When their beloved mother Delores suffers a debilitating stroke, all three suddenly find the tenuous threads of their individual lives at a breaking point. A dark childhood secret threatens Sydney’s secure world; Gina is swept into a maelstrom of domestic violence; and Rick comes to a dramatic crossroads in his relationship with his girlfriend.
Worst of all, the burden of caring for a parent is tearing the siblings apart, shattering their faith in one another. Now, as Sydney, Gina, and Rick struggle to overcome daunting obstacles and rebuild their lives, they will discover something they’ve never let themselves believe: that their most stable-and most cherished-relationships have always been with each other.
Once again, Kimberla Lawson Roby has woven a compelling saga that could come only from a genuine storyteller. Alternating between moments of poignancy and humor; filled with complex and recognizable characters, IT’S A THIN LINE is sure to delight her faithful readers, and win countless new fans.
Sydney Taylor wondered if she and her husband, Wesley, would ever see eye to eye in terms of their sexual relations. They’d been having these problems in the bedroom for over a year now, and it was starting to cause an uncomfortable strain on their marriage. A marriage that had always been ideal and very happy until Wesley realized how infrequent their lovemaking had become. Sydney genuinely didn’t want it to be this way, but it was just that she was under so much stress, trying to meet multiple freelance writing deadlines. Not to mention transporting their daughter, Victoria, to every after-school activity that Covington Park Jr. High School seemed to offer. On most days, Sydney didn’t know whether she was coming or going, and her schedule had become so hectic that it felt like she was trying to squeeze thirty hours into a normal twenty-four hour day.
But Wesley didn’t seem to care about any of that, and for the most part had decided that she simply didn’t desire him anymore, and that making love to him just wasn’t important to her. She tried to explain to him that she loved him from the bottom of her heart and that things would eventually get better, but she had to admit that they hadn’t. As a matter of fact, the infrequency was worse than ever before, and the reason why Wesley had turned his back to her so abruptly just a few minutes ago.
She didn’t know what was wrong with her, because the evening had started out with such great intentions. Victoria was spending the night with her two cousins at their Grandmother’s, and Sydney and Wesley had planned a quiet, candlelight dinner at home. But maybe it was the fact that she was desperately fighting to meet a very critical deadline and wasn’t able to relax by the time Wesley arrived home from work. He’d phoned her early in the afternoon and asked if it would be better for him to pick up a meal for them from Big Italy’s, and she’d quickly agreed when she realized she wasn’t going to have time to cook anything the way she’d planned. And Wesley was okay with that, since his number one priority wasn’t whether they ate a home-cooked meal or take-out in the first place. What he wanted was to make love and hadn’t hesitated to let her know that as soon as they’d finished eating dinner.
Sydney had lit the candles like they’d discussed the day before on the dining room table, and she’d even lit a few in their bedroom on top of the armoire, dresser, and one on each night stand. The setting was absolutely perfect, but for some reason when her husband tried to kiss her, she just didn’t seem to have any energy, and while she would never ever admit it to him, she didn’t have one ounce of desire for him. It wasn’t that she desired any other man, but she simply couldn’t stop thinking about all of the work she still needed to complete before the weekend was over with.
They’d gotten completely undressed, and Wesley had tried to turn her on to the best of his ability, but for some reason it hadn’t worked. She’d decided that she would feign her excitement and enthusiasm, so that he wouldn’t feel bad, but it wasn’t long before he moved away from her and asked her what her problem was. She didn’t know how to respond to him, and it wasn’t long before he turned away from her in complete silence.
She wanted to say something to him, but she didn’t know how to approach him without causing a huge argument. They’d had major blow-ups over this very situation before, and she just didn’t feel like going through any of that again. But she knew she couldn’t just leave things the way they were; especially since they’d vowed never to go to sleep angry with each other and hadn’t since the day they were married fourteen years ago.
She glanced over at him again and found the nerve to speak.
“Sweetie, I am so sorry,” she said holding her breath.
But Wesley ignored her apology. He didn’t even grunt.
