Velvet Roses Ch. 04byvirgofemme©
*This chapter is longer than I expected it to be, and originally I thought of splitting it up into two, but there wasn't any way of doing that without leaving you guys on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I decided to just post the whole thing. Anyways, I hope you guys will enjoy this latest installment. And as always, thank you so very much for continuing to comment and vote on the story. *
The sound of Jeneda's ringtone woke her from sleep, and after reaching out to grab her cell phone from the bedside table, she hit the call answer button and pressed the receiver against her ear.
"Hello?" She said in a sleep-fogged voice.
"Hey Dad, what's up?"
"Just calling to see how my baby is. How are things?"
"Not so good." She sat up in bed so that her back was against the headboard, then lightly yawned. "Did you get my message?"
"Yeah, I just checked my voicemail this morning. What's going on?"
"I went to visit Riley yesterday, and I noticed he had a bruise on his face. I think he's being abused."
"Someone hit Riley?"
"Who was it?"
"From what the nurse told me, it was his roommate. Apparently he's a schizophrenic."
"Wait a minute, since when is Riley sharing a room with a schizophrenic? I thought he was rooming with that old guy, George."
"He was, but George died."
"They didn't mention he was getting a new roommate. Why didn't they call me?"
"That's exactly what I'd like to know."
"This is completely ridiculous," he said in a voice thick with disgust, then added, "What is it with these people?"
"They're incompetent. I tried to tell you and mom that, but you wouldn't listen to me."
"You can't blame me for this, Jeneda." His voice had deepened.
"I'm not. All I'm saying is that I had a bad feeling about that place from the very beginning."
"Yeah, I know. I remember you telling us that."
A lingering silence settled between them, during which Jeneda focused her attention on a bonsai tree that was sitting on the bedside table. Having inherited stubbornness from her father, she was just as hesitant to break the stillness as he was, yet knowing that they couldn't stay quiet forever, she offered some words.
"I think It'd be best if we got Riley out of there."
"Of course, there's no other option. I'll call your mother today and let her know that we need to find him a new nursing home."
"Actually, I was hoping he could come stay with me."
A sigh of exasperation passed her father's lips. "No, Jeneda. That isn't possible, and you know it."
"You already know why not. We've been over this several times."
"You think I won't be able to handle him, I get that. But can't we at least give it a try?"
"Just for a few weeks. And if it doesn't work out, then we can take him to a nursing home."
"No. Neither me or your mother is comfortable with that idea, so just stop bringing it up."
"I don't understand why you guys are so against it. I couldn't possibly do a worse job than St. Anne's has done."
"Listen, you don't have any medical training whatsoever, so what makes you think you could take care of someone in Riley's condition?"
"What if I hired a private nurse? Then would you let him stay with me?"
Thoroughly frustrated, Jeneda threw the covers off her and swung her legs over the side of the bed. After rising to her feet, she briskly made her way to the closet. "It really hurts me that you guys have such little faith in me."
"This isn't about us not trusting you, Jeneda, so stop being so dramatic. It's about what's best for Riley, and that's twenty-four seven professional care."
Having retrieved a black turtleneck and a pair of slim cut black pants from a hanger in the closet, she tossed them onto the bed. "Well can I at least have a part in deciding where his new nursing home will be?"
"We'll talk it over, okay?"
"So, I was hoping we could meet up for lunch today. Are you busy this afternoon?
"I've got an appointment at an art gallery downtown at one, but after that I'm pretty much free."
"How about we meet up around two p.m. at Farmer Brown?"
"Yeah, that sounds good."
"Great. See you then, junebug."
Jeneda tossed her phone on the bed, and after stripping out of her nightclothes she headed for the bathroom, already looking forward to the hot shower she would take.
* * * *
Located on the cusp of Union Square and the Tenderloin, Farmer Brown was a neo-soul food restaurant that served Southern dishes with a San Francisco twist.
Currently populated with a mostly young crowd, the 75-seat interior was carefully designed to replicate an industrial look, giving the overall atmosphere a big-city feeling, rather than a countrified one. In fact, the only farmhouse touches were the non matching thrift shop silverware and dishcloth napkins, but it made no difference to Jeneda, because the food was delicious.
