Excerpt from CLEO
Chapter 6 "Words Not Spoken"

Gerry Branton groaned as the white uniformed stoutly built Mrs. Jackson, of Jackson's Bath House, kneaded the mint scented oil into Gerry's shoulders and worked her way down her spine with an occasional muted cracking sound. Gerry stopped groaning and said, "I didn't plan this for you, Cleo, and I don't want it to turn into that Peter Lawford thing like with Dottie."

The dark skinned white uniformed woman who pummeled Cleo on the adjacent massage table was as equally stout as Mrs. Jackson. Her meaty hands worked their way up and down Cleo's oily glistening body. Cleo was getting heady from the mixture of mint and capsaicin in the oil. "Well I sure as hell didn't plan it, and I don't think it was premeditated on his part, either. It just happened, totally spontaneous."

Gerry sighed deeply. "Well, it's not like Wolf to mix business with pleasure. He doesn't hit on clients or those close to them. Hell, he doesn't even respond if someone's wife makes a pass at him."

Cleo chuckled. "Is there something you wanna tell me, Gerry?"

Gerry snorted. "Behave! I'm trying to say, if it happened like you said, then it probably was spontaneous and sincere, which is unfortunate."

Cleo tried to lift her head, but it was immediately pressed down by the masseuse. "Wow, Gerry. After a year of abstinence, some guy really likes me, really wants me, and you call it unfortunate!"

Gerry winced as Mrs. Jackson flexed her foot and calf up to an extreme. "You know what I mean. Lena's made it work for her, at least this far, but every other mixed couple I've seen, short of one night bouts of 'jungle fever' or streetwalkers making a living, has ended in disaster like Dottie's have."

Cleo groaned with pleasure as the masseuse kneaded the soles of her feet. "I think you're so close to Dorothy that you have a skewed opinion of my odds. I think I'm going to give it a chance, give him the opportunity to declare himself one way or the other."

Gerry sighed with relief when the second foot and calf was allowed to relax on the table. "Okay, girl, but take my advice and don't mention it to Leo or anyone. Leo would really be pissed with him if he knew."

Cleo's eyes rolled with pleasure as the woman shifted to the sole of the other foot. "Tell me something, Gerry, whose idea was it to help me get my career on the fast track, yours or Leo's?"

Gerry gripped the sides of the table as Mrs. Jackson began to stretch her leg by pulling at the foot. "Sweetheart, just like everyone in this community, Leo loves you. Cleo White, professional role model for little girls, everyone's journalist to keep their name and fame before the eyes of the community, the personification of black is beautiful. No one finds fault with you."

Cleo almost regretted the masseuse leaving the soles of her feet and starting on her calves. "Obviously you haven't talked to my mother recently."

Gerry renewed her grip on the table as Mrs. Jackson started pulling the other leg. "But, like with any man, even the great civil rights leader, Leo Branton, you gotta remind them that civil rights and equal opportunity includes women. I betcha' Coretta King has the same problem."

Cleo's brow furrowed as the masseuse traveled up the back of her thighs to her buttocks. "So, as I suspected, it was you who thought I ought'a get off my little reporter's butt and get my long term act together."

Gerry relaxed as the leg stretches ended and Mrs. Jackson started on her arms. "That's right girl. By the time I was your age I was married, divorced, threw a few others back in the pond, and lucked out when I found Leo. But you're the late bloomer. I figured one of my dearest girlfriends ain't found a husband or long term boyfriend past thirty, she damn sure in need of creating her own security."

Cleo began to relax as the masseuse finished her gluteus maximus and worked her way up the lumbar region. "Didn't know my lack of any substantial love life qualified me as a basket case. But, who knows, maybe your efforts to help me be financially secure in my spinsterhood will help rectify my love life, too."

Gerry surrendered her other arm to Mrs. Jackson. "Well, I'm not betting on Wolf being the answer to a black spinster's prayers, but...," Gerry's eyebrows raised and her eyes lit up, "...tell me all the nitty gritty in and out juicy stuff that happened at the beach."

Cleo rolled her eyes back toward the masseuse. "I think we've discussed enough private matters in this environment."

Gerry's brow furrowed. "Don't worry 'bout them, girl, I make them wear ear wardens."

Cleo looked perplexed. "Ear wardens?"

Gerry wrinkled her nose. "Ear plugs. They can't hear a thing. Here, watch this." Gerry tried to turn her head to Mrs. Jackson and raised her voice. "Mrs. Jackson, you are the cruelest sadist I have every known!" Mrs. Jackson smiled continuously without ever missing a stroke. Gerry turned back to Cleo. "See, I learned that from Lena. Ear wardens. It's just like telling a man to wear a condom. It's for your protection."

Cleos speech came out in staccato fashion as the masseuse rapidly struck up and down her back with the edges of both hands. "I can't imagine asking an attendant to do that."

Gerry smiled and spoke in a hoarse stage whisper. "So tell me, I know he's not Jewish, but I bet he's circumcised, right?"


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