WARNING: Mature Content
Judge Willie Pierce looked around the wood-paneled office lined with various awards, plaques and certificates and considered what a fortunate man he was. Despite humble beginnings, he had achieved great things. He made it a point however, to remind himself of that little one room, tar paper shack in Tunica “Sugar Ditch” Mississippi.
His gains, however, had not come without sacrifice.
It was the sacrifices that haunted him now. Time that should have been focused on family was spent on building connections and networks. Time when he could have been teaching his son to ride a bike, he was making back room deals. Time when he should have been setting a healthy example for moral, Christian conduct, he was taking advantage of the ripe, plump fruit offered to him as his due to a successful man.
Pigeons. They do come home to roost.
Age and wisdom had helped to re-order his priorities but he knew he would never fully escape the consequences of his past actions. That thought was evident as he thumbed through the Technicolor, 8×10 glossy photographs that displayed his wife, time and again, spreading herself in one form or another beneath his only son.
He paused and lingered over one particular photograph. All of the pictures had been taken from a distance with a high-powered telephoto lens. The photographer had been stationed somewhere outside his own two-story bedroom window. Willie recognized the curtains, the bed and the portraits hanging on the wall behind the writhing couple. The image was a frontal shot of his wife on her knees facing the camera. Willie rubbed a finger across Eula’s face. Her image reflected a passion and ecstasy he had rarely seen, if ever. His son, Andre, was positioned behind her, bathed in sweat. Andre had his hands firmly planted on either side of her hips, holding his wife in position to accept the thrust of his hips. The photograph caught him mid thrust; Andre’s back was bowed and his head was thrown slightly back and to the left. His posture was that of raw heat and sensuality. But it was the expression on his son’s face that stopped Willie cold.
Andre appeared to look directly into the camera lens. His expression was intense, almost fierce. If Willie hadn’t been familiar with every expression on his son’s face, a face so much like his mother’s, he would have assumed that expression reflected sexual passion.
But Willie knew better. He saw the tension etched across his face and the slash that had replaced Andre’s normally full, expressive lips. But most significant to Willie was the sheen of moisture in his son’s eyes. The camera lens captured a single teardrop an instant before it fell. Willie felt the impact of his son’s pain even across the two dimensional image.
Willie swallowed the anger that had been rising since he opened the 11×14 manila envelope. The evidence of their betrayal was damning and clear. But he felt his anger dissolve and merged with a healthy dose self-disgust. Willie didn’t have to wonder why his wife would be attracted to Andre. Eula was twenty-three years Willie’s junior, certainly more of a contemporary of his son than him. She was a vibrant, sensual woman and he’d been foolish to think he could have met all her needs. Besides, Willie knew his son’s appeal to women. Women had been losing their minds over Andre since the day that boy left the womb, starting with his own mother.
But Andre’s motivations were a bit different. Willie knew that Andre’s betrayal was far more complex than an overwhelming attraction to his father’s wife. Andre had finally figured out a way to pay his father back.
Five years ago. . .
Willie Pierce took the steps leading up to his son’s condominium two at a time. He spent this day with his son every year since his dear wife, Maybelline passed away two years before. Throughout their marriage and later after Andre was born, it was a family to celebrate Maybelline’s birthday together. Each year, they would travel to a different location, either the US or abroad and each year, father and son would compete to outdo the other in the gifts they presented to her.
They hadn’t traveled since she passed away, but Willie felt the connection to her when he and his son gathered together in her honor. Since her death, the day had taken on extra significance for the two of them. Ironically, this was also the day his Maybelline had died. Willie had never been good at expressing his feelings but sharing this day with his son helped to ease the loneliness and sense of loss that was still an open wound in his heart.
He reached the front door and grabbed for the key ring in his pocket. Willie didn’t usually enter his son’s home unannounced. He’d had a key to the condo since the day his son purchased it over a year ago, but he rarely used it. However, in his excitement to get the day started, he unlocked the door without a second’s thought.
It was a decision he would regret for the rest of his life.
Willie closed the door behind him and heard muffled voices in the living room. They didn’t usually invite other people with them on their special today so, he was curious about Andre’s visitor. He opened his mouth to announce his presence, and then closed it just as quickly.
He heard crying.
Willie moved quickly across the foyer and paused just outside the living room.
His son Andre was sitting on the couch enfolded in a pair of loving arms. The sound of Andre’s tears was heart wrenching and Willie stifled the impulse to run to his son’s side to offer his own parental comfort.
