“Have you ever witnessed someone losing their hope, Sergeant Godmen?”
“I have witnessed quite a few, young man. Quite a few.” The sergeant replied, her face grim. “And that’s what you think was happening to Sonrisa? She was losing her hope?”
Langston nodded his head. “I knew she was hurting, but at the time I had no idea how deep that hurt went. She was all alone. I just wanted to be there for her in every way I could.”
“And so she turned to you? Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re not exactly the portrait of stability.”
“She had no one else to turn to.”
“Did she take you up on your offer?”
“No, not just then. She had to trust me first.”
“And how did you make her trust you?”
“By just being there for her. No one had ever really been there for Sonrisa. She told me that she had always taken care of herself.”
“So you stepped in to do that for her?”
Langston nodded. “As much as she would let me.” Langston massaged his wrists where the handcuffs chaffed his skin. “But that was when I began to find out some things about Sonrisa. Things I didn’t particularly like.”
There was a little coffee shop that Langston liked to visit not far from his apartment. A little hideaway with comfortable chairs, quiet music, and good strong coffee. He would get up early to catch the bus, armed with his camera and a good book. When he arrived, he would take his favorite seat by the window and sit there for hours reading his book and people watching. Occasionally, he would take a picture or two. It was in this place that she found him. Sitting in a comfortable chair with his back to the door. His nose buried between the covers of The Tropic of Cancer.
“You really should do something about this.” Sonrisa said digging her fingers into his thick, unruly hair with familiarity. He tried to mask his surprise, but he was pretty sure the big goofy grin on his face gave him away.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“I guess nothing if you’re happy to be nappy,” she said with a shrug as she sat down across from him. “What are you reading?”
He held the book up so she could see the cover.
“The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.” She nodded. “Is it any good?”
“It’s a classic. One of my favorites. I’ve read it a million times.”
“What’s it about?”
Langston shrugged. He didn’t really know how to describe it though he had read it so many times he nearly had it memorized. “It’s kind of hard to summarize. Have you ever heard of Henry Miller?”
She shook her head. “Read me a bit of it.”
Langston scratched his head as he looked over the page he had just read. “Uh…I don’t think…” He stammered, feeling her eyes on him. “I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that should be read out loud.”
“Why? Is it dirty?”
Langston laughed nervously then nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
“Then you should definitely read it to me.” She scooted over and patted the cushion next to her on the couch inviting him to sit beside her. Langston took the seat she offered, his thumb held his place in the book. He wanted to share this with her, but was nervous about how she would look at him afterwards. The words in those pages were explicit and Langston fancied that there was some innocence about Sonrisa. He liked that innocence and didn’t want to mar it in any way.
Finally, she took the book from him and began to read it herself. “O, Tania, where now is that warm cunt of yours, those fat heavy garters, those soft bulging thighs? There is a bone in my prick six inches long…” She paused for a moment a crinkle of concentration between her brows. “Six inches isn’t really all that long, is it?”
Langston coughed nervously. “You’re asking me?”
She shrugged and then read on silently, her tongue tucked in the corner of her mouth. She turned to the next to the page. A smile spread slowly across her face. “I’m fucking you, Tania, so that you’ll stay fucked. And if you are afraid of being fucked publicly, I will fuck you in private,” she read aloud.
Langston felt a prickle of heat snake up his spine at the sound of those words in her soft voice, on her lazy tongue.
"That’s not so dirty. I’ve heard worse.” She looked at him then reached up and dug her fingers in to his hair again. “You should let me braid this.”
She stood up and smoothed down the back of the plaid miniskirt she wore. “What are you doing now?”
Langston suggested that they wait until next weekend, the next day--any other time than right at that moment, but Sonrisa insisted, so he had no choice but to take her back to his apartment. He hesitated for a moment at the door, frozen with is keys in his hand.
“What’s the problem?” she asked. “Is the place a mess?”
Langston shook his head. “I feel like I need to explain myself before I let you in here.”
“What’s to explain?”
“Those photos I take of you—”
“What about them?”
“I don’t want you to think I’m some sort of weirdo--”
Sonrisa took the keys from him and opened the door herself. Langston followed her in and held his breath, braced for her reaction.
She crossed the threshold hesitantly. Langston followed, closing the door behind him. He removed his shoes before he walked on the carpet so she did the same. In her bare feet she crossed the living room her brown eyes glued to the wall above the couch. They swept restlessly over images grouped there.
“I don’t know if I should be flattered…or afraid,” she breathed as she stared at the collage of photos that took up the entire expanse of the wall above his couch. Some were of friends and what looked like his family, but most were of her. She walked over, climbed up onto the couch on her knees, and trailed her fingertips over her own image. “How did you see this?” she asked her voice filled with wonder.
She turned to look at him. “The things I try to hide. You shouldn’t know these things about me,” she whispered as tears filled her eyes. In that moment, Langston was certain that knew her like no one else. He saw who she was when she thought no one was looking. He saw the scared little girl that hid beneath the young woman’s face. He saw that melancholy sadness that she tried so hard to mask in her eyes.
* * * *
Langston began to shape his life around Sonrisa and Sonrisa did the same. He made it no secret that he adored her, though Sonrisa always kept him at arm’s length. She seemed to enjoy the time she spent with him, but when he made advances she always made some excuse to leave. One night while nestled neatly between her thighs as she braided his hair, Langston built up the courage to ask her about this.
“Hmmm?” she hummed. She had to use all of her concentration to twist his stubborn hair into the intricate cornrows.
“Why do you always pull away when I try to kiss you?”
Sonrisa laughed softly. “Why are you always trying to kiss me?” she retorted.
“I think you know the answer to that.” Langston twisted around to look her in the eye. He held her gaze until she turned him back around forcefully.
“If you don’t keep still I’ll never finish this.”
Several moments passed and Langston was sure he would never get an answer to his question. She braided the last braid and secured it with a little black rubber band.
“Okay. I’m all done,” she announced.
Langston made a move to get up, but Sonrisa held him in place, wrapped her arms around him and pressed her lips to his neck.
“I like the way things are between us. I don’t want to mess that up. You are all that is good in my life right now, Langston. I wouldn’t be able to bear it if this were tainted somehow.”
They were sweet words and they should’ve meant more, but words were not Langston wanted. He curled his hand around the back of the neck and pulled her close. “Sonrisa,” he breathed. “Let me kiss you. Let me love you.”
Sonrisa sighed. Her dark lashes fluttered closed. “Langston,” she whispered.
He pulled her closer. Brought his lips within an inch of hers.
“No,” she said firmly then pushed him away.