#38 Dump her ass
Tonight, we’re telling Marcus. To soften the blow – maybe even literally if Marcus decides to kick Khiêm’s ass – we’ve invited Bee as well, along with Trystan and Aimee. Trystan and Aimee have been texting the past week, but Aimee doesn’t want to end up with another cheater, so she has been begging for me to create a less date-like environment to get to know him better. Tonight seemed as good a time as any.
I’m nervously getting started on preparations for dinner while Khiêm is in his studio, narrating an audio novel. When everything is chopped and thrown into my trusty buddy the slow cooker, I grab my phone to check on my web store, hoping that I will finally have some orders.
Holy fucking hell… 35 orders? In one day?
I shriek and do a little dance before opening my laptop to check if my phone isn’t spazzing out on me. It isn’t. I’ve got 35 orders, complete with pictures of the people who want the clothes, all their measurements, descriptions of what they’d like, attached links of Pinterest pages where they pinned some pictures they’d like their costumes to look like…
Weirdly, all 35 orders are for costumes like elves, wizards and jedis. And every single person asks me the same thing: can you get it done before November 12th? I google the date and frown when I see that there is a sort of nerdy fantasy fair thingy a few towns over on that date. My website isn’t about that at all – all the pictures in my portfolio are of fancy dresses for Christmas or parties, and there is a section for casual wear. Why would anyone think I specialize in costumes for an event like this?
The answer hits me, and anger bubbles up in me. Of course. Who do I know who knows a shitload of people, who are mostly totally into fantasy books and videogames and other cute nerdy stuff? My lovely boyfriend, the streaming god. Who I specifically told not to promote my stuff.
I rush into the hallway, but refrain from storming into his studio because the red light above the door is on. I’m mad, but I am not going to disturb his work. This is his livelihood. I respect that. Just like he should have respected that I wanted to create my own livelihood instead of banking on his celebrity status. I honestly didn’t expect him to do this.
Still, they’re orders, and I’m not going to disappoint these people. Most are for elf dresses, which are pretty much just really elaborate party dresses, with matching wings. If I can make dresses with matching masks for a masked ball, I can do this as well.
I start sketching, and an hour later, I’ve got six designs ready, sending pictures to the people who put in the order to make sure this is what they want. I get a response from two of them right away, with so many exclamation points that I’m smiling from ear to ear when Khiêm walks into the room.
“Hey lovely, dinner smells great. How long before everyone gets here?” He frowns when he sees my smile freeze on my face, my anger returning. “Oh wow,” he breathes when he sees my sketches. “You’re so talented. Wait – are these dresses you’re going to make to order? Did people find your web shop?”
“Don’t act so surprised,” I bite out, shutting my laptop with a bang. “I’m so flipping mad at you.”
“What?” he asks, taking a step back and holding up his hands. “Why? What did I do?”
“I think you know what you did, Khiêm.” I take my stuff off the kitchen table so I can set it for dinner. “Everyone will be here in about fifteen minutes. Let’s save our fight until after, okay?”
“No,” he says, walking over to help me with the plates. “Talk to me, Nia. What’s going on? I honestly don’t know what I did wrong.”
“I asked you not to promote my website!” I shout in his face, fighting the urge to throw something at him. “Do you have so little faith in me that you felt like you had to swoop in and save the day? This is my thing! I want to finally be proud of something I did, on my own!”
“Ah shit,” he mumbles, looking down at the floor. “It’s not like that. Let me explain.”
“I’m not even truly mad,” I hiss, turning my back on him. “I’m… hurt. Sad. Disappointed. But anger is much easier to focus on right now, because I don’t want to start crying right before my brother gets here. Who we’re telling that we’re together. Greating fucking timing, Khiêm! Right now, I don’t know how the fuck I’m going to convince Marcus that you’re the best thing to ever happen to me, because I don’t even want to be in the same room with you!”
“Don’t call me lovely!” Okay, fuck, now I’m crying. “I worship you, I think you’re the best person in the whole fucking world, and you know I’m insecure and finally figuring out what I want in life and pursuing a new career path. You asked me how you could help, and I told you point blank that while I appreciate the offer for promotion, all I need is the support of my boyfriend Khiêm, not the help of streamer and vlogger Khiêm. Why the fuck even ask me if you’re going to do whatever you want anyway?”
Khiêm crosses his arms over his chest and gives me a hard look. “You know that I’d never purposefully hurt you, Nia. You know that I think the world of you. If you’d let me get a word in, I could explain that this is all a misunderstanding.”
“How the fuck can you possibly explain-” I’m interrupted by the doorbell, and I curse, storming off while I wipe my eyes, trying to pull it together. Luckily, it’s just Aimee. I open the door and walk right back into the living room to get back to my screaming match with my boyfriend. “I’m going to try and pull myself together, and you’re going to give me some space, or I will spit in your food,” I warn him.
“Real mature, sunshine,” Khiêm says, having the goddamn nerve to laugh.
The motherfucker laughs while I’m barely managing to stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks.
“What’s going on?” Aimee asks, looking from me to Khiêm.
“Ask him!” I finish setting the table while they both stare at me, and then I hurry into the bathroom to fix my make-up.
Aimee follows me, hugging me from behind while I try to make myself look presentable. “What did he do?”
