Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Romance  ➡  Contemporary

The Renegades

 

The Renegades

Written by P.R. Paige

Copyright 2016/P.R. Paige

Shakespir Edition

Episode One

 

Los Angeles International Airport

I have an epiphany, and not the kind that my sister says can be cured or eradicated by rubbing cream on it, but a real eye-opening epiphany. I have been kidding myself into believing that my weak excuse for not pursuing a relationship is because of my commitment to my writing career.

What writing career?

In the three years that I have been a disenchanted writer, my publisher has sold two copies of my memoir: one to myself and the other one also to myself, which I returned for a refund. If I’m postponing love for that kind of success, someone should sell me some land and quick, before I grow wise.

These are the thoughts that drift through my mind as I head into the Los Angeles airport, making certain to drop two dollars into the homeless man’s cup. I lug my stuffed-to-capacity bright orange tote bag behind me, as energetic orange has recently become my color of choice.

Today marks the end of a six-day stint at my sister Kirby’s house after coming here to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my divorce. It’s been a busy, exhausting, and exciting six days of bumming on the beach, boozing it up, and philosophizing until the crack of dawn.

I have two hours to kill before my flight departs for Chicago so I check my luggage, go through security, and proceed to Gate Twelve. Eager to catch up on some journaling, I find an empty row of seats to make my own. I exhale a deep breath as the memories of my fabulous vacation are fading.

I am all out of excuses for not pursuing a romance, and make the decision to do something about it. Otherwise, I will be back in Chicago, living my humdrum existence, hoping and wishing for things to be different. While I enjoy my iced white tea from 95 Degrees of Heaven, I sit comfortably with my pen poised over my jumbo-size hardback journal. I am ready to make a thought-provoking entry about my glorious vacation, when out of nowhere, I hear a male voice say, “I want to see your panties.”

Did I just hear what I thought I heard?

I can only hope that those words are not directed at me. I chuckle and jolt my head upwards, eyes widened. Then, my jaw drops while I tell myself that my eyes are playing tricks on me. But my eyes are fine. The person before me is exactly who I think he is: Rome Nicki, an old boyfriend who ran away. That’s right. His handsome butt ran away from me and married someone else, but I digress. What’s most notable is how much I wanted this man, and when I say I wanted him, I mean I wanted him bad!

How bad did I want him?

This is the man I wanted to make well when he was sick, the man I planned to curse out when he came home late, the man I wished to make love to on Mondays and Wednesdays and sometimes even Fridays, but most importantly, the man I wanted to stamp with the words Already Taken.

In short, love is my religion, and Rome used to be my church.

“Oh… My… God,” I say to him. I am all smiles when I throw myself into a standing position and curl my arms around him. “I can’t believe it’s you.”

Rome holds me close, and I soak up his just-showered scent. I’m totally preoccupied with sex now, and all he’s done is hug me.

What would happen if he kissed me?

I have to control my emotions. I inhale a whopping deep breath and remind myself that what I had with Rome before is over. Today is a totally different day. The man is probably still married anyway. My mind is listening to my sophisticated logic, but my body has a mind of its own and is hoping that old times will be back again and soon.

With Rome’s arms still wrapped around me, I don’t want to let go of his warm body, but I force myself.

“Here we are together again, just like old times,” he says, his haunting sienna brown eyes staring at me. “Do you care to take a trip down memory lane?”

Hypnotized by my attraction to him, a small moan escapes from my mouth as my insides melt. “We probably shouldn’t.”

“But it would be so much fun,” he says to me in a whisper.

“I’m sure it would be.”

Rome seems intent on weakening me, but I fight the temptation every step of the way. I inhale another much-needed breath and say to myself. Self-control. It’s all about self-control.

“You enjoy flirting with me, don’t you?” I ask him.

“Absolutely.”

I fix my gaze on his lips, the kind I can kiss all day, and all night.

“I have thought about you… a lot.” As soon as I hear the words escape from my mouth, I realize that I have done it now. Am I really bold enough to start something with this man again, knowing that I might regret it later?

I resume a sitting position and slap the seat next to me. “Sit down next to me so that we can catch up.”

Rome is quick to oblige. “So, are you going to let me see those panties?”

With a soft smile, I shake my head, no. If only he really knew how I felt. Then, again, he probably does as the sweat above my upper lip is bound to give me away.

He wears a classic black narrow-brim Fedora hat and if that is not enough to make any woman swoon, he sports a seductive I-haven’t-shaved-in-two-days look that I find utterly intoxicating.

He is one gigantic spoonful of sexy.

At this moment, I have a major hard-on for this man, if such a thing is at all possible for a woman. To halt the amazing memories of our past from running over, I ask him, “Are you on your way to Chicago?”

“Absolutely.”

Rome is a successful film producer in his early 40’s who has always spent his time between Los Angeles and Chicago. His impressive occupation is only one of the three things that drew me to him when we first met. His Fedora hat and half-shaven face being the other two.

I ask him what is front and center of my mind, “Are you still married?”

“You’re going to just jump right in, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” I say.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he says to me, avoiding the question. “Are you married?” He flashes me a cute smile, and I so enjoy the sight before me.

Even though he has yet to answer my question, I answer his, “No, I’m not married. Not anymore.”

“Neither am I,” he says.

“But you were married, weren’t you?” I ask him.

“I used to be a lot of things and being married was one of them. I’m happily divorced.”

Now, this surprises me. I was certain after his divorce that some lucky woman would have scooped him back up again.

“So, how’s being divorced?” he asks me.

“Great. Wonderful. Fantastic. My only problem is,” I say, “ever since my divorce, I have been… just… so preoccupied. You know what I mean?”

“I do know what you mean, and you were always like that,” he says to me. “You can’t blame that on the divorce.”

I laugh, enjoying his witty remarks.

“I’m so glad I ran into you this afternoon,” he says to me, “because I have something quite interesting I want to talk to you about.” Rome stands and lifts his Michael Kors messenger bag upon his shoulder. “As a matter of fact, we have some time before our plane leaves. Let’s take a walk, shall we. You’re going to love what I have to say to you.”

“I can hardly wait.” Excited to be in his company after so many years, I gather my things, and we head off for our walk. I am all smiles as we stroll through the airport, my hormones racing, senses heightened. “It really is good to see you,” I say to him.

“It has to be a sign,” he says, “my running into you like this.”

“I was thinking the exact same thing.”

“Are you still writing?”

“I am, but nothing published since my disastrous memoir.”

“What are you waiting for?” he asks me.

“I’m waiting for my creative muse to give me something different, something that the publishers won’t be able to say no to.”

“Have you written anything about me, yet? About how good I make you feel?”

The memories come flooding back with a bang. “You know I did,” I say.

“No, you haven’t, because if you had, it would’ve been a hit.”

His statement literally stops me in my tracks. “Come again, Mr. Ego. Are you serious?”

“Absolutely. You can call me a lot of things, but you’ll never be able to call me ordinary.”

I would like to disagree with him, but I can’t. He’s right. There is nothing ordinary about Rome Nicki. The Fedora hat alone makes him memorable to anyone.

“Are you still driving women crazy?” I ask him. My hands are sweaty.

“Not as much as before.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

As we continue on our stroll through the mass of people, I soak up his wondrous feel-good energy.

“You know,” he says, “I’ve been thinking about you, dreaming about you, even.”

“Oh,” I say as I am beyond flattered. No. I am on fire. “Did you just say you have been dreaming of me?”

“That’s exactly what I said.” He stops, turns to me, and joins his hand with mine. “Listen to me, Thursday,” he says with an authoritative air.

I inhale a breath and swallow hard. He is so serious.

“Like my college professor used to say,” I say, “You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention, or was it the other way around?”

Rome then escorts me towards the wall, away from the hustling traffic, and says, “I want to recruit you.”

I shake my head and gather my wits. “Recruit me? For what?”

“I can’t get into the specifics right now, but trust me when I say that this will definitely be something to your liking.”

I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “If you wanted to peak my interest, you have succeeded. Tell me more.”

Rome and I resume our stride. I eagerly await his explanation for wishing to recruit me, but he says nothing.

“Well,” I say to him as if to remind him that I am still waiting.

“Do we have time for a drink?” he asks me, his brown eyes searching for the nearest bar.

“There’s always time for a drink. You know that.”

Rome laughs. “That’s right, I almost forgot how much you love a good bottle of wine.”

“And it doesn’t even have to be good.”

Rome and I find a cozy spot at the bar at the Golden Eye Lounge. The bartenders are dressed as Somali pirates and have rifles wrapped around their bodies. I can only hope that the guns are not real.

After we place our order with the bartender, I swerve my chair in Rome’s direction, yearning to devour every word that passes through his lips. He eyes me like a piece of caramel, and I so want to be his candy. By the moment, my temperature is rising, and there is a huge fire bursting in my belly. I wish to initiate an intelligent conversation, but I have nothing.

Silly me, can’t think of anything to say. I’m blushing furiously under his steady scrutiny.

When the much-needed Chardonnay is served, I toss it down, and it does not go unnoticed by Rome.

“I’m not making you nervous, am I?” he asks me.

“Of course, you are.”

“So I haven’t lost my touch?” he says, seemingly flattered.

“Not in the least.”

His freshly bathed aroma stirs an intense emotion in me. I want to bury my head in his chest, nestle my arms around him, and squeeze him like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s official.

I am under his spell again.

 

Episode Two

 

I scour Rome’s magnificent smile and absorb his sexiness. I am captivated by the Fedora hat that he wears so eloquently.

Why must he be so darn enticing?

I want to stuff him inside a glass and gush him down nice and slow.

Unable to hide my feelings any longer, I gently fan myself. “Pardon my honesty, but I don’t quite know what it is Rome, but whenever I’m near you, I just feel all warm inside.”

“Maybe it’s your thyroid,” he says to me.

“I’m sure it’s not.”

My eyes wander towards the rifles on the shoulders of the bartenders. “You don’t suppose those rifles are loaded, do you,” I ask Rome.

“Of course, they are.”

“And, so, why are we here?”

“To have a drink,” he reminds me.

“That’s right. I forgot.”

Rome sips his Chardonnay and returns his focus to me. I enjoy being the center of his attention. He smiles at me and looks as if he is about to say something funny. “Are you wearing pink panties to match that pink bra?”

“How do know that my bra is pink?”

“Because I can see the tip of it underneath your blouse,” he says to me pointing at my white blouse.

“What do you think?” I ask him. “Do you think that they match?”

“I would probably lean towards the side of yes, but since I’m not completely sure, why don’t you show me?”

“And why would I do that?” I ask him.

“Because I’m asking you to, and I know how much you enjoy doing things for me.” His statement is direct and suggestive.

“You must have me confused with someone else,” I say to him.

“I can assure you that I know exactly who I’m talking to.”

I humor him by giving his suggestion due consideration. “Tell me. How exactly would I show my panties to you? Do you want me to get arrested?”

“No, I don’t want you to get arrested. Go into the ladies’ room, slide those panties off that sexy ass of yours and bring them to me.”

“You’re so naughty, Rome,” I say to him, my eyes gleaming.

“I love the way that you call me naughty with that heavenly smile on your face. I might start to think that you like the fact that I’m a little on the unconventional side.”

“I wouldn’t have you any other way,” I say. I feel giddy, and I tingle all over.

This man is just too easy to flirt with. Our back-and-forth sexy banter tickles my fancy, and I want to play this game with him all day.

“Besides,” he says. “I want to smell them anyway.”

“You put the capital “N” in the word nasty.”

“And your picture is in the dictionary right next to the word freaky.”

“I’ll have you know, I am not a freak,” I say with conviction.

“If my memory serves me correctly, and I’m sure it does,” Rome says, “I remember a certain someone, many years ago, asking me to dress up in all white and cast a magic sex spell on her. Does that scenario at all sound familiar?”

I laugh. It was funny then, and it’s still funny today. “I may recall something to that effect, and I also recall a certain someone agreeing to do it.”

“As a matter of fact,” Rome says, “I have an idea on how we might continue that line of excitement.”

There is a brief silence as I eagerly wait to discover what he has in mind, but he says nothing. Instead, he gazes at me, seemingly enjoying my anticipation. Then, “How about I let you audition for me, and you can do whatever it takes to convince me to offer you the part.”

“And what makes you think I would want to do that?” I ask him.

“Because I know you.”

My heart rate spikes. I’m definitely interested, but I don’t let him know that. “But there is no part,” I remind him. “I’m not an actress, and you’re not a casting director.”

“And your point is,” he says to me.

“No point, I was just saying.”

I think about what he is suggesting and, in short, I like it. I am intrigued. There is nothing that delights me more than a good dose of roleplaying. Yet still, I move away from the idea. I’m not sure I’m ready to open the door to something that could possibly lead me astray.

“I may have been interested in something like that a few years ago,” I say to him, “but that was a few years ago.”

“Are you sure about that?” he asks me.

I flip my ash brown hair away from my face and stretch my neck. “Yes. I am.”

“That’s too bad because I was certain that you were the perfect woman for that part.”

“You mean that imaginary part?”

“Yes, that imaginary part.”

Rome finishes off the last of his Chardonnay, “So, are you going to let me smell those pink panties?”

“Absolutely not,” I say with conviction, despite the fact that I am amused and flattered out of my mind.

If this man is anything, he’s entertaining.

“Are you sure I can’t change your mind?” he asks me, his hand on top of mine.

I stare down at his hand on mine, and I like what I see.

Where is all of this hand touching coming from?

Is he trying to start up something with me?

After a short silence, Rome goes into his pocket, pulls out five $100 bills, folds them neatly, and places them inside the center of my hand. He leans in and whispers in my ear, “Now go bring me those pink panties.”

With $500 staring at me from the palm of my hand, I don’t think about it anymore. I scurry into the ladies’ room and do what I need to do.

When I return to the bar, I resume my position across from Rome and place my panties inside his hand just as he had placed the money in mine.

He is shameless as he smears my panties across his nose. “Just like I remember,” he says with a flicker in his eye, before stuffing them into his shirt pocket.

“Do you remember the night we did it on the kitchen counter in my loft?” he asks me.

I feel the color in my cheeks bruising, and I exhale a long breath in an attempt to release the sexual energy circulating inside me. “I could never forget that.”

“You ever think about what I used to do to you?” he asks me.

“I have never stopped thinking about what you used to do to me,” I answer him, my forehead perspiring underneath my blunt-cut bangs.

“You ever think about going back in time?”

My breathing has now slowed. “I’m thinking about it right now.”

Rome leans in towards me and flatters me with feather-like kisses across my jaw, my chin, and the corners of my mouth. He kisses me long and hard, his tongue penetrating my mouth, deep and fast. I inhale his warm breath and continue to kiss him again, again, and again. What a delightful treat it is.

In a whisper, he asks me, “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

It’s as if he can read my mind. “Let’s just say,” I say to him, “too long.”

“What do you think?” He questions me and then gifts the back of my hand with a sweet kiss.

He sure is ringing in the charm today.

“Should we be responsible adults and hurry back to the gate so we can make our flight?” he asks me, “or should we do something completely different?”

“Something completely different.”

 

 

I am filled with electrical anticipation rising by the moment when we check into the Sandscapes Hotel at Los Angeles Airport. Our suite is draped in navy blue and charcoal and faces an enormous picture window that overlooks the hotel swimming pool.

Rome hoists me up on the marble countertop, his hungry mouth on mine. I relish the feel of his tongue inside my mouth. His breath is hot, his breathing intense. He brings his hand up to grasp my chin and holds me in place, continuing to douse me with his fiery kisses. He wants me, and I want him just as much. His warm hands layered against my body reminds me of just how much I have missed him, and I make love to him with everything that I have.

 

 

Rome romances me real good. He is what I like to call, the ultimate aphrodisiac. After my large order of oh so good, I lay curled in Rome’s arms, completely wrung out, both of us wide awake. I inhale a state of bliss, blink my eyes, and smile. This is as good as it gets, basking in the arms of the man who charges my battery and curls my toes. I think to myself: Why have we stayed apart for so long?

Then I remember: Because he chose someone else.

No man has ever made me feel this good, not even the man who I was married to for two years. This is probably nothing more than an I-just-had-to-have-you-one-more-time encounter, but this is a big deal for me. I have been divorced a year now, and this is my first sexual experience in a long time, and it is a good one.

My back is to him. He curls his arms around me. “Is this how you remember things?” he asks me.

“Oh, yes,” I say, then rise to a sitting position. “You know, Rome, I always thought of you as the one who got away.”

“Got away from what?”

“Got away from me. Surely, you always knew how much I wanted you to be mine forever.”

“I assume all women feel that way about me.”

I ignore his arrogance and maneuver my way back into his comfy arms. “But you don’t understand, Rome. It was different with me.”

“How so?”

“Let’s just say, I would have given my right arm to have you all to myself.”

“What about your left arm?” he asks me.

“Are you crazy?” I say to him, laughing. “I need my left arm.”

Rome surprises me by rolling on top of me. We are now face to face. He studies me with his red-carpet smile. He glides his fingers across my cheeks. “You are just as pretty as always.”

“You’re just saying that because you want to make love to me again,” I say to him trying to disguise just how much he is inflating my ego.

“That’s true, but all the same, you are very pretty. When did you start wearing bangs?”

“About a month ago,” I say to him.

Am I just a sucker for flattery, or is this man just super talented at making me feel like the Belle of the Ball? I wish they could bottle what Rome does to me. That way, if ever there was a time that he wasn’t around to ignite that romantic spark in me, I could just pop a few Romes, and all would be well again.

 

 

Rome and I enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant the next morning. It has been several hours since we did the you-know-what, and I am still feeling the tinge of excitement. My body is pleased all over because Rome was all over it, and my mind feels even better because he’s still in it. I sip my orange juice while I await my buttermilk pancakes. My eyes stay glued to him. He is just so easy on the eyes. He wears his trademark Fedora hat and looks so juicy. I want to eat him, literally, as if I didn’t nibble on him enough the night before.

“You’re not going to get into any trouble at work, are you, for staying over an extra day?” Rome asks me.

“Oh, no. I have the coolest boss ever.”

“What makes him so cool?” Rome asks me.

“He’s funny. He pays exceptionally well, and most importantly, he lets me do whatever I want.”

“So, you’re his secretary?” Rome asks as if he’s afraid of offending me.

“I like to think of myself more as his personal assistant.”

“Same thing.”

I laugh. “Perhaps, but it sounds better.”

Rome adds two creamers to his coconut cream coffee and stirs it, his eyes never leaving me, as if he’s about to make a poignant statement. “If I might be so bold as to change the subject.”

“You may,” I say to him.

“How would you like for us to have more nights like the one we had last night?”

“Are you making me an offer?”

My buttermilk pancakes and scrambled eggs are soon delivered, and I dig in.

“Something like that,” he says to me.

“In that case, I would like that.”

“We could, you know,” he reminds me.

“How is that?”

Rome sips his coffee and shifts his cup to the center of the table. “A couple of years ago, I realized that monogamy was just not realistic or even desired, not for me anyway.”

“Oh, really,” I say. “You don’t think monogamy is realistic?”

“Think about it. More than half of all married men—I am thinking seventy to eighty percent of them, have extramarital affairs. That says a lot.”

I’m not sure I’m ready for where this conversation is headed, but at this moment, his ideas grip my attention and do not let go.

“What exactly are you saying?” I ask him, even though I am fully aware of the point he is making.

“That monogamy is not only not realistic, but not even wanted by men, anyway.”

I am not as hungry as I was before and release my fork from my hand onto the plate.

“Okay, Mr. Philosopher, if monogamy is so unrealistic and unnatural, what is the solution?”

“I’m happy to tell you. When I turned in my marriage license, I traded it in for something completely different.”

Engrossed in our conversation, I hold on to his every word. “And what’s that?” I ask him.

“At the present time, I live with two wonderful women, and we are seriously committed to one another.”

My eyes widen. It will be several seconds before I speak. I collect my thoughts, and meditate on his last statement. “Come again? Did you just say that you live with two women?”

“And sleep with them, too,” he adds. “Does that sound strange to you?”

“Yes, it does. How many men do you know who live with two women?”

“That’s not the point,” he says to me.

“And these women are okay with this arrangement?”

“They wouldn’t have it any other way,” he says.

“But why?” I ask. “Why would these women choose to share a man?”

“Women share men all the time,” Rome says.

The bells in my head are dinging and donging. “Yesterday, you mentioned something to me about recruiting me,” I say.

“That’s right,” Rome says.

The bells in my head continue dinging and donging, and one question comes to mind.

He couldn’t possibly be thinking of asking me to join his lifestyle?

Or could he?

 

Episode Three

 

“I want you to join me, India and Storm in our home.” He is so calm in his delivery. It’s as if he’s asking me to attend a dinner party or a play.

My mouth falls open, but I can’t speak, at least not yet anyway.

Is he for real?

“That’s mighty Tiger Woods of you,” I say to him.

“Not really.”

“Rome, I have no interest in becoming a part of your harem, and frankly, I don’t understand why any woman would.”

“How can you reject the idea before you have even tried it?”

I’m not even touching what he just said. Instead, I say, “I would love to continue this conversation with you.” I stand to leave, “but we both have a plane to catch.”

“Will you at least meet with Storm and India?” he asks me.

I grimace and stuff my clutch purse underneath my arm. “No,” I say to him as I head out. “I’m not interested.”

He rises to his feet and slaps a $100 bill on the table. “Can we at least talk about it on the plane?” he asks me, traveling right behind me.

“No, we cannot.”

Rome is still on my trail, but I am one step ahead of him. “Will we see each other again?” he asks me.

I stop in my tracks, and turn to face him.

Silence.

“I don’t know, will we?”

“If I have anything to do with it, we will,” he says to me.

Of course, I wish to see him again, but, how can I?

He has made it abundantly clear that he is very much into this new lifestyle, which conflicts with every fiber of my being.

 

 

On the Boeing 777, Rome abandons the comforts of his first-class accommodations and joins me in coach. This unusual gesture of his surprises me. Rome has always been a first-class-all-the-way-kind-of-person, and traveling in coach cannot be easy for him.

During the entire flight, he is determined to have me join him in his house of shame. The type of lifestyle he is proposing is simply outrageous. It is not how I see myself or anyone I wish to become in the future. But Rome is not giving up. He continues to make his case, seemingly believing that he might change my mind. But he is wrong. They say you should never say never. However, I feel very confident saying that never in a million years will I agree to that type of lifestyle.

Full stop.

Period.

 

 

After several hours of travel, I finally breeze into my apartment in Water’s Edge after saying my goodbyes to Rome at the airport. Of all the trips to Los Angeles, this one is the best. Not only did I have a chummy time with my sister, but aside from Rome’s strange proposal, my encounter with him was simply unforgettable, and I have a permanent smile on my face to prove it. I click on the TV, which is embedded in the living room wall, fill the tea kettle with water, and set it on the stove.

My eighteenth floor apartment is outfitted in black. Black sofa, black book case and black floors. Purchasing flowers on a weekly basis has become my new ritual, and my coffee table is never void of a vase of either fresh daisies, carnations or tulips. This week, it’s lavender tulips.

I head into my bedroom, slip out of my flip-flops and begin unpacking when there is a knock on the door. The sound jolts me. I don’t recall my doorman calling to inform me of any guests. I step over to the door in my bare feet and look through the peephole. It’s Rome.

I am all smiles and swing the door open. “What did you do? Follow me home?”

“I did.”

Not sure what to make of this unannounced visit to my home, I ask him, “How did you get up here?”

“I took the elevator.”

“I know that, but how did you get past the doorman?”

“What doorman?”

“The doorman who works in the lobby.”

“I didn’t see any doorman. Anyway, are you going to invite me in or are we going to share our business with your neighbors?”

I step aside so that he can enter, and then close the door behind him.

I head back into my bedroom to finish unpacking, and Rome trails behind me.

Because I hate clutter, my bedroom consists of only three items: a Full-size bed with no headboard, a 40-inch television built into the wall and a white-wooded chest of drawers.

Rome lounges on the edge of my bed, his leg crossed as if he owns my room and everything in it, including me. He exudes confidence and a sense of calm, but he says nothing. I think he’s waiting for me to speak first.

“So?” I say. “What brings you over?”

“You. I wanted to see you, maybe get into your panties again.”

Never passing up an opportunity to humor him, I say, “You have been in there already. What do you want to go back for?”

“I like it in there.”

“I know you do,” I say smiling.

I remove my black patent leather flats from the plastic bag and set them upon the closet shelf. I pretend that I have no idea why he’s here, but that’s not the case at all. Deep inside, or maybe even not so deep, I know why he’s here: To change my mind.

“Where are those pink panties that you wore yesterday?” he asks me.

“The last time I checked, they were in your shirt pocket.”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot about that,” he says.

I laugh. He never misses an opportunity to make me smile.

“Anyway, to cut to the chase, your chase, I know why you’re here, and the answer is still no.”

Rome uncrosses his legs, moves back on the bed, his hands at his sides. “You know what amazes me,” he asks me. “That you think that you can say whatever you want to me and I will just believe it.”

I pull my hair away from my face and twist it into a knot. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that just because you tell me you don’t like something or won’t do something, doesn’t mean I am going to believe you.”

“I’m not going to even dignify that statement with a response. Besides, I don’t know what the heck you are talking about.”

“Yes, you do,” he insists.

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”

I exhale a long frustrated breath, finish my unpacking, zip my suitcase and deposit it into the closet. “Shouldn’t you be on your way home to your two pretend wives?”

“At the moment, I’m more interested in my wife to be.”

“I hate to break it to you,” I say to him, “but that is never going to happen.”

“You don’t think so?”

“I know so.” I lean against the chest of drawers, my arms folded. “You are a handsome and rich man. I’m sure you can get hundreds of women to be a part of this kinky lifestyle. Why burden me with it?”

“Because I want you,” he says to me.

“You can’t have me.”

Rome is obviously not listening to a word that I am saying because he is now removing his shoes. He rolls onto my bed, his elbow propped up underneath his head.

“And exactly what are you doing?” I ask him.

“I’m checking out this marvelous view.”

“Oh, you are just so charming,” I say to him.

“I know, and then some.”

He lays on my bed wearing his Fedora hat, looking just as appetizing as ever, and I can’t help but remember our recent time together in Los Angeles. What a great memory it is.

Only two words come to mind: Yum and Me. But I am in complete control of my senses and most importantly, my behavior. Knowing what I know about his untraditional lifestyle, I am not interested in what he’s selling. I don’t care how good the sex was in Los Angeles, or would continue to be in Chicago, whatever we had up until this moment is O-V-E-R.

“I want us to be friends, Rome, and that is all.”

Totally ignoring my statement, he asks me, “Are you coming over here to join me, or do I have to come over there and get you?”

“Did you hear what I just said?” I ask him.

“Did you hear what I just said?” he asks me. “Am I going to have to come over there and retrieve you?”

“I guess you’re going to have to come get me because I’m not coming over there,” I say, my hands on my hips.

I watch him slowly slide off the bed and step to me. He scales up on me, curling his arms around me. With my heart racing and temperature rising, I’m weakening, but I fight it and remain strong.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask him, “I’m not going to change my mind.”

“Sure you will,” he says to me.

“I am N-O-T going to be a part of this harem of yours. Why can’t you just accept that?”

After a short silence, Rome releases his arms from around me and resumes a sitting position on my bed. “Okay, here’s what we’ll do. You do this and I’ll accept your decision. I’ll never bring it up again, and you and I can just be friends.”

“What is it?” I ask him, afraid of what I will hear.

“I want you to meet India and Storm.”

“Storm? Is that really her name?” I ask him as I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear.

“Actually, it’s Satara, but she likes to be called Storm.”

“Forget it, but I do like the idea of you and I having a nice cozy friendship.”

“You and I have always been intimate since we first met,” Rome reminds me. “What makes you think it will work?”

“There’s a first time for everything, Rome.”

When I hear my tea kettle whistling, I scurry into the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea. Rome beelines right behind me.

While I grab the black loose Argo tea from the cupboard, Rome positions himself directly behind me.

I stop and listen. What is he up to now?

“I’m noticing that a cute spot on your neck is looking a little neglected. Maybe I could kiss it for you.”

His hot breath cascades down my back. “You would do that for me?” I ask with a hint of sarcasm.

“For you, I would.”

Out of nowhere, the debate between us stops and Rome says, “I’m going to leave you alone now to enjoy your tea, but this conversation is to be continued at a later time.”

“No, it’s not either.”

“If you say so,” he says.

And remarkably, Rome has left the building.

I find his abruptness strange but still very welcomed.

To my utter amazement, I overcame the temptation to sleep with him again. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. I have to say, though, I look forward to a possible friendship with Rome as we have never had just that before. Then again, maybe Rome is right. Maybe it’s not possible for us to be just friends. Regardless of whether it is possible or not, I’m definitely willing to give it a try.

 

 

It is only when I’m in bed this evening, trying to sleep that I allow my thoughts to drift back to my strange encounter with Rome in Los Angeles. I keep coming back to the I want to recruit you statement, and I just can’t shake it.

If I weren’t so amused by the whole thing, I just might be offended. The whole scenario has the feel of a Hollywood movie, but it’s not a Hollywood movie, it’s my life. But then again, maybe it could be a Hollywood movie. In this moment, I am magically inspired to write a story about what is happening with Rome and me. This could be the story that I am meant to tell. It sure beats my failed memoir about the day I had my wisdom teeth removed.

Anything has to be better than that.

 

 

This has been the best Chicago summer. Every day has been a real treat with the temperatures in the 70’s and lots of energetic sunshine. There’s something about warm weather that induces the best mood in me.

Soaking up the marvelous weather, I trot down Michigan Avenue, in route to the dry cleaners. I am on my cell phone, talking to my sister, Kirby while I wait in line to pick up my employer, Perrin Shu’s dry cleaning.

“You will not believe who I ran into at the airport in Los Angeles?” I say to my sister.

“Brad Pitt?” my sister suggests.

“No.”

“Taylor Swift?”

“No.”

“Justin Beiber?”

“You want me to just tell you?” I ask her.

“No, I want to guess,” my sister insists. “Tom Cruise?”

I just announce it as this could go on forever. “It was Rome Nicki.”

“The movie producer?”

“That’s right.”

“What was he doing in Los Angeles?”

“Maybe producing movies,” I say to my sister.

“So what happened? Don’t leave me in suspense.”

“What do you think happened?” I say with a devilish smile.

“Didn’t he get married or something?” my sister asks me.

“That’s a whole another topic right there, and I will tell you all about it.”

“Tell me now.”

“I have to pick up my bosses’ dry cleaning.”

“You better call me back.”

I am eager to tell my sister all about how Rome has invited me to join him in his house of shame, but standing in line at the dry cleaners is just not the place.

 

 

A pineapple scented air freshener meets me at the doorway when I race through the front door of my employer, Perrin Shu’s penthouse apartment on Michigan Avenue. His three bedroom unit is huge with tons of natural light, and the floor-to-ceiling windows provide an immaculate view of Lake Michigan. Perrin is seated in a chair across from the door. I am two hours late, and he is expecting me.

“I was beginning to worry. I thought maybe you had quit and didn’t have the heart to tell me.”

“No, you didn’t think that,” I say to him out of breath. “I love you too much.”

I pacify him with a kiss on the cheek.

Perrin is a young fifty-year old Chinese-American and shockingly more than six feet tall with a shaved head. He is the owner of several suburban strip clubs and all I can say is that business is g-o-o-d.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” I say to him. “Ever since I got in late on Monday, I have not gotten back into the swing of things.”

I head to his bedroom and hang up his dry cleaning while he trails behind me so affectionately.

“I have wanted a cup of tea for the last hour,” he says to me.

“I’m so sorry. I’ll get it for you.”

Perrin has taken the word needy to another level and is totally useless when I am not around, but what do I care? The pay is great. He’s great, and this job is great.

In the kitchen, the bowl of fresh green and red apples which decorates the butcher-block countertop brings back beautiful memories of the last time my sister and I visited an apple orchard. This kitchen is huge, much too involved for a family of one. But what do I care? The pay is great. He’s great, and the job is great.

Wait a minute.

Didn’t I already say that? Probably because it’s true.

I fill the bright red tea kettle with water and prepare his favorite oolong tea with lemon while Perrin slouches at the breakfast island, scrolling through his iPhone.

“When you called off on Monday, you were rather vague,” he says to me.

“I know and I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. Just give me the details.”

I park myself across from him and brace myself. I’m about to spill all the beans. “Can I be honest?” I ask him.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

I’m beaming already as I never tire of reminiscing about Rome Nicki. “Sunday, on my way back to Chicago, I ran into a man I used to date years ago. This was the man of all men, code for, I had to have him.”

“And?”

“After all of this time,” I say with a smile, memories of Rome flooding my mind, “I still have the major hots for him, and after a little catch up conversation, here and there, the next thing I knew, I was on my back in the hotel suite.”

“On your back or on your front?” he asks me.

“Both,” I say, shamelessly.

It’s unusual for people to share such personal information with their employers, but that’s the kind of relationship that I have with Perrin. We talk about everything, even stuff that, I’m sure one day, will eventually get me fired. But what do I care? At the moment, he’s great, the pay is great and the job is great.

“After all of this time,” Perrin says to me, “was it worth it?”

I nod my head yes and show him a tall smile. “However, there’s one small problem. He’s into this crazy lifestyle of make-shift polygamy.”

“And this is a small problem?” he asks me.

“Actually, it’s more of a big problem, and if that isn’t enough, he wants me to be a part of it.”

Perrin laughs. “I love it. Tell me more.”

“Here’s what I can tell you,” I say, “I’m definitely not going to be a part of it. I can assure you of that.”

“And you’re sure about this?” he asks me as if he knows something that I don’t.

“I’m sure.”

“So he’s not actually married to these women?” Perrin questions me.

“No. They just live together.”

“And so the plot thickens,” Perrin says.

The tea kettle whistles and I finish preparing his oolong tea with lemon chucks and set it on the table in front of him.

“Look at the plus side,” Perrin says. “At least he is out and open about it.”

Yes, there is something to be said for full disclosure. However, that fact alone doesn’t really help me. I want Rome in my life, but I strenuously object to sharing him with two other women. But from where I stand, I have to take a number anyway. Unfortunately for me, I’m number three on the totem pole.

 

Episode Four

 

It’s not until 7:00 o’clock in evening when I return to my humble abode in Water’s Edge, a ritzy and diverse area on the north side of Chicago.

One of my favorite things to do, at any time of day, but especially in the evening, is to bathe in a tubful of bubbles and soak up the knowledge from an inspiring book. This evening I do just that. I submerge myself in the aroma of cherry blossom and read one of my all-time favorite authors, Catherine Ponder. I have read the Prospering Power of Love many times and each time it impresses me more and more.

After fifty minutes, I rise from the tub, dry myself off and wrap myself in my plush bathrobe. I’m eager to catch up on some of the new shows premiering on Investigation Discovery before retiring to bed when there is a knock on my door. At first, I think I am hearing things. The doorman in my building is adamant about alerting me when I have guests. However, just as quickly as I explore that thought, I hear the knock again and step to the door in my bare feet. When I scan the peephole I see Rome and before I can open the door, he announces himself, “It’s Rome.”

I open the door to him and soon learn that he is not alone. He has brought two other women with him, his live-in ladyloves, no doubt.

“Rome?” I say. “You are just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

“The ladies wanted to meet you,” Rome says, sporting his signature Fedora hat, looking just as tasty as ever.

“Thursday, this is Storm Wheeler and Indie Ocean.”

“India,” India says, correcting his pronunciation of her name.

“Right,” Rome says. “Ladies, this is Thursday.”

Storm’s eyes turn towards Rome. “And why do I like to be called Storm?”

“Because you like to raise hell,” Rome says, seemingly reluctant in revealing such information.

“That’s right,” Storm says. Storm speaks with a southern twang, which I find exceptionally soothing to the ears.

India sports a short military cut and is decorated with several tiny gold-studded earrings in each ear. Storm is even more striking. She possesses gorgeous straight ocean blue hair and a slim waist that most women only dream about.

Though challenging, I attempt to tear my eyes away from Storm’s mesmerizing ocean blue hair and matching blue eyelashes but fail miserably. In the interim, I make two immediate observations about these women. First off, they both appear to be in their early 30’s and second, they are both very pretty, especially Storm. Finally, the last thing I note is that Rome has totally disregarded my reluctance to meet his harem and has brought them to my home.

The ladies and I exchange cute pleasantries before Rome intervenes and asks, “May we come in?”

“Of course,” I say as I step aside so that they can enter. At this moment, I’m certain that Aston Kutcher is going to jump out at me and reveal to me that I have been punk’d. This is simply the only way that I can explain the craziness of this point in time.

Rome and his two stunning lady friends sail in, and I have no idea where this is going, but what I can do, is be polite and courteous.

“Would you ladies like to sit down?”

Storm steps towards me and gently offers me her hand, and we shake. “I have to tell you how excited I am to meet you. You have a warm handshake, and that tells me a lot.” Storm winks her eye at me. “I like that.”

My eyes roll over to Rome as if to say, is this woman serious?

“Rome says good things about you,” Storm continues, “And I know I have just met you, Thursday—May I call you Thursday?”

“Of course,” I say.

“As I was saying, I know I have just met you,” Storm says, “but what I can tell so far is this: I have good feelings about you.”

All I can think of to say to such an unexpected statement is, “Thank you.”

Storm seats herself on the sofa and leans back. She is all smiles. “You don’t mind if I take off my shoes, do you?” Storm asks me.

“Not at all,” I say.

“Can I put my legs on the sofa?” Storm asks me with a warm smile.

“If you like,” I say to her.

Storm slips out of her thong sandals and props her legs into the lotus position.

India, on the other hand, does not sit at all. Instead, she examines the few pictures that I have framed on the entertainment center, one being of my late golden retriever.

India wears a bright mini sun dress and wedge sandals. “Is this your dog, Thursday,” India asks me.

“She belonged to the man I used to be married to.”

“Do you miss her?” India asks me.

“Every day,” I say.

“I have a dog, too, Thursday,” India says. “I have a picture of her here somewhere.” India browses through the photographs on her Android phone, then shows me a picture of a cute Beagle. “Here’s my princess.”

“She’s darling,” I say to India.

“I have the best dog ever!” India says, oozing of exuberance. “She follows me around everywhere I go. She wags her tail when she’s happy and sometimes, she even licks my face.”

“In other words, she does what dogs do,” I say.

“Yeah, but with more sweetness and more love than any other dog.”

India finally seats herself next to Storm. “I like that you are a dog lover,” India says. “You and I are going to be good friends. I just know it.”

“We are?” I question her.

“Of course, we are. Don’t you want to be my friend?”

I am at a loss for words and not sure how to answer this question. However, what I do know is that I can’t very well tell her no so I say what any other person in my situation might say, “Sure, I want to be your friend.”

My eyes sweep over to Rome, who seems to be unusually amused by this. I then look to Storm who goes into her purse and pulls out a bottle of what appears to be vitamins. “Would anyone like some vitamin D?”

“No thanks,” I am first to say. I’m used to be offered many things, but never vitamins.

“We all know that is not vitamin D,” India says.

“It is too,” Storm states emphatically.

I can only imagine, if it is not vitamin D, what is it?

My eyes do a beeline in Rome’s direction who is leaning against the wall, his hands in his pockets. “May I speak with you alone for a minute, please?”

“Lead the way,” Rome says.

“Ladies,” the remote control is on the table.”

Storm is quick to grab hold of the remote control. “I want to see what Anderson Cooper is talking about this evening.”

“I don’t want to watch Anderson Cooper,” India says in a whiny tone.

“Well, what would you like to watch?” Storm asks India.

“I don’t know, but I know I don’t want to watch any news channels.”

I have only been in the presence of these women for a short time, but I have a vague feeling that India is used to getting her own way and if she doesn’t, there is hell to pay. But then again, what do I know?

While Storm and India spar over what to watch on TV, Rome and I escape into the bedroom. I ease down on the bed, open my robe and smooth cocoa butter on my legs and arms.

Rome leans against the back of the door, his hands inside his pants pocket. “Don’t tell me you’re not amused by all of this?” He is all smiles when he asks me this.

“No, I’m not,” I say, trying to convince him that he is wrong, when in actuality, he’s dead right. I am amused.

“Yes, you are. I know you.”

“Well, maybe I am a little amused,” I finally admit.

“And your thoughts are?”

“My thoughts are that Storm and India are lovely women and seem very sweet, and with saying all of that, my question to you is, why are they here?”

“I wanted you to meet them and get to know them so that you might eventually… join our family.”

Rome’s statement warrants an immediate response, but I do not succumb to him. Instead, I slip on my panties and remove my bathrobe, exposing my breast before slipping a nightshirt over my head.

“You realize that I am watching, looking at you and enjoying what I am seeing?”

“Yes, I know that.”

“Just so you know,” he adds.

“Now that I have on some clothes, I can devote all of my attention to Rome. I step to him, my hands on my hips. “Now, I can thoroughly put my foot up your you-know-what.”

“That doesn’t sound very nice.”

“It’s not supposed to be nice,” I say to him, “I told you numerous times that I was not N-O-T interested in being a part of your harem.”

“I understand all of that, but I thought it was important that you at least meet the women first.”

I exhale a breath of frustration. I am getting nowhere with him. “What do these women know about me anyway?”

“I told them that we used to be lovers.”

“And they don’t have a problem with that?” I question him.

“Obviously not.”

“Rome, I don’t know how many more ways I can put this to you. I am not interested in what you are offering. Period.”

“But I know you, Thursday. You have always been interested in new people and new experiences.”

“Well, guess what, this is one experience I am not interested in having.”

“But you don’t know that for sure because you haven’t even given them a chance,” Rome says, “I think the three of you will have a lot in common.”

