A Sanctuary of One
Chapter 1 There’s Always One Who Loves
New York City
Christopher White possessed a name that suited him perfectly. As people observed, there had to be northern Scandinavians at large in his history, as he was possibly the whitest person they knew, right down, or up in this case, to his blonde, now receding, hair.
So it was a surprise when Christopher White married Julie Ramos, whose father was Puerto Rican and her mother mixed race.
“But not nearly as, um, white, as the Whites,” Julie’s friend Anna had smirked, considering Christopher’s very well-to-do, privileged parents.
But it had been years since Julie had seen Anna or any of her old crowd. Her life now was centered on their lovely home on the Upper West Side, her children, Noah, nine and Abigail, seven and her thriving business.
As for Christopher White, he had established himself as one of the top plastic surgeons in the state; women (and he worked almost entirely with women) came to him from as far away as Alaska and even Russia.
So far in their ten years of marriage, however, Julie had not been satisfied with the life of a stay-at-home mother, returning to her world of advertising as quickly as possible each time after giving birth. Her long-time ‘super-nanny’, Angel, being invaluable in her life; a ‘true angel’ Julie had often commented.
“You’re not concerned the children will mistake Angel for their mother?” Christopher had murmured once, several years ago, and Julie had simply given him a look. Why was it that he could have his career and his life and see his children, interact with them as he chose, but she needed to be there full time?
Christopher didn’t actually say that; it was simply implied in his manner. They had not fought over the issue; not even argued, really. Julie would admit that they had never had an emotional argument in their marriage, ever, despite her occasional annoyance or frustration. It was simply not in her husband’s (or hers, really) nature. For his part, Christopher was a calm, thoughtful, unemotional, stable, dry man; almost plastic.
“Well, it’s good he is a plastic surgeon, yes?” Her mother had winked at her early in the marriage when Julie had quietly complained about their uneventful lives.
She had had to laugh at her mother’s remark; her parents did not dislike her husband in the least. They were actually quite fond of him and appreciative of the safe and bountiful life his career provided. In their minds he was, absolutely, a decent man.
And they worshipped their two grandchildren. Julie’s impulsive sister and globe-trotting brother would likely not provide anything of the sort, at least nothing that would be acknowledged, so Noah and Abigail were precious, and both sets of grandparents battled for their time and affection. The positive of this was that both Julie and Christopher were able to involve themselves with their interests pretty much as they wished, their children never needing for care.
On top of his practice, White worked with New York University’s Master’s Program in Medicine, co-teaching one class each semester. He was also frequently asked to speak at conferences across the country, and was usually away a few days each month.
Julie had once considered asking him if all his obligations meant that his children might not recognize their father, but that was petty. He spent quality time with his children, and they did many family things meant to enrich their lives.
No, neither White child suffered for anything, including attention.
As time passed, Julie had managed her own restlessness (her lack of marital ‘fire’ as she considered it) over the years with occasional affairs. There had to date been three, all with men she had met while at the numerous conferences or trade shows she herself attended. Her only mild concern (she felt no guilt at the pleasure these encounters had given her; the men were all masculine and aggressive sexually; satisfying her in this way far more than Christopher ever had or could) was that she had gone back to each man more than once.
The most recent, Aaron, an IT specialist five years her junior at thirty-one, had even come to New York one weekend and the two had enjoyed a satisfying weekend of intense, even creative, sex.
But that had been over a year ago now, and she had felt no pull recently, which both concerned and relieved her. What she could use right now, she mused as she stared at the computer screen that had not changed in over twenty minutes as she allowed her thoughts to roam, was a gal pal to talk to. She thought now of Anna and Steph, and the other girls she had hung with in her younger days.
“Hel-lo-Hel-lo,” a voice called, rousing her from her reverie. Julie looked up to see the plump and pleasant face of Tina, her assistant, beaming at her. “You were off somewhere, my dear.” The woman grinned.
Julie smiled sheepishly, “You got me, girl. I’m not making any headway on this thing for Aduval, so I just kind of went away.” She chuckled, “So, what do you need?”
“Oh, nothing Boss. I just wanted to see if you’d thought any more about coming out with us tonight, to the meeting?”
Julie looked up with a blank face, trying hard to recall what meeting.
Tina smiled again. Divorced and forty-four, with two young-adult children, the woman had worked her whole life with little in the way of breaks, yet she smiled a lot, and saw the good in others. She was not the most knowledgeable about technology, many younger people would surpass her, but she was reliable and competent and positive; all things Julie White appreciated.
