Entangled Temptations

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Chapter 9

One long sleepless flight later, I’m making my way down to the baggage claim to see Ayana already waiting for me. Leave it to my best friend to always be the person I can count on the most, and here I am getting ready to break her heart.

“Hola mami! How was your flight?”

“It was long and restless. I’m so glad to be back home.”

“I’m glad to have you back chica, I told you I missed you. Let’s go get your luggage and go home.”

I give her a small smile and head to the conveyor belt. I wanted to ease Ayana into my news, but I feel like I should just treat it like a bandaid and just rip it off.

“Say Ya as tired as I am, I really want to go get something to eat.”

“Yeah, sure! No problema, to be honest, I’m glad you said something cause I feel like my stomach is touching my backbone.”

We get my suitcases, and head to her car. We’re not even out of the parking deck and I receive an email from one of my employers. When I took my vacation, I had informed all of them that I was going to be on vacation for an extended period of time. I quickly skim over the contents of the email, making a mental note to reply back as soon as I got home. When Ayana finally makes it onto the freeway, she turns her Reggaeton up real loud, and puts the pedal to the metal. As she’s nearing 95 mph I remember why I never ask her to take me anywhere.

“Hey Ya, I’d like to make it to the restaurant ALIVEyou know?”

“Mira chica, I’m the one that’s driving tu sabes? We’ll arrive alive okay?”

I roll my eyes and try to relax, praying to the universe that we actually do arrive alive. We finally make it to our favorite place to eat, and as soon as she throws the SUV into park, I open the door to get out.

“Jesus Ayana! I don’t know who the fuck taught you to drive, but you don’t have to act like we are extras for the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise!”

She starts yelling her rapid-fire Spanish to me and I just give her a look. I let her finish her rant, and we head into the building. We didn’t even think twice about where we were going to eat until the surroundings felt familiar. As soon as we hit the hostess stand, I knew it was a mistake. ”Shit,” both me and Ayana mumble under our breaths.

“Kay, I swear I didn’t mean to,” Ayana starts to say.

I throw up my hand to cut her off, “It’s okay babe, I know you didn’t. We’re here now, and I’m hungry. Plus, I have something I need to talk to you about.”

We’re shown to our table, and as soon as we sit down, that’s when we see him. It’s almost like he had a sixth sense to my presence; he begins to make his way over to our table, and as he gets closer, both me and Ayana stiffen our spines.

Ayana leans forward and whispers, “What the fuck is he doing here during the day?”

I look at her, and lower my brow, “Shit, I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him since I threw him out of my house.”

“Kay, it’s so nice to see you! I’m glad you’re here. Is there any way we can talk?” Smitty says.

"Fuck no! She doesn’t want to talk to your cheating ass, SCRUB. Now be gone before I make a scene.”

Without even looking at her, “I wasn’t talking to you, Ayana. I was talking to Kaliyah.”

“Israel, it’s best you leave. We have nothing to talk about. We said all we needed to say.”

“I’ll give you some time Kay, but this isn’t over baby.” He turns around and walks back to the kitchen.

“You sure you don’t want to leave?” Ayana asks with worry in her face.

“Babe, we’re already here. It’s okay.”

“Okay, well what was it you needed to talk to me about?”

I take a deep breath, then take her hands into mine, “I’m going to move for a bit Ya, and I’d like you to move into my house while I’m gone.”

She snatches her hands from mine, and I wait for her to blow up.

"Why?”

“Because I need some time and distance from this,” I say as I gesture around the restaurant.

“But I thought that was the whole reason for the vacation!?”

“It started out that way, but with everything that has happened to me. I’ve realized a month and a half isn’t enough time.”

We order our meals, and eat before she finally gives me the support I was looking for.

“Fine. I understand why you feel the need to do this, so I’ll move in your home for you. You just make sure you find your ass back home before long.” She says to me with tears in her eyes.

“I will babe. You are literally the best friend a girl could ask for, and I just want you to know that I love you.”

“Have you decided where you’re moving to? And more importantly how long?”

I look away from her, indicating I do know the answer to both questions, “Actually I do. I’m moving to Brazil for about a year, maybe 18 months.”