“The only thing we have in common,” I say, pointing at him, “is you.”

“You and India both love dogs,” he says, making his argument.

“India, me and a million other people.”

“You are all spiritual people, well at least Storm and you are, and all of you are heavily into self-improvement, at least you and India are.”

“Not interested,” I say, then ease down on the bed with my arms stretched out behind me and cross my legs.

“Come on, Thursday,” Rome says. “Don’t be like that.”

He is clearly not one for accepting no for an answer.

“Why is this so important to you? Why do you want me to befriend these women?”

Rome flops down next to me and uncrosses my legs. “I want you to become a part of our family.”

“And what is uncrossing my legs going to do?”

“Throw you off your tirade of unrelenting reluctance.”

“It’s already the three of you,” I remind him. “Isn’t that enough?”

“No, it’s not. I’ll tell you what.” Rome stoops down in front of me so that we are eye to eye. “Just spend the day with the ladies, doing whatever you want, and if you still feel the same way, I won’t bring it up again, and if I do bring it up again, I will sign over my Mini Cooper to you.”

“The white one?” I asks, now intrigued.

“Is there any other one?”

Most people might be more impressed with a vehicle along the lines of a Mercedes or a BMW, but not me. Something less popular and cute is what captures my eye.

My defenses are now weakening. I can only say no to him for so long.

“What do I have to do again?” I ask him.

“Just spend the day with India and Storm. That is all.”

I’m thinking about it, still unsure.

“And remember, I’m only asking you to spend the day with them. Nothing else,” he reminds me.

“Nothing else?” I have practically said yes without even saying yes.

“Nothing,” he insists.

Just as Rome is rising to his feet, there is a knock on the door. Right away, Rome opens it to India and Storm.

“We want to join the party, too,” India says. She and Storm barge their way in.

“I could only watch Nick at Night with India for so long,” Storms admits.

India and Storm drop down next to me. India is on my left, and Storm is on my right. I struggle to keep from chuckling as my curiosity is in full swing by the display of their uncanny affection and bold behavior.

India gently turns my face towards her so that we are eye to eye. “We would really love to spend the day with you this Saturday,” India says to me.

Before I can even respond, Storm says to India. “I thought we were going to do Sunday.”

“Sunday doesn’t really work for me,” India says.

Storm directs her attention back to me. “Will you join us, Thursday?”

It’s as if I am some kind of wishbone on display for their amusement.

India surprises me when she massages my shoulder and arm as if she’s consoling me about some tragic occurrence. “You’ll join us tomorrow, won’t you,” India says.

I glance over at Rome, waiting for him to rescue me, but he says nothing. Why would he? Surely, this is all his doing anyway.

“I guess,” I say, out of obligation, thinking if I say yes, maybe she will stop massaging my shoulder and arm.

“Rome tells us that you like to sail,” Storm says. “We were thinking about chartering a boat along Lake Michigan.”

“Will you be joining us?” I ask Rome.

“It’s up to you,” Rome says. He leans against the back of his door, as if posing for a high-end women’s magazine.

“Would you like for Rome to join us?” Storm asks me.

“I don’t really think I could stop him,” I say, knowing full well that there is no way Rome would allow himself to not be a part of this.

Rome and the ladies wear down my defenses, and I agree to spend the day with them. I do a good job of pretending that I was oh so not interested, but I am insanely curious about the set up that Rome has established with these women. I want to know not just how it works, but more important why they have chosen to be in a part of it.

 

 

I have been working for Perrin as his personal assistant for three years. He is the perfect employer. For the small things I do for him, I am paid more than $80,000 yearly. So when he asks me to do menial tasks such as preparing his showers, my only question is: How hot do you want the water, and which bathrobe will you be wearing? My job is simple. I cater to his every need and want. I manage his errands and do for him everything that he would rather not do himself.

It is now 5:30 p.m. in the evening when I adjust the water temperature for Perrin’s shower. I don’t usually work this late, but I have been late the last few days and want to make up some of my time. Once Perrin is in the shower, I login to his Citibank account and pay his monthly expenses. I then head downstairs to the lobby and withdraw $400 from the ATM. He always likes to have several hundred dollars on hand.

I prepare his favorite evening cocktail, a Bill Clinton. This potent concoction consists of blue curacao liqueur, three kinds of vodka, light rum, dark rum, pineapple juice and a splash of lemonade.

Perrin is still in the shower when he summons me into the bathroom.

“You rang,” I ask him as I stand at the entrance of the bathroom door.

“I want to hear more about this rendezvous on the lake before you leave,” he says from behind the shower curtain.

I close the top of the toilet seat and drop down onto it. “Here’s the situation. It’s not easy to say no to this man or his lady friends. But in light of all of that, I’m actually looking forward to it.”

“It seems as though you have agreed to be a part of this after all,” Perrin says.

“No,” I say with conviction. “This is just a friendly get-together. Nothing more.”

“That’s not what it sounds like to me,” Perrin says.

Could Perrin be right?

Have I, on an unconscious level, agreed to be a part of his deranged lifestyle without even know it?

 

Episode Five

 

A glorious Chicago Saturday morning greets me with a stream of sunshine. The funny memories of my unusual encounter with Rome and his ladyloves flood my mind and force me out of bed earlier than usual.

My day begins with a hot shower, where I shampoo my hair and shave my legs. I am in good spirits for my day at sea with Rome and his ladyloves. I wear my white ankle pants, pink t-shirt and taupe sandals. I am almost finished eating my oatmeal for breakfast when the doorman calls and informs me that my car is ready. Rome has arrived.

Wanting to make a good impression on the ladies and Rome, I dash into the bathroom brush my blunt cut bangs, apply eyeliner, mascara and mauve lipstick.

I grab my white Fossil clutch purse, my keys, and I am out the door.

Why would three women choose to live with one man?

That is the question, but what is the answer?

These are the thoughts that populate my mind as I exit the revolving doors of my high-rise building.

It is a zealous eighty degrees. There is something about warm weather that makes life seem so freaking grand.

To my wonderful surprise, there is a stretch limousine awaiting me.

Standing at the door to greet me is not a chauffeur, but Rome dressed as a chauffeur, and he is decked out in full white chauffer attire with a white Fedora hat to match. I smirk because I like what I see, and his creative attire is giving me some ideas of my own.

I am all smiles when I approach the shiny car, my clutch purse underneath my arm.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Darling,” Rome says, then opens the door for me.

“Seriously?” I ask him, smiling.

“Yes, seriously. I’m escorting you to our destination.” He wears burgundy tinted sunglasses, which complements his chauffeur attire.

If this is how the day begins, I can’t wait to see how it will end.

Upon Rome opening the door for me, I slide inside and find a nice cozy seat across from India and Storm. This is my first time in a limousine and I have to admit, I am impressed.

“Hello, ladies,” I say to them.

Rome gears the car into drive and we are off and running.

No sooner than my bottom hits the leather seat, both India and Storm immediately flock around me. If India and Storm are the paparazzi, then I must be the star because that’s what it feels like. India is on my right side and Storm is on my left. India slithers up on me, her face in my neck. “You look lovely this afternoon, and you smell good, too.”

Ordinarily I would find a buzz cut on a woman unattractive, but India wears it well. It gives her the beautified appearance of a China doll except, she’s not from China.

“You look so pretty in your white,” Storm says to me as she layers her lips with peach-scented lip gloss.

“You girls are so sweet,” I say.

“I’m the sweet one,” India says, “not Storm.”

“Storm,” India says. “Doesn’t Thursday smell wonderful?”

It is now Storm’s turn to inhale my neck.

Storm sniffs my neck like I am a piece of merchandise for sale, and I am cracking up inside. This is funny, and these women are nuts, especially since I’m not even wearing any perfume.

“That is nice,” Storm agrees with India.

“Thank you,” I say. At this moment, what else could I say?

I witness Rome’s amused eyes in the rearview mirror, seemingly quite entertained.

“Is everything okay back there,” Rome asks. “Maybe I should come back there.”

“We have it all taken care of,” Storm says to Rome. “We’ll let you know if we need you back here.”

While Storm and India continue to fret over me as if I am the late Princess Diana, I have to stay, I enjoy the attention.

“You ladies are just full of wonder, aren’t you?” I say to them.

“You could call it a whole lot more than that,” India says.

Storm gently gropes my left breast. “Are you a 34 or a 36?”

Before I can even answer, my eyes widen and my mouth pops open.

“You look more like a 34,” Storm says. “What do you think, India?”

India grips my right breast and explores it. “I think you’re right,” India says to Storm. “She’s a 34.”

They both feel me up real good, and I gleam with amusement. These women have no shame. “Please forgive me for being so honest, but are you two ladies trying to seduce me?”

“No,” India is first to say, “Why would you think that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it was because you were groping my breasts.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Storm says.

“That’s right,” India says. “If we were trying to seduce you, we would have removed your blouse first and then maneuvered you into a horizontal position.”

“Oh, I see,” I say, “Thanks for the clarification.”

“Is everything back there all milky smooth?” Rome asks us all.

“Yes,” we all say in unison.

“I’m so glad you decided to join us.” Storm says.

“Yes,” India says. “We’re quite excited.

“You two look like you’re in a good mood,” I say to the both of them. “Are you always this chipper?”

“Why shouldn’t we be?” India says, with her arms stretched out. “It’s a magnificent day, I’m happy, young, beautiful, spending the day with my guy and my girls.”

“That’s right,” Storm says. “We have it all.” Storm initiates the high-five and India slaps her hand hard.

“Would you like a glass of wine, Thursday,” Storm asks me.

I glance at my watch. It’s just noon. “Isn’t it a little early for cocktails?” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I rethink my statement. “Who am I kidding? It’s never too early for a glass of wine.”

“Or too late,” India agrees.

Storm smiles at me, dousing me with admiration. “I knew there was a reason that I liked you.”

Storm pours a glass of wine for the three of us.

“I don’t even think about it or worry about it anymore,” India says. “I know I am a lush, and I’m proud of it.”

Storm raises her hand to India and India high fives her.

It is impossible to experience anything less than a joyous state of mind in the presence of these women. Their enthusiasm is insanely contagious.

The cool AC surrounds me as I sip my glass of oh-so-good, sweet and yummy white wine. I lean back, relax and enjoy the wondrous moment. These women are fun.

“What great things has Rome told you about us?” Storm asks me.

“Rome told me that you were two lovely women and that you all live together in unholy matrimony, and, most importantly, he told me that you ladies wanted me to join you.”

“Is that something that you are open to?” India asks me, “joining us?”

I don’t answer right away, then “To be honest with you, I don’t really know.”

“By the end of the day,” Storm suggests. “You’ll know.”

“Are you lesbian, bisexual or straight?” India asks me.

If only I had been warned that that question was coming, maybe I could have prepared for it.

“What?” I say. “Do you have to ask?”

“Yes, you do,” India says. “Women are very hard to figure out.”

“You weren’t expecting that question, were you,” Storm asks me.

“No, I was not,” I say to Storm.

“Well, I personally think that she’s straight,” Storm says to India.

“I don’t know,” India says, “sometimes looks can be deceiving.”

“Seriously? I’m sitting right here,” I say.

Storm laughs. “We were just playing around with you, Thursday, just having a little fun. We know that you’re straight.”

“Thank you,” I say, relieved.

Now I am not sure who is more amusing, India and Storm or Rome for setting this whole thing up in the first place.

 

Episode Six

 

Fifteen minutes later, we reach the dock at Navy Pier and board Rome’s chartered yacht, complete with a staff of five. The Summer Moon is outfitted with every amenity possible to keep us happy for many hours to come, such as a small cinema, a whirlpool and sauna with a view, an ice bar, a culinary center, a balcony porthole, and a lawn club grill, just to name a few.

A pretty Mexican woman, wearing a black floor-length dress and ponytail, pilots us to a table on the outside deck. Rome, it seems, has mysteriously disappeared as Storm, India and I make ourselves comfortable underneath the hot sun. The pretty woman wearing the long black dress, who I dare not call a waitress as she’s dressed too elegantly. She fills our crystal glasses with crushed ice and water.

“Ladies, I’m Gypsie,” she says, studying all of us. “Let me see if I can remember all of your names. “You have to be Storm, she says, pointing in Storm’s direction, “And you’re India,” she suggests, directing her attention at India, “and you must be Thursday,” suggesting me.

“Very good,” Storm says, “I’m impressed.

“So am I,” I say.

“Rome told me a little about all three of you.”

“Care to share some of those tidbits,” Storm says to Gypsie.

“Not particularly. Anyway, I have gifts for all three of you. I will be right back.”

As soon as Gypsie whisks herself away, I guzzle down my water. “What happened to Rome?” I ask India.

“Who cares?” Storm says, turning to me. “Besides, it will give us more time to get to know Thursday,” referring to me in the third person.

“Is that okay with you, Thursday,” Storm asks me.

“Why not? After all, I am the main attraction, am I not?” I ask Storm, lifting my water glass.

“That you are,” India says.

“Now, for starters,” Storm says. “What’s with the name Thursday?”

“Actually, that’s the same thing I asked my mother, and she has no idea why she named me Thursday.”

“I don’t know,” India says. I kind of like it. It’s different. It reminds me of a character on this old TV show the Adams Family. They had a son named Wednesday.”

“It wasn’t a son,” Storm objects, “It was a daughter.”

“No, it wasn’t. It was a son.”

“I think I would have remembered,” Storm insists.

Since I was formally initiated in the backseat of the limo, I have earned the right to interject. “Ladies, if I might be so bold,” I say, “does it really matter whether Wednesday was a girl of boy?”

“No, it doesn’t matter,” India says, “but I know I’m right.”

“Moving along.” Storm directs her attention towards me. “You said your mother didn’t know why she named you Thursday?”

“That’s right.”

“She’s not a drunk, is she,” Storm asks me, so matter of fact.

I’m supposed to be offended by Storm’s remark but for some unknown reason, I am not.

“No,” I say in answer to Storm’s question. “Anyway, here’s what I’d like to know,” I say to the both of them, “how did you two ladies end up with Rome?”

This is the question that’s been front and center of my mind since the moment they crashed my apartment.

“We dated a while back,” Storm says, “much like yourself.”

“As did I,” India says.

“It’s all beginning to make sense to me now. We are all former girlfriends.”

“Who else would put up with this radical shit,” Storm says, “definitely not anyone he just met.”

I squint my eyes as Storm’s outburst rattles my brain. “But I thought that you two were in love with this arrangement.”

“We are, but I think it’s only because I dated him in the past,” Storm says. “I doubt if I had met someone new, I would have been as interested and willing to be a part of this thing.”

Storm says she’s okay with the arrangement, but I am not totally convinced that is the case.

“And this arrangement is totally okay with you,” I ask them both. “I mean Rome sleeping with the both of you?”

“Is that so hard to believe?” India asks me.

“Of course, it is,” I say. “It is my belief that women, as well as men, are very territorial. We want our own. I know I do.”

“True, but wanting it and having it are two totally different things,” Storm says.

“What does that mean?” I ask Storm.

“Well, I wanted my husband all to myself, but it never happened,” Storm says. “Of the one year we were married, he had extramarital affairs for the entire year and to top that off, the man I was married to before that had many suitors as well.”

It’s finally sinking in now why both India and Storm have agreed to this lifestyle. They have become heinously jaded.

India joins in. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s unrealistic to even think for a moment that you will actually have one man to yourself for a significant length of time.”

“You don’t think it’s realistic to have a man all to yourself?” I ask them both.

“I don’t,” India says.

“Neither do I,” Storm says.

“Really,” I question.

“No, I don’t,” India says.

“Neither do I,” Storm says again.

“I didn’t say it was impossible,” India says, clarifying herself. “Just not probable.”

These are two of the most cynical women that I have ever laid eyes on. I can only imagine what has happened to them to make them so pessimistic about men.

“Why bother looking for something that you will not find?” Storm says to me.

“I guess I just don’t see it that way.” I don’t care what either of them believes, I will never give up on my one man happy ending.

India chews on the crushed ice from her water glass. “I am thinking about how these celebrity women have their groom-to-be sign these agreements, stating that if they stray into the arms of another woman, they will have to pay a large sum of money to the wife-to-be.”

“Yeah, it’s like these women know or are predicting that their husbands will be unfaithful and so perhaps they are hoping that the penalty of a million or so dollars might lessen the possibility of infidelity,” Storm says.

“Which doesn’t work,” I agree. “It’s like a restraining order. It doesn’t prevent your attacker from assaulting you any more than an agreement to pay a million dollars will prevent a man from exploring his sexual appetite.”

Though I’m not in the least sold of the idea of women sharing their men, some of what they are saying is making a lot of sense.

“What we’re saying isn’t sounding so insane anymore,” Storm says, “is it?”

“Actually,” I say to them. “I never said what you were saying sounded insane, but I’m still not sure I’m ready to completely write off the possibility that a man can remain faithful to one woman, and more importantly, I’m definitely not ready to share that man either.”

“Who says you haven’t shared him already,” India asks me, finishing off the last of her crushed ice.

“What are you saying,” I ask her.

“You dated Rome in the past right?” Storm asks me.

“That’s right,” I say.

Storm stretches the tube of lip gloss across her lips. “Honey, Rome is the biggest whore ever.”

Storm’s statement completely soaks up my oxygen, and I gasp.

Could Storm be right?

Was Rome fooling around on me the entire time that we were together?

“Are you suggesting what I think you are suggesting,” I ask Storm.

“I’m sure that I am.”

I am now speechless, but as much as what they are saying might possess some truth, I refuse to give up on the happy ending, which is one-man-one-woman for life.

“At least with this arrangement,” Storm continues, “we at least know who he’s with. Outside of this situation, I would be completely in the dark.”

“Totally,” India agrees.

I feel as though I have just attended a free lecture about the dating habits of men and woman in the new millennium. I have a feeling that what I have just heard today from Storm and India is just the beginning of what they plan to teach me. The question is: Am I ready for any of it?

Our star server, Gypsie soon returns, carrying with her three hot pink bags engraved with the words Incredible Awesome You! She hands a bag to each of us, and I am impressed. Her timing couldn’t be more perfect. I am in desperate need of a major distraction from the verbiage that Storm and India just force fed me.

As we all open our gifts, it’s apparent that we all have the same gifts inside.

Inside the glossy hot pink bags, we are all gifted with a white t-shirt, which reads A Perfect 10. In addition to that, we all receive a box of Godiva turtles with the box personalized for each of us.

Storm’s box reads Delicious Storm.

India’s box reads Adorable India.

And my box reads Irresistible Thursday.

My eyes light up with wonder. It feels like my birthday. Never before have I received a box of chocolates engraved with my name on it, and only three words come to mind: Keep it coming.

The final gift included in our gift bags are Gucci sunglasses, and they are spectacular. With sparkles in my eyes, I’m in love with my stylish, overpriced sunglasses and quickly slide them on my face. At this moment, I fancy myself as one of those rich Hollywood women whose greatest dilemma is what to eat for lunch and at what restaurant.

Storm seems as pleased as I am, but when I turn to India, who has peeled over with the side of her face against the table, I ask her, “India, you don’t like your gifts?”

“There’re okay,” India replies in a sour voice.

After almost thirty minutes, Rome magically appears, just as mysteriously as he disappeared. He wears an oversized chef uniform with a matching chef hat and carries several menus in hand. “Hello, beautiful creatures,” Rome says to us. “I’ll be your server this afternoon. Today, I’m handing out compliments and honey kisses and I’m not likely to run out of either.”

“Could you be any sweeter,” India asks Rome.

“I doubt it,” Rome says.

I check out Rome’s chef uniform. Though it’s a little oversized for him, he wears it well.

“What is it with you and these different uniforms?” I ask him.

“Just doing what I can to see that you ladies have a good time. Did you like your gifts?”

“We loved them,” I am first to say.

“That’s right, we did,” Storm says. “However, I can’t be so sure about India.”

“What’s the problem, India,” Rome asks her. It’s obvious by the tone of Rome’s voice that this is a question that he asks India often.

India lifts her head up from the table. “Why is Storm Delicious and Thursday Irresistible and I’m only Adorable?”

“Because you are adorable,” Rome says to her.

“I’d rather be delicious or irresistible,” India says. “Is Storm delicious because she tastes better than me?”

I’m shaking my head and scratching my scalp again.

Did I just hear her right?

Storm shifts her eyes to India. “Now, you know that was not nice.”

“You’re right.” India drops her head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t said that.”

Rome is a much welcomed save from the mini-drama transpiring before us when he says to India, “I tell you what. How about I order another box next week, which will be engraved with something more to your liking?”

He stoops down on the side of India so that they are face to face. “How does that sound?”

“Like what?” India questions him with a perky smile. A do-over is exactly what she was after all along. She’s a fanatic about having her way and doesn’t keep that fact to herself.

“Maybe something along the lines of Delectable India,” Rome suggest.

“Yes, I think I would like that,” India says, before planting a kiss on Rome’s lips.

I am just beside myself by the way that Rome caters to these women. In a way it is a good thing. It proves that Rome knows how to treat women well. Then on the other hand, it’s a bad thing because it’s not solely me on the receiving end of his affections, but other women as well.

“Now that that matter is settled,” Rome says. “Let’s get this party started.”

Rome stuffs a menu into my hand. “One for you.”

“And, one for you,” he says to Storm while sliding a menu into her hand.

“And one for you,” he says, placing a menu in front of India.

I turn to India. “Does he do this often?”

Before India can answer, Rome asks me, “Do what?”

“Dress up and—” I say, but before I can finish my sentence, Rome interjects.

“Service my ladies?”

“Yeah,” I say to Rome. “Do you do this often?”

“Every chance I get,” Rome admits.

“If you ladies don’t see anything on the menu that you might like, just let me know and I’ll see what I can put together.”

I skim over the limited menu. It consists of four different seafood dishes: Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, Wood-Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Salmon and Snow Crab Legs. The three desserts are: Chocolate Shortcake, New York-Style Cheesecake with Strawberries and Apple Crostada. However, the selection of wines, champagnes and flavored coffees are surprisingly extensive.

Rome places a white decorative napkin on our laps, and I smile. I could get used to this type of stellar treatment.

“So, what are we drinking?” Rome asks us?

“How about a pitcher of hurricane?” Storm suggests.

“Hurricane it is,” Rome says, right before he heads in the direction of the bar.

Soon afterwards, Rome returns with a huge pitcher of the mixed cocktail. He fills our frosted glasses with the fruity alcohol-laced concoction and then firmly seats himself with us, between Storm and India. This is the first time he is joining us since boarding the yacht.

“Rome tells us that you write romantic stories,” India says to me.

“I have been known to write a few from time to time,” I say.

“Do you get excited when you write sex scenes?” Storm asks me.

Rome’s eyes shoot to me. Apparently, Storm’s questions have struck a nerve with them. “I’d like to know the answer to that one myself,” Rome says.

I wash down my fruity cocktail. “Let me put it to you this way.” I paused. “In answer to your question, yes.”

“Maybe I should read some of those stories myself,” Rome says.

“Perhaps you should,” I agree with him.

“Thursday,” India says, “if you really want to write something spectacular, something straight out of the park, you should move in with us and write about that.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Rome says.

Having already considered the idea myself confirms for me that we may all be on to something. “To be honest with you, I had already considered that idea myself,” I say.

“If ever there was good reason to move with us,” Rome says, “it would be to write a juicy story, unlike anything you have ever written before.”

“I concur,” Storm says, then slides her chair over to me and leans in towards me. “Aside from you moving in to write your story, let me put the cards on the table so that you know exactly where we are coming from.”

I ease back. My senses are heightened, and I listen with an attentive ear.

“Basically, in the smallest amount of words,” Storm says, “we’re idiots, all of us. Me, Rome and, most of all, India.”

“That’s right,” India says, “and that’s a compliment by the way. Who wants to be ordinary? I sure don’t.”

Storm continues. “What India is trying to say is, we want you to be an idiot with us.”

“That’s right,” India says, “that’s what we want.”

“You don’t have to decide right away,” Rome says. “Let the idea float around your head for a while if you need to.”

I don’t answer right away. I’m too busy absorbing the proposition presented before me, then, “And how exactly would I become an idiot?”

“You move into The House of Rome,” Storm says, “and we will take care of the rest.”

I feel as if I’m on the loony train with a one-way ticket to Crazyville, and it occurs to me that now might be a good time to jump off, but the curiosity in me keeps me stranded.

India pours herself another drink and guzzles it down. She then rises and clanks the spoon against the wine glass. “Attention everyone, attention! I had an epiphany last night.”

“My sister had one of those once,” I say, “and she said that all you have to do is put some cream on it and it will be gone in a couple of days.”

Rome, India, and Storm all laugh.

“That’s a good one,” Storm says to me.

“I thought so too,” I say.

There’s something about being on the water that brings out the silly in me. Then again, maybe it’s just the alcohol.

“May I continue please,” India says. “I’ll have you know. I made a discovery last night about myself, and after giving it careful consideration, I have decided to finally take the Paxil.”

Rome and Storm both rise and boisterously applaud India’s decision with the clapping of their hands and the stomping of their feet.

Are we at a live concert or what? It sure sounds like it.

“It’s about time,” Storm says.

India bows gracefully several times as if she’s just performed on Broadway. “Thank you. Thank you.”

India is as impressed with her decision as Storm and Rome are excited for her, and I am at a disadvantage because I have no idea why.

“I’m sorry,” I say to Rome, “but… what the F.”

“Ladies,” Rome says to India and Storm. “Thursday wants to know why all the excitement.”

“I’ll handle this.” Storm says to me. “Basically… India is a bitch.”

“I am,” India says as if she’s proud to wear that label.

Storm continues. “But not just any kind of bitch. Oh no, but a really stubborn bitch who is also cuddly and sweet.”

“I see,” I say. “So this Paxil will make it so she will not be a bitch anymore?”

India is first to answer the question herself. “No, I’ll still be a bitch, just calmer and not as stubborn.”

“And that’s a good thing?” I ask them all.

“It’s a great thing,” Rome says, before rising up and taking down our orders for lunch.

An hour after we stuff ourselves, all except Storm that is, who only eats half of her crab legs, we convene inside to the lounge where salsa music is blasting.

We all spice it up on the dance floor, each of us taking turns doing more and more outrageous moves than the other. We twist. We turn. We wiggle. We prance. We swing. We bounce. We sway and we shake, switching dance partners every minute when India yells switch.

Simply put, we are killing it.

Up until today, I have never been a huge fan of salsa music, but after my delightful time on the dance floor, that’s all about to change.

 

 

My enchanting and groovy day at sea is coming to a close, and Rome and the girls return me to my apartment. Rome has changed clothes again and is wearing the white chauffer uniform when he opens the car door for me.

I step out, still feeling the charge of too many cocktails in my system. “Thank you, kind, Sir.”

“You are most welcome.”

“That was great,” I say to him.

“Of course, it was,” he says.

India and Storm both exit and stand by Rome’s side.

“We hate to see you go,” India says to me. “Any chance you might want to come home with us tonight?”

I smile. She is only so serious. “Unfortunately, no,” I say, “but thanks for the invitation.” I pause, my eyes circling all of them. “Well, goodnight.”

I turn and head towards the revolving doors of my building when I hear the words, “No hug?” Because of the southern twang, I recognize the voice to stem from Storm.

I stop in my tracks and do a complete about face. I return to Storm and India and offer them a warm hug.

I am now sauntering towards the entrance of my building again when I realize I forgot something. I neglected to hug Rome goodbye. For the second time, I double back and curl my arms around Rome.

“Goodnight for real this time,” I say to him.

 

 

Here is what I now know about Storm and India from my day on the water with them.

Neither of the girls work or go to school. Storm spends her days at the gym, gardening, doing yoga, reading, and not wearing any panties.

And India, she spends her days volunteering at the animal shelter, visiting coffee shops, watching Lifetime Television, and remembering to throw tantrums every other day so that Rome will baby her.

As I ride up on the elevator, I think about all of these nuggets, and most of all, about how much fun it would be to write about Rome’s radical lifestyle and the women in it. I can still hear the salsa music in my head when I stride through the front door of my apartment. I am still roused up from all the drinking, all the dancing, all the laughing and most of all, all the astonishing conversation.

I wash my face, brush my teeth and change into my nightshirt. I relax in my bed, watching Investigation Discovery when my phone rings and sure enough, it’s Rome.

“Did you enjoy yourself with the girls?” he asks me.

“You know I did.”

“Well,” he says. “Just in case you were wondering, they only had the best things to say about you.”

“And what about you? What do you have to say about me?” I ask him, fishing for compliments.

“I want to see more of you, lots more. What were you doing when I called?

“Watching Investigation Discovery.”

“Were you doing anything else?” he asks me.

“No, I was not,” I say to him as I know what he is hinting at, but I don’t take the bait.

“Are you ready to move in with us yet?” he asks me, completely out of the blue.

Via remote, I lower the volume on the television and rise up. “I admit, I think you guys have a lot of fun together, and it seems like a nice setup. It would be a blast to live there.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I’m still not sure it’s for me,” I say to him. “For instance, if I did decide to join your family as you call it, would I be required to have sex?”

“Do you want to have sex?”

“That’s not the point,” I say. I am well aware that one day I may want to have sex with him, but I don’t want it to be something that I have to do.

“Thursday, I want you to do whatever it is you want to do, and I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do, so if you just want to live with us and it be totally platonic, I have no problem with that.”

“Really?” I ask, surprised as I didn’t even think that was an option.

“You surprise me,” I say, “because I thought sex was what the whole arrangement was all about.”

“Then, you misunderstand the big picture. The arrangement is about family. Sex is just a part of it, so for the time that you are with us, if you are okay with such a limited game plan, that’s definitely doable. Also, I am totally prepared to pay your expenses at your condo while you are with me.”

This is sounding too good.

“Really? What’s the catch?”

“There is no catch,” he says. “I just want you to be a part of our family and stay only for as long as you are happy there.”

“And that’s all?” I question him.

“That’s all. The moment you stop being happy, the arrangement ends. It’s just that simple.”

“That’s very sweet, Rome. I’m sure it’s bull, but at least it sounds good.”

This sounds too easy. Rome is up to something. I might be crazy enough to move in and find out as my defenses are weakening. However, I’m not completely sold on the idea. “Just tell me this, Rome,” I say to him. “Why me?”

“I adore you and I want you in my life and my home.”

“You forgot bed,” I remind him.

“That, too.”

“Okay, that may explain your reasons for wanting me there, but what about Storm and India? Why are they so dead set on having me join your family? I mean I hardly even know them.”

Rome doesn’t speak right away, and then he spills it. “Besides, the fact that you’re very pretty much like them, they are absolutely intrigued by the fact that you are a writer.”

“What? What does that have to do with anything?” I ask him.

“In their minds, you’re on the verge of stardom. They see you as a celebrity in the making.”

I’m scratching my head, squinting my eyes and shaking my head. “What? A celebrity in the making?”

“That’s right.”

“But I’m not a successful writer.”

“They don’t care about that,” Rome says. “They’re intelligent enough to know that most writers start out as unknown and become very famous.”

“That doesn’t mean I will be one of the famous ones.”

“It doesn’t mean you won’t either,” he reminds me.

Flattered by his words, I shift the phone to my left ear and say nothing.

After a short silence, Rome says, “Now that that is all cleared up, let’s get back to the subject at hand.”

“Must we?” I question him.

“Yes, we must. There is one small subject that we need total clarification on, though.”

“And what is that?” I ask.

"If it's really going to be totally 100% platonic," he says, "it will be platonic all the way. No exceptions."

“What does that mean?” I question him.

“It means that you and I can never and will never have sex again.”

My mouth springs open and I laugh. “And why is that?”

“Because that is the way that I want it. If you want to join the family as a non-sexual participant, I would rather keep that way.”

“So you and I can never have sex?”

“That’s right,” he says, “You can’t have it both ways. The decision you make today is the law, unless, of course, you want to reconsider.”

I’m so on to Rome. I’m supposed to agree to a sexual relationship for fear that if I don’t agree to one now, I forfeit my turn somehow, but I’m not falling for it.

“No, I don’t want to reconsider,” I say to him. “I’m moving in for the sole purpose of writing about this usual setup and nothing more. Besides, I’m really not into sharing men anyway.”

“Not yet.”

“Come again?”

“You heard me.”

 

Episode Seven

 

My boss’s kitchen smells of Clorox and Lysol as I have just sanitized the kitchen table, countertops, and refrigerator.

It’s 3:30 o’clock in the afternoon when Perrin struts into the kitchen wearing a soft grey leather jacket and grey helmet. For months, he has talked about purchasing the Harley Davidson motorcycle, and by the way that he is dressed, it seems that he finally bunkered down and made the buy.

“So, is it official now? Are you a bona fide biker?”

“Not bona fide,” he says as he removes his helmet and benches down at the breakfast bar.

I pour him a tall glass of home-made lemonade even without him asking for it. It’s one of the things I do best. I anticipate his many wants and needs and fulfill them.

I set the lemonade in front of him and join him at the breakfast bar.

“Did you get a chance to see my text?” I ask him.

“I was going to ask you about that.” He studies me with this beady eyes. “Let me see if I have this right,” he says to me. “You’ve decided to move into Rome’s house, but it’s going to be totally platonic.”

“That’s right,” I say to him, “totally platonic.”

“Aren’t you going to feel left out?” he asks me after washing down his lemonade.

“No. I’m not into sharing men.”

“Not yet?”

I scratch my head for a minute. “That’s funny. That’s the same thing that Rome said to me. Do you two know each other?”

“No, we don’t know each other.”

“Are you’re saying that I’m going to change my mind?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes.”

“Could you be more specific?” I ask him.

Perrin laughs.

Now, I’m worried.

Could Perrin be right?

Could I actually go against everything that I believe in and stoop to a life of polygamy?

Of course not.

“Tell me again,” Perrin says to me. “Refresh my memory. Why exactly are you moving in with him?”

“Because I’m going to write about what it’s like living in the House of Rome, and most of all, I am curious as hell as to how this arrangement works.”

“If you write this story, I’ll actually finance it for you. But here’s the deal.” Perrin rises from his chair and grabs his motorcycle helmet. “If you write this story, it has to be the HBO version, not the Lifetime version.”

“I wouldn’t waste my time writing the G-rated version.”

 

 

Butterflies somersault inside my stomach, and I am all nerves when I awaken Sunday morning. Today is the day that I move into the House of Rome. I’m excited, but then again, there’s some fear as well.

I’m eager to meet India’s beagle that she speaks so highly of, and most of all, I can’t wait to write about the experience of living in the House of Rome.

I’m having one of those get-up-and-go moments, and I’m ready to go. After my oatmeal and tea, I shower and opt to wear a simple pair of acid washed blue jeans, blue t-shirt and flip flops. I am already packed, including some of my favorite books and DVDs.

I smile while I make my bed as this is the most adventurous thing that I have ever embarked on: Sharing a house with two other women and a man. It does not get any wilder than that.

A little after noon, my doorman rings me. “Your car is ready,” he says to me. I head downstairs with my three pieces of bright orange luggage and soon find a stretch limousine awaiting me.

I am soon disappointed when I realize that the limousine driver is not Rome, but instead a real limousine driver.

Bummer!

Once Rome Nicki has been your personal chauffer, no one comes close to channeling that same style.

While the light-haired driver stockpiles my luggage into the trunk, I climb inside, and seconds later, we are on our way.

Thirty-five minutes later, I arrive at Rome’s four bedroom home in Floral Beach, Illinois, a western suburb, thirty minutes west of Chicago.

The driver pulls into the driveway of 333 Lost Ranger Drive, where I find Rome awaiting my arrival. He wears his signature Fedora hat and black shirt, looking just a succulent as ever. I step from the limo and inhale the summer air. The smell of fresh-cut grass salutes me. Rome accosts me and adorns me with a sweet kiss. “Good afternoon,” he says to me, the faint smell of his aftershave teasing my senses. “Welcome.”

“Good afternoon to you, too.”

“You’re looking just as sexy as ever,” he says to me in his ever so cute sounding voice.

He slides his hand into his shirt pocket and plucks out a large, sterling silver, old-fashioned key, which is inscribed with the words The House of Rome.

I gloss over it with sparkles in my eyes. It is just so distinctive. “This is for me?”

“That’s right,” he says, “and it will always be yours whether you live here or not.”

I place the limited edition key into my clutch purse. This unique gift will be with me always.

So far, things are off to a marvelous start, and this is just the opening act.

As soon as I cross over into the House of Rome, I am welcomed by the sweet smell of apples and cinnamon, emanating from the scented candles on the small table near the door. His spacious house is decorated with beige carpeting and a chocolate brown sectional sofa which is stationed precisely in the sunken living room.

With several huge stuffed elephants positioned in every corner of the room, I have stumbled upon the hidden workings of Rome’s personality. Those elephants obviously mean something.

But what?

I don’t see India, and I don’t see Storm, which surprises me. Those two follow him everywhere he goes. Even more noticeable is the fact that I don’t see the much-anticipated Beagle, which India speaks so highly.

I absorb my huge surroundings. Rome has definitely made the big time When we dated many years ago, he owned a small condo on Lake Shore Drive, minus the limousine and the driver.

He has come a long way.

Rome helps me with my bags upstairs, bypassing the sculptured paintings of elephants along the way. He sets me up in a cozy room, which I am told is right next door to India’s room. My room has only three items in it: a floor lamp, a five-drawer chest, and a twin-sized bed, which is reminiscent of my clutter-free apartment in Water’s Edge.

I’m all settled in when Rome escorts me downstairs to the dining area where I find Storm and India already seated at a huge honeysuckle white table, decorated with lavender Martha Stewart china. The dining area is exploding with bright track lighting, which I like. It is very inviting. From the look of things, Rome will dine on one side of the table and the three of us on the other. Already this dining arrangement feels strange to me but in an exciting, I-can’t-wait-to-find-out-how-this-is-going-to-play-out kind of way.

On the menu today, are burgers and salad, prepared by our very own Rome himself. I eagerly join Storm and India at the table while Rome remains standing across from us.

The multitude of gold-studded earrings in India’s ears jumps out at me, and I need to count them, five in one ear and six in the other. It is a little too busy for my tastes, but India pulls it off quite spectacularly.

“Before we get started, I want to thank Thursday for agreeing to join us in our special home,” Rome says to us all.

Both Storm and India clap their hands, and direct their attention towards me and smile.

“Before you know it, you’ll be in synch with India and me, and we’ll all three be having our period at the same time,” Storm says to me.

“That’s the same thing I was thinking,” India says.

I don’t even think about touching that statement. Instead, I ask, “Where’s the sweet doggie you spoke so highly of?”

“She ran away again,” India says to me.

“Again?” I question her.

Rome interjects and drops down in the chair on his side of the table. “Every once in a while, she just up and leaves.”

“I’m not trying to be funny, but is that typical behavior for a dog to just leave?”

“It is if she’s temperamental like her mother,” Storm says.

I have to wonder. Are we talking about a dog or a person?

The smell of the sweet French salad dressing invigorates my appetite, and I bite into my hamburger, topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. As I enjoy my lunch, Storm has cut her burger into two pieces, discarding one-half inside a napkin.

“You might as well know now, Thursday,” India says. “Storm is preoccupied with her weight and is currently on the fast track to anorexia, which means more food for us.”

Nibbling at her salad, Storm remains silent, seemingly unaffected by India’s opinion of her.

“Last night I was listening to this instrumental tune by Dan Siegel and Oh was it pretty,” India says. “This song was just so beautiful. I am sure that if a place like heaven exists, this is the song that you will certainly hear when you arrive at the pearly gates.”

“I was thinking I might hear salsa music,” Storm says. “That’s what I would want to hear.”

“How do you know you will hear music at all?” I question them. “Maybe there is no music playing when you make your entrance.”

“I doubt that,” India says. “There has to be some kind of music playing. Otherwise, you won’t feel welcomed.”

“What do you think, Rome?” I question him.

“I never really thought about it,” Rome says. “I’m not sure I’m wanted in heaven.”

“Of course, you are,” India says to Rome. “Besides, I’ll vouch for you.”

“Come again,” I say to India. “You’ll vouch for him? You mean like give him a reference?”

“Yeah, something like that,” India insists.

If tonight is a glimpse of the conversation to come, I am in for a real treat.

“I thought you could only be accepted into heaven on your own merits,” Rome insists. “What makes you think that references are allowed?”

“Please,” Storm screams. “Everybody stop talking about heaven. Can we please?”

“You didn’t seem to have a problem when we were talking about salsa music,” India says.

“Well, I have a problem with it now,” Storm insists.

This is my opportunity to change the subject, and I do just that. “Rome, I couldn’t help but notice that there’s only a twin-sized bed in my room. What’s that all about?”

Rome sets his fork salad aside and directs his attention to me. “It’s the same for Storm and India as well. There’s no need for anything bigger than that because everyone sleeps with me anyway.”

“But I won’t be sleeping with you,” I remind him.

“I am quite aware of that, but that is your choice.”

Storm intervenes. “What’s the point of all of us living together if we can’t all sleep together?”

“Call me old fashion, but you would have to get me pretty high to share a bed with a man and two women.”

“That can be arranged,” Rome says.

I witness a sneaky eye exchange between Storm and India as if they know something that I don’t.

In the thick of our unusual lunch conversation, the doorbell rings.

“Nobody answer that”, Rome says with his hands in front of him. “We are in the midst of a welcoming lunch for Thursday, and I do not want us disturbed for any reason.”

A minute passes, and I am finishing off my savory hamburger and salad when a woman in her 60s mysteriously creeps into the kitchen out of nowhere. She struts with a forceful military stride like she’s ready for a fight.

All eyes turn to her, and everything stops.

She wears a floor-length white dress, dark curly wig too big for her head and possesses a four-day-old beard.

