#51 So close to golden
“Oh shit,” Khiêm says as we break apart, both of us turning to face my furious older brother.
“You…” Marcus points at Khiêm, his entire body tense. “You’re fucking my sister?”
“It’s not like that,” I say hastily, stepping in front of Khiêm in case Marcus decides to lunge at him. “We’re… we’re in a relationship.”
“You’re dating?” Marcus asks, still sounding like he can’t believe his eyes and ears. “How long?”
“Since the night Jagger and you came over to play videogames, and Rose was on TV,” Khiêm replies.
Marcus looks baffled, and I can tell he’s doing the math in his head. “But… but that’s… that was… that was over four months ago!” He takes a threatening step forward. “I remember that night! The two of you were totally flirting, and I told you point blank that I didn’t want you to sleep with my sister. I trusted you!”
“I’m not some little girl who got tricked into his bedroom. I hold out my hands, palms up, trying to calm him down. “We just… we fell in love. It happens.”
“You’re in love with him?” Marcus asks, his eyes flicking from his best friend to me and back again. “And you… you love her too?”
“Of course I do,” Khiêm replies immediately. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you. We wanted to, but you made it so clear you didn’t want me to see her as anything other than a bonus sister, and every time we tried to tell you something happened. Bee broke up with you, or you made a speech about how happy you were I was taking of Nia without wanting to sleep with her, or you and Nia got into a huge fight…”
Marcus looks so upset now that I’m not sure if he’s going to hit Khiêm or break into tears. Maybe both. This is so not how I wanted him to find out. I’m too buzzed from all those cocktails to think straight, and Khiêm needs to leave to pick up his youngest sister, poor thing.
“You need to go,” I tell Khiêm, turning around to meet his eye. “Mingmei needs you.”
“Right.” Khiêm sighs and looks at Marcus again. “I’m sorry. Just know that I love your sister and that she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. You’re my best friend, man. I never meant to lie to you. I’m sorry, but my sister needs me. We’ll talk later.”
Marcus doesn’t say anything when Khiêm pulls on his shoes and coat, throws me a wry smile and leaves the apartment. I shut the door behind him and return to my brother, not sure what to say.
“All this time,” Marcus breathes, looking even more hurt than before. “The two of you lied to me for months. Who knows?”
“Erm…” Ah fuck. I’m not sure whether to lie or be truthful, and I’m too buzzed to think about it for too long. “Ayaan, Holly, Aimee, Gracie, Rose, Khiêm’s parents, his three sisters, their boyfriends, Sonia and Valerie from work, Trystan, and…” I look away from his intense brown eyes. “Dshawn, Shaughna, Creed, Mom, and Dad.”
“Fucking hell, Nia, that’s everyone,” Marcus hisses. “Everyone but me.”
“Pierre, Aliyah and Jagger don’t know,” I counter, but I know it’s a feeble argument at best.
“Wow, thank you so much for telling me before you told my best friend and our youngest siblings.” Sarcasm is dripping from his voice, which is very unlike Marcus. “Here I was, thinking you’d stopped sleeping around. Turns out I was wrong. You crawled into my best friend’s bed instead.”
“That is not what happened!” I cry out, taking a step in his direction. “We’re not fuckbuddies, I’m not using him. I love him! You know him, you’ve known him for years. Khiêm is amazing. We’re serious about each other. I met his family. Where do you think I was at Thanksgiving, Marcus? I was at their house for a big family dinner. That’s how serious we are about each other. I’m taking him to Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad’s place.”
Marcus looks at me like he’s never seen me before. “You’re crazy,” he says in a low voice. “You’re crazy if you think I’m okay with this. You lied to me, Nia. How serious can you be about him if you wouldn’t even tell me about him? And Khiêm… we talk to each other almost every day, and he lied to my face. Every. Single. Fucking. Day.”
“I know, and we’re sorry, but you have to understand-”
“I don’t have to do anything,” he interrupts me, venom in every word. “I’m leaving. And if you and him are coming to Christmas’ dinner, I’m not going to be there, just so you know. I’ll leave it to you to explain my absence to Mom and Dad.”
“Marcus!” I call after him, but I’m not fast enough in my high heels to stop him. I kick them off, but he’s already in his car by the time I make to the curb. He doesn’t even look back at me when he drives off.
This is so not how I was hoping this would go. For starters, I thought I’d at least have Khiêm to hold me when Marcus kicked off at me. Instead, I’m all alone in the apartment, about to break into tears.
When Khiêm finally gets home three hours later, I’m still wide awake. I made nachos and grilled cheeses to soak up all the alcohol, and I’m making my way through all those carbs while switching between crying and drinking water to avoid a hangover in the morning.
“Oh shit,” Khiêm says when he sees me. “That bad?”
I shrug and look up, seeing his younger sister walk in. She looks just as miserable as I feel. “Nachos?” I ask her. “Grilled cheeses?”
“God yes,” she groans, kicking off her shoes and sitting down next to me, grabbing a handful of nachos. “And beer. You have beer, right?”
“Of course we have beer.” Khiêm moves over to the fridge to grab himself and his sister a beer. He grabs some chicken wings from last night as well, handing the leftovers to Mingmei, who groans in approval and eats them in two minutes flat. She’s definitely his sister.
