Novel Excerpt: Arlen’s Harem

Readability

Novel Excerpt: Arlen's Harem

by baldilocks

Yes, I know that I have been say­ing that my new novel would be ready this year. Prob­a­bly not, but I have been work­ing on it and I just want to remind read­ers that it exists, still.

******

So, your Ital­ian side is in effect today, I see,” said Cordelia.

Yeah. Next week, when my black side is talk­ing to me, Deanna and I are going to head up to the new soul food restau­rant that’s by the apartment.”

Soul food in Fuller­ton? That should be inter­est­ing. Make sure to bring me a plate.”

That’s what Deanna said about this place when I said what I was doing tonight. All you two think about is food!”

Well, that’s not all we’re think­ing about,” she grinned.

Cordelia loved Arlen – and Arlen knew it – but it was unlike any love she had thought she’d felt before. There was no yearn­ing or jeal­ousy to it. It was friend­ship, the enjoy­ment of his com­pany, and hope for his hap­pi­ness. And it was moments like these, that she real­ized a fas­ci­nat­ing thing: she had a bet­ter rela­tion­ship with Arlen than she had had with any boyfriend – or with her ex-​husband. She knew that Deanna loved him, too and she sus­pected that the same was so for her.

Arlen gave her a look.

You’ll get a good price in Addis Ababa.”

Addis Ababa? They’ll look at me and laugh their asses off. They could go over any bor­der and get ten of me for a hun­dred dol­lars. Younger. Vir­gins, even.”

Arlen con­sid­ered this. “You know you’re right. I’ll sell Deanna’s white ass in Addis Ababa and sell your black ass in Moscow.”

Speak­ing of Deanna, tell her to give me a call. We need to plan our caper. She can prob­a­bly point me to some resources.

Arlen began to reply, then broke off at the sight of a short, mus­cu­lar black man approach­ing their table. The two of them rec­og­nized him; Arlen, because he had seen his photo on Cordelia’s night­stand when he painted her bed­room two years prior, and Cordelia because she knew the man per­son­ally – at this point in her life, more than she wished was so.

Ah, Cordelia,” the man said as he briefly gave Arlen the once-​over.

Hello, Charles,” she said.

It’s no sur­prise to see that you reverted to hang­ing out with small-​dicked white boys.”

Cordelia looked at him with­out emo­tion. “Charles, how’s your walk with God going?”

That’s none of your business.”

Well, the size of my friend’s penis is none of your busi­ness, but you seem unusu­ally inter­ested in that.”

Arlen chuck­led.

Cordelia took a split-​second look at Arlen’s face. A smirk was still there, but his eyes were hazel slits — a look she rec­og­nized. She had to get Charles away from the table. He did not know what he was starting.

Charles, just go away.” She glanced in the direc­tion from which he had come. There was a pretty black woman at a table across the room, look­ing on helplessly.

Don’t worry, I will,” he sneered. “I just wanted you to know this: I’m embar­rassed for you, sit­ting here with some fat, white boy. You’ve really sunk to the bottom.”

Look here, par­a­site,” said Arlen. “Nobody at this table cares what you think. Now run along and go suck the blood from your lat­est host.”

Charles turned to answer Arlen, and then stopped. Cordelia heard his teeth clamp shut. She looked at Arlen.

The look on Arlen’s face was one Cordelia had never seen before. The smirk was gone and there was more there than just his stan­dard ‘lizard-​eye,’ much more. That look made her afraid – not for her­self; she knew Arlen would never hurt her. She was afraid for Charles.

Charles appeared to see it, too, and, invol­un­tar­ily, took a step backward.

Charles, you are the one who broke up with me, not the other way around. You once told me to move on. I now give you the same advice,” said Cordelia.

Charles tore his glance away from Arlen’s face and looked at her. The sneer was gone.

I’m sorry…take care, Cordelia.”

Charles turned and rushed back to his table. He sig­naled the maître and, within min­utes, he and his com­pan­ion left the restaurant.

Well, I see that the ‘I’ll-kill-you-and-bury-your-body-in-my-backyard’ face is all you said it was.”

I don’t know what you’re talk­ing about. Besides, that asshole’s rot­ten car­cass would poi­son my flowers.”