“Well, well, well, what have we here?” the woman says, pivoting around the kitchen table. She carries a large bright red purse engraved with the words: Recovering Cat Lady.

“Mother,” Rome announces as he stands to greet her with a kiss. “I wasn’t expecting you for another six months.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I came back when I did because I don’t like what I am seeing here this afternoon.”

Ms. Nicki continues her circular pivot around the table, examining all of us with an eagle eye. It’s as if she’s the lion and we’re all her prey.

“Everyone, this is my mother. Mother, this is India, Thursday and you know Storm.”

I am first to rise from my seat and approach Ms. Nicki. “Hello, Ms. Nicki. It’s great to meet you.”

“Please, I won’t have any of that Ms. Business. You call me Momma Nicki.”

Momma Nicki eyeballs me from top to bottom and from left to right, disapproval oozing from her eyes. “Pretty girl No. 1.”

“Come again,” I question her.

“I said you’re pretty girl No. 1.”

I quickly resume sitting and gravitate towards India, and we both exchange one of those what’s-going-on looks.

Momma Nicki then turns her attention to India, gives her a glance over. “And you must be pretty girl No. 2.”

India bolts to a standing position and wraps her arms around Momma Nicki. “It’s great meeting you, Momma Nicki.”

Momma Nicki does not waste time showing her dislike for India’s embrace. “Now, you can stop all of that hugging business. I didn’t come over here for all of that.”

With my eyes focused on Rome’s mother four-day-old beard, there is a massive amount of laughter bubbling up inside me, but I dare not let it show. It might be offensive to Rome and his mother. Instead, I maintain a straight face and hope that not so much as a chuckle escapes from my mouth.

After a few seconds pass, Momma Nicki pivots over to Storm, stops, and examines Storm with the same careful eye as she did with India and I. “And of course, pretty girl No. 3.”

“It’s nice to see you again, Momma Nicki,” Storm says, saturating her lips with lip gloss.

“Is it? Is it really that nice?” Momma Nicki questions Storm.

“Of course, it is,” Rome says, smiling. “It’s always great to see you.”

Momma Nicki backs away from the table, her eyes never leaving us as if to collect a wider view. Her eyes travel from Storm to India, from India to me, and from me to Rome.

“Tell me, Rome, what exactly did I interrupt here?” Momma Nicki asks Rome.

“We were just having some lunch. Can I get you a chair, some food maybe?”

Instead of answering Rome’s question, she says, “I should have known something obscene was going on over here. When I stepped off the plane this morning, I knew my chest was tight for a reason. At first, I just thought it was my brazier, which has always been a little too small, but now I realize it was because of my son’s foolish ways.”

“Mother, you know it probably was your brazier,” Rome says and resumes a sitting position at the table.

“You shut up,” Momma Nicki says to Rome. “It was not my brazier. It was you.”

While twisting my fingers in my lap, I witness a stilted smile on Rome’s face, and I realize something. Rome is tickled by his mother’s antics and does a terrible job of trying to hide it.

India, Storm and I can only watch, listen and perhaps learn something. It’s obvious Rome’s mother has something she wants to say, and it is my intention not to miss a word.

Momma Nicki continues her amusing roam of us, her hands on her hips, not saying a word, but instead showering us with dirty looks.

“I’m not going to mince words with you son. I’m just going to ask you straight out,” she says to Rome. “Now, I know who Storm is, but what I want to know is, who are these other two pretty girls?”

“They’re my friends, mother,” Rome says.

“And that’s all,” Momma Nicki questions him.

“Yes, that is all.”

“And nothing else?”

“No, nothing else.”

As I continue to listen to Rome flat-out lie to his mother, I close my eyes and drop my head, struggling to contain my laughter. Though I may appear composed, I’m actually rolling over on the inside.

“Is he telling the truth, ladies?” Momma Nicki asks us, looking at me possibly because I am the closest to her.

“Yes, he is,” I say to her, my eyes drawn once again to her four-day-old beard.

“Good, because this kind of sinful behavior elevates my blood pressure. It’s probably already elevated.” Momma Nicki rolls up the sleeves of her white dress. “Rome, honey, go grab the blood pressure monitor for Momma so that Momma can check her blood pressure.”

Rome is about to exit the room when she stops him. “Never mind,” Momma Nicki says, “I’ll check it when I get home.”

Momma Nicki nudges Rome from his seat, let Momma sit down now. Momma is tired and Momma is stressed.”

Rome relinquishes his seat to his mother fast and stands at the distance of us.

“Ladies, I might as well tell you girls right now so you don’t hear it on the street or see it on the news,” Momma Nicki says to all of us girls.

“Tell us what?” I ask her with enough curiosity to kill many cats.

“Rome once strayed away from traditional values and was trying to have more than one woman in his life, if you know what I mean.”

“And we do,” I assure her.

Rome shoots me a cute smile, seemingly still amused by this. It’s obvious that he knows he’s in trouble with his mother, but oddly enough, he appears unfazed.

Momma Nicki continues. “Now this was a while ago, and Rome has since then gotten all of that silliness out of system, right Rome?”

“Right, mother,” Rome agrees with her.

I drop my head again. I can’t risk laughing even though I am dying to.

“But just in case he hasn’t gotten that silliness out of his system,” Momma Nicki continues, “don’t you ladies let him talk you into that sinful heathenism.”

The room goes silent while India, Storm and I all exchange one of those is-she-for-real looks.

“Is that understood, ladies?” she asks us.

“We all understand, Momma Nicki,” I say, “and we appreciate you sharing all of this with us.”

“Now, run and get Momma some water because Momma is thirsty,” she says to me.

“I’ll get it,” Rome says.

“No! I want one of the pretty girls to get Momma some water.”

I hurry to the refrigerator and pour a tall glass of water for Momma Nicki, then hand it to her.

“Thank you, pretty girl,” Momma Nicki says to me when she accepts the glass from me. “Now, which pretty girl are you?”

“I’m Thursday.”

“I like you, Thursday,” Momma Nicki says. “You look like you have clean hands.”

Momma Nicki guzzles down her water and I drop my head in amusement. She then eases into a standing position and smooths her dress down in front of her.

“Momma is going to go on home now. After you girls finish your good clean and wholesome lunch, I assume you’ll be taking your asses’ home afterwards.”

The room goes silent as all eyes are on Momma Nicki.

Did Rome’s mother just utter the word asses’?

Momma Nicki’s eyes swing towards Rome. “I’m going to continue to pray for you.”

With Rome’s arm wrapped around his mother’s back, he escorts her out, but she stops him.

“Before I leave, Momma needs your help. One of your beloved relatives, whose name I can’t mention has gotten herself into a heap of trouble again. Momma has to post bail.”

“Why can’t you tell me who it is?” Rome asks her.

“You don’t need to know all of that, Son. One must maintain a certain amount of privacy.”

Rome’s eyes glance upwards. He’s thinking. “Wait, does this have anything to do with bingo chips and strawberry pudding?”

“Yes, it does, but I didn’t say that. You did.”

“So Grandma Robbie has gotten herself into trouble again,” Rome realizes.

“I cannot admit or deny that. Now, momma needs some money.”

“How much do you need?”

“About $100,000.”

“What?”

“Son, we’re talking about family here. Besides, it’s not like you can’t afford it.”

“Can I get a check to you tomorrow?”

“First thing?” Momma Nicki asks him.

“Yes, first thing.”

I can’t even imagine what Rome’s grandmother must have done to cause her to be held on $100,000 bond, but then again, maybe I can. After all, Rome’s grandmother is the mother of Momma Nicki. Enough said.

Once I know for sure that Momma Nicki has left the building, I say to the girls, “What the…?”

We all share a monstrous laugh and await Rome’s return to the dining area.

As soon as I set eyes on Rome who appears equally as amused as the rest of us, I say to him, “So, how does this work? She told us to take our asses’ home. What happens if she comes back tomorrow, and we’re all still here?”

“She’s not coming back tomorrow,” Rome insists.

“But what if she does,” India asks.

“Will you let me worry about her,” Rome says. “You ever hear the saying, she’s all bark and no bite? Well, that’s my mother.”

The only one who appears unconcerned about Rome’s mother possibly returning is Storm, which causes me to wonder why.

How is it that Rome’s mother seems to know Storm, but not India?

My curious mind would like to know.

The story that I am planning to write is proving to be more interesting, more complicated and more outrageous than I ever imagined.

 

Episode Eight

 

On the second level of the House of Rome, in the confines of my private room, I sip my white iced tea. I like this room. Though small, it’s bright, it’s clean, and I like the way that I feel when I’m in it. I relax with my back against the headboard of my twin-sized bed while I jot down notes about my story in progress.

So far, I am having a great time. The girls are great, Rome is awesome and his mother, how shall I say, is off the chart, but in a very amusing and fun sort of way. I am rather curious about the sleeping arrangements for Rome and the girls. I already know that they all sleep in the same bed. What I don’t know is how it works when Rome wants to be intimate with one of them. I mean, do they do it all together, or does one watch while they go at it? My curious mind wants to know, needs to know, and will eventually find out.

While I jar my memory about my first impressions of the House of Rome, there is a knock on my door. I crawl off my bed. Upon opening the door, I see before me, a tall and proud Rome standing in between Storm and India. His arms are wrapped around them, their heads buried into his forearms, violating ever sense of his personal space. They wear thick, lily white bathrobes, the ones that you only see at the five-star hotels.

I absorb the unorthodox and intriguing vision before me. It is definitely a sight to see as it is straight out of the playboy mansion handbook.

“Care to join us for a hot shower?” Rome asks me, still wearing his signature Fedora hat. He enjoys flaunting his women in front of me, it seems, and I can’t say I’m not taking pleasure in the show.

I laugh, but I do not speak.

Storm glosses her hand over the side of Rome’s face and then down his neck. “Don’t you want something interesting for your book?”

My eyes zero in on Storm’s ocean blue hair as it shapes her face perfectly. “That I do, however…” I am at a loss for words, not sure what to say, “showering together might be a tad bit too kinky for me.”

“There’s no such thing as too kinky,” India explains.

“There’s kinky, and then there’s kinky and this, what you guys are doing is definitely on the side of the later,” I say.

“You did say that you wanted to write a story about all of us, and how we live,” Rome reminds me. “Well, this is how we live.”

“Yes, I did say that, but…”

“But nothing,” India interjects, “Grab a towel and bring that sexy body of yours in with us.”

A part of me wants to say yes and do it, but the other part of me is screaming noooooo!

“How about I catch you guys on the next one?” I suggest.

“That would be tomorrow then,” Rome adds.

And the three of them are gone.

I’m not sure I will be any more ready tomorrow than I am today, but right now, I just need to buy a little time. My brain spins as I recall the three of them standing in my doorway, inviting me to shower with them.

Am I really ready for all of this?

Will I be able to keep up with the many adventures happening in this house?

I just don’t know.

Yes, I did say I wanted to know how they lived, but somehow I didn’t expect it to involve taking a shower with three other people.

It’s been more than forty-five minutes since Rome and the ladies stepped away from my bedroom door, and all I can think about is what if?

What if I’d accepted their offer and joined them in the shower?

I can only imagine and imagine I will.

Lights out, and I slip into bed, but sleep is not on my mind.

I am thinking about Rome.

I’m thinking about the girls, and I’m thinking about sex.

It’s obvious that there is much sex going on in this house, and what I can’t quite understand is how it is that I am not a part of it.

How did that happen?

How did I end up in a sex house, but me not having any of the sex?

Since I have agreed to a strictly platonic relationship, what recourse do I have?

Will I remain a woman of my word and keep this arrangement strictly platonic?

Or will I fold miserably?

 

 

With my pen and notepad still in hand, I am half asleep when there is a knock on my bedroom door. Again. It has to be the entourage, or perhaps, maybe it’s just Rome.

I swing the door open and standing before me for the second time tonight, is Rome, India, and Storm, but this time they are not wearing matching white bathrobes. Instead, Rome wears white pajama pants, no shirt and his signature Fedora hat while Storm and India both wear matching pink and white pajama shorts and t-shirts which are engraved: The House of Rome.

Rome’s arms are wrapped around his two ladyloves as if they are primed for a Christmas photo.

They are hell-bent on flaunting their lifestyle before me, and I am hell-bent on witnessing it.

“We just wanted to wish you a good night,” Rome says to me.

“Thank you,” I say.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable joining us in our room?” Storm asks me.

“I’m sure,” I say, “but thanks for the offer.”

When I close the door, the three of them laugh and carry on, and I can’t help but feel a little left out. No, I feel a lot left out. I want to be a part of the party, too as I have already had a taste of how much fun we are all together. Unable to ignore what I am missing, I place my ear against the door and continue to listen until their laughter fades into silence.

 

 

I have been trying to sleep for two hours now with no success.

Maybe it’s because it’s my first night sleeping in the House of Rome.

Maybe it’s because I am in heat.

Or, maybe it’s because I am curious as to what Rome and the girls are doing?

Maybe this living arrangement is just too much for me.

Exhausted from trying to fall asleep, I fling the covers off me and scramble out of bed. Down the corridor, I creep my way towards the master bedroom, what Rome refers to as the family sleeping room. As I inch my way closer, I am besieged by loud sexual moans trailing from inside the room directly across from the family sleeping room, which I believe is Storm’s room. I can’t be for certain if the sounds are emanating from Storm’s room or the family sleeping room. It’s doesn’t take me long to figure out that it’s definitely Storm’s room, but is it Storm on the other side of that door or India.

As I continue listening with a perfect ear, the sexual whispers escalate, louder and louder, and I am now a big ball of intrigue.

What the heck is happening in there?

Is it the three of them?

Is it Rome and India?

Is it Rome and Storm?

I don’t know what exactly is happening, but whatever it is, it is something wonderful, and I want in.

My breathing slows and the perspiration crinkles down my forehead. My body is overheating, and I swallow hard. With my eyes wide and gaping and my mouth open, I gently ease my ear against the door. Hypnotized by the sounds of ecstasy coming from the other side, I fan myself. I still don’t know if it’s Storm or India, but what I do know is that all kinds of ideas are rummaging through my mind:

Are they having oral sex?

Is it anal sex?

Something in between?

What is it?

The moans continue to echo louder and louder, so much I want to break down the door like a crazy person and see for myself what the hell is happening in there. Sure, I have had great sex before, but I have never made those kinds of sounds or even witnessed those kinds of wails before.

There are sexual noises, and then there are sounds of ecstasy, and what I am hearing are sounds of utter ecstasy. At this moment, all I can do is breathe softly and smile, and wish that one day I might be on the other side of that door.

 

 

How do you know when you are fantasizing too much?

You wake up with a splitting headache.

This is my situation when I awaken the next morning after my long hours of theorizing about the late-night goings-on in the House of Rome. My mind is still searching for answers as I step into the shower, the warm water pouring down onto my face.

What exactly was happening on the other side of that door last night?

My curious mind wants to know, has to know. After my fifteen-minute shower, I towel dry myself off and from the opened bathroom door, I see a set of female legs on the side of my bed. I stroll from the bathroom, into my adjoining bedroom and quickly learn that it is Storm sitting on my bed, apparently waiting for me.

“Do you have any vitamin C?” Storm asks me as I approach her. “I’m all out.”

“No, I sure don’t. How long have you been in here,” I ask her, puzzled.

“Not long,” Storm says, flapping her leg back and forth. “Rome wanted me to find out if you were going to join us for breakfast? He’s making his world-class French toast.”

“You can definitely count me in because I have never met a piece of toast that I didn’t like.”

Storm stares down at my feet as my toenails are decorated with clear nail polish. “You have beautiful feet. Who does your feet?”

“I do them myself.”

“Let me see,” Storm says, “Place your foot up here,” pointing to her lap.

I move in her direction and lift my foot onto her lap. I watch her lovingly touch each one of my polished toenails, admiration in her eyes. “You have the prettiest toes. Anybody ever tell you that?”

“Never,” I say. After several seconds, I ask, “May I put my foot down now?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll see you downstairs.”

Storm eases up from the bed and is about to disappear. Her back is to me.

I open my mouth to speak, but I hesitate. I have something I want to ask her, and damn it, I’m going to do it.

“Storm,” I say, hesitantly, as I tighten the towel around my body.

When Storm turns to face me, my mouth opens, but no words come out, then the courage to speak erupts in me. “Can I ask you something?”

Storm stops in her tracks and swivels in my direction. “Only if it’s something interesting.”

“Oh, it’s interesting,” I assure her.

Storm then flops down on the bed and honors me with her full attention. “Well, in that case, I’m all ears.”

I stand with my back against the chest of drawers, toss my shame aside, and just come right out and ask her what is gnawing away at me. “I was up late last night,” I say, “and I happened to hear a little of what was going on in the room directly across from the family sleeping room, which I believe is your room.”

“And?” Storm asks with a delightful smile.

I don’t speak right away. I am embarrassed, speaking about such private and personal happenings. “I heard some unusual noises, sexual noises that is, noises that I have not heard before and was wondering exactly what was happening in there. I mean, I’m sure it was sex. I’m just wondering, exactly, what kind of sex was it?”

All the while I am speaking, I am witnessing what looks like intense amusement on Storm’s face. “Interesting,” Storm says. “You were eavesdropping, weren’t you?”

I fold my hands in front of me, wanting to appear naïve, yet inquisitive. “I wouldn’t say eavesdropping per se. It was more like overhearing.”

“Sounds like eavesdropping to me.” Storm smiles and exhales a long breath. “Did the sounds turn you on?”

“Turn me on, you ask,” I say. “That’s one way of looking at it.”

“What’s the other way of looking at it,” Storm asks me.

“Okay, it turned me on. I admit it.”

Storm scales her finger down her cheek as if pondering what she might say to me next, but she says nothing.

“So, are you going to tell me?” I ask Storm. “Was it you and Rome or Rome and India or all three of you?”

“What you’re thinking about right now is in the porn section of the video store. We don’t do that around here,” Storm explains.

“Is there a video store around here?” I ask her as I am overcome by an overwhelming desire to watch an adult movie.

“No, there isn’t,” Storm says. “I know you might find this hard to believe, but it’s never the three of us, not like that.”

“Never?” I question.

“We haven’t yet. Let’s just say that.” Storm rises to a standing position, looks as if she is about to leave, then turns to me. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you since you’re so curious and everything. Here’s what I’ll do. If you join us this evening in the family sleeping room, I’ll tell you what Rome did to me last night that caused me to make all… of… those… noises.”

I swallow hard as her words halt my breathing. “So it was you and Rome.”

“It was me and Rome,” Storm confirms.

“If I join you in the family bedroom, what exactly will I have to do?”

“Nothing, just join in on the fun. That is all. You know you are dying to find out how we spend our nights anyway.”

“Tell me, Storm. Why is it so important for you, Rome and India to have me sleep in that bed with you guys?”

“Can I be honest?” Storm asks me.

“Please,” I say, readying myself for what she is about to say.

Storm steps close to me, overtaking every ounce of my personal space. “We like you, Thursday. We’ve liked you since we met you.”

“Really?” I say.

“Yes, really, and the other reason we want you in the family sleeping room with us, is because it’s fun. We have a good time in everything we do, and we want you to be a part of it.”

Her words are so sweet, and suddenly I have no more questions.

Storm winks her eye at me. “I’ll see you downstairs.” She is almost out the room, then double backs in my direction. “Besides, you’re going to need this information for your book. You are still writing a book, right?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Good, then it’s settled.”

And Storm is gone.

I change into my cream-colored leggings which I purchased online two weeks ago and slip on my flip flops. I ponder Storm’s proposal with favor. It could be fun, and more importantly, I might actually learn something, specifically, what was the genesis of those magnificent noises last night.

 

 

Freshly squeezed orange juice greets me warmly when I embark on the all-white kitchen. Several windows sit open with lots of natural light pouring in. While Rome stands at the stove preparing French toast, Storm sits at the table steeping her lips in lip gloss, which I find odd as we are about to eat breakfast, but then again, this is the House of Rome, and nothing makes much sense around here.

“Good morning, Sexy,” Rome says to me.

“Good morning,” I say in return.

I slump down in the chair next to Storm. The layout is the same as before: Three chairs on one side for the three of us and one chair on the other side for Yours Truly. It comes as no surprise to me that there is a small lavender elephant statuette in the center of the long oak table, apparently representing some type of symbolic message in this house.

Rome prepares a cup of black Argo tea and sets it in front of me.

“So, what’s with all of the elephants?” I ask Rome.

“They’re powerful creatures, sweet, smart and loyal,” Rome says. “And a few weeks out of every year, they go a little crazy.”

“A little like you, Rome, right?” Storm says.

“Absolutely,” Rome agrees.

Storm hands me a bottle of black fingernail polish. “Here, check this out. Put this on your thumb, and tell me what you think.”

“But what about breakfast?” I ask her.

“We have time,” Storm says. “Right Rome?

“Absolutely. India has not come down yet.”

I am not wearing any fingernail polish at the moment, which makes her suggestion very doable, but I am still hesitant. “I don’t know. Black really isn’t my color.”

“All the more reason to try it now,” Rome says.

“That’s right,” Storm says. “Be adventurous. Live a little.”

I have only been here a short time, but it’s obvious that Rome is a big instigator of the craziness. Without giving it anymore thought, I glide two coats of black fingernail polish onto my thumb and examine it. It is not my style, but it’s not bad either.

“What is taking India so long?” Rome asks Storm.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you? She’s watching that DVD again.”

“That’s it,” Rome says. “Storm, I want you to destroy that DVD. Today.”

“I tried that already, and it doesn’t work. She just goes out and buys another one or she just streams it onto her phone.”

“What DVD?” I ask Rome as I lightly blow on my nail polish to dry.

“The latest Leonardo DiCaprio movie,” Storm says. “Ever since she saw that movie, she has been obsessed.”

“Storm, do me a favor,” Rome says. “Go tell India to get her buttocks down here and I mean now.”

“India!” Storm yells. “Rome said ‘get your ass down here or else.’”

Rome turns to Storm. “I could have done that myself.”

“Okay, I’ll go find her.” Storm exits the kitchen in search of India, and for seconds on end, there is nothing but silence between Rome and me. This may be the first time I have been alone with him since moving in. It feels weird, but in a very enticing kind of way.

I rest my hand underneath my chin and glance over at Rome as he stands at the stove. He wears tailored Perry Ellis shorts and a bright white V-neck t-shirt. I am seduced by is hairy legs so much I want to drop to my knees and crawl over to him on all fours and thrust my head between his legs and up his crotch.

But I don’t do that.

I only want to do it. Instead, I turn away from him and stare up at the ceiling. I am embarrassed as I listen to my own elongated breaths of arousal.

“You think staring up at the ceiling is going to help you?” he asks me.

Damn it! Is he reading my mind?

“I missed having you in our bed last night,” he says to me.

“I doubt that,” I say.

“You’re uncomfortable being alone with me, aren’t you?” he asks me.

I shrug, continually staring up at the ceiling. I’m not giving my eyes one chance to absorb any of his sexiness. “It’s you,” I say to him. “I think you’re uncomfortable being alone with me.”

I close my eyes, making sure to keep my head in the opposite direction of the sexy man only a few feet away from me, hoping that he does not rouse me up any more than I already am.

It’s as if Rome can read my thoughts because he is now standing directly behind me. I feel his warm hand on the tip of my shoulder, and I flinch and exhale a long winded breath. From the corner of my eye, I watch his hand sail down my chest, over my breast, stretching to my stomach, and smack dab in the crotch of my leggings.

“Spread your legs,” he says in a sexy whisper.

“I will not.” My response sounds harsh, but on the inside, I am all smiles. “I am not about to let you seduce me, and of all places, the kitchen?”

“Would it be better if I seduced you somewhere else?”

 

Episode Nine

 

“It would be better if you didn’t seduce me at all,” I say to him and then remove his hand from between my legs.

“Don’t forget,” he reminds me, “you and I just made love not more than three weeks ago, and I know how much you enjoyed it, and most of all, I know how much you want it again.”

“You must have me confused with someone else,” I say to him, trying desperately to keep him from believing a word of what he just said.

“I don’t think so.”

Fortunately for me, I detect someone heading into the kitchen, and the timing could not be better.

Storm rejoins me at the table. “She’ll be right down,” Storm says to Rome.

While Rome continues scrabbling eggs, I show off my black polished thumb nail to Storm. “What do you think?”

“Nice,” Storm says. “You’re beginning to fit right in.”

Rome steps to me and also checks it out. “All you need now is a black hat, a black wig, and a black cape, and then you might have something.”

Finally, as if wanting to make an entrance, India bounces into the kitchen, full of fire. She wears a skimpy bathrobe that is the length of a short t-shirt, exposing her panties. “Good morning, everyone,” she says before giving Storm and me a kiss on the cheek.

“Good morning, Sunshine,” Rome says to India.

India then attacks Rome from behind, wraps her arms around him and hugs him tight.

“Today is going to be a great day,” India says, then seats herself next to me. “And do you know why it’s going to be a great day?”

“No, India, why don’t you tell us,” Rome says and pours India a cup of chocolate cake roast coffee and sets it in front of her.

“Because today is the day that Doggie is going to come back to us.”

“And you’re certain of this?” Storm asks her.

“Yes, I am.”

Rome sets a huge plate of French toast and scrambled eggs on the table. “I know India is doing great this morning? How are my other two pretty ladies feeling?”

“We want some of that Paxil that India is taking,” Storm says, “Right, Thursday.”

“That’s right,” I agree with her. I am a part of the family now, and I have to go along sometimes, if only in words.

“Well, I will have all of you know,” India says, filling her plate with French toast. “I don’t take Paxil. I changed my mind. So, you see, this vibrant personality of mine is all mine.”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Storms says.

I bite into my scrambled eggs. They are soft, buttery and delectable. As I notice Storm nibbling on a single piece of French toast, minus the syrup, I now believe that India wasn’t exaggerating when she implied that Storm was on the road to anorexia.

“India, I don’t want you to get your hopes up too much about Doggie returning,” Rome says. “She may just have had enough of us and wants to start a new life.”

I’m scratching my head again. Am I hearing this right?

Are they really speaking about the dog as if it’s a person?

“She’ll come back,” India says with conviction.

Rome seats herself across from the three of us. As we all dig into our breakfast of French toast, scrambled eggs, and orange juice, I am curious to learn more about this movie India is so obsessed with.

“India, how many times have you seen this movie that I’m hearing about?”

“Not that much, like maybe 10 or 20 times.”

“Surely, you jest,” I say, my mouth hanging open.

“Surely, she does not,” Rome says. “She’s seen it more like close to 50.”

“I’ve seen it a lot,” India confesses. She then lifts her arms and smiles at Rome. “Rome, look, I shaved my underarms this morning.”

Rome stands, leans over and examines her underarms. “Very nice, but what about down there, did you shave down there also?”

“One thing at a time, Rome. One thing at a time,” India says. “It’s on my to-do list for tomorrow.”

“Good, because last time I got lost in there and barely found my way out,” Rome says and adds another creamer to his coffee.

Storm laughs and I join her.

India’s eyes shift to me and Storm. “That’s not funny.”

“Of course, it is,” Storm says.

“You know I’m just kidding,” Rome says. “You know I like playing in the jungle.”

Rome cuts his French toast into squares and pours on a splash of Log Cabin syrup. “What about you, Storm? Do you have anything to impress me with this morning?”

Storm drinks her water. She’s thinking about it. “I ate half a cup of chocolate ice cream at 3:00 o’clock this morning.”

“Did you throw up afterwards?” Rome asks her.

“Of course?”

“Impressive,” Rome says.

“Thursday,” Storm says, directing massive amounts of attention in my direction. “Now is as good a time as any. Why don’t you tell Rome and India what you were doing last night when everyone else thought you were sleeping in your room?”

My eyes widen and I smile. Storm has just ratted me out, and though the expression on my face is without emotion, I’m howling on the inside.

How could I not?

The whole thing is funny as hell.

“I wasn’t doing anything last night while everyone else thought that I was sleeping,” I say, hoping to convince them that I am right, and Storm is wrong.

“Oh, yes you were,” Storm insists.

“It’s really not even worth mentioning,” I say, finishing up my tea.

“Of course, it’s worth mentioning, Rome says. “Just the fact that you say it isn’t worth mentioning, tells me that it definitely is.”

It’s no use. I’ve been found out.

“Let me put it to you this way,” Storm interjects. “Thursday has a little freak inside her, and it just happened to come out last night.”

“I do not have a freak inside of me,” I protest.

“Sure, you do,” Rome says.

“Well, maybe, I do,” I say, swallowing the last of my scrambled eggs.

India claps her hands like she’s at a recital. “Yay! I knew I was going to like Thursday. She’s just like us.”

“Okay, maybe just a little freak,” I admit.

“Better a little freak than none at all,” Storm says.

All eyes are on me at this moment and it shames me.

Rome directs his attention to Storm. “Tell us, Storm, exactly what Thursday was doing last night?”

“I was about to tell you myself,” I say.

“You’ll just give us half of the story,” India says, “Storm will give it to us straight.”

And sure enough Storm wastes no time telling it all. “Well, according to what I was told, Thursday was listening at the door when you and I were getting it on last night,” Storm says to Rome, “and to top it off, the experience was so exciting for her that she wanted to know exactly what was being done, and to whom, that might explain the memorable never-been-heard-before sexual noises.”

India folds her arms, eases back and smiles at me. “Freaky, Thursday.”

“Stop calling me that,” I say to India. I may have a little freak in me, but I don’t care much for the label.

“How much is it worth to you to find out,” Rome asks me.

“You guys must all attend the same church,” I say, “because Storm asks me the exact same thing.”

“Well,” Rome asks me again.

“It’s not worth anything to me,” I say to Rome. “As a matter of fact, I really don’t care what you were doing.”

Of course, I am lying when I say this, but what else can I do?

I’ve been found out.

“I think you do care,” Rome insists.

“If you’re curious about what goes on in our room,” India says, “then why not sleep in there and find out for yourself.”

Rome eyeballs me intensely, obviously waiting to see how I will respond.

“Storm already made that suggestion, too.”

“And you agreed to it,” Storm adds. “Tell them that.”

“Is that something that you might want to do,” he asks me.

I raise my shoulders, knowing that this is just a clever way for Rome to initiate me into his harem.

“What’s the worst that can happen anyway?” Rome asks me.

Before I have a chance to answer, India says, “Oh, I know. Nothing.”

After a short silence, Storm asks me, “What’s stopping you now?”

I think about it, and I have nothing.

It’s obvious. I am all out of excuses.

 

 

So here’s what else I’ve learned about the living arrangements here at the House of Rome. First off, Rome, India, and Storm all sleep in the family sleeping room, no surprise there, in two queen-sized beds pushed together. In other words, they sleep in a sizable bed. Pink, red and purple Kenneth Cole linens are the only colors to grace his bed, not sure what that’s all about. But what I find most interesting is that Rome requests that both India and Storm wear the same sleeping attire every night, which is a pink and white pajamas short set inscribed with the words The House of Rome.

With my back against my headboard, I outline what is to be an NC-17 rated crazy love story that is anything but common.

As I lay out my story characters, I smile to myself. Initially, I planned to just move in and observe, from a distance. But, somehow, I am embarking on going full swing, in other words, downright participating, and for what? Just to gather enough information for a good story. I am not worried that anything inappropriate will happen by sleeping in the family sleeping room. However, it does bother me that I am doing something that from the onset, I absolutely objected to.

Have I signed up to be a part of his harem and don’t even know it?

To sort things through, I pick up my phone and call my sister, Kirby.

“Well. It’s official,” I say to Kirby.

“What’s official?”

“I have almost officially joined Rome’s harem,” I say to her.

“Really?” my sister asks, seemingly amused.

“Well, I have not officially joined his harem, but I am getting close.”

“How close?”

“Since I have been living here, I have been sleeping in my own room, in my own bed, however, I have agreed to join them in the family sleeping room, maybe as soon as tonight or tomorrow.”

I can only imagine Kirby’s eyes smiling with curiosity.

“So, all four of you are going to sleep in the same bed?”

“All four of us,” I say, “and to be honest with you, I am a little intrigued by the whole scenario. It could be a lot of fun.”

“It also could be a lot kinky as well,” Kirby says. “Are you sure there won’t be any sex happening in that room? Because if so, I want a front-row seat.”

“No, I can assure you. There will be no sexual happenings in that room, at least not if I have anything to say about it.”

“Thursday,” Kirby says as if to garner my undivided attention.

“Yes.”

“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you,” Kirby says to me.

“What?” I am now completely rattled.

“I know you don’t want to hear this, but I wouldn’t be a true sister if I didn’t tell you.”

Apprehensive, I hold my breath. “What is it?”

“Remember how you said you had almost officially joined his harem?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you can remove the word almost. You’re already in.”

Staring at the wall in front of me, I’m all nerves when I end my call with my sister, Kirby.

How dare she say such a thing?

What does she know anyway? So what? She’s my sister and has known me all my life?

But at the end of the day, what is that really worth?

 

 

Storm, India, Rome and I all flock inside Rome’s shiny white Jeep Renegade. Storm and I ride in the back while Rome drives. India sits across from him, her hand on his lap. We are on our way to purchase an even bigger bed, if at all possible, as our new bed will now sleep four instead of three.

The song Renegades by X Ambassadors plays through the surround-sound stereo. It’s an energetic song that I liken to the experience of traveling through space, remembering only the best moments of my life.

While in the midst of savoring the euphoric sounds X Ambassadors, India says, “I dreamed I had sex with seven different men last night and didn’t use any protection.”

Storm laughs.

“Do you think it means anything?” India questions. “Supposedly all dreams have hidden meanings?”

“Of course, it means something,” Storm says. “You’re a slut but only in your dreams.”

“I am not,” India says in her defense. “Besides, it was just a dream.” India turns to Rome. “Right, Rome?”

“Wrong,” Rome says. “Dreaming about sex with several men is fine, but dreaming about sex with no protection, that’s going too far.”

“It was just a dream,” India protests.

“Dream or not,” Rome says, “next time, you have one of those kinky dreams, you use protection.”

I’m shaking my head again and scratching my scalp. It’s the only thing I can do to try and make sense of Rome’s unbelievable request. “So, let me get this straight,” I say to Rome. “She can’t even dream of having sex without protection?”

“That’s right,” Rome says. “She knows better.”

“Well, all righty then.” I leave it at that as I have nothing more to say.

Rome pulls into the parking lot of Made for the Queen, an elite mattress showroom for people who were born to overspend. Always a gentleman, Rome opens the door for us, first Storm and me, then India from the front seat. He then surprises me when he pops the trunk and pulls out a fluffy blanket and three pillows.

“What’s the blanket for?” I ask Rome.

“Test drive for the new mattress.”

I’m not even sure what that means but I’m sure I’m about to find out.

As we head inside, Storm and India trudge alongside Rome, Rome firmly in between them, while India holds on to his arm as if they are an exclusive item. I tag along behind the trio, not more than eight feet, observing and constantly amused by the unique arrangement.

When we step into the air-conditioned mattress showroom, a tiny gentleman wearing a knee-length dress and yellow-tinted sunglasses, greets us with tiny cups of what appears to be either some type of juice or tea. Needless to say, we all accept. I have been offered beverages before as part of my shopping experience and every time it happens, I appreciate it even more.

This bright and huge factory-like outlet is rich with the scent of freshly baked cookies, which I find strange as there is not a cookie in sight. Even still, I find my appetite surging.

We all quickly disperse in different directions, except for India, who is still connected to Rome’s hip.

In search of two comfortable king-size beds, I glance at the price tags and discover that this is definitely a place for the rich as not one mattress is priced for less than $5,000. Along with their high-priced mattresses, they also sell herbal teas, hot chocolate and an array of books on the subject of coveting a perfect night’s sleep.

After roaming around the store for several minutes, trying out the many mattresses, Rome summons me to join him in the far right of the outlet. By the time, I meet him, Storm is also there and, of course, India has never left his side.

“Would it be too much trouble to put two king-size beds together so that my lady friends and I can try them out?” Rome asks the salesman.

“Of course,” the salesman obliges without hesitation.

After the two beds have been moved together to create one humongous bed, Rome asks, “Would it be okay, if my lady friends tried it out?”

The salesman nods yes.

Rome directs his attention to us. “Okay, ladies. Climb up on the bed and see how it feels.”

We all three step out of our sandals, climb upon the bed and recline into a horizontal position. Rome is quick to place the three pillows that he has been holding, underneath each of our heads. He then pivots around the bed and studies us. “Comfortable?” he asks us.

“Very,” I say. My arms are at my side as I lie perfectly still, staring up at the ceiling.

“What about you, Storm? India?” he asks them.

“I have no complaints,” Storm says.

“Me either,” India says, changing her body into different sleeping positions.

Rome then spreads the soft blanket over all of us, then squeezes in between Storm and me. I can only imagine what thoughts are going through the salesman’s mind. He must think that we are straight out of a comic book, and if he doesn’t, I sure do.

Once Rome is in bed with us, he pulls the cover over our heads.

I laugh to myself. I am sure that security has been called, and we are about to be ejected from the bed and the store.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I am pegged by the curiosity of the salesman, wearing the knee-length dress. “You guys think that a man wearing a dress necessarily makes him gay?” I ask.

“It depends,” Rome says.

“Hell, yeah, he’s gay,” Storm says.

“Well, what kind of dress is it?” India asks, “Is it a long dress or a short dress?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Storm insists, “if he’s wearing a dress, he’s gay.”

Rome changes the subject fast. “We can talk about dress-wearing men some other time. Would this bed be comfortable for all of you?”

Before any of us can answer, the salesman says to all of us, through the blanket. “Is everything okay in there?”

“Everything is fine,” Rome says. “So is everyone comfortable?”

I am first to answer. “It’s very nice and spacious.”

“Yeah, it’s like sleeping on sunshine,” Storm says.

“And what about you, India?” Rome asks her.

India isn’t responding to Rome’s question, and I am feeling a little hot underneath this blanket. I’m ready for this test drive to be over.

“India, are you comfortable?” Rome asks her again.

“I can’t be exactly sure yet,” she says, then proceeds to crawl over Storm, finding a place right next to Rome.

Am I surprised?

Absolutely not.

India continually twists and turns into different sleeping positions, seemingly wanting to make sure that it is one-hundred percent to her satisfaction. She then says, “Yes, this is fine.”

The whole time that this test drive is taking place, I am wondering why we are still underneath the covers, but I don’t say anything. I’m just the new kid on the block along for the ride.

“So, is it safe to say that we are all in agreement on this one?” Rome asks us.

“Yes,” I say. “Can we get out of here now? It’s hot.”

Rome snatches the covers off our heads, and we all rise into a sitting position. “India,” Storm says. “I couldn’t help but notice when you crawled over me that your ass is getting kind of wide.”

“It is not,” India says, frowning. Her eyes are squinted and her voice elevated. “That is absolutely not true.”

“I call it the way I feel it,” Storm says, chuckling. She enjoys taunting India.

The salesman scans all of us, his eyes blinking nonstop. “Is everything okay?”

“Just give us a few minutes,” Rome says, “a little family dispute is all.”

Rome flings the covers back over our heads as we are all still in a sitting position.

“Rome,” India says. “Did you hear what Storm said about my ass? She said my ass is getting big.”

“Of course, I heard her.”

With the hot lights beaming down on us, I am quick to interject. It is too hot underneath this blanket. “Is there any way I could get out of here and let you guys handle this without me?”

“No,” Rome says. “This is a family matter, and you are part of this family.”

My eyes widen and I flop back down into a resting position.

“Now, where were we?” Rome asks.

“I’ll tell you where we were,” India says, pointing her finger at Storm. “Storm said I had a big ass. That’s where we were, and she shouldn’t say things like that, especially if they’re not true.”

It’s obvious that India is very sensitive about her weight which surprises me because she is no bigger than a size eight.

Rome turns to Storm. “Storm?” He says as if he’s waiting for some kind of explanation.

“Rome,” Storm replies.

“Tell India that her ass is not getting big,” Rome says. “You know that is not true.”

Storm shifts her head away from India and says nothing.

“Storm,” Rome says again. This is his serious tone.

My eyes fall shut and I snicker to myself. The circus is in town, and to my unfortunate amazement, I’m a part of that circus.

After several seconds, Storm turns to India and says, “Okay, it’s not true. You don’t have a fat ass, but you do have a slight hump in your back.”

“I do not have a hump in my back,” India shouts. “Do I Rome?”

“Last time I checked, it was looking pretty humpy,” Rome says.

India throws the covers off our heads and storms out of the bed.

Finally, fresh air and I can breathe again.

“India, you know I was just messing with you.” Rome says.

“And so was I,” Storm admits to India.

“I’m so sick of this shit,” India says, slipping into her wedge sandals. “This whole fucking lifestyle is not normal.”

The room goes silent as all eyes are on us.

India holds out her hand to Rome, “Give me the keys. I’m going to wait in the car. What is this shit anyway? One man and three women?”

Rome pulls the keys from his pocket and hands them to her. “India, you know I was just playing.”

“You said that already,” India says, right before dashing out the door.

For the entire time that I have known India, I have never seen here this upset before. I had no idea that she was that sensitive about her weight, especially since she eats almost as much as I do. Here is something else I’m just now learning. When she wants to be, Storm can be a real troublemaker. That proves evident the way Storm continued to sling insults at India despite knowing how sensitive she is.

Rome, Storm, the salesman, myself and everyone else in the store have just had our weeks’ worth of entertainment, and I have to admit, I’m glad that I was a part of it.

Rome breaks an uncomfortable silence, then claps his hands together once. “Nothing more to see here, folks.”

Embarrassed by the unwanted attention, I lower my head even though a small part of me enjoys being a part of the chaos.

