Armand carried Samantha to his bedroom and placed her on his king-sized bed.

“Johnson, he whispered, we have to get up and run in the morning before you pick up your kids, let’s get some sleep.”

She thought it unlikely,  but she smiled when he wrapped his arm over her and began to snore.

Samantha was too amorous to sleep and way too curious. She peeled off her underwear, got up on her knees straddled his torso while she tugged his T-shirt up to explore his wide chest covered in curly black hair. She lay her cheek on his warm skin and inhaled his male scent, the light touch of her fingers following the dark stripe down toward his taut waist and massive thighs.   

Armand was uncomfortable, but he didn’t stop her either.  He giggled when she brought him to climax, then closed his eyes to sleep while Samantha mused. Why was she not surprised? This man had never been indulged in this manner by a wife or a lover.  It embarrassed him!

Was it his religious denial? Somalia is a Muslim country. Premarital sex was forbidden, and adultery was punishable. She wondered whether Armand was actually divorced and if this is the reaction of a guilt-ridden man.  Why had he not attempted to give her the pleasure she craved?  

Saturday morning Sam awoke to fresh coffee and an energetic swat on her butt.

“Get up Johnson! Time to run.”

Samantha turned and stretched her naked body while Armand watched. She saw the bulge growing in his shorts and spread her legs nurturing an ache in her loins,  longing for what she didn’t get last night but preferred it to be his idea, and so she turned over, stretching on her tummy and pushed herself up on her knees.

“OK, I’m getting up,” she yawned.

She worried that he was invulnerable to her sensuality.  Maybe she was the catalyst to help him do things he wouldn’t naturally do.  She felt powerful and determined to bring out the beast in him.

“Johnson! What are you doing?”

He turned and to close the bedroom, “Let’s go for a run!”

She jogged and kept up for about a mile but turned back knowing he would catch up to her. He stopped and carried her on his back the last half mile just as before.

They said their goodbyes, and she was off to pick up her children for the picnic.

Sunday was a special day because they were going to Armand’s to eat a picnic lunch on his boat. Sam tried to give them as many new experiences as possible. She wanted them to see life as a new adventure and to meet her friends.

It was noon when they arrived at the Island house.  Armand showed Amy and Chad his grand saltwater fish tank in the living room.

Armand smiled, “These are new  fish.”

“What are their names?” Chad asked.

“How about you name one yourself?”

“Okay, I like the shark.” pleaded Chad.

“What’s his name?” Armand asked.

“Sharky,” Chad said.

They strolled down the grassy lawn with their picnic basket to the pier. Armand’s boat waved in the current.  Armand stepped in and took their hands one by one to keep the boat from rocking.  He rowed them around the lake, under the bridges, and back to the dock again. It thrilled Amy when Armand carried her on his shoulders back up to the house. He laughed and seemed to have as much energy and as much fun as they did.

At dusk, Samantha delivered Amy and Chad to their dad’s house and drove to her apartment.  

Armand called her every day during her work week.  On Thursday he called to make sure she was coming up to the canyon house on Friday.

“It’s our night, Our celebration,” he said.

Samantha knew to bring an overnight bag and her running gear. Three weeks in a row, when she arrived at the Santa Paula house,  the garage door was always open, welcoming her, and when she pulled in, Armand would burst out the kitchen door and lift her off her feet in welcome.  He’d re-enact the night they met at the Disco. The music, the wine, the prepping of dinner… all for her. Because of his actions, Sam felt assured he would be there for her every Friday.

“Our Friday,” he’d said.  

Armand hadn’t said the words, but Samantha felt loved, and that was what mattered.

By the end of the third month, they had a regular schedule and so he stopped calling Samantha to remind her they have a standing date every Friday night at the canyon house.  Every other Sunday, they entertained her children in some unique and creative way at the Westlake island house.  She understood it to be a big leap for him and admired him for that. But Samantha had still not met his seven-year-old daughter or his toddler son. She never mentioned it because he insisted on privacy regarding his wife and family.

On the first Friday in September, after work, Sam drove up to the canyon house as usual. She saw Armand’s Porsche in the open garage so she parked in the driveway next to an unfamiliar car and walked through the garage up to the kitchen door.  she didn’t need to knock, because he expected her, and he always opened the door. Tonight she knocked, but Armand didn’t answer. She listened in case he might be in the back of the house. But a moment later she heard Armand conversing with a woman. She recognized Armand’s laugh, but who was the woman?