"BRAZIL!?!?! What the fuck Kay! And 18 months? Why so fucking long?”

That’s the thing about Ayana, she doesn’t give a fuck where we are to give emotional responses. I remember there was a time that she was cursing her boyfriend out on the phone and we were at the movies.

“That was the only place that had an immediate opening, and 18 months because that seems like a reasonable amount of time.”

She takes a deep breath and looks at the ceiling. It breaks my heart to see her so upset, and it’s not even her break up or betrayal. Thankfully we had already paid by the time she wordlessly gets up from the table. The fact that she has yet to say anything unnerves me. Ayana is the type of person to ALWAYS have something to say. She pushes in her chair, still without a word, and walks out. I follow behind her and put my arm around her shoulders. She slumps into me as we make our way to the car.

I make sure to take the keys from her so that I can drive. She already drives like a fucking lunatic, I know she’d kill us if she tried to drive while she’s distraught. She hasn’t cried a single tear, but she still hasn’t said anything. About an hour later, we finally make it back to my Spanish style home. I open my front door for the first and last time in a while and look around; to be home is bittersweet. I know Ayana will care for my home as if it were her own, and I just hate that we’ll be apart from one another for so long. I truly hope to gain all that I need in Brazil while I’m gone.

Another hour pass and Ayana finally comes into my room as I’m settling in for bed. She crawls into my California King and snuggles up next to me.

“Kay, I don’t fucking like this. As a matter of fact, I fucking HATE it. Tell me this, when do you leave? Or do I even want to know?”

“I leave the day after tomorrow.”

“And the hits just keep fucking coming! You better be fucking fixed when you come back or so help me God, I will fly to Brazil myself and fucking fix you!”

“I’m only a phone call or text away Ya, I promise and I swear it won’t be any longer than 18 months.”

With the biggest hurdle out of the way, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest, and I drift into a restful sleep, dreaming of hazel eyes, full lips, and dimples. The next day, since I had already had my bags packed from coming off of my trip, I only needed to pack a few of my other belongings and make sure Ayana had all she needed since I was leaving first thing in the morning. I didn’t want any long drawn out goodbyes with her, so I had arranged for a car to come pick me up.

“D day” had finally come, and it truly broke my heart to leave the place I have made a home for the past few years. I just felt like I had lost my way and my footing in life as of late, and I just wanted to see if starting anew was a logical solution. The one lesson I learned with Max was you will never know until you try. I was actually looking forward to the end of these 18 months when I came back from Brazil. I knew there was just something waiting for me, and it was right around the corner.

20 months later...

I stepped off the plane, breathing American air for the first time in almost two years. I felt as if I’d grown from the reserved, shy woman I was two years ago. It was a bittersweet feeling coming home. While I was happy that I got to be back home, I was a little saddened by the fact that I had to leave beautiful Brazil. However, I felt refreshed, lived a little, and had some distance from everything. I didn’t tell Ayana when exactly I was coming home because I wanted to surprise her.

I got into my called Towncar, and made my way home. Since my move to Brazil, I hadn’t made any trips back home because I knew needed my space; I had left a few tickets for Ayana to visit me, and she was able to, once. Although she enjoyed herself for Carnival, I truly think she just didn’t want to be there because I wasn’t living back home. Yeah, we spoke every day, but it was different, you could tell that she was somewhat holding herself back from truly saying everything she wanted; hence, the reason for me surprising her so that she could see that nothing had changed on my end. Thankfully, I still had my keys to the house, so it’d be a nice surprise.

Twenty minutes later we pull up to my house in the early hours of the morning, and as the driver is pulling the bags out of the trunk, it sort of feels like deja vú, only I know that Smitty isn’t here. I pull my keys out of my pocket and unlock the door. When I walked in, everything was the same. Sure the furniture had been moved around, and it felt even more spacious in my living room. I didn’t realize it until I walked into my living room, but I missed being in my own home. I put my keys in the mosaic tile bowl that was still sitting on a glass and gold metal table in the foyer. Surprisingly, that was the one thing she hadn’t moved around.