While Rome completes the purchase for the mattresses, my thoughts return to what India said about this radical lifestyle. This living arrangement of the four of us is most definitely not normal, but I always knew that, and yet I ended up being a part of it anyway.

And the scariest thing about what happened today, is that this is just the opening act.

Am I seriously ready for more?

 

Episode Ten

 

It should be no surprise to any of us when we reach the parking lot, that not only is India gone, but she has driven off in the Jeep Renegade as well. I kind of expected it. I mean, she was quite rattled. Although the day started out rather interesting, it’s ending on a more perplexing note.

After hailing a taxi, we all arrive home. To my major surprise, neither Storm nor Rome appear bothered by India’s erratic behavior. Perhaps it’s the norm.

Once inside, I ask Rome, “Does India have these outbursts often?”

“Not often,” Rome says, “then again, maybe too often.”

Rome is quick to go and search for India while Storm and I retire to the kitchen for a much-needed cold beverage.

Five minutes pass, and Storm and I are in the midst of enjoying a glass of pink lemonade when Rome enters the kitchen.

“Ladies, I need to be alone with India for a little while, if that’s okay with both of you.”

I’m scratching my head again, dumbfounded.

Is he serious?

Is he asking us to leave the house so that he and India can be alone?

Not at all shocked by his request, Storm finishes off her lemonade and lifts herself up from the chair. “Sure.”

Rome places the keys inside Storm’s hand and then kisses her on the cheek.

“Thank you.”

“Thursday,” Rome says, directing his attention at me. “I’ll see you later.”

“You most definitely will,” I say as this scenario is just too interesting not to return for the update.

Storm heads out of the kitchen and I follow behind her.

“Where are we going?” I ask Storm.

“We’ll find a place.”

I am almost out of the kitchen when Rome catches up to me and graces my forehead with a sweet kiss. “Thank you.”

“I would say you’re welcome,” I say to Rome, “but I’m not sure that I should.”

“It’s okay. I forgive you.”

Both Storm and I converge on Rome’s Jeep Renegade and drive off.

“So what’s going on,” I am quick to ask Storm.

“Thursday is threatening to leave again.”

“How do you know?” I ask Storm as I stare out the window, studying the young couple holding hands.

“Because this is her way,” Storm says, “She always threatens to leave.”

I scratch my head again. I am without words.

“India is a very sensitive person and this is what she does,” Storm confesses.

“She did say that this lifestyle of ours was not normal, but I didn’t think she’s be willing to just give it up so easily,” I say, trying to make sense of this.

“Oh, she’s serious,” Storm assures me, “though I doubt she would actually move out. I personally think she does it as a way to garner special attention from Rome.”

“Well, it seems to be working.”

“Which is why she does it. I’m sure you’ve noticed how enamored she is with him.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of hard not to,” I say, “She’s madly in love with him, isn’t she?”

“I love Rome, too,” Storm admits, “but in a different sort of a way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I love Rome, too, but I don’t need him.”

“You think India needs him?” I ask.

“No, she doesn’t need him anymore than I do, but she thinks that she does.”

 

 

Amazon Books & Cocoa

The robust aroma of freshly brewed pecan pie flavored coffee greets Storm and me at the just recently opened Amazon Books & Cocoa. Only three Amazon cafes in the country exists, and we are exceptionally lucky that Chicago is one of the three.

Amazon Books & Cocoa is most notable for their TV screens that showcase blockbuster movies and their trademark frozen blueberry ale, not to mention their monthly pay-per-use cover charge.

As we head up the escalator, my eyes catch a glimpse of The Matrix, which can be viewed on more than ten wide television screens. Storm and I locate a cozy spot in one of the private sitting rooms, which includes a sofa, two chairs and a circular coffee table. I have always loved the tranquil bookstore experience and am happy that a few still exists.

I lounge comfortably on the sofa and draft notes for my novel in progress while Storm leans back in the chair opposite the circular table and listens to music from her iPhone.

Forty-five minutes pass, and Storm removes her headphones and turns to me. “You know, I hate this,” Storm says, rising forward. “I hate that he asks us to leave the house to be alone with her.”

“It’s not like he does it all the time,” I say, “or does he?”

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t like that it happens at all.”

“So, what’s happening at the house anyway?” I ask, naively.

“What do you think?” Storm asks me as if I should know.

I think about it, but really, I just don’t know.

“He pacifies her,” Storm blurts out, “and fucks her real good, and most importantly, he convinces her not to leave.”

“Oh,” I respond, feeling as if I should have known that was the case. “How do you know all of this?”

“She tells me.” Storm uncrosses her legs and sinks down in the chair. “India is a little needy, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“Oh, I’ve noticed.” I pause for thought. I want to ask something that I know I shouldn’t, but I ask anyway. “Do you think India is his favorite?”

“No. I don’t… What I do know is that Rome has a great setup with the three of us and does not want to let it go. Period.”

Before I agreed to move into the House of Rome, I was convinced that both Storm and India were totally okay with the radical setup. However, as each day goes by, I am rethinking my impression. Maybe, neither of them are as contented as I once thought.

After a short silence, I ask Storm, “What happens now?”

“We return home and everything is back to normal.”

“Just like that?” There has to be more to it than that.

“Just like that,” Storm says and then butters her lips with lip gloss.

I gather my notes for my novel, stuff them into my purse and ease into a peaceful position on the sofa. “How did you meet Rome?”

“I met him at the gym, many years ago.”

“Really?” I say, “And what about India. How did she meet Rome?”

“I wish I could tell you, but I think India would like to tell you that story herself.”

As I witness the distress in Storm’s eyes, there’s something simmering inside me, something I need to know and I just say it. “Are you, or are you not comfortable with this living arrangement?”

“Truth?”

“Yes, please,” I reply, holding my breath.

“Sometimes I am, and other times… I am not.”

 

 

Rome is waiting for us at the front door when Storm and I arrive home. He holds in his hand what appears to be two strawberry daiquiris and they look delightful.

“Thanks to the both of you for giving us some time alone.” He places the drinks in our hands, then plants a kiss on my cheek first and then Storm’s.

We all three proceed inside and head towards the kitchen.

“Can I get anything for either of you?” Rome asks Storm and me.

I smile. Rome has never stopped being a gentleman since I moved in here. “I’m fine, but thank you.”

“How’s India,” Storm asks.

“You can ask her yourself when she wakes up,” Rome says.

This is what I have to say about Rome. Yes, he’s a womanizer. Yes, he likes having his way and yes, he’s a little eccentric, but besides all of that, this is a man who knows how to treat women well.

Storm and I head upstairs. I am still sipping my mouth-watering daiquiri when Rome quickly glides up the stairs behind us. “I almost forgot,” he says and then hands a small Tiffany box to me and then to Storm.

“What’s this for?” I ask him.

“Because I like you, and because I like Storm. Then, again, the word like is too weak a word.” He gazes at Storm and then me. “Because I love you. Both of you.”

My mouth pops open, and my eyes bulge, and it’s not because he said the words I love you. It’s because he announced it to the both of us at the same time.

How weird is that?

After uttering the words that every woman wants to hear, he disappears down the stairs.

One thing is certain. He knows how to end a conversation on a high note, even if his words are fake.

“When did he find time to go shopping at Tiffany’s?” I ask Storm.

“He didn’t. He keeps women’s gifts in a locked closet, that only he has the key, just for occasions just like that.”

“Surely, you jest!”

“Why go shopping in a store when you can go shopping in your own closet?” Storm says.

I have to pay tribute where tribute is due.

The man has style.

 

 

Once in my room, I lie on the plus white sofa and listen to The Best of Sting, which includes my favorite track, Shape of My Heart. I play it over and over. Since moving into the House of Rome, of all the rooms in the house, this is my favorite. One reason: It’s mine. Since I’m not too fond of heavy duty air-conditioning, I allow the fresh air from the opened windows to force its way through the ivory colored curtains.

With a fresh summer breeze surging through my room, I finish reading the remaining pages of Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It, which speaks to me about my current living arrangement here in the House of Rome. I have to wonder.

Are Storm, India and I all experimenting with our self-esteem?

Then, there’s something else that’s brewing inside me.

Can living with two women and a man be good for my self-worth?

My curious mind wants to know, and will eventually find out.

 

 

I am up earlier than usual the next morning and decide to luxuriate in a warm raspberry bubble bath. I revel in the stillness and quiet of the moment. Rome, India, and Storm are not up yet, and it feels as if I have the house all to myself.

Instead of having breakfast with the “fam” as usual, I head to work earlier than normal. Just as I am about to step into my car, our king-size double beds are delivered, which surprises me. It’s not even 9:00 o’clock.

I drive off in my Volkswagen Beetle, in route to the Eisenhower Expressway and remind myself that tonight will be the night, the night when I join Storm, India and Rome in the family sleeping room.

I work for only a few hours at Perrin’s place and not just because I am eager to return home, but because, Perrin does not have much for me today, which suits me just fine.

Upon my arrival back home, Storm and India are cohabitating in the front room watching TV. After greeting them both, I head upstairs for a shower. Hovering over the tub, preparing my shower, I inhale the sweet smell of Pine-sol as I have just rinsed out the tub. I am wearing lace panties and nothing else when Rome appears out of nowhere. Though I am not wearing a bra, I don’t cover myself. He has seen me naked before, and I suspect he will see me naked again. He carries with him two large Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bags, and he’s wearing his usual brand of confidence in his attractive stance.

“Ever hear of a thing called knocking?” I ask him. My voice is playful and soft.

He flashes me a cute smile. “As you know, the beds were delivered today.”

“I know. I saw them when I was leaving this morning.”

He’s wearing a black sleeveless t-shirt, black jeans and his signature Fedora hat. It’s obvious he doesn’t believe in taking time out from looking so wonderfully appetizing.

To be perfectly honest, if Rome were not so freaking handsome, I never would have accepted his offer to move in here. I like to kid myself into thinking that writing a good story was my only objective for living in the House of Rome, but deep down inside, and even not so deep, I know differently.

“Are you sure you are ready for this?” Rome asks me then graces the back of my hand with a kiss.

“I think I am.”

Rome then hands me the two shopping bags. “This is for you. I’m sure the girls have already told you about the sleeping attire.”

“I’ve seen the sleeping attire.”

“Wonderful. I bought you eight sets.”

“But I’m only supposed to stay with you all for one night,” I remind him.

“I know, but there’s always a chance you might change your mind and join us indefinitely.”

“You seem confident that I will.”

“I wouldn’t call it confidence so much as I would call it certainty.”

I smile and construct my thoughts. “You’re a big cocky thing, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t have said that, but I’m glad that you did.”

Rome soaks up my hand into his so that our fingers are clasped together.

I stare down at our hands intertwined and smile. I like what I see.

Is he trying to start something with me?

Again?

With the two girls downstairs watching TV?

“Are you still interested in knowing what I was doing to Storm the other night?” Rome asks me.

I want to say yes, but I’m afraid that it’s a trick question, so instead, I say, “No.”

“I don’t believe you. How about I show you?” he asks me.

My eyes widen and my jaw drops open. “You want to show me?”

“Do you want me to show you?” he asks me. His voice is soft and delicate.

I don’t answer right away. I am turned on by his voice, his hands and the proximity of ours bodies.

With all the resistance that I have inside me, I unclasp my hand from his, and say, “That’s okay,” right before I turn away from him and slip my shower cap on my head. With my back to him, I slide the shower curtain away from the wall. He’s watching me, but I don’t care.

He grabs my arm and yanks me hard and close to him. I think he is about to kiss me, but he doesn’t. Instead, he stares at me with his pretty brown eyes, trying to wear me down with his sweet breath, and unfortunately for me, it just might work.

 

Episode Eleven

 

The bathroom is engulfed in steam from the shower while at the same time an incredible hunger overpowers me. At this moment, I do not resist Rome anymore. Without pause, I open myself up to my instincts, lean in and kiss him, slowly and with all the lust in my heart. Again and again, I kiss him, my hands sweating and my heart thumping. I don’t ever want to stop, but when I do, Rome asks me. “So, what do we do now?”

I wish nothing more than to wrap my legs around his body and have him violate me in the best way, but I do not do any of that. I keep it all to myself and go in a completely different direction.

“I’m going to take my shower,” I say, “and you’re going to get the hell out of here.”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” he says to me.

“But you like it, don’t you?” I say, gliding my finger across his lips.

“Actually, I do.”

 

 

That evening, I change into my matching pajamas shorts and nightshirt, which are imprinted with the words The House of Rome. It is soft, it’s colorful, and I love the way that it feels against my skin.

Before I mosey into the family sleeping room, which is to be the ultimate initiation into the family, I brush my teeth and sprinkle baby powder on my chest and inside my panties.

It’s ten o’clock when I step through the door of the family sleeping room. Storm is already in bed, leaning back on her forearms, doing bicycle exercises. The TV is tuned to CNN with the sound muted, which is the norm around here. There’s always lots of TV watching, but more times than not, the sound is always muted.

Storm stops bicycling her legs and lowers her body into a sitting position. “Welcome, Thursday.”

“Thank you,” I say as I crawl up on the two king-sized beds pushed together, which are adorned with deep purple sheets. I position my back against the velvet headboard and eagerly await the strange and unusual as I’m certain it’s on its way.

“This is very comfortable,” I say, moving my legs back and forth against the cotton sheets. I never thought that I would be in my thirties, sleeping in a bed with three other adults. It just goes to show you. You just never know what life has in store for you.

Rome pops in, drops to the floor and does pushups. As soon as India rushes the room, she straddles Rome’s back, and Rome continues with the pushups, without a struggle.

I grin. The entertainment around here never stops. “Does she always get on his back like that,” I ask Storm.

“Just about,” Storm says, reaching for the vitamin bottle on the end table.

“Would you like some iron?” Storm asks me.

Usually when she offers vitamins, I say no, but this time, I realize that I could use some iron. “Yes, I would.”

After downing two iron tablets and two sips of bottled water, my eyes are drawn back to Rome doing his pushups on the floor with India straddling him like he’s a horse. When Rome completes his 100 reps, he steps out of the room, and India scrambles into bed. She straddles her body on top of Storm’s so that they are face to face.

My first thought is, maybe I should not be in here at this time. After all, this display of affection, if I’m to refer to it as that, is happening right next to me. It’s not like I can ignore any of it.

India pushes her face directly in Storm’s and says, “If you want to make up with me for what you said about that hump in my back…”

“You know that I do,” Storm says.

“In that case, you can buy me the new Gillian Flynn book.”

“That book costs $60,” Storm protests.

“Do you want to make up with me or not?” India asks her as if the answer should be obvious.

“You know that I do,” Storm says. “Can I get you the eBook?”

“You know I’m a book-in-the-hand kind of person.”

“Okay, then,” Storm says, then brushes her lips across India’s cheek. “Are we friends again?”

“We never stopped.” India rolls off of Storm and sits with her back against the headboard. She and Storm stuff their legs underneath the covers. As I examine the two of them sitting snug, I realize that these two women really do like each other.

It dawns on me when I see a Snausages dog food commercial that India’s dog is still missing. “India, what’s the word on Doggie?”

“No word yet,” India says, “but she’ll be back. She always comes back.”

I shift my legs back and forth against the purple cotton sheets and acclimate myself to this unusual sleeping arrangement. This bed is even more comfortable than when we sampled it days ago. Not only is it more than capable of sleeping four comfortably, but it is firm with a pillow top mattress cover.

Storm, India and I all assemble with our backs against the headboard, Storm in between India and me. It’s as if we are three children waiting for our parents to tuck us in.

“Are you comfortable?” India asks me.

“Yes, very,” I say.

I clap my hands, rub my hands together, then spin my eyes towards Storm and India. I smile. “Now, let the orgy begin,” I say, half-heartedly kidding and the other half actually meaning it.

“It’s not that type of party,” Storm reminds me.

“I know,” I say. “I just felt I needed to say it.”

I remind myself that this evening is all about research, research for my book. Still the same, that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun along the way as I’m inundated with curiosity.

A commercial for the new Batman movie appears on the television, and I am mysteriously pegged with the question: Does Batman wear underwear?

“Do you think Batman wears underwear?” I ask Storm and India.

“Sure, he does,” India answers.

“I never really thought about,” Storm says, “but, if I had to guess, I would say, no. He doesn’t.”

In the midst of our silly debate, Rome makes another appearance. He wears his signature Fedora hat and a pair of white Calvin Klein pajamas pants and carries with him a tray of four tinted champagne glasses and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne.

“What did I miss?” Rome asks and then fills our frosted glasses with champagne.

“We were just discussing whether or not Batman wears underwear?” I say to Rome.

“Absolutely not,” Rome says. “Batman is too cool to wear underwear. Now, Robin, that’s a different story.”

“And you’re certain of this,” Storm questions him.

“Absolutely,” Rome responds, and then drops down at the foot of the bed, facing the three of us. He holds a champagne glass in hand.

“So, ladies, I thought we might celebrate the new member of our special family with a toast.” Rome directs his attention towards me. “Even if it’s just for one night, we’re happy you’re here with us. Isn’t that right ladies?”

Both Storm and India agree with him.

“I am one lucky man,” Rome says, shooting a look of admiration at all three of us. “I have three of the most wonderful women… here with me… right now… in my home.”

Basking in the company of Rome is equivalent to a twenty-hour buzz. He’s zero calories, and he makes me feel so good.

“So, with that in mind,” Rome says to us all, “Let’s lift our glasses and toast to…” Rome pauses for thought, then says, “Let us toast to the best summer ever.”

We clank our glasses and down the hatch it goes.

“Ladies, I wish you all many, many good things and more love than you can stand.”

Say what you will about Rome Nicki, but after connecting all the dots, he’s just your non-average, egotistical, sweetheart, with heaps of class.

“Thank you, Rome,” I say. “That is very sweet.”

“Rome does sweet things like this all the time,” India says, looking at Rome, “isn’t that right, Rome?”

“There may be some truth to that,” Rome says as he stands to leave. “Excuse me, ladies.”

As soon as Rome departs into the next room, I ask India and Storm, “Where is he going now?”

“Who knows?” Storm says.

“He’s always up to something,” India says.

“I have been meaning to ask you, India,” I say, “how did you and Rome meet?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” India says. “I was working as a doorperson at the Sunset Resort Hotel. Rome saw me, approached me, told me he liked what he saw, gave me his card and told me to call him.”

“Really? Just like that?”

“That’s how it happened,” India says.

With Rome in the other room and it being my first night in the family sleeping room, I have many questions twirling around inside my head.

“Are you ladies at all concerned that even after Rome invites me into the family sleeping room that he may might, one day in the future, invite yet another woman into the family as well?”

“Rome has made it perfectly clear that three is as far as he will go. Trust me, we had this conversation with him already,” India admits. “Besides, three is his lucky number anyway.”

Rome soon returns, bringing with him three Tiffany bags and passes them out to us like it’s Christmas day.

My eyes light up as this is the second gift from Rome in a matter of a few days.

“This is just a little something for the very special women in my life,” Rome says.

There Rome goes again with the assumption that I am now part of his permanent harem, and I am not. It’s not that I am offended, but he is reading more into my decision to spend one night than he should.

I am first to open my bag and pluck from it a beautiful white silver Dome watch and it is immaculate.

“Oh, this is gorgeous,” I say, then quickly wrap it around my wrist.

India and Storm also have been gifted with a Dome watch as well, only Storm’s watch is burgundy and India’s is navy.

If wonderful gifts like these are to be expected, then I might have to reconsider my position about becoming a full-fledge family member in the House of Rome.

“Are you ladies, happy,” Rome asks us all, and of course, we all answer with an obvious yes.

I finish off my expensive Dom Perignon while Rome sits at the foot of the bed, facing us.

“I understand that number three is your lucky number,” I say to Rome. “How’s that?”

“I was born January 3rd. My first paycheck in the film industry was for $300,000. The first film I produced earned $30 million, the address of my home is 333 Lost Ranger Drive, and I now live with three beautiful women.”

I guess the number three is his lucky number.

“I forgot to tell you,” India says to Rome with a devilish look on her face. “Before you came in here, Thursday asked us when the orgy would begin.”

Rome peers at me, seemingly amused. “Really? Is that what you want?”

I smile. I am embarrassed.” No, it’s not what I want. I was just being silly.”

“You have never been silly before,” India says.”

“She’s right, Thursday, you have never been silly before,” Storm says.

“What are you talking about?” I say. “I’m silly all the time.”

“No, you’re not,” India says.

“Well, I can be. Anyway, like I said, I was just playing around.”

“You be sure to let us know if you change your mind,” Rome says. “We might be able to assist you.”

“That’s right,” India says. “We may be able to assist you.”

Is this not the kinkiest place in town or what?

“It has been my understanding that nothing like that ever goes on in this room anyway,” I say to them.

“Your assumptions are correct,” Rome says. “But, and this is important, nothing remains the same forever. I say that to say that that scenario may have been the case yesterday, but today is a whole different story.”

At the foot of the bed, Rome sips the balance of his champagne and then rises to a standing position. “Now, before we get comfortable and drift off into wonderland, I have something very important to share with all of you.”

Rome shuts off the television and stands at the foot of the bed as if he’s about to deliver a poignant speech.

With my back against the headboard and my eyes glued to Rome, I sit up straight, eager to hear what he has to say.

“Many years ago, when I was in my last year of college, my psychology professor said something to me that always stuck with me regarding self-esteem in women.”

If Rome didn’t have my attention a moment earlier, he definitely has it now.

“He said that eighty percent of a woman’s self-worth is defined by how the man in her life treats her,” Rome says. “Now, whether or not his theory is true or not, I’m assuming that it is, and for that reason, it is absolutely imperative that you ladies… all of you… always be treated well, if not by me, then with any other man in your future lives.”

I listen to Rome speak, and for the first time, I totally comprehend why India is so enamored with him. It’s difficult not to be. I have always been insanely attracted to him, but tonight he’s revealing to me that he’s much more than just a cute face, a good lay and a bag of money. I’m not saying that he’s perfect, but as of this moment, if there is such a line between almost perfect and perfect, he’s awfully close to the perfect side.

“You have never said this to us before,” Storm says. “Why now?”

“I’m not sure. It’s just great seeing all of you in my bed, looking breathtaking, and I just want the best for all of you.”

A large silence hovers over the room. Rome’s words have provided us with much to digest.

“So, are we in agreement to never let a man treat you like anything other than a princess?” Rome asks us all. But before any of us can answer, Rome continues. “And most of all, don’t ever let a man Ray Rice you.”

We all nod in agreement. All this time I thought Ray Rice was a noun, and I’m just now finding out that Ray Rice is a verb.

Rome crawls up on the bed and slides in between India and Storm, leaving me on the side of Storm. My feelings are a little hurt. I so much wanted Rome next to me, but given how sensitive India is, and how I’m the new girl in town, I don’t make a fuss about it.

“I was on Twitter the other day,” Rome says. “And this lady posted a tweet: Let me be your heroin, the thing that makes you feel so good, and I like that. It resonated with me because that’s what I want to be to you ladies: Your heroin, the thing that makes you feel so good.”

I devour Rome’s delectable words whole, leaving nothing behind. I sigh. It’s not because I’m bored, but because his words are so sweet, I could cry. It obvious I’m not the only one moved by his sentiments as this surreal moment has silenced all of us. For moments on end, no one says a word, and then Rome breaks the silence.

“Now, may I have a kiss?” he asks us all.

One by one, we all reward him with a kiss on the lips before Rome reaches over to the night table and clicks out the light.

So far sleeping in the family sleeping room is a real treat, definitely something worth talking about and writing about.

I scoot down into the bed and bring the covers up to my neck with a warm smile glowing across my face. One thing is certain. There is a lot of love in this house.

Of my short time living in the House of Rome, the Tuesdays with Morrie moment will be remembered as the highlight of my entire stay, making tonight a very good night.

 

 

Rome is already up when I awaken the next morning while both Storm and India are both still asleep. From the very beginning, sex is what I believed this living arrangement was all about, but after spending my first night in the family sleeping room, I learn first-hand. That is not the case at all.

It was absolutely nothing like I had expected. If I didn’t know any better, I might think that Rome, India, and Storm were all just very good friends. There was nothing sexual about the evening in the least.

Except for the fact that I was unable to sleep next to Rome, my first night revealed itself to be a very pleasant one. I can’t stop thinking about the speech that Rome shared with us.

It was just so powerful.

I ease out of bed and make my way downstairs for my morning cup of white tea. I am about to descend the stairs when I detect a warm masculine voice coming from the foot of the stairs, “Good morning, Sexy.” It’s Rome, of course. He ascends the stairs, still wearing his pajamas bottoms and looking just as exquisite as ever.

“And where might you be headed,” he asks me and then brushes his soft lips across the back of my hand.

It’s going to be a major challenge for me to keep my hands to myself if he keeps doing things like this.

“Into the kitchen for some tea,” I answer him.

He slips his hand under my chin and gently tips my head back, staring down at me. His eyes are intense. He examines my face, admiration in his eyes. “I’ll bring the tea to you. I’m preparing a big breakfast for all of you.”

“Really?” I ask, smiling.

“Does that surprise you?”

“Yes. I mean, no. Actually, it does surprise me and if you keep it up, I may not ever want to leave.”

“That’s the plan,” he says to me. “Did you sleep okay?” he asks me.

“Fine,” I answer quickly, but what I want to say is, I would have slept better if you had made love to me first, but I don’t say that at all. I just simply say fine.

“So, you head right back up to bed and everything should be ready in about ten minutes.” I am about to turn and head back into the family sleeping room when he surprises me by slapping my fanny. I like that! He flashes me one of those adorable smiles, and I can’t help but offer it right back. I then dash off into the bathroom and brush my teeth.

In the family sleeping room, I resume my position in bed while India and Storm are just waking up.

“Good morning,” I say to both of them.

“Good morning, “Storm says.

“What time is it?” India asks, stretching out her arms.

“Almost eight,” I say, “Rome is bringing up breakfast for all of us.”

Both India and Storm fumble out of bed and head to the master bathroom together, which I find very odd. But then again, this is the House of Rome, where everything goes and not everything makes sense.

While Storm and India are in the bathroom, in strides Rome. He brings with him three covered breakfast trays, stacked on top of each other.

“Are you hungry?” he asks me.

“Am I ever not hungry?”

“I know you’re hungry for sex, but at the moment, I’m talking about food.”

“You think you’re so smart and so funny, don’t you,” I say to him.

“I more than think it,” he says. “I know it.”

I relax with my back against the headboard and pull the covers up to my waist. “Whatever it is, it smells good.”

He sets the breakfast trays on top of the shiny dresser and seats himself next to me. “Since we have a few minutes with Storm and India out of the room—”

“Before that,” I interrupt him, “what’s with the two of them going to the bathroom together?”

“Ask me no questions, and I will tell you no lies,” Rome says.

“After the outburst at the furniture store the other day, I kind of thought maybe they weren’t that fond of each other.”

“A lot of people might think that. Don’t let them fool you. They’re like sisters.”

Changing the subject, I say, “So, you were saying since we have a few moments to kill…”

“What did you think about your first night with us?” he asks me.

“How was it for you?” I ask him.

“It might have been better if you had slept next to me.”

“Really?” I say, flattered as I feel the exact same way, but I won’t tell him that. “I’m so shocked to hear you say that.” Then, out of nowhere, I tell him how I really feel. “I have to be honest. I was kind of hoping I might have landed a spot next to you also.”

“I already knew that,” he says.

Now, I’m trying to figure out if I am attracted to his arrogance or perhaps turned off by it.

Who am I kidding?

I’m definitely swayed by his arrogance.

“Are you going to stay again with us tonight or was last night it for you?”

“I haven’t quite made up my mind just yet.” That’s what I tell him, but the truth of the matter is that I have already decided that if I’m going to live in the House of Rome, I want to be where the party is.

“I almost forgot to tell you,” Rome says to me. “We’re all planning to take a new family portrait next week, and I have three themes in mind.”

“That sounds interesting,” I say to him, eager to hear all about it.

“This is something for all of us to discuss, but for now, I’m thinking of us all wearing trench coats and bare feet or maybe all of us wearing bath towels or maybe white bathrobes. What do you think?”

“They all sound pretty interesting to me,” I say. “I could go with either.”

Listening to Rome inform me about our upcoming photo session reminds me that I misjudged just how much fun it would be when I moved in.

Moments later, Storm and India cruise in. Rome reclaims the breakfast trays from the dresser.

“Good morning, beautiful creatures,” he says to them.

Storm is quick to slip into bed while India approaches Rome from behind, hugs him and then crawls into bed with the rest of us.

Rome places a breakfast tray in each of our laps. Each plate is outfitted with French toast, scrambled eggs and what looks like turkey bacon, along with angelic vanilla coffee, tea, and cranberry juice.

“This is food fit for a queen,” I say to Rome, ready to dig in fast.

“You are my queens,” Rome says.

Rome sits at the foot of the bed, studying all of us as if he’s a waiter on call.

“You’re not eating?” I ask him.

“I had my breakfast already.”

I glance over at Storm’s plate which contains only scrambled eggs and coffee.

“You don’t eat very much, do you, Storm?” I ask Storm.

“I eat my share,” Storm says to me.

“I wish I could be more like Storm,” India says with her mouth full. “But I just can’t help myself. I love to eat.” India then changes the subject. “I think it might be time to file a missing dog’s report for Doggie,” India says to Rome.

“Yeah, it has been a while,” Rome says. “She’s usually back by now.”

“What do you mean?” I say to Rome. “Isn’t it unusual for a dog to run away?”

“Oh, no,” Storm answers for him. “She’s runaway several times before, but never for this length of time.”

“That reminds me. Whose dog is it anyway?” I ask.

“Doggie is the family dog per se,” Rome says. “However, she really belongs to India.”

“She belongs to all of us,” India says, correcting Rome. India finishes her last bit of coffee. “Rome, sweetness, would you bring me another cup of coffee?”

“What will I get for it?” Rome asks India.

“Anything you want,” India tells him.

“Well, for the time being, I’ll settle for a kiss,” Rome says.

Rome steps to India, places his cheek to her lips so that she can kiss him, then he kisses her right back.

Since kisses are treated as currency around here, I want in on the action. “If I give you a kiss, what will you give me?” I ask Rome.

“What would you like?” he answers.

I think about it, but nothing comes to mind. “How about I give you a kiss now, and when I think of something that I want, you can give it to me then.”

“I can live with that,” Rome says.

Before I have a chance to plant a kiss on Rome’s lips, Storm raises her hand. “I want in, too.”

“What have I started?” Rome asks. He leans over India and kisses me, then Storm.

While I enjoy my breakfast, I’m thinking of a name for my novel. Maybe I will call it Kisses for Sale, but then again, maybe not. Then, mysteriously I have it. I know what I will call my book. Something that sums up the essence of the story I want to tell: The House of Rome.

I finish off the remainder of my scrambled eggs and French toast and soak up Rome’s charm and singular wit. Then it hits me. My greatest fear is being realized. I am falling in love with Rome Nicki all over again.

 

Episode Twelve

 

Blaring country music can be echoed from inside the police station when Rome, Storm, India and I approach the entrance. As we head inside, Storm and India walk alongside Rome, Rome firmly in between the two. India is glued to his arm as usual. Once inside, the country music makes sense to me now. A line dance is in progress with more than two dozen police officers. Obviously, they have found a terrific way to bring excitement to the workplace.

The beautiful, redhead female police officer sitting at the desk, talking on the phone is the next thing to garner my attention. On the wall behind her is a plethora of mugshots of allegedly missing dogs and cats.

“Look, Rome,” India says and points to the pictures on the wall. “There’re very pet friendly here.”

The female police officer is still on the phone when we all four approach her at the desk. When the female police officer ends her call, India says, “We’d like to file a missing person’s report.”

“And who are all of these people with you?” she asks India.

“Oh, these people,” India says, looking at all of us. “They’re my family. This is Rome, Storm, and Thursday.”

“What? No Friday?” she asks with a giggle. “Just joking.”

The female police officer examines us from top to bottom. “I’m not used to four people coming in to file one missing person’s report.”

“Well, it’s actually not a missing person,” India says. “It is a missing doggie, and because we’re all family, we do everything together.”

All the while this insane dialogue is transpiring, I’m thinking to myself: Just another non-ordinary day in the Land of Rome.

“Excuse me,” the police officer says and steps away from the front desk and into an adjoining room. Upon her speedy return, she is accompanied by another female police officer. This one wears a police uniformed skirt, shirt and short tie. This is interesting as I have never seen a police woman in a uniformed skirt before.

“Hello,” she says to us. “I’m Officer Scottie O. Please excuse the line dancing. They’re studying for the finals.”

“We understand,” Rome assures her.

“I understand you wish to file a missing person’s report for your dog. Is that correct?”

“That is,” Rome replies.

“Won’t you walk this way?” she says to us. She escorts us down a long hallway and then into a private seating room. Lo and behold there are two clowns dressed as police officers, one male and one female, wrapped around each other, going at it pretty hard on the cot. There’s lots of ohs…. ahs… ums and lots of “give it to me babies” and “oh yeas.”

At this moment, all eyes are on them.

I’m not talking much. I’m only here to watch the show.

If someone had told me that two clowns dressed as police officers were making out in the back room at a police station, I would have instructed that person to lay off the drugs.

Officer O. yells at them. “Both of you. Out. Now!”

The two clowns manage to tear themselves away from each other and dash out the door, leaving behind a red nose in the center of the cot.

Officer O. takes a seat in the chair behind the desk in front of the computer, and we all four sit across from her. As usual, Rome sits between Storm and India, India’s hand on his lap. Just as Officer O. is about to file our report, the female clown returns and pokes her head inside the office. “Fifteen minutes. Please,” the female clown begs. “We have nowhere else to go.”

Officer O. doesn’t respond right away. She’s thinking about it, then, “Okay, but only fifteen minutes. I’m conducting a very important interview here.”

The door flies open and in pops the two clowns again. They waste no time returning to the cot where they were before and go at it again. There’s kissing… groping… panting… and heavy breathing.

“Don’t mind them,” Officer O. says to us. “Ordinarily, I would never condone this type of behavior, but they don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“We totally understand,” Rome says. “I mean, they have to go somewhere.”

“Completely,” I agree. “It’s not like they could get a room or anything logical like that. That wouldn’t make any sense.”

“Exactly,” Officer O. agrees.

I want to keep my mind focused on the matter at hand: the report of our missing dog, but I’m struggling because right behind me at this very moment are two police officers dressed as clowns, making out.

How can I ignore that and maintain a straight face?

Officer O. logs into the computer. “May I offer any of you something to drink?”

“What do you have?” Storm asks her.

“Gin, rum, vodka and, of course, beer.”

My eyes shoot to Storm. India. Rome.

I’m shaking my head and scratching my scalp. Is she serious?

“Is that typical to offer alcoholic beverages?” Rome asks Officer O. It’s an answer I’m sure we’d all like to hear.

“Well, we like to keep the people calm, less chance of them shooting up the place,” Officer O. says. “You know what I mean?”

“Absolutely,” Rome says.

I smile because it’s obvious that Officer O. is no less afflicted than the two clowns, making out behind us.

She straightens her tie, then directs her attention at all of us. “Okay, so what’s the name of this missing pet?”

Both Storm and India speak at the same time.

India says, “Doggie” while Storm says, “Rockette.”

“So which is it?” Officer O. insists.

Rome is quick to interject. “Rockette is her professional name. Doggie is just her given name, you know, like a name of endearment.”

“And what professional is that,” the officer asks.

“She’s a hustler,” India is quick to say. “You know. A working girl.”

“Of course,” the officer says, typing her statement into the computer. “How about I say, Rockette also known as Doggie.”

“I think that’s a fabulous idea,” India says.

“So when was the last time you saw Rockette, also known as Doggie?”

“I would say about five or six days ago,” India says.

“No,” Storm interjects. “It was more like six or seven.”

I just continue to look, listen and enjoy the show. What else can I do? After all, they’re filing a missing person’s report for a dog!

“Do you have a description?” Officer O. asks us.

India thinks about it, then, “She looks like a dog. You know: four legs, a snout. The usual.”

“Is she white? black?” Officer O. asks.

“Oh, we don’t believe in races,” India says. “We’re all the same in God’s eyes.”

Officer O. takes a shallow breath, looks away a moment, then returns her attention to India. “What I meant is, what is the color of her fur?”

“Well, seeing that she is from a mixed family,” India says. “I would say she’s like a blackish brown.”

“No, it is more like a brownish-black,” Storm says.

Officer O. continues to type the information into the computer. “How about I say brownish-black/blackish brown?”

“Works for me,” India says.

“Any distinguishing characteristics?” Officer O. asks.

“She does have this thing that wags back and forth,” India says.

“You mean a tail?” Officer O. questions.

“Yeah,” Storm says. “She definitely has one of those.”

All the while this report is being taken, I struggle to keep from howling. The whole scenario is straight from the pages of a comedienne’s notebook.

After India supplies Office O. with her address and phone number, Officer O. says, “I think I have everything I need here. We’ll be in touch.”

“How long before you find her and bring her home to us?” India asks Officer O.

“It’s difficult to say,” Officer O. says, “I mean with the description you provided and all.”

“Well, just do the best that you can,” India says, rising to a standing position. “Come on, guys. Let’s get out of here.”

If I didn’t know it before, I definitely know it now. Everyone who lives in the House of Rome is a little, how shall I say, touched, which scares me because I also live there.

 

 

The laundry room in the House of Rome is huge and filled with sunlight and fresh air from the opened windows. India and I sort through our clothes about to do two loads when Storm comes in carrying something behind her back.

“India, I have a surprise for you,” Storm says with a big smile.

“Did you get my Gillian Flynn book?” India asks Storm.

“It’s in the kitchen on the table,” Storm says.

“Thank you,” India says. “What’s the surprise?”

From behind Storm’s back, she reveals the cutest, tiniest, light brown kitten with beautiful marble-like dark eyes.

“India, I know you’re a dog person,” Storm says, “but the lady at the mall was just giving these away and I just had to get one for you. For us.”

India’s eyes light up with awe when she takes hold of the tiny kitten. “Oh, he’s a cutie. Is it a boy or girl?”

“How should I know,” Storm says. “It’s a cat. He’s a sweetie, though, right?” Storm says to India.

“He most certainly is,” India says, smudging the tiny kitten against her cheek, admiring him with eyes of wonder.

I am also not a cat person, but this particular charmer could quite possibly change all of that. There’s something amazing about the saucer-like eyes that I find riveting.

As we are all in the midst of ogling over the sweet kitten before us, Rome appears, wanting to know what all the fuss is about.

“Look, Rome. We have a new addition to the family,” India says, “and we have to keep him.”

Rome examines the kitten with a survey’s eye. “Where did you get that?”

“At the mall,” Storm says. “Isn’t he adorable?”

“He sure is,” Rome says, taking the kitten into his hands. “Do the three of you know why he’s so adorable, and why you have never seen a kitten like this before?”

“No, why?” I ask.

“Because it’s not a kitten, it’s a lion cub.”

India screams like she’s being executed and both Storm and I drop to the floor like dead weight.

Giggling to no end, I say, “You are not serious.”

“Oh, yeah,” Rome says. “What you have here is a lion cub.”

Rome offers Storm and me his hand, and we pick ourselves up from the floor.

“No,” Storm says to Rome. “Say it isn’t so.”

“It’s so.”

“How can you be so sure,” India asks Rome as she checks out the kitten in question from a distance.

“Well, if we wait long enough, he’ll grow into a full grown lion, then you’ll have all the proof you need,” Rome says. “However, the good news is: He’s harmless now because he’s just a cub.”

“Maybe we could keep him until he grows up,” India suggests.

“Maybe we can’t,” Rome says.

“Why not?” India asks.

“Well for starters, it’s illegal.”

“And?” India questions. “What else?”

“And, most importantly,” Rome says. “I’m not ready for you ladies or myself to die just yet.”

Though it was fun while it lasted, our time with our fabulous, never-seen-in-person-before lion cub is dramatically short lived.

 

 

Rome travels to Los Angeles for a few days leaving us girls to fend for ourselves, and I am not liking it. I have only been living in the House of Rome for a short time, but I already miss him, especially the way that he caters to us.

The cleaning lady who Rome employs works only a few times a month, which means Storm, India and myself are responsible for most of the cleaning, shopping and the laundry. While I clean out the refrigerator, India shops for food and Storm cleans the bathrooms. In the midst of placing the food from the table back into the refrigerator, even under the instrumental new age music playing from the built-in stereo in the front room. I stop and listen. The doorbell is ringing.

When I reach the front door, I peek outside through the curtain and see a dirty, sandy brown Cadillac. I recognize that Cadillac. I’m seen it before. It belongs to Rome’s mother.

Before I can alert Storm, she has already joined me at the front door, wearing thick rubber gloves. I place my mouth to Storm’s ear and whisper, “It’s Momma Nicki.”

“Shit,” Storm says through clenched teeth. “What should we do?”

I have neutral feelings for Rome’s mother, but I’m not about to deal with her without the protection of her son, Rome.

“Maybe she’ll go away,” I suggest to Storm.

In the midst of making such a suggestion, Momma Nicki rings the doorbell again. This time longer.

I quickly remember that his mother has a key, and if we do not answer the door, she’ll probably let herself in. Without giving it anymore thought, I say to Storm in a whisper, “Let’s hide.”

Storm and I quickly scramble quietly upstairs in search of a place of refuge. All the while, I am tickled to the core by all of this. Rome’s mother is harmless, but she’s also quite taxing, and I would prefer to only have contact with her in Rome’s presence.

Storm and I settle on masking ourselves inside the shower stall in my bedroom, pulling the shower curtain shut. This whole scenario is just ridiculous, and I want to laugh, but I can’t.