“The #MeToo discussion group. Jasmine and I are going, and I think a friend of hers. You like a good debate, Boss. And it won’t be hard core Femi-Nazi-ism or anything, but your experience and everything would be valuable.”
Julie grimaced slightly. She didn’t like the way the world was drifting these days; she didn’t like the noisy, aggressive tone that social media was adopting, where the loudest voices drowned out the rest. She didn’t need to be part of any sisterhood and she certainly didn’t need to hear endless tirades against men.
“Look,” Tina continued, “just come tonight and see what goes on. If it’s really not your thing, if nothing interests you, that’s fine and I will stop nagging you. That’s a promise. Boss.” Tina smiled again.
Julie smiled, too. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. She’d been thinking of how it would be nice to spend some time with women, or a woman; a friend. She needed that. She couldn’t remember the last time she and Christopher had talked at length about anything of importance; both of them busy with their worlds and then the children.
It wasn’t enough, for her. She needed…something.
Courtney Farrell clicked the mouse twice and waited for the sheet to come out of the printer. The woman she had just inputted into the Williams Street Shelter was now processed; Courtney took the form to Alanna and then strolled to the small cafeteria; she had missed lunch and it was now almost three. She decided to eat a sandwich and soup now, as she had the meeting tonight that she wanted to get to and likely wouldn’t have time to eat later.
And as she ate she unconsciously tied her impressive, red hair back into a pony tail as she read over her notepad. She planned to speak tonight and she felt a little nervous. In one on one situations, Courtney, now twenty-seven, was always self-assured and confident; but in groups it was a different story.
Standing up to carry her tray and trash to the bin, a lunchroom staffer, one of the few men in the building, happened to bump into her and she recoiled; even after all these years, certain things still affected her. The young man apologized and Courtney moved on and up the stairs to her small office on the second floor. The young man watched the shapely hips enclosed in the tight white track pants, looking away quickly when Courtney glanced back.
Even if he hadn’t been looking, she believed he was. It was one of her obsessions.
Christopher White looked over the scans; Ms. Jenson’s implants were looking fine. He had only started doing breast implants three years ago, when a partner, Ava, joined him, and it now made up almost half his work. He had never lacked for money, his practice successful from the start, but the steady flow of woman wanting a better profile had made the financial needle move up even further.
But the side effects had been odd; he now found it difficult to enjoy wife Julie’s plump, round breasts. Not only were they no longer arousing, he found handling them distasteful, almost repellant. He had fought this growing response as it developed over the last year, but it was of no use. The only time now that he could consider intimacy with his wife was in the safe darkness of their bedroom, and he believed she found this boring. But then, those times had become very infrequent.
Claire, his loyal assistant (she had been the first, and although the staff now had grown to three, was still his primary aide) came to his large and tidy desk. Mid-height, mid-forties, married, although she didn’t wear her rings at the office, her most prominent feature was, ironically, the substantial bosom that was almost an advertisement for a plastic surgeon who did breast implants.
Unbuttoning her white top, Claire placed the doctor’s hands upon her breasts. She knew he didn’t always wish to see them, but he did enjoy fondling them, at least over her bra. The man himself could not explain why, brushing the inconsistency from his mind.
Kneeling down, Claire rubbed her hand against his expensive trousers, feeling the reluctant hardening of his modest cock. In a few moments her red lips (he liked red, bright red, actually) were moving up and down the glistening shaft, as Dr. White leaned back in his chair, eyes closed, soft moans escaping his lips.
If his wife could have her…secrets, well, so could he.
Julie first called Angel and confirmed with her that she would be able to make dinner for the children; the woman was a marvellous cook (so much better than me, Julia mused). Noah and Abigail did not need to be picked up from their private school, the bus dropped them off right outside their condo on one hundred and tenth, with Angel there to meet them.
Next, Julie managed to reach Christopher, who sounded even calmer than usual; relaxed almost, which Julie found strange for someone who made his living cutting humans open. Well, better relaxed, she considered, than hyper. Who wanted a hyper surgeon handling a sharp scalpel? Christopher nodded at Claire who returned from brushing her teeth and then nodded as his wife informed him that she would be home later; she was off to a meeting.
As Claire zipped up his trousers and kissed his neck, Christopher grunted at the information that it was a ‘woman’s meeting’. “Well, just don’t go marching in the streets, dear,” he murmured.
“Would that matter to you?” Julie asked, slightly annoyed and not sure why.
“Probably not,” Christopher replied, as Claire tossed him a wide smile before heading back to her desk.
Christopher then placed a call to Angel himself. He was interested in what she might prepare for dinner.
