would be the point? It's obviously the food poisoning that Bel had."
"How do you know that if you haven't seen him?" asked Trisha. "I mean you don't have a fever or the diarrhea. And this is lasting way longer. What is it five days? Six now?"
Jill nodded, "I haven't actually thrown up in two days though. I was reading up on these things on the Internet though. It said that every body is different. Maybe since I have a milder case it is just taking longer to work it's way out of my system?"
"Or it isn't food poisoning at all?" Trisha giggled, "Have you thought it could be morning sickness?"
Jill went even paler at her friend's words, "This is anything except 'morning' sickness. I feel great in the morning. It's the afternoons I have to worry about. Besides I'm forty-five years old, do you know the odds of me getting pregnant?"
She regretted her spontaneous words the moment that she saw Simone's face. The pained look was like slamming the car door on your own hand. She reached across the table and covered her friend's chunky hand. "I didn't mean...You are not forty-five."
Simone forced a smile, "I know what you meant. But Trisha has a point, sweetie. Fertility might decrease after forty, but that is not birth control. If you aren't feeling better in a couple of days, I think you should see the doctor. Just to be sure."
Jill rolled her eyes, "Come on, you two."
Their conversation was making her more than a little uncomfortable. It was something she really had not even considered. Sure, she and Daniel had never really taken any precautions. Hell, worse yet, they had never even discussed it. She blushed deeper at the memory, except for his erotic fantasy at the lake.
She frowned as she thought about it. Pregnant? As unlikely as it was, she could not stop her heart from racing a bit. Another baby. Daniel's baby. Their baby. Her throat tightened and she fought back the moisture that threatened her vision.
She drew a deep breath and forced her mind back from that path. Like she told them, at forty-five the odds were most definitely against her conceiving. Seriously against it. What would be the point of getting her hopes up? It was not worth thinking about, let alone talking about with these two.
In desperation, she took up her friends earlier challenge, "All right, Simone. Show us your worst. Or do I go first?"
Trisha moaned, "Not you too."
Simone smiled and pulled something from the bag. In one hand she held a small black box with an array of mechanical buttons. Attached to it by a long cord, she held a string of shimmering pink pearlescent beads in the other.
"What the hell is that?" demanded Trisha.
Jill chuckled knowing exactly what her friend held in her hand. The two women responded almost simultaneously, "Butt beads."
Simone pushed a button on the black box and there was a soft buzzing sound, "Vibrating butt beads."
The red head drew back and shivered, "That's disgusting. Ain't nothing going near my ass."
Simone winked at Jill, "You don't know what you're missing, sweet cheeks. All right, Jill, your turn."
Jill hesitated. The contents of her bag were shocking. She knew that. In fact, she was still not certain if she would find the courage to use any of it. It had been years since she had released that side of her. She smiled at those memories.
Truth was that despite the battle with this stomach bug, things had never been better between them. That day by the pool, and in the water, had freed something inside of her. Something she feared was dead. She loved the feeling of making love with Daniel naked. Oh, she still got shy at moments, but he either teased her through it or just pushed down her walls.
He even seemed to enjoy some of her wilder and more wanton ways. Her potty mouth as it had been called even seemed to drive Daniel to newer and higher levels of passion. Her pleas for him to 'fuck me hard' always met with moans and compliance. But this was so much beyond all that.
"Come on, girl friend. Give it up," Simone demanded, pulling Jill back from her thoughts.
She lifted the bag and peeked inside. The leather bustier, the blind fold or the riding crop. She was glad now there had not been a hardware store in the mall. Rope might have won out as the kinkiest. As it was she slowly drew the leather riding crop from the bag and laid it on the table.
Trisha's eyes flew open, her red lips forming a perfect O. Simone laughed, "Wow, girl friend, props to you. I'm not sure even I would trust Samuel with something that dangerous looking in his hand."
Jill smiled at the stunned look on her friends' faces when she replied, "Who says it's for Daniel to use on me?"
