Lead Me Gently Home

Chapter Five

"He Really Cares About You"

(From Danisha's Journals)

Claude and I enjoyed a pleasant Saturday. We spent nearly all day at the Children's Museum, taking in all the exhibits and hands-on activities. He marveled at the huge water clock in the main lobby; we purposefully returned downstairs at noon, just to watch the water empty out of all twelve chambers.
Claude liked the historical recreations, especially, a reproduction of a five-and-dime store circa 1890, complete with merchandise of the period. I marveled at the model trains: Five trains, two with steam locomotives, traveling at once through miniature towns and countryside.
It was a fun, fabulous experience, although I was somewhat tired from all the activity.

Later that afternoon, just before we left, we ran into a couple of my acquaintences. Ted and Barbara had given a special program at the Museum; they were surprised to see me there, and they were intrigued with my "very elegant friend".
Barb, a tall, elegant woman in her early seventies, beamed with delight when Claude gallantly kissed her hand. Ted, a short, wiry gentleman, known for his quick wit and homespun wisdom, greeted Claude warmly.

Ted made his living as a writer, mostly of short stories and poems extoling the virtues of brotherhood and teamwork. Thirty years earlier, he was director of the Fall Creek YMCA. Barbara was a local television personalit;, she started as a reporter, then promoted to noon anchor. She was well-known for her bubbly personality, her warmth, her style. They lived down the street from Sam, Jacki's future brother-in-law. Both Barbara and Ted had always supported Momma's writing career.

After I introduced them to Claude, Ted asked me if I was planning to attend "that presentation at X-Pression", a popular African American book store. I explained that my parents were in Nashville, visiting my married sister, Vernice. They weren't due back unti the end of February; Momma's book party wasn't until the following week.

I hadn't planned on telling Claude; I had my reasons.

"You'll be impressed by this woman's way with words, sir", Ted said to Claude, as we walked through the main lobby. Claude looked at me with questioning eyes. He said nothing to me -- yet.
At last, he said to Barbara, "Madame, I would be delighted to attend Mme. Wood's presentation, wouldn't I, Danisha?" Claude looked at me again; I could tell that he was determined to meet my parents.

Now what am I going to do? I can't let him meet my folks...Not yet...Momma may be OK...But Daddy...


On the way home, Claude commented, "Lovely couple. Nisha, I'm really looking forward to meeting your parents. From what you've told me, they seem thoroughly fascinating."

This was true. Claude and my parents never met; I made sure of that. My instinct always told me that my family wouldn't object to my relationship with Claude; however, my mind kept saying, "No...they would never understand...Daddy, in particular, would go ballistic".
I made up several plausible excuses after Claude asked me, "Why haven't I met any of your family? We always, by chance, run into several of your friends and acquaintences; but, I have yet to meet your parents, or your sisters."

"Oh, Claude", I began, hoping he would buy my excuse, "Momma and Daddy are always on the go so much. They're always away -- somewhere."

I then took a deep breath, trying to hide my nervousness. "When they return from Tennessee, I'll introduce you."

Claude leaned over to kiss my cheek, saying, "It's about time; I'm eager to meet the famous Professor Joseph Wood."

Dream on, Claude...You and Daddy...Neither of you should ever meet...It would be too much...Daddy wouldn't understand...I can't take that risk...Not again...


That evening, over a comforting supper of shrimp creole, crusty bread, and wine purchased at Tarkington's, that gourmet shop Downtown, Claude again asked if all was well with me

"I'm fine, Claude", I said, trying not to wince from the pain in my lower back. "I had a complete physical the Monday after you left -- after that snowstorm."

Claude sighed with partial relief, yet he was still worried. "I trust there is nothing seriously wrong, but I feel a little relaxation is in order." He suggested that I return to Paris with him; he felt I needed to get away from everything for a while. As usual, I protested.

"Claude, I have a job -- a career. I can't take off at the drop of a hat. I have to consult with Ralph, make arrangements for a sub, prep for my students -- Claude, we're starting a major project! I can't take off!" I was adamant; there was no way I was going to medieval Paris.

