#50 Gossiping over cocktails
Marcus still hasn’t answered my calls or responded to my texts, but he is coming to the apartment tonight. Jagger is in town because his ex-wife drank herself into a coma – that guy can truly never catch a break – and now that she’s awake, and he’s no longer at her bedside, he’s sticking around town for a few days to catch up with family and friends. Of course, that includes a night of beers, snacks and videogames on Khiêm’s night off.
I’m nervous to see my brother, which is utterly ridiculous. We’ve always been close, so him coming over shouldn’t be a big deal. Yet it is. It so is.
“Hey,” Marcus grumbles when I open the door for him. “Khiêm’s home, right?”
“Yeah, he’s in the living room.” I step aside and he pushes past me. I don’t get a hug, a smile, or so much as a nod.
I join them for a beer, but the vibe is horrible, and I feel like puking. Marcus hardly talks to either of us, focusing on the TV like it’s not just a commercial playing right now. Khiêm and I share a look, and I can tell we both agree tonight is not the night. Jagger has been going through hell this week, and he deserves both of his friends to be there for him. If we tell him we’re in love, Marcus will kick off – and that is the best-case scenario. Jagger deserves better than that.
The doorbell sounds and I jump up, happy to get away from my brother for a moment. When I open the door, two familiar faces greet me. Jagger and…
“Rose!” I exclaim, more than a little relieved that it won’t just be the guys in the living room all night, and me hiding in the bedroom.
“We’re going out,” she says, her eyes bright. “Cocktails. You and me.”
“Yes!” I agree right away. “Let me get changed.”
While Jagger goes into the living room to greet his friends, I usher Rose into the bedroom so she can help me pick out a dress for the night. She’s in a little black dress herself, high heels, and her messy hair is all over the place.
“Want me to do your hair before we go?” I ask, grabbing two dresses from the wardrobe. “Which one do you like best?”
I realize my mistake when I see her gaping at the wall above the bed. Fuck. I took her into Khiêm’s bedroom. Our bedroom. I totally spaced about the fact that we’re not even out as a couple to Jagger yet. Which means Rose doesn’t know. Until now, that is.
“Oh my God,” she breathes. “You’re… oh wow, Khiêm’s a romantic… who knew…”
“Actually, I painted that,” I admit, my cheeks flushing. “Marcus doesn’t know yet. Please don’t tell him.”
Rose turns to me, a wicked grin on her face. “Ooh, I love hot secrets. Those are the best kind. If you agree to tell me everything over cocktails, I promise to keep my mouth shut.”
“Even to Jagger?”
She laughs. “Yeah, even to Jagger. Come on, get dressed, I want to hear how all of this happened. I knew you guys were into each other, that much was obvious at the party two months ago, but this… I didn’t know you guys were in love.”
“We were already together at the party,” I tell her as I walk into the bathroom to get changed. “We’ve been together for about four months.”
“Oh wow!” Rose squeals, sounding a lot like Gracie at the moment. “Hurry up, Nia! Fucking hell, this night just got a hell of a lot more interesting.”
When I’m dressed and I’ve fixed her mess of a hairdo, we go into the living room to say goodbye to the guys. Marcus barely looks up, but Jagger pauses the game to give Rose a kiss goodbye, and Khiêm throws me a wink, mouthing ‘wow’ as he eyes me up and down. I grin at him, wishing I could kiss him goodbye the way Rose is doing with Jagger.
It’s only a few more weeks until Christmas. If we can’t manage to do it before then, we will tell Marcus over dinner. At New Year’s Eve, when Quang will propose to Amy, we can hold hands, flirt, and kiss at midnight. I can’t wait.
After our third cocktail, Rose is all filled in on my love life. She’s bouncing up and down in her seat, grinning like a madwoman. I totally get how Rose and Gracie are best friends.
“Okay, okay, I have one more question,” Rose says, her eyes wide and inquisitive as she leans across the table at me. “How is Khiêm in the bedroom?”
“Oh God,” I grumble, taking a sip of my drink. “Do we really have to get into that?”
“How about this…” She slams her hand down on the table. Yeah, she’s a little buzzed. “I will assume things about him and you tell me true or false. First one… He’s good at oral.”
“True,” I reply with a small smirk.
“Hah, look at you all smug about that.” Rose laughs. “He… he has a toe fetish.”
“False.” I wrinkle my nose. “Why would you say that?”
“My ex did,” she says like it’s no big deal. And maybe it isn’t, who knows?
“Wait… Tommy?” I realize. “Yoah’s boyfriend?”
“That’s the one.” Rose laughs at my surprise. “I didn’t mind. It was sort of… interesting. But I much prefer sex with Jagger. He’s very…” She shudders and rolls her eyes back. “Well, you know, you overheard.”
