Feisty Francesca

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#32 Half-brothers

Shaughna drapes a blanket over both our legs and snuggles against me, her blonde hair mingling with mine. “I can’t believe you didn’t call me to tell me about Lenny,” she says, sighing. “No, sorry, I do get it. I’ve been such a shitty friend lately, totally absorbed by the business Dshawn and I are starting, focusing on Aston and Annabel… I should have been there for you.”

I squeeze her arm and smile. “It’s fine. You’re here now.” I have to admit it’s nice to spend some one on one time with her again. And the apology is welcome too. I was never truly mad at her, but her bringing Aston to dinner and then never having time to hang out with me after… Yeah, I wasn’t all that happy with her.

“James is really stepping up, isn’t he?” Shaughna says, sitting up straight so she can look at me. “I thought the guy had red flags written all over him, to be honest, but it seems I was wrong. I’m so happy I was wrong. You need a guy like that in your life, who gets your job and stands up for you and treats you like the special lady you are.”

I grin at the description special lady. “Yeah, he’s amazing. Totally worth getting arrested over.”

“You’re welcome, babe,” Shaughna jokes, poking me in the ribs. “If you ever need another one – which I sure hope you won’t with a guy that hot in your bed – I will totally round up another psychotic ex of mine to start an epic fight.”

“Please don’t,” I beg her, grabbing my beer. “Never again. I would be perfectly happy if all our exes just evaporated tonight. Just… no longer existing on this earth. They don’t have to die or anything, just stop… being.

“Except for Aston,” she says. “He can stay.”

“Fine.” I roll my eyes. “Technically, he’s not even my ex, as he keeps pointing out all the time. How is he, by the way? I haven’t talked to him in a week.”

“Busy fucking Anna, I’m sure,” she replies, grinning. “He’s still a little weird about the baby thing, and I guess it’ll be that way until they get the paternity test done next week. I think he’s already made his decision, though. He loves her. He’s not walking away.”

I agree with her on that. When you look at someone like that, you don’t walk away from them. And for Aston to have found that without even believing in love or searching for a relationship, that’s a goddamn miracle. He should hold onto that woman for the rest of his life.

“I think I’m in love with James,” I say, finally admitting it to myself. When I told him I loved him this morning, it no longer felt like a lie.

“Ohhhh!” Shaughna clinks her beer bottle against mine and beams at me. “That’s great! Bedazzled monster cocks like his are hard to come by, after all.”

I laugh and smack her on the arm. “Stop with the comments about his dick, will you? Besides, this is kinda big for me. I’ve never been in love with anyone besides Aston, after all.”

“Right,” she says, trying to put on a poker face. “Are you going to tell him?”

I shift a little and down my beer, getting up to grab another one from the fridge. “I sort of already did. Accidentally.”

“What?” Shaughna looks up at me with a frown. “Okay, there’s a story there. I can just sense it. Spill it!”

Before I can get into it, my phone rings and I check the number, not recognizing it. I pick up and sigh when I hear Leonard’s voice.

“Stop calling me,” I tell him. This is the fourth time today. “I don’t care that you’re all sad and alone in a motel room right now. I’m not interested in talking to you, let alone coming over. I thought my boyfriend made it clear that he’s more than willing to make sure you’re convicted for stalking.”

“Yeah, bugger off!” Shaughna yells forcefully so Lenny can hear her loud and clear.

I hang up and sink down on the couch, gulping down my beer so fast that I need to get up for a third one before I even got the blanket back over my legs.

“Okay, let’s forget about that dipshit,” Shaughna decides, motioning to my phone. “Tell me the story of how you told James you love him.”

I’m halfway through the story when my phone rings again. I don’t even look at the number this time. “Lenny, if this is you again, I swear to God I’m gonna cut off your dick the next time I see you. I told you I’m not interested.”

There’s a brief pause and then a female voice says in an amused tone: “Thank fuck I’m not Lenny.”

I pull the phone away from my ear to check the number again. I truly don’t recognize it. “Who’s this?”

“Annabel.”

“Oh, hi,” I say stupidly. Guess I didn’t put her number in my phone after she last texted me. I didn’t think I would need to, honestly. Oh God, last time she texted me it was for medical stuff, a blood test and whatnot. What if she’s calling because something is wrong and I’m her go-to medical advice person? “Is everything okay with Aston? And the baby?”

“Yeah, don’t worry,” she says, easing my mind. “I’ve been calling Shaughna all day, but she’s not picking up. I texted her a dozen times as well, but she’s impossible to get ahold of. Could you tell her to call me?”

“Sure.” I give Shaughna a pointed look. “I’ll tell her right now. I’m sitting right next to her on the couch.” I put my hand over the bottom half of my phone. “Is your phone dead again?” I ask Shaughna. She’s so careless sometimes.

“Yeah,” she confirms, nodding.

“Annabel needs to speak to you.”

She gives me a worried look. “The baby?”

“Fine.”

“Aston?”

“Fine.”

Good to know our thought processes still work the same. She grabs the phone from me with a curious expression and puts it to her ear. “Hey, sorry, my phone died hours ago and it’s charging in the bedroom right now. What’s up?” There’s a silence where she listens to Annabel. “Yeah, he’s in the bedroom playing videogames. Should I get him?”