He hesitated, struck by the intimacy of the moment. He was reluctant to intrude on his son’s grief, even though it was one he shared. His presence felt like an intrusion. But that was ridiculous. This was his son, who was in obvious pain. Where else would he be?
Before he could move, the air closed in around him. Willie watched his son with this stranger, this man, as if through a long tunnel. The stranger cradled his son as if Andre were a young child who needed soothing. The storm of tears gradually calmed but the embrace continued.
The sobs trickled down to sniffles. Willie watched his son wrap his arms even tighter around the stranger’s neck. He buried his face in the man’s neck and nibbled his way to the man’s mouth. The man reached for Andre’s face and wiped away his tears. They smiled at each other gently and then melted into a passionate embrace.
Willie had trouble understanding what he was seeing. But he must have made some type of noise because the two of them stood up suddenly, pulled away from each other and faced him.
Willie couldn’t have spoken if his life depended on it. He just stood there and watched the play of emotions chase each other across his son’s face. He watched the confusion, surprise, embarrassment, and and finally, defiance flicker in and out. During this silent exchange, Andre seemed to reach a decision and a resolved expression moved in and stayed. Father and son faced each other head on.
Willie broke gaze first and turned to the other man and looked at him fully for the first time. This man was no stranger. Willie knew him well. He was the Chief of Detectives for the Memphis Police Department.
Detective Rasheed Harris.
Willie left the condo without speaking. He heard his son’s footsteps chase after him and quickened his pace. Andre captured his arm before Willie could escape out the door.
“I love him, dad.”
The words were spoken simply, without fanfare, dramatics or excuses. The sincerity in his words almost made Willie forget that the person he referred to was Rasheed Harris.
“Love? Love? What the hell does love have to do with . . .” Willie sputtered and pointed in the direction of the living room. “. . . that?”
Andre sighed, pulled him back into the house and closed the door. “I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. I’m tired of living in the shadows, dad.”
Willie felt his heart break in two. Andre had said the exact same words to him when he was in high school. Then, he was in love with his football coach. And then later in college, he was “in love” with his philosophy professor. His son was like a child with a new toy. He “loved it” until the next toy came along.
“What about your career? Look around you, Dre. This is Memphis. How far do you think you’ll get in any political election with him by your side?”
“Dad, I’m tired of playing a role and not being true to myself. Rasheed is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
“You’ve said this before, Dre.” Willie reminded him.
“I know, dad. And I’ve always allowed you to sway me to your way of thinking, but not this time.”
Willie looked at his son for a long moment. They both turned at the sound of a boot heel scrape on the marble floor. Rasheed stood in the open door watching them. The two younger men exchanged a smile and Andre left his father to stand at Rasheed’s side.
Willie watched them for a moment longer and then left the apartment.
Present day. . .
Willie resealed the pictures in the envelope and shoved them into a drawer in his desk. His friend James Hardaway, the Police Commissioner, had told him then that he needed to take a firm stance with his son. James agreed that an open relationship between Andre and Rasheed could create significant problems for them and their plans. James left, instructed Willie to relax, stating that he would “take care of things.”
The next he heard of their “problem”, Rasheed had been arrested for drug trafficking and was later convicted and sentenced to prison. Willie never asked for the details but he knew that Genesis had done what it always did; took care of things.
Throughout the trial, Andre had begged him to assist Rasheed, to intervene somehow on his behalf. But Willie had been immovable in his refusal. He reminded Andre that Rasheed had a history of disciplinary problems and perhaps he had overestimated his “friend.”
“Son, it’s probably for the best. Given your aspirations for public office, he has just shown you one more reason why you needed to distance himself from the man.
But for once, Andre was resolute.
Willie had never denied his son anything he truly wanted. The fact that he wouldn’t budge on this issue raised Andre’s suspicions that he may be involved in the set up. Andre had never been able to prove his involvement but Willie’s relationship with his son had sustained irreparable damage.
Willie opened the drawer once again and pulled out the photos of Andre with his wife.
His son believed that he could blackmail Willie into helping him with his current problems with The House of Peace. Andre believed that the threat of a scandal would be enough to coerce him into using his influence to sway the election in his son’s favor.
Willie slammed the drawer shut and then stood up to leave the office. He had indulged his son’s behavior for way too long. It was time for him to tech his son a thing or two about consequences.