With everything happening on the home-front this week, I decided not to participate in this week’s challenge. But then…achy joints, a bad migraine, and 3 am coffee convinced me to get up and play. This post is the result.
Remember. I’m totally unsupervised! 😀
Lyrical Fiction is sponsored by Marquessa Matthews. For the full rules or to join, go here.
Today’s lyric prompt is:
For the rules, click on the lyric above.
The specific wording of ‘cocoa skin’ made me think of contrast and led to the story’s protagonist being a Caucasian male with an African-American girlfriend. While race isn’t an issue for the couple, he soon learns it’s a very big issue for someone close to him… and therein lies the conflict.
Corey remembered the first time he saw her, also volunteering with Special Olympics. Her beauty took his breath away and her voluptuous curves had him drooling.
But, it was seeing her hug each child before and after events and awarding them with healthy treat bags she made herself that captured Corey Forsythe’s heart. After only questioning two people, he knew her name.
Some of the women from the radio station where he was head of advertising also volunteered, but it was all just for show and to score brownie points with the station’s owner, the father of an intellectually challenged fifteen-year-old.
The women were all well-coiffed with manicures and fresh hairstyles. Two were even sporting spike heels.
He smiled thinking about Celine in Adidas running shoes, jeans, and a t-shirt proclaiming, “We Are the World!”
Corey kept Celine in sight for the rest of the event, and when volunteers were packing up to leave, he ignored the seductive invitations to have drinks from his female coworkers and approached Celine.
“H-Hello, I-I’m Corey Forsythe. I volunteered here today too.”
Good going, Corey. Speak much? Stumble over some more words…go ahead.
“Hey, Corey. I saw you around today. I’m Celine Ruskin.”
The smile she graced him with had him stumbling for more words.
“C-Can you… do you…” He exhaled, frustrated at his own inadequacy. “Celine, would you have coffee with me? There’s a Denny’s down the street. I swear I’m not a creeper or serial killer… although that’s probably what they’d say too.”
Fumbling, he pulled out his wallet, removing a business card and his work ID badge.
“See? This is me”
Laughing, Celine took the business card.
“WKJJ. Good station. All 80s, all the time.”
She listened to his station. And she liked 80s music. Corey was afraid to breathe as he waited for an answer.
“I’d love to, Corey.”
He took the athletic bags she’d filled with equipment and tossed them onto the waiting truck transport.
Celine giggled at his horrible British accent.
They walked to the parking lot in silence—Corey too afraid of more word stumbles.
She pointed out her Ford Escape and he held the door for her as she got in.
“See you in a few minutes,” he said, backing away from the vehicle with his hands in his pockets… grinning like the village idiot.
Only after Celine pulled out of the lot did he turn and race to his Lexus like an Olympic sprinter.
“Please be there, please be there,” Corey chanted, as he rushed out of the lot.
Celine Ruskin stood at the hostess stand in Denny’s, laughing at something the young employee said. Hearing the door open, she turned.
“Here he is now.”
The young woman smiled and led them to a table in a quiet corner.
Corey marveled at Celine’s calm demeanor. His insides churned. He was sure there was less activity during a nuclear reactor meltdown.
“Thank you for accepting my invitation, Celine.”
“Thank you for asking, Corey.” Her eyes held a devilish glint. “So, what made you invite me?”
Her direct approach caught him off-guard, but he recovered quickly.
“What man wouldn’t want to get to know you? You’re gorgeous and drew my interest from the moment I saw you. But, I must admit… watching you with the kids today is what won me over. You were so kind… and loving. You made them each feel special.”
“Everyone deserves to feel special, Corey. But those kids?” Her smile faded. “Much of society rejects them for something they have no control over. They’re ridiculed and bullied daily.” Celine averted her eyes. “I can’t change the world, but for a little while I can show them how special they are.”
Corey thought his heart would explode. The depth of her commitment and the sincerity of her words took his breath away. He didn’t realize he was staring until she said his name.
“Corey?” You okay? Did I say something wrong?”
“Sorry. I’m fine… and impressed. I volunteer because it’s the right thing to do. But hearing your words… well, it’s not every day I get to meet a true believer.”
Celine covered her face, embarrassed by the compliment.
Folding his arms in front of him, Corey leaned forward. “How did you get involved with Special Olympics?”