Daniel watched Britney and Ashley double team poor T.J.
"Hey, man, that ain't fair?" complained Travis. "There are two of them."
Samuel chuckled, "Hey, give him another twenty years. Bet he wouldn't be complaining then?" He winked at his friends as they shared babysitting duties. "So any bets about what the girls bring home?" he teased.
Daniel shook his head and Travis turned away, but Samuel was not to be deterred. "Come on, guys. You know you love these little shopping trips as much as I do," raising his beer to Daniel, he added, "Or you damned well will after this, I bet."
Daniel flipped a burger on the grill and tried not to get drawn into the conversation. "So Travis, any progress on changing Trisha's mind about another one?"
A dark look crossed his friends face, it was not the first time that Daniel had seen the change in the man. "Not so sure I want to anymore," was his only response.
Samuel frowned. "I thought you were dying for a little girl to add to your family."
The man shrugged, "Yeah, well, sometimes things change." He lifted the almost full bottle of beer and drained it quickly.
Daniel stared at Samuel before speaking. "You know we're here if you want to talk about anything."
Samuel slapped the man on his back, "Hell, I'm here even you don't. Just ask the strong, silent one over there."
Travis stared at the ground. The toe of his cowboy boot toyed with a dandelion as he thought. Finally after a moment of uncomfortable silence he replied, "What the hell. I needed to find a way to bring this up anyway. I have a favor to ask you guys." He frowned, "Well, not you guys, but I need your wives' help on something."
Samuel chuckled, "You know Simone is up for anything. What is it? A fertility potion? Some aphrodisiac? You name it, buddy."
The man shook his head solemnly, "Nay, nothing like that."
Daniel saw the red stain spread across his friend's pale, freckled skin. He recognized his discomfort, empathized with it. "You know you can trust us, man. Whatever it is, we're there for one another."
The man looked up and nodded. "This ain't easy to ask, but can you ask Jill and Simone to keep an eye out on Trisha?"
"Trav, you know those three are thick as thieves. I don't think you have to worry about her," Samuel replied.
The man shook his head, "Not like that. I mean watch her," he hemmed and hawed as if searching for the right words.
Daniel felt the stabbing pain in his gut. This would be the first deployment in almost fourteen years that he did not feel that kind of worry and pain. He reached out a hand and placed it on the younger man's shoulder. "I understand," was his only response.
Trav forced a weak smile as he reached for another bottle of beer. Samuel studied the two men, quickly catching the meaning of what was transpiring around him. He cleared his throat, "Sure, man, I'll ask Simone to check in on her."
Daniel scooped several burgers and hot dogs off the grill on to the plate on the table next to him. "I mean it. If you need to talk, I'm here. You know I understand." He smiled weakly at his friend, " Better than I want to admit."
"Yeah, man, I know, but things are going good for you now. I don't want to bring up old shit."
He nodded, "I know, but if I can help then it's all good."
The man looked over at his son playing in the wadding pool with the twin girls. "Last time I was away, she cheated," he whispered.
"What? How do you know?" asked Samuel.
Travis sighed, "She told me herself. When I came home." He paused , studied the ground a bit more before continuing, " I knew things weren't right, but it was just suspicions. I wasn't even sure what it was. Then a couple of weeks later, she started crying and babbling about how sorry she was. It all came out."
Daniel breathed through the shared pain. "But the fact that she told you herself. Begged you to forgive her. That's got to mean something, right?" Rachel had certainly never made any such apologies, almost flaunting her affair with her hints and accusations, he thought.
Trav shrugged, "Maybe it would if."
"If what?" asked Samuel.
"It's not just that she had an affair. It's who she had it with," he brought the new bottle of beer to his lips and again drained it in less than a minute. His friends did not press, knowing he would reveal all in his own time.