The group ended up being fourteen women and they met in a room behind a restaurant, where most ate before the discussion. As well as Tina and Julie, co-worker Jasmine, an early twenties woman with both a nose and eye-brow ring and arm tats, came. The fourth woman was Jasmine’s friend Courtney, a striking redhead who seemed an unlikely companion to the brash and clearly lesbian ‘Jas’.
After the meal and once everyone had a coffee or tea, the discussion was led by a Pace University English Professor, followed by a Syrian woman who was now in her third year of living in America and waiting for her citizenship.
The professor, a black woman in her early fifties, spoke of the issues facing working women, especially with things like career advancement. The Syrian spoke of the difficulty of an immigrant woman and employment.
Julie was pleased that no one used the word ‘victim’; apparently Professor Fenton disapproved of the word, as Julie herself did. The discussion became heated at times but remained thoughtful. Jasmine’s friend Courtney spoke several times and Julie was moved by her honesty; and by the woman’s voice. It had a quality; one could imagine that she had possibly been a radio announcer or some such thing. Julie closed her eyes once and just listened.
Several times during the evening, as the women sat in a large circle, Courtney and Julie exchanged looks. Now, as the group was breaking up around nine, several of the women discussed going for drinks.
Julie was looking at her watch when that lovely voice spoke beside and above her. “You are coming for a drink, aren’t you? It’s Julie, right?”
“Oh,” Julie said, slightly startled, “I was just considering…”
“Well don’t; I’m buying, the first drink, anyway.”
Julie looked up into the very attractive, no, beautiful, face; pale, soft, absolutely unblemished skin; thick, red hair framing the face with its high cheek bones and light blue-green eyes. “Why would you want to do that?” she asked with genuine wonder. No woman had ever offered to buy her a drink before. She had shared drinks, obviously, many times. But this seemed…different.
Courtney laughed and her face literally lit up. The memories and issues that sometimes caused her to avoid contact at places like her work or made her seem preoccupied, even distant at times, vanished. She became a radiant woman. “Really? I thought we had like a…connection in the meeting? I felt it.”
“A connection?” Julie asked as Courtney led her by her elbow toward the door. “We’ve barely met.”
“Well, let’s fix that. The lounge is just a little ways down this block.”
Christopher was just coming out of Noah’s room; the lad had drifted off to sleep easily tonight. Oh to be a child, the father pondered as he headed down the hall.
As he came up to her, Angel was just putting on her coat, with the temperature outside hovering just above freezing, April or not. “Lovely dinner as usual Angel,” Christopher murmured as the stocky, dark-haired woman smiled up at him.
“No problem, Mr. White. It is never a problem, for you or Mrs. J. The dishwasher is started, by the way and I’m off.”
“Good night and see you tomorrow,” Christopher announced to the broad, departing back.
Taking a glass of Merlot, he made his way to the den and popped open one laptop. He knew his schedule but he still felt the need to confirm; no surgeries tomorrow, but two follow-up visits; one an intricate nose job and the other; breast enhancement.
Would he ever completely enjoy a woman’s breasts again, he wondered, thinking for a moment of the mammaries of the loyal Claire? He would love to bury his face into the soft, ample mounds of flesh, but could not bring himself to it; yet. Claire wanted him to, but accepted his excuses, performing her ‘special’ service upon him with an obvious pleasure.
As he ruminated these thoughts on her, the woman appeared via a text message. “Dear Dr. W; I have confirmed your rooms for next weekend in New Orleans, Friday and Saturday. You had spoken of my assistance. Would you like me to book rooms as well?”
Christopher smiled as he read the message. “What would I do without your assistance, my dear Claire? Yes, please book rooms and flights. See you tomorrow; in at ten,” he texted back.
Five women ended up together at the lounge, sitting in a booth that curved around a large table. Julie sat at one end, beside Courtney, and after initial introductions and the like, the woman beside her became the only person she could really talk with. She heard snatches of comments from others now and then, but the soft (sultry? could this be a sultry voice? Julie pondered early on, trying to clarify what she found so compelling) voice to her right engaged her almost completely.
It became clear to Julie within a few moments that she and Courtney lived in very different worlds; at least, now. If she had stayed where she had been raised, in that working-class environment, then the differences would likely be minor. But she hadn’t stayed; she had earned a degree and married a man with wealthy parents who netted a healthy six-figure salary and had for many years; and they lived in an exclusive area of one of the most expensive cities on the planet.
Courtney, on the other hand, could only come to the Upper West Side as a guest. The young woman was not bitter about any of this, but she was definitely opinionated; and an activist. She believed in causes, identifying herself clearly, in one example, as a feminist. She did not say this to Julie as a challenge; she wasn’t carrying a chip on her shoulder so much as believing she was a soldier in a war.