Having just consumed a plate of chicken and sausage jambalaya, Jeneda pushed her plate away, then rubbed her stomach in appreciation. Perhaps taking note of the satisfied expression on her face, her father smiled.
"Looks like that really hit the spot."
"Like you wouldn't believe." Then she added, "I think I'm going into a food coma."
"Guess that means you don't have any room for dessert."
"Just give me a few minutes, I'll make room for it."
He gave a light chuckle in response, and as a petite, curvy waitress approached the table to collect their empty plates, she offered Jeneda's father a friendly smile.
"So what'll it be, Gary? You having the usual for dessert?"
He nodded. "With an extra scoop of ice cream, please."
"No problem." She then turned her gaze on Jeneda and asked, "What about you, honey?"
"I'll have whatever he's having, minus the extra scoop of ice cream."
She smiled, and after stacking up their dirty plates, she said, "Be right back with those slices of pecan pie."
As soon as the waitress was gone, Gary's expression became more serious, and clasping his hands on the table in front of him, he offered Jeneda an uneasy look. Noting the change in her father's body language, she couldn't help feeling a little apprehensive, and steeled herself for what was to come.
"I talked to your mother a few hours ago, and she's on board with transferring Riley to a different nursing home."
"Okay." Giving pause, she waited for him to continue, but as he remained silent she once again spoke. "That's good, right?"
"Yeah, It's good. The only thing is, she wants to live closer to him, so she'll be moving him out of state."
Astonished into silence, she blinked, struggling to process the words that he'd spoken. Lost in a kind of a daze, she barely even noticed as the waitress sat their saucers of pie on the table. Finally, after a long stretch of silence, she once again found her voice.
"Mom's moving him out of state?"
"Yeah. She found this great facility in Key West. And It's only a few blocks from her house, so she'll be able to visit him as often as she likes."
"Okay. Well that sounds great and everything, but why does he have to move so far away? Why can't he just stay here in San Francisco?"
"I think she feels guilty about hardly coming to visit, and probably figures It'd be a good idea if she was closer to him."
Uncertain of how to respond, she glanced out the window, looking yet not really seeing what lay beyond the glass.
"I'm sorry, junebug. I know this is all very sudden."
"No, It's fine," she quickly said before adding, "It'll be good for the both of them. They've been apart for too long."
Perhaps seeing that she was trying to downplay her disappointment, Gary's features softened. "You can always go visit him."
"Yeah, but how often will I get to do that? He'll be all the way across the country."
"Just set aside a weekend every few months and make the trip out there. Your mom's been talking about how much she misses you anyway, so It'll give you two a chance to catch up."
"It has been a long time since we've seen each other." She absentmindedly played with her fork, then said, "Have you guys picked out a date for his departure?"
"Next Saturday at eight p.m."
"Wow. That soon, huh?"
"No need to procrastinate. Especially knowing what we do about St. Anne's standard of care."
"Yeah, I guess that's a good idea."
Neither seemed quite certain of what else to say, so they sat in awkward silence, eyes cast downward so they wouldn't have to make eye contact. Then, clearing his throat, Gary picked up his fork and began to eat his dessert. Noticing that Jeneda wasn't touching hers, he gestured toward it.
"You might wanna get a start on that pie, junebug. Your ice cream's melting."
Offering it an uninterested glance, she picked up her fork and stuck it into the pie, then took a small bite. It smelled delicious and was nice and warm, as if It'd been freshly baked, yet as it hit her tastebuds, she found herself wondering how something so sweet could taste so bitter.
* * * *
Gentle patters of rain fell from the sky, making the pavement slick with rain. Walking hand in hand, Jeneda and Dane continued along their way through the streets of the SOMA district, or as it was commonly referred to-South of Market.
Due to a lack of parking spots, they were forced to park halfway down the block from their destination, yet despite this inconvenience, they were fully enjoying the moment. The fresh, clean scent of the rain was pleasant, and the sensation of the raindrops against their skin was refreshing.
They spoke only occasionally, choosing to enjoy each others company with little more than the sound of their soles hitting the wet pavement. With no umbrella to shield them, their hair had become damp and their jackets were moist, yet neither seemed particularly concerned. Then again, why would they?
