“Between the Bars”
There are moments so uncomfortable that you wish you could be anywhere else, like being face to face with someone calling you an asshole, or a post-sex confrontation with your girlfriend’s shrieking sister. An invitation to meet your sweetie’s father shouldn’t be one of those, of course, but when her daddy just happens to be locked up in a prison with a reputation for its inmates, just what is the right response? Staring at you with eyes that practically weep conflicting emotions, lower lip trembling slightly as she nibbles at it in anxiety, he’s probably looking for a decisive response, and ‘Can I change my mind?’ just isn’t ‘Oh, hell no?” Sure. Depends on whether you want to keep your teeth.
Answering, “Okay, when do you want to go?” was Jahn’s only real option, of course. Slower and less reassuring than he’d intended it to be, but relief flooded Jenny’s face as soon as the words left his mouth. Visibly relaxing, his girlfriend moved forward to hug him tightly.
“I know you’re probably thinking he must be awful,” she said softly, as she leaned her head against his shoulder. “What he did _was_ really bad, unforgivable even, but he’s still my daddy, and he always tried to do right by me. I love him, even though maybe I shouldn’t.” Something left unsaid there, but the intuitive grasp was cut short when she continued, “He killed a guy in a fight way back. I was too young to get any details at the time, and I haven’t asked since. I just know it was ugly.”
Jahn patted her shoulder awkwardly as she went on, but she pulled back to look up at him. “Also, you need to know – he’s racist. Not like the watered down stuff you hear about on the news, but like out of the old days.” Sheets and slurs and crosses a’burn, he thought. Likely not KKK around here but there were plenty of supremacist organizations to catering that party. Fuck. Jahn had a long history of antagonizing bigots online; he’d have to moderate his instinct for smart-ass remarks.
“It’s hard for people to deal with. I understand if you don’t want to come.”
Of course Jenny understood, but it was also clear in her eyes that she really wanted him with her, to have Daddy meet her boyfriend, see that his little girl was doing well for herself with someone he would approve of. Whatever history Mel Donovan possessed, his daughter kept her eyes firmly to the future. Jahn didn’t like the connotations of Donovan’s approval, but he was aware he possessed qualities the man would appreciate – hard work and a determination to succeed in a society where people didn’t always. And white. Devotion to Jenny. And white.
It kept coming back to that. Snide comments also kept associating themselves with his thoughts, but he knew that if he was gonna go, he’d have to focus. Because fuck, he’d be better off simply not bothering, than insulting her father in front of her, prison guards, and all creation. Jahn wanted to hedge, but instead said, “Don’t worry about it, Jen, I’ll come along.”
She nodded, leaning her head against his shoulder again. “We can go Saturday, long as you don’t have anything else going on.” Of course he didn’t. Jenny … and later, Fiona… had fully owned his weekends for nearly the full two previous months.
“We’re going down to see Jenny’s father tomorrow morning.” Jahn didn’t understand the dynamic that existed between the two girls and their respective fathers. Uncomfortable was putting the response to Fiona’s question about his plans for Saturday mildly, and the anxiety was apparently visible on his face.
Fiona studied her hands, expression inscrutable. “You don’t need to tread lightly around the subject. I’m well aware what Mr. Donovan is like, and I don’t think any less of Jenny for going to see him. I’d do the same, in her place, I think. Mom wasn’t with my father very long after she found out that he was a hopeless alcoholic, and even though she tried to be nice about it, she told me once that it was a wonder he wasn’t the cause of the crash that killed him. Our parents are what they are, we can’t change them.”
“So what are your plans for the day?”
“Our threshold choir will be singing at the Corazon Retirement Home tomorrow. Several of the residents have asked us for our consideration, and that’ll take us the better part of the day.”
“Threshold choir, eh?” he murmured in curiosity to Fiona, as he dabbed spaghetti sauce from the side of his mouth. His … girlfriend… the idea of having two girlfriends still jarred him disconcertingly… nodded, going on explain how she and this odd singing group she’d joined years ago would sing for the dying, those in hospice care, or other stages of illness that left them bed-ridden. All of it was an event that was sometimes as much for the family, as for the patient. A concept that he had never heard of before, and one that seemed strangely …holy… though he knew neither of the girls were practicing members of any religion.
A choice of hobby that seemed exceptionally fitting: the brunette had a lovely voice, low and rich –mellifluous, that was the word-, flowing like honey whenever she spoke about something she was familiar or comfortable with. “That’s incredibly cool that you’re able to do that for people who need it the most.” She flushed in pleasure with the compliment, a dusky rose shade that deepened when he continued, “Any chance you might sing for me?”
