The hands grabbed for her. The voices were jumbled and didn't make any sense. The images blended together like a kaleidoscope. Everything was a blur. The reality could not be relied upon to give straight answers to the questions that plagued her mind. The only thing that she could rely upon were her feelings and her impeccable sixth sense which to told her to run like hell.
But she couldn't. Her feet were glued to the ground and wouldn't budge. She felt herself drowning in fear as the hands pushed her to the ground. There were too many of them for her to fend off. She tried, but she was powerless. Their strength, individually and as a whole, was too great for her to be able to properly defend herself.
She didn't want to succumb to their demands. She wanted to resist. She wanted to make them stop hurting her. Stop touching her. Stop forcing themselves on her. The whole lot of them. Why didn't any of them have any sense of humanity, she wondered. Why must they always exert their wants and needs onto to her? Didn't any them care or understand that she didn't want them? That she only wanted to be left alone.
She muttered under her breath, "No matter what, you SOBs will never take my spirit. You'll never take it!"
She felt a new set of hands grab her. The hands felt different. Gentler. Kinder. But she couldn't fall for the change in technique. It was a trick, she told herself. With anger and determination, she lashed out and fought. Even when the hands shook her shoulders and repeated her name. She continued to fight. "You. Will. Never. Take. My. Spirit!"
Blindly, her hands searched for something, anything she could use as a weapon. Reaching underneath the cottony, soft object, she found what she needed. The sharp edge would do just fine. Quick as flash, she grabbed the knife and held it high above her head, poised to exact vengeance.
But, she found she couldn't do it. The voice... The voice called to her with anxiety, fear and...such tenderness.
"Gina! It's me. Tommy. Wake up, Gina!"
Gina's eyes fluttered open. Where was she? How did Tommy get to her cell? They'd kill him if they found him here, she thought. As she looked into his concerned green eyes, her mind filled itself with questions. Only after she relaxed enough to gaze around her surroundings, did the answers come to her.
She was home. In her one bedroom apartment, next door to Keesha Ward, above Kelly's. She was safe. The young man who stared at her with worried eyes meant her no harm. He was Tommy. Her dear sweet Tommy.
"Tommy.. .?" she asked with confused eyes.
"It's okay, Gina, but you should give me the knife, okay?"
Knife? What knife, she wondered. She looked at his outstretched and followed his eyes to her hand which was still high above her head, poised for attack. How did that get there, she wondered. Oh my, God, she thought, I could have hurt him. I could have hurt Tommy, she repeated inside herself. With tear-filled eyes, she brought her hand down, turned the edge towards her and handed Tommy the handle.
Tommy took the knife from her and carefully placed it her dresser. He came back and sat beside her on her bed. He didn't know what to do. He wanted to hold her in his arms, but he wasn't sure if she'd feel comfortable with that.
Last night, after the horrible experience in the alley, Gina had suggested he spend the night on her sofa. Not wanting to face anyone else after what had almost happened, Tommy had followed her suggestion. Her nightmare woke him from his own fitful slumber, as soon as he heard her cries, he ran to her.
He watched as she had tossed and turned in her sleep, muttering her anguish over and over. When he tried to wake her by shaking her shoulders, she became vicious and the next thing he knew she pulled a knife on him. Well, not really on him. Tommy understood that she wasn't fighting him, but the guards from their time in hell. He understood how the past continued to control her present. The dreams...no. The nightmares had a way of coming back when they were least expected. Tommy understood everything because he had experienced the same, too.
"Tommy, I'm so sorry. I would never have hurt you. I was dreaming and..." Gina found she couldn't go on as the onslaught of tears wracked her body. She buried herself in her hands and tried to control herself. But, she couldn't. The sobs demanded her full attention and she cried even more.
Tommy silently watched as Gina cried. Unable to sit there and not do anything to help her, he moved closer to her on the bed. One hand patted her back as the other stroked her long, flaxen hair. He said softly, "I know, Gina. You were dreaming. I know."
One gentle touch was all Gina needed. Without a thought to anything but a desperate need for comfort, Gina wrapped her arms around Tommy. Her head rested in the crook of his neck as the tears continued to flow.
Tommy held himself straight as Gina moved into his arms. Then, as he relaxed, he carefully wrapped his arms around her. He rubbed her back and gently stroked her hair as he moved his cheek against her forehead. He found himself amazed at how good holding her felt. How much he enjoyed having her chest pressed intimately against his. Was this right, feeling this way, he wondered. In fact, he couldn't recall having ever felt that way. His body tingled wherever it met hers. He felt goosebumps cover his neck where her breath gently caressed him there. He wanted... What, he didn't know. He had no idea what he was feeling for Gina or why. The only thing he knew was that he wasn't quite ready for it to end.