Cordelia shook her head. “Crazy man.”

Charles and Cordelia had been engaged. Some­time after the breakup, she­found out that he had been engaged to another woman at the same time.

I used to imag­ine a moment like that, but gave it up around the same time I real­ized what a fraud he is.Appearance is every­thing to him.”

Why did he do that, Cordie? What was the pur­pose of even com­ing up to the table and start­ing some shit? I do not get that at all.”

I do. He was ticked off to see me happy with­out him.”

Arlen con­sid­ered this silently.

You know, of course, that that’s what Monica’s prob­lem is, too. She’s just more passive-​aggressive about it,” Cordelia continued.

Well, we’re going to fix that!”

You’re very eager to pull our lit­tle caper off,” said Cordelia, smil­ing. “I guess I’m going to have to lose a lit­tle weight before we do this thing.”

Come on now. You look fine.”

Yeah, but being slim­mer will help the per­sona. Remem­ber, we’re going to be deal­ing with peo­ple who care about appearances.”

Oh you bet your ass they do. Now let’s for­get these folks and order. Think­ing about killing a fool makes me hungry.”

That wasn’t Charles’ usual method of inter­act­ing with a sur­veil­lance tar­get. But ever since he had been assigned to watch his old friend — his old girl­friend — he found his emo­tions get­ting in the way of his work. He had seen the fat white guy com­ing to her house over and over again– some­times early in the morn­ing– as he sat a ways down her street in his cus­tom­ary dis­guise as a util­ity worker. The fat guy would stay for a bit, leave, and then come back at mid-​day. Must be a thirty-​second man, Charles thought obscenely.

He couldn’t fig­ure out the rea­son for his anger and wasn’t inclined to try. He had known Cordelia for many years and had sev­eral times tried to talk her into hav­ing an affair while he was mar­ried, but she would have none of it. She was the only woman he had known who didn’t try to throw her­self at him and he had been intrigued. So, after his divorce, he put on his Prince Charm­ing per­sona and wooed her into his web. After he tired of her, he tried to end it but she kept beg­ging him to take her back, not under­stand­ing why he was no longer the per­son he claimed to be. The merry-​go-​round lasted for a cou­ple of years because, being still sex­u­ally attracted to her, he kept invit­ing her to his apart­ment when­ever she was on the east coast.

Then all of a sud­den, Cordelia stopped con­tact­ing him. That had been two years ago. He had shrugged and moved on, not giv­ing it or her fur­ther thought.

But then came the assign­ment. Charles knew that Cordelia had been actively involved in pol­i­tics, though he found it bor­ing. But his bosses had con­sid­ered active polit­i­cal writ­ers to be pos­si­ble national secu­rity threat; aside from being a mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful nov­el­ist, Cordelia had some noto­ri­ety as an online polit­i­cal critic.

He had seen her name on a list and men­tioned to his boss that he knew her, so he got the assign­ment. It was a lot nicer being in LA than in Kyr­gyzs­tan, or some such shit-​hole, per his usual assign­ments. And he antic­i­pated bit of a sex­ual thrill at watch­ing the curvy Cordelia on the sly.

He had been phys­i­cally spy­ing on her for about two weeks, but had begun mon­i­tor­ing her text mes­sages only the day before, so he had known that she was going to din­ner this night with some dude named Arlen Tortelli. He decided to bring his lat­est LA para­mour to the restau­rant to have a “chance” meet­ing and taunt Cordelia a bit. Why? Why not? Cordelia thought she was so smart and tak­ing her down a peg or two was some­thing he would enjoy.

He hadn’t known until this very evening that Tortelli was the same guy that came to see her and when he saw the two of them laugh­ing and hav­ing a good time — and not even notic­ing his pres­ence! – he felt it was time to show him­self. But things hadn’t turned out as planned.

He had assumed that Tortelli was a soft type. But the sec­ond he looked into that face, into those eyes, he knew. Charles had learned much about human nature dur­ing his decade-​long stint with the agency and, upon eye-​to-​eye con­tact, he could almost always read a person.

The sec­ond his eyes met Tortelli’s, Charles knew that he was almost as good as dead. Becom­ing dead was not part of his sur­veil­lance plan. It was one of the few times ever that he had felt outmatched.