This was the thought that came into Jeneda's head as they continued along their way, and she found herself curiously eyeing each building that they passed. The neighborhood surrounding them was largely industrial, with a patchwork of warehouses, furniture showrooms, nightclubs, residential hotels, and loft apartments.
Although dot com money had revitalized large portions of the district, south of market still contained some pretty gritty areas where residents seemed to oppose, rather than accept gentrification. The area they were currently traveling through was a perfect example of this, and exuded an offbeat, grungy atmosphere.
Judging from what she already knew about Dane's personality, she guessed that was part of the appeal, and realized that the slightly dicey, industrial neighborhood was a pretty perfect fit for someone like him.
As they approached a run down looking warehouse, Dane pulled her along by the hand, leading her closer toward it. Offering it a wary look, Jeneda noticed that it seemed to be abandoned, and was not only dingy, but also quite shady looking.
Of course she was aware that Dane was anything but an ordinary guy, so it probably shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise that he lived in such a place. Yet she still found it hard to believe that he would reside in a building with such a dismal looking façade. Making no attempt at all to hide the astonishment in her voice, she posed a question.
"This is where you live?"
Giving her a funny little smile, Dane said, "Yes. Why do you look so surprised?"
Although she knew exactly why, she still offered a little shrug. "I don't know. It just seems so...unlivable."
He gave a light chuckle. "I know it looks a little rough around the edges, but I promise, it's perfectly safe."
Upon reaching the building, Dane yanked back a rusty looking according gate that served as a barrier to the freight elevator, and after allowing Jeneda to enter first, he followed behind her.
He slammed the gate shut behind them, then pushed the button which would take them to the second floor. As the elevator came to a stop, it gave a little jerk, and after pulling the gate open, they stepped out into his warehouse apartment.
The outside of the building had led Jeneda to expect that the interior would be less than inviting, yet she was relieved to find that Dane's apartment wasn't as terrible as she'd expected.
Although the mid-sized warehouse had been converted into a living space, it was still brimming with authentic industrial elements. Concrete walls and floors provided a raw, utilitarian look, and exposed steel beams added to the unfinished style of the residence.
Except for a closed in area which appeared to be a bathroom, Dane's living quarters were completely open, void of any walls and doors.
Directly in the center of the room was a king sized bed which sat on a platform. Soft and comfortable looking, it was cast in a soft glow of pale moonlight which filtered through the large skylights above.
Noticing that it was the focal point of the room, Jeneda couldn't help wondering if the bed had been purposely positioned there to catch the eye of female visitors. Dane didn't necessarily seem like the playboy type, but then again he did garner a fair amount of attention from women, so she guessed it was a possibility.
As was usual whenever she visited a person's apartment for the first time, she found herself visually stimulated, and her eyes darted around as she took in everything around her.
The converted warehouse didn't have the sleekness of a high-end, big city loft, and it certainly wasn't chic in any way, yet it did have a charm all of its own. Aside from a few essential pieces of furniture, the apartment was sparsely outfitted, with just enough possessions to make the space feel lived in.
"So, what do you think?" Dane asked. "Does it still seem unlivable?"
Her lips curled into a gentle smile. "It's nicer than I thought it would be."
A pair of Gothic arched windows captured her attention, and finding herself impressed by the dramatic look of them, she walked closer so she could check out the detail.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Dane asked.
Jeneda lightly sniffed, then shoved her hands into her pockets before responding. "Tea would be nice."
"I hope you like Earl Grey, because that's all I have."
"I'm not picky. Whatever you've got, I'll drink," she called out over her shoulder.
While Dane made himself busy preparing their beverage, Jeneda looked out of the grimy panes of the arched windows, which offered her little more than a view of a gritty back alley. From somewhere off in the distance she heard blaring police sirens, which gradually grew louder until she heard the sound of tires screeching to a halt.
Guessing that the police car had come to a stop in front of Dane's building, Jeneda angled her neck to try and see further down the alley, yet found herself unable.
