“When will you find someone to settle down with, Salim?”
And there it was, the questioned that haunted my ears ever since the gigantic city-wide wedding reception of my brother Armand Saint Croix and his “forever Sub” and revolutionary teenager Jarvis Frazier. And it’s not just my parents who have asked me the same thing. Nope, I’ve been dogged by the Drag Queens of Blue Bayou, Miss Zoe DuSable (the trusty counselor), Catalina Perez (the wedding planner), Cassie the personal shopper, and even the Frazier family and Jarvis’ clique of friends. And so far, I’ve been dodging the answer because I wasn’t really sure how to answer that. Hopefully, I was planning to avoid the manner altogether so I can focus on building my spinoff fashion house known as Reverb- a men’s underwear and sleepwear line- alongside helping my brother revamp the formalwear line known as House of Suez that was burned down by Jarvis’ wicked older sister Bernice and the mother/daughter Reece duo (who were rotting away in prison after a nasty beat down by their victims).
But after we bid Jarvis and Armand a proper sendoff so they could head off to the South Pacific islands for their honeymoon, my mother had to go and bring up the dreaded question that I was hoping to avoid.
“When will you finally find someone to settle down with?”
I sighed heavily, sipping on my hot cup of coffee as I followed her, my father the war veteran, and my second brother/joint majordomo Dominic Telfair from the departure area while we made our way out of the busy LAX. “Mom, I’m really busy trying to revamp House of Suez while starting up Reverb,” I explained. “And while I’m not trying to avoid the world of romance at the moment, I just haven’t found the right kind of guy to help me find some balance in my life.”
“Well, you need to get on it,” my father, ever the straight-forward man, said gruffly as we saw the white limousine ahead of us. “I know that Jarvis and Armand aren’t planning to start a family yet; but knowing Mrs. Frazier and Mother Mauretta, I know that the talk of kids are imminent.”
I smirked at my father, knowing that was true. “Hey, I can be a kick-ass uncle,” I replied. To Dominic who was staring down at his iPad, “And what about you, bro? Will you-“
He sent me a glare that could skin a cat. “This is about you at the moment, bro,” he snarled. “And I’m staying away from dating until you do.”
My mother giggled.
I just frowned as we found my trusty assistant Floriana Pereira, the Amazonian cocoa-skinned beauty, waiting by the limousine as she looked up from her tablet. “Ah, I take it that Armand and Jarvis are off to Tahiti,” she said in her thick Brazilian-Angolese accent.
“All set to enjoy some private time before the kid starts school at Wesleyan Academy,” my father said as he started to pile in. “Jarvis really deserves this moment.”
“I agree,” Floriana assented, nodding her head. “I can’t believe that he went through so much heartache with that brutta putana. My family would’ve had her and those Reece whores killed.”
I hummed in agreement. “What do you have for me regarding the assistant designer position at Reverb?” I asked her.
“Ugh, don’t get me started on these kids,” she said, sighing in exasperation. “So far, there’s the usual ‘fag hags’ and the wannabe designers who think that you could be bribed into hiring them. There’s a few promising candidates, but only a few actually have some streetwear designs that are perfect for your other line. Blue Dawn, was it?”
Blue Dawn was known to be my first successful business aside from sharing House of Suez with Armand. “Any others?” I asked.
Floriana looked down at her tablet. “There is one other candidate, but he’s applying for your brother streetwear house company known as Vibe,” she said. “His name’s Isaiah Van Blackwell, originally from Saint Louis, Missouri. And according to my contact, he’s really a great designer, despite being blind from birth.”
Now that had everyone’s attention. “He’s blind?” my mother said in awe.
Floriana nodded. “He has this vision in which he can he faint shapes and silhouettes, but he can’t really see clearly. Still, he’s got a knack for design and style, note the project he earned an internship for the plus-sized company La Dolce’s,” she explained. “He earned his bachelor’s degree in fashion design and also double majored in culinary arts, since he’s also an amazing cook.”
“Any family life?” my father wanted to know.
She shook her head no. “Both parents are deceased. Father died before he was born and mother died after delivering him. He has no other family left and also was bounced around in foster homes before he was sent to a boarding school thanks to a faceless benefactor. Still, this kid doesn’t let anything hold him back. And thanks to a few nets I casted last week, he’s a shoo-in for the position at Vibe.”
An idea, I thought happily as I felt gears turned in my head. “Sounds like a real winner,” I said out loud. “And he’s wasting his time going to Vibe.”
Dominic turned to me with a worried look on his face. “I don’t like the sound of that,” he said. “What do you got in that mind of yours?”
I smiled happily. “I’ll make that Van Blackwell kid a way better offer than what Harvick will, one that I know that no one will refuse,” I replied. “And, I might have myself a fiancée by the end of the year.”
“No,” Floriana said vehemently. “Absolutely not. No offense, Senor Saint Croix, but this kid can’t be used as some bargaining chip.”
“Nonsense. If Armand can woo Jarvis by saving Firenze Bakery in exchange for the kid’s hand in marriage, then I can give the kid a piece of the company in exchange for the same.”
Dominic and Floriana looked at each other worriedly, their faces filled with concern for the kid. “Listen, man,” Dominic started.
I held up a hand to cut him off. “There’s no need to worry,” I replied. “I can tell that this kid alone is going to be the best designer. But I also think that he could be the forever Sub that I’m looking for. And soon enough, I’ll have both.”
My father sighed heavily. “You’re really are that determined to get the kid, aren’t you?” he said.
“All right,” my mother agreed, a look of resignation in her eyes. “But let your father, Dominic, Floriana, and I look into the kid first.” To my assistant, “When is the interview?”
“Two days from now,” Floriana replied. “And there’s going to be a lot of competition.”
“Not if I can help it,” I replied. “I do need to call up Harvick to let him know. And I’m sure that he’ll agree with me.”
Dominic pinched the bridge of his nose. “I got a bad feeling about this,” he groaned.
“Trust me,” I replied as we neared Mama Sadie’s diner. “By the end of the year, Isaiah Van Blackwell will be wearing my ring and we’ll be saying our vows by Valentine’s Day.”
And I was sure of it.