The driver placed my bags by the door, tipped his hat, and made his way back to the Towncar. Thankfully, the flight I was on, was only 8 hrs, so there was no jet lag. I was still tired, nonetheless. I climbed up the stairs and made a beeline for my bedroom. When I opened the door, I was met with a surprise of my own. I saw Ayana, completely naked riding a man in my bed.

“What is it with people and having sex in my bed!?!” I thought to myself.

I stand at the wide-open door, and say, “Ahem, I’m sorry, am I interrupting something?”

The guy she was riding had a rather shocked and annoyed look on his face, “Who the fu--,” he started to say until Ayana stopped him.

“Listen, Lorenzo, you don’t want to finish that question.”

Then she turns her attention on me, “Actually you are bitch! Damn, can you let a bitch get hers before you go and start scaring people?”

“I tell you what, do you think you can finish by the time I finish my shower?” I quirk my brow up.

She gives me this smirk as if to say, “Smartass.”

“Yeah, whatever,” she says without trying to laugh.

“Good, you have until then.” I say as I make my way to the bathroom, “Oh, and Ya? You’re buying me a new mattress. Ain’t no telling how much bodily fluids are on there right now.”

I turn around and make my way to my bathroom when my phone gets a text. I pull it out and see who it is.

Charlize: Hey Liyah, I know you come home soon. I was wondering if it was okay if we could meet up one day and talk. It’s been a couple of years now, and I just wanted an opportunity to apologize and tell you my side of things.

“Damn, I barely even get home soon enough, and I’m already getting texts from my family?” I say softly to myself as I’m rolling my eyes. I decide to deal with Charlie after my shower.

I step into my black granite tile shower, turned on my overhead shower temperature to 87°, and step in. I managed to wash away all of the tense and anxious feelings I was getting on my way here. I washed the rest of Brazil off of me, and I for one am going to miss that. Thankfully, I managed to get that sun-kissed skin, and I know that won’t be going away for a while. I stayed in the shower, relaxing until the warm water turned cool, and my fingertips were prunes.

I got out, grabbed my towel, and dried off. I went into my walk-in closet to see Ayana had completely moved in here with no qualms. I know I told her to think of the house as hers, but I honestly thought she would just move in one of my other bedrooms. However, I didn’t expect any less from her to move in completely. Being that spring was upon us and the weather was rather warm, I decided to put on a pair of cream linen slacks, and a nice tan flowy button-down shirt. I threw my hair in a bun because I knew I couldn’t be bothered with it today. I pulled on a pair of stacked tennis shoes and was ready to conquer the world.

I finally emerged out of the bathroom, hoping Ayana and her company had finished and left out of the room. When I looked at the scattered sheets, I knew that once they did finish, Ayana had rushed him out of the house, “Typical Ayana,” I thought to myself. My phone buzzed, reminding me that I needed to answer Charlie. One of the things I decided on that was, no matter what, she was still my sister; and the fact that everyone deserves a second chance. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket, checking the time before I gave an answer

ME: Hey Charlize, I hope all has been well on your end. Yes, I am finally back home, and if you’re free, we can actually meet up today, say for coffee in about an hour?

Not even a nanosecond after I hit send, she responded back:

CHARLIZE: For you? Absolutely! Where do you want to meet up for coffee? How about Sal’s?

ME: Yeah that sounds fine.

CHARLIZE: Great! See you soon.

Honestly, I felt awkward for even having to do this, but while down in Brazil, I was shown some things about my family that made sense to me. Also, it dawned on me that in order for me to have some peace, I needed to stand up to them and their conservative ways. I knew my best friend wouldn’t understand my decision on trying to be cordial at best with them, but I also knew she had my back no matter what.

Before I grabbed my items to go downstairs, and head out the door, I looked at one of the trinkets I picked up from Spain, a couple of years ago. “Damn, I hadn’t thought of him or that trip in ages.” For some strange reason, I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I shook my head out of the semi daydream I’d just had and made my way downstairs.

“Oye, mami, so listen now that you are back home, do you mind if I stay here until I find somewhere else to live?”

I rolled my eyes, she knew damn well I didn’t care if she decided to live with me indefinitely, “Girl if you don’t shut the hell up. Stay as long as you need.”

