We moved into the grey concrete slab of flats on the notorious Kersal council estate when I was thirteen years old. Life was difficult enough, but the fact that my Mum’s fiancé was black didn’t help matters in the racist stakes. Apparently, a white woman with a black guy was frowned upon in the seventies.
I loved Jermaine, though. He was fun to be around and always defended me if Mum was being critical. His voice was as smooth as dark chocolate and his eyes reminded me of chocolate drops.
If Mum was hormonal — or just being a tetchy bitch — Jermaine would make her laugh and bring her out of that mood. She’d soon forget why she’d been pissed off in the first place. I loved that he made my Mum laugh. As a teenager, I saw it as one of Jermaine’s strongest points because he could dissolve any tension like an aspirin being dropped into water. He certainly saved me a good few headaches!
So, yeah, apart from the frowns from racists, my mum, Jermaine, and me were all happy together. He was the best stepfather any girl could want.
On a warm summer’s day in 1976, Mum married Jermaine at the registry office. He looked so smart in his beige flares and red satin shirt. Mum looked beautiful, too, in a white flared suit with her long dark hair pinned up, a daisy chain draped across her forehead. My bridesmaid dress was a chiffon floral affair and that day I truly felt like a princess.
The day Jermaine and Mum got married was the happiest of my life. My biological father had been a feckless loser, waltzing out of our lives when I was three months old. I’d always wanted a father so when Jermaine married my mum, I felt like he was officially my Dad. When he said he wanted to adopt me, I was over the moon.
I was sixteen when I saw Mum and Jermaine having sex. I’d arrived home early from school because there was a teacher’s meeting. Obviously, I wasn’t expected and they hadn’t even shut their bedroom door. I caught a glimpse of Jermaine fucking Mum from behind and I thought how good his dark skin looked against my Mum’s pale porcelain flesh.
I quickly and quietly retreated to my bedroom, tiptoeing across the landing. However, I couldn’t get the image out of my head. Being honest, I had a mixture of emotions. In the first place, guilt that I’d actually seen them in their most intimate of moments. But, the brief sight had excited me, too.
Anyway, they carried on fucking, oblivious that I was home, and their groans and moans of pleasure filled the air, turning me on a little bit more than it should. I confess that I did stroke myself to orgasm as I heard my Mum announcing her own “arrival”.
I was in my first year at college when Mum was diagnosed with cancer and given three months to live. To say we were all devastated is an understatement. When she passed away, I felt that my heart had been punctured and it fluttered to the pit of my stomach before reforming its pieces into a lead weight that didn’t shift.
After the funeral, Jermaine sat me down on the tapestry sofa in our lounge and vowed that he would always look after me. He said that when he adopted me, he’d taken that particular commitment very seriously indeed.
For weeks after Mum’s death, I was lost and I knew that Jermaine was struggling in his own way. However, eventually, we managed to get into some kind of daily routine while we dealt privately and individually with our loss. After six months, we were becoming accustomed to life without Mum. Not having her around was still strange and painful, but at the end of the day, death is one thing in the whole universe you can’t reverse.
One day at college, however, as I was trying to focus on a particular passage from (To Kill A Mockingbird), I felt a wave of grief overcome me. It completely pole-axed me, leaving me breathless. And, as if they had a mind of their own, my eyes tipped tears of sadness over my book.
I hid my face with my hair so no-one would see me so upset. Finally, to my relief, the class was over and I picked up my bag and ran from the room, desperate to get home so I could grieve privately.
At home, I was relieved that Jermaine was out. We’d moved into a realm where we cried privately and went about doing our own thing. We didn’t cry in front of each other: somehow sharing our tears would have made the whole nightmare even more unbearable.
Having undressed, I put on my bathrobe before flopping onto my bed where I sobbed into the pillow until there were no more tears left. It felt like sand had replaced moisture in my ducts. Grief is exhausting, and crying always made me tired as well as providing the mother of all headaches.