“Want to talk about it?” I ask her, biting into my grilled cheese.
“He’s an ass and I still love him, but I will get over him,” she says with her mouth full of nachos. “What more is there to say? Why were you crying? Did my brother do something stupid?”
“No,” I assure her, looking at Khiêm with a small smile. “My brother Marcus found out about us. And now he’s upset that his sister and his best friend lied to him for four months straight.”
“Dude has a point,” Mingmei says between bites. “That’s a long time to be lied to.”
“Hey!’ Khiêm gives her a playful shove. “I just spent three hours in my car in the middle of the night to pick you up and I’m putting you up for the night. We’re even feeding you. Pick our side, not his!”
“Right,” she agrees, grinning. “I will.”
“How bad was it?” Khiêm asks me, getting up so he can sit back down next to me, his arm coming around me instantly.
“Bad,” I sigh, snuggling against him. “He’s hurt we lied to him and that everyone else already knows. I think he also doesn’t quite grasp that we’re serious, and not just fucking around. He said he won’t come to Christmas if I’m bringing you.”
“Ah fuck,” Khiêm grumbles, squeezing me tightly. “Not problem. I’ll go to my parents’ house instead.”
“I’m still taking you!” I pull back from him to look him in the eye. “I love him, and I know we should have told him earlier, but he needs to grow the fuck up. We’re together, and I want to bring my boyfriend to Christmas dinner. It’s ridiculous that he thinks he can control what we do. We didn’t put our relationships with him on the line for a hookup or even a fling. This is the real deal. He will see that. He has to.” The alternative is just too damn scary to even think about.
“He will,” Mingmei says, taking a sip of her beer. “You two are nauseatingly cute. No one can keep themselves from melting in your presence. Even Mom and Dad caught the Nia bug. They surely never like stupid asshole Patrick that much. Guess that should have been my first clue that it wasn’t going to last.”
“You’re only 21,” Khiêm tells his sister, patting her knee. “You’ll find someone else. Young love hardly ever lasts.”
She gives him a curious look. “You know Nia is only 22, right? Are you saying you and her aren’t going to last because she is too young?”
He laughs. “Please. True love knows no age. I’m going to marry this one.”
My heart flutters at those words and I press a kiss to his cheek. “Damn right you are.”
His expression changes as he looks at me, sadness creeping in. “I always thought Jagger and Marcus would be the ones standing next to me at the altar, throwing me a wicked bachelor party, giving me horrible advice for my wedding night… Guess that’s not happening anymore.”
“Might not be the best idea to ask your brother-in-law for advice on how to fuck his sister on your wedding night,” Mingmei agrees. “The other stuff… He’ll come around. I told you… the Nia bug is a real thing, bro.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about being called a bug.” I can’t argue with Khiêm’s words, though. I always thought my brother would be there when I walked down the aisle, watching me in my white dress with tears in his eyes. Falling in love with his best friend was never in my plan for the future, but it happened, and I don’t feel sorry about it. Not even a little bit. I do regret not telling him sooner, obviously, but the timing was always off. First it was too soon, and then there were all these other reasons not to…
Khiêm gets up from the couch with a yawn, stretching out. “I’m gonna get the extra matrass from the basement so I can get Mingmei set up. She can sleep in your workshop, right?”
“Of course.” I get up too so I can move my stuff aside to make space for the matrass.
Mingmei follows me, leaning against the doorframe with her grilled cheese sandwich in one hand and a half-empty beer in the other. “You know he’s not kidding, right?”
“About what?” I ask, looking over at her while I wheel a clothing rack into the far corner.
“About wanting to marry you.”
I smile, my heart fluttering again. “I know. I’m so lucky.”
Mingmei smiles now, raising her beer at me. “Good answer. I think you’ll do. After his exes, I didn’t think I’d ever get a sister-in-law I’d approve of, but you’re alright, Nia.”
“Wow, thanks,” I reply, rolling my eyes at her. “High praise. I think I might tear up over this. Seriously.”
She grins. “I think we’ve both cried enough for one night.”
“You have,” Khiêm agrees with a groan, hauling in the matrass. “Look, I love you both, but I need some sleep. I’m about to fall over from sheer exhaustion.” He grabs some sheets and throws them at his sister. “Make yourself at home. I’m going to bed. Good night, sis.”
“Good night.” Mingmei moves over to hug him. “Thanks for everything.”
“Sure thing.” He squeezes his sister and steps back, holding out his hand to me. “You coming to bed too, Xīngān?”
My whole body lights up at that word. God, he’s so sweet even when he’s close to feinting from lack of sleep. I grab his hand and follow him into the bedroom. We get undressed swiftly and crawl into bed together.
“Oh,” I realize when I put my head on his chest and he pulls the blankets over us. “You might want to tell Jagger about us.”
“Hmm?” he murmurs, already half-asleep.
“Rose knows, and Marcus knows, so Jagger will find out soon. I figured you’d want to tell him yourself.”
“In the morning,” he mumbles, his breaths already slowing. “So… tired...”
I press a kiss to his chest and listen to him fall asleep underneath me, feeling so damn lucky and unlucky at the same time. If only Marcus could just come around, and I’d be golden.