Through clenched teeth, I tell her what happened, and she giggles. Why the fuck are people laughing at me when I’m obvious losing my shit?
“Oh Nia… I get that you’re mad, but you were yelling at him like you hate the poor guy. I’m sure he was just trying to help.”
“I don’t hate him,” I say, my voice softer now. “I love him.”
Aimee and I stare at each other, and her blue eyes are wider than I’ve ever seen them. “Did you just say…”
“Yes,” I breathe. The thought scares me a little, but I know it’s the truth. “I love him. I haven’t told him yet, though. And right now, I’m not going to. I’m so hurt that he didn’t have enough faith in me to let me do my own thing. I’m trying so desperately to be my own person, to become his equal, and he knows that better than anyone, and now it turns out even Khiêm doesn’t think I can succeed on my own.”
“Just talk to the guy,” Aimee presses. “I bet he-”
Again, the doorbell sounds. I hear Khiêm answer it, and Trystan’s voice sounds through the apartment. Immediately, Aimee checks her appearance in the mirror, brushing off her already clean dress and fixing up her perfectly lipstick red lips.
“I thought you weren’t sure if you were interested?” I tease, nudging her.
“Oh shush, you bitch,” she shoots back, rolling her eyes. “Shouting matches aside, I’m so fucking jealous of you and Khiêm. I need to find me a man like that, and I won’t settle for less. Let’s see if Trystan has what it takes to get a catch like me.”
“That’s the spirit.”
We lock arms and walk into the living room, where both guys are sitting on the couch with a beer in their hands. Khiêm looks at me with apologetic words written in his eyes, but I don’t want to get into this right now. Of course I will allow him to explain himself later, but I know I will start crying again if we talk about this right now, so I give him a tight-lipped smile and shake my head.
“Aimee, you look beautiful,” Trystan says, jumping up to great her with a hug. “It’s so nice to see you again.”
While they start doing the awkward first-flirt thing, even though their tongues have already been in each other’s mouths, Khiêm makes his way over to me and brushes a strand of hair out of my face. “Later,” he whispers, pressing a kiss to my cheek.
“Later,” I agree, still upset, but not as much as I was ten minutes ago. I mean… it’s still Khiêm. I meant what I told Aimee. I love him. I will make him suffer if he truly did what I think he did, but that doesn’t mean I suddenly fell out of love with him. No fucking way.
I walk over to the kitchen to check on dinner while Khiêm gets Aimee a drink and the three of them settle around the table, chatting easily. I can tell Khiêm’s attention is more on me than on the conversation, since his laughter comes in in a second too late when Trystan cracks a joke, and he doesn’t say much, but I don’t think the other two even notice with the way they’re flirting their asses off.
When the doorbell sounds for the third time, Khiêm gets up to let in Marcus and Bee. Only when he comes back, Marcus is alone.
“Did Bee break up with you?” Trystan asks the moment he sees Marcus’ sullen face.
Hah, even Trystan looks hopeful. He knows as well as the rest of us that Bee is bad news.
“No, but we did get into a huge fight,” Marcus grumbles.
“Welcome to the club,” Khiêm mutters to himself.
“What?” my brother asks, glancing at his friend.
“Nothing,” Khiêm says quickly. “What are you fighting about?”
“It’s a long story,” Marcus says, taking off his coat and throwing it on the couch before taking his seat at the table.
“We’ve got time,” I say, already knowing he won’t be able to think about anything else until he gets whatever happened off his chest. “Dinner is ready. Tell us while we eat.”
Khiêm helps me serve the food, squeezing my hip when Marcus isn’t looking, probably trying to make up for his fuck-up. I’m not ready to kiss and make up, though, definitely not in front of my brother who doesn’t know that we’re together yet. I’m questioning whether the timing is right, to be honest. With us fighting and Bee not here… I don’t know.
“Shoot,” Aimee orders Marcus, taking a bite of the stew I made.
“Gracie texted me,” he explains, playing with his food. “While Bee was updating our calendar on my phone.”
“Ah fuck,” Khiêm grunts. “How bad was it?”
“It was… erm…” Marcus looks uncomfortable now. “Let’s just say it was a picture.”
“A picture?” I repeat, searching my brother’s expression for more information. “What kind of picture?”
“She didn’t… erm… have on many… clothes.”
“Gracie sent you a naked picture while Bee was on your phone?” Khiêm asks incredulously. “Holy fucking hell, dude, it’s a miracle Bee didn’t cut off your dick.”
Marcus grunts and pull his hands through his hair. “I know. Now Bee thinks I must have led Gracie on, when I’ve honestly not been in contact with her since I got back with Bee. Not at all.”
“I think for the purpose of all of us knowing exactly what we’re dealing with, we should see the picture,” Khiêm says in a very serious tone of voice. :Just so we can help you to the best of our abilities.”
Normally, I would laugh at his obvious joke, but I’m already annoyed by him, so I give him a hard look. He sighs and goes back to eating the food I prepared. Smart man.
“What do I do?” Marcus asks, obviously confused, sad and annoyed.
“Dump Bee and pick Gracie,” I mutter, but I say it just a little too loudly.
“What?” he asks, pushing back his chair a bit. “What did you just say?”