| Damsel's Tattooed Temptation 
CHAPTER 10: Janet & Ms. Jackson |

Unedited Draft: WARNING: Intended for Mature audience

“You coming to dinner?”
“Is that a serious mother fuckin’ question?” James checked his blind spot and switched lanes.
Will laughed on the other end of the phone. “Don’t think your hungry ass ever missed a sunday dinner, but now with Ms. Kane in the picture, I had to ask.”
James grimaced at the mention of Damsel. He thought things were going well with them. He text her the morning after their two day first date and caught her on the way to work. He’d been in contact daily until the day before when she didn’t respond to his morning text. He didn’t want to bombard her with messages thinking she was studying or working extra or something, but it’d been eating him up all damn day. He feared something happened that didn’t bode well for him, for them.
“Hey man you okay? You know you never told me how everything went.” There was a pause. “You didn’t fuck shit up did you?”
“The date was fine.” James snapped irritated with Will.
“Got damn man, what happened?”
James sighed pulling into a parking spot. “Look, I got to go inside. I’ll see you later tonight, okay?” James disconnected the bluetooth to his car without letting Will respond. He didn’t want to talk about Damsel until he talked to her. It frustrated him to no end not seeing her for almost a week even though they spent two days together.
James got out of the car and headed to the front doors. James flinched at the sterile smell of the rehab clinic. “Janet Stevenson.”
“Are you a relative?”
“Her son.”
The receptionist nodded and slid a clipboard toward him without looking up from her phone. “Please sign-in. She’s in her room.”
“Which room number might that be?”
The woman finally look up and paused her eyes tracing his face then down the visible portion of his torso that was above the counter. She smiled sliding her phone to the side. “Room 126. You're her son?”
James raised an eyebrow finding the woman's deep blue eyes. “Yes.” That is what he said got damn.
She smiled tilting her head to the side. “Yeah. You have her eyes.”
Had the circumstances been different, he might have gotten the woman's number. However, there was only one number he wanted to see pop up on his phone. “126, right?”
She nodded watching James walk away.
He could no longer count on his hand how many times he’d been to rehab clinics to visit his mother. It was a revolving door for her and he’d given up hope a long time ago that one visit would be her last. He loved her and wanted her to be free, but he wouldn’t invest his hope in it anymore.
James knocked on the door his mom sitting in a chair by the large window that overlooked a really nice garden. She looked frail. Her jaws were sunk in, dark circles hugged under her eyes. Her straw blonde hair was thin and brittle pulled back in a ponytail.
Her face lit up when she saw him.
James strolled in and pulled her frail body to his then kissed the top of her head.
“Awe, i-it’s been a while I think.” She stuttered avoiding his gaze.
“Yeah, too long. I can never catch up to you when you’re not in one of these places.” Unless she needed money, which he never gave her. Pay her rent? Buy her groceries? Sure, no problem, but he learned young. Never give a junky money because there’s only one thing they’ll do with it.
James perched on the edge of her bed that set across from the chair she was sitting in.
“We can go in the common area so you can have a proper seat.”
James shook his head. “I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t stay long anyway. I have work to do at the studio.”
She nodded scratching her wrist. “What are you working on now?”
“A...uh...music score for a movie that’s premiering in less than a year.”
“Oh my that’s exciting!” She smiled her hazel green eyes lighting up with intrigue. “Seems like a big deal.”
James nodded. “It is for me. I’ve never done anything like this before. This complex, involved.”
His mother looked at him from the side of her face. “And who put you up to this?”
James frowned. “The movie director offered it to me a while back. A recently said I’d do it.”
His mother smiled a sly smile, one James thought he got from her. “What’s her name?”
James laughed. “What you mean?”
“I-I might not have raised you, but I’m still your mother.” She scratched her neck waiting for his response.
“I was considering this gig before any girl.”
“But you took it because…” The woman looked at him expectantly.
“Because Damsel said you should, right?”
James palmed his face. “Is it so apparent that I’m a sucker?” He couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face at the mention of her name.
His mother laughed, a sound that James always found pleasing to his ears. It was soft and giddy. When she laughed he saw a glimpse of a woman that might have made a great mother. “You look different, m-more alive I think.” She tucked some random strands of hair behind her.