“Wesley, talk to me,” she pleaded.
Wesley sat up on the side of the bed and looked back at his wife.
“What is there to talk about Sydney? Huh? I mean, what exactly do you think we need to say to each other?”
“We need to talk about this problem that we have.”
“No,” he said in a hostile tone. “We don’t have a problem. It’s you who has the problem. ‘I’ve got such a bad headache; Oh, I’m so stressed out; Oh, I’m so exhausted; Oh, I don’t know where the time went; Oh, Victoria isn’t asleep yet’, he said mocking Sydney’s usual excuses in a female tone of voice.
She just looked at him, sort of feeling sorry for the way things were between them, but slightly irritated, because he just didn’t understand everything she was going through.
“Wesley, do you think I’m lying when I say those things? Because when I say I’m tired and stressed out, I really do mean it. I know that doesn’t help things, but I can’t help the way I feel.”
“That’s fine and great, but exactly where do I fit into this stressful schedule you seem to have every day of the week? Because it’s almost as if the only thing I’m good for is bringing home my paycheck.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked becoming angry.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not like I stuttered,” he said sarcastically.
“You know, if you would stop messing up every room in the house, and I wouldn’t have to pick up behind you and Victoria every day, maybe I would have way more energy than I do. And it’s not like you’re the only person bringing a paycheck into this household. Do you think I’m working this hard just for the sake of burning myself out?”
“Whatever, Sydney. You can go around and about all you want to, but that still doesn’t change the fact that our sex life is nonexistent and you’re not trying to do a damn thing to make it better. I’m sick of begging you for sex, and I’m sick of having this same tired conversation about it. Hell, I may as well buy some blow-up doll, because right now, I’d have a better chance of getting excitement from it than I am from you,” he said standing up.
Sydney sighed with frustration. “I can’t believe you feel that way. After all the years we’ve been together. And it’s not like we’re just married, but we’ve always been happily married.”
“Well, being happily married isn’t enough when there’s not enough lovemaking going on. I mean, what exactly do you expect me to do?”
“I expect you to work with me on this. Geez. You’re acting like you want to go out and get it from someone else.”
“You said it. I didn’t.”
“What the hell does that mean?” she asked sitting up on the side of the bed.
“I don’t want to discuss this anymore, and I think the best thing for you to do is get your rest, and the best thing for me to do is go sleep in the family room.”
Wesley left the bedroom, and Sydney felt tears flowing down her face.
She hated when things turned this bad between them, and she didn’t know what was happening to their relationship. It seemed as though they were drifting further and further apart, and it was all because of this sex issue. She wanted to make love to him, but she just didn’t have the energy to do so. Maybe she needed to see her gynecologist. Maybe she needed her testosterone level checked. Maybe she had some female problem that had caused her sexual desire to drop to an all-time low. She’d read articles about women who fit into this category, and wondered if maybe her problem really was a medical one.
She laid there for almost a half-hour tossing a thousand thoughts through her mind. She couldn’t come up with a solution, but she did know one thing, and that was that she wouldn’t be able to stand waking up in a different room than Wesley. It was one thing when one of them traveled for business and their separation couldn’t be helped, but it just didn’t seem right, sleeping separately when they were both sleeping under the same roof. She had a lot of pride, and it was hard making up with Wesley after they had an argument. Normally, he was the one who usually called a truce whenever they had a disagreement, but rarely did he make the first move when it came to this subject.
She heard him flipping through the channels on the television, and decided that she had to muster up the courage to go talk with him. She needed to make things right with him, and she wasn’t going to rest until she did.
She wrapped a blanket around her, strolled down the hallway, and walked into the family room. Wesley glanced over at her and then turned his focus back to Trading Places, one of his favorite Eddie Murphy re-runs. He wasn’t going to make this easy for her. She knew that without question.
She dropped down on the sofa so close to him that there was no room for him to move away. But he still didn’t say anything and continued watching the big-screen television.
“Wesley, how long are you going to be mad at me?” she asked laying her head on his shoulder.
“I’m sick of this, Sydney, and you know this isn’t right.”