She could, however, see the flashing police car lights as they reflected against the brick alley wall. Then she heard the unmistakable sound of running footsteps, which she guessed was the police in pursuit of the suspect.
Curious as to what was going on, she turned to glance at Dane, who was walking out of the kitchen and heading towards her with two mugs in hand. Upon reaching her, he handed her a cup of tea, then
took a glance out the window.
Standing beside him, she asked, "I wonder what's going on?"
He offered a little shrug. "Who knows. There's always something happening in this neighborhood."
"This is a regular occurrence?"
The rain beat a steady rhythm against the windows, and as a draft of cold air sent a chill through Jeneda's body, she shifted her attention, searching for the source of it. Catching sight of a hole in one of the window panes, she fixed her eyes upon it, which in turn caused Dane to follow her gaze.
"There's a hole in your window," Jeneda said.
The opening was only around the size of a dime but as the wind blew through, it created a faint, eerie whistling noise.
"I know. It was there when I moved in."
"And you still haven't fixed it?"
"Nope. It doesn't really bother me, so I figure why not just leave it?"
She lightly shivered, and after taking another sip of her tea, she said, "No wonder it's so cold in here."
"Sorry about that." Wrapping an arm around her waist, Dane pulled her up against him so that he could share his body heat with her. "I don't have the materials to fix it right now, but if you want I can cover it up with something."
Jeneda gave a nod, then said, "That'd be nice."
He turned from the window and walked off to another part of the room, and after retrieving what he needed, he once again joined her side. Noticing that he had a rubber, bullet shaped object in his hand, she decided to inquire about it.
"An earplug. It's just about the shape of the hole, so it should do the job."
He stretched his arm upward so he could slide the earplug into the dime sized opening, and one it was snugly in place, the whistling noise came to a stop.
"Better?" He asked.
"Yes, thank you."
He affectionately rubbed his palm against her back, then took a sip of his tea.
With only the patter of rain to fill the silence between them, Jeneda gave Dane a long, curious stare.
"It doesn't bother you, living in a dangerous neighborhood like this?"
"It's not so bad, once you get used to it."
"It seems like you're doing pretty well with your graphic novels, though, so I'm guessing you can afford to move somewhere safer."
"Of course I can. I just don't want to."
"Because I like it here. Plus I'm all settled in, so there's no reason to leave."
"Okay," she nonchalantly said, then took a sip of her hot beverage.
"Does being here bother you?"
"No, not at all. I'm just a little surprised that you would live in this particular part of the city.
"It's really not that terrible," he said. "There are way worse areas than south of market."
"Safety wise, it's pretty much on the same level as here, isn't it?"
"Depends on the neighborhood you're in."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." She briefly paused before adding, "South Beach is a safe area, and only a few minutes away. You could move there."
"Why? It's full of yuppies."
The corners of her lips tugged into a smile, and she lightly shrugged. "Just a suggestion."
Dane took the empty mug from Jeneda's hands, then placed it, along with his own, on a beat up coffee table that was located a few feet away. After returning to where she stood, he brought his hand up to her face and lightly stroked the side of it with the pad of his thumb.
"You have no reason to feel unsafe, you know," he said while looking deep into her eyes. "As long as you're with me, you'll be well protected."
"Yeah, I know," she softly replied.
Soothed by the feel of his finger caressing her cheek, she emitted a low sigh, gazing deep into his nearly black eyes. It felt so good to be touched, and as he slid a fingertip over the fullness of her lips, she parted them, ready and eager to accept his kiss.
Clearly wishing to build her desire, he trailed his fingers along her jawline, applying a feather light touch that pleasantly tickled her. Then with excruciating slowness, he leaned in closer.
Their lips came together in a soft, languid kiss before deepening into an urgent, hungry embrace. She marveled at the warmth of his mouth, bumping and sliding her tongue against his in a hot, wet dance.
His hands came to rest on her hips, and as his tongue made sweeping, swirling motions inside her mouth, she felt a pulsing heat build between her thighs.
Not breaking their intense lip lock for even a moment, Dane gently pushed her backward until her legs met with the edge of a green velour couch. No sooner had she fell back onto the soft cushions did he straddle her, covering the edge of her jaw with wet, hot kisses.