#39 Groveling and paintings on the wall
“Nia…” Khiêm shakes his head at me. “Not now.”
“You shut up,” I tell him in a warning tone. “You’re already on thin ice, mister.”
Marcus looks from me to his best friend. “Oh boy, what did you do? Did you shrink her clothes when you did the laundry or something? I did that once. She wouldn’t shut up about it for days.” Then he suddenly remembers what we were talking about. “Did you just say you think I should break up with Beatrice?”
“Dude, that’s what everyone has been thinking for years now,” Trystan says, not even sounding sorry about his harsh words. “She’s sort of pretty, I guess, but she rips your heart out on a monthly basis. Gracie is that blonde girl Nia fought in the club, right? Now that’s a stunning girl. Is she nice?”
“Very,” Khiêm and I say at the exact same time.
“Gracie can’t even stand you!” Marcus yells at me. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not gonna sit here and listen to you talk about my girlfriend like this. Fuck dinner. I’m out of here.”
“Marcus!” Khiêm curses, jumps up, and gives me a disapproving look. “Really? You thought this was the right moment to tell him we all hate Bee’s guts?”
“Really?” I echo. “You thought this was the moment to pick another fight with me? Or to ask to see another girl naked? Besides, you think Bee is a cunt, just like I do.”
Khiêm sighs. “I know. Fuck. Okay, I’m going after him. He may have his head so far up his ass that it’s a miracle he hasn’t suffocated on the dreadful smell just yet, but he’s still my best friend. He’s gonna need some support tonight. And maybe a bottle of scotch.”
“Count me in,” Trystan says, getting up as well. “Sorry about dinner, Nia. It’s truly delicious, even though I only got to take four bites. Aimee… call me?”
“Will do,” she says with a giggle. “Bye!”
Suddenly, Aimee and I are all alone with five plates of stew in front of us. Fuck my life.
“That was… eventful,” she says, laughing softly. “How about we forget about dinner and go straight to dessert? I’m hoping that you cooking like this means you made tiramisu as well?”
“You know it does.”
We put the stew into a plastic box for leftovers – that’s dinner tomorrow, I guess – and put the dishes in the sink before taking out the huge tray of tiramisu I made yesterday. We don’t even bother with plates and just grab two spoons, sitting down on the couch together while eating way more of the delicious dessert than we should.
“Khiêm is lucky that you can cook like this,” Aimee moans, licking her spoon like she’s afraid to miss a spot. “If you ever break up with him, please become a lesbian and move in with me and Mom. No scratch that, just move in with us. I’m not that into you, and I’d like to give Trystan a shot, I think.”
“Was I too hard on him?” I ask Aimee, feeling a little stupid about yelling into Khiêm’s face like a crazy person. “I mean… I’m sure he meant well…”
“Girl, you make him suffer for a bit, and then enjoy the hot make-up sex.” She giggles and fills her spoon up with tiramisu again. “If we don’t finish this, I’m taking home the leftovers, by the way. Screw Khiêm. He left before dessert.”
“Ah fuck, he’s supposed to stream!” I realize, looking at the clock. “In… in an hour.” I grab my phone and text him, asking if I can do anything for him.
Fuck, he shoots back. Marcus needs me. I can’t leave here. But I promised my sponsors and viewers that I wasn’t going to take a night off this week. Fuuuuuuck…
“Ooooh, can we take over?” Aimee asks, reading over my shoulder. “Ask him! I know how to turn on a computer and how to hold a controller!”
Really? he replies when I propose the outlandish idea, and I can just imagine his incredulous expression. Maybe… Let me make a few calls. I’m supposed to play a game I suck at tonight, so I’m sure you can do that, right?
Suck at videogames? I reply. Yeah, I think we can manage that. Damn, your job is so hard, babe. You must be exhausted all the time.
Shut up, he replies. No, don’t shut up. I’m glad you’re still talking to me.
“Ahw, look at you two already making up,” Aimee says, poking me in the ribs. “Come on, let’s figure out how his studio equipment works. Let’s go suck at videogames!”
An hour later, Khiêm has talked us through what we need to do in about ten minutes, and we’ve spent the other fifty trying to figure out how to do this without making every single viewer stop watching and donating. Aimee takes control completely, telling everyone at the start of the stream that I told my brother to dump his girlfriend, and how that resulted in Khiêm running off to get said brother drunk, thus condemning all of Khiêm’s fans to watch us play a game we’d never even heard of until an hour ago.
“Okay, so Khiêm told us to just play, and that you guys will tell us in the chat what we need to do. And he said we should try to reply to whatever you guys say in the chat. So… let’s go!” Aimee says, starting the game and checking if the laptop and all the screens in front of us are still showing what they should be. “We have to shoot fish, right?”
The chat all but explodes, telling us that this game is not at all about shooting fish, and I laugh, starting to respond to questions about who Aimee and I are. As soon as people realize I’m Khiêm’s roommate Nia, the one that is always bringing him food and drinks when he’s playing, and who massages his shoulders when he’s been playing for too long, the chat stops being about the game, and moves to… well… me.
“No, we’re not together,” I lie through my teeth. I don’t want to risk Marcus finding out through Khiêm’s stream that we’re in a relationship. He doesn’t usually watch, and he certainly isn’t tonight, but I know Khiêm often ends up on blogs and vlogs from fans and other streamers, so there is no knowing where anything I say might end up.
“They got into a fight,” Aimee says, trying to swim around a shipwreck in the game. “Seriously, guys, I don’t get this game at all. We swim around and… shoot things? What is the use of the fish? Are they just… there?”