“It’s been a part of my life for all of my life.”
“My older sister, Christine, was a Down’s Syndrome baby. Our parents helped start the local chapter for Chrissy and all the children like her who were being under-served by the community. I was born three years later, healthy with no chromosomal issues. But our parents never treated us differently. I was never left behind during Special Olympics events, and she was never left behind during my school events. Chrissy and I did everything together.”
“At first, I was the bratty baby sister always underfoot, but as I got older, I became a helper, and when I entered my teens, I became a volunteer.”
Corey shook his head in amazement. “Sounds like a dedicated family, and you sound like you and your sister are close.”
The sadness returned to her eyes. He was confused.
“We were close. Chrissy died eight years ago from a bacterial infection in her lungs.”
Corey wanted to kick himself.
“Celine, I-I… I’m so sor – ”
She held up her hand to stop him.
“It’s okay, Corey. You didn’t know.”
He wished he could summon words of comfort; appear more virile and in control, but this soft-spoken woman ripped away all his resolve and left him floundering.
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you and your parents.”
“It was. But my parents stayed involved in the program, and losing Chrissy helped change the direction of my life.”
“I was in a long-term relationship with this guy.”
Corey covered his mouth to hide his grin at the face she made when she said, ‘this guy.’
“I was also a junior copy-editor for a major publishing house. His company offered him a position in their Texas branch—not a promotion, just the same position.”
“Even as a junior copy-editor, I made more money than he did. And I was in-line for a senior position. It just didn’t seem like a wise move.”
“So, he shows up with a ring, shoves it in my face and tells me to stop messing him around and if I loved him I’d follow him.”
“Yet, you’re still here.”
Celine’s laughter was music to his ears. He was so gone over this woman.
“Yeah, that ring was a reality check. I had to admit it was never about the money. I wasn’t in love with him.”
Corey applauded. “And you stayed here and persevered until you got that senior copy-editor position.”
“That I did. Then I quit.”
His face fell. “Wait. What? Why would you do that?”
“I went to my parents’ for dinner one evening and heard them talking about how the local Special Olympics chapter was struggling because of a lack of skilled professionals. They couldn’t attract anyone because of the low pay.”
Celine pulled a face.
“I had my own personal epiphany, and couldn’t think of a better way to honor Chrissy’s memory while helping those like her who were always marginalized. That was seven years ago. I haven’t looked back, and I have no regrets.”
Corey was ready to fall to his knees and worship this selfless woman!
“I’ve never met anyone like you, Celine Ruskin.”
She smiled. “Now tell me about Corey Forsythe.
Remembering why they were there, Corey signaled the waitress for coffee, then shared his story with Celine about growing up in Southern California.
He loved music and had put together a band in high school, but no one would hire a group of adolescents whose voices sounded like velociraptors in heat.
Determined to have a music-related career, Corey found his niche in college while helping campus bands with promotions. Armed with a degree in marketing, a head for business, and more knowledge of the music industry than some record company executives, Corey Forsythe built a solid and admirable reputation in the music world over the last fifteen years.
The couple chatted on, comfortable with each other. Coffee turned into appetizers, and later double cheeseburgers as Corey and Celine lost track of time.
Six hours later when they left Denny’s, Corey wasn’t sure if he was in love, but he knew he wasn’t far from it.
It took two more coffee dates before Corey worked up the nerve to kiss Celine in the parking lot standing between their cars.
As the kiss became more passionate and he swept his tongue past Celine’s soft lips, Corey Forsythe would have sworn under oath in open court he’d heard a choir of angels.
After that, the couple was inseparable, syncing calendars and altering work schedules to be together.
A pro in the kitchen, Celine made home-cooked meals for Corey, and he took her to every event in the city, just to show her off. When he found out about her love of the theater, he bought season tickets. When Celine confessed while she loved a good romantic comedy, her guilty pleasure was action movies, Corey knew he had the best girlfriend on the planet and he bought her every installment of The Terminator, Transformers, The Fast and the Furious, and John Wick.
Corey Forsythe was happy and had more than he ever dreamed possible.
His family made good fun of him during his weekly phone calls home. Seeing her son’s number on the Caller ID, Donna Forsythe would always answer, “What did the amazing Celine do this week?”