Ayana looked me up and down, “Are you going somewhere?”

“Yeah, I’ve got some things to do and some folks to talk to.”

She gave me a look of confusion but thought better of asking me to go into detail. I have to say, that because of how unsure I was of the outcome was going to be with my sister, I’m glad Ayana didn’t press.

“So, when do you go back to work?”

“I actually don’t go back until the beginning of next month, but I thought since I have so much downtime, that I’d go back to working on my website. You know when I moved to Brazil, I was so damn busy that I hadn’t even gotten a chance to even take as many shots as I would’ve, and that sucks because that place is every photographer’s wet dream.”

“Well, at least you won’t be bored while you’re off.”

I grabbed my keys, my clutch, and my phone, right as I was walking out, “I meant it, Ayana! I want a new mattress by the time I get back.”

I got in my car, synced it to my phone, and blasted “Cranes in the Sky” by Solange to get my head in the game for this talk with my sister. I didn’t have any expectations going into this just hopefully some sort of closure, with at least an amicable split. I had my war suit on and was ready for whatever. I was always told, “You ain’t gotta get ready if you stay ready,” and I felt this more now than ever.

I pull up at the cafe a few minutes earlier than we agreed so that I could steady my nerves, but apparently, she had the same idea because there she was in a booth, waving me down right when I stepped in the door. The cafe gave an old 50s vibe. Black and white linoleum checkered floors, red vinyl booth seating, with jukeboxes at every table.

With a stoic face, I sat down and waited a moment for her to speak. After enough time had passed, I opened my mouth, but she cut me off before I could even say anything.

“Thank you Liyah for even coming to meet me. I was afraid you wouldn’t even respond to me.

“You’re my sister Charlie. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Well considering the reason you aren’t speaking to me.”

“It’s not that I’m not speaking to you, I just needed some space and time to myself to think and reflect.”

“I never got a chance to express how deeply sorry I am for making that egregious error of misjudgment on my part.

" ‘Egregious error of misjudgment’?! Charlie come on now, what you did was a straight hoe move. Do you not realize if it weren’t for me catching both of you in the act back then, Israel and I would be married by now? You single-handedly ruined my marriage.”

That last sentence seemed to bring her to the brink of tears. I had to get out all of my negative feelings towards her, him, the situation, and everything related before I could even begin to forgive her.

“Liyah, please understand, thinking back on it now, I am so deeply sorry. I never wanted to hurt you, and I hope someday you’ll truly forgive me.”

“Did you even tell Mom and Dad what happened?”

She doesn’t even look me in the eye when she answers me, “No, I didn’t. I was too much of a coward to say anything to them. I couldn’t bear the thought of them hating me too. It was just easier for me to have them mad at you for whatever.”

My blood is boiling so bad, I think if you had placed an egg on me, just by a simple touch it would’ve been boiled hard.

“You know Charlize, you are the worst kind of person there is, and I’m just now realizing that.” I take a beat so that she can understand and feel the severity of my words and I continue on, “however, even so, I wouldn’t change a thing because you showed me the kind of man I would’ve been marrying. It doesn’t even matter how many times you got together, it was just the fact that you did. So as angry as I am at you for not only crossing the line, you DECIMATED it, but I’m also grateful to you for showing me before we even took those vows.”

Her tears are no longer sporadic, but more so freely flowing from the words I said to her. I know it’s going to take a long time before I can ever trust her again, or even IF I can trust her again, but I’m at least willing to try.

It takes her about five minutes to calm down from her frantic but cathartic crying before she even begins to speak.

“Speaking of Liyah, I met someone. He’s an amazing man, and to simply put it, I’m in love.”

Internally, I’m cringing because I feel as though it’s too soon for us to even be discussing significant others considering our history, but I give a tight smile because I don’t want her to think I don’t care, “Oh? How long have you all been dating?”

“It’s been almost two years. Our anniversary will be in a few months, and we’ve been inseparable almost since we first met.”

“And how DID you meet?”

“We met at my, well OUR job. When he got hired, I was the one who was designated to show him around, and introduce him to the heads of his department.”

“Okay, so he works at the hospital with you. Does this mystery man have a name?”

“His name is Amaré. He’s such an Adonis. I’d love for you to meet him! Mom and Dad have already, and they just love him.”

“Well, with work coming up and everything, we’ll see if we can set something up soon okay?”

“Oh, Liyah! I’d love it if I could get my little sister’s stamp of approval!”

I give her a blank stare for a moment, hoping to not make her feel as awkward as I do, “Well with all things considered, do you think that’s a wise decision?”

“Oh Liyah, if we’re truly on a clean slate, why not?”

Clearly, I could see, she wasn’t going to let this go. I sipped my coffee in silence for a few moments; I began to feel uncomfortable in her presence because it now started to feel forced. I got up from the table, threw a tip on it, and said, “Well Charlie, let’s take it step by step. I’m sure I will meet your boyfriend at some point. He sounds wonderful, and I’m happy that you are happy. Let’s do this again one day in the near future.”

She gets up to hug me, and I halt her, “Let’s not force anything here. While I’m able and ready to agree to be amenable, let’s allow everything else to happen organically.”

Her face falls for just a moment and then puts on her “perfect daughter, perfect person, beauty queen smile”, “Okay, Li I understand. I’m just glad you accepted my apology and we can move on from here.”

I pick up my purse and put it on my shoulders, and part with, “I’ll keep in touch.”

6 months later

Everything that fell to shit in my life, seemed like it was starting to pick up. I was secretly casually dating someone, and that newness just glowed from within me. Ayana could tell, but no matter how hard she pressed me for information, I wasn’t ready. My website was flourishing and was also getting booked by some of everyone it seemed. New restaurants, “A-listers”, hotels, resorts, and I was still freelancing for some of the major magazines in demand.

Things between Charlize and I were still a little stiff, but at least we would check in with one another once a week, just to try and remain in each other’s lives in one form or another. I still wasn’t speaking to my parents. They knew I had moved back into town the moment my meetup with Charlie in the cafe happened, but I figured if they had something to say, they’d reach out.

As I was getting ready for outdoor pregnancy photoshoot, I received a text message.

CHARLIE: Omg! KALIYAH IT FINALLY HAPPENED! AMARÉ PROPOSED!

Attached to the text message was a picture of a four-carat round diamond halo yellow gold ring on her finger. The ring in and of itself was beautiful, you could tell it reflected hues of light to dark blue. Whoever this man was, that popped the question, you could tell he really loved her. Once again, that bittersweet feeling began to creep up on me, but I refused to give in to since things were good in my life. I received another text message a few moments later

CHARLIE: So, I know it’s sort of short notice but Mom and Dad wanted to throw a small gathering for our engagement party. I know for whatever reason, you weren’t able to meet him before, but would you please attend the party?

ME: Sure, when is it?

CHARLIE: Umm, it’s tomorrow night.

ME: It’s REALLY short notice, but I’ve already agreed. I think it’s time to meet my future brother-in-law. What time should I be there?

CHARLIE: YOU’RE REALLY GOING TO COME!?!? Okay, it’s at 8 pm. The dress is semi-formal. One more thing: I know I haven’t officially asked you yet, but I’m asking the wedding party to wear a shade of royal blue.

“For fucks’ sake!” I say rather loudly, startling everyone, and disrupting the ambiance.

I put my phone away, trying to steady my nerves for tomorrow night. By the time the shoot is over, my anxiety is at an all-time high, and I have to ask the one person who can’t stand my sister to help me pick out a dress for her engagement party. I pick up the phone, and before I can even dial her number, I get another text message:

UNKNOWN: Good evening beautiful, any plans for tomorrow night?

Seeing that text, just made me feel tingly all inside. Holding the phone in my hand, trying to figure something flirty to say, Ayana calls me.

“Perfect timing chica! I was just about to call you,” I say to her.

“Oh God, where’s the body? And how many shovels do I need to bring?” She asks sarcastically.

I roll my eyes, and say, “None of the sort, but I DO need to ask for a huge favor.”

She gives me a long pause to where I had to make sure she was still on the phone, “Ayana, are you still there?”

“Yeah, I’m here. I’m just afraid of this ‘huge favor’. It never bodes well for me.”

“I need to go dress shopping. I just got invited to an engagement party and I have to find some sort of royal blue attire.”

“Who the fuck is getting married!?!?!”

I take a deep breath and wait for a moment.

“Mira pendeja, just tell me already!”

“It’s Charlie,” I say as softly as I can.

"BITCH I KNOW YOU FUCKING LYING!" She screams into the phone where I have to pull it away from my ear.

“Ya, please I’m in public, and yes. No matter what, she’s my sister, and we’re trying to be better.”

“You owe me big fucking time! And let me just say for the record, you don’t have to do anything but stay black and die. I would NEVER, especially after what she did to your nonexistent marriage!!!”

“But, it’s in the past, and I’m happy with who I’m seeing.”

“Who I still haven’t seen a picture of or even met.”

“Well, he doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll be making an appearance with me at the engagement party.”

“Where are we meeting?”

“Saks okay?”

“Yeah okay, moneybags!”

“See you soon babe,” I hang up the phone with her and answer the text.

ME: I’ve got an engagement party to go to, would you like to accompany me? I think I’m ready to introduce us as a couple.

UNKNOWN: I’d be delighted. Me and you being introduced as an “us”? I’ve been ready babe.

ME: I’ll send you the address. The party is at 8 pm.

I put the phone back in my purse, get in my car, and head to the store to meet Ayana. When I get there and she’s already got a glass of champagne in hand.

“I told them your size, and what color the dress had to be. They already had them here waiting on you,” she says as she’s sipping on the glass.

“Have I told you, I could not have asked for a better sister in you?” I go to kiss her cheek.

“Yeah, so much so, that we keep secrets from one another now.”

“Yo prometo, in due time okay Ya? Are you coming with me to this party? ONLY AS A SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR ME!"

She mumbles something in Spanish that I can’t understand, “You know I’ll ride for you no matter what, but just know if she or your parents get out of pockets, I. WILL. BE. READY!"

I take a look at the dresses one by one first to see which would suit me, and one particularly dark blue lace floor-length cocktail dress catches my eye. The back is completely out, and the sleeves are capped right at the shoulder blades, and there’s a split that goes all the way up to almost the panty line. It’s demure with a hint of provocative.

I know it’s Charlie’s moment, but why shouldn’t I be allowed to feel sexy? I pull it out to admire it, and Ayana sidles up next to me, “Oye, chica THAT’S the one. Fuck all the others.”

I take an inquisitive look at her, “You think so?”

“Bitch, if I was attracted to you in that way, I’d be fucking you in that dress okay? Put your hair up in a messy knot, and do something dramatic to your makeup? FUCK YES!"

I give the dress to the sales consultant, and say, “That will be all, thank you for your help.”

I take Ayana by her hand, place her palm over my cheek, and softly smile, “Ayana, I just really can’t express how much of a rock you’ve been to me over the years. If it weren’t for you, I’d be somewhere drowning. GRACIAS MI HERMANA!"

“Kay, I’m going to kill you for making me cry in public, and in Saks no less!” She exclaimed as she wiped a tear away.

The next day, I canceled all of my shoots so that I could mentally prepare for tonight. I had never met this man that my sister was getting ready to marry, but from what I could tell, they made each other happy and were truly ready to take it to the next step. For whatever reason, I had this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I couldn’t seem to shake it away. However, I powered through; after doing my hair and makeup, I had heard Ayana let herself in. I knew she still had a key, and I was much too busy trying to get ready.

I checked my cellphone to see what time it was and I saw that I had received a text message:

UNKNOWN: I can’t wait to see you beautiful. It’s been way too long since I’ve seen your face baby.

Butterflies fluttered about in my stomach reading it. Just as Ayana came into my bathroom, I locked the screen.

“Damn, you don’t have to be all secretive!”

I just chuckled at her; I walked into my closet, and carefully got my dress down, and cautiously put it on, as I didn’t want to snag it. I slipped on a pair of silver peep-toe red bottoms, ready to get through the night. While Ayana was distracted, I texted the address to my date and told him I’d see him there soon enough.

We get in our Uber SUV, and Ayana immediately pulls out a nip of whiskey from her clutch.

“Ayana, so help me God. I mean it! BEST BEHAVIOR!”

She crosses her heart and says, “Cross my heart and hope to die. This just relaxes me. You KNOW how your family is/can be.”

Twenty minutes later, we pull up to my parents’ palatial Tudor style home. Well, might as well call it a compound; they’ve got a security guard at the gate, and then it’s about a half-mile drive up to the estate itself.

“Small gathering my ass,” I mumble as I look and see there have to be at least 30 cars already parked from the valet.

I step out of the car, and carefully lift the skirt of my dress, so it won’t drag on the ground, nor be willing to show anyone my goodies from the split on the side. Ayana comes around to my side and whispers, “Damn bitch, you are WEARING that dress!”

We carefully climb the few steps to get into the home, and as expected, my parents are at the door, ever the politically correct social couple, they beam at me, knowing full we haven’t spoken in a few years.

“Ah, Kaliyah! We are so delighted you could make it! Hors d’oeuvres are in the sitting room, but everyone else in the ballroom greeting your sister and her fiance.” My mother says as she fake kisses me on both cheeks.

“Ayana, it’s been too long since you’ve graced us with your presence! We have to set up a date to get together!”

Ayana looks at the skin at her wrist, as if there was a watch there, and replies with a fake smile, “Let me check my calendar, Mrs. Sessoms! I’m sure I can fit you in somewhere between me making partner at my firm and running for district judge.”

My mother stiffens her spine, and softly snorts, “Well, either way, thank you for coming dear.”

Ayana and I just give a stifled look to one another, trying our hardest not to laugh as we enter the house. My phone buzzes, and without even looking, I know who it is.

“Hey Ya, you go ahead and greet the lovely couple, I’ll be along in a minute.”

She looks at me skeptically and says, “You sure.”

“Positive. Go! Go find you a ‘Mr. Right Now’.”

“You know I will,” she says as she walks away laughing.

I go into the sitting room and pull out my phone.

UNKNOWN: I’m here beautiful, where are you?

ME: I’m in the sitting room, waiting for you.

A moment later, he emerges and beams at me. He walks up to me, wraps his arm around me, and says, “Did I say beautiful? I meant STUNNING!”

I blush and say, “Well thank you Israel, you don’t look so bad yourself.”

“How’d you get past my parents without the third degree?”

“Oh, I had gotten a personal invitation from your mom. I was just waiting to see if you were going to tell me.” He says as he kisses me on my nose.

“Ready to face the firing squad?”

“This isn’t about us, remember Kay? This is about your sister, you have NOTHING to worry about.”

“You promise?”

“I’ll protect you either way babe.”

Israel holds me close, and we make our way to the ballroom. I know once we’re in private, the amount of shit I’m going to catch from Ayana will be insurmountable, but I’m ready to face it. We walk in the room and the couple is faced away from us, but I can make Charlie’s physique out a mile away. The tall gentleman next to her seems familiar, but I can’t quite place him without seeing his face.

Israel whispers in my ear, “I’ll be right back babe, I’m going to get us some drinks.”

I holdfast in the spot Israel left me, and then simultaneously, both Charlie and her fiance turn around. Charlie beams at the sight of me, and I suddenly have tunnel vision and swimmer’s ear all at once. Everything seems to fade away, I hear her, but I can’t quite make the words until I hear the last part, “....my fiancé, Dr. Maximilian Amaré Quintero.”

I drop my clutch and begin to feel light-headed. Just as I thought my life was coming together, it has a funny way of playing a mean, cruel joke on me. My little happy bubble burst, and as it started to shatter, so did my heart. It shattered so much, that it didn’t break into pieces. No, it turned into dust and with one breath, it seemed to float away, never to return back to me. The look on Max’s face, says everything I’m feeling. The one person that I thought, “what could’ve been” is now with my sister.

Yeah, life had set me up for a mean cruel joke. Just as my knees buckle for me to pass out, Israel comes to my side and catches me. “What a fucking shitty mess life has made for me,” I think right as I pass out.

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