Love is the one thing missing from Fatima’s life, beginning when her parents left her at the age of four. Usually she enjoys calling the shots in her love life, but when she runs into a mysterious man on a night out, everything changes.
Cory Hines would give anything to undo his childhood. Growing up with an abusive father and distant mother left him wary of family and relationships. And as he tries to straighten out his life, the nightmares return and send him down a drunken spiral.
His siblings force him into therapy, but it’s not until he meets Fatima that he begins to learn what commitment is all about. Though their pasts continue to haunt their relationships, it is their common problems that draw Cory and Fatima closer. In the process of getting their lives on track, they find out more about themselves and their pasts than they bargained for and realize they must rid their demons for good in order to survive. But just when Cory and Fatima get comfortable with each other and the idea of a relationship, news of an unexpected pregnancy sends them both running back to the familiar.
Full of raw emotion and a vulnerability that pulls you in, Parallel Pasts offers an inside look at what it takes to escape a history of domestic abuse, as Cory must suppress the urge to fight anything that gets in his way, and the women who love him through the process.
I wrote this book for those dealing with issues of the past who are unable to fully move forward.
Read an exclusive chapter below.
2 / Fatima
I turn on the shower as hot as I can stand it.
I watch as the steam fogs up the bathroom. Stand in front of the mirror, stare at my disheveled reflection until the fog restricts my view. Feel like I’m falling apart at the seams. My reflection tells me the same story.
David opened this can of worms. Then going to see Grandma, I swear she opened my mouth and dropped them down my throat. This has got to stop.
I tie my locs up and put on a shower cap. Brush my teeth before getting in the shower. I grab my purple exfoliating gloves off the rack behind me. Lather up with a sea kelp and aloe body wash I made, try my best to scrub the scent of David off of me. Want to get rid of every trace of him from my skin. I knew I should not have gone over there.
Tears mixed with sweat from the steam run down my face. I taste the salt on my top lip. Pain from yesteryear consume me. Pain from my parents’ departure. Pain from my own.
When my parents left me, I left me as well. Figured, if my own mother and father didn’t love me, how could I. What is love anyway? Nothing more than an overused four-letter word synonymous with pain.
The tears continue to fall. I quit trying to understand why I’m such an emotional wreck. Quit trying to understand the things I am not meant to understand. I just let the tears flow. Allow them to cleanse my soul as the soap cleanses David from my pores.
~ ~ ~
“Stay here with me tonight,” David said.
“Fatima, look at me.” He turned my face to his. “I’m not asking you to move in. You’re in and out of here at your convenience. I just want a little more time with you. Stay a while. That’s all I’m asking.”
I brushed his hand off of me. “This never should have happened.”
My skirt was on the floor. I picked it up, grabbed the rest of my clothes. Needed to get out of his room, out of his space.
David didn’t let my silence stop him. He followed me to the bathroom. Pushed the door open, pushed his way back into my space. “Where are you going?”
“Shouldn’t ask questions when you know the answer.” I moved toward the door.
He put his hand up, blocked my departure. Showed me a sign of him I didn’t like.
“David, please.” I pushed his hand away from the door. “Is that really necessary?”
“Talk to me,” he persisted.
“There’s nothing to talk about. You knew where I stood before we slept together, before we crossed that line. Tonight was no different. Don’t act like this is new to you.”
I stood at the front door. Purse and keys in hand, ready to close that chapter of my life.
“Don’t leave like this,” he demanded.
“Tell me. What difference will it make if I stay?”
David took my keys and purse from my hands, put them on the couch. Held my empty hands in his. “Look Fatima.” He sighed. “I’m not going to sit up here and lie to you. I care about you. I want more than this. I want more than what you’ve been giving me.”
I shook my head defiantly, stopped him in his tracks, released my hands from his. “Well I’m not going to lie either. I don’t want more with you.”