What in the hell is your problem?...You're not in the best of shape...You have a chance to rest up...stay with Claude...You'll be around old friends...

Something in the back of my mind, something called 'pride', and a 'sense of duty', pushed out all the sensible arguements running around in my mind. Claude was understandably distraught.

"My love, I insist you come with me; I cannot leave tomorrow morning unless I know you are all right." He leaned over to kiss me.; his voice slightly trembled with anguish. "And you are not in the best of health; I can tell. I could tell last night, when we...Darling..."

A tear welled in his eye, but did not fall.

"You cried; I heard you weeping, during our lovemaking. Danisha, dearest..."

Claude got up from the table and knelt before me. He kissed my mouth, my face, my neck, my hands. His words of love poured from his lips. "I had a feeling something was wrong, for you cried as if in pain."
Indeed, I was in considerable pain the night before. Although Claude was exceedingly gentle, I was in significant discomfort. I don't remember crying, but the pain was so intense, that I couldn't stand it.

Claude was very understanding afterwards; he held and kissed me all through the night. I felt so bad -- so bad that I didn't even bring up the subject the following morning. I finally thought over Claude's invitation, to come to Paris with him. I told him that, "I'll come to Paris, but only after I make the necessary arrangements."

Claude smiled and sighed in relief. "My darling, that is all I want --- Your well-being is important to me."

He kissed me tenderly; his long fingers swept through my hair. Claude softly laughed, saying, "I can't decide whether I like your hair in its current, straight style, or..." He paused to kiss me again.

"...Or that mass of long, glossy curls. I still remember the scarf, with which you tied your hair."

Claude ran his fingers through my hair again; he kissed me again. He sat in a chair next to mine; he held my hand.

"Claude, you are so good to me, it's scary." I kissed him, then looked at the remains of our supper. "Why don't you open that box of chocolates we bought last night. I'll clear this up", I nodded at the kitchen table, "and make a pot of decaf."
I returned his smile, traced his fine features, and said, "Honey, we can cuddle and talk all night."
He kissed me intensely, then whispered in my ear, "Don't be too long, my love."


I cleaned the kitchen in record time, made a little pot of decaf coffee, then joined Claude in my basement hideaway. He already had a cozy fire going, the fancy chocolates opened, and the pillows on the floor arranged just right. After I set the pot down, I flipped on the CD player and loaded some mellow jazz.

The perfect setting...fire, music, a handsome man....Oooh...I still hurt...Oh Claude..just hold me...

"Danisha", Claude began; he snuggled with me in front of the fireplace. "My love, just tell me where it hurts."
I reclined on my tummy, and replied, "It's my back; it's been bothering me, off and on, almost a couple of weeks."

I stretched out and let Claude's long, slender fingers massage my back. Mmm...this feels wonderful...


"Yes, Nisha."

"I can't go to Paris, not just now. I have to find out what's wrong; the test results come back Monday. Then I'll think I'll take that leave-of-absence, and spend all that time in Paris, with you."

Claude, his hands still doing wonders for my back, replied, "I knew you'd come to your senses. But, why not come with me tomorrow morning? Come Monday, you can always return to your own time." He popped a chocolate into my mouth, and I poured coffee for the both of us. The mellow music, the crackling fire -- not to mention Claude's attentiveness -- helped to soothe my worries. He chuckled as he lied down beside me; he kissed me gently, yet passionately.

My mind must've been elsewhere, for I frantically whacked my brain, debating whether to finally take care of myself, or let my sense of duty come first. The decision came easily.

"Claude, I have to alter lesson plans. There is no way I'm starting those kids on a major project, not while I'm gone."

I paused a bit, then snapped my fingers. "Why didn't I think of this before?"

"Think of what, my love?"

I grabbed the phone and started dialing numbers. "First, I'm calling Ralph, then I'm calling for a sub for Monday. I'm going back to Paris with you --- First thing tomorrow morning!"

All day Sunday...and most of Monday...spent with Claude...in Paris...Back home Monday afternoon...just in time to get those test results...then back to Paris for a month or so...

When Monday afternoon came, my world was turned completely upside down...

To Chapter 6!

©Copyright, FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.

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