“How would you know you don’t see me that often.”
“You’re my son, James. A mother just knows these things. So, do you have a picture of her?”
James pulled his phone out of his pocket. Was that even a question? She didn’t really like taking pictures, but he had them. “Swipe left.” He said handing his mother the phone.
A light set in her eyes as she paged through the photos of James and Damsel on a bluff the morning after their first night. She was laying on his lap looking up at the sky through the canopy of the large tree. Her face had a peaceful calm on it. She was completely at ease, at peace in his lap in his presence. He remembered every detail of that moment from the feel of the breeze to the smell of the ocean, the steady sound of her breathing, the warmth in his chest, the desire to keep her there for an infinite amount of time. “Awe James she’s gorgeous, r-really pretty.”
James smiled. “Thanks.”
“You really like this girl. She looks smart, stable. Something you need.” Janet chuckled. “I’m afraid you got my genes there. Your father…”
“Was an army man.” James finished. “Stern, serious, stable, dependable.”
Janet nodded. “Handsome. You left out handsome. You l-look a lot like him.” She smiled rubbing her face. Her unsteady gaze finding the gardens outside again.
“Got your eyes though.”
“One of my few nice physical features.” She smiled pulling the thick knit sweater tighter around her frail body. “So w-when are you going to give me some grand babies?”
“Maaaaa!” James drawled returning the phone to his pocket. “I just met her like a week ago pump your brakes lady.”
She laughed. “Babies.” She whispered her mind taking her far away. “I-I’ll tell you the longest time I-I-I was sober. It was when I found out I was pregnant with you.” She smiled placing her hand over her abdomen. “A baby.” She whispered. “It was r-really hard but I wanted you to have the best start I could give you.” She scratched her wrist mindlessly. “It’d be nice to hold a little baby again.” She was gazing out the window now her mind drifting while she rocked back and forth.
“Maybe one day. First, I have to convince her to go on another date with me.” James pushed himself to his feet.
“Awe you have to leave already?”
“I’ll come back soon, maybe even tomorrow. Tonight, I have a session in the studio and then sunday dinner.”
She smiled returning his embrace. “Okay, I’d like t-to meet your beautiful Damsel some day.”
James smiled before placing a kiss to her cheek. “I’d like that too.” Once she was his that is.
James sighed and made his way to his car. He set in the vehicle and looked at his phone. Was she torturing him on purpose? He honestly didn’t understand dating games. Either you want to be with the person or you don’t. That simple.
JAMES: Hey beautiful
James sent the message and plugged his phone into the charger in his car before flipping through playlists trying to find something he wanted to listen to.
His heart jumped in his chest when her message showed on his screen.
JAMES: wyd
DAMSEL: The usual… just finished a long shift about to do some studying.
Just what he figured.
JAMES: want 2 c u. video chat later?
DAMSEL: What are you doing?
James smiled to himself. He loved that she wrote entire sentences with punctuation.
JAMES: otw to studio
DAMSEL: Working on that score I’m guessing :D...That’s exciting!
JAMES: Yeah im driving, video call me before you sleep beautiful.
James’s chest filled with renewed confidence. He couldn’t wait to see her pretty face. He thought he was probably the most pathetic person he knew.
A few hours later James pulled in front of Mamma Jackson’s house for sunday dinner. His mouth was already watering. When he stepped out the car he could smell the fried chicken, greens, sweet potatoes, and assortment of other goodies that would be weighing his belly down soon.
Will greeted him with a familiar handshake and hug. “Good to see you brother.”
James frowned at Will. “Why you beein’ so friendly?”
“Cause, I want to know what the hell happened between you and Nurse Kane? You can be one shady ass mother fucker sometimes.”
“William Thompson what did I tell you about that mouth?”
“Ma…” Will whined heading toward the kitchen. James following close behind. The usual uncles, cousins, and aunties were already sitting either at the table or in the living room talking. The house was warm and loud and filled with life and laughter and James could only think of one other place he’d rather be. James’s chest buoyed when he thought of bringing Damsel to his home.
“Hey, James,” His Mama said before leaning into a cheek kiss from him. She was busy stirring sweet potato pie filling. James’s stomach growled. He rubbed his flat belly.
“I swear you love him more than me.” Will whined hugging his mother from behind.