“Dshawn?” I mouth, getting more and more curious.

Shaughna nods at me while Annabel talks, her brow furrowing. “Terryl. You met him, remember?” Another pause. “Why on earth would you need to know that?”

“What did she ask?” I press, wanting to know what Shaughna is so shocked about.

“Who Dshawn’s biological father is.”

Oh shit. Oh shit. This can only mean one thing. My mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that Dsahwn’s biological father must be Aston’s as well. There’s no other reason I can think of. Shaughna and Annabel go back and forth, and then Shaughna says the name Ace Powell.

I interrupt whatever they’re saying to each other now by pulling at Shaughna’s arm.

“They’re brothers,” I tell her, absolutely certain I’m right. Both have a deadbeat biological father and an amazing stepdad, they look alike, and there is just no other reason why Annabel would call asking about Dshawn’s father.

“Oh my God!” Shaughna gasps.

Our eyes lock and then we’re both yelling for Dshawn to get his ass out here, telling him to stop playing videogames in the other room. He comes out of the bedroom, taking off his headset and giving us an annoyed look. Shaughna lays the phone on the armrest of the couch and puts Annabel on speaker.

“What the fuck?” he asks, looking over his shoulder at whatever he was doing on the screen of his laptop. “I told you I was doing a raid with Aston and the boys. Why are you yelling like the goddamn place is on fire?”

“Annabel called,” Shaughna tells him.

Just like us, he jumps to the obvious conclusion. “Oh shit, is the baby okay?”

“Yes, the baby is fine,” Annabel says, her voice sounding hollow echoing through the room. “Aston isn’t there, is he?”

“No,” I assure her, “you can speak freely.”

“Freely?” Dshawn gives me an incredulous look. “Why would you call us to talk about something Aston can’t know?” Then his eyes go wide and it’s like he’s thinking of something none of us know about, realization hitting him. He smiles. “Are you surprising him with something?”

“Erm… in a way,” Annabel says, sounding like she’s ready to just spit it out. “I actually called to ask you about your father.”

“Terryl?” Dshawn asks, sitting down on the edge of the coffee table so he can stay close to the phone.

Shaughna takes his hand in hers, making me feel like I’m witnessing a very private moment that I have no business being a part of. “No, Ace,” she tells him.

His confused expression turns into rage in a split second. I’ve never seen him like this, aside from that night we all got arrested for fighting Shaughna’s exes. “That shitbag isn’t my father.”

Annabel speaks up again. “Does he have any other kids?”

“Not that I know of,” Dshawn says in a drawn voice, “but I haven’t spoken to him in years. I only see him when he’s out on parole or something and he needs money. He’s got a restraining order when it comes to Mom, so he’s not in our lives. Why are you asking me all this?”

“Because I think he’s Aston’s father too.”

Dshawn doesn’t say anything at first. He just stares at the phone, then looks up at Shaughna, and when he sees in her eyes that Annabel is right, he curses and gets up. He starts pacing the room, running his hands through his short curly hair that he only recently started growing out. His mind is going so fast that he moves his lips along with his thoughts to make sense of it all.

“Baby?” Shaughna asks, getting up to pull him into her arms.

“Fucking Ace,” Dshawn breathes, holding onto his girlfriend for dear life.

“They’re having a moment,” I tell Annabel, taking the phone off speaker while Shaughna pulls Dshawn into the bedroom, talking to him in hushed tones. “How did you discover this?”

“Research,” she says like it’s no big deal. “I’m a paralegal. It’s what I do.”

“I’m pretty sure this is above and beyond,” I reply with a smile. This is what she did after getting the guys those big fat cheques as well – act like it’s no trouble, like she’s just doing her job. I’m starting to like her, I realize with a start. She’s a tough cookie.

“Look, I get that this is bad, and that Dshawn needs a moment, but I can’t keep this from Aston for long. I hate lying to him, or even keeping things to myself for too long, especially with all the drama we’ve already got going on. I need to talk to Shaughna and Dshawn about how to break this to him.”

I laugh. “Break this to him? He’s going to be ecstatic. He and his best friends are half-brothers, he finally is going to understand why his parents lied to him – Ace is a piece of shit who really messed up Dshawn, and Aston knows that. This is good news, Annabel.”

“Hmm,” she mumbles, “maybe.”

Shaughna and Dshawn return and I hand them back the phone. They start talking to Annabel, making plans to meet up soon to tell Aston together, and I get up to go home. This night was amazing, finally catching up with Shaughna and feeling like we were getting back to our old friendship, without me constantly being jealous of her other friends. I know I’m important to her too, and it’s not like she spends every single night with Caroline or anything. She’s just been preoccupied with Dshawn and their business. I get that.

“Fran!” she calls after me when I’ve told them I’m going home and am walking into the hallway. “Your phone!”

Laughing, I come back and tell Annabel goodbye while Dshawn grabs his phone to call her right back. Right. It was my phone they were using.

“You, me, the club, real soon,” Shaughna promises me. “Or cocktails, or whatever you want. Yeah?”

“Sounds good.” I give her a hug and wave to Dshawn, stepping out of their apartment into the cold night. James is working, so it’s no use going to his place, but I don’t feel like going home either, so I end up walking two blocks to the bus stop and make my way over to Joshua’s place to see if he’s home.

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