Should she walk in? She thought not. Instead, she tried knocking again. Samantha heard music drifting from the living room and  an ominous feeling came over her. She backed away and jogged toward her car. She leaned against her driver’s door giving Armand a chance in case he would realize his mistake. Maybe his friend had distracted him and he didn’t hear her knocking.  After five minutes she gave up and slid into her car. Feeling confused and foolish she gave him the benefit of the doubt. She stepped out of her car again, leaving her driver’s door open, engine running while she stared at the garage.

Samantha was about to give up when Armand stuck his head out the door and giggled, “Johnson, what are you doing here?”

“It’s Friday, Armand.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m busy,”  he said as if she were a solicitor.

Sam turned dumbly, holding back tears as she hit the gas and swerved down the steep driveway.

Three days went by, then four.  Armand hadn’t bothered to call her. The following two Friday evenings she drove home to her apartment.

“It’s for you,” her roommate said handing her the phone.

“Johnson!” he exclaimed into as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary.   

“I can’t talk to you,” she said.

He giggled, “What? Why can’t you?”

“It’s been two weeks, Armand, without a word from you. You were unkind to me. You treated me like a stranger!”

He laughed and laughed as though it were a joke. When he didn’t attempt an apology or give her any kind of explanation, Sam held on to her dignity.

“It wasn’t a joke to me, Armand. You were cruel,” and she hung up the phone.

Samantha gave this a great deal of thought. She decided if he had given her a rational explanation she might have listened. But she decided she’d handled enough grief in her life and felt strong and unwilling to allow Armand to abuse her.  She would take care of herself and never fall vulnerable to him or anyone else who treated her with disrespect again.

She suffered her own loss, but it was the children who would have a difficult time understanding.  Their lives had changed for the better knowing Armand. Damn him!

Armand called Samantha out of the blue one evening a month later.  She listened to him.

“I’m sorry for whatever you think I did.”

“What do you think you did?”

“I didn’t think I owed you an explanation.”

“Don’t call me again,” she said. And meant it.

It was over. They hadn’t been together long enough to make any kind of commitment. He hadn’t told me he loved me even though it felt like he did.

She thought everything they did together was about love. She must have been mistaken, and she was glad it wasn’t too late for her to walk away.  Sam felt resigned to her decision. If not for myself, for my children’s sake.

There was something else that bothered her. She had never met Armand’s children. He stayed guarded about that.  Weeks flew by, and she had recovered, feeling good about her decision.

Samantha was standing at her cosmetics counter speaking to a customer when she watched a delivery person coming toward her with a bouquet of red roses. Oh no, she thought. When her customer left all the women in the department came scurrying over, curious about her delivery.

She read the card, “I miss my spot,” signed A.M.

Her friend Linda was all over those roses, sniffing them and gushing. Sam stepped from behind her counter, picked up the vase and walked them over to Linda.

“These are for you.”

Linda crowed, “Oh, Samantha!”

Linda was the only person at work who knew about Armand, and Linda received a dozen roses from Samantha once a week on Fridays, for a month. God she hated Armand for reminding her of their Friday night dates. The roses only resigned her to her hardened decision. They made her think about knocking on his door that night and being humiliated. She still wondered who the woman was. Could it have been his wife? Maybe, but if so, all he had to say is his wife had business with him and dropped by unexpectedly, or there was an emergency with their children.  Anything reasonable, she would have accepted. But it could also have been a girl he had picked up at the club for all she knew.  It didn’t matter. It was how he treated her that mattered.

Armand had plenty of money.  He could afford to send Samantha roses for years.

Samantha and Caroline avoided the Daisy club. They started going to another dance venue in Woodland Hills. It was a close drive and Sam refused to give up dancing. She opened herself to new adventures. A friend of Samantha’s who worked in the hair salon in the mall loved to dance. Paul sometimes met them at the club in Woodland Hills. He was a rocker, a guitarist,  not a disco guy at all. But Sam liked him as a friend and the three of them had fun on the dance floor. Paul drove Samantha to the club sometimes and hung out watching them dance. One night when he was dropping Sam at her apartment, she noticed a Porsche 911 cruising up alongside them.

Samantha stepped out and strolled toward her apartment pretending she hadn’t seen him. Armand’s Porsche slowed next to her, “Johnson, who was that man?”

She looked at him sideways and kept walking.

Samantha’s usual annoying rose delivery contained a large envelope with a handwritten note, attached,  “Please open the envelope.”

Her shoulders fell. Why open it? Why doesn’t he leave me alone?

Linda hovered, “You have to at least read it!”