“Baby, I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but what I do know is that I love you, and I couldn’t stand it if we weren’t together. When I tell you I’m tired, I’m really telling you the truth. But I do admit, that it seems like I’m tired and stressed all the time. I’m thinking that maybe I need to see my doctor.”
“Maybe you should, because this once per week and once every two weeks stuff isn’t working for me.”
“Wesley, we just made love three days ago on Tuesday, so why are you trying to make it seem like it’s been longer than that?”
At first Wesley didn’t say anything, but then he smiled and looked at her. “Woman, my penis doesn’t know what day of the week it is, and it definitely doesn’t know how many days have gone by since it got taken care of.”
They both laughed, and then hugged each other tightly for longer than usual.
“Baby,” Wesley said sighing in a serious tone. “I’m sorry for getting so upset, but can I help it if I desire my beautiful wife every day of the week?”
Maybe he couldn’t, but she’d been sure that marrying a man ten years her senior would basically guarantee that he wouldn’t want to have sex every time he looked at her. It was almost insane, and now that he was forty-six, his desire was becoming stronger as the years continued on. Most women would have thought this was the greatest thing in the world, but she just couldn’t keep up with his pace. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy sex with him because when they did make love, it was the best feeling she’d ever experienced. It was just that she had too much on her plate, and needed to re-arrange some things so that she could spend more time with her wonderful husband. And it wouldn’t hurt to spend just a little more time with Victoria as well. She’d been trying so hard to build her career as a writer, because her ultimate goal was to write a novel and hopefully sell it to a major publishing house in New York. That was probably a long way down the road, but these magazine articles she was writing would help prove her writing ability when it came time to submit her book-length manuscript, and the reason she had to work as hard as she could getting her name out there.
Wesley pulled his wife into his arms and kissed her passionately. To his surprise, she kissed him back with such force and desire that he didn’t know what had come over her, and he couldn’t believe that this was the same woman he’d argued with less than ten minutes ago. Sydney pulled away from him, stood up, dropped the blanket she was wrapped in onto the floor, and gazed at him with total fire in her eyes. Wesley picked up the TV selector and turned it off, and then picked up the remote pad for the stereo system and started the first track of one of his jazz CD’s.
He stood, and they held each other close, dancing to the beautiful music, neither of them covered with one stitch of clothing. They kissed until Wesley began lowering himself onto his knees, kissing every part of Sydney’s long, toned body on the way down. She moaned with much pleasure and wished that this feeling she was experiencing would never come to an end. It was so amazing, that she couldn’t help but wonder how any woman could pass up a chance at making love with a man who loved them as much as Wesley loved her, and one who knew specifically how to satisfy her sexually. He was absolutely the best, and the thought of him giving this satisfaction to any other woman was completely out of the question, and the reason why she was going to have to get her priorities in line when it came to him. They had a loving, committed marriage, and there was no way she was going to throw away the best thing that had ever happened to her. The best thing that could happen to any woman who wanted the man of her dreams.
Sydney gazed down at her husband, who was still on his knees, grabbed the sides of his head and moaned at a high volume. She begged him to stop, not wanting this to end so quickly, but in a matter of seconds, she exploded uncontrollably.
Wesley stood to his feet, turned the front of her body towards the sofa and eased inside her from behind.
“Oh, my goodness,” Sydney wailed.
“Oh, baby,” Wesley complimented her.
He moved his muscular body in a circular motion with ease, then faster. And faster. Then, she clinched the back of the sofa with both hands and moved her body like she knew he wanted her to. They both moaned with pleasure and Wesley loved her in a more forceful manner than before, reaching for his much awaited climax. His eyes rolled upwards, towards the back of his head, with his body shivering and hovering comfortably over Sydney’s.