“No one cares about the fish,” I tell her, laughing as she puts her tongue between her teeth in concentration. “Thanks for mentioning my fight with him, by the way. Now everyone wants to know what we fought about.”
“Tell them,” she presses. “These people are part of the problem, right? Maybe they can tell you what he did.”
“Okay,” I decide. “I will tell you. But only if you donate like… a shitload of coins or however this works. It’s bad enough Khiêm isn’t here, but he can’t lose out on money because of me.”
Immediately, money comes flooding in, which makes Aimee cheer. The game is totally forgotten by now, but I don’t think anyone cares.
“Okay… so here it is. I have this new website where I sell clothes that I make by order,” I explain. “I started it a few weeks ago, and until today, I had no orders. At all. Today, suddenly, I get 35 orders for fantasy costumes for a fair in November, even though my site isn’t targeted at an audience like that. So… I’m guessing that Khiêm must have promoted my site.”
“They’re asking why that’s a problem,” Aimee says, reading the chat for me.
“Because I asked him not to, so I could see what I could do for myself, without his help,” I explain. “I’ve been pretty lost these past few years, and it took me until recently to find… a purpose, you know? To find myself, pretty much. Khiêm is a big part of that, but it’s time I started finding the strength within myself to do stuff without him as well. I guess I just wanted to prove to myself that I’m strong enough to make it without him. He totally ignored my wishes.”
God, I’m going to cry again.
“Hey, people are saying that he never told them about your website,” Aimee says, nudging me. “Look!”
I start reading the chat, and boy, do I feel stupid now. I was so wrong.
“Oh my God, can we have like… a caller?” Aimee asks. “There is this one girl in the chat who can totally explain what happened, apparently, and she ordered a dress on your website! Can someone tell us how we can like… add her or something? God, I am so technically challenged…”
It takes us twenty minutes, but then the girl is on our screen, and we add her to the stream so others can see as well. She’s a cute little brunette in her late twenties, wearing cat ears.
“Hi guys, I’m Jolene,” she says, waving. “I’m the reason you’re getting orders.”
She explains what happened. Apparently, lots of people make their own costumes, but not everyone is that creative. There was one website where a girl made elf dresses and stuff by order, just like me, but she stopped a few months ago, and people were looking for a new place to order their stuff. Jolene found my website and she streams with Khiêm sometimes, so she was added into his stream like we just did, so they could play a game together or whatever they do all night – shoot fish? – and she was telling the viewers that she found a great new website.
“All Khiêm said was that he knew the girl who made the site and that she was good,” Jolene explains. “He didn’t even say it was your shop, even though he’s always talking about his amazing roommate Nia.”
“I bet you feel so stupid now.” Aimee grins at me. “Girl, you have some groveling to do.”
I grunt. “Ah fuck.” My frown quickly gets turned upside down when I realize that this means that Khiêm respected my wishes after all. Plus, I did do this on my own. I got these orders because Jolene found my website. Sure, she sort of promoted me, but she doesn’t even know me. She only talked about my site because she liked what she saw.
I take out my phone to text Khiêm, but I get distracted when I see that I’ve now got 50 orders. Holy shit. I can’t possibly make that many in such a short amount of time! Quickly, I post on my website that I’m booked solid until November 12th, because I have no fucking idea how I can possibly make so many clothes in just five weeks.
Jolene stays for another hour, showing me and Aimee the ropes in this weird game that isn’t about shooting fish after all, and we end up having a lot of fun. After she’s gone, we resume playing until midnight like Khiêm always does, making sure everyone knows that he will be back tomorrow. Finally, we’re done, and we shut everything off, sagging in our chairs.
“That felt more like work than I thought it would,” Aimee admits. “And he does this on his own, talking to the screen all damn night, playing way better than we just did while reading the chat and replying to everything, being funny and charming… That’s… intense.”
“He’s nothing if not a multitasker,” I agree. “Now help me do something nice for him, because he’s been a fucking angel through our whole relationship so far, and I yelled in his face for no good reason. I think I need to do something pretty fucking special.”
“Like… lingerie and massage oil?” Aimee wiggles her eyebrows.
“For starters,” I agree. “I need to do more, though. I want to tell him I love him, and I think it should be memorable.”
“Paint it on the wall of his bedroom!” she exclaims, giggling.
I know she’s joking, but that’s actually a pretty great idea. I text him to see how long I’ve got until he’s home, and he lets me know it’ll be at least another hour. Trystan thought it would be a good idea to take Marcus to a bar, where he is now dancing on top of a table without a shirt on.
I ask for evidence, of course. I get a video right away, which is pretty fucking hilarious.
My big bro is drunk as a skunk. Hah. I’m so going to tease him about this.
The next hour, Aimee and I prepare Khiêm’s bedroom, putting candles everywhere, painting “I love you” on the wall above his bed, and stringing fairy lights from one corner to the other. I barely have time to put on some sexy lingerie and put down a towel so the massage oil won’t drip onto the sheets when I show him just how sorry I am.
Finally, Khiêm lets me know he’s close, and Aimee hugs me goodbye, yawning widely. This girl is the best friend a girl could have. I can’t imagine Holly or Ayaan going this for me, to be honest.
“Lovely?” he calls into the apartment. “Where are you? Are you still awake?”
“Bedroom!” I call back.
“I’m so sorry about everything that hap-” He gasps when he steps into the room, taking in the scene before him. “W-what?”
I smile and point at the wall behind me. “I really do. And I’m sorry. Really fucking sorry.”