"Clay. Trisha fucked Clay Dodd," he swore loudly. "I used to think of him as a friend, you know? And he screwed my wife while I was gone. How fucked is that shit, man?" He reached for a third bottle of beer from the cooler at his feet.
"Oh and it gets better. The bastard is still trying to get me to quit the Navy and come to work for his daddy. Can you believe that? The little son of a bitch has balls, I'll give him that much," he said as he opened the bottle.
Daniel felt the knife to his own heart, remembering the other man taunts. His virtual admission that he had been Rachel's phantom lover. Now this? He felt raw as he remembered the way that the man had looked at Jill as she walked down the hall carrying the babies.
Daniel's cell phone rang. He picked it up, smiling in spite of himself when he saw that it was his wife. "Hey, sweetheart," he began but his smile quickly faded at her words. "I'll be right there," he said as he hung up the phone.
Jill stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as she patted her face. Splashing the water on her face had helped. The worst of this latest round of nausea had passed.
She looked at the woman in the mirror more closely. A spider's web of fine lines spread out from the corner of her eyes. Deeper lines marked her forehead and around her mouth. Although she might not look her age, she was no longer a young woman. The thousands of grey hairs that interspersed with her blond ones was a testament to that.
Trisha was being ridiculous, she asserted. Pregnancy was the least of her worries. Not that it would be a worry really. More like wishful thinking. She touched her abdomen for a moment before she shook her head.
"Stop being silly Jill. You're old enough to be a grandmother for god's sake," she whispered to her reflection as she turned towards the door.
What she saw when she opened it sent those warning bells clanging in her mind and her stomach on another roller coaster ride. A few yards down the hall, a tall, husky man with blond hair had Trisha pinned against the opposite wall. His hand squeezed her upper arm as he spoke in a low whisper. Tears streamed down her friend's cheeks as she whimpered softly.
Jill did not hesitate. Plastering a smile on her face, she walked defiantly across the short distance. "No need to come looking for me, Trisha," she said as she approached the pair.
She sucked in her breath as the man turned to face her. "Mister Dodd," she responded to his bold gaze stiffly.
The man cleared his throat, "I was just talking to Trisha here about my father's generous employment offer. Hoping I could convince you ladies to have more sense than those pigged husbands of yours. What do you say, Missus Monroe? Have you given any more thought about what we spoke a few weeks ago?"
She squared her shoulders, "As I said then, Mister Dodd, I support my husband's decision."
His laughter echoed off the cinder block and glass walls. "Perfect little submissive wife, aren't we, Jill?"
She smiled secretively, thinking of the stash of items in her shopping bags. "I hardly think so, Mister Dodd. Simply a wise one." Turning to her friend, she added, "We should head back."
Trisha brushed the tear stains from her face with the back of her hands. She nodded and tried to pull her arm out of his grasp. She winced as it broke free.
Jill walked to her side, placing herself between Trisha and Clay. "I can't say it's been a pleasure, Mister Dodd, but as always it is certainly interesting."
He returned her bold stare, "You have no idea how interesting I can be, Missus Monroe."
Taking the other woman more gently by the arm, she lead her away. "I hope I never have reason to find out."
His laughter followed them down the hall. "I'm sure you will. One day soon. Very soon," he said as he pushed pass them in the narrow corridor.
The moment that he was gone Trisha collapsed against the wall in tears. Jill wrapped her arms about her and rubbed her back as she waited for the sobs to cease. She murmured quietly, soothing words, like she would for the babies. They stood like that in the hall for several moments. Jill kept her back to the passing people, offering her friend what privacy she could.
"He's gone now. Don't worry, sweetie. I'm sure it ain't all that bad," she lied. Knowing that man, it was that bad and then some, she thought looking down the hall after him.
"You don't understand. He says that if I don't convince Travis to quit and come to work for Night Walkers he will tell him everything," she sobbed.
Jill frowned, "What do you mean everything?"
Trisha wiped her trembling hand across her eyes once more. "We had an affair," she whispered.