Both Storm and I smuggle ourselves in the stall like two little girls, not moving and definitely not talking. I listen with a meticulous ear and then it dawns on me: Surely, she will know that someone is at home, otherwise, why would the music be playing.

That’s it. We’re sunk.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Rome’s mother actually did find us hiding from her?

What would she do?

I cannot answer that question, but what I do know is that I’m not ready to find out.

No one looking at me could tell, but on the inside, I’m experiencing a major belly roll. This whole circumstance is funny, fun, and little scary.

It’s situations like this that make it difficult for me to go to the work in the morning. Who knows what I might miss when I am away? It’s just such a spectacular place to live.

Fifteen minutes pass, and Storm and I figure that maybe the coast is clear. We are not even sure that Momma Nicki even entered the house. We just know that she has keys.

Storm and I emerge from the shower stall, then the bathroom and down the stairs.

“Do you think she’s gone?” Storm asks me.

“I don’t hear anything,” I say to Storm, “But I’m not completely sure that we fooled her.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Storm says and descends the stairs. “Momma Nicki will have to be Rome’s problem. I have my own concerns.”

It’s just another eventful day in the House of Rome.

 

 

Later that evening, I search the house for Storm and India. I need to find out what they plan to do about dinner. With Rome out of town, and Rome usually cooking for us, we decide whether to cook for ourselves or order in.

Approaching the second level, I hear odd noises emanating from Storm’s room. First I knock and then let myself in. I am not ready for what I am seeing. Both Storm and India stand topless and braless in front of the full-length mirror in what looks like a breast exam.

“You two never stop, do you?” I say to them.

“I’m giving India her monthly exam,” Storm says.

“I thought that was something you were supposed to do on your own,” I say.

“You don’t have to do it on your own,” Storm says, “You can have someone do it for you.”

“That’s right,” India says. “I just think of Storm as my doctor away from the doctor. I examine her breasts and she exams mine.”

These two never cease to amaze me.

“Have you examined your breast this month?” Storm asks me.

I can tell by the way that Storm is looking at me where this line of questioning in going.

“No,” I say to Storm.

“No problem,” Storm says. “I’ll do it for you.”

“You know, she’s quite good at it,” India says.

I laugh. They are both one-hundred percent serious and that’s the part that scares me.

“Thanks,” I say, “but I think I’ll pass.”

Storm completes her exam of India, and they both put their bras and shirts back on.

“Don’t be silly,” India says. “It’ll be fine. I do Storm every month and she does me.”

“Take off your shirt,” Storm says to me as if the decision has been made.

“And your bra,” India adds.

“I told you, I’m fine.” I take one step backwards. “It’s really not that serious.”

“Come on, Thursday,” India says. “It’s just us girls here.”

My hands are tied, and I am not able to worm my way out of this.

Before I can say another word, India pulls my t-shirt over my head and Storm removes my bra.

“Ladies, could you two be any more unusual?” I ask them.

“Are you saying that we’re not normal?” India asks me.

“Not exactly,” I say with some hesitation.

“Place your hand behind her head,” Storm says to me, then gropes my left breast.

I do as I am told and hide my hands behind my head while Storm commences to examine my breasts. I don’t know whether I should laugh or just stop her, so I do neither. For a moment, I close my eyes. I’m sure that I am dreaming and will soon wake up and have a good laugh, but guess what? I am not dreaming. I am actually having my breasts examined by one of my roommates. She picks, pulls, grabs and kneads.

All I can say is: This is weird.

After a several minutes, “are you done now?” I ask Storm.

“I’m done,” Storm says.

“See, that wasn’t so bad was it?” India asks me.

“I don’t know yet,” I say as I put on my bra and t-shirt. I’m heading out the room when Storm asks me, “Have you had your Pap test this year?”

My eyes widen, shoot to Storm and then India. I’m no fool. I know what’s coming next, and I dash out the door.

 

 

Storm, India and I are in a heated discussion about whether or not The Flintstones wore shoes or not when we receive a call from Rome, informing us that he is on his way home from the airport.

I head into the bathroom, brush my teeth and hair and apply some eyeliner and mascara. I’m not normally big on much makeup, however, since moving into the House of Rome, my looks have become a tad more important these days.

This is the first time Rome has been away from us, and his absence is exceptionally noticeable.

Storm, India and I all wait for Rome in the driveway. I inhale a long breath of the night air. It shouldn’t be long now before Rome is home again and in bed with us. Several minutes later, I smile when the taxi driver pulls into the driveway.

God, I missed him.

Storm, India and I approach the taxi driver when it comes to a complete stop and out pops Rome, looking as ravishing as always. He wears his Fedora hat and a blazer and boot-cut jeans. We all push up on him, groping him all at once. We embrace him, clutch him, squeeze him, hold him and smother him with hugs and kisses.

It’s a scene straight out of a storybook.

 

Episode Thirteen

 

“I missed you, ladies,” Rome says, his arms stretched out around all of us. “All of you.”

“We missed you too,” India says.

In the midst of an immense bear hug, Rome manages to break loose so that he can pay the taxi driver and seize his luggage from the truck. India is quick to take hold of his luggage, but Rome stops her.

“Don’t worry, sweetie, he says to India. “I have it.”

“No,” India insists and partakes his luggage into the house.

As we all sashay our way into the house, Rome sandwiched between Storm and me, Rome asks, “So, did I miss anything interesting while I was away?”

“Where do I start,” I say to him as all kinds of craziness has happened in his absence.

 

 

In the family sleeping room, on our humongous bed, India sits atop Rome’s back massaging his shoulders and arms while I do the same for Storm. We have just finished telling Rome about the unexpected visit from his mother.

“Why does your mother’s purse say recovering cat lady?” I ask Rome.

“Because she used to be a cat lady.”

“But not anymore?” India asks Rome as she squeezes the skin on his back.

“That’s the rumor,” Rome says, “but it’s my belief that she still has a mess of cats in the basement of her house, but no one is allowed down there so I have no way of knowing for sure.” Rome turns to me. “Did she see any of you?”

“No,” I say, laughing. “We hid from her.”

“That’s understandable. She can be a little…” Rome has a problem finishing his sentence, “a little something.”

“Any chance you could talk to her about coming over here unannounced?” India asks Rome.

“A lot of good that would do,” Rome says. “You’ve met my mother. You can’t tell her what to do.”

“So, I guess it’s safe to say we can expect more unannounced visits such as that one?” I ask Rome.

“It’s very safe to say that, but maybe there is something that I can do,” Rome says.

“And what might that be?” Storm asks.

“You let me worry about that,” Rome says.

After our massages, we all congregate in the front room and deposit ourselves on the sectional sofa in front of the television. The TV is tuned to HBO, a documentary about the making of the Wizard of Oz while we all enjoy some chilled Pinot Grigio.

India’s head rests in Rome’s lap while Storm lies on the ledge of the sofa and I crash on the floor, right at Rome’s feet.

“Any of you ever think that behind closed doors, Dorothy was fooling around with that tin man?” India asks us all.

“If she were going to do it with anyone, it would have been the lion,” Storm says with conviction.

I don’t believe what I am witnessing. “Pardon me, you two while I interject, but some things are sacred. Dorothy didn’t fool around with either of them. They were her friends, right Rome?”

“I don’t know, Thursday,” Rome says. “Didn’t you see the way the scarecrow used to look at Dorothy and the way he was always falling down? He wasn’t fooling anyone. It was all so he could get a peak up Dorothy’s dress.”

“Surely, you jest,” I say to them all, my eyes squinting in disbelief. “Something is wrong with all of you.”

“And that’s a good thing,” India says, “right Rome?”

“Absolutely, anything is better than being normal or, God forbid, ordinary.”

“That’s right,” Storm says, finishing off the rest of her Pinot Grigio. “Ordinary is out.”

I shake my head while listening to their strange philosophies, but in all honesty, a part of me feels exactly as they do. Ordinary is definitely out.

Rome manages to break free of India’s clutches and rises to a standing position. “Can I get you ladies some more Pinot?”

“Do you have to ask,” Storm says to him.

“Where am I supposed to lie my head with you gone?” India asks Rome as her comfortable position in Rome’s lap has now been interrupted.

Rome grabs a pillow from the floor and tucks it underneath India’s head. “Is that better,” he asks India.

“It’ll do until you come back,” India says.

Rome exits the room and returns soon after, refilling our glasses with Pinot. I watch him resume his position on the sectional sofa, India’s head snug in his lap, and I realize something:

I want that spot.

I want my head in Rome’s lap, and more importantly, I want Rome’s head in my lap. India has cornered the market on Rome’s attention, and what I want to know is why.

Does he like her more than Storm and me? Or does Rome and India have a very unique type of relationship?

Then again, maybe it’s India who is first to make her move. It didn’t escape my attention that as soon as we appeared in the front room to watch TV, India was on his heels big time. So, it should not surprise me that she was first to grab the coveted seat next to him.

If I want more intimate time with Rome, I might have to assert myself. I’m not exactly sure it’s a good idea to compete with India when it comes to Rome, but then again, what the hell. I can be a risk taker when I want to be.

I am in the midst of contemplating how I might garner more of Rome’s love, and he surprises me when he stretches his hand down to my shoulder and caresses my forearm.

“Are you okay down there, Beautiful?” he asks me.

“I’m fine,” I say.

How does he always know when my spirit is crying out for his affections?

After half-watching the HBO documentary, we blast the stereo with salsa music, gush down another bottle of Pinot Grigio and dance the evening away.

Other than Rome, the best part about living in the House of Rome is the constant companionship.

It is unquestionably untouchable.

 

 

It’s now time for bed. I planned to only spend one night in the family sleeping room, but I have since then changed my mind. For some reason, I am compelled to do it again.

Maybe it’s because I enjoyed myself so much the first night;

Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like sleeping alone tonight; or

Maybe it’s because I’m hoping to seize that coveted spot next to Rome, if only for one night.

Exhausted from all the dancing and white wine, I brush my teeth, remove the makeup and change into my signature nightwear.

Tonight I am determined.

I must steal a place next to Rome. My plan is to be first in bed so that both India and Storm will have to join me on each side. Since Rome is usually the last to join us, he will be faced with two options. He will either squeeze in between India and me or Storm and me. Either way, I will have a place next to him, which is what I want so badly.

As planned, I am first in bed, and India and Storm soon follow. As usual, Rome does his 100 pushups before making his way into bed. He squeezes himself in between India and me. At last, Storm is odd-girl out, but surprisingly not bothered. Surely if India had been odd-girl out, there would have been a major fuss. Just thinking about it summons a migraine. But I digress. What’s important now is that I have landed a warm, cozy spot next to Rome Nicki. Of course, we’re in the family sleeping room where sleeping is the main attraction. But so what? For the first time since moving in, I’m shoulder to shoulder with Rome, and it feels so freaking spectacular.

Rome turns to his side and wraps his arm around me.

Now, he was done it.

What I am supposed to do now?

Do I hug him back or do I just ignore it?

While I contemplate how to deal with Rome’s affections, he pulls my hair, but in a feel-so-good sort of way.

“Ouch,” I say.

“What’s wrong?” Storm says.

“Rome is pulling my hair,” I reveal.

Storm sits up fast. “Would you like to switch places?”

“No, that’s okay,” I say. I’m no fool. I just landed this spot. I’m not about to surrender it up that easily. Yes, it feels great being this close to him, but I am frustrated as well, and I don’t know if I will make it through the night. I want to turn around and lick his face, but I don’t do it. I can’t do it. After all, this is the family sleeping room, with the operative word being sleeping. I instead close my eyes and inch my way down underneath the covers. It is my intention to make light of Rome’s seductive powers when I realize that I have to pee.

What do I do now?

If I abandon my coveted spot in bed, it will be my lost for the night. So, I do what any irrational woman would do. I hold it until the next morning.

 

 

The next morning before heading to my employer’s place, Rome schedules an appointment for all of us to be photographed in all-white bathrobes at a private studio lab. This photograph, it seems, will solidify my acceptance into his family.

Since moving in with Rome and the ladies, I have called off work more than once, leaving my employer Perrin on his own. It’s just that when I am away from the House of Rome, I always feel as if I’m missing out on something.

On my way to Perrin’s penthouse, I make a brief stop at The Sugar Bowl, a grocery store that specializes in everything less sugar, catering to the low carb lifestyle. On my list of items to purchase are:

Chicken breasts

Corn

Peas

Lemons

Green beans

Onions

Mushrooms

Green peppers

Spaghetti

Ragu sauce

Graham crackers

Oolong tea

Corn flakes

Eggs

Lactose-free milk

Turkey

Whole wheat bread

Oranges

Apples

Carrying two shopping bags of groceries, I enter Perrin’s Penthouse, exhausted from the summer heat. After I wolf down a cold bottle of water, I stash everyway away in its rightful place. His kitchen is scented with fresh lemons as I have just made a pitcher of lemonade. I dice onions, mushrooms and green peppers for the spaghetti lunch I am preparing for him while he sits at the table reading his email messages on his iPhone.

Of course I have to tell him all about my new life in the House of Rome.

“How were you able to sleep with his pointer against your back like that?” Perrin asks me.

“That’s just it. I didn’t sleep,” I say with a smile, my eyes blinking nonstop. “I was just so turned on. Oh… My… God.”

Perrin turns his phone over and gifts me his full attention. “It sounds like you’re still turned on right now.”

I pull my hair away from my face and relax my neck. “What’s the clue?” I ask him.

“It’s that buzz in your eye that tells it all. Now that I think about, I’m not sure I should have you that close to my food in your unstable condition.”

“What do you think?” I ask him. “That something might spill out?”

“It might.”

I wipe my hands on the hand towel and flop down next to Perrin at the counter. I am buzzing with creative ideas. “I was thinking about telling Rome how I feel.”

“And how exactly do you feel?” he asks me, his beady little eyes staring back at me.

I don’t speak right away. I’m afraid of what I am about to say, then I just say it. “I think I might be in love with him.”

“Is it love or lust?”

“A little bit of both,” I say, collecting my thoughts. “You want to hear something so funny and even more ridiculous?”

“You know I do.”

I shift my head back, close my eyes, enjoying the memories of the night before. “I want Rome to choose me and give up his other two ladyloves.”

Perrin turns away from me as if looking at me is too painful, then directs his attention to me. “Now that is funny.”

“You don’t think he’ll do it?” I ask him.

“No,” Perrin says. “Why would he?”

Perrin is probably right, but I refuse to abandon the idea. “Well, it can’t hurt. I’m going to ask him anyway.”

 

 

There are two things that I want from Rome.

First, I want him to make love to me. Tonight. That is first and primary. Then, I want him to drop India and Storm and choose me exclusively.

Am I psychotic or what?

No, I’m not psychotic. I have balls.

I am asking for a lot, but it’s what I want. Now, whether I obtain what I want is a whole other story, but I’m going for it, and nothing is going to stop me.

I arrive at the House of Rome, bringing with me three boxes of Ghirardelli chocolates for the girls and for Rome. When I step through the kitchen, Storm is adding highlights to India’s hair while at the same time right before them is a TV on the counter playing a sexy comedy. It’s a scene of a man in a restaurant, placing an order with a waitress. He orders two large breasts and a large ass. Last time I checked, ass was not on any menu that I had ever seen.

“Seriously, ladies, but isn’t it a little early for that kind of TV?” I ask them.

“Of course, it is,” India says, “but that never stopped us before.”

I brought you a little something,” I say as I hand them each a box of Ghirardelli chocolates.

“Thanks, Thursday,” India says.

“Are you hoping that if you give me chocolate, I’ll let you sleep next to Rome again tonight,” Storm says. “Because it’s not going to happen.”

“No, I gave it to you because I like you, both of you.”

“That’s good,” Storm says, “because I’m sleeping next to Rome tonight.”

“Okay, I get it,” I say.

I guess it’s safe to say Storm was well aware that I had stolen her spot last night, and unfortunately for me, it’s not likely to happen again.

“Is Rome in his office,” I ask them.

“He’s in there reading scripts or something,” India says.

The time has come.

The time for me to barge into Rome’s office and tell him how I feel.

If Rome were a flavor, it would be a scrumptious white chocolate that taste delectable and makes you feel even better. If he were a color, it would be a very eye-catching orange, warm, inviting and easy on the eyes. If he were a fruit, it would be a firm ripe banana, something that goes in hard and comes out soft. These are the thoughts that occupy my mind as I rethink confessing to him how I really feel.

Then it hits me.

The decision is made.

I’m doing it.

I skedaddle my way towards Rome’s office, which is on the main level opposite the living room. I am balanced and unafraid. Well, balanced maybe, but I am definitely afraid. With a box of chocolates in hand, I poke my head into his office, and my eyes are drawn to the large stacks of movie scripts lined against the wall. With his feet up on the desk, Rome sits in a huge emperor-like leather chair, behind his desk reading.

Glancing up, he notices me at the door, and a slow sexy smile spreads across his face. I’m utterly speechless as my insides melt. He is without a doubt the most handsome man on the planet.

I breeze towards him, moving with cat-like elegance.

“Hello, Beautiful,” he says to me. I am mesmerized by his three-days-without-shaving look, his designer look that I like so much. I feel woozy and unbalanced. I could easily fall over, but I don’t. I stand strong and continue in his direction. His sexually potent smile activates my sexual thirst, and I shift my eyes upwards. I’m just too freaking attracted to this man. His five-star looks should not have this type of effect on me, but they do. I want to jump him right now, but I don’t do that. I’m a lady.

Against my better judgement, I return my attention to him, and my legs give out. I collapse to the floor, dropping the Ghirardelli chocolates.

Rome rushes to my aid and helps me up. “Are you okay?” Was it something that you ate? Something that you drank?”

“Something that I looked at,” I say to him. My head is spinning. I am disoriented and, most of all, overheated.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he helps me over to the sofa and fans me with his hand.

“I’m okay, just a little hot.” I assure him. He then seats herself beside me.

My eyes search the room for the box of chocolates. “I brought you some chocolate. I’m sure they’re around here somewhere.”

“I’m not much of a chocolate person,” he says to me, “but your heart is definitely in the right place.”

“I thought everyone loved chocolate,” I say to him, fiddling with my bangs.

“Not everyone.”

How could I not have known that he didn’t like chocolate?

Sitting straight up, I compose myself and try and exude some authoritative energy. “Do you think I could talk to you for a minute?”

“For you, more than a minute.” He rewards me his full attention and I like it. A lot. It’s a good thing I’m already sitting down, just in case I have another episode and kneel over.

“I hope nothing is wrong,” he says to me.

“No, not at all.”

“Why don’t you tell me what’s on that pretty mind of yours.”

My throat feels parched, and I take a deep breath.

Am I really going to do this?

“I really like being here with you and the ladies,” I say to him.

“Good, but I’m sensing that there is something else.”

He snakes his hand on top of mine, gently massaging my fingers and I can hardly breathe.

I gasp. Where is the darn oxygen in the room?

“You look a little flustered,” he says, placing his hand on my forehead. “Are you okay?”

The perspiration above my lip is giving me away no doubt.

“I’m okay.”

“What is it?” he asks.

I swallow hard and open my mouth, hoping that the words I want to say actually come out. “I have two things I would like to ask of you.”

“Oh really,” he says with a soft smile. He gifts the back of my hand with a kiss. “Tell me more.”

I lean back on the sofa, close my eyes and look upwards. For what I am about to say cannot be said looking directly at him. “I want to make love to you, Rome. I mean all the time.”

For moments on end, he says nothing. I shift my eyes in his direction, but he’s not talking. His expression is sweet and warm. The long silence frightens me. I’m afraid, afraid of what he might say now.

We’re both looking at each other, but no one is talking. My breathing is slow and steady, and I don’t know if I can take the not talking any longer.

The silence is soon broken when I ask, “Will you do it?”

“Will I make love to you?” he asks me.

“Yes.”

“When?”

“Now. Today. Forever.”

“If my memory serves me correctly, you told me that one of the conditions of you moving in here was that our relationship would be strictly platonic,” he reminds me.

Somehow, I knew he would throw that in my face, but so what. “I know I said that, but I have changed my mind.”

More silence.

“So, is it going to happen?” I ask him.

“I don’t know yet. I’ll have to think about it.”

Did he just say he didn’t know? That he would think about it?

What am I?

Some woman he just met at the grocery store?

“What do you mean you will think about it?” I ask him.

“Just what I said.”

In a huff, I lurch myself upward and head towards the door, my arms folded.

He rushes towards me, stops me in my tracks. “I didn’t say no, Thursday. I just said I would think about it.”

I turn to him. He’s amused by all of this.

But at whose expense?

Mine. That’s who.

“You said that you had two requests of me. What is the other one?”

“I’m not sure if I should tell you now,” I say.

“You have to tell me.”

“Why?”

“Because I want you to.”

I have shamed myself. Maybe telling him everything else can’t be much worse, and I blurt it out. “I don’t want to share you with the girls anymore.”

Rome smiles softly. “What about everything we talked about?”

“I don’t care about any of that,” I say, “I just want you.”

“I tried the one-on-one before, and it doesn’t work for me.”

“It could work for you if you gave it a chance,” I protest to him. “How does this type current lifestyle or yours really correlate with having a real family?”

“I consider what I have with you and the ladies to be a real family.”

“And kids, how does that factor in?” I ask him.

“I’m not exactly sure how children will fit into all of this, but for now, I happen to like things the way that they are.”

There is a long silence. We are both waiting for the other to speak. My argument is useless. He is never going to change his mind on this subject, and it was naïve of me to even attempt such a feat.

Once again, I head for the door, my back to him.

“Thursday, I am very flattered. I know it took a lot of courage for you to come in here and tell me all of this.”

At this moment, I’m no longer thinking about sex as my heart is broken.

“I just didn’t expect to care about you as much as I do now,” I say to him, right before I disappear out the door.

 

Episode Fourteen

 

Back in my room with my back against the door, I don’t move for a long time. I contemplate whether or not I will sleep in my own bed tonight or in the family sleeping room. In need of a sympathetic ear, I find a seat on the floor against my bed and call my sister Kirby.

“I made such a fool of myself this afternoon,” I say to her. “I was actually bold enough to ask Rome to leave Storm and India and just be with me.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said no, of course.”

“I hope you are writing this in your book,” she says to me.

“I was thinking about scraping the whole thing and getting the hell out of this house, away from everything.”

“You can’t leave now,” she says, “It’s just getting interesting.”

“Interesting for you. Heartbreaking for me.”

There’s a long silence between us, then, “You’re not… in love with this man, are you?” she asks me.

I don’t answer right away, then, “Maybe, I am. I like being here with him and the girls. It really is a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to share him anymore.”

“I bet your other two roommates probably feel the same.”

If they do, I wouldn’t know it. They both seem so contented with everything.”

“You might be surprised to learn that they probably feel just like you do. You should ask them,” my sister suggests.

“I’m not going to ask them that. Besides, how does that help me?” I change the phone to my left ear and release a sigh of frustration.

“So, what’s the plan?” my sister asks me.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

I end my call with my sister Kirby and slide into bed, still wearing my clothes. I lay on my back and stare up at the ceiling.

How did I end up here?

In love and living with two women and a man?

I retrace the decisions I made that led me to where I am today when I detect someone entering my room. I thrust myself forward and see Rome. My heart skips a beat. With an eagle eye, I watch him lock the door, then remove his shoes and pants. He approaches me with a very determined look, and nudges me back on the bed.

When he climbs on top of me, I am happy and yet confused.

Is he here to commit himself solely to me?

Or is he here just to sex me up real good like he did India the other day?

My inquiring mind wants to know, needs to know.

His hot breath arouses me and the weight of his body on mine makes me feel safe and warm.

“Why are you in here, Rome,” I ask him.

“I’m here for you.”

Rome presses his lips to mine, but I turn away. He won’t award me what I want, and I resist him.

“You can’t always get everything that you want,” I say to him.

Before I can elaborate any further, he whispers in my ear, “Listen to me,” he says in his soothing voice. “I want to tell you something.”

His whispers intrigue me, and I look at him, anticipating his words, wanting him more and more.

Our eyes are locked on each other. “What is it you want to tell me?” I ask him.

“An hour ago, you told me that you wanted me to make love to you, and I told you that I would think about it.” He showers me with soft kisses on my lips… on my cheek… on my neck. “Well, I thought about it.”

His provocative and straight-to-the-point tone seduce me to no end, and I don’t resist him anymore. I am pudding in his hands. Again and again, he kisses me, and I close my eyes in enjoyment.

He turns my face toward his and stares at me, then kisses me harder. We kiss for so long, and I worry I might pass out from exhaustion.

 

 

After my second sexual tryst with Rome, I need time to think about what is happening, what I want and what I should do about my difficult situation. I relax in the tub for forty-five minutes while I sip a glass of lemonade. Sighs of release escape from my mouth. I am pleased, and I am satisfied. A part of me wants to move out because I cannot have my way, but the smart part of me knows that moving out will bring me even less of what I want: Rome Nicki.

I sleep well that night in the family sleeping room. Not just because Rome sexed me up real good, but because, at this time in my life, I like where I am. I have a job that I really like, and I like my living arrangement despite everything to the contrary.

When I awake the next morning, Rome is already up, which is the norm. I am first out of bed, which is also the norm.

Down the stairs and into the kitchen, Rome is preparing scrambled eggs at the stove.

“Good morning, Beautiful,” he says to me as I enter the kitchen.

“Good morning,” I say and then take a seat at the table. I smile as I’m still savoring the benefits of our sexual encounter the night before.

I have brought my journal with me to write in while I wait for breakfast. I have just put pen to paper when Rome approaches me, bends down and plants a kiss on my forehead.

I look up at him, flattered. “What was that for?”

“That was for last night,” he says, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I say, wondering why he is thanking me. But I don’t push the subject. I move on. “May I have some tea?” I ask Rome. Of course, I can fetch it for myself, but I like it when it does it for me.

“For you? Anything.” He sets a cup of Argo black tea in front of me.

“Anything?” I question him.

“Yes, anything.”

“Okay,” I say to him, “how about we run away together get married in Vegas?”

“Well, almost anything.”

I suspected as much.

I have to be out of my mind to think that Rome would ever sever this magnanimous lifestyle to be with just one woman. That is simply not likely to happen, at least not any time soon anyway.

India is second to join us at the kitchen table. She accosts Rome from behind and wraps her arms around him, holding him tight. The butterflies in my stomach run rampant while I witness a perky India feeling up my man, the man I just made love to only so many hours ago.

If she had wrapped her arms around him any other day, it would not have perturbed me so much, but since Rome and I just made love the night before, it is more than my eyes can handle.

“So, how did everyone sleep last night?” Rome asks the both of us.

“I slept wonderfully,” I say.

“And you, India?” Rome asks.

“I always sleep well when I’m next to you.”

I release the pen in my hand. I can’t write anymore.

Am I really sitting at a breakfast table having breakfast with a man I just made love to while another woman flirts with him?

This is too weird.

Now I understand why India threatens to move out on a regular basis.

This is a bizarre arrangement that I’m not totally convinced that I’m qualified for.

Rome fixes a plate of scrambled eggs and toast for both India and myself, then joins us at the table.

Minutes later, Storm hustles into the kitchen in a frenzy and approaches Rome with her nightshirt pulled up, exposing her back.

“Look at this,” she says to him as her back is covered in large scratches.

“What’s with all of the scratches?” Rome asks her.

“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” Storm says.

“Let me see,” I say to Storm, then stand and take a look for myself.

Her back is covered in large and small scratch marks that covers the full extent of her back.

“Where did those come from?” I ask her.

“I have no idea,” Storm says.

“Maybe our room is haunted,” India suggests.

“Haunted,” I question with a chuckle.

“It’s definitely possible,” India says. “Maybe some entity is attacking you at night?”

“So why isn’t it attacking all of us?” Storm asks. “We all sleep in the same bed.”

I shake my head and scratch my scalp, trying to wrap my brain around all of this.

Are we really having a conversation about entities visiting us at night?

“Maybe you’re rubbing up against something at night or something,” Rome says.

“I don’t think so,” Storm says, lowering her shirt over her back.

Storm washes her hands at the kitchen sink and then seats herself at the table. In front of her is a plate already prepared with one scrambled egg and a piece of unbuttered toast.

“Thursday, I have been thinking about you and your writing career,” India says to me, smiling heavily.

“Oh,” I respond and then wipe my mouth, eager to hear her thoughts.

“Some of the top selling books of our time were written by authors who devoted themselves to their craft full time,” India says.

“And?” I question, wondering what any of that has to do with me.

“And,” India continues. “I was thinking. Maybe you should quit your job and write full time.”

“That’s sound peachy, but what would I do about money?”

“I guess that could pose a problem, but maybe that is where Rome could come in. You could make an arrangement with Rome to finance your writing career and once you make it big, you can pay him back.”

Amused, Rome sips his coffee while India speaks about him as if he’s not in the room.

“Make it big?” I question her.

“What? You don’t think you’ll make it big?” India questions me right back.

“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.”

“You need to build up your confidence,” India says to me. “Tell her, Storm.”

Storm’s eyes shift to me. “She’s right, Thursday. You have to build up your confidence.”

“If that’s something you might want to do,” Rome says, “I’d totally be into it.”

“Really?” I question. “You would pay all of my expenses while I work on this book?”

“Absolutely, I would,” Rome says.

The word wow has somehow come to mind.

It sounds promising, but I doubt I could abandon my job, especially for a book with no promise of success. Besides, Perrin would miss me too much anyway.

“You think about it, Thursday,” Rome says to me, “and let me know what you might want to do.”

“I wish I could write,” Storm says to me. “I have this great idea for a movie. It’s about a woman who dreams of killing her ex-boyfriend and the next morning he’s already dead.”

“Not bad,” Rome says, “except, Hollywood isn’t making movies like that those these days, just comedies, fantasy, and science fiction.”

“That’s too bad,” Storm says. “It would have been a great movie.”

“Why don’t you write it,” I suggest to Storm. “Do it as a book.”

Storm shakes her head. “No, I can’t do that.”

“Why not?” I ask her.

“Because I have a secret,” Storm says to us. “As quiet as it is kept, I really don’t want to work for a living.”

Rome pours himself another cup of coffee and adds two creamers. “It’s not a secret, and it’s not that quiet,” Rome says. “Everyone here knows that you don’t want to work. Well, maybe Thursday doesn’t know, but she knows now.”

“Storm, you don’t want to work?” I ask her as this is the first I am learning of this.

“Do you want the short answer or the long answer?” Storm asks me.

“The long answer,” I answer her.

Storm finishes off her orange juice and empties the contents from her plate into the garbage. “Working cuts into my leisure time.”

It’s statements like this that make it difficult for me to leave this house and go to work. I just never know what nuggets will be lost in my absence.

“But I thought you were in nursing school?” I ask Storm.

“Hence the words was in nursing school,” India says. “Storm is a nursing school dropout.”

“I just wasn’t feeling it at the time,” Storm says. “I’m a very feelings kind of person.”

“Storm is not a dropout, India,” Rome says. “She’s just taking a break. She’s going back, right Storm?”

“I prefer to think of myself as a retired nursing student, and as much as I might like the color white or any color for that matter, I’m not sure I’m cut out to wear any one color every day,” Storm says, “I mean, look at my hair,” referencing her ocean blue hair.

“What do you mean retired nursing student?” Rome asks Storm.

“I’m going back. Okay,” Storm says, “just not anytime soon.”

“Wrong,” Rome insists. “You’re going back this fall.”

It seems Rome encourages his ladyloves to be more than just his ladyloves and for that reason alone, I like him even more.

 

 

The Blue Diamond Cove is one of Rome’s latest business ventures outside of producing movies. He’s the silent partner in a new Seafood restaurant. It’s designed to recreate the scenario of attending the Oscars, where the guests strut the red carpet and have their pictures taken upon their arrival.

That evening, dressed in formal attire, Rome, Storm, India and I are on our way home from the fabulous experience. Except for Storm, we all have full bellies, and except for Rome, we have all had too much to drink. The Moscato from the restaurant is sizzling in my blood stream, and I’m feeling energetic and wild. Needing to go to the bathroom, I stare out the window, counting the minutes until we are home. As we pull into the driveway, I inch forward when I see a sandy brown Cadillac in the driveway. I grimace.

I’ve seen that car before.

It’s Rome’s mother. Again.

 

Episode Fifteen

 

Rome cruises to a full stop directly behind his mother’s Cadillac. Momma Nicki exits the car and approaches the driver’s side of Rome’s Jeep Renegade. Rome is quick to lower the window and hang his head outside.

“Hello, mother,” Rome says then plants a kiss on her cheek. “Ladies, say hello to mother.”

“Hello, Momma Nicki,” we all say to her in unison.

“Hello, pretty girls,” Momma Nicki says to us. “What’s wrong with your door, Son? I tried my key, but it wasn’t working.”

Storm, India and I exit the Jeep. Attuned to the conversation between Rome and his mother, I try my best to keep a straight face.

“I had a break-in recently and was forced to change the locks as a precaution.”

As soon as I hear the lie disperse from Rome’s lips, I know I am in for a treat with Momma Nicki’s response.

“You had a break-in. When?”

“Sometime last week,” Rome says.

I shake my head. Rome is shameless in his tales to his mother. I breathe in the night air, and here is what I know for sure: Living in this house is fun.

Momma Nicki doesn’t speak right away. She stares Rome down and is silent, perhaps sizing him up.

“You’re not making this up, are you, Son?” she asks Rome. “I don’t want you making this up to keep Momma out of the house.”

“Of course, not,” he says. He looks to us, perhaps hoping that we might confirm his half-truths.

Momma Nicki unlatches the Jeep door and swings it open. “Get out of the car, Son.”

Rome exits the Jeep. Storm, India and I move in his direction and stand at his side.

Momma Nicki places her hands on her hips and steps back. “Son, you know what I think? There’s something funny going on around here, and I doubt I will find out otherwise until I stay here overnight and see for myself.”

Momma Nicki’s declaration causes my head to spin and I forget to breath. I hold my breath waiting for Momma Nicki to clarify what she just suggested, but she doesn’t. Instead, she adds, “Did the pretty girls tell you that I was over here a few days ago and that they hid from me? Did they tell you that?”

Momma Nicki studies me with a glare of disapproval, then turns her attention to Storm, then India. “That’s right, I saw you! I saw you! I saw you!”

My mouth falls open. How does she know this?

“Mother, in all fairness to the ladies,” Rome says, “they probably just thought that you were the Avon lady.”

“And the Avon lady has keys to your house?” Momma Nicki asks Rome.

“Of course, she does. That’s how I get the best deals,” Rome says with a straight face.

“In all fairness to myself,” India announces, raising her hand. “I was not even in the house on the day when this supposedly happened.”

“Well, aren’t you the lucky one,” Momma Nicki says to India. “You know what Momma thinks?” Momma Nicks backs away from Rome, her eyes taking him in. “Momma thinks that her son is living with three women. That’s what Momma thinks.”

Rome opens his mouth to speak, but before a word can be released, Momma Nicki jumps in. “In fact, Momma is so sure that there are strange goings-on in this house that Momma is going to stay here tonight to see for herself.”

Momma Nicki then strides towards the entrance of the house and turns to me and says, “One of you pretty girls is going to have to fix up the guestroom for Momma.”

My stomach sinks and I am no longer breathing.

I watch Rome, his eyes darting back and forth between his mother and us. He’s thinking fast and stops his mother in her tracks.

“Momma, that’s not necessary, but if that’s what you want to do, I have no problem with that. However, there is something that I should tell you.”

Rome steps to his mother and places his hands on her shoulders. “As painful as it is for me to say this to you, I absolutely must.” Rome takes a deep breath, looks over at me, then, Storm and India. “It’s very possible that my house may be haunted.”

“Haunted?” Momma Nicki questions, her eyes bulging, highlighting the dark curly wig, which is too big for her head.

I’m chuckling underneath my breath, hoping that no one hears me.

Rome’s eyes circle to Storm. “Storm, tell my mother about the scratches on your back.”

Storm presents to me one of those is-he-kidding-type of looks, then she plays along. “He’s right, Momma Nicki. There is some kind of entity sharing space with us in the house, which may be responsible for the scratches on my back.”

“Haunted? Entities?” Momma Nicki questions.

“Storm, show her your back,” Rome says.

Storm removes her blazer and shirt and exposes her back to Momma Nicki.

“Oh my goodness,” Momma Nicki says, examining the scratches on Storm’s back. “And this happened when?”

“Sometime last night,” Storm says.

“Last night?” Momma Nicki questions. “Were you sleeping here last night?”

Before Storm can answer, Rome interjects. “No. No. We all watched a movie last night and Storm may have fallen asleep on the sofa. We believe that is when it happened.”

Rome is, I dare say, gifted in his outlandish tales. There are no bounds he won’t travel to keep his mother in the dark about his lifestyle.

Momma Nicki investigates the house with a fine eye, taking several steps backwards, apprehension in her eyes.

“Son, if this is true, how can you continue to live here?”

I can’t wait to hear Rome smooth talk his way out of this one.

“Well, we’re not exactly sure that the house is haunted,” Rome confesses. “We’re having some house hunters come in this week to investigate. But, if you want to stay here with us to tonight and make sure that nothing is going on between us, you are most welcome.”

Momma Nicki steps towards Rome, step by step, inch by inch. She then raises her hand to Rome, but she stops herself. “If I were not a bible woman, I would put my hand to your face, but Momma is not going to do that. You know I can’t stay in a house that is haunted. What is the matter with you?”

“But, we’re not for certain that it’s haunted,” I say to his mother, wanting to insert myself into the game.

“Oh, so the pretty girl is not for certain,” Momma Nicki says, pivoting over to me. “I am a bible woman and I cannot under any circumstances say in a house that could be haunted. Do you understand that, Pretty Girl?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I say.

“Mother, her name is Thursday,” Rome reminds her.

“Well, she’s pretty girl No. 1 to me, or is it pretty girl No. 2?” Momma directs her attention back to the house. “And I know why this house is haunted too, all these women you have living with you. You think I don’t know what you’re doing. I know you’re doing that sick stuff again. Ladies, you do know that my son is a heathen, don’t you?”

“No, I didn’t,” India says. “Is he?”

“You ladies didn’t know that?” she questions us. “Tell them, Rome. Tell them what you are.”

“I’m not going to admit to that because it is not true,” Rome says.

“Momma is about to leave now before something gets on me that’s not supposed to be on me.” Momma Nicki scrambles to her car then looks back at Rome, squinted eyes. “I’ll deal with you later. Much later.”

And Momma Nicki is gone.

 

 

Storm, India and I all share a good laugh as we set foot in the house.

We all had more than our fair share of white wine at the Blue Diamond Restaurant, but it does not stop us from going at it again at the minibar. In good spirits and wanting the feel-good to continue a little longer, I fire up the built-in surround-sound stereo with some salsa music, and all four of us dance until the point of exhaustion.

Chilled alcoholic beverages and dancing to salsa music has become our weekly ritual, and frankly something I can’t ever see myself not partaking in.

What is it about salsa music that makes me just want to let loose and fly?

It just makes me feel so good and feeling good, is what living in the House of Rome is all about.

 

 

It’s time for bed, and we girls are all dressed in our standard House of Rome attire. As usual, Rome is snuggled between India and Storm and as for me, as always, I am odd one out. The television is tuned to Comedy Central’s South Park with the sound muted. On this particular episode, there is a snake talking to the Governor of California, which causes me to question the Governor of California’s choice of friends.

“Would you be friends with a snake?” I ask anyone in bed foolish enough to answer my question.

“Not me,” India says.

“What about you Storm?” I ask Storm.

“If it was a nice snake, I might consider it.” Storm grabs her vitamins from the night table and pops a couple down with some water.

“And you, Rome?” I ask Rome.

“It all depends,” Rome says. “What kind of snake is it and can it talk like the one talking to the Governor?”

Since Rome is humoring me, I humor him right back. “It’s a rattlesnake,” I say to Rome, “And of course, it can talk. Why wouldn’t it talk?”

“Well, in that case, I would definitely be friends with it,” Rome says.

“You would literally be friends with a snake,” I question Rome in disbelief.

“Yes, I would.”

“Something is wrong with you,” I say to Rome.

“I’m not the one asking the question.”

I laugh. “Point well taken.”

India pushes the covers off her and rises to a standing position on top of the bed. “Since we’re feeling all warm and fuzzy right now,” India says.

“I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy,” Storm corrects her. “Actually, I’m feeling a little tipsy and tired.”

“So what else is new?” Rome asks Storm with a soft smile.

“I resent that,” Storm says to Rome, smiling.

“No, you don’t,” Rome says.

“May I finish,” please?” India asks, her voice elevated.

“Who’s stopping you?” Storm asks.

With India standing on top of the bed, hovering over us, speaking in a deliberate tone, something tells me the tide in this house is about to be radically changed.

“This question is for Rome,” India says.

“I hope it’s sexually explicit,” I say, having a freakish time annoying India.

“Me, too,” Storm says.

“What is the matter with you people,” India says. “I’m trying to be serious here.”

“You can’t be too serious with all of that bush you are carrying around,” Storm says, looking up India’s shorts.

“Who says?” India asks, her mouth twisted.

“I say,” Storm says.

“Really? Let me take a look,” Rome says while looking up India’s pajamas shorts. “It is getting a little busy down there,” Rome concludes.

“You didn’t seem to mind the other night,” India reminds him.

“The other night was the other night,” Rome says.

“You water heads all get on my nerves. All of you,” India says to us.

“But I didn’t do anything,” I say in my protest.

“Sure you did. You moved into this house and befriended those two water heads.” India drops down and resumes her position in the bed next to Rome and Storm and pulls the covers up over her.

“With all due respect,” Rome says, sitting forward. “What exactly is a water head anyway?”

“It’s something bad,” India says. “That’s what it is. I had something really important to talk to you about, and you water heads want to talk about my bush.”