“Maybe some other time? It’s kind of awkward, singing by myself.”
Jahn waved a hand dismissively. “No big deal. Maybe I could come along sometime, and watch your group sing?”
A delicate hand twitched across the tablecloth. “I… don’t think so. Respecting the family’s privacy is an issue, and spectators are discouraged.” After a moment of consideration, she suggested, “Perhaps you could sing with us sometime?”
Jahn laughed uncomfortably, matching her blush with one of his own. “It’s been a long time since high school choir, and I don’t think I ever had anything like your talent.” This praise earned him a dazzling smile. “Talent is appreciated, but not required. We don’t have to be superstars, just provide people with compassion and a measure of serenity.”
“I’ll work myself up to it sometime,” he promised. “Not soon, though. Stage shy, really.” She eyed him speculatively, but didn’t say anything to that. He wondered what she was thinking about that, if she was considering the fact that when he’d been with Andrea, he’d always been at a kind of center stage in any social situation, something he’d never been comfortable with. That was where he’d met Fiona the first time, he was sure, some company Christmas party. Long ago, and not something he wanted to embarrass himself asking about so late in the game.
“We’ve got the house to ourselves tonight,” Fiona said, cheeks still pink. “I didn’t really have much planned for the evening. Maybe we could watch a movie or… something?” She wasn’t being coy, just shy on the subject of sex, even though she obviously enjoyed it a great deal. To date, he’d only had her twice, that first time and maybe a week later when she’d gotten tipsy and loosened up a bit on one of their dates. Most of that was probably due to Jenny, who devoured his time and occasionally himself with a voracious and seemingly endless appetite.
Attention from Fiona never seemed to waver either, and the two-sided siege was exceptionally soothing, providing a sense that there was always someone waiting for him no matter which way he turned. Another person might have found that cloying. Not Jahn.
He loved the scent of the light perfume Fiona wore, breathing it in while they lay together on the couch, the intimacy of just being with her there, head resting on his chest, some tune he didn’t recognize humming very quietly from her lips. Jenny thrilled him with her ever-present sense of adventure and good humor, a little blonde bombshell waiting to go off or get off, wherever the mood took them. She was white hot fire that seemed to sing with life, a constant spark in her eyes, simmering laughter on cherry red lips.
Images flickered on the screen, but he didn’t feel a drive to make sense of them, instead enjoying the peace and heady sense of companionship as he massaged the crook of Fiona’s neck. Hands straying down to his midriff, his girlfriend’s long slender fingers found the buckle of his belt, and slid lower to his groin. Erotic, that deft and teasing touch, but Jahn wasn’t reacting where it counted most, and sighed inwardly for it.
His stamina seemed to be improving, but a sexual Olympian he was not, and the time with both women had been taking a toll. Displeased, he shifted his attention from himself to her, lowering his hand from her shoulder to her waist, gently tracing a labyrinth of lines and circles upon her body. Fiona sighed softly as she nestled against him.
Exploration of her firm little waist had been entirely been without skin contact, a gentle press upon the silky material of her blouse. A few surreptitious tugs upon the tails of the material remedied that lack of access, and he slipped his hand beneath, making skin-to-skin contact, his hand upon her flesh, repeating the ministrations he’d given her before. Fiona’s body arched against him as she was distracted by his touch, her own reciprocation not getting much response. He was fast resigning himself to this night being one-sided, but for some reason that didn’t seem so bad. Her body was responding to every touch, and there seemed to be a bright sense of getting something back on an entirely mental level, the physical be damned.
Despite her movement to accommodate him, his attempt to slide his hand into her skirt stalled by the form-fitting denim. Attractive skirt on her, showing off her slim hips and tight bottom to devastating effect, but it also clung to her body in a way that frustrated his efforts. He desperately attempted to recall how this one fastened. Realizing his difficulty she clasped his hand, her own guided his to the buttons, allowing him to manipulate and work them open. Obstacle removed from the path of his fingers, Jahn refocused on the original goal, smoothly slipping his hand between the sheer fabric of her panties and her skin.
Finding the familiar patch of hair, he slid his hand deeper, seeking her moist and swollen lips, and then reverted back along the groove to find her equally aroused clitoris. A sudden jerk of her body against his own proved success, and he began to manipulate the button of flesh. There was something inherently exciting about her murmurs of pleasure as she squirmed beneath him, even though his own body still showed not the slightest hint of physical reaction where it mattered. Imagining himself plucking the strings of a harp, then tapping a light beat on a drum, and then… simply letting his fingers play upon the hidden flesh, Jahn teased her through a series of orgasms, taking what might have seemed under other circumstances a perverse delight in her breathless gasps and moans.