“Maybe I do, but you’ll never know it cause I’ll wash his mouth out with soap just the same.”
“Need help, Ma?” James asked washing his hands at the sink. The best decision Janet made was allowing Ms. Jackson to adopt him. When he was younger he loathed his mother for what she was, but her decision to give him to someone who was better qualified to take care of him was a moment of clarity that James was sure was fleeting for Janet. Second best decision trumped only by deciding to have him of course.
“Sure son. Why don’t you put the finishing touches on the greens and that corn bread’s about ready to come out the oven.”
James got to work at peace with his tasks in the kitchen. He used to watch Mama Jackson cooking away. It smelled so good he had to know what she was doing. She liked explaining the story behind dishes and showing him how to make things. Eventually, letting him do it himself. Even those dishes that he destroyed, she somehow recovered them because there was no wasting in this house.
They weren’t poor. They always had all their needs met but Mama Jackson had to be clever when it came to making special events like Christmas come true. She was a nurse like James’s Damsel. She worked hard, and they lived comfortably but wasn’t too much room for much else.
“Very good James.” Mama said taking a taste of the greens he just finished. “Other son!” She yelled. Will turned to face her from a conversation.
“Yes, Mama?”
“Can you round everyone up to eat please we’re about ready.”
“Yes Ma’am.”
“Mama?” James inquired. He never asked, and wasn’t sure why it suddenly popped into his head but he wanted to know. “Why did you adopt me? Didn’t it make things harder for you?”
She frowned and paused at her task of scraping the pie filling into the crusts. “Well, I suppose you’re right. I never really thought about it like that. I already had Will and he loved you. Suppose, I didn’t see why I couldn’t love you too.” She continued filling the pies. “I guess I did have to have two beds, and two book bags, and two rogue teenage boys running around the house giving me heart attacks, but I never thought of you as a burden. Just another son to dote on.”
James smiled. “Here, let me get those.” James took the pies and put them in the oven.
“You know I don’t look at you and Will any different, right? I mean sure I birthed him, but you have just as much of my heart.”
“Maybe a little more.” James kissed her on the forehead as she chuckled.
“What made you ask that?”
James let out air. “I don’t know. I guess maybe that I saw Janet today.”
His Mama nodded. “How is she?”
James shrugged. “Back in rehab which is good considering the alternative.”
“I know it’s hard on you.” She busied herself scooping the cornbread onto a flat round plate to take out to the table. “Honestly, I don’t know how you do it. Will’s father was into drug dealing and worst. I cut him loose so fast he sent people after me.”
James laughed able to clearly imagine a young fiesty version of his Mama grabbing her baby boy up and getting the hell out of dodge.
“I told him straight up that my son wasn’t going to be in all that nonsense. Him and Will still spend time to this day." She spread butter on the top of the hot cornbread. "I thought it was a good thing if Will’s father wanted to be a positive part of Will’s life that he be able to, but on my terms.”
James took the cornbread from his Mama before pulling her into a one armed hug. She returned it and rested her head on his shoulder. “I love you Ma.”
“I know.” She laughed. “I love you too. Now let’s eat, I could hear your stomach outside the door before you walked it.”
By the time everyone finally made it around the table, the pies were cooling on the counter and everyone had full plates of untouched food in front of them.
“Hey punk?” Will said.
James smirked before meeting Will’s face ready to smack him. Will snapped a photo of James and smiled handing James back his phone. He wasn’t even sure when Will took it.
“You should send the picture to Nurse Kane let her know what she’s missing.”
The food wasn’t the first thing that was on James’s mind when it came to things she might be missing.
He typed away and was about to send the message when his Mama grabbed him by the ear. “No electronics at my table." She said through clenched teeth. "Ain’t no rules change around here.”
“Sorry Ma.” James smashed the send button and tucked the phone in his pocket.
“If you invite the young lady over you wouldn’t have to be sending secret messages to her at my dinner table.”
“Oooooo, someone’s in trouble.” Will remarked getting a glare from James.
“Family,” Mama Jackson’s heavy voice commanded the room as a hushed silence settled over it. “Thank you for coming and filling my home with warmth and love. Let’s bow our heads and say grace. Lord, make us truly thankful for this nourishment to our bodies…”
Continue to Part 11...