His eyes let me know I’d hurt his feelings, I’d let him down. “If you don’t want more, if having no balance in your life is fine with you then by all means, don’t let me keep you.”
“Balance. What makes you think my life isn’t balanced?”
“Do you even have to ask?” He grabbed my stuff from the couch, put my purse and keys back in my hands. His tone dripped with frustration. He was getting desperate. Needed me to see the needy side of him so I wouldn’t walk out on him. “You are so afraid of being hurt that you’re in and out of my bed before your legs can stop shaking. That can’t be all you want; a good orgasm. You can do that on your own.”
“You’re right. I can. I’ll do that from now on.” A smirk crossed my face, then I got serious. “Look, you and I go way back. We have a history. But just because two people share time doesn’t mean they should be together. All we have is that. Nothing more, nothing less.”
His voice changed. Softer, no longer attacking. “Nobody’s going to hurt you, Fatima. I’m not going to hurt you. Why can’t you understand that?”
I was annoyed more than anything. Somehow, someway, he always brought my past into my present. “This isn’t about me getting hurt.” My tone raised.
“Yes it is. You know it. You’re afraid to get close to me, to anyone for that matter because you think we’ll leave you just like your parents did.”
“Don’t patronize me. I’m not one of your clients, David.”
He ignored me. “I am not your mom or dad. I’m not going anywhere.”
He moved closer to me, looked me in the face. Wanted me to know his plight went beyond his nine-to-five. He wanted me to know I was more than a j-o-b to him. He wanted me to see what he saw, but all I saw was pain, all I saw was resentment. David sensed my fury and moved back.
“How dare you go there. This has nothing to do with them and you know it.” I tried to convince myself more than him.
It did hurt me when my parents left. In many ways I hadn’t recovered. My father left, then my mother disappeared three days later. Their leaving changed the way I looked at people, especially those who used the L word. Made that four-letter emotion null and void in my vocabulary. Made me not feel anything for anyone. If I did, they’d just end up leaving me too. Just like my parents.
“Do you even care about me?” He pulled me out of my past, out of my angst. Brought me to the here and now.
I shook my head. “Not the way you want me to.”
He reached around me, closed the door I had opened when I planned to walk away from everything minutes ago. I was on my way out. Was about to finish the final chapter to our book; the one I never should’ve began writing.
I was weak. Tired of fighting, tired of running.
David escorted me by hand, led me to the couch. He gave me space, sat on the opposite side.
“You’ve got to feel something, Fatima,” he said. “We’ve been sleeping with each other for months now and you’re telling me you don’t feel anything.”
I shook my head, sighed. “You don’t listen. I didn’t say I don’t feel anything. I just don’t feel for you the way you feel for me.”
“Did I do something wrong? Is it something I’m not doing?” he wanted to know.
“David, this is not about you. It’s me.”
“Self-blame is the easy way out. I need a better answer than that.”
My head throbbed. Too much tension. I set my hair loose, hoped to relieve some of the pressure from my head. My locs fell with ease, the ends tapped me on my shoulders as a symbolic gesture that everything would be alright.
David came to where I was. Put his hands on my shoulders, brushed my hair to the side. Took my stress as his opportunity to get closer. Wanted to work out my kinks in more ways than one.
I felt my frustration mount. Questioned myself as to why I was allowing him to touch me like that, to torture me unapologetically.
I moved forward, let his hands slide off of me. “You don’t know when to quit, do you?”
“Just want you to know I’m here for you, Fatima. I’ve always been here. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Quit saying that.”
“It’s true. I want you to believe me.”
“Well you can want all you want, but if you keep a pot boiling long enough it runs out of water.”
A what-the-hell look crossed his face. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You know what…” I threw my hands in the air. “Don’t worry about it.”
I grabbed my belongings off the couch. Told him not to call me anymore, told him to forget he ever knew me.
“It’s like that?” he asked on my way out.
The door slammed shut in his face.
Yeah, it’s like that.