I fell asleep at some point, sheer exhaustion overtaking me. My mind shut off, like a window blind being pulled down to block out the dark of the night. Self-preservation, I suppose.
Anyway, I awoke to Jermaine’s knock on my door. ‘Are you ready for something to eat, Tabitha?’ he asked, tentatively opening the door. ‘I’ve made your favourite, Jamaican chicken with rice.’
‘I’m not hungry,’ I managed. ‘But I might fancy some later, just leave it in the fridge.’ I felt slightly ungrateful because his voice sounded so soft and caring and, of course, he’d made the effort to prepare a meal despite his own depression.
‘Is it okay if I come in?’ he asked. ‘I don’t want to infringe on your privacy but I think we should start talking to each other. We wander in and out of the house like total strangers. I don’t think that’s very healthy.’
I nodded and sat upright on my bed, folded my arms across my knees and pulled them up to my chest.
‘Shall I put the light on?’
‘Not the main light,’ I said. I didn’t want my swollen eyes and tear splattered cheeks on view. Instead, I turned on the bedside lamp and its soft hue cast a glow around the bedroom: a soft lighting to hide the harshness of my grief and despair.
Jermaine sat on the edge of the bed and clasped his hands between his knees. His broad shoulders and back were evidently rigid with tension.
‘I know it isn’t easy,’ he finally started. ‘I guess we both have days where we need to try and muddle through and make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt. You know, don’t you, that your Mum wouldn’t want us to be so sad and disconnected. I know it’s easier said than done, but it was her last request after all, wasn’t it? For us to carry on and be happy. Get on with our lives.’
As I heard Jermaine mention my Mum’s last request, I unravelled like a poorly crocheted rug. I burst into tears, hot horrid drops of sadness burning my cheeks.
My outburst must have been too much for Jermaine. He wrapped his strong arms around me and pulled me to his chest. He smelt good, a mixture of musk and citrus with just a hint of garlic on his fingers from the meal he’d lovingly prepared for me.
After a couple of minutes, I extricated myself from his embrace and looked up at him. Dark eyes gazed down at me before he kissed the top of my head, a light feathery kiss as soft and sheer as gossamer. He put his hand under my chin and then wiped away my tears.
‘We’ll be okay,’ he murmured.
Quickly, I melted and I don’t really know what possessed me, but I kissed his lips. They felt as soft as cushions and, in that split second, I could tell he didn’t know what to do. We were equally as shocked by my boldness. I sat back, severely embarrassed. (What had possessed me?) Grief causes people to act out of character, but this was was the height of silliness. I’d really taken the biscuit — yet I wanted to kiss him again and, as Jermaine stared at me, his lips homed in on my mine.
This time, I kissed him more ardently, just slightly, and his breath smelt sweet. We shared a proper, adult kiss, his tongue moving tentatively into my mouth. I responded. It was naughty, forbidden, and as decadent as a kiss could possibly get.
I felt a hand slip inside my bathrobe, fingers brushing against my breasts. I know I shouldn’t have allowed it, but his hands felt so good and I tingled all over. Undoing the belt on my robe, he exposed my body and suddenly I didn’t care whether or not this was right or wrong. I wanted him. I wanted to feel his hands on me and, more than anything, I yearned to feel him inside me.
Jermaine looked at me, his eyes asking if this was what I wanted. Slowly, I slipped the robe off my shoulders. That was my answer.
He stood and I watched him take off his t-shirt. His chest was furry, like a teddy bear, and I found it strangely comforting. When he removed his jeans, I realised that he was far removed from a teddy bear. His thick thighs were there in all their splendour and his cock was erect. I’d only seen a cock so big in porn movies and I’d had sex only once before — and that had been a major let down. I’d assumed that the first time would be a bit shitty because that seemed to be the general consensus among my college girlfriends.
As Jermaine pulled back the bed covers, I suspected he was going to be the real deal with a capital R and D. He lifted the sheets over us and slipped his hands around my waist, pulling me close. I felt his hard cock against me as he kissed my neck. I shivered with delight.