“We’re sorry, India,” Rome says. “We’ll are all ready to listen now.”

“That’s right,” I say, “We’re all ears.”

“Thank you,” India says. “I know Storm has ADD so I’ll talk fast”.

Storm smiles and warms up her lips with a coat of lip gloss, obviously not perturbed by India’s opinion of her.

“This lifestyle of ours, which we have all grown to really like,” India says, directing her attention to Rome, “what I want to know is, how does it fit in with a real family life? I mean, don’t you ever want to have children?”

From the onset, I knew India had something on her mind. However, I was not expecting it to be this great.

“Yes, I do,” Rome says. “I would like to one day have children.”

“How would that work? I mean you live with three women?” India reminds him.

It’s great to know that I am not the only one wondering how long this radical lifestyle of ours can last.

“Who says it’s going to always be like this?” Rome says to her.

“What do you mean,” I ask Rome, more than curious.

“Who says I will always have more than one love?” Rome asks and from the look on Storm and India’s face, it’s safe to say none of us was expecting that response. “I assume that one day, I will settle down like the rest of the world.”

“Are you serious,” Storm questions him with a sparkle in her eyes.

“Yes. Is that so hard to believe?” Rome asks.

“Yes, it is,” India says.

The room goes silent as we digest everything we just heard.

“And now for the $1 million question,” India says, peering into Rome’s dark eyes. “Drum roll, please… If you have to choose between the three of us, who would it be?”

“Do you really think I would be dumb enough to answer that question?”

“Are you scared,” Storm asks him.

“Not scared, petrified,” Rome says.

“I think that if Rome were to choose between one of us, it would be me,” India says.

“That’s mighty humble of you,” Rome says.

“I think it would be Thursday,” Storm suggest.

“Why do you say that?” Rome questions.

“I don’t exactly know why, but I just feel there is an extra special connection between you and Thursday.”

“I think Rome has a special connection with all of us,” I say. “That’s why we are all here with him.”

“Thank you, Thursday,” Rome says.

“In fact, I continue. “I think Rome would sooner walk away from all of us before choosing one over the other.”

My own words surprise even me. I have no idea where these rambling beliefs are coming from.

“That’s really heavy,” India says.

“Don’t be fooled, India,” Storm says. “Thursday only said all of that so Rome might choose her.”

“I don’t think so,” Rome says. “I think she spoke from the heart.”

And Rome was right on the money. I did speak from the heart. It is my opinion that Rome may not ever choose to settle down with just one of us, and if he does, I doubt it will be me.

 

Episode Sixteen

 

While sweet potatoes boil on the stove at my employer’s penthouse, I compile more notes for my novel in progress. I have only drafted an outline, but I have captured the essence of what it means for three women to share a house and bed with one man. But, I’m worried now. Divorced women are the main audience for this book, and I’m concerned that it may come off as unbelievable.

But how can that be?

I’m a divorced woman, and I’m living proof that this story is indeed plausible. After coming to grips with that issue, there’s an even bigger problem.

How will this story end?

The good news is that I’m the storyteller, which means I have the luxury of carving out any ending of my choosing.

Then I ask myself: How would I like to see this story end, and without giving it much thought, I make a decision. My story will end when Rome is forced to make a choice, whether on his timetable or someone else’s, which leads me to the final question.

Will it be India?

Will it be Storm?

Or?

Will it be me?

 

 

It’s after five o’clock in the evening when I return to the House of Rome, and all I can think about is everything that I possibly missed while I was away. I have grown accustomed to seeing Storm in her yoga poses, India relaxing atop of the kitchen table, reading a mystery novel, and Rome, when he is not traveling, whipping up something spectacular for our taste buds. But today, I see no one, which surprises me until I hear a voice from upstairs, intermittently yelling the word ouch.

I can only imagine what is transpiring on the upper level.

Drenched in curiosity, I ascend the stairs and follow the sound as far as it will take me. Though intrigued, I am also a little on edge as this lifestyle, which I have succumbed to, is in the vein of the ancient TV sitcom The Monsters. That alone is cause for concern.

I reach the family sleeping room to which the sounds are emanating and to my utter amazement, India is stretched out on the bed, lying on her back while Storm gives her a bikini wax. There’s no question that Storm, India and I have created a dynamic girl-bonding experience, but the bikini waxing has taken it to a whole another level.

But why does any of this surprise me? After all, this is what goes on in the House of Rome. Surely, I should know this by now.

I stand in the doorway, my hand covering my eyes, “Sorry to interrupt, ladies.”

“Hey, Thursday,” both Storm and India say to me.

“Why are you covering your eyes,” Storm asks me.

“Because I’m not sure I should see this.”

“Don’t be silly,” Storm says. “I’m happy to do you as well.”

“Don’t do it, Thursday,” India says to me. “Storm is good, but she’s not very gentle.”

“A little pain is good for you sometimes,” Storm says. “Wouldn’t you agree, Thursday?”

I’m not about to be a part of a philosophical conversation with Storm about such matters, so I quickly agree with her and remove my hand from my eyes.

“A little pain is good,” I say.

“So, what’s up?” Storm says to me.

“Nothing, just wondering what we were eating tonight with Rome out on business?” I ask.

“What about pizza?” India suggests.

“Fine by me,” Storm says.

“And me, too,” I say. “I have never met a slice of pizza that I didn’t like.”

I head out when I stop myself and make a U-turn in their direction. I have something on my mind, something that I have been wanting to ask the girls for some time now, but never felt comfortable enough doing so.

“Can I ask you ladies something?”

“Is there any way to stop you?” India asks me.

“I doubt it,” I say and then continue. “I hope this doesn’t sound strange, but I have always been curious about something.”

Both Storm and India look towards me and bestow me their full attention.

“As far as sex goes,” I say, hesitantly, “I have never been actually sure how that works. I mean do you ladies let Rome know when you want sex or…”

Before I can finish my thought, Storm interjects, sits on the edge of the bed. “Say no more. Although there are no hard rules, Rome pretty much likes to be the one who initiates sex. That’s not to say that you can’t initiate it, but my experience has been that he prefers to decide most of the time.”

“And that’s okay with you?” I ask, confused.

Storm opens her mouth to answer, but India beats her to it.

“For the most part,” India says, rising to a sitting position. “Sure, there are times that I might want to make love to him, but I know he likes to do the choosing, and I just go with it.”

“So, what would happen if you did try and initiate it?” I ask them both.

“He would more than likely accommodate you,” India says.

“But you choose not to?” I ask.

“Pretty much,” Storm says.

In the middle of one of the many strange conversations, Storm’s cell phone rings, and that completes today’s lesson on the initiation of sex in the House of Rome.

 

 

Team Nicki is what I like to call us girls when we work harmoniously together for a common cause: Dinner. Awaiting our pizza delivery, Storm prepares a dinner salad, while India and I savor a rich glass of Chardonnay at the kitchen table. India is convinced that Matt Damon is more handsome than Ben Affleck, but I assure her that it’s an argument that she will never win.

The doorbell rings, and I grab Rome’s American Express credit card from the counter and head for the front door. Standing on my tiptoes, I peek through the peephole and witness a man, wearing a baby blue ski mask, military jacket, khaki pants and a rifle wrapped around his shoulder. Since I have never seen him before in this neighborhood, I assume he must be lost and open the door. Perhaps, I might offer my assistance.

“Good evening, sir,” I say, “Are you lost?”

He eyes me from top to bottom. “No. I’m not.”

My eyes are drawn to the ski mask that covers his face. I don’t understand why he’s wearing it. It’s the middle of the summer.

“Surely, this is none of my business, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” I say, “but why are you wearing that ski mask? Are you cold?”

The mask-wearing man doesn’t speak right away. He’s thinking about it, then, “why, yes, I am. That’s it. I’m cold.”

“That’s what I thought,” I say.

Enough with the small talk now. He has knocked on our door for a reason, and it’s about time I find out why. “How may I be of service to you?” I ask him.

“Are you here alone on this fine evening?” he asks me, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

“Tonight is rather a fine evening, isn’t it? And no, I am not here alone. My two good friends are here with me.”

“And there’s no one else?” he asks me.

“No one. Just us women.”

The mask-wearing man investigates his surroundings then takes in a wide view of the house. “Can you go get your friends for me?” he asks me.

“Why?”

“I want to see if they’re as pretty as you are.”

I smile, flattered to the 10th degree. “I can tell you know how to get what you want, don’t you?” I laugh, throwing my head back, still savoring his compliment. “Unfortunately though, we were about to sit down for dinner.”

“Really?” he asks. “What’s on the menu?”

“Pizza, just as soon as it gets here. In fact, when the doorbell rang, I thought you were the pizza delivery man.”

“Where did you order it from?” he asks me.

“Santiago’s.”

“That’s okay, but if you really want the best pizza in the state, try Diego’s.”

“Really, I’ll have to remember that.” I have no idea why this mask-wearing man has stopped at our doorstep, and most of all, why I’m still talking to him.

“Can you tell me again why you rang my doorbell?” I ask him.

“No reason. Are you sure I can’t take a gander at your friends before you sit down to eat?” he asks me. “I can assure you. I’m completely harmless. I promise not to rape or kill either of you.”

I laugh. “Well, as long as you promise.”

“And I do,” he says.

“Wait right here. I’ll be right back.”

I depart from the presence of the mask-wearing man and go and find Storm and India.

A minute later, I return with Storm and India at my side.

“Storm, India, this is the man I told you about.”

“Hello, India says, stretching out her hand to him. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Storm inspects him with a piercing eye. “Why are you carrying a rifle? I mean if I didn’t know any better, I might think that you were some sort of mass murderer.”

I shush Storm. “Storm, how can you say that to a complete stranger? He’s given you no reason to believe that he’s a killer.”

“It’s okay,” the mask-wearing man says. “She’s right. To some people I might appear armed and dangerous.”

“Well, not to me,” I say to him, giving him the I-kind-of-like-you look.

“Me either,” India says. “Anyway, nice man with the rifle, we were just about to sit down and eat.”

“Yeah, about that. Mind if I join you?” His voice is sweet and innocent.

“I guess it would be okay. You seem harmless enough,” I say. I look to Storm and India for their approval, and they both grant me the it’s-okay look.

We invite the mask-wearing man inside, and he unzips his military jacket. Standing in the foyer, we are all about to head towards the kitchen when the mask-wearing man says, “Since the pizza hasn’t arrived just yet, I thought I might take a look at the house, perhaps get a glimpse of where you ladies sleep at night.”

“Why?” I ask him as his request troubles me.

“I just want to see if where you sleep is as darling as all of you are.”

“Stop,” India says, blushing, smiling and lowering her head.

“No, you stop,” he says to India.

“You are just too kind,” I say to him.

“I guess it will be all right,” Storm stays.

We escort the mask-wearing man up the stairs and into the family sleeping room.

“Are you ladies sure you’re here alone?” he asks us. That’s the second time he has asked me that question, and I’m now starting to worry. However, I answer his question anyhow.

“Yes, it’s just us,” I say. “The way you keep asking me makes me think that you have something planned for us. I mean… you’re not going to try anything, are you?”

“No,” he says. “Do I look like someone who would try something?”

I study him for all of twenty minutes, taking in his ski mask, the military jacket and the rifle on his shoulder. “Not really.”

We all file into the family sleeping room, granting the mask-wearing man total access.

“Okay,” Storm says, stretching out her arms, highlighting our master bed. “This is where we sleep.”

“You like it,” India asks him.

“Nice,” he says.

The mask-wearing man steps towards the bed, studying it, then says, ‘I was just thinking. Why don’t you ladies climb up on the bed and show me what you look like when you sleep at night.”

Storm doesn’t even question his request. Instead, she slips out of her thong sandals, crawls up on the bed and lies on her back.

“Nice,” he says eying Storm like she’s a bowl of Easter candy, “Very nice.”

His eyes quickly roll over to India and me. “Now, you two,” he says, directing us towards the bed, “Climb up on the bed with your friend.”

I squint my eyes and scratch my head. This unusual request concerns me more than his request to see where we sleep. “You want all us to climb up on the bed?” I ask him.

“That’s right,” he says, removing his rifle from his shoulder and setting it aside the bed.

I am about to crawl up on the bed when India asks, “Can’t we do this later? I’d much rather head downstairs and wait for our pizza.”

His eyes shift to India, intense. “No, we can’t do this later. We’ll eat when I say it’s time to eat.”

The mask-wearing man doesn’t seem as nice as he did when we first met, but I oblige his request. After all, he did promise not to rape or kill us.

India and I both ease our way upon the bed and stretch out next to Storm while he pivots around the bed. His eyes pore over us like he’s a tiger and we are his dinner. “You three… are the most… magnificent… women that I have ever laid eyes on.”

I blush. “That’s so nice of you to say.” I soak up the excitement of having a complete stranger come into our home and inflict on us God knows what. It just doesn’t get any scarier than that.

The mask-wearing man undresses. Off comes his combat boots, socks, and plaid shirt. “It’s a shame that you three are all here alone tonight.”

India, Storm and I all exchange one of those [_ I-think-we-made-a-mistake-letting-this-ski-mask-wearing -man-into-our-home _] look.

Now that he has disrobed, he wears only a ski mask and Khaki pants. He inches his way onto the bed.

“Excuse me, mister,” I say to him, “but whatever are you doing?”

“In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m no mister. I’m a kisser. That’s right. I kiss women.” He tickles Storm’s feet and she laughs.

I knew there was something fishy about that mask-wearing man, but I just didn’t want to admit it. Now it may be too late.

“I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming,” I say. “You seemed so nice.”

“Well, guess what? I’m not nice. It was all a trick from the moment I rang your doorbell.”

“I have never met a kisser before,” India says to him.

He squeezes himself between Storm and me, then combs his fingers through my hair, while staring at Storm. “So, who wants to go first?”

Silence.

Storm doesn’t respond. India doesn’t respond, and I don’t respond.

“So, it’s like that, huh? You’re going to make me choose,” he says. “I can deal with that.”

Just as the mask-wearing man is about to straddle himself on top of India, his cell phone rings.

He plucks the phone from his pants and then snatches the ski mask from his face. “This is Rome.” Moments later, he rolls off the bed and finishes the call.

“Oh, fudge,” Storm says. “And just when it was just about to get interesting too.”

A minute later the mask-wearing man also known as Rome Nicki rejoins us on the bed, gathering his belongings from the floor.

“What do we do now?” I ask Rome as this game is not completely over for me.

“What do you want to do?” he asks me.

“You promised to… you know,” India says to him.

“I did not promise. It was only implied what I was to do to you.”

I rise to a sitting position. “So, how does it end?” I ask Rome.

Before Rome can answer, Storm crawls off the bed and slips into her sandals. “It just ended.”

“But why?”

“Because it’s all about foreplay,” India says, “and nothing else.

This is the first time that I have participated in the family’s role-playing stunt, and I like it. However, I wasn’t expecting the game to end right before the real action began, but apparently, according to India, it’s all about foreplay and nothing else.

 

 

It’s a beautiful summer night. The air is fresh and warm, and the sky is delectable. When our sausage and mushroom pizza from Santiago’s Pizzeria is finally delivered, Rome, Storm, India and I enjoy our dinner on the patio.

As usual Storm places two square pizza slices on her plate while the rest of us chow down like there is no tomorrow.

“I was watching the Chicago Sky basketball team yesterday and came up with a great movie idea for you, Rome,” Storm says.

“Everybody wants to be in the movie business,” Rome says.

“Can you blame them?” I say. “What’s your idea, Storm?”

“What if you were to produce a movie about the WNBA competing against the NBA for the first time in history?”

Storm looks at Rome, eager eyes, awaiting for his grand approval, but instead Rome continues eating his pizza, not saying a word.

“Well?” Storm says to Rome.

“I’m thinking about it,” Rome says. “It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not a good idea either.”

“Why not?”

“For starters, it would be totally unbelievable,” Rome says.

“Well, I like the idea,” I say to Storm.

“And I like it, too,” India says. “It looks like you’re outnumbered, Rome. So, you’re going to have to produce that movie.”

“Really?” Rome says. “So, I’ll just grab the money from my ass and produce it?”

“Pretty much,” India says.

“Sounds right to me,” I say.

“That’s right,” India says. “You call your boss in Los Angeles tomorrow and tell him that you are producing this movie.”

“Who’s going to write it?” Rome asks India.

“Thursday will write it,” Storm says. “Right, Thursday?”

“Absolutely,” I say.

I stare across the table at Rome, just finishing off my second piece of pizza, chewing the last bite, when the pizza is somehow causing a stir of arousal inside me.

But how can that be?

Pizza doesn’t ordinarily have this effect on me. It isn’t the pizza at all. It’s me, thinking about sex as I do often, wanting to blame my lust on something other than my thoughts.

In an effort to calm the burning desire inside me, I gulp down my lemonade and don’t stop until I’ve drained the glass.

My behavior does not go unnoticed and Rome asked me, “are you alright, Thursday?”

“I’m fine,” I say. I’m a master at hiding my emotions or so I think.

“I bet I know what’s going on with Thursday,” India says, smiling.

“Why don’t you tell us?” Rome says.

“She’s thinking about stuff, naughty stuff,” India says.

Just as soon as the words come from India’s mouth, I look to her and scratch my head. “How do you know what I am thinking,” I ask India.

“Because I’m thinking those same thoughts myself,” India says.

Is India for real?

How exactly does she know these things? Is there a sign on my forehead that reads: I’m ready for sex? If that’s the situation, I should probably remove it fast.

Luckily for me, Rome changes the subject. “I forgot to tell you, ladies. A new ice cream parlor opened up this week that is so much of a hit that the media is covering the story. I saw it on my way in.”

“This isn’t the shop where a scoop cost $50, is it?” Storm asks.

“That’s the one,” Rome says.

“Come again, I say, “$50 a scoop?

“You heard right,” Rome says.

“Make sure you tell the owner to kiss all of our asses,” India says. “Who’s going to pay $50 for a scoop of ice cream?”

“We are,” Rome says, “They say it’s like no other ice cream in the world.”

“I don’t care if I were as rich as Bill Gates,” I say, “There is no way in hell, I would ever pay $50 for a scoop of ice cream.”

“Rumor has it that…,” Rome says, hesitating.

“Rumor has it, what?” Storm asks.

Rome smiles, teasing us with silence.

“It’s what?” Storm says.

I pour myself more lemonade while I wait for Rome to fill us in on the details of this new ice cream parlor.

Rome spills it. “Rumor has it that it’s laced with some kind of drug that people seem to go nuts for.”

“Really?” I ask, even more curious that ever.

“That would explain why the media is covering the story,” Storm says.

“Laced with some kind of drug,” India says, “but is that legal?”

“No, it’s not legal, but that is the rumor,” Rome confirms.

“So, when are we going to check it out?” Storm asks.

Storm and I are very much attuned to one another because I am dead set on going to this ice cream parlor as well.

Rome wipes his mouth with the napkin. “Well, that’s where it gets a little tricky.”

“How so?” I ask.

“The place is twenty-four hours so we have a couple of options,” Rome says. We can go right after dinner and wait in a long, long line, or we can go between two and five, supposedly when the wait time is a little more bearable.”

“Come again,” I say.

“This must be the best ice cream ever,” India says.

“I know one thing,” Storm says, “We sure as hell are going to find out.”

 

 

It’s a little before eleven that evening when we all ride in Rome’s Jeep Renegade. Our placement in the Jeep is always the same. India up front with Rome, and Storm and myself in the back. We head over to the Stoney Brook Mall and sure enough we see the people in line minutes before we even see the ice cream parlor. But it’s not just a long line, the police are everywhere and of course, the media also.

At the parking entrance, a huge traffic jam has ensued, and all vehicles come to a complete stop. The overcrowded parking lot makes it impossible for us to proceed any further.

Rome rolls down his window and asks a gentleman standing outside his car about the commotion. The ice cream parlor, in its first week of business, has been robbed twice in one night. The funny thing is, no money was taken, only the ice cream.

If hearing about such an unusual robbery as this one is not the most hilarious thing I have ever heard, it’s definitely the second.

 

Episode Seventeen

 

I am in the bathroom, preparing to wash my face when Rome slinks in and positions his body directly behind me. He wears that new Clive Christian No. 1 cologne that India purchased for him, and it fascinates my senses.

In the reflection of the mirror, we both exchange smiles.

He places his hands on my shoulders, his eyes never leaving mine. “I thought about you earlier in an extremely forbidden way,” he says to me.

“Oh, yeah? What were you thinking?”

“I’d tell you,” he says, “but it might embarrass you.”

I swing around, and we are now face to face. “That’s okay. Embarrass me.”

He presses into me and gently pulls my hair, turning my face up to him. I feel woozy again, aroused and wanting him to kiss me, but as the seconds pass, nothing is happening. His hot breath caresses my face, and he asks me, “Did you enjoy our game earlier?”

“I did, and you want to know why?” I say to him.

“Why?”

“Because you make such an awesome mask-wearing kisser.”

“And you make a sensational woman in distress.”

“Next time, you three will be hitchhikers, and I can be a dirty and perverted man.”

“You’re already dirty and perverted,” I remind him.

“Well, even dirtier and more perverted.”

Rome releases my hair and the kiss that I have been waiting for never comes.

“Tell the girls I’ll be into bed in about thirty minutes,” he says to me. “I have a few calls to make.”

I grab a washcloth and hold it underneath the faucet, drenching it in hot water. “I’ll tell them,” I say, trying not to let on just how disappointed I am that he did not make a play for me.

Rome is almost out the door when he backtracks, pulls me close and kisses me… kisses me… kisses me.

What is this man doing to me?

I want to scream.

He’s either reeling me in or pushing me away.

“I’m really glad that you’re here with us,” he says to me.

“And you are the biggest tease EVER.”

“I get that a lot,” he says to me.

And Rome is gone.

I can’t help but wonder. What’s with the periodic unannounced visits to my room?

Is Rome trying to communicate some secret message to me?

Is he ready to settle down with just one woman?

Or is he just a big tease?

My vote: He’s just a big tease.

Rome is quite talented at not just keeping me hooked into his clutches, but at the same time, keeping me suckered into participating in this lifestyle. I am helpless. I’m just so into him.

I think I may be losing my mind.

Then again, maybe I already have.

 

 

In the family sleeping room, India is giving Storm some type of massage, but instead of massaging Storm’s skin like normal folk, India scratches Storm’s body with her long nails. It looks so painful, I turn away.

“Doesn’t that hurt,” I ask Storm.

“No, not at all. I love it.”

I scratch my head for the 58th time since moving into the House of Rome. I will never understand all of this.

“Rome told me to tell you that he would be in to bed in about 30 minutes,” I say to them.

“I know,” Storm says. “He told us.”

Rome is just weird. Why does he tell me to tell them and yet tell them the same thing himself?

India finishes giving Storm a scratch massage, and they both slip into bed. I am then quick to follow suit. With the television tuned to CNN, we all gather with our backs against the headboards.

Whenever I am alone with the girls, I always have so many questions, and today is no different. If love is my middle name, then curiosity is definitely my second.

“You ladies ever think about how we all came to be here in this unique situation?” I ask them.

“All the time,” Storm says.

“When I reconnected with Rome,” India says, “my sex drive was null and void, which was very strange for me. Maybe it was the passing of my mother or the death of my best friend, but I was just not interested in sex.”

“I can’t imagine what’s that’s like,” Storm says.

“Not interested in sex? What’s that?” I say. “Who’s not interested in sex?”

“I wasn’t at the time,” India reminds us both.

“But Rome fixed you up?” I ask India.

“He fixed me up real good,” India says, blinking her eyes.

“I hope you didn’t tell Rome that,” I say to India. “His head is big enough.”

“Too late,” India says. “I already told him.”

In the midst of our intimate girl talk, Rome steps through the door. He wears his white Calvin Klein pajamas pants and white t-shirt. “So, my head is big enough, huh. Better big enough than not big enough.”

Storm winks her eye at Rome. “Here. Here.”

India raises her hand like she’s in school. She obviously has something to say. “May I change the subject, please?”

“In case you haven’t noticed,” Storm says, “We’re not exactly in school.”

“You leave India alone,” Rome says to Storm as he squeezes in between Storm and India. “If she wants to raise her hand, let her.”

“Thank you,” India says, bursting with enthusiasm. “I was thinking about all the fun we had when you showed up at our door wearing a ski mask, and now I have a few ideas of my own.”

“Let’s hear it,” I say.

“How about we girls dress up as doctors and you come to see us for erectile dysfunction?”

“That scenario is older than dirt,” I say.

“I kind of like that idea,” Rome says, “Then again, maybe not.”

“I like it,” Storm says. “And here’s another one. How about Rome is an instructor at a university and us girls are his very naughty students.”

“How naughty?” Rome asks Storm.

“Very, very naughty,” Storm says.

Rome thinks about her statement and smiles. “Why don’t you give me an idea of what I might expect from three naughty students?”

“Well, first off,” Storm says. “We will refuse to wear panties.”

“That’s not naughty,” Rome says. “You never wears panties anyway or India for that matter.”

“Okay,” Storm continues. “We will never do anything that you tell us and you will have to spank us.”

“Sorry to burst your bubble,” India says, “but that game has been played to death. Spanking is yesterday’s fantasy.”

“India is probably right on that one,” I say to Storm.

“I kind of favor India’s original idea,” Rome says. “There’s a lot we can do with that.”

Storm turns her nose up at Rome. “Is it because India is your favorite?”

“No, it’s not,” Rome says, making eye contact with all of us. “I told you before. I don’t have a favorite.”

I have not lived in the House of Rome for long, and I have not been on this earth for long, but here is what I know for sure:

Everyone has a favorite. It’s the secret that everyone knows is no secret.

So the question remains: Who is Rome’s favorite?

Is it Storm?

Is it India?

Or is it me?

 

 

Two hours after we have all gone to sleep, I stare up at the ceiling, still very much awake. I cannot be certain if I can’t sleep, or if I just don’t want to sleep.

I glance over at Storm, India and Rome, and I’m having thoughts again about Rome committing himself solely to me. I have to stop it, but I don’t stop. I can’t. The fantasies feel too good.

I toss and turn and turn and toss. It must be that time of the month. My hormones are all over the place. Overheated and resentful, I fling the covers off of me.

Frustrated to the nth degree, I throw myself into a sitting position. My eyes circle towards Storm, then India. When my eyes reach Rome, I know exactly what I want: Rome.

But how do I ask him for sex with two women sleeping on his side. Staring straight ahead and using every muscle in my brain, the wheels turn and turn and turn some more, and an idea comes to me. Slowly and meticulously, I erupt out of bed and head to the bottom of the stairs. For two minutes, I stand there in the dark and wait before returning to the family sleeping room.

I lean over and touch Rome’s shoulder and whisper in his ear. “Rome, your mother is on the phone.”

Rome awakens fast and I remind him that his mother is on the phone in the next room. I lead the way and he follows. I take hold of his hand and escort him into my bedroom. Once inside, I smile, step to him and octopussy my arms around him.

Rome is quick on his feet and figures it out right away. “My mother isn’t on the phone, is she?”

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t know what else to do to get you out of there and in here.”

“So, this is all about sex, huh?” he asks me, seeming unquestionably flattered.

“Of course, it’s about sex.” I slither my hands up his shoulders and douse him with short kisses, again and again. “Do you want to?” I ask him.

“Want to what?” he asks me, knowing full well what I am talking about.

“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?”

“Of course, I am.”

I exhale a deep breath. Obtaining sex from a man is not supposed to be this damn hard.

“I want to be with you tonight.” I squish his hand tightly. “In this room… in my bed… right now.”

Rome stares at me, romancing me with his pretty brown eyes. “Why don’t you tell me what you really want?”

I slip off my pajama shorts and toss them to the floor. “I want you to sex me up like you did the other night.”

Just hearing myself utter those words causes a fire to erupt inside me and if he doesn’t take me right now, I don’t know what I might do.

“Now, see how easy that was,” he says to me.

I have one thing in mind and one thing only. “Will you do it?” I ask him.

Rome studies me, glides his fingers across my cheeks and over my lips, then says, “No. I won’t.”

“No?” I question him, eyes widened. “No? Did you just say no?”

“That’s right. Do you remember what happened the last time we did that, you wanted to marry me.”

“Come on, Rome. That is an overt exaggeration.”

“Not necessarily.”

I never thought the day would come when I would be pleading for sex like an obsessed woman. “So what? I wanted you to myself. That’s not the worst thing that a girl can ask of a guy.”

“The answer is still no,” he says. His voice is soft but stern.

“Are you saying that you and I will never have sex again?”

“Of course, we will, when I think you’re ready, but not now.” He plucks my pajama shorts from the floor and hands them to me. “Put these back on.”

I stand before him, my eyes glistening, my heart pounding and my thoughts racing.

How can this man just out and out reject me like this?

He kisses me on the forehead twice and says, “Good night, Thursday.”

And Rome is gone.

 

 

Wearing only my panties and a t-shirt, I stand with my back against the door, my eyes closed, head down and my heart singing the jilted woman’s blues.

This man has denied me like I have never been denied before, and I don’t like it.

How can he treat me this way?

I am no dragon, but I am certain that there is smoke coming from my nose and ears. I flop down on my bed and drop my head into my lap, and I don’t move for a long time.

Who does he think he is anyway?

I never wanted to be a part of his harem anyway.

Then it hits me.

I’ll leave.

That’s what I’ll do.

I’ll leave him and this house and be gone forever. Feeling someone in control of my fate, I lift my hand from my lap and my eyes glance upward as I ponder the question:

Can I really give him up?

Do I really want to give him up?

A few seconds pass before the lightbulb goes off in my head and it says: Yes, I can.

It’s one thing for me not to be able to have him to myself. It’s another thing for him to refuse me sex.

I look at the clock on my night table, and I am reminded that we have plans to check out the ice cream parlor at 2:00 o’clock this morning.

Now, I have to decide.

Do I pack my things and leave now?

Or, do I go ahead as planned to the ice cream parlor and vacate the premises upon my return?

It takes me just a few seconds to ponder my options, and in the end, I forge ahead as planned and decide to ditch this pop stand immediately afterwards.

I prefer to sleep in my own bed, but not wanting the girls to know how or why I am so disenchanted with Rome, I return to the family sleeping room and slip into bed next to Storm. My eyes scroll over to the position where Rome would be if he were in bed, but lucky for me, he is not. No doubt he’s on the phone rejecting somebody.

God I hate him!

I just wish I didn’t love him so much.

One thing is certain. My talk with Rome has killed my fire. With that thought in mind, I breathe easily, droplets of tears in my eyes, as this is my last night in the House of Rome.

 

Episode Eighteen

 

The alarm sounds on Rome’s phone at a quarter to two the next day, and as planned, we all rise and prepare to visit the twenty-hour ice cream parlor. On my long list of things I never thought I would do, visiting an ice cream parlor at two in the morning can now be added to that list.

It’s been a short rest for me as I just closed my eyes less than three hours ago after being heinously denied sex by Rome. But I’m over that now. Maybe. The way I see it, there’s nothing but good times ahead for me, and Rome will not be a part of any of it. I am reminded of a positive piece of advice from my favorite author, the late Susan Jeffers: Seek out the good in all of life’s situations. Of course, that advice, like many things in life, is easier to say than actually do. But in this instance, I do just that. The good news is: I am no longer in heat, and that is a great thing.

 

 

Parking is scarce when we arrive at Paradise Ice Cream.

We circle the lot over and over in search of a space. The song Happy by Pharrell Williams is blasting from the parking lot speakers as we pull into one of the few remaining spots available. To say this place is jam-packed is an understatement. To say that every news organization in town is covering this new venue would be stretching it, but to say how completely psyched I am to be here would be absolutely correct, psyched enough to forget how Rome denied me just so few hours ago, but that’s another story for another time.

Before going inside, we add our name to the lengthy waiting list and soon learn that the ice cream cannot be taken to go, but must instead be consumed entirely in-house. That’s strange, but so is the four of us so eager for a new thrill that we wake ourselves from a restful or maybe not so restful sleep at 2:00 a.m.

After a thirty-five-minute wait, we are invited into Paradise Ice Cream by the beautiful redhead hostess.

Is it just a coincidence that the color schemes in this arena are an energetic orange and white?

Or does it mean that I have come to the right place?

This enormous warehouse-like venue is nothing like a typical tiny ice cream shop. Oh, no! This parlor is rich with the fruity aromas of strawberries and lemons, priming me for a good time.

Several tall barrels of large oranges populate the parlor with a warm flavor, security guards are everywhere, and there isn’t an empty table in sight.

My stomach soon plunges when my eyes drop and I soak up a view of the floor. I am standing atop of a see-through glass floor with bubbling bright orange water underneath. The only thing that I can compare it to is standing on top of a six-foot swimming pool. Though breath-taking, it’s also quite unnerving.

The second two things to blow my mind are the see-through glass ceiling and the tangerine orange tables and chairs. There is something about orange that just makes me feel so alive.

The pretty redhead hostess, whose young face is peppered with adorning freckles is dressed in an eye-popping orange body suit and orange mini skirt. She escorts us to our circular table and we all take a seat in the pillow soft semi-reclining chairs. The setup is the same as at home. Rome is positioned between Storm and India and I, as always, am smack dab on the end next to Storm.

I don’t waste much time making myself comfortable in the amazing-never-want-to-get-up chair and soak up the eclectic ambiance of this place.

This is feel-good central.

Everything about this place surprises me, but nothing as much as seeing that the menu for the ice cream is inscribed right on the table.

 

Paradise Ice Cream, where it’s not just good, it’s sexually exciting!

 

We dare you to try our ice cream. We dare you!

 

Our Signature Flavors

Orgasmic Banana

Poison Vanilla

 

By the Scoop – $50

 

By the Pint – $100

 

By the Gallon – $300

 

African Coconut

Bohemian Nut Raisin

British Cookie Crumbs

Canadian Cheesecake

Cuban Coffee

Dutch Caramel

Irish Lemon

Italian Chocolate

Korean Peach

Mexican Strawberry

 

 

Paradise Ice Cream, Inc.

 

Proprietor, Winter Green

 

Come in clean, leave dirty!

 

The pretty redhead hostess who doubles as a server steps to our table, holding an iPad in hand. “Good morning, beautiful people,” she says warmly.

We all return her lively greeting.

My eyes are immediately centered on her bright orange apron which reads: I Can Make You Happy. She is saturated with a sparkling scent of pure lemons, and I like it so much, I move in closer so that I can smell more of it.

“I’m Monti,” she says, extending her hand to all of us.

“Thursday.”

“Storm.”

“Rome.”

“India.”

“It’s a treat to meet all of you,” Monti says, her lively smile energizing all of us. “Are you feeling good this morning?” she asks us. I’m thinking good morning? Then I realize that it is after three in the morning, so technically, it is morning time.

“We’re all feeling pretty good,” Rome says, glancing over at us.

“Pretty good?” she questions. She obviously does not like our answer. “How would you like to feel fantastic?”

I am first to answer with my head lifted high. “We would love that.”

“Is that something that you can help us with,” Storm asks her as she meticulously coats her lips with lip gloss.

“Most certainly,” she says, leaning in towards us. “I’ll put it to you like this.” Monti then pauses and checks her surroundings. She glances to her left, and then to her right before returning her focus to us. “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you all look like awesome people.”

Monti then fetches a chair from the next table and joins us.

If her intention was to stimulate our curiosity, she has masterfully succeeded. We lean in towards her, eager for her to continue.

“All of our ice creams are good,” Monti says, “but there’s one in particular that will have you singing praises to your maker. And that flavor is… orgasmic banana.”

“Really?” I ask her, wondering if what she is saying is actually true, and boy, do I hope that it is.

Her eyes pivot to me… then Storm… then Rome… then India. “You guys want to play or not?” Monti asks us as if she’s referencing some casino game.

For a moment, no one says a word, more than likely, too much in awe to speak. We all exchange looks with each other, giving the secret eye of approval.

“We definitely want to play,” India says.

“Will you actually have an orgasm?” I ask Monti.

“I’ll let you tell me,” Monti replies. Her face is a stone wall, serious as a heart attack, and I have a feeling that she knows what she is talking about.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say this,” Rome says, “Where do we sign up?”

“That’s my boy.” Monti says. “I’ll return with four.”

“I like her,” Storm says.

“What’s not to like?” India agrees.

“Are we really going to pay $50 for a scoop of ice cream?” I ask. “I mean that’s $200.”

I understand that Rome is a wealthy man, but $200 for ice cream is a lot of money.

Storm’s eyes shift to me. She reaches over and touches my hand. “Thursday, how do I say this?” Storm peers into my eyes. “Yes, we’re going to pay $200.”

“Don’t be so concerned about money,” India says to me, leaning back into her chair.

And on that note, I don’t say another word.

“Hey, did India tell you she has a new job?” Rome asks all of us.

“Like that’s a real job,” Storm says in a sour tone.

“No, I didn’t know,” I say.

“You didn’t know,” Storm says with a giggle. “India has a job walking dogs.”

“That’s… interesting,” I say to India. “I didn’t even know you were looking for a job.”

“I wasn’t. It sort of fell into my lap.”

These girls are just full of surprises. I cannot imagine what the next bombshell on the horizon will be.

“I think it’s a fine job,” Rome says to India, leaning over and kissing her hand.

“Thank you,” India says to Rome, then directs her attention to Storm. “And as for you,” India points her finger at Storm. “If I say it’s a real job, then it’s a real job.”

I’m not the only one tickled by India’s last statement. It’s obvious that a volcano of belly laughs is about erupt from Storm and India as they squirm in their chairs, staring at each other before they both explode with giggles.

India finally regains her composure and says to Storm, “I know it’s not a real job, “but what’s important is that I am contributing to society.”

Again, Storm and India burst into laughter. Obviously, not even India believes her own words.

“You two should have your own TV show,” Rome says.

“I agree,” I say. “We could call it The Funny Lives of India and Storm.”

While we patiently await our $50 a scoop ice cream, Storm surfs the web on her Samsung Smartphone, and India, Rome and I breathe easy in our semi-reclining chairs, consuming the mellow atmosphere. I would like to take a quick stroll and see more of this huge factory-like dwelling, but the see-through glass floors with bubbling water underneath terrifies me, and I stay put.

“I almost forgot,” Storm says, bursting with enthusiasm. “If ever there is anyone trying to choke you, just move your head to the left and to the right and it will break their grip.”

“And you are telling us this why?” India asks Storm.

“Because. I saw this special on the Dr. Phil Show the other day. It could come in handy one day.”

Rome chuckles. “Thursday, in case you haven’t already figured it out, both Storm and India are nuts.”

“Why do I have to be a nut?” Storm asks Rome, smiling and seemingly entertained by his words.

“Because you are.” Rome leans over and smooches Storm’s lips.

I am not completely comfortable with Rome kissing other women in front of me, but each time he does it, it becomes a little more bearable.

“Well, maybe I am a little nutty sometimes,” Storm says with a laugh.

“Don’t you worry, Thursday,” India says. “Eventually our nuttiness will rub off on you as well.”

“Maybe it already has.”

Soon our server Monti returns to our table. With her, she brings a platter carrying four giant orange bowls of ice cream with matching orange spoons.

“Okay, beautiful people.” Monti sets the bowls in front of us, and we all ease forward, eyes widened, ready to indulge ourselves.

“Orgasmic banana for four,” Monti says.

“Thank you,” Rome says.

“Now, before you get started on this wild ride that’s about to come, I need to ask a favor.” Monti plucks her business card from her pocket and stuffs it into Rome’s hand. “I’m going to sneak off and take a 15-minute nap. Will you call me in fifteen minutes and wake me?”

“Sure,” Rome says with some hesitation.

“I would ask my boss to do it, but she’ll fire me if she finds out that I’m still taking naps on the job.”

“No problem, Monti,” I say. “We’ll take care of you.”

“I knew I would like you people,” Monti says. “Enjoy! And I’ll see you in thirty minutes.”

Monti is about to step away when I stop her. “Excuse, me, Monti. Are we to call you in fifteen minutes or thirty minutes?”

“What did I say before?” Monti asks as if she’s not for certain herself.

“You said fifteen before,” Storm says.

“Well, in that case,” Monti says, “call me in about forty minutes.”

And Monti is gone.

The delectable bowl of banana ice cream is staring me in the face. Enough of the foreplay, it’s time to get it on.

My first taste is sweet, cold, creamy and lip-smacking good. The banana flavor ignites my taste buds.

Aware of how conscious Storm is of her weight, I glance over at her, expecting to see her eat a spoonful or two and then push the bowl away. But she surprises me and doesn’t do that at all. Instead, she continues to stuff her mouth with spoonful after spoonful of the creamy stuff before her.

After six mouth-watering teaspoons of the orgasmic banana ice cream, a deep peace washes over me and melts into every cell of my being. I drop the spoon from my hand and savor the moment.

Total freaking ecstasy envelops me and saturates my soul, my mind, and my body. I push the bowl away from me and scrunch down into the reclining chair.

Everyone in the world should feel this good.

I am so high right now. I don’t know what’s going on. I lie back and close my eyes while the classic More Than a Woman by the Bee Gees blares from the wall speakers.

There’s so much love in me right now, I could cry.

I wrap my arms around my body, holding myself tightly, my spirits soaring at 30,000 feet.

I am in La-La land.

 

Episode Nineteen

 

This decadent feeling induced by the banana ice cream is causing me to really think about who I am and what I want to do with my life. For the first time in my lack luster writing career, I don’t just want to write a great book, I want to start a movement, and be a part of something magnanimous even if I’m not certain what that would be.

I just want to do something awesome. It must be the ice cream talking because I have never felt like this before, and from the gratified faces of Rome, India, and Storm, the ice cream is working its magic on them as well. Not one unhappy camper can be found. Not in this juncture.