In a strange way, it was better than the act of sex, and departure from the Reed house that night was accompanied by a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
As Jahn drove back to their house the following morning to pick up Jenny, it occurred to him just how little time he spent at home these days, and he wondered just how much gasoline he was burning on the daily driving, work, their house, the ongoing dates. His finances were in good shape and he had no worries on that score, but the nonstop commute seemed somehow inefficient. Too soon, surely, to broach the subject of moving in together, but it seemed like the natural next step.
Jenny stepped into the Taurus, and he immediately noticed that she’d dressed far more conservatively than normal, as if ready for work. Wordlessly, she slipped her pale fingers into his free hand, and he gave them a squeeze as he backed out of the driveway and began the long drive to the prison.
Nothing had quite prepared him for the experience of visiting an actual prison, and even looking at a few sites online that explained just how Johannesberg was set up didn’t have the nerve-rattling impact that walking into the place did. Stark, sterile walls gave Jahn the feeling of being locked up in a bank vault made up entirely of office cubicles. God, now there was an idea that might someday be his personal existential hell. Jenny knew where to go and led the way, but he had the bizarre impression that the guards were shepherding the pair to their final destination.
Off-guard, every bit of sensory input was a revelation, the stale odor of the human body distant but present, a stray noise that might have been yelling, the ever-watchful eyes of men in uniform on them. When they were finally ushered into the divided room, there was a curious sense of déjà vu, every movie he’d ever watched about visitors meeting with convicts by talking on a phone while separated by plate glass springing to mind. The room seemed to darken in his head, just like every one of those scenes, placing an unseen spotlight on the people talking to their incarcerated friends or family.
Jesus, get a grip, he thought. This is the real life, not a fantasy.
Jenny practically danced forward to the chair in front of the window, a bright smile on her face as she saw the jumpsuit-clad man being ushered in by guards on his side of the wall. While the loose orange material went a great way towards concealing the man’s physique, Jahn couldn’t help but feel like he was looking at a bull. No horns, but he was _huge_, shoulders spanning a width that looked like two of himself. Couldn’t tell if Donovan was taller, but with that brute size, it hardly mattered. As the man drew close, Jahn’s gut clenched. He’d always thought that those stock phrases in books and movies that never lived up to the reality were just trite expressions. Donovan had the stone-hard face of a killer. Not just that, but he really had killed a man; Jenny’s loving father was a convicted murderer.
Staring at the back of his girlfriend’s head, her blonde tresses a distraction even now, he thought with wonder that she looked past that rock facade and only saw the man that was her daddy. Oh sure, she knew, but she’d placed the knowledge in some mental back compartment and filed it, to be opened at a later time. The words of greeting that bubbled off her lips into the phone as her father picked up the device’s twin on the other side were nothing but love.
Strangest of all was the metamorphosis on Mel Donovan’s face. Not ten seconds before wearing the disaffected, expressionless visage of a killer, it was now something alive, the creases of age around his eyes deepening with pleasure, thin hard lips curving with the same. Those eyes… yes, that was where Jenny’s lovely blue eyes had come from. It was bizarre to Jahn to think of a man in that way, but Donovan really did have striking blue eyes, pretty if not for that granite face.
//You shore do got purty lips, bo//
Oh fuck you, brain, he told himself, shooting the stray thought down execution-style, rigidly turning his attention back to the convict, who, he was uncomfortable to note, was reciprocating the examination. At least it wasn’t a look of ruthless calculation, merely the curiosity of a man considering whether this kid his daughter’s seeing might be worth keeping around.
Whatever horrific failings the man possessed that leading him to commit cold blooded murder, it seemed that Jenny was his heart and soul. Jahn could relate, and when she stood, handing him the phone, he tried to keep that thought firmly in mind.
“So, you’re Jahn Halvers. Jenny’s… boyfriend.”
Jahn wasn’t sure he liked how that was added on at the end like an afterthought, but braved forth anyway. “Yes sir. You prefer the first name or the last?”
“Sir works just fine, kid.” Jahn was only a few years shy of thirty, but didn’t think it wise to point out the distinction to the now flat and expressionless face before him.
“So tell me about yourself. Tell me what you do, and why you think you’re good enough for my little girl."
Jahn began to sweat. Exactly like meeting Gianna’s father, he thought, recalling a long ago prom date. Except Mr. Charter wasn’t the sort of guy to raise a swatter to a fly, let alone a pipe or gun to someone’s head. Suddenly, the wall of glass between them didn’t seem like enough. Think of it as an interview, he thought, trying to desperately to bolster himself. Tell him what you do and why you’re not the sort of dick that would pump and dump. Just not in those words.
