The humidity in the air from God’s nature and the kitchen was such that the thin layer of her cotton tank top clung to her skin and seemed to protest with a weak cling as her fingers pulled it forward. Frowning, Maggie held her shirt away from her chest and allowed the breeze from her hand fan to dry away the moisture that had collected between her breast.
Startling, Maggie nearly dropped her fan to the floor. Righting herself she plastered her hand to her chest, pushing back the fabric against her sticky skin, trying to recapture some of the modesty she was certain she had lost to Topher Clement’s gaze.
She blushed thinking that she wasn’t so averse to losing a bit of it to that man. Mama would beat my hide like an old dusty rug slung from a line if she heard my thoughts. Lord, forgive me. And if she heard me, tell her I am sorry. She chewed her lip. And I am sorry to You as well, Jesus, amen.
Topher leaned his forearms against the counter and smiled at her. Shy, Maggie averted her eyes and pulled in her fingers that wished to betray her. The sun had sure kissed Topher just right, turned his winter brown into a rich russet, bleaching the hairs of his arms blond.
The urge to touch them and smooth them out made her fingers tingle. Even some of the hairs that grew on his face were blond. The man was beyond handsome.
Putting on her usual mask of indifference she rolled her eyes and began to fan herself again. it was tough being 30, never been kissed…well by nobody but Topher, but she was 12 then and he 14. That didn’t count. Nevertheless, she hadn’t really found her way around the opposite sex. She never had the time. “What you want, Topher Clement?”
Topher gave in to a slight frown before righting his expression. Maggie Grace was a hard one, had been all their lives. Topher didn’t understand her one lick as a kid, or even as a younger man. But now grown and having set his wild ways behind him he understood her reluctance.
Maggie wasn’t like other birds. No, she was a dove, heart made for one love only and even with all the heads she had begun to fill out as a woman, she still stuck to her unspoken convictions.
Topher admired that about her, even if he wasn’t worthy of it. No, he didn’t fancy himself a playboy or a cheat, but he had strayed far enough away from the steps of God’s house to know a thing or two about wayward living and the verity of women to tease his liking.
It had been five years since he had turned his heart back to the things of God , and found that once it had been scraped clean only one thing from his past remained…Maggie Grace. Oh Miss Maggie Grace, to love you more.
He replayed her question in his head and swallowed down the straight answer. What do I want? I want you, Maggie Grace. Instead, listening to the voice of God whisper to his heart to take his time with her, he walked back towards the refrigerator wall grabbed a few items, and placed them in front of Maggie. “I would like to have these here ginger beers, Miss Maggie, and some of that jerk chicken and rice, with some sweet bread good enough for the soul. Serving for two.” He held up two well formed fingers and reached for his wallet.
Maggie felt her back go ramrod straight and her eyes narrow with what, jealousy? Yes! Jealousy! The man came and flirted with her while ordering food for some other woman who probably sat out front mooning over him and being none the wiser. She chanced a glance out the screen door and then took his money. Seeing no one outside, she said. “I suppose this is a to go order?”
She felt Topher’s dark eyes on her as he drummed the counter. The sea salty scent from his dread locks mixed with a touch of sandalwood played against her scenes.
“Well, that depends on you, Miss Maggie.”
Her brow raised with confusion. “I don’t see how it would,” She pushed a long twist of hair from her face. She would have to redo them soon. They had gotten awfully loose and fuzzy. Topher probably thought she looked an unkempt wreck.
Topher stopped drumming his knuckles on the old counter and considered her, all of her. God help him but the woman was beautiful, especially her dark eyes and coffee skin. The way she fingered that twist in her dainty fingers made him wish that was one of his locks tangled within her grasp.
Thinking about the time he had kissed her when they were kids, he remembered the shock of burning pain when she tried to rip his afro clean from his scalp. His head pounded for a week after that.
Maggie scowled at his sudden laughter. There he was picking at her again. “What’s funny?” She tried to keep her voice even. Topher touched his hair and waved at hers. Yup, I look a wreck.
“I was just thinking about the time you tried to pull my brains out through the roots of my hair years ago.” He chuckled again. “You remember, when we were kids and I…I stole a kiss from you.”
“You remember that? It was my first kiss…” She whispered, surprised to catch a sparkle of sentiment in his eyes.
Topher cleared his throat. “It was mine too.” His eyes fell upon her full lips and he wished to know the spark of them again. “Miss Maggie?”
“Yes,” Her countenance had changed as had his. Something sweet seemed to linger in the air and it had nothing to do with the bread in the fryer.
“Would you care to have lunch with me today? If you say yes then we shall have that order for here and not to go.”
He flashed her a smile so electrifying, Maggie thought her heart would stop. “You want to have lunch…with me?”
His smile brightened. “You like ginger beer don’t you? And your Mama’s recipes are the best for the soul around here. I would be honored to share her good food with you, if you don’t mind.”
She sudden’y found herself smiling back at him, her heart warming beyond the heat and humidity in the air. “You know, I don’t believe I would mind that at all. Topher Clement.”
So, I don’t know if I have shared this with you all, but I have been a prophesied romance-genre-eye-roller. Even as a young reader I felt that the stories were cliche and over wrought with immature behaviors and senseless pining from needy women towards brooding men. Because of that I became a person who was anti-romance because none of what I had read seemed relatable or realistic. Instead, I felt that much of it was promoting unhealthy and unrealistic relationship ideology in the minds of readers. I decided a few years back that I would challenge myself with the task of writing romance that I would want to read. After all, I am a firm believer that one has to write for themselves first and foremost. You are your number one audience. Octavia E. Butler began her sci fi career with that belief, writing what you want to read. She had seen a poorly written sci fi movie and it affected her so badly that she took pen to the page and the world of fiction has been better for it. Now I am not at all saying that any romance I pull together will change the world of this genre, but I am willing to put in my two cents…literally put my “money” where my “mouth” is. Maybe the time is now since I have been subconsciously writing more and more romantic free flow writes as of late. Hope you enjoyed what came out today.