“You… you know about that?” I ask, completely shocked by the knowledge. “I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to listen in on that.”
She frowns. “I kind of yelled it into the phone while he was over at your pace, so I can hardly fault you for it. Wait…” She eyes me suspiciously. “Why do I feel like you’re not talking about that time I told Jagger over the phone I wanted him to send me dick pic?”
“Erm…” I finish off my cocktail and motion for the waitress to bring me another one. “No reason.”
“Tell me!” she insists. “Come on!” She orders a glass of water for herself, but then her attention is on me again. “Fess up, Nia!”
“That night of the party, Khiêm and I went back to my room and-”
“For some sexy time?” Rose asks, wiggling her eyebrows. “With your brother’s room one door down? Wow, you’re ballsy, girl.”
“We erm – we didn’t actually get to do anything because we were a little… erm… distracted by the noises we could hear from both rooms next to us.” I’m happy my cocktail is placed in front of me and I down half of it, not daring to look up at Rose.
“Oh my God,” she breathes, sounding appalled. “But that’s the night – oh my God! I was so loud that night! Holy shit, did you hear all of it? No, don’t answer that, I can read it all over your face.” It’s silent for a moment, but then she bursts out laughing. “Well, you already knew we were kinky, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal. Wait… did you say… both rooms?”
I shudder at the memory. “Marcus and Bee.”
“Oh God, you’re scarred for life,” Rose exclaims way too loud. “You heard your own brother have sex! That’s just wrong!”
People are staring at us, so I shush Rose, but I can’t keep a smile off my face. “It wasn’t my favorite night, you’re right about that. Although… I did make things right with Gracie that night, so it wasn’t a total loss.”
“Yeah, she told me she ran into you and Khiêm at the snack bar, and that you cleared the air about the whole Sebastian situation. Good for you.” She raises her glass of water and clinks it against my cocktail. “Wait… does Gracie know?” When I nod, she curses and grabs her phone, calling her best friend right away. “You bitch!” she screams into the phone, causing people to give us angry looks. “You know about Nia and Khiêm!”
“Rose,” I chastise her, fighting a smile. “Hang up the phone. People are staring.”
“Hi Nia!” Gracie shouts from the phone.
“Fuck you, bitch,” Rose tells her friend vehemently.
“Love you too, Rose,” Gracie replies before hanging up.
Annoyed, Rose puts her phone away. “She knew and she didn’t tell me! She’s so going to pay for that. At least I know before Jagger.” Her eyes sparkle when she smiles again. “Oh, will you text me when you tell Marcus so I can tell Jagger? I wanna watch his eyes pop out of his head when he finds out that you were together all this time. I told him I thought something had happened, like a kiss or something, but he insisted Khiêm would never try anything with you without talking to Marcus first. Hah! He was so wrong.”
“I think it’s up to Khiêm to tell Jagger,” I say, although the prospect of watching Jagger’s eyes pop out of his head does sound enjoyable. “I feel kind of bad that you found out before Khiêm could tell Jagger.”
“I’m great at keeping secrets,” she assures me, crossing her heart. “Me and Jagger started out as a secret too. We were scared my dad wouldn’t approve. In the end, it turned out he knew all along.”
“So basically you’re saying you’re not good at keeping secrets at all, since your father found out without you telling him?” I laugh when she sticks out her tongue at me. So mature. “I’m scared of how Marcus will react, to be honest. He hasn’t talked to me in weeks. It sucks to be at odds with my brother, especially since he’s hurting.”
“Why is he hurting?” Rose asks, suddenly serious.
I take a sip of my cocktail, not sure if I should tell her about everything, because Gracie is her best friend. I don’t want to upset Marcus even more by spilling secrets to Gracie’s best friend, who will report back to her.
“Ah, Gracie,” Rose realizes me needing to say anything. “I heard he and Bee moved in together. Jagger told me that things aren’t going the way Marcus thought they would, but he’s giving it his all.”
I nod. “I think Jagger knows more than I do at this point, since Marcus pretends I don’t even exist.” Gulping down more alcohol, I try to fight my tears. Fuck, these cocktails are strong. They’re making me feel how much this situation sucks. “I want to be there for him,” I say, looking down at my empty glass. “I know he treated Gracie badly, but he’s not an asshole. Him and Bee have been together for so many years, since they were 14… It must be hard to realize that no matter how hard you try, the relationship is never going to be what you want it to be. Maybe I was wrong for calling him out on it, for telling him that think Bee is all wrong for him, but I just…”
“Ah Nia,” Rose sighs, moving over to my side of the booth to hug me as I cry.