There would be no more approach­ing Cordelia or Tortelli directly, at least by him. That had been a mis­take. From now on, he would push his pride aside, con­duct a stan­dard sur­veil­lance, wait for instruc­tions, and watch for oppor­tu­ni­ties. Oppor­tu­ni­ties for what? He would soon find out. His bosses would tell him what to do about Cordelia Otani.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2009; the sec­ond edi­tion in 2012. Her sec­ond novel, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2014.

Please con­tribute to Juliette’s Projects: Her new novel, her blog, her Inter­net to keep them going and the COF­FEE to keep her going!

Or con­tribute to Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Inde­pen­dent Journalism — -»»baldilocks

by baldilocks

Yes, I know that I have been saying that my new novel would be ready this year. Probably not, but I have been working on it and I just want to remind readers that it exists, still. 

******

“So, your Italian side is in effect today, I see,” said Cordelia.

“Yeah. Next week, when my black side is talking to me, Deanna and I are going to head up to the new soul food restaurant that’s by the apartment.”

“Soul food in Fullerton? That should be interesting. Make sure to bring me a plate.”

“That’s what Deanna said about this place when I said what I was doing tonight. All you two think about is food!”

“Well, that’s not all we’re thinking about,” she grinned.

Cordelia loved Arlen–and Arlen knew it–but it was unlike any love she had thought she’d felt before. There was no yearning or jealousy to it. It was friendship, the enjoyment of his company, and hope for his happiness. And it was moments like these, that she realized a fascinating thing: she had a better relationship with Arlen than she had had with any boyfriend–or with her ex-husband. She knew that Deanna loved him, too and she suspected that the same was so for her.

Arlen gave her a look.

“You’ll get a good price in Addis Ababa.”

“Addis Ababa? They’ll look at me and laugh their asses off. They could go over any border and get ten of me for a hundred dollars. Younger. Virgins, even.”

Arlen considered this. “You know you’re right. I’ll sell Deanna’s white ass in Addis Ababa and sell your black ass in Moscow.”

“Speaking of Deanna, tell her to give me a call. We need to plan our caper. She can probably point me to some resources.

Arlen began to reply, then broke off at the sight of a short, muscular black man approaching their table. The two of them recognized him; Arlen, because he had seen his photo on Cordelia’s nightstand when he painted her bedroom two years prior, and Cordelia because she knew the man personally–at this point in her life, more than she wished was so.

“Ah, Cordelia,” the man said as he briefly gave Arlen the once-over.

“Hello, Charles,” she said.

“It’s no surprise to see that you reverted to hanging out with small-dicked white boys.”

Cordelia looked at him without emotion. “Charles, how’s your walk with God going?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“Well, the size of my friend’s penis is none of your business, but you seem unusually interested in that.”

Arlen chuckled.

Cordelia took a split-second look at Arlen’s face. A smirk was still there, but his eyes were hazel slits—a look she recognized. She had to get Charles away from the table. He did not know what he was starting.

“Charles, just go away.” She glanced in the direction from which he had come. There was a pretty black woman at a table across the room, looking on helplessly.

“Don’t worry, I will,” he sneered. “I just wanted you to know this: I’m embarrassed for you, sitting here with some fat, white boy. You’ve really sunk to the bottom.”

“Look here, parasite,” said Arlen. “Nobody at this table cares what you think. Now run along and go suck the blood from your latest host.”

Charles turned to answer Arlen, and then stopped. Cordelia heard his teeth clamp shut. She looked at Arlen.

The look on Arlen’s face was one Cordelia had never seen before. The smirk was gone and there was more there than just his standard ‘lizard-eye,’ much more. That look made her afraid–not for herself; she knew Arlen would never hurt her. She was afraid for Charles.

Charles appeared to see it, too, and, involuntarily, took a step backward.

“Charles, you are the one who broke up with me, not the other way around. You once told me to move on. I now give you the same advice,” said Cordelia.

Charles tore his glance away from Arlen’s face and looked at her. The sneer was gone.

“I’m sorry…take care, Cordelia.”

Charles turned and rushed back to his table. He signaled the maître and, within minutes, he and his companion left the restaurant.