Gina pressed herself into the comfort that Tommy so willingly offered. Her head continued to rest in the crook of his neck as the sobs began to subside. Her hands moved on his back, holding him closer to her. This was different, she told herself. There was something different about Tommy. His back...it felt so strong beneath her hands. The muscles were hard and her hands longed to explore their ruggedness. What?! Gina questioned. Explore the ruggedness of Tommy's back? Confused and angry at herself for her errant thoughts, she abruptly pulled away from him.
Tommy immediately felt that somehow she knew. She knew what he had been thinking and was repulsed by it. Quickly, he stood and backed away from her. Keeping his eyes on the floor, he said, "I'm sorry, Gina." Then, he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Gina wanted to stop him and tell him that he had nothing to apologize for. That everything was her fault. But when she tried to speak, the words wouldn't come and before she knew it, he was gone. Maybe it was for the best, she thought as she rose from her bed. Maybe this would prevent her from making any inappropriate gestures around him in the future.
Gina grabbed her clothes for the day and went into her bathroom. Extremely disappointed in herself, she stepped into the shower and let the cold water punish her for thoughts.
Tommy groaned as he heard the shower turn off. When he left Gina's bedroom, he almost left. He came so close to leaving. To walking away. All he had to do was put his shoes on and just walk right on out of the door, but he couldn't. Instead, he sat, glued to her sofa, as he waited for her to come out. Deep inside he knew why he couldn't leave. He had to make sure she was okay. He had a feeling that her nightmare was brought on by what almost happened to him in the alley. And if so, he wanted to apologize to her for bringing it all back again. Gina with all of her fussing and bossiness was a dear friend and causing her any pain, whether or not it was involuntary, was not something he could have on his conscious.
The bedroom door opened and he stood to face her. Tommy's eyes widened as he looked at her. Dressed in work attire, a purple blouse, a short black skirt, black tights and black pumps, Gina was beautiful. He wanted to tell her, but in light of what happened in her bedroom only moments before, he wasn't sure if he should. He decided against it and remained quiet as she moved into her kitchen.
Gina had never felt so self-conscious before in her life. The way Tommy looked at her as she left her bedroom sent chills up her spine. If she was honest with herself, she would admit that she liked the attention. Tommy's attention. But she wasn't honest with herself, so instead, she convinced herself that it wasn't right. His looking at her and her enjoying it. He was her best friend's son. He was almost like a brother to her. No matter how strong his back became, how good his hands felt, or how green his eyes were...nothing would change the simple fact that Tommy and men, in general, were off limits to Gina Cates.
"Have you had breakfast?" she asked, as she pulled out a carton of orange juice from her refrigerator.
"Nah," Tommy said, moving to stand in front of her counter. Cautiously, he continued to watch her. If she looked at him with disgust or humiliation, he would leave, he decided.
"Want some?" she offered, as she held a glass of orange juice out to him.
"Well...um," Tommy hedged, taking the glass of juice from her. When she folded her arms and released an exaggerated sigh, he relaxed. "Sure," he said with a grin, reassured that she wasn't angry with him.
"Good. You can eat while I explain a few things to you," Gina said, her eyes holding his to emphasize that she wasn't in a mood to take no for an answer.
Tommy moved the stool from underneath the counter. As he took a seat, he said, "You don't have to explain anything to me. Last night was self-explanatory enough."
"I wonder," she mumbled to herself. As she concentrated on preparing their breakfast, she considered her words carefully. Tommy could be as stubborn as a mule and once he had his mind set on something... She hoped that last night really taught him something, but she had to be sure. For her own peace of mind.
"Gina, seriously. I know better than to go into any more alleys."
"Tommy, that's not even the issue anymore. You put yourself into a dangerous situation by reacting instead of thinking. Use that brain of yours!"
"I was using my brain," Tommy countered, insulted by her statement. "I admit that it was stupid of me to go with that guy. I won't do anything like that again!"
"I'm not just talking about your going into the alley with him. I'm talking about why you went in the first place."
Tommy drew a long breath and waited for Gina to continue. He didn't have long to wait.
"You ran out of Simone's without a second thought. The only thing on your mind was money, right?" she asked.
Tommy looked at her, not sure as whether or not he was a participant in this part of the conversation. When her eyes grew larger at his silence, he said, "Yeah, I was thinking about money! Mama has hospital bills and she doesn't want to stay with Grandmother. I have to take care of her. I had to get money somehow!"
"No. When are you gonna get it through that thick skull of yours that you're not the only one who cares about Simone? Huh? You're not in this alone, Tommy. Never forget that," Gina said as she heaped a spatula of scrambled eggs and bacon onto a plate. She handed the plate to Tommy, who took it.
"But, Gina..." Tommy began.
"No, buts! Eat your eggs."