Jill sucked in her breath, "I see."
"I told Trav about it when he came back. I begged him to forgive me. But he wouldn't drop it. Said he would walk, unless I told him who." She sighed heavily, "But that only made it worse. The fact that Clay was his friend. It made it more unforgivable."
Jill nodded her head, "I understand."
"Now he says that if I don't get Tray to quit after this tour, he'll lie, tell him that we are still seeing one another."
She shook her head, "Who knows maybe it's for the best? Trav is never going to forgive me anyway." She shrugged her shoulders and forced a smile, "I was glad you got sick before, because the only thing in my bags are toys for T.J." The younger woman stared at the tiles on the floor, her voice broke as she finished, "Truth is his daddy ain't been interested in playing since I told him about the affair."
Jill wrapped her arms about her friend, "I'm sorry, sweetie. What you did wasn't right, I think you know that. But if Travis wants to stay married, even for his son's sake, then he needs to meet you half way. You want me to have Daniel talk to him?"
Her friend shook her head, "Nay, I shouldn't have said anything to you. This is between me and Travis. We'll work it out," she looked down the hall once more, "One way or the other."
Jill was about to argue, convince the woman to fight for her marriage, when Simone came running around the corner. Half a dozen bags swung wildly in her arms as she teetered from side to side. Althea was right behind her mother, trembling with huge tears running down her face.
"Come on, girl. We have to go," screamed Simone.
That fear ate at her gut once more, gnawed like a maggot on rotting flesh. "Where's Jesse? Althea, where is she?"
Althea sobbed as her mother stopped in front of the women. Taking Jill's hands in hers, she said, "There's been an accident. She's hurt."
"Hurt? How bad?"
Althea sobbed, "I don't know. She fell down the stairs. I tried to help but the security guard kept pushing me away. When Jesse came to, she told me to go get you. I think the guard called for an ambulance or something."
"Where? Where is she?" Jill demanded as she pushed past them, heading down the hall without knowing which direction to take.
Daniel rushed into the emergency room once more. He shook his head at the sense of déjà vu. It had been barely more than a week since they had been here with Bel and now this. He looked around for any sign of them. Seeing a nurse, he approached her, "Excuse me. My daughter's been in an accident. Monroe, Jessica Monroe?"
The woman nodded and led him towards the locked double doors. Swiping her security card, she held the door open and pointed, "Third curtain on your left."
"Thank you," he nodded.
When he pulled the curtain back, Jill was sitting on a chair by the bed. Her hands covered her face and he saw her shoulders trembling a bit. He walked over to her and knelt down.
She looked up and her green eyes were swimming in tears. She threw her arms about his neck, "Oh Daniel," she cried as she buried her face against his neck. He patted her back as she cried.
"Where is Jesse?" he repeated.
She whimpered a final time before answering, "They took her to x-ray. She didn't want me to come with her."
Daniel sighed. If Jesse was being stubborn enough to refuse Jill's care, then things could not be that bad. "How bad is it? Have the doctors said anything?"
Jill drew a deep breath and pulled out of his arms. She looked down at the floor and blushed as she wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. "Her arm is broken that is for sure. A compound fracture. But what they are most worried about is head injuries. She lost consciousness for a bit so they want to do CT scans to make sure that there is nothing serious. That's where she is now."
He nodded his head. "So what happened? Jesse isn't the type to just fall like this."
"Someone pushed her," she replied.
"Pushed her? Why?"
"I don't know. They were in a hurry I suppose. But someone shoved her and she lost her balance, pretty close to the top of the stairs too. The security guard said she fell a good twelve to fifteen feet, maybe more."
She started crying again, "I'm sorry. I should have been there. Shouldn't have let her and Althea wander all over the mall."
Daniel drew his wife back into his arms, "Don't be silly. She isn't Bel or Britney and Ashley. Wandering around the mall alone is what teenagers do. This isn't your fault. It's an accident."