They settled onto the seat of the sofa, their bodies wrapped together as one. This was the way their lovemaking was supposed to be, and the way it always had been whenever they were fortunate enough to find an opportunity to engage in it. There was this problem with frequency, but never a problem with quality or satisfaction. There was no doubt about it, they were good together and it was clear that they were in fact meant to be together. They were soul mates and neither of them ever questioned that whole philosophy. They’d met the same day Sydney graduated from the university with a journalism degree. She’d gone out with a few of her friends to a night club in the city, and it just so happened that Wesley was a friend of a friend of a friend. They’d been attracted to each other from the very beginning, and it wasn’t long before they danced to a few songs and ended up spending the entire evening at their own separate table. They dated for weeks and months, but they’d both known from the start that they were destined to become man and wife. The love and spiritual connection between them had been obvious to everyone around them, and the idea of them living their lives together forever was inevitable.
Then there was their beautiful, twelve year-old daughter, Victoria, who was the model child on most occasions or at least when her lovely adolescence wasn’t causing major turmoil for her and Sydney’s close-knit, mother-daughter relationship. Her father spoiled her, but there were times when Victoria saw her mother as the enemy; especially when she couldn’t have everything the way she wanted it, exactly when she wanted. There were days when she was sure that Sydney was trying to “control” her life, but Sydney always assured her that she wasn’t simply trying to control her life, but that instead, she was in fact actually doing it. And that as long as she was living under their roof, was still a minor and unable to take care of herself, not a whole lot was going to change. Maybe within reason, but when it came to serious issues, situations that could ruin her life or tamper with her well-being, she and her father were always going to have a certain level of control. Whether Victoria liked it or not, that’s just the way things were going to be.
Sydney wanted to be the best wife, the best mother, and the best writer. She wanted to be the same superwoman that every other New Millennium woman needed to be. But she was going to have to re-arrange her priorities, she was going to have to work on spending more time intimately with Wesley, more quality time with Victoria, and unfortunately maybe less time writing. She’d still work hard to meet her deadlines, but maybe she wouldn’t take on so many projects, all at the same time.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Wesley finally commented.
“Oh, really?” Sydney added.
“Yes, really. And you wonder why I want it so much. No man could get used to going without something that feels this good.”
“It can’t be that good,” she said teasing him. “Is it?”
“You know how good it is, and that’s why you try to ration it to me. A form of control is what it is.”
They both laughed.
“No it’s not,” Sydney insisted. “I would never use sex to control you.”
“Yeah, right. All women use sex as a weapon. Especially when they find out the man is hooked on it.”
“So, since you’re so hooked, does that mean I don’t have to worry about you going somewhere else to get it?” she said playfully, yet somewhat serious.
“Look, baby, I know I get upset…”
“That’s an understatement,” she interrupted.
“Okay, I practically go ballistic,” he said chuckling. “But understand this. I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want to make love with anyone else, and I could never love anyone the way that I love you.”
“I know I haven’t been giving you enough of my time, but I promise things are going to be changing around here. You and Victoria mean everything to me, and I don’t want you to ever think otherwise,” she said.
They chatted and held each other for a long while, until finally drifting off to sleep.
2. Have you ever experienced domestic violence or do you know a friend, relative, or acquaintance who has? If so, what was the outcome?
3. Do you feel that Gina was justified in her actions in the end?
4. Do you think that Sydney, Gina, and Rick’s situation, in terms of the care-giving of their mother is typical-meaning that in most cases, is one sibling usually left with the bulk of the responsibility?
5. Do you feel that Sydney was justified in being angry with Gina and Rick for not doing their part-even though they both had their own household issues to deal with?
6. Do you feel that Delores’s faith, wisdom and strength is the reason Sydney, Gina, and Rick were ultimately able to reconcile with each other?
7. Do you think that Rick is a typical young male in terms of not wanting to commit to Samantha? Also, why do you think some men would much rather live with a woman without being married to them?
8. Do you feel that Sydney’s deep, dark childhood secret is one that many women struggle with, but are too ashamed to discuss with anyone?
9. Do you feel that Sydney made the right decision by not disclosing her secret to Rick?
10. Have you ever experienced having an immediate family member suffer from a major illness? And if so, how were you able to deal with it emotionally?
11. What is the most important thing that you learned by reading IT’S A THIN LINE?
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