One thing is for certain: There’s definitely more to this ice cream than sugar and cream.

With a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I peer up at the high see-through glass ceiling and breathe ever so easily. Suddenly, leaving the House of Rome no longer appeals to me, and I decide to stay. Though I’m well aware of the reasons why I should leave, there’s one pressing reason that keeps me confined.

I simply don’t want to go. I decide to forget about what happened earlier, and just enjoy what we have now, which is complete togetherness. I release another great breath and smile as this feel-good feeling washes over me. I have to wonder: How long do I get to feel this way?

Not only am I feeling sensational, but now as I peer over at Rome, who excerpts a dangerous sexual energy, exuding availability and readiness, I’m thinking about sex again. But I don’t dare tell him that. I’ve seen that movie before, and I know how it ends.

The wondrously contented expressions plastered across Storm, India and Rome’s face tells me that I’m not the only one in danger of overdosing on euphoria. In this amazing state of bliss, I have questions I want answered, and I want them answered now.

“Okay, I have waited long enough,” I say to Rome. “Are you finally going to tell me what you were doing to Storm that evening that caused her to make all of those noises?”

Rome’s eyes twirl towards me as if he is about to speak, but Storm interjects. “He was strangling me and kissing me at the same time.”

My eyes blink and blink and blink some more. “Really?” I say with a curious smile and then ease back into my chair. Images of Rome strangling me and suffocating me with kisses penetrates my mind with a vengeance. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it, wondering about it, and most of all, fantasizing about it.

In the midst of my erotic-filled daydream, Storm touches my hand and ask me, “Are you interested?”

I am jilted back into real time, and I ease forward. Of course, I’m interested, but I don’t tell them that. Instead, I say, “I don’t think so. It’s a little too out of the box for me.”

“Seriously?” Rome asks me with a chuckle. “Who do you think you’re fooling?”

“Obviously, not you,” I say to him.

“Hey, everybody, I have an idea,” India says. “Let’s start a love group.”

All eyes shoot to India as she slides out of her chair and stands before us. She wears ankle-length pants and a peach cardigan sweater. “Here’s what I’m thinking.” Truckloads of zest and vigor ooze from her mouth as she continues. “We find a group that we love, and we love the hell out of them. It would be the opposite of a hate group.”

Storm laughs. “Maybe you should lie back down.”

“I happen to like India’s idea,” I say, then turn to India. “You just let me know who we’re going to love.”

India returns to her semi-reclining chair and stretches out her hands to us in her giddy state. “Let’s all hold hands. I have something very important to say.”

We connect our hands with each other and wait for India to speak.

India’s eyes rotate over to Rome, then Storm and then over to me. “You guys are my true family. I hope you all know that.” She looks as if she’s about to cry, but she doesn’t. “And I love you.”

Even though it’s definitely the ice cream talking right now, India’s words are sweet and heartfelt.

“Well, I have news for you, India,” Rome says. “We all love you, too. Right ladies?”

“Absolutely.” Storm winks her eye at India and smiles.

“And I want you all to know that if there is anything any of you ever want, please, please don’t hesitate to ask,” India says. “I probably will not be able to help you, but I want you to ask me just the same.”

“There is just so much freaking love in this room, between all of us,” I say, allowing my eyes to fall shut, “And I love it.” I scream, expelling the overabundance of positive energy inside me.

I swing forward because now I have something I want to say. “I might not have a million dollars or big breasts like Halle Berry or a sexy ass like J-Lo, but at least, I have all of you.”

“Who wants a sexy ass anyway,” Rome asks. “What’s it going do for you?”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind an ass like Jennifer Lopez myself,” India says.

“Me either,” Storm agrees.

“You know what ladies,” Rome says. “Listening to all of you talk about breasts, asses’ and millions of dollars has me thinking also, and you want to know what I’m thinking?… I’m the luckiest man alive, and do you want to know why I’m the luckiest man alive?… Because I have it all.”

“I won’t argue with you there,” Storm says, stretching out her arms over her head with a warm glow splashed across her face. “Let’s celebrate and take a trip somewhere.”

“You have my vote,” I say, my eyes twinkling.

“Where should we go?” India asks.

“How about the Virgin Islands or Honolulu?” Rome suggests.

Rome erects himself from his chair. “Life is too sweet. To sweet! Too sweet!”

I have never witnessed this kind of exuberance before in Rome. I’m seeing him in a new light and it’s quite notable.

He stoops down in front of us, showering us with his beautiful eyes and warm smile. “Do you want to know why I’m so lucky?”

“I do,” I say.

“I have the privilege of sharing my life with three remarkable women who I cherish.”

I listen to Rome share with us how lucky he is and India confess her love for us and suddenly I have a notion of my own. “You know what this ice cream makes me want to do? Sing?” I break into a song The Best by Tina Turner, a song I choose when things are looking oh so peachy in my life.

“As I sit here in this luxuriously comfortable chair, listening to Thursday sing and feeling like I can do anything,” Storm says to all of us, “I have decided to forgive my mother for cutting me out of her will.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Rome says to Storm.

This ice cream is having the most amazing and positive effects on all of us.

“As a matter of fact,” Storm continues. “I think it would be a good idea if we all forgave someone.”

“I’m game,” I say to Storm.

Storm looks to Rome. “Rome, what about you, are you game?”

“Let me think about it,” Rome says.

“India?” Storm says. “Is there anyone you need to forgive?”

“Well, there is this one person,” India says, staring straight ahead, “but I’m going to have to think about it. Maybe you could follow up with me in a month or two.”

“And that’s exactly what I’ll do.” Storm washes down three more scoops of ice cream, licking her lips and the spoon. “What is in this ice cream? Why does it taste so good?”

“Why does it make you feel so good?” I say.

Storm throws herself into a standing position, stretches out her arms and lunges forward. “I’m feeling like some salsa right about now.”

Loud enough to wake the dead, Storm yells across the room. “Is there any salsa music in the house?”

Mysteriously, a half minute passes and salsa music blasts from the wall speakers, which shakes me as I was clearly not expecting to hear salsa music.

Now, I’m thinking to myself: Is this some version of Fantasy Island where anything is manifested upon request?

While I enjoy the energetic sounds of the bongos and congas, bopping my head and snapping my fingers, Storm performs her sexy salsa moves. Soon, she is joined by several other enthusiastic dancers, eager to exorcise their bliss like the rest of us.

As I watch Storm and the other joy-filled customers exchange oh so sexy provocative dance moves, I remember that we are to call Monti and wake her from her nap, and we do just that.

India is all sprawled out on the chair, legs and arms open and head hanging off to the side. “I’m not sure I can take it anymore.”

“Take what anymore?” Rome asks her.

“Feeling this good,” India says, wiping the sweat from her face. “I think I’m overheating and I need a cigarette.”

“But you don’t smoke,” Rome says to her.

“I think I might have to start,” India says, struggling to hold her head up.

India’s condition is beginning to startle me. “Are you okay?” I ask India.

“I’m okay,” India says, fanning herself.

Monti approaches our table, looking as lively as ever. “Thanks for the call,” she says to us.

“Of course,” Rome says.

India struggles to hold her head up, raises her hand as if she’s in school. “Monti, can you help me?”

“Sure, baby girl, what is it?”

Sweat pours from India’s forehead. She unbuttons her sweater, exposing her black bra. She is wasted beyond all comprehension. “I need a cigarette.”

Monti steps to India and helps her out of the chair. “We’re not supposed to smoke in here, but because I like you, I’ll see what I can do.”

Monti wraps her arm around India’s back. “Come with me.”

Monti escorts her across the room, and they disappear into a sea of delighted customers.

“I really don’t want India smoking cigarettes,” Rome says.

I have never seen India in such an inebriated state before and it concerns me. We all love the ice cream and all are having a good time, but the ice cream may be having a negative effect on India.

While India is off smoking a cigarette even though she doesn’t smoke and Storm is engaged in salsa dance moves, Rome and I are submerged in the semi-reclining chairs, spread out like lions with a full belly. My chest and stomach are extended to its full capacity. This orgasmic banana ice cream has trumped every negative emotion, thought or memory.

I lean my head over the edge of the chair, soaking up the mood and the intensity of it all, and I savor the moments.

Fifteen minutes later, India returns bubbly and full of life. She is accompanied by a woman, more than six feet tall, wearing thick black framed glasses. She and India are huddled together like teenagers.

“Meet my new best friend,” India says to Rome and me. “Don’t we look great together?” India and the woman are cheek to cheek, gushing with smiling faces. “Dorie, this is Rome and Thursday.”

“Hello, Dorie,” Rome says.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hello,” Dorie says, directing her attention to Rome. “India has told me all about the living arrangement you have with the ladies, and I have to tell you. I want in.”

My mouth falls to the floor. I bend over, pick it up and place it back onto my face. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” I ask this woman.

“What I’m saying is, where can I get an application?” Dorie asks Rome.

Storm ricochets back to the table and resumes a seated position on the reclining chairs. “What’s going on here?”

“Storm, this is Dorie, India’s new best friend,” I say, “Dorie, this is Storm.”

“Hello, Dorie,” Storm says.

Before Dorie has a chance to speak, I say to Storm, “Dorie is interested in joining our family.”

“Or really,” Storm says, studying Dorie from top to bottom.

After an awkward and drawn out silence, Dorie directs her attention to Rome, “So, where can I get an application?”

Rome clears his throat, looks to all of us and smiles. “Dorie is your name, is it?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, Dorie,” Rome says. “I’m not exactly sure what India has told you, but—”

Storm completely cuts Rome off. “What Rome is trying to tell you is that our family is full.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I heard about all the fun you guys have together.”

“It’s okay,” India assures Dorie. “I’ll take your number and let you know if anything opens up.”

“You promise?” Dorie asks India.

“I promise.”

As soon as Dorie returns to her table in the back, Storm’s eyes dart at India. “What is the matter with you? Asking strangers to join our family? Is that what you want?”

“Calm down. I was just having some fun,” India says. “I wasn’t really going to let her join our family.”

“Good because you had me worried,” Storm says.

“I take it you are feeling better now,” I say to India.

“Much,” India says. “Life is grand. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“I would agree,” I say.

When I see Monti at the next table, I raise my hand, summoning her to our table.

“Are we having a fabulous time,” Monti asks us.

“The best,” India says.

“Monti, is there any way we could stay here for the rest of our lives?” I ask her.

“You know how much I like all of you, but unfortunately, there is a two-hour maximum,” Monti says. “There’s hundreds of people outside waiting to get in. I’m sorry.”

“Do you think I could get some more ice cream?” India asks Monti.

Before Monti can answer, Rome interjects. “That’s not necessary, Monti. She’s had enough.”

“No, I haven’t,” India whines.

“Yes, you have,” he insists.”

India squints her eyes at Rome and twists her mouth. She then heads towards Dorie’s table before moving from table to table, speaking to the customers as if she’s on the welcoming committee for Paradise Ice Cream.

Ten minutes pass and just as Rome is placing a $50 tip on the table, India returns to the table and drops down in the chair.

“I’d glad you’re back,” I say to India, “because I have an announcement to make.” I ease forward and uncross my legs. “Ladies, gentleman.” I am bursting with a hint of enthusiasm and seriousness all rolled up into one. I continue. “Let’s make a pact today. Let’s agree to”…I’m thinking, trying to come up with something clever, then it hits me.

“Let’s agree to eat this ice cream every day until we blow up like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.”

“I’ll agree to that,” Rome says.

“Me, too,” India says.

I look to Storm, waiting for her response.

“Storm, are you with us on this?” I ask her.

“Okay, Okay, yeah, let’s do it.” Storm says, surprisingly.

If I could bottle up the positive energy exploding between us right now, there wouldn’t be a bottle large enough to contain it.

“So, let me ask all of you something?” Rome says. “Are you guys feeling good?”

“Is orgasmic banana ice cream good?” I say.

“Does Donald Trump wear hair plugs?” Storm says.

“Is Bill Gates rich?” India says.

We all burst into laughter as it is obvious that we are all stoned out of our minds.

I am caught off guard when Rome switches places with Storm, landing him right next to me. Up until this moment, I have been the odd-girl-out. It’s the first time Rome and I have shared space all morning.

“Hey, you,” he says to me, taking my hand into his and kissing it. “Are you all right over here by yourself?”

“I haven’t been alone,” I remind him. “I have Storm by my side.”

“True, but… having Storm is not the same as having me by your side. Is it?”

I do not speak. I allow my smiling eyes to answer for me.

A slow sexy smile spreads across his face, and my insides melt. His suggestive smile activates my sexual inclinations, and I turn away. I’m just too turned on by him right now.

Monti delivers our check, and I utter a sigh of relief. The sexual tension surges through me. Rome presents her with his credit card, and she disappears into the crowd.

My eyes stretch over to Rome, who can’t help but look edible every waking hour of the day. It should be illegal to look that appetizing, especially in public when there is not much I can do to help myself to an extra-large order of Rome Nicki.

But wait.

Why can’t I help myself to him?

What’s stopping me?

Might he reject me again?

Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

What the hell?

I can’t help myself. I’m doing it. Besides, he started it by switching places with Storm and igniting my sexual itch with his attentive ways.

I don’t think about it anymore.

I hurl myself out of my chair and throw myself onto Rome, drape my arms around him and suffocate him with kisses.

“Something on your mind?” he asks me.

“You bet it is,” I say to him. “Let me show you.” I continue to saturate his face with my mouth and tongue.

Moments later, Storm joins in and climbs upon my back. Now it’s three of us in one chair, me on top of Rome and Storm on top of me. Ten seconds after that, India joins the party, pouncing on Storm like we are a pack of wolves.

I glow because I am a part of that pack.

I gleam with childish delight.

I continue to infuse Rome with my sweet kisses, and it’s perfectly apparent to me that I am not ready to depart from the House of Rome, and not sure if I ever will be.

This is my life, my family, and there is no other place I’d rather be.

 

Episode Twenty

 

A night like no other has come to a close, and there is much to write about in my journal. Not only is this day edged in my memory banks for all time to come, but to make certain of this fact, we have in our possession tangerine orange bowls and matching spoons as complimentary gifts from Paradise Ice Cream.

The time is five o’clock in the morning when we return home, and though exhausted, I’m not ready to turn in just yet. I am still drenched in feel-great feelings. Somehow, sleeping right now just isn’t all that important. I am compelled to grab a pad and pen and plot out my future for the next five years. There is so much I want to accomplish, including finishing the book I started and perhaps penning a sequel.

There is something magical about blissful emotions that make me want to conquer the world. I consider myself a happy person, what I experienced at Paradise Ice Cream is beyond my wildest adventure.

I do not make it to work the next morning. It was never my intention to do so anyway. As this is happening more and more, I wonder if I might take Rome up on his offer, resign from my position with Perrin and devote my life to writing full time.

Around noon, we all congregate at the breakfast nook, filling our bellies with waffles and orange juice.

Unanimously, we all agree that the ice cream was definitely spiked with something. What was the something? It’s anyone’s guess, but for certain, it was more than just bananas.

“No cream and sugar ever made me feel this good before,” Storm says.

When the doorbell rings, I say to Rome. “I bet it’s your mother, coming to taunt us again.”

Rome rises from the table and heads towards the front door. He then stops in his tracks and turns to us. “She’s not coming anywhere near this place as long as she thinks that it could be haunted.”

Several moments later, Rome returns to the dining area. He is joined by a tiny uniform police officer, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. He’s a, what is the politically correct term, little person. I want to say midget, but I understand that to be offensive to some.

I drink in his miniature frame, and do a double take again, again and again.

Am I seeing this right?

It’s apparent from the frozen stares on India and Storm’s faces that they are just as startled by his itsy-bitsy anatomy as I am.

“Good afternoon,” the police officer says. “My name is Officer Starter Kit.”

When he announces his name, I so much want to laugh and I almost do, but I stop myself.

“My apologies for interrupting your lunch,” Officer Kit says to us. He’s balding and wears sunglasses.

Rome directs his attention to India. “Officer Kit has some information for you about Doggie.”

India wipes the remnants of strawberry waffles from her mouth, rises and steps to Officer Kit. She rubs the palm of her hands together, seemingly keen on hearing what he has to say. “You have information for me?”

“I just wanted to follow up with you regarding your missing dog.”

“Did you find her?” India asks.

“Well, one of our investigators has been looking into the matter, and we believe, based on your description, that she was spotted in Puppy Lane about two days ago.”

“I figured as much,” Rome says. “She’s always been fond of that place.”

“What was she doing?” India asks Officer Kit. “Did she look happy?”

Officer Kit skims through his notes. “May I sit down?” he asks Rome.

“I’m sorry,” Rome says and pulls out a chair for Officer Kit. “Of course.”

Officer Kit benches down in the kitchen chair and it is a sight to see as his feet do not reach the floor. I lower my head in an attempt to keep from howling like a cow, but it’s too late. A small chuckle sneaks through.

I cover my mouth, hoping that no one heard me, but it’s evident that they did when Rome delivers me one of those please-stop-embarrassing-me looks.

Officer Kit continues on, thumbing through his notes. “From what my detective documented in this report, Doggie seemed quite content. Let me ask you something,” Officer Kit says, looking at us. “Was Doggie in a relationship at all?

“No, she’s single,” India confirms right away.

Now, I’m scratching my head. Again. Did India just say that her dog was single?

India continues. “Doggie did fool around here and there, but there was no one special.”

“Are you sure about that?” Officer Kit asks, continuingly studying his notes.

“Do you know something that I don’t?” India asks him.

Officer Kit closes his notebook. “I’ll say this. From my detective’s notes, Doggie was neck and neck with another Beagle, who goes by the name Handler.”

“I know Handler,” Storm says. “He stays down the street, a very affluent background.”

“Well, I don’t think Handler is staying down the street anymore as Handler and Doggie have supposedly made a life together on the run,” Officer Kit says.

“Really?” India says. Her voice is soft and innocent.

“It pains me to say this or ask this for that matter,” Officer Kit says, “but did someone here have a falling out with Doggie?”

I rest my head inside my hands. My eyes are closed as I smirk. The way that they speak of Doggie, including the police officer, as if she’s human is more than I can stomach, however, at the same time, I find it insanely entertaining.

India’s eyes pivot to Rome, and then to Storm as if awaiting some kind of confession.

“I’m the guilty party,” Storm says, holding her head in shame. “I did switch her dog food.”

India’s eyes turn towards Storm. “You didn’t tell me that.”

“I just felt like she was getting a little too chunky,” Storm says.

“I told you Doggie doesn’t like that healthy stuff,” India says to Storm. “She has made it abundantly clear that she likes to eat what she likes to eat.”

“Okay, I get it,” Storm says. “I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.”

“Officer Kit,” India says, “Do you think you or one of your detectives could get word to her that if she comes back home, she would not have to eat healthy dog food anymore?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Officer Kit says, easing out of the chair, “but I can’t make any promises.”

“And one more thing,” India adds. “Will you tell her that things will be different around here from now on if she comes back?”

“Will do,” the officer says.

Rome escorts Officer Kit out and though I want to see the car that he came in, I stay back until I know he’s gone. As soon as I hear the front door close, I rush to the front room and peek out the window. Totally unprepared for what I am to see, I gasp when I see Officer Kit’s tiny helmet and tiny bicycle, seeming designed just for his little body. If I weren’t seeing it with my own eyes, I would not believe any of this.

 

 

We have all just finished brunch when I empty the remnants on my plate into the trash. I then place everyone’s dishes into the dishwasher and wipe down the table and kitchen counters.

“You guys want to come with me to Puppy Lane to look for Doggie?” India asks us.

“I would love to,” I say to her, “but I’m already late for work.”

“I’ll go with you,” Storm says.

“If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my office reading until my eyeballs pop out,” Rome says before heading into another room.

Storm and India are on their way out when I head upstairs to dress for work. It’s already one in the afternoon, and with so much planned for me at work, my boss would rather I come in late rather than not at all.

Dressed in my navy blue leggings, flip flops and a long white shirt, I grab my clutch purse and head out. Once I reach the outside and open my car door, I stop myself. It dawns on me that with Storm and India having gone searching for Doggie, Rome is alone in the house.

I am already a million hours late for work, but I can’t help spying on Rome before I go. This is a rare moment as Storm and India are always around.

Buzzing with curiosity and anticipation, I make a U-turn back into the house. With a smile on my face, I tip toe towards his office. His office door is open and his back is to me. He faces the window, sitting in his emperor-like chair, reading.

For two minutes, I stand in the doorway, watching him with an eye of adoration. My heart swells with a nervous elation. I’m breathing him, drinking him and consuming him. My want for this man seizes every ounce of my pride, shallowing my breath. Absorbing more of him, I massage my temples and slowly move my head from left to right. I’m wasted, wasted with lust. Then, I realize something. I’m jealous. I want him to target me the same way that he focuses on the script before him, but that’s not likely to happen.

Having enjoyed the view long enough, I am about to head out to work.

“I hear you breathing back that there, Thursday,” Rome says to me.

When I hear these words come from Rome’s mouth, I gasp and almost pee in my panties.

My breathing couldn’t possibly be that loud. Or could it?

And if so, how did he know that it was me and not anyone else?

Seeing that I have been found out, I step into his office. Rome swivels his chair around towards me. “You know stalking is illegal.”

“I wasn’t stalking you,” I say, knowing full well that is exactly what I was doing.

“What’s your term for it?” he asks me.

“I was just checking you out.”

My head must be harder than a brick because even after Rome denied me sex not more than 48 hours ago, I’m seriously considering asking him away.

Am I nuts?

Can I not take a hint or what?

I hoist myself up on the edge of his desk, cross my legs and allow my flip flops to fall to the floor. “So, what are you reading?” I ask him. My voice is innocent and light.

“A story about a personal assistant who instead of going to work, decides to stalk this movie producer.”

“I was not stalking you,” I say with a chuckle, hoping he might believe me though I know that he won’t.

“You believe what you want to believe,” Rome says, “And I’ll believe what is true.”

Rome smiles at me, and I’m bombarded with so much want that I might pass out. In this unofficial drunken state, I cannot resist the urge to be rejected one more time. “You want to go upstairs?” I ask him, my eyes glancing upwards.

“Upstairs?” he questions me as if he doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

“Yeah,” I say, uncrossing my legs. “Don’t you want to take me upstairs and… put me in a coma?”

“Is that what you want?” he asks me, skeptical.

“Yeah. That’s what I want.”

At this moment, I want Rome to set his script down and escort me upstairs, but he says nothing. He strokes his chin. He is deep in thought.

“What do you think?” I ask him, hoping with everything in me that he might say yes. “Do you want to?”

“Yes, I want to,” he says easing back into this chair, “but I’m not going to.”

My mouth falls open in a frozen state.

Is he rejecting me again?

I slide off his desk, my eyes darting at him, mouth twisted. “Why do you have to be such a hard ass?” I say right before I storm out of his office.

 

 

This is it.

How dare he refuse me sex?

Who does he think he is anyway?

I have had it with this lifestyle, and I have had it with Rome. I yank my tote bag from the closet and snatch my clothes from the hangers and toss them into the bag. I consider waiting to say goodbye to the girls, but I fear that if I don’t leave now, I might change my mind. I’m sure of it.

Not only will Rome never be totally mine, but he won’t even award me the one thing he can offer me.

I simply cannot win with this man.

I have grown to really love living here with Rome and girls, but my time here has simply run its course.

An hour later, after informing Perrin that I would not be in to work after all, I reach my apartment and unpack my things. Having changed into a pair of shorts and a V-neck t-shirt, I lounge in front of the television, watching reruns of Will & Grace while I sip on a glass of lemonade. I would rather drink something stronger, say a bottle of wine, but there is none.

My eyes are glued to the television, but my mind is somewhere else. Memories of Rome rejecting me for the second time replay over and over in my head.

How can he reject me so easily without some much as batting an eye?

How does he do it?

How can he be so sexy, kind, smart, witty, so phenomenal in bed, and at the same time, be such an asshole?

I mute the television, exhale a deep breath, lie back on the sofa and stare up at the ceiling. Just when things were going so well for me in the House of Rome, everything comes to a complete stop and I leave.

And why?

Because Rome is such a hard ass.

In the midst of reliving the awful events of the day, there is a knock on my door. I lunge up from the sofa, oozing anticipation. I scurry towards the front door in my bare feet. It can only be one person: Rome.

I swing the door open and sure enough, it is him. He wears jeans, tennis shoes and, of course, his Fedora hat.

“What? You don’t say goodbye,” Rome asks me. “You just up and leave?”

“I was going to call you,” I tell him. I’m aware that my behavior is impulsive, but I am upset and hurt.

“No, you weren’t,” he says to me, studying me with his dangerous brown eyes. “May I come in?”

I step aside so that he can enter. I am now angry and flattered. Angry that he will not give me what I want, but flattered that he came to see me.

I return to my comfortable position on the sofa in front of the television. Rome follows behind, steps in front of the television and shuts it off.

He then surprises me when he removes his shoes, his socks, his t-shirt, and his jeans. His magnificent brown eyes do not leave me. With butterflies rumbling in my stomach, my mouth hangs open and I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, I’m still angry with him for rejecting me, but I am unbelievably grateful that he is giving in to me now. Still the same, I don’t dare let him know that. As far as he’s concerned, I’m not that easy.

Wearing only his black boxer shorts, he stretches out his hand to me and moves towards me.

Looming before me, he is quite a remarkable vision.

He slithers his way on top of me, nudging me down into a horizontal position, pressing me into the sofa cushion. With my eyes closed, he brushes his fingers across my neck and then behind my ears. I treasure his touch.

He then kisses me… kisses me… rough, hard and long.

“Did you really think I was going to let you get away from me that easily?” he asks me.

I don’t answer him. I simply cannot resist this man.

I open my mouth to speak but before I can, his mouth is on mine, kissing me… kissing me.

I am so turned on by his scent, his touch, the weight of his body and his voice.

Paralyzed by the lips, I breathe in deeply, wanting him more and more. He slides my shorts and panties aside and sinks in two fingers, and it drives me crazy. His fingers circle deep inside me, easing out, then easing in and out slowly and then he slams into me.

“Is this what you wanted?” he asks me.

Again and again, he assaults me with his fingers, and I want to scream in elation. I forge full-speed ahead and accept his love that I need so desperately.

 

 

In a place of perfect peace, I’m wrapped around a naked Rome Nicki. He holds me close. Rome and I lay cuddled on my sofa, both of us very much awake.

A long gaping breath escapes from my mouth and I smile. I can see again.

Rome has delivered to me exactly what I wanted.

I slink my way out from between his arms and head into the bathroom. Upon my return, Rome is sprawled out on his back.

“Hey, you,” I say to him, before resuming my snug position next to him. I’m soaring in a ray of sparkling light as Rome has dazzled my spirits.

He gifts my hand with a kiss. “I want you to come back home.”

At this moment, I feel desired and loved, and I must ask myself:

Am I really prepared to continue on with this man after everything he puts me through? I mean, he’s so complicated, but then again, what other choice do I have?

Am I really going to sever all ties with him because I can’t have him all to myself?

I don’t think so, at least not today and definitely not tomorrow either.

Not wanting to appear overly eager to return home so easily, I don’t answer Rome’s question right away. After a short silence, he asks again. “Will you come back home?”

I have already made up my mind to return, having decided the minute he showed up at my door, but I don’t want him to know that.

I turn and shift my body towards him. “Give me one good reason why I should,” I say with a spoonful of enthusiasm.

“Because I want you to,” he says, stroking his nose against mine.

“That’s good enough for me.”

 

 

In my Volkswagen Beetle, Rome trails behind me in his Jeep Renegade as we enter the Eisenhower Expressway. The sun beams through the windshield, and the AC is going full blast. With my eyes focused on the road in front of me, it occurs to me that I have officially joined Rome’s harem.

I sleep in bed with him and his two ladyloves, even though it was supposed to be a one-night only event.

I shower with all of them, even though I said it was too kinky for my taste.

And, I have sex with him, even though I said I would never share a man.

What else is there?

The secret is out.

I am an official member of Rome’s team.

 

 

Back at the House of Rome, Team Nicki prepares homemade pizza. Rome and I create the pizza dough, while Storm whips up a dinner salad.

India sits atop of the dining room table, reading a book: “Everyone has known a nice girl. She is the woman who will overcompensate, gives everything to a man she barely knows, without him having to invest much in the relationship.”

Storm and I exchange a what-the-heck-is-she-reading look, and India continues. “She’s the woman who gives blindly because she wants so much for her attention to be reciprocated.”

“India, what are you reading?” Rome asks her.

Why Bitches Will One Day Rule the World,” India says.

“And the next question is,” Rome says, “Why are you reading this?”

India closes the book, then slides off the dining room table. She approaches Rome with her hand on her hip and her head held high. “This book is a wakeup call for me. As of today, I am no longer going to make myself so accessible to you. Not anymore. I’m going to be what some call unavailable.

Storm wipes her hands on the dish towel. “Okay, at the risk of asking a question that makes sense, why?”

“Because. I think I might be one of those too nice girls.”

“You,” I ask India, laughing.

“Yes, me,” India states with conviction.

India’s eyes cycle to Rome. “Do you think I’m too nice?”

“Do you want the long answer or the short answer?” Rome asks her.

“I want the long answer.”

“No,” Rome says. “No. You are not too nice.”

“How is that the long answer?” India asks Rome.

“The short answer would have been to not answer the question at all,” Rome says.

I laugh because it’s intimate moments like this one, when we reveal our true thoughts and feelings that make living in the House of Rome such an unforgettable experience.

“I don’t care what any of you think,” India says. “I’m going to be one of those women who is hard to get. It’s going to be a stretch for me, but it will be worth it.”

I rinse my hands in the sink, dry them with the towel, then stretch out my hand to India. “May I see that book?”

“No.”

“At the risk of asking another question that makes sense,” Storm says. “Just how do you propose to become one of those unavailable women as you so eloquently put it?”

“I’d like to hear this myself,” Rome adds.

“You’ll find out,” India says, hoisting herself up on the kitchen counter. “All of you.”

“Could you tell us now?” Storm asks her. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait.”

“I’m with Storm,” I say. “We can’t afford to be in the dark about this.” It’s curiosity more than anything else that’s driving me to know what India’s future plans are.

“I’m not exactly sure just yet,” India says.

Rome steps around the counter and stands before India. “Does this mean that you’re forfeiting your place in bed, too,” Rome asks India.

“That’s a good question,” India says, glancing up at the ceiling as if searching for the answer. “I have not made up my mind just yet.”

I can’t imagine how this narrative of India’s will play out, and, most of all, how it will affect us all.

 

 

It’s time for bed and, as usual, I am odd-woman out. Storm and India both secure their place on opposite sides of Rome as India chooses not to forfeit her space in bed, not that I had expected her to anyway. Unless something out of the ordinary happens, our sleeping arrangements are likely to remain this way for some time.

With our eyes focused on the pornographic cable movie channel before us, we all congregate with our backs against the headboard. This unusual moment of four adults sitting in bed watching porn exemplifies why I love it here in the House of Rome.

It’s different.

It’s fun.

And more importantly, it’s incredibly entertaining.

Fifteen minutes into the movie, India erupts out of bed and shuts off the TV.

“It was just getting to the good part,” Storm says.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to watch porn anymore,” India says, her arms folded, her lips pouting.

“And that would be why?” Storm asks her.

“Do you have to ask?” India asks Storm. “Think about it. What does porn really do for you?”

“It makes me feel pretty good,” Rome says.

“Me too,” I say.

“Me three,” Storm agrees.

“And what else?” India asks.

“Isn’t that enough?” Storm says to India. “India, I’m not trying to be funny or anything, but are you still taking your Paxil?”

“No. I never took it to begin with,” India says.

“I see,” Storm says, glancing over at me as if to say that explains a lot.

“India,” Rome says, stretching out his hand to her. “Why don’t you come back to bed, and tell us what’s bothering you?”

“No!”

“No?” Rome questions her.

“This lifestyle of ours is just weird,” India says. “Why are four grown people in the bed watching porn? Doesn’t that seem odd to any of you?”

“Sounds very normal to me,” I say.

“I wouldn’t call it weird so much as it is different and different is good,” Rome says. “We love different around here. Look at Storm’s hair.”

Storm shifts her head, proud to show off her ocean blue hair.

“Do any of you ladies remember this old, old movie, The Little Girl Down the Lane starring Jodie Foster?” Rome asks us.

“Yeah,” India says. “I remember that bitch.”

“Who are you calling the bitch?” Storm asks, “Jodie Foster or the little girl down the lane?”

“The little girl down the lane,” India answers. “She didn’t work and sat around all day drinking.”

“But, India,” Storm says. “That’s the same thing you do every day yourself.”

“Not really,” India says in her defense.

“Yes, really,” Storm says.

India drops down at the foot of the bed, her arms still folded, and her lips still pouting. “I don’t want to be easy anymore.”

“Here we go again with that,” Rome says.

“Yes, our lifestyle is unique, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot better than what some people have,” I say.

“She’s right, India,” Storm says.

It occurs to me that I never understood why Rome asked us about the movie, The Little Girl Down the Lane. “Why were you asking us about that Jodie Foster movie?”

“I was going to make a point,” Rome says, “but I’m not sure it’s relevant anymore.”

Rome stumbles out of bed, gently grasps India’s hand and escorts her into the next room.

I have been here long enough to know that this is just another stunt of India’s to make her mark in the annals of the House of Rome. A pattern is emerging right before my eyes. Whenever India or I are on the verge of leaving or threatens to leave, Rome manages to always pawn us back with sex. It happened with me, and it is no doubt happening right now with India.

At this moment, I find it odd that both India and I have threatened to leave at one time or another, but not Storm. She has never threatened to leave, at least not that I am aware of. Perhaps, she’s more mature than India and myself, or maybe it’s something else altogether.

 

 

My employer Perrin and I exit Crate & Barrel after just purchasing new dinnerware for his upcoming dinner party for two. We stroll along Michigan Avenue, sipping iced coffee underneath the blazing sun.

I’m not a true coffee drinker, but today for the first time, I sample iced coffee and find it okay at best.

Perrin and I wait for the light to change at Delaware Street so that we can cross when a shiny Jeep Renegade catches my eye, bringing visions of Rome front and center in my mind.

“It pains me to say this,” I say to Perrin, “but I’m having those feelings about Rome again.”

“What feelings?”

“You know, those feelings where I want him all to myself. I think we are just born to want our own.”

“I thought you got that stuff out of your system,” Perrin reminds me.

“Those feelings will never be out of my system.”

“So why are you still there?” he asks me.

I know the answer to his question, but I don’t answer right away. I’m stalling. “I love him, and right now if I want to be with him, I have to do it on his terms,” I look to Perrin, smiling, hoping he might advise me in such matters “unless you have any better ideas.”

“It sounds as if this man has made up his mind.”

“Are you sure there’s no voodoo I can do or spell I can cast that will make him want only me,” I ask Perrin. I’m sort of kidding, but then again, maybe not so much.

“Are you sure you want to go to those extremes for the sake of a man?” he asks me.

I glance upward, studying the sky for a brief moment, then turn to Perrin and smile. “Yes.”

 

 

At two o’clock in the morning, Rome, India, Storm and I head over to Paradise Ice Cream, only to learn that it has been effectively shut down. It’s obvious the word got out that they were selling more than just cream and sugar.

Instead of returning to bed, we pour ourselves a glass of Chardonnay and plan Storm’s B-day extravaganza. With the assistance of Rome, his money and his connections, Storm is going to be Beyoncé for a night. That’s right.

To make this happen, Rome plans to rent out the United Center, hire a band, populate the stadium with five thousand extras, all for the sake of creating a star-like experience. Storm is even going as far as to work with a choreographer to learn the dance moves from five of Beyoncé’s top songs. This will be a B-day like no other.

An hour later, we are all in bed, and an interesting thought comes to me. “We have been talking so much about Storm’s B-day, I’d be curious to know how you might want to spend your B-day,” I ask Rome.

“Every year for the last seven years, I have spent my B-day with my mother.”

“Really?” I say. “That’s so sweet.”

“And creepy,” Storm adds.

“Watch it,” Rome says to Storm. “There will be no negativity towards mother, no matter how different she might be.”

As we all drift off to sleep, I am reminded once again why Rome is truly the apple of my eye.

It’s impossible for me to not love a man who loves his mother.

And that’s a wrap.

 

 

It’s been an hour since dinner.

Congregating in the living room, India is asleep on the floor, Rome does pushups, Storm brushes her hair, while I watch an old Richard Gere movie, Internal Affairs.

Rome counts 100, then pushes himself off the floor. “Ladies, I have something to say to you, and you’re not going to like it.”

Storm and I sit snug on the sofa, holding hands, both of us eager to discover what Rome has to say.

Rome stands before us, adjusting his Fedora hat on his head.

Before Rome has a chance to say a word, “Storm says, “You’re adding another woman to the family.”

As soon as Storm makes the statement, my mouth hangs open. It never occurred to me that Rome might one day bring another woman into the home.

“No, not that,” he says to my relief.

“Before you go any further,” I say to Rome. “I’m just curious about what Storm said about another woman coming into our family? I didn’t know that another woman a possibility.”

“Why wouldn’t it be a possibility?” Rome asks me.

I’m still struggling to contend with two other women in our bed. There’s no way I can deal with three.

“Because it’s already three of us here,” I say to him. “I doubt we need anyone else.”

“Who said anything about need?” he continues. “If it were to happen, it would be because of something I wanted not needed.”

“And is that something that you want?” I ask him, afraid of what he might say.

His eyes gloss over me while I wait for his answer, the butterflies in my dancing up a storm.

“I’m perfectly happy with the ways these are right now.”

“Okay,” I say. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

Storm’s eyes shoot to me. “I like you, Thursday. You’re not afraid to speak up and say what’s on your mind.”

“I doubt anyone in this house is afraid to speak her mind,” Rome says. “Moving along, shall we?”

“Should I wake up India,” I ask Rome.

“No, I’ll fill her in later. Here’s the situation,” Rome begins. “My mother is adamant about my moving since I told her the house was haunted.”

“But I don’t want to leave this house. I love this house,” Storm says.

“And we’re not going to leave,” Rome assures Storm. “She only wants me to move. I didn’t say that we were actually going to.”

“What are you going to do then,” I ask Rome.

Before Rome can answer, Storm asks him, “Did you tell her you had the house cleansed?”

“That was the first thing I told her,” Rome says. “But she’s not convinced that it is really cleansed. In her mind, once haunted, always haunted.”

“So, what’s left,” I ask Rome.

“Well, I thought about it, and I’m going to tell her the truth.”

“About what?” I ask him. Surely, he can’t mean what I think he means.

“About everything.”

“Everything as in everything?” Storm says.

“Yes, I’m going to divulge it all, in short, reveal everything about all of us.”

“I never thought that day would come,” Storm says to me.

“But really, Rome,” I ask him, “Is it really so bad, telling her that we all play together?”

“Before Rome can answer,” Storm interjects again. “Yes, it is.”

“So when is all of this going to take place?” I ask Rome.

“Unfortunately, sooner than later.”

“This isn’t going to be the end of our living arrangement, is it?” I ask Rome.

Before Rome can answer, Storm interjects. “Trust me. Rome will never let that happen.”

 

 

The humongous walk-in shower, which is a part of the family sleeping room is as big as some people’s bedroom, complete with three shower heads and fluorescent lighting.

A shower for four is the norm here in the House of Rome.

It’s simply what we do, how we express our affections for one another, and how we promote a sense of togetherness.

This is the thought that bombards my mind as Storm washes my back, while Rome soaps up hers and India scrubs his.

It’s what we do.

Twenty minutes later, energized and squeaky clean, I step from the shower and dry myself off. Rome, India and Storm soon follow.

While in the midst of our towel drying extravaganza, the doorbell rings.

It can only be Rome’s mother as it’s not even noon.

Rome slips into his bathrobe and heads downstairs while Storm, India and I all disperse into our private rooms.

I’m in the midst of sprinkling baby powder on my chest and thighs when Rome yells from downstairs.

“India? There’s someone here to see you.”

Curious, I head downstairs myself. Not surprisingly, Storm and India are already ahead of me, descending the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs, next to Rome, is a cute Beagle.

India’s dog has come home. I witness an enthusiastic Doggie rush towards India, licking her face and wagging her tail.

“Doggie, you’re back,” India says, reaching out her arms to hold her. “Things are going to be so much better this time around. You watch.”

Doggie barks.

If dogs could talk, I’m sure she was saying, we’ll see.

Storm scoots down in front of Doggie and pats her head. “We’ve missed you.”

Rome holds in hand a small black and white suitcase.

“Are those Doggie’s things?” India asks Rome.

“I believe so,” Rome says.

My eyes study the black and white suitcase, and I scratch my head. “Where did you find that suitcase?”

“It was on the doorstep,” Rome says. “I guess she brought it with her.”

“But who carried it,” I ask, dumbfounded.

“Doggie carried it,” India says. “Who else?”

Silly me. I guess I should know these things, however, where I come from, dogs don’t transport luggage.

India’s eyes rotate to Storm. India’s expression is suspicious and stern. “Don’t you have something to say to Doggie?”

Storm rubs Doggie’s head. “I apologize for trying to feed you healthy food. I should have known better.” Storm strokes Doggie’s collar. “Do you forgive me?”

Doggie jumps into Storm’s arms, signifying an obvious yes.

As long as I live in this house, I will never understand how a dog, a creature with four legs and a tail has been elevated to human status.

 

Episode Twenty-One

 

St. Daniella’s Catholic Church is the arena chosen for the long overdue meeting between Momma Nicki and Rome.

It’s six o’clock in the evening when Storm, India, Rome and I file inside and find Momma Nicki already seated on the black walnut pews.