“Well, I see that the ‘I’ll-kill-you-and-bury-your-body-in-my-backyard’ face is all you said it was.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Besides, that asshole’s rotten carcass would poison my flowers.”

Cordelia shook her head. “Crazy man.”

Charles and Cordelia had been engaged. Sometime after the breakup, shefound out that he had been engaged to another woman at the same time.

“I used to imagine a moment like that, but gave it up around the same time I realized what a fraud he is.Appearance is everything to him.”

“Why did he do that, Cordie? What was the purpose of even coming up to the table and starting some shit? I do not get that at all.”

“I do. He was ticked off to see me happy without him.”

Arlen considered this silently.

“You know, of course, that that’s what Monica’s problem is, too. She’s just more passive-aggressive about it,” Cordelia continued.

“Well, we’re going to fix that!”

“You’re very eager to pull our little caper off,” said Cordelia, smiling. “I guess I’m going to have to lose a little weight before we do this thing.”

“Come on now. You look fine.”

“Yeah, but being slimmer will help the persona. Remember, we’re going to be dealing with people who care about appearances.”

“Oh you bet your ass they do. Now let’s forget these folks and order. Thinking about killing a fool makes me hungry.”

That wasn’t Charles’ usual method of interacting with a surveillance target. But ever since he had been assigned to watch his old friend—his old girlfriend—he found his emotions getting in the way of his work. He had seen the fat white guy coming to her house over and over again– sometimes early in the morning– as he sat a ways down her street in his customary disguise as a utility worker. The fat guy would stay for a bit, leave, and then come back at mid-day. Must be a thirty-second man, Charles thought obscenely.

He couldn’t figure out the reason for his anger and wasn’t inclined to try. He had known Cordelia for many years and had several times tried to talk her into having an affair while he was married, but she would have none of it. She was the only woman he had known who didn’t try to throw herself at him and he had been intrigued. So, after his divorce, he put on his Prince Charming persona and wooed her into his web. After he tired of her, he tried to end it but she kept begging him to take her back, not understanding why he was no longer the person he claimed to be. The merry-go-round lasted for a couple of years because, being still sexually attracted to her, he kept inviting her to his apartment whenever she was on the east coast.

Then all of a sudden, Cordelia stopped contacting him. That had been two years ago. He had shrugged and moved on, not giving it or her further thought.

But then came the assignment. Charles knew that Cordelia had been actively involved in politics, though he found it boring. But his bosses had considered active political writers to be possible national security threat; aside from being a moderately successful novelist, Cordelia had some notoriety as an online political critic.

He had seen her name on a list and mentioned to his boss that he knew her, so he got the assignment. It was a lot nicer being in LA than in Kyrgyzstan, or some such shit-hole, per his usual assignments. And he anticipated bit of a sexual thrill at watching the curvy Cordelia on the sly.

He had been physically spying on her for about two weeks, but had begun monitoring her text messages only the day before, so he had known that she was going to dinner this night with some dude named Arlen Tortelli. He decided to bring his latest LA paramour to the restaurant to have a “chance” meeting and taunt Cordelia a bit. Why? Why not? Cordelia thought she was so smart and taking her down a peg or two was something he would enjoy.

He hadn’t known until this very evening that Tortelli was the same guy that came to see her and when he saw the two of them laughing and having a good time—and not even noticing his presence!–he felt it was time to show himself. But things hadn’t turned out as planned.

He had assumed that Tortelli was a soft type. But the second he looked into that face, into those eyes, he knew. Charles had learned much about human nature during his decade-long stint with the agency and, upon eye-to-eye contact, he could almost always read a person.

The second his eyes met Tortelli’s, Charles knew that he was almost as good as dead. Becoming dead was not part of his surveillance plan. It was one of the few times ever that he had felt outmatched.

There would be no more approaching Cordelia or Tortelli directly, at least by him. That had been a mistake. From now on, he would push his pride aside, conduct a standard surveillance, wait for instructions, and watch for opportunities. Opportunities for what? He would soon find out. His bosses would tell him what to do about Cordelia Otani.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her second novel, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2014.

Please contribute to Juliette’s Projects: Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep them going and the COFFEE to keep her going!

Or contribute to Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism—->>>>baldilocks