As the attractive woman spoke at length about equal pay and roadblocks to women, Julie found herself simply listening to the voice rather than focusing on the ideas as they tumbled out, in volume.
“Are you listening to me, Julie?” the young woman suddenly asked, a smile on her pink lips. But at that moment there was movement from the end of the table, as two women were standing and getting ready to leave. Good-byes were said and then the third woman, Maxine, chatted for a while and finally Julie and Courtney were left as the last two.
“What were you asking?” Julie finished the last of her wine and looked at her companion.
Courtney chuckled, “I was just yadda, yadda and saw you had zoned out; I can have that effect on people sometimes.” Julie chuckled as well, and Courtney continued. “So I’ve been rude, which is like me. We haven’t talked about you, the good newbie doobie.”
Julie looked into the light, almost emerald in the lounge, blue eyes, “This is a regular thing, these meetings and then some socializing?”
Courtney shrugged and brushed back her thick hair with one long, elegant hand. (I’ll bet she plays piano, Julie mused) “Wouldn’t call it like, regular, exactly. We’ve been getting together for maybe a year now, every couple of months; there are about twenty of us but the whole crew doesn’t make it, right; and then we encourage bringing friends. You work with Tina, right?”
Julie nodded and considered, “Yes, I’m her, em, boss, actually, although we look at ourselves as a team, hey?”
“And it’s marketing or some shit?”
Julie chuckled and nodded. “Yes, some shit. Multi-platform advertising; we do everything from Twitter posts to television commercials; print, you name it. Even radio. I had my own firm for several years, then was bought out three years ago and hired as a working senior consultant. I like it, the whole promotion game, bullshit though it may be. Not bad for a Loisaida girl.” She grinned.
“Well, good for you, doobie. A non-white woman making it in like corporate America kind of; I raise my glass to you, even if my glass is like empty and you call your work bullshit,” Courtney laughed again.
She then proceeded to share her job and activities, which, no surprise, revolved around her causes. Protecting women from abusive relationships being one, which was why she worked at the shelter. The two sat in silence for a moment.
“I see you’re um, hooked up,” Courtney murmured, stroking Julie’s hand and ring. Julie smiled, partly because the touch felt pleasant and partly because she wasn’t sure what to say. “Kids?”
“Two,” Julie replied softly, running her finger up the stem of her glass.
“I’ll bet you’re a great mom,” Courtney said, quietly as well.
Julie sat in silence for a moment, hearing the din of conversation around her. “Not really, to be blunt. I like my own life. The best moms are the ones that are totally devoted.”
Courtney shook her head, her mane of hair swaying. “Don’t agree. I’ve seen those helicopter moms at work, hovering. Smothering, I say. But what about hubby-dear, does he do his…thing?”
Julie looked up but Courtney was focused on her glass; she noticed the soft swell of the woman’s breasts against her blouse, the line of her neck, the paleness of her skin. “He’s attentive; reads to the children at night. But he’s a doctor, a surgeon, and he’s busy; he teaches and travels. We both tend to be, mmm, busy, actually. But we have a wonderful ‘nanny’ cum housekeeper, who is indispensable.” Here Julie chuckled for a moment and Courtney looked up.
“I just find it funny…me…a Puerto Rican woman having a white nanny. How’s that for the American dream?”
Courtney laughed, covering her mouth with her long fingers.
In her modest Wakefield home, Claire Butler looked in on her husband, who needed to be away by four a.m. as he was on the early morning shift. He was snoring as usual and with a sniff of disdain, she closed the door. She moved down the hall to her son’s old room, empty since he had left for college. She stood looking quietly at the space; for whatever reason she had left things as they were, although Grant had emptied out his personal things a couple of years ago.
She then went to the third bedroom, end of the hall; the one which she had taken over as her own, she and her husband having not shared a bed in years; ten years in fact. She undressed and stood, massaging her large breasts and then the marks left by her bra. She picked up her cell phone and took a picture of each breast, then sent the images to Dr. White, smiling.
He might not touch them, but she enjoyed showing them to him.
“So Julie, would you take the red pill or the blue pill?” Courtney asked with an impish smile, blue eyes twinkling.
Julie sat; silent, frozen…confused. Pills?
“You know, knowledge and freedom, or blissful ignorance?” Courtney impulsively stroked the dark, curling mass of hair of this very interesting woman sitting beside her. She ran her slim hand down the woman’s light brown cheek; there was no resistance.
“Let’s go with the red,” then Courtney leaned in and kissed Julie, full on her soft, brown-pink lips.
(End of Chapter 01)