So he did. Slowly and with a great deal of hesitation at first, but he worked up to it, and felt a sliver of success. It would have been more helpful if Donovan’s face had given him some feedback to work with, but that flat expression never changed a whit as Jahn rattled off his personal biography.
At last the man interrupted, “That’s enough.”
Jahn stuttered to a halt. “Okay…”
Unblinkingly, he said, “You seem like an ambitious kid, and pretty smart too. Got the blood to back it up, or are you one of them exceptions to the rule?”
It took a moment for Jahn to figure out what the hell Donovan was talking about, and when he finally got it, he had to bite back a scathing retort. Use your brain, man, he thought. No family tree cracks. Jen’s right behind you.
Stiffly, he replied, “Dutch ancestry straight back to the motherland.” Donovan nodded in a manner that was so approving he wanted to puke. Instead, he waited for ‘Daddy’s’ next question. Half of Jahn’s brain called him a pussy for not following up with something like “and probably purer blood than yours”, while the other applauded his restraint from that course of stupidity.
“So, nice smart white kid like you… Jenny know you’re seeing that little half-breed girl on the side, or are you really that stupid?” The hostility in his voice was undisguised now.
Oh, shit. Jen hadn’t told Donovan that. “How do you even know-“
A biting interruption was returned, “Don’t fuck with me, boy. I have friends on the outside that keep a close eye on my little girl for me.”
Okay, so the prick had people watching Jahn coming and going. Wonderful. He’d have to go with straightforward then, and hope he didn’t piss Jenny off in the process.
“Of course she knows. It was her idea.” A sharp intake of breath issued behind him.
The convict’s eyes narrowed, no longer blue, but a steely flint. That broad face seemed harder still, but softened again when his glance moved past Jahn.
“Never should have let her mother keep that kid.” From what both women had told him about their mother, Donovan’s suggestion seemed an unlikely proposition.
Those eyes turned back to him and the voice came over the phone once more. “You know what miscegenation is?”
You fucking asshole, Jahn marveled inwardly at the man in front of him. Aloud, he said, “Yes, I do know what that is, and what it means to you personally.” He loaded the word ‘you’ with as much venom as possible, though Donovan seemed oblivious.
“I won’t tell you to stop seeing Jenny, ‘cuz it’s obvious she’s real sweet on you. I won’t do anything to break her blessed heart. Neither will you.” The threat was implicit, every bit as venomous as his own. “If you have to keep seeing that Indian girl, then that’s how it’s gonna be. You watch it, though. What I’m saying is, I know what guys who got two or three girlfriends get up to, and if I hear you’ve been talking Jenny into that kind of shit, I will have your arms and legs broken. You hear me?”
It took Jahn a minute to puzzle out what the convict was hinting at. Threesomes, he thought hysterically. He thinks Jenny and Fiona and I might start a threesome. Stupid asshole, came the thought, and this time he let his mouth wander.
“Give your daughter some credit for the intelligence we both know she has… sir.” The last word dripped ice. “You might not see Fiona as a real person, but that is her half-sister.” Emphasizing the last word, “Her sister, get it?” He didn’t want to invoke the word ‘incest’ in front of Jenny without context, but Donovan’s expression flickered enough that it seemed he understood.
The silence on the other end of the phone stretched interminably, before Donovan finally responded. “Okay, you’re talking sense. We’re on the same wave-length, kid.”
“And nothing. You treat my little girl right, and make sure you don’t do anything to her that would make me regret not adding you to a long list of kids who got shown the door.”
Jahn had no idea what he was talking about, but let it rest. “Yes sir.”
“Put her back on.” Jahn stood, passing the handset to Jenny, who had an apprehensive look on her face. He was unwilling to eavesdrop, but the shift in his girlfriend’s overcast expression to her usual sunshine demeanor told him all he needed to know. Donovan might heap that bullshit on Jahn, but he wasn’t going to do that to his daughter. Maybe love could work miracles. Or maybe he was just a romantic of idiotic proportions.
The ride home was not as silent as he might have wished for. When he saw Jenny’s face return to the cloudy expression she’d worn after hearing his words to her father, he should have known the verbal left hook was coming, but he wouldn’t have been able to dodge it anyway.
Tone unreadable, she asked, “What were you saying to my father about me and Fiona?” A loaded question, with no dodge available, no place to retreat to.
… to be continued…
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/sweet-dreams-are-made-of-this-ch03.aspx">Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Ch.03</a>