“I’m sorry,” I snuffle. “I’m just… my brother is hurting, but he won’t talk to me, and I found the love of my life, and I can’t even tell Marcus, because he’s not talking to me.”
Rose holds me until I manage to pull myself back together. Never in a million years could I have foreseen months ago that I’d end up being comforted by Rose Storm. I tried to seduce her boyfriend, slept with her best friend’s guy, and acted like a stuck-up drunk slutty bitch, basically. Yet here we are. If I can make things right with Gracie and Rose, surely I can do the same with Marcus?
“I don’t know Marcus well, but I do know that his family means everything to him,” Rose says, pulling back to look me in the eye. “He’ll come around. And anyone with eyeballs can see that you and Khiêm are made for each other. Yeah, it will be weird for him to see his best friend and his baby sister all loved up, but trust me, he’ll be fine. Marcus just wants you to be happy. Khiêm too. If you make each other happy, why would he object to that?”
I wipe my eyes, praying that she’s right. I hadn’t acknowledged until now how much it hurts me to not be there for Marcus when he’s in pain, and to not be able to share my own joy with him. I’m not even sure if he knows I have a job now. A fucking great job too. I’m sure either my parents, my siblings of Khiêm must have told him by now, but he hasn’t said anything about it to me. I thought maybe he’d reach out to tell me he’s happy for me. Proud, even. No such luck so far.
Rose and I stay out for another hour, and it’s hard to stay sad around this girl. She’s a firecracker for sure. After two more cocktails, I’m officially on the verge of being drunk, so I cut myself off. She stopped at three, so she’s only a little buzzed. I haven’t had this much to drink since I decided to change my life around and become a better person. The alcohol has made me emotional, but I don’t feel unhinged like I used to when I got drunk and went home with random guys. I just want to go back home, get out of this tight dress and snuggle up with Khiêm.
We take an uber back to the apartment, where Jagger immediately takes Rose home, neither of them very subtle about what they’re going to do the second they’re alone. Fair enough though, I get that when you’re long-distance you make the most of every second together. Besides… from what Rose has told me tonight, the guy truly is a god in the bedroom. I’m not jealous though. I’m not into the kind of stuff they are, and I’ve got my own god waiting for me at home.
Marcus is still on the couch when I walk into the living room, and Khiêm is nowhere to be seen. I lock eyes with my brother, and he sighs deeply, getting up. “Khiêm had to take a call from his sister. I’ll get out of your hair.”
“Marcus…” My voice breaks. “Can we stop doing this? I don’t know about you, but I hate this. I hate this distance between us. You used to talk to me when you and Bee were having trouble, or when you were going through something at work. Now, you’ll barely even look at me. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t tell Mom on purpose, I honestly thought she already knew. I promise I will be nice to Bee from now on if you decide to stay with her. Just… just stop shutting me out.”
Marcus’ hands are trembling as he pulls them through his messy hair. The dude seriously needs a haircut. “I hate this too, but I can’t…” He closes his eyes and lets out a stuttering breath. “I can’t talk to you about my relationship anymore, because I know what you will say. You’ll tell me to leave her, and I can’t do that, Nia. It’s been almost twelve years now. That’s a lot of time to throw away. I can’t walk away from that.”
“She’s walked away a hundred times before.” Fuck, why did I have to say that? This is so not the time.
“I know,” he replies in a lost voice, his eyes snapping open. “Trust me, I know. I’m not even truly mad at you, sis. I just… everyone I try to talk to tells me to dump her ass, but I can’t. I won’t. She’s my girl.”
“Then I will stop telling you to dump her,” I vow. “Can we please just be siblings again?” A tear sneaks out, and I wipe at it angrily, refusing to break again.
Marcus catches the movement and rushes over immediately, wrapping his arms around me. “You were always more than just my sister, Nia,” he murmurs into my hair. “You’re one of my best friends. Don’t cry, please.”
I sniffle and hold him tightly, so glad to have my brother back. Finally.
Khiêm walks in a moment later, and Marcus and I pull away from each other reluctantly. The moment I see my boyfriend’s expression, I rush over, shocked by the hurt and worry in his eyes. “Baby, what’s wrong?”
“Mingmei just got dumped,” he says, pulling me against him. “She was at his parents’ house, and apparently they don’t approve of her, there was a huge fight, and that asshole broke up with her. Now she’s at a motel, crying her eyes out, too upset to drive. I need to go get her.”
“Of course,” I say right away. “Want me to come with you?”
“No, lovely, you stay here. She just needs her big brother right now.” He grunts, hugs me tightly, and then our lips find each other for a short, sweet kiss.
“What. The. Fuck?” Marcus asks from behind us, his voice incredulous.
Fuck. I spaced on him being here. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.