Storm, India and I flock around Momma Nicki and make ourselves comfortable as the burning incense provides a sweet, cozy and welcoming feel to the church.

I kiss Momma Nicki on the cheek. “Good to see you again, Momma Nicki,” I say to her.

Momma Nicki shrugs and wipes my kiss from her cheek. “There’s not going to be all that kissing stuff. Momma doesn’t like all of that kissing.”

I lower my head to avoid exposing how tickled I am by her reaction. Momma Nicki does not offend me. She amuses me.

She holds her head high, clutching her purse. She’s ready.

Rome paces before us, his hands behind his back, and his head down. I have never seen an unnerved Rome before, and it is quite revealing.

Are his lies getting the best of him?

Rome stops pacing. His eyes make contact with his mother and then with us. “Mother, ladies, I have an important announcement to make.” He removes his Fedora hat, which is a first. His dark hair is slicked back and shiny.

“Mother, this meeting is really for you. I have something of a pressing nature to divulge to you.” Rome pauses. His mouth opens but nothing comes out, then, “Mother, it gives me no pleasure to say to you what I have to say to you today.”

Eager for this profound confession of his, I glance up at the 19th Century French-cut chandelier and think to myself: enough already with the setup, snap to it. Let’s hear that confession.

Rome continues. “First and foremost, what I said about the house being haunted was completely untrue.”

“You lied to your momma?” Momma Nicki asks Rome. Her voice is shallow and somber.

“I didn’t so much lie as I bent the truth.”

“No, Momma Nicki.” Storm leaps to her feet. “He lied.”

Storm smiles at Rome and winks her eye at him and he winks back. More than anything, he seems amused by Storm’s attack on him.

“You lied to your momma?” Momma Nicki ask him again.

“I’m sorry, mother.”

Momma Nicki grabs hold of her forearm as if to calm herself.

“And you should be,” Storm says to Rome, returning to a sitting position.

Momma turns to face Storm, admiration in her eyes. “I have always liked you, Storm. No disrespect to you other pretty ladies.”

Rome stuffs his hands into his pockets. “And there’s something else which will be even more painful for you to hear. So here it goes.”

A long silence as Rome’s eyes pan across at me, then Storm, then India. Then, Rome drops his head. “I have been living in shame with all three of these women.”

Storm, India and I all exchange comical looks with one other. Rome is quite the performer.

Momma Nicki issues Rome a look of disapproval and then folds her arms.

“So you see the house is not haunted at all. I only told you that because I knew if you stayed over, you would find out what I was doing.”

Momma Nicki rises to a standing position and steps around to Rome.

She raises her hand and looks as if she’s about to strike him, but she doesn’t. She studies him, not saying anything while Rome tries to hide his amusement.

“You’ll pray for me, won’t you mother?” Rome asks her.

I steal a peek at India and Storm who are enjoying these comedic moments as much as I am.

“Of course, I’ll pray for you, Son,” Momma Nicki says, apparently her heart softening. “After all, if momma is not in your corner, who is?”

She stretches out her arms to hug Rome and pats him on his back, having obviously forgiven him.

This confession played out a lot smoother than I would have imagined. I expected more of a theatrical explosion from his mother, but she surprises me. Just when I believe the show to be over, Rome continues with the charade. “I’ve been seeing a psychologist for the last two weeks,” Rome says to his mother. “And we’re making some real progress.”

Momma Nick resumes a sitting position and holds her head high.

“What’s the doctor’s name, Rome?” India asks Rome.

“His name,” Rome questions, obviously fishing for a fictitious name. He and India share an undercover laugh. “I’m going to get you for this,” he says to India.

“His name, please,” India repeats, seemingly enjoying putting him on the spot.

“You do know his name, don’t you,” Storm suggests.

“How do you know that it’s a man?” Rome says to Storm. “Maybe it’s a female doctor. Did you ever think about that?”

“Quit stalling, Rome,” I add, “And just tell us the name of this freaking doctor.”

We all know that he’s making this up and enjoy sticking it to him.

“His name? His name is Dr. Boze,” Rome says.

“You mean Bozo?” I ask him, attempting to be funny.

“No, not Bozo,” Rome corrects me. “Dr. Boze.”

“What’s his first name?” India asks him.

“His first name is Jedi,” Rome says. “That’s right. His name is Jedi Boze.” Rome looks to his mother. “You believe me don’t you, mother?”

“Of course, I do,” Mamma Nicki says to Rome. “I know my baby boy wouldn’t lie to me for a second time.”

Not only is Rome lying for the second time, but a third time, and a fourth time and round and round he goes.

“I’m actually quite interested in this progress that you say you and your doctor are making,” I say. “I would like to hear more about that.”

“As I,” Storm agrees.

“Well, if you must know,” Rome assures us all. “I’m getting to the root of why I have this affliction of wanting to have several women in my bed. I mean in my life.”

“You were right the first time,” Storm says.

“And what exactly is at the root of it?” I ask Rome.

“I would be curious to hear this myself,” India says.

“Like I said,” Rome declares. “We are just getting to the root of it. We haven’t exactly uncovered the cause just yet.”

Momma Nicki’s eyes turn to Rome. “You couldn’t possibly continue this kind of lifestyle for more than a few years, anyway,” Mother says.

“I think he could, Momma Nicki,” Storm says.

“I have faith that in no time, you’ll see that one man and several women is just not normal,” Momma Nicki says.

“I feel like I’m getting there already,” Rome says to his mother, though I doubt he means it.

 

 

On our way home from Rome’s bizarre spectacle at the catholic church, Rome asks Storm to drive. Right away, I am first to slide into the back seat next to him. I am well aware that my position this close to Rome is India’s coveted spot. My behavior will not only be frowned upon, but also challenged. Still, I do it anyway.

India hisses at me and exhibits the what-the-heck-are-you-doing look.

“Is it okay if I sit next to Rome just for today?” I ask India.

India eyes stalk me, then Rome. She’s thinking about it. “Okay,” India says before sliding into the front seat with Storm.

India’s cooperative spirit catches me off guard. I surely expected more of a squabble for the much sought-after spot next to Rome. But she surprised me, which means there will be hell to pay later.

Since moving into the House of Rome, I seldom find much alone time with Rome. I have learned to acquire it wherever and whenever I can.

As Storm cruises out of the church parking lot, I inch my way closer to Rome, hoping not to cause a stir with India. After all, I am in her zone, and though she agreed, for certain, she does not like it.

It’s a sizzling summer day and though the AC is going full force, I feel overheated. I perspire above my lip, and my hands are sweaty. Maybe, the heat is too much for me. Or perhaps, it has something to do with the proximity of Rome’s body and mine.

“So,” I say to Storm and India while peering at Rome “Did any of you believe a word of that crap Rome told his mother?”

“Who says it’s a load of crap?” Rome asks us all, trying to defend himself.

“We do,” we all say in unison.

“Anyhow, the good news is that she’s no longer stressing me out about moving,” Rome says.

“And the bad news?” India asks him.

“The bad news is that now she’s going to stress me out about my lifestyle.”

I scurry another inch towards Rome and slink my hand down his pants and fondle him. His eyes zero in on me with a sweet smile.

The bewilderment in his eyes tells me that my behavior surprises him, and that’s a good thing. It’s exactly what I was going for.

With my hand down Rome’s pants, I have his unwavering attention. “Did you ever think that maybe a one-woman-one-man lifestyle could be a good thing?” I ask him. If he doesn’t want me to stop what I’m doing, he’ll answer accordingly.

“Of course, I have thought about it,” Rome says to me, studying my hand inside his pants.

“Maybe you should think about it some more,” India says to Rome.

“Actually, I’m thinking about it right now,” Rome says. His breathing is deep, slow and long.

“I’m sure you are,” I say to him, flattered that for the first time, I have seduced him.

What could be better than that?

Maybe him seducing me?

 

 

The next morning on my way to Perrin’s penthouse, I revel in the memories of my special session with Rome in the backseat. I smile to myself. The sexy encounter was much too short-lived, but it was no less exceptionally gratifying.

My next thought: How soon will it happen again?

I have been so distracted by my roller-coaster emotions for Rome that I haven’t worked on my story in days. That’s something that must change if I’m serious about completing this book.

It’s a little after eleven in the morning when I arrive at Perrin’s condo to prepare lunch for him and his lady friend, who is visiting from Spain.

For this special occasion, I wear a black suit with tails, black top hat and a white bowtie. Perrin and his lady friend are sitting at the dining room table while I am in the kitchen preparing to serve them catered Chinese food. In good spirits, I am bopping my head and patting my feet, while I listen to instrumental jazz music from the portable stereo.

I fill two plates with Moo Goo Gai Pan, which is a stir-fried dish consisting of sliced chicken with white button mushrooms and vegetables. I am startled when Perrin appears out of nowhere and touches me on the shoulder.

“There’s someone at the front door,” Perrin says to me. “Are you expecting someone?”

I shake my head no. “I’ll check it out, and then I’ll be right in.”

Perrin returns to the dining room table, and I head towards the front door. Upon opening the door, my eyes light up when I see Rome and the doorman standing before me.

“Thursday, this gentleman is here to see you.”

“Oh, really,” I say, peering at Rome with a smile. He just made my day.

“Thanks, Suden,” Rome says to the doorman and then tips him $20. “I’ll take it from here.”

My eyes gravitate towards Rome as soon as the doorman departs from us.

Rome wears the tailored Perry Ellis shorts that I love, the ones that hang in that unbelievable provocative way off his hips, and shows off his sexy hairy legs.

Rome is hiding something behind his back. I size him up from top to bottom and from left to right. I do not speak right away. He has never come to my employer’s penthouse before, and I can’t help but wonder what miraculous turn of events brought him here today.

Rome is checking me out, my black-tie outfit no doubt. He devours me with his eyes. “Could you be any more gorgeous?” he says to me. “What exactly are you wearing?”

“Do you like it?” I ask him, turning and modeling my attire for him.

“I like it.”

“I’m serving lunch for Perrin and his lady friend.”

“Do you always dress like that?” he asks me.

“No, not always,” I say to Rome. “I was quite inspired the day you dressed as a chauffeur when we chartered that boat. From that day, I knew I wanted to do something fun like that for my boss.”

“I didn’t know my behavior had such an effect on you.”

“Well, you know now, don’t you?” I say to him. “So? What’s on the agenda?”

I am certain my curiosity is showing as I am dying to know.

“You,” he says and then from behind his back, he reveals to me a pint of ice cream. “I brought you something.”

I tilt my head to the side, trying desperately to make sense of all of this. First he comes here unannounced and then he brings me a treat.

What’s going to be next?

“Is it from Paradise Ice Cream?” I ask him, wishing and hoping that it is.

“That place is defunct,” he reminds me.

“I know. A girl can wish though, can’t she?”

“Yes, she can.”

His sweet ice cream gesture swells my heart with joy, and I want to brush his face with my tongue, but I don’t do that. I’m a good girl.

His eyes shower me with admiration and I soak it up.

“Has anyone ever told you just how sensational you look in your black-tie getup?”

“No, but I was hoping that someone would,” I say to him. “Perhaps, you could tell me.”

“You look sensational,” Rome says.

“Thank you.”

He moves closer to me, his brown eyes never leaving me. “You were on my mind last night… this morning… and this afternoon.”

“Really?” I say, wondering what’s really going on here. Surely, he didn’t come over here just to tell me that.

Rome lifts up my left arm and twirls me around so that he is standing behind me with his arms snuggly wrapped around my waist.

I breathe a sigh of ecstasy as he tightens his grip around my waist, and I am going to melt. He just feels so freaking good.

His rests his head on my shoulder and says nothing for a long whopping minute.

What’s he doing back there?

He surprises me again when he twirls me around so that we are now face to face. He nuzzles my neck and then puts his hand under my chin and tips my head back, staring down at me. His eyes are intense as he examines my face.

“There’s something I want to tell you,” he says to me.

I do not say anything, but I am feeling a whole lot of everything, then the words just drop from my mouth.

“Are you… in love with me?” I ask him.

He lifts my hand to his face and decorates the inside of my fingers with a sensuous kiss. “Yes, I am.”

I am relishing his words, and I blossom. “Really?” I can hardly contain my lust for him. “Did you come here to make love to me?—You can, if you want to.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he says and then pauses. “I love you, Thursday.” His voice is intoxicating.

My heart is pounding… pounding… pounding, and I remember to breathe. I’m so high right now with flattery, I’m not even sure I know where I am. Feeling woozy and lightened, I step back and lean against the wall. “Since when?”

“What difference does it make? I love you and I wanted to tell you that.” His expression is serious and sincere.

So much I want to tell him that I love him, too, but I can’t. My ego won’t let me.

“That’s very sweet of you to say, Rome. Thank you for that.”

Rome steps to me, strokes his nose against mine. “I have to go. Will I see you later?”

“You can count on it,” I say to him.

Rome heads towards the elevator, and I watch him. I am hypnotized by his stimulating and unexpected words of love, and out of nowhere, an incredible urge bubbles up inside me, and I feel obligated to tell him how I feel. Like a woman on a dire mission to declare her love, I sprint after him.

But it’s too late.

He’s gone.

 

Episode Twenty-Two

 

Rome has done it again.

He continues to rent space in my heart and head, causing me to want him more and more each day.

Doesn’t he know the powerful effect he has on me?

These are the thoughts that linger through my mind as I change into my navy blue leggings and prepare to leave Perrin’s penthouse. So much I wish to talk to Perrin about these intense emotions I am experiencing, but Perrin is unavailable. He is still entertaining his lady friend, and I need to speak to someone.

I pluck my phone from my clutch purse and dial my sister Kirby’s number. As I listen to the phone ringing and ringing, I remember that she’s probably in class and unavailable to talk, and talking to Storm or India is not an option.

Out of the parking garage, my mind is catapulted back to an earlier hour in the day when Rome says the famous words: I love you and this time, I was the only woman present when he said it. As much as I want to not make a big deal out of it, I am making a big deal out of it.

How can I not?

Deep in my heart, I know that he confessing his love for me has to mean something. Otherwise, why would he go through all the trouble of coming to my place of employment, something that he has never done before, just to tell me?

I travel south on LaSalle Street. I am in route to the Eisenhower Expressway when an idea sparks my fancy. I know just who to talk to about all of this, someone who knows Rome probably better than himself.

His mother.

If there’s a way to make Rome my very own, Momma Nicki is the key. Despite her strangeness of ways, she is my golden ticket, if such a ticket exists.

There’s no guarantee Momma Nicki will be at home when I arrive, but I don’t care. This is something that I have to do, something I need to do. From the first day when I met her, I distinctly remember her telling us that she lived down the street from the Floral Beach Public Library and that her house was the only white house on the block.

Less than five miles from the House of Rome, and twenty-five minutes later, I inch myself in the driveway of Momma Nicki’s house. She does, in fact, live in the only white house on the block. If that isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd, the words Cat House are engraved in huge, gold lettering above the front door.

I sashay up the five stairs and reach the front door. I wipe the sweat from my upper lip and rub my hands against my leggings.

Am I making a mistake coming here?

But then I think to myself. How can anyone ever be sure that their actions won’t cause unnecessary repercussions?

Life is a deck a cards anyway. Some hands you win, and the others, you don’t.

I ring the doorbell, and I am quite amused when the doorbell echoes the sound of a cat meowing. Moments later, the door swings open and Momma Nicki stands before me, holding a full grown Tabby in her arms. She wears a yellow dress, white ankle socks and flats.

“Good afternoon young lady,” Momma Nicki says to me. It’s obvious that she doesn’t recognize me.

“It’s me, Momma Nicki” I say to her. “Thursday, Rome’s lady friend.”

With an eagle eye, Momma Nicki studies me for three seconds. “Oh, of course. Please forgive me. Momma doesn’t mean to be rude. Momma is just not wearing her glasses today.”

“I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

“I don’t.” Momma Nicki laughs. “But maybe Momma should.”

She steps aside so that I can step inside. “Come on in, sweetheart, and tell momma what’s on your mind.”

“Thank you, and I apologize for coming here unannounced.”

Once inside, the stench of old kitty litter almost knocks me to the floor, but I struggle not to show it. Instead, I breathe through mouth and smile warmly.

The living area is designed like a wall-to-wall playroom for cats, which consists of a giant scratching posts and a plethora of colorful cat toys scattered about. If I didn’t know better, I would think that only cats lived here.

“I was hoping I might talk to you if I could,” I say to her.

“What has Rome done now?”

Before I can answer, she blurts out another question. “You’re not pregnant, are you? It’s okay, if you are, you can tell momma.”

Amused that she would even suggest such a thing, I smile and say, “No, I can assure you that I am not.”

“What about Storm? Is she pregnant?”

“No, not her either.”

“And the other one? The other pretty girl, is she pregnant?”

“No. I can assure you that none of us are pregnant.”

Momma Nicki glances at me, seemingly confused, eyes squinted, head tilted. “You mean to tell me with all three of you girls living in that house that none of you are pregnant.”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”

“Momma is having a hard time understanding this.” She releases the Tabby to the floor. “Anyway, Momma was just about to take her walk. You want to take a walk with momma?”

“Sure.” It’s not like I can say no to Momma Nicki. Not that I would even want to say no, but if I did, I would be too afraid.

Minutes later, Momma Nicki and I stroll down Flower Boulevard. This is a gorgeous suburban area: Quiet, clean and rich.

“Momma Nicki, I was hoping you could help me with a very special and very sensitive problem.”

As soon as I finish my sentence, I’m distracted by the senior couple sitting on the front porch wearing nothing but a bikini and swimming trunks.

“Do your neighbors usually dress like that?”

“Not usually.”

We continue our relaxing stroll under the hot sun. I gather my thoughts but before I can even form my next sentence, my attention is thwarted again by the sight of two senior women wrestling on the lawn of a gigantic house.

My eyes buck in shock.

Is this for real?

My intention is to have an important conversation with Momma Nicki, but I am continually diverted by her eccentric neighbors. I force myself to focus on the topic at hand.

“What is it that you wanted to talk to momma about?”

I am about to speak when again, we pass another house, and I witness first hand two senior men, dressed in full fencing gear, about to do battle on the lawn.

I turn to Momma Nicki. “Please tell me that these men are not senior citizens.”

“Momma can’t tell you that.”

At last, we come upon a bench across the street from the Floral Beach Public Library and seat ourselves. Void of any more distractions, perhaps I can reveal to Momma Nicki the reason for my curious visit.

With a half-smile, I turn to Momma Nicki. “I am in love with your son.”

“Of course, you are. Every woman who meets my Rome falls in love with him.” Momma Nicki adjusts the dark wig on her head. It looks like she’s about to remove it, but she doesn’t. “He has always had that effect on women.”

Somehow his mother’s words do not surprise me.

“But I mean I really love him. I’m talking about that I-can’t-breathe kind of love.”

“You mean that kind of love where you’re stupid and can’t think straight,” Momma Nicki says.

“Exactly,” I say. “That kind of love.”

“And what is it that you think I can do?”

“I was hoping you could advise me on how I might convince him to choose me and give up his other women. You see, I want to marry him.”

“Dear child,” Momma Nicki says to me, sadness in her eyes. “Momma would love to help you if I could, but I don’t have the answer to that any more than you do. I will tell you this though even though I know I shouldn’t, but you seem like a nice girl plus you have nice eyebrows. Momma likes that.”

“What’s that?” I ask, curiosity oozing out of my pores.

“Rome is already married.”

 

Episode Twenty-Three

 

Shock seizes me so strongly that I am literary immobilized by it. I cannot make my mouth move. I try to swallow, but I can’t. My eyes blink and blink and blink some more. My ears must be playing tricks on me. Surely, I did not hear her correctly. “Come again? Did you just say that Rome is already married?”

“He is.”

“How? I mean who? Rome is married. To whom?”

Momma Nicki does not speak right away. She seems to be thinking about whether or not to continue, then she says it. “Storm.”

My eyes nearly explode and I can’t breathe. For seconds on end, I don’t even move. How can I?

“Please tell me you are just joking with me,” I say to Momma Nicki.

“Momma can’t say that.”

“Storm is Mrs. Rome Nicki?”

“Well, I shouldn’t say that. Rome was married to Storm, and he has told me on numerous occasions that they’re divorced.”

“And?”

“And momma doesn’t believe him. I think they’re still married.”

“Why?”

“Because momma knows these things.”

A multitude of thoughts and questions soar through my mind. I don’t know exactly where to start. “Does India know that they’re married?”

“I don’t know… more than likely she does… but, then again, I really don’t know.”

This has to be a surprise of a lifetime. What Momma Nicki has divulged to me is much more than I’m capable of handling. After I re-acclimate myself with reality, I thank Momma Nicki for her time and head out.

This is not what I was expecting.

How can Rome be married, and even worse how does Storm allow other women in their marital bed?

This has to be some kind of mistake.

Or is it?

I am asking myself question after question as none of it makes sense to me, and here is the worse part. As much as I love living in the House of Rome, and I do indeed, and connecting with the girls, the can’t-live-without-it sex that Rome grants me so rarely, and all the outrageous fun we have together, I can no longer live there. It’s a decision I dread making, but at this moment, I have no other option. The only thing worse than sleeping with a married man is doing it right in front of his wife’s face.

Still parked in Momma Nicki’s driveway, I am a wreck inside my car. I stare into space, the butterflies in my stomach doing a tap dance as I still have so many questions.

Why does Storm allow this?

How does India fit into all of this?

How do I fit into all of this?

Does India know?

As difficult as it is for me to make the decision that I am about to make, I have to do it. I absolutely must leave. Knowing what I know now, I cannot and will not be a part of this unconventional lifestyle any longer.

Period.

End of story.

 

 

Too much in a frenzy to drive, I am still parked in Momma Nicki’s driveway with the AC going full blast. Again I try my sister Kirby on her phone and thank God, she’s available this time because I am about to die if I don’t talk to someone.

Right away, I share with her that Rome is possibly still married, and instead of her being as infuriated as I am, she’s more concerned about less trivial matters.

“How’s the book coming?” she asks me.

“What? Who cares about that book? I’m in the middle of a crisis, don’t you understand that?”

“I thought the whole purpose of you moving in there was research for your book,” she reminds me.

It’s obvious my sister is not yet ready to let up about this book.

“My novel is on hold right now and has been for some time.”

“That’s too bad. I was looking forward to seeing how it would turn out.”

At the top of my lungs, I scream at her. “WILL YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT FREAKING BOOK?”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had totally lost it.”

“Well, I have totally lost it,” I say to her.

“So? What’s the plan?”

“I’m thinking about leaving—”

Before I can finish my thought, my sister cuts me off. “Don’t do it.”

“What? Why?”

“Because, that’s where you want to be. Think back to the time you thought about leaving before. How long did that last?”

“This is different,” I say with conviction.

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No, it’s not.”

“What about the mind-blowing sex? How are you going to do without that?”

Her words halt my train of thought. Maybe she’s right, then again, maybe not. “He’s stingy with the sex anyway. You would think that with the three of us there, he would want it all the time, and maybe he does, but he seldom gives it up, at least not to me anyway.”

“I know what I’m talking about,” Kirby says. “Leaving is a big mistake.”

My sister knows me well, but this time she’s wrong. Knowing what I know now, I absolutely cannot and will not stay in the House of Rome one more night.

“Maybe it is a mistake to leave, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take,” I say.

“Will you at least think about it?” she asks me.

I ponder my sister’s words for all of thirty seconds. “There. I thought about it. I’m leaving.”

On that note, I end the call with my sister and finally cruise out of Momma Nicki’s driveway. I am not exactly sure where I am going at this time. What I do know is that I am NOT returning to the House of Rome. I’m tempted to return for my things but decide against it. I can always have them shipped to me later.

I rehearse my departure in my head, and I know exactly how it will play out. Upon telling Rome of my decision, as usual, he will attempt to change my mind. But this time, I’m ready for him. I plan to check into an undisclosed hotel, a place where he can’t tempt me with his pleas.

Thirty minutes later, I do just that. I check into a suite at the White Carpet Inn Hotel on Michigan Avenue. I’m not exactly sure how long I will be here, and inform Perrin of my whereabouts, but not without first telling him that Rome has a wife.

As soon as I shower and brew a cup of calming chamomile tea, I situate myself and call Rome, ready to let him know that I know what he knows.

“Hey, sexy,” Rome says to me. “Where are you?”

“Somewhere where you can’t get to me.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Where’s your wife, Rome?”

The phone goes silent. I cannot tell if he has ended the call or if he’s now in as much shock as I was earlier, then—

“What?” he asks me as if he didn’t hear me the first time.

“I think you heard me,” I say. “Where’s your wife? I know everything, Rome.”

“Thursday,” he says, “I’m sorry, but Storm and I used to be married, but we’re not anymore.”

“Your mother seems to think otherwise.”

“My mother also thinks that women who drink alcohol can’t get pregnant.”

“Were you ever going to tell me, that you and Storm were once married?”

Silence. Silence. And more silence. And it’s well noted.

“Do me a favor, Rome. Don’t contact me and don’t come to see me. Tell the girls I will miss them and whatever else you want to add to that.”

Before Rome can insert another word in, I interject fast. “Goodbye, Rome.”

 

 

With a heavy heart, I’m stretched out on the sofa, half watching a rerun of one of my favorite TV shows, Drugs Inc.

Two hours later, I am jolted awake after having fallen asleep still wearing my leggings and t-shirt. I still myself and listen. There’s a knock on my door.

I glance over at my phone. The time is a little after midnight. I slide off the sofa, groggy and not completely awake, and before I can reach the door, the knocking continues.

I step to the door, an uneasiness permeating through me. “Who is it?”

“It’s Rome.”

Now, I’m fully awake.

Is he freaking kidding me? Didn’t I tell him I didn’t want to talk to him?

This hotel was supposed to be my haven. However, it seems Mr. Nicki is determined to track me down no matter where I am.

In a huff, I snatch the door open. “What? I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it, because I want to talk to you.” He pushes his way in and closes the door behind him.

“I came here to tell you something, and I’m going to do just that,” he insists.

In no mood to fret with him, I flop down on the sofa and wait for the bull crap to shoot from his mouth.

He stands before me, not as confident as I am accustomed but more so disheartened. “Listen, I know that I messed up, but it doesn’t change how I feel about you.” He benches down next to me. “And I know you still have feelings for me regardless of how much you might want to deny it at this moment.”

“I don’t deny it.”

He peers at me with his beautiful brown eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Storm.”

“I assume India knows.”

“She knows.”

“What is it exactly that you want from me? I mean you have a wife and a girlfriend. What do you need from me?”

“I need your love,” he says to me, inching his way closer to me on the sofa. “And I need you to return to your family, where you belong.”

I am now shaking my head. “Sorry, but it’s not going to work this time. I’m no longer available to be a part of your family, and my love is no longer on the table.”

“Well, can you put your love back on the table?”

“No, I can’t.”

“We’ll see about that,” he says, half mumbling underneath his breath.

I rise up from the sofa and move towards the door and swing it open. “If you don’t mind.”

“Can I stay here with you tonight so that we can talk about it some more in the morning?”

“Absolutely not.”

Rome hasn’t budged once. He’s still sitting on the sofa as if he’s oblivious to my suggestion that he leave.

“May I have a kiss?” he asks me.

“No.”

“What about a hug?”

“No.”

“A glass of water?”

“No.”

After a short silence, he sits forward. “You know I’m not the only one with a secret in all of this.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I question him, certain that the apprehension in my eyes is showing.

“It means that I know about you and India.”

 

Episode Twenty-Four

 

His words surprise me, and my thoughts run amuck. Surely, he can’t be referring to what I think he is referring to, but I am a master at hiding my true feelings. I shut the door and ease my way towards him. I am calm and still.

“What exactly do you know?” I ask him.

“I know that she kissed you one night for a long time, and you didn’t stop her.”

“Yeah, so. Big deal. What of it?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It seems I didn’t have to,” I say, “India told you for the both of us. Besides, women kiss all the time. You know that.”

His eyes widen. “No, I don’t know that.”

“Well, if you’re grasping at the possibility of either of us being a lesbian, let me save you the embarrassment. We were just fooling around one night and had a moment. That is all.”

I suppose I could have told Rome about the encounter, but what for? It’s not like the experience meant anything.

Again, I sweep towards the front door and swing it open. “Now, if you don’t mind?”

Finally, Rome takes the hint, rises to his feet and travels towards the front door, staring down at the floor. “What am I supposed to tell Storm and India?”

“You’ll figure something out.”

“You’re going to miss out on Storm’s birthday bash,” he reminds me.

“I know it’s going to be awesome for sure.”

“Did I tell you Storm is returning to school to be a hypnotist?”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Well, she is, and, did I tell you India is going to open a single’s bar for dog lovers?”

“No, you didn’t tell me that either.”

“Well, she is.”

Rome is dead set on doing whatever he can to lengthen his stay in my hotel room, but unfortunately, his time is running out.

“For the record,” I say to him. “Those things you just shared with me about Storm and India, I think it’s great that they’re moving forward with their lives. Please know that.”

“The house won’t be the same without you.”

“I have a feeling that you will be just fine. You have Storm, and you have India.”

“But I don’t have you.” He is almost out the door. His back is to me when he stops in his tracks and turns to me. “Do you remember the first time that we went to Paradise Ice Cream?”

“Of course,” I say exhaling a long, stress-filled breath.

“Do you remember the question came up about who was my favorite? Do you remember that?”

“Yes, I remember,” I say, “I think it was India who asked the question.”

“Of course, I couldn’t say anything at the time but… it was you… It’s always been you. You’re my favorite, Thursday.”

If Rome had disclosed that tidbit to me at any other time, my heart would have soared to the nearest star, but somehow hearing it today, knowing what I know, it just doesn’t have the same magical effect. Does that mean that I am not flattered that I am his favorite? OMG! Flattered to the core, but I’m not about to let him know that. So, I look at him, smile and say nothing.

“Goodbye, Thursday.”

“Goodbye.”

And Rome is gone.

I stand with my back against the door and do not move for a long time. I reminisce about my last encounter with Rome Nicki. With my emotions all revved up in a bunch, I can no longer sleep.

There is just too much to think about.

Why did he choose now to tell me that I was his favorite, something that I desperately wanted to hear from the start?

But at last, it doesn’t really matter at this point. Whatever I had with Rome, is now just a great big fantastic memory.

 

 

Having not eaten for several hours, my growling stomach awakens me at 3:00 o’clock in the morning. The good news is, while I was asleep, I wasn’t thinking about Rome. The bad news is, now that I am awake, he’s all I can think about. I try to ignore my rumbling stomach and return to sleep, but it’s not happening. I am fully awake and nothing can knock me out now, except maybe a hammer to the head. Unable to stay sleep longer than five-minute intervals, I checkout of the White Carpet Inn Hotel. Perhaps sleeping in my own bed will do me some good.

Less than thirty minutes later, I saunter through the front door of my apartment, and inevitably Rome is still top, bottom, right and left of my mind. As angry as I am at him for not disclosing to me that he was once married to Storm, I still miss him, and I miss the girls just as much. Storm and India are my friends and always will be, and even though it was always my wish to have Rome all to myself, I always had warm feelings for both of them.

How could I not?

They are both good people who know how to have a good time on a daily basis, something I find rare in most people, including myself. Up until I moved into the House of Rome, I was just like the rest of the world. I worked Monday through Friday, counting the minutes to the weekend so that I could let loose and live. All that soon changed when I met two beautiful women by the name of Storm and India. They taught me the true meaning of the phrase live life to the fullest. Because of that, my life will always be better for it.

Still wearing my clothes from the day before, I dive into my bed and stare at the wall, tears coursing down my cheeks. I have been away from my place for so long that it no longer feels like home anymore.

The enormity of what I have done is slowly creeping upon me.

I have done it now.

I have left Rome and the girls. The rambling butterflies in my stomach alarms me that perhaps I have made a mistake, but I’m not listening. I never liked those butterflies anyway. I roll over on my side, unable to think of anything but Rome. This ache in my soul is too much to bear, and all I can do is curl up into a ball and cry like a baby.

 

 

The beaming sunlight seeping through the corners of my mini-blinds awakens me the next morning, after tossing and turning most of the night. In one big swoop, I roll over and fall down on the carpeted floor. Accustomed to the king-sized double bed, I have forgotten where I am.

It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I last set eyes on Rome, and I’m doing okay. I mean, I haven’t done anything stupid like eating a gallon of vanilla ice cream or coloring my hair blonde or going on a $5,000 shopping spree. But then again, there’s still time for all of that. The day has just begun.

For some strange reason this morning, I’m feeling not as happy as usual.

Then it hits me.

Maybe it has something to do with my breakup from Rome. I am missing him and the girls in a major way.

I consider calling Perrin for the second time this week to inform him that I won’t be in today, but I force myself to go in anyway. There’s no sense in punishing him because my life is in shambles.

After my one-minute shower, I slap on a pair of light-wash jeans and a sweatshirt and slip on my flip flops. Totally unconcerned with my appearance, I stuff my hair underneath my baseball cap. My grumbling stomach continually reminds me to eat, but I’m not listening. Eating is overrated anyway. I am now on a white tea diet. My goal is to drink white tea and nothing else until there’s nothing left of me.

I ride up on the elevator to Perrin’s penthouse, leaning against the wall. I can barely stand up. It’s as if I haven’t had much sleep.

Then it hits me.

I haven’t had much sleep.

Inch by inch, I creep my way towards Perrin’s apartment. One would think I just had major surgery.

Why am I moving so slowly?

Then it hits me.

My world is crumbling, and I no longer have purpose.

I waltz into Perrin’s unit and find him in his bedroom, wearing a towel after having just come from the shower. For good reason, I am suddenly energized.

“You sold me out,” I say to him. “I know it was you who told Rome where I was hiding out.”

“No need to thank me,” Perrin says to me. “Would you mind stepping into the next room so that I can drop my towel?”

“How about I just turn around?”

I do a quick about face, wait several seconds, then. “May I turn around now?”

“You may,” he says. “If I may be so bold, why are you wearing a sweatshirt when it’s over a hundred degrees outside?”

I glance down at the heavy sweatshirt. “I was wondering why I was so hot.” I then fling the sweatshirt over my hand and toss it to the floor, revealing my ivory colored bra. “So, tell me, why would I thank you for selling me out?” I ask him, my hands on my hips.

“Uh. Hello. The moment you called to inform me where you were staying, it was obvious you wanted me to know so that when Rome came looking for you, I could tell him.”

“You think you know me so well, don’t you?”

“Well, was I right?” Perrin pulls a black t-shirt over his head and slips into a pair of summer shorts.

Covered in shame, I throw my head back and laugh. “Yeah, you were right.”

I am now sitting on the edge of his bed, my legs open and hands on my knees. I still my eyes on the ceiling fan above me. I am mysteriously entranced in deep thought. My spontaneous life, filled with laughter and adventure as I once knew it, is gone. Still in a state of never-never land, Perrin taps me on the shoulder and I am transported back into real time.

“Thursday, are you still with me?”

Every emotionally upsetting thing that has happened to me in the last 48 hours comes crashing into my psyche, and I kneel over and drop to the floor, throwing myself into the fetal position. “Life has no meaning for me anymore,” I utter to Perrin.

“Are you just now figuring that out?” Perrin asks me. “I figured that out a long time ago.”

“I see no reason to continue,” I say to him.

“Continue what?”

“Continue living. Continue with the journey.”

Perrin kneels down on the floor next to me and strokes my back. “Oh, I see you’re missing your boyfriend.”

“I am, but my problems are much bigger than that.”

“How so?” he asks me.

“I told you. My life has no meaning.”

“Did your life have any meaning when you and Rome and the women were living together in unholy matrimony?”

“That’s good question.” I lift my head and ponder his words, but I come up empty.

“What is so terrible about your life?” Perrin asks me.

“I hardly have any money saved for my retirement.”

“That would get anyone down,” Perrin says to me.

I lift my head and peer into Perrin’s eyes. “You know, I was thinking of locking myself in the bathroom and never coming out.”

“As long as you have a plan.”

“There’s just so much wrong with my life. I’m short and need to lose at least ten pounds.”

“What are you talking about?” Perrin asks me, “If you were any skinnier, you would disappear.”

“And then there’s something much worse.” I shake my head and do not speak right away, then I say it. “I’m not married. I have no children and I have no one to grow old with.”

“Is that it?”

“How much time do you have?” I ask him.

“How much time do you need?”

“I’m not even sure I can work this job anymore,” I say to Perrin as I pick myself up from the floor.

“May I ask why?”

“I think I may need to take a year off to discover who I really am.”

“I already know who you are. You’re a nut.”

“Yeah, but what else?”

With ideas twirling around in my head, I say, “Maybe I’ll be like the woman in Eat Pray Love and take a year off, travel from city to city and find myself.”

I drop down on Perrin’s bed and he sits across from me.

“Are you ready to tell me what’s really going on?” Perrin asks me.

“I think my period is coming, and I’m a little emotional right now.”

“You can’t blame this kind of show on your period,” Perrin reminds me. “Why did you leave Rome?”

As soon as I hear that question, it jolts me into a state of alertness. “I already told you.”

“Tell me again,” he demands.

“Because he’s married, or at least he used to be, to a woman who is still living with him as his wife. What chance do I have? And to top it off, this woman is a good friend of mine. How sick is that?”

“Pretty sick,” Perrin says, “but you’re pretty happy now, right? I mean since leaving him and all?”

I’m certain Perrin is trying to be funny, but I answer him anyway. “Not really.”

“So, why don’t you go back?”

His suggestion is like shock treatment to me, and I immediately lunge into a standing position. “I will do no such thing. I’m not going back to that sick relationship. I won’t hear of it.”

“But you want to, though, don’t you?”

“Maybe just a little,” I say reluctantly.

“Sometimes a little is all you need.”

“Besides, they wouldn’t want me back anyway.”

“Like you really believe that,” he says to me. “Did you ever see the Woody Allen film, Whatever Works?”

“No.”

“It’s about finding happiness wherever you can, just so long as it is legal and no one is harmed.”

Perrin makes a great point, but I’m not backing down. I made my bed and now it’s time for me to live in it.

 

 

An hour later, I snap out of this stupor that I am in and force myself to move forward. Though unmotivated, I do what I can. I organize Perrin’s kitchen cabinets, grocery shop for all of his goodies, pay his monthly bills online, change the sheets on his bed, wash two loads of laundry, and prepare meatloaf and mash potatoes for his lunch.

Later that evening, feeling somewhat stable, we watch the movie, Whatever Works and it’s a good one. I am inspired and filled with a hint of hope. Not wanting to return to my empty apartment, I stay in Perrin’s guestroom.

I pull back the covers and slip into bed. I’m like a gypsy or something with no permanent home to call my own. Less than forty-eight hours ago, I was living in the House of Rome. Twelve hours after that, I was checked into the White Carpet Inn Hotel. Less than twelve hours after that, I was back at my own apartment, and now here I am in Perrin’s guestroom.

What is it with me?

Am I like one of those drifters who travels from bedroom to bedroom, in search of nirvana?

 

 

My white tea diet is officially over.

Wearing nothing more than a white tank top and lace panties, I relax in Perrin’s kitchen stuffing my face with Frosted Flakes and cantaloupe. The sounds of instrumental jazz resound from the living room stereo, and I am passionately remembering the greatest moments in my life, and there are many.

Today is a great day to be alive. I am beaming with energy, enthusiasm, and zest.

Could it be because the sun is shining? NOT.

Could it be because the birds are singing? NOT.

Or, perhaps, it is because I have a wondrous idea that I can’t wait to explore. With a sizzling smile on my face and a little bounce in my step, I dance into the living room and pluck the Webster’s dictionary from the shelf. In the center of the room, I thumb through the pages and finally find what I’m looking for.

My thoughts are now crystallized.

An Aha moment is defined as a point in time, event, or experience when one has a sudden insight or realization.

And today is my Aha moment.

 

Episode Twenty-Five

 

It’s a blistering ninety degrees when I exit my Volkswagen Beetle in the driveway of the House of Rome. The sun is shining, and the air is warm and calming. I am at peace with myself and everything around me.

I remove my Gucci sunglasses, then fetch the glossy psychedelic gift bags and Dom Perignon champagne from the back seat and sashay myself towards the front door. Cloaked in confidence, I lift my head back, stare up at the sky and smile. I am bursting with a worldwind of positive energy, and most of all, I’m fearless.

I inch my way closer to the entrance, and I feel as though I am being cheered on by one of my favorite songs, Renegades by X Ambassadors blasting from inside the house. At this moment, I am exactly where I want to be.

Before I have a chance to ring the doorbell, the front door swings open. It’s Rome, and he’s wearing tailored white shorts and his signature Fedora hat.

He is one tall glass of handsome.

The warmth of his welcoming smile burns a hole in my heart, and I am hypnotized by his soothing brown eyes staring into mine.

I smile back at him, take one step forward and kiss his chin. Then he does something he has never done before. He removes is Fedora hat and gently positions it on top of my head. For moments on in, there is a large silence. I absorb his red-carpet energy, then I say it.

“I’m ready to come home now.”

 

 

About P.R. Paige

 

P.R. Paige is a devout journaler, having kept a written record of her life since age 13. Her favorite movie of all-time is “The Wolf of Wall Street” as she cannot get enough of eccentric characters, whether in real life or fiction. She never forgets people who tell her personal secrets as she is the most curious person on the face of the planet. Though she loves to talk, she is an even better listener. Kind people occupy a special place in her heart. Her three greatest loves are: People, books and doggies. Contact her at: [email protected]

 

See the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr8SyjxdWfc

 

 


The Renegades

  • ISBN: 9781311995551
  • Author: P.R. Paige
  • Published: 2015-12-22 19:20:15
  • Words: 73190
The Renegades The Renegades