His parents were happy for him—and sister, Jean, thought it way past time he’d found someone—and they were anxious to meet Celine during their annual trip from Riverside, California to Lansing, Michigan.
And tonight, they had met the woman who held his heart… and in less than an hour, the Forsythes had turned his life to shit.
Corey took the exit ramp to Celine’s, a dark sense of foreboding bearing down on him.
She couldn’t walk away, she just couldn’t. The garbage his family spewed had nothing to do with what he shared with Celine. She had to know that.
Their rude, racist behavior was seared into his brain, along with the tyrannical attitude of his father.
“You told us you’d found the one, the woman you planned to marry. We got excited and started making lists for a future wedding.” Milton Forsythe gestured toward the couple. “But Corey, you never told us she was African-American. I cannot allow this.”
Anger flared in Corey’s eyes. He knew Celine was ready to bolt and tightened his hold on her hand.
“Excuse me… allow? What gives you the right- ”
“Watch your tone! I’m your father – ”
“Honey,” his mother interrupted leaning across the table, “I’m sure she… Celine is a nice person. She’s quite attractive. It’s just, well. We’re looking forward to grandchildren and – “
“Donna, please!” Her husband scoffed. “There will be no grandchildren because there will be no marriage because this ends right here, and that’s final.”
His rage building, Corey removed his arm from Celine’s chair and clasped his hands in front of him. His gaze moved from his sister to his mother before settling on his father.
“I love Celine Ruskin, and one day soon, if she’ll have me, I will ask her to marry me.” His father stammered and tried to interrupt, but Corey held up his hand meaning to finish, but Jean interrupted them both.
“Stop being so selfish, Corey. Have you at all considered how this affects mom and dad?”
“Didn’t know it was a family decision, little sister. Silly me, following my heart.”
“Don’t be a dumbass. What will their neighbors and friends think?”
Without sparing his parents a glance, Corey said, “I don’t give a fuck.”
“Wait just a min – ”
Shocked into silence, everyone stared at Celine.
“I love you, Corey Forsythe, and I can’t think of anything better than a life with you. She cupped his cheek. “But, I cannot be the reason for dissension in your family. And I cannot,” she glared at each family member, “be a part of a family so mired in bigotry they’re unable to extend even the smallest amount of human kindness.”
Celine leaned in and kissed Corey’s cheek, then stood and walked away. She didn’t look back.
Corey gripped the steering wheel fighting to stay calm.
Even if the unthinkable happened and he couldn’t fix things with Celine, he knew he’d have a hard time reconciling with his family… if at all.
Corey couldn’t believe how clueless he was. He’d lived a lie for thirty-seven years, happy and content… and oblivious.
But now as the trendy saying went, he was ‘woke’ and knew his family’s true feelings. Life couldn’t go back to the way it was.
And he didn’t care. Nothing mattered without Celine in his life.
Corey turned down Celine’s quiet street and the rapid beats in his chest returned. Pulling into her driveway and turning off the motor, Corey tried to compose himself.
He wiped his perspiration-soaked hands on his slack, amazed he could be so sweaty while his throat was as dry as the Sahara.
Corey stumbled from the Lexus and approached the front door.
He wished he could turn back the clock one day to when they laid in bed after a riotous session of lovemaking and shared a pizza while making plans to go to Cedar Point and act like twelve-year-olds. Or six days to when he ran a low fever and Celine made him soup and massaged his temples. Or even ten days to them standing in line waiting to see Thor Ragnorok. Between Celine’s animated rundown of Thor, Loki, and previous movies on the Avengers, and the sparkle in her eyes, Corey knew he would kneel before his love soon, the ring he bought the month before in his hands.
Each stilted step jarred a new memory and Corey cherished them, but he didn’t want to live on past memories. He wanted to make new ones with the woman on the other side of the door.
Standing at the front door, Corey stared at the doorbell, afraid to push it and unable to walk away.
Needles of anticipation tortured his spine. Corey’s stomach rumbled, wanting to join in the assault but angry it had no contents to share.
Leaning his head against the cool mahogany, Corey’s agony came to a head.
“Please, Celine. Don’t walk away. Don’t leave me. My soul is dying, and your cocoa skin against mine… is all I need to help revive me.”
Corey pushed the doorbell. And waited.
©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved