#44 Diamonds and young love
When I return from my shift at Giovanni’s, I come home to find Francesca on my doorstep, looking like shit. Her make-up is smeared all over her face, her sleeves are wet from wiping away her tears and her blonde and purple hair is a mess.
“Aston?” I ask, holding out my hand to her to help her up.
She nods and sniffles. “He… he called things off. No more sex. He knows.”
I already decided last night that I was going to tell her the truth, so here we go. “Yeah, he told me last night that he was going to talk to you. He asked me not to say anything.”
“Did you…” Franny walks into Dshawn’s apartment with me and crawls into the corner of the couch, pulling a pillow onto her lap. “Did you ask him…?”
“If he’s willing to try dating you?” I ask, hating how fragile she looks. “Yeah, I did. And I’m sorry, Fran, but even though he thinks you’re amazing, he just doesn’t want a relationship.”
She nods. “That’s what he told me too. God, I’m so stupid. I pretty much begged him to keep fucking me, but he said that he doesn’t want to keep hurting me. He even told me that he hopes we can be friends. I just don’t know… how can you be friends with someone that you want to be with?”
“I have no idea,” I say honestly. I sink down next to her, pulling her to me for a hug. I’d much rather take a long hot shower and call Dshawn to complain about my crappy day at Giovanni’s and ask him about his day with Mustafa, Danny and the new client, but Franny needs me right now. “Do you want to stay for dinner?” I ask her, stroking her hair. “I’m making burritos.”
“Yes, please!” she says, sounding a little happier at the prospect of food. “And wine, please. Lots and lots of wine.”
Just when I get up to get her a glass, the doorbell rings. I walk over to the panel and press the button that allows me to talk to whoever is down at the entrance of the apartment complex. “Hello?”
“Hey, is Dshawn there?” The voice sounds young and vaguely familiar.
“Who is this?” I ask.
Oh shit. Dshawn’s brother is at the front door and I’m in here with a sobbing heartbroken girl. And Dshawn is out of town. Fuck. What do I do?
“Come on up, Marcus!” I yell, buzzing him in. I need to have this conversation face to face. Quickly, I tell Fran what’s going on and instruct her to head into the bathroom to freshen up a bit. Once she’s washing her face and fixing her make-up, I open the front door to see Marcus walking up the stairs.
“Hi Shaughna,” he says shyly, running a hand through his unruly black curls.
“Come on in,” I tell him, stepping aside so he can walk past me into the living room. “Dshawn is on a business trip. Did he forget to reschedule your Harry Potter man date or something?”
“It’s not a men date,” he scoffs, sounding exactly like his brother when I tease him. “And no, I just… I wanted to talk to him, but if he’s not home, I should go.”
“Nonsense!” I say quickly. I know a sad boy when I see one. And Marcus looks miserable. There is no way I’m letting Dshawn’s little brother walk out of here like this. “My friend Francesca is here as well, and we are about to make burritos. If you’re hungry, you can stay for dinner.”
“Okay,” he says, nodding. “Yeah. Okay.”
“Marcus…” I hesitate. I need to be an adult about this. “Do your parents know you’re here?”
“Yeah,” he says, obviously lying. “Of course.”
“Okay, then you won’t mind giving me your mom’s number so I can give her a call.” I laugh when I see his face fall. “Boy, you’re talking to the queen of lying to her parents. You can’t fool me. If you give me your mom’s number, I promise I will try my best to get her to agree to let you stay for dinner. I will drive you back home later tonight.”
“Fine,” he grunts. “Okay.”
“One condition,” I add. “You’re going to talk to me about whatever it was you came here to ask Dshawn about. Deal?”
“Only if you promise not to tell my mom,” Marcus says, narrowing his eyes at me.
“Deal.” If it’s something big, I can always tell Dshawn and have him tell his mom, which would technically let me keep this promise.
I put Asia’s number in my phone and call her, walking to Dshawn’s bedroom while I tell Marcus to get himself a drink from the fridge. I’m nervous as fuck about this, but I also know that if Marcus came here on his own to talk to Dshawn, it must be important. And he doesn’t want his mother to know what’s going on. I need to step up right now.
“Yeah?” Asia says when she picks up the phone.
“Hi Asia, this is Shaughna, Dshawn’s girlfriend.”
“Oh, Shaughna! You don’t have to explain who you are, girl. I know you!” She laughs. “Dshawn told me you moved in with him. That’s great news. To what do I owe this call?”
I take a deep breath. “Marcus just showed up at Dshawn’s apartment. Don’t freak out,” I say quickly. “He’s okay. He just seems upset about something.”
“Oh fuck,” Asia curses. “Dshawn’s out of town, right? I’ll come pick Marcus right up. Give me fifteen minutes.”
“Actually, I was hoping that Marcus could stay for dinner,” I say before she can hang up. “He seems to be worried about something and I’m about to make dinner with a friend of mine anyway, so if you don’t mind…”
“You don’t have to do that, honey,” Asia assures me. “Marcus does this sometimes. He takes off and goes somewhere he feels comfortable to cool off. We got into a fight earlier today. This is just the first time that he’s gone to Dshawn’s place.” There is a smile in her voice. “I guess I have you to thank for that. Marcus is never going to say it out loud, but he loves spending time with Dshawn.”
I’m happy to hear that, but I know that I only gave Dshawn the push he needed. This is not my win, but it’s still nice to hear that my boyfriend’s mother seems to like me. “Look, Asia, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving Marcus with me and my friend Francesca, I understand. You barely know me and you’ve never met my friend. But if you-”
“Oh honey, that’s not it!” Asia assures me. “I’d just hate for you to be stuck with Marcus all night. This is not your mess to fix.”
“I’d love to have him stay for dinner,” I assure her. “I will drive him back, you’ve got enough going on with four other kids. Please, I don’t mind.”
“Okay,” she sighs. “If Marcus wants to stay, he can stay. Could you have him back by nine?”
I assure her that it’s not a problem and hang up, hoping that I’m doing the right thing here. I haven’t hung out with a 13-year-old boy since I was 13 myself, and I barely know Marcus. Hopefully, Dshawn will agree with me that I need to be there for his brother. Fuck, I wish he was here. And not just to help out with Marcus, but just in general. The bed feels empty without him in it. My life feels empty without him there.
“Your mom says it’s okay,” I tell Marcus when I walk back in to find him on the couch with a glass of water, watching TV.
“Cool,” he replies, his eyes trained on the TV.
Okay, now how exactly am I going to get him to open up to me? He’s engrossed in his show, and I’m just his brother’s girlfriend who he met once. Crap, I didn’t think this through.
“Hello hello!” Francesca exclaims, walking into the room with a huge grin on her face. Her hair is brushed and pulled back into a neat bun. She redid her make-up and there’s not a trace of sadness left on her face. “You must be Dshawn’s brother,” she says to Marcus, beaming at him. “I’m Francesca, Shaughna’s friend.”
Marcus eyes go wide when he looks at Franny, his mouth dropping open. I’m used to her having that effect on people, with her plunging necklines, short skirts and purple highlights, but she’s in a turtleneck long-sleeved dress tonight, one that flows down to her knees. And… Marcus is 13. I didn’t expect her to have that effect on a boy his age, but then again… He’s 13 and Fran is hot, and she’s not his brother’s girl, so I guess that it’s pretty damn logical that he’s looking at her like she’s the most beautiful girl ever.
“Let’s make some burritos,” I say, not sure what to do about this situation. “Marcus, how are you with a grater? Because we’re going to need lots and lots of cheese.”
Marcus tears his gaze off of Franny and looks at me with a frown. “Cheese? Yeah, sure.”
“I’m chopping!” Fran exclaims, rushing to the fridge to take out some vegetables. “Shaughna, you’re on chicken duty!”
We all move into this kitchen and spend the next thirty minutes working on dinner. Franny puts on some music and she and Marcus sing along to the songs, his eyes on her at all times. I just make sure that Francesca doesn’t cut off her own fingers and that the food doesn’t burn. Soon enough, we’re sitting around the kitchen table, stuffing our faces. Fran takes a selfie of the three of us, holding up our burritos. She sends it so me and I text it do Dshawn, with the promise of calling him later tonight to explain how I ended up having dinner with his brother and Franny.
“Time to start talking,” I tell Marcus when I’m on my second helping. “What did you want to talk to Dshawn about?”
Marcus sighs deeply and leans back in his chair. “Mom and I got into a fight.”
“About?” Fran asks, with her mouth full of food.
“I stole one of her necklaces,” he says, looking down at his plate. “And now she wants me to get it back to her, but I can’t.”
“You gave it to a girl, right?” I say, already catching onto what happened. “And you can’t tell her that you stole it from your mom, or she’ll think you’re lame.”
He looks up at me with a frown. “Yes. Exactly.”
Fran laughs and licks her fingers, not noticing how Marcus is taking in every single move she makes. “A boy did that for me once. I think his name was Jerry. Or Jerome, maybe.”
Okay… so Fran isn’t helping much. I clear my throat and look at Marcus. “Why did you give it to that girl? You like her?”
Marcus shrugs. “Yeah, I guess. She’s actually my… girlfriend.” He looks at Franny like he thinks she will mind. Oh boy, he’s really into her. Poor guy. She’s twice his age. “And she was asking me to get her something for our one-month anniversary, but I don’t have any money, and mom has so many necklaces… I didn’t know that it was a real diamond until mom started yelling at me.”
Oh wow. He gave his mother’s diamond necklace to a 13-year-old girl. Oh, to be that young and that stupid again… Fran and I exchange a look, trying to keep our expressions neutral.
“We need to get that necklace back,” I say with a sigh.
“I can’t!” Marcus exclaims. “You don’t understand! Bee is really popular. If I ask for the necklace back… I just can’t!”
“Bee?” I can’t help but ask.
“Beatrice,” he says, smiling a little. “But everyone calls her Bee.”
Francesca laughs. “Of course. Queen Bee. Makes sense. Anyway… I think I know how to fix this.” She reaches to the back of her neck and unclasps the necklace she was wearing. It’s a silver heart on a thin chain. “Just tell her that the one you gave her turned out to be a fake diamond and you think she deserves better, so you got her this silver heart instead, to celebrate your love.”
“Genius,” I agree immediately. 13-year-old me would have totally fallen for that.
Marcus seems unsure, but he’s not going to tell Franny that she’s wrong, so he just nods. We all continue eating, but the moment we’re done Francesca and I get up and tell Marcus to give us Bee’s address. He complains that he doesn’t want to go and that Dshawn never would ask him to exchange the necklaces, but in the end he agrees and gets in the car with us.
As we watch Marcus walk up to Bee’s house ten minutes later, Francesca is having the time of her life.
“This is the best distraction ever,” she tells me, her eyes wide and full of joy. “Fuck Aston. This little boy is so cute. I barely even remember being that young, worrying about popularity and all that stupid shit.”
“I know, right?” I’m so grateful that Fran is with me tonight. I never could have handled this situation without her. “Look, someone is answering the door!”
A tall man opens to door, nodding at something Marcus says. He opens the door wider for Marcus to come in, but before he can, a young girl steps outside. She’s a little smaller than Marcus and she looks like a Queen Bee for sure. She’s wearing a skirt and a crop top that are not appropriate for a 13-year-old at all, and she’s got the curves to fill them out already. Damn. No wonder she’s popular. I did not look like that at her age.
When Bee’s father walks back inside to give his daughter a moment alone with her boyfriend on the porch, we see Marcus pull the necklace from his pocket. There’s a moment where he tells her the lies Franny concocted, and then Bee throws her arms around Marcus, hugging him for a long time. When she pulls back, she turns around and lets Marcus unclasp the diamond necklace and put the silver heart on her.
“It worked!” Fran cheers next to me. “I’m a genius. Oh, I miss this. I’d love to be that young again, and totally oblivious to what life is really like.”
“This is pretty much exactly what life is like,” I say with a smile. “Messing up, running off to get help, and fixing things in the end, which will eventually lead to the next time you mess up.”
“Only in real life, adult life, you don’t always end up fixing things,” Fran says, sounding sad again.
“Hey, it’ll be fine, Fran,” I assure her, rubbing her arm. “Aston is not the one for you, but you will find someone. And who knows, maybe Aston and you will end up being friends after all.”
“I highly doubt that,” she scoffs. “He is such-” She stops mid-sentence and squeals. “Awh… they’re kissing!”
They are, and it’s a little awkward to watch. Her hands are in his soft curls and he’s holding her waist. I can’t really see the actual kiss, but it lasts so long that I’m pretty sure they can’t just be pecking each other on the lips. Ew. I just helped Dshawn’s brother to get his girlfriend to snog his face off. I’m the worst.
Finally, they break apart and Marcus walks back to the car, sliding into the backseat with the biggest grin on his face. It’s exactly how Dshawn looks after we’ve tried something new in the bedroom. Ew, stop thinking about that, Shaughna! While Francesca asks Marcus more about how he met Bee, what he likes about her, that kind of stuff, I drive back to Dshawn’s place – which is technically our place, I guess – and just listen to their easy conversation.
Back in the apartment, I put on the live-action version of The Lion King and fill a bowl with cheese onion chips. Dshawn hates the smell of them, so while he’s gone, I’ll be enjoying as much of them as I can. Although it’s more fun when he’s with me, making weird faces while I blow my stinky breath in his face to tease him. God, I miss him.
“Ew!” Marcus exclaims when the smell of the chips hit him. “That is disgusting. Why would anyone want to eat those? And The Lion King is for little kids!”
I laugh and put the bowl in his lap. He’s between me and Franny, so he makes the perfect holding place for our snacks. “We just fixed your problem, Marcus. The least you can do is watch the movie of my choice.”
“Yeah, and cheese onion chips are the best,” Fran agrees, stuffing a handful in her mouth.
“Oh, yeah, they are pretty good,” Marcus says immediately, putting one in his mouth and wincing.
We spend the next hour watching the movie and stuffing our faces. We can’t finish the movie since I need to get him home by nine, but when I drive Marcus back to his house, he tells me that he actually enjoyed it and that he’d like to finish watching it.
“When Dshawn gets back, we can have a movie night,” I tell him. “Just the three of us.”
“Thanks, Shaughna,” he says with a cute little shy smile. “You’re alright.”
I laugh at that, but don’t respond. I just pull up in front of the house and get out to walk him to the door. Terryl opens it before either of us can knock, and he looks down at Marcus with an angry expression.
“You’re in a lot of trouble, mister,” he growls.
Marcus sighs and pulls the diamond necklace from his pocket. “I got it back.”
“Good.” Terryl pulls him into the hallway and points to the door to the living room. “You better go apologize to your mother, boy. That’s the necklace her grandmother gave her before she died. She was devastated to think that you might have sold it or something.”
Marcus rushes off to make things right with Asia, while Terryl and I smile at each other.
“Just so you know, it’s not actually a real diamond,” Terryl whispers to me. “And she got it at a garage sale. Asia just wanted him to feel bad so he won’t ever steal anything ever again.”
“Oh wow, that’s genius.” I laugh. “That means that I just spent my night retrieving a necklace that is barely even worth ten dollars.”
“Would you like to come in?” Terryl asks.
I shake my head. “I’d love to, but I left my friend at my place, and she’s going through something, so I should get back to talk to her some more.” Franny is probably back to crying now that Marcus’ troubles are no longer distracting her.
“We’re really grateful for you helping out with Marcus,” Terryl tells me. “What exactly happened tonight?”
“I promised not to tell his mother,” I start saying, but then I give Teryll a smile. “You’re not his mother. Hmm. I guess I can tell you then.” I give him a short recap of this night’s events, leaving out the kissing and some other details. “Don’t let him know I told you, or he’ll never talk to me again,” I warn Terryl.
He pulls me in for a hug, taking me off guard. When he lets go of me, he puts his hands on my shoulders and squeezes. “Dshawn should hold onto you, Shaughna. He’s lucky to have you.”
“Erm… t-thanks,” I stammer awkwardly. “I h-have to go n-now.”
Terryl nods and steps back into the hallway, his hand on the door handle. “Tell Dshawn to call his mama when he gets back from his trip, will you?”
“Will do,” I promise, waving as I walk back to my car.
This night is not what I was expecting, but it turned out so much better than I ever could have imagined.