Samantha turned her face away and ran with the open envelope in hand, tears streaming.

Linda followed. “What is it?” she begged.

“Maui,” Sam wept. “A ticket.”

Linda took the card and read aloud, “For your birthday, Johnson.” Signed A.M.

That evening, a Friday evening,  Samantha found a package on her windshield. It was a cassette tape with a note that read “Miss You, “A.M., with the lyrics of a song written in the card.

I’ve been holding out so long

I’ve been sleeping all alone

Lord I miss you

I’ve been hanging on the phone

I’ve been sleeping all alone

I want to kiss you

Sam slid the cassette into her tape player as she drove home listening to Mick Jagger screaming at her, “MISS YOU!”

The energy and the urgency of it reached Samantha’s heart, tears streamed down her face.

Armand had also left a message on her answering device.

“Johnson! Did you receive your birthday gift? Will you talk to me, please? The house in the canyon sold. Please drive by the island house, I have another gift for you.”

She shook her head, and swore, “No, no, no, no, no! Someone, please help me!”

The next time the phone rang Samantha gave in and picked up. It was Armand.

“Armand please stop.”

“All right Johnson,  I promise I won’t bother you anymore if you drive by and pick up the rest of your gift.  You don’t even have to get out of your car. Just let me hand it to you.”

“If I leave now, I’ll be there in five minutes… Be outside!”

Sam was thinking, he is sly, plying me with gifts!  I’m weak.

She nearly turned around twice, just to stand him up. It was broad daylight and her day off.  As she drove her car through the gate onto the island she had an ominous thought. But she plowed on,  weak woman that she was. She pulled up to the curb in front of his house. He was standing out there in his jogging shorts, a grin on his face.

She rolled down her window, “OK, what is it?”

He handed her a box from a jewelry store. It wasn’t a ring box, thank God.  She pried it open. There lay a magnificent 18k gold heart on a gold chain. Is this his way of saying I love you? Then he handed her an envelope that held the matching ticket to Maui.

“C’ mon Johnson, let’s go. It will be fun.”

“I’ll get back to you.”

She rolled up the window and drove home.

Samantha conferred with Caroline and Linda. They both thought she should go.  

“This feels vaguely like treason, how can I go with him when nothing’s been resolved?”

“If I were you I’d go talk to him and resolve it. Maybe he just doesn’t know how to say I’m sorry in so many words. He wouldn’t keep pursuing you if he didn’t care.”

Sam guessed she was right, but something felt wrong about it. She wouldn’t know what that was for a while yet. But she’d think about it, anyway.

The following Friday night after work she met him at the island house. It thrilled him to see her walk through his door.  He was full of energy and good cheer, as always.

“Johnson, I missed you!”

Sam remained cautious.  He strolled into the kitchen and opened a bottle of chardonnay. It was the night of her actual birthday.

“Please let me take you out to a proper restaurant to celebrate.”

“Maybe,” she said.

“I made reservations at the Palm in West Hollywood for tomorrow night.”

“That’s nice,” she said without excitement.

“I know, We could dance at the club after. We haven’t danced in months!”

Armand didn’t kiss or touch her.

“I’m tired, need to go home,” she said.

“I’ll pick you up at your apartment, like a real date.”

He bent down and let her go with a peck on her cheek.

Samantha regretted all the evenings she had come to him without thinking. Her head had been in the stars, the romance, the music, and his abundance of energy.

She wore a black strappy dress with a pair of patent high heels. Her red hair was loose, tumbling over her bare shoulders. She felt very grown-up for a change, in charge of her life. Armand sat across from her at a table near the palm trees. Tonight felt like an omen of a trip to Maui. Armand ordered a vintage red wine in honor of her birthday.

He held up his glass and toasted, “To that spot that belongs to me.”

Don’t take it for granted, she thought.

Then he declared, “I love you, Johnson!”

Samantha placed her fingers over the gold heart around her neck.  But she didn’t answer.

Armand was all full of childish charm and laughter, acting as if he had crossed a threshold of personal release.  After dinner they arrived at the Daisy for the first time since they met and danced together in a whirlwind of passion, gaining applause from the crowd.  He was a magnificent male, dancing in his couture cut trousers and jacket.

Samantha found his body exhilarating,  her need for more than just dancing. When he twirled her, she knew her long legs showed all the way to her hips. She recalled how he slid his hand up the back of her thigh the night they met.  When they rested, she took his hand and placed it on her thigh under the table.

To be continued…Armand Part IV