#53 About time you dumped that bitch
“Thank God.” Creed raises his beer in a toast. “About time you dumped that bitch.”
“Hear hear!” Pierre agrees, clinking his soda against Creed’s beer.
“Hey, be nice,” I warn my younger brothers. I agree with them wholeheartedly, but it’s obvious Marcus is broken up about it. This is not the time to tell him we were all waiting for that moment. Well… all except for one person at this table.
“I like Bee,” Aliyah adds, looking up at Marcus with puppy-dog eyes. “She always helps me with my schoolwork. Why did you break up with her?” 13-year-old Aliyah can’t even remember a time Beatrice wasn’t in Marcus’ life. And with Beatrice being a teacher at the local high school and Aliyah having trouble at school, it’s not that strange that the two bonded when Bee would help Aliyah with her homework during the weekends. She even kept it up when Marcus and Bee were in the middle of one of their many break-ups, not wanting to let down Aliyah. Bee isn’t all bad. She lives for her students and she adores my youngest sister. She’s just the worst girlfriend ever. I think the only person less fit to be someone’s significant other would be Celeste, Jagger’s ex-wife.
“What happened?” I ask, handing Marcus his favorite dish: lamb with lots of garlic. He always eats the whole goddamn thing before any of us can dig into it.
He takes it with a smile and dumps every last bit onto his plate. “I wanted to come here to make things right with you guys, and she told me she didn’t want to be in the same room with people who had made it clear they disapproved of her. I asked her to come anyway, for me, and she refused. Something just… snapped.” He looks down at his plate, poking at the food with his fork. “I did everything for that girl. Almost twelve years, I was at her beck and call. I accepted all the crap she put me through. I spent so many holidays with her horrible family, and she can’t even suck it up for one night, even though I explained to her how important tonight is to me.”
“Fuck her,” Pierre says, patting his older brother on the back.
“Yeah,” Marcus agrees, finishing off his beer. “Fuck her. I told her she’s got until New Year’s Eve to find a place to live. Which means I’m homeless for the next week, because there is no way I’m going to spend one more day in my apartment while she’s still there. At least I can start the new year fresh, without that bitch bringing me down.”
“Cheers to that!” Creed holds up his beer again. “To Marcus being single again!”
Everyone raises their glasses, and I get up to grab Marcus another beer. When I hand it to him, he locks eyes with me. “I’m sorry,” he says with a wry smile. “I was a dick.”
“Yeah, you were,” I agree.
“We did lie to him for months,” Khiêm says, ever understanding. “He was allowed to kick off for a bit.”
“You better treat my sister right,” Marcus warns him. “I don’t want to have to kill my best friend, but you know I will if you hurt Nia.”
“Oh, he’ll have all the Davis’ man knocking down his door if he messes up,” Dshawn agrees immediately. “And we all know Aston will want in on the action as well.”
“Good thing that I don’t plan to ever mess up,” Khiêm says, squeezing my knee underneath the table. “Marcus… we’re good?”
“We’re good,” my brother echoes.
“Great. Speaking of New Year’s Eve, did Nia invite you to my uncle’s big party yet?” Khiêm asks, looking around the table. “My parents want to bring both families together.”
“Yeah, about that… do you think we could move the party to the top floor of the club?” Shaughna asks, taking Luke from his highchair since he’s getting fussy. “It’s the busiest night of the year for us, and we’d love to come, but we can’t unless it’s in our own business.”
“Party at The Palace?” Khiêm asks, grinning. “I’m sure I can talk my uncle into that. That sounds amazing. So… you’re all coming?”
“Can I come?” Aliyah asks, her eyes shining with enthusiasm. Being only 12 means she’s not usually allowed in the night club.
“If you don’t come down into the actual club and stay far, far away from all the booze,” Dshawn warns her sternly.
Shaughna adds: “I will kick your ass if you get us in trouble.”
“Done,” Aliyah vows, crossing her heart dramatically. “Oh my God, I have to find something to wear! Nia, can you make me a dress? It has to be gold. With tassels.”
“Sure thing, sis.”
The rest of dinner is spent eating, chatting and laughing, all tension evaporated. After dinner I see Marcus go out into the backyard on his own, so I give him five minutes to skulk before heading out as well with two glasses of wine. He’s just removing the phone from his ear, his expression even more hurt than it was when he walked in halfway through dinner.
“Bee?” I ask, sitting down next to him on the porch steps as I hand him his glass of wine.
He shakes his head. “No, Gracie.”
“What did she say?”
Instead of replying, Marcus puts down his wineglass, hides his face in his hands, and starts to cry. I immediately tear up as well. At least I get to be there for him this time around. I ditch my own glass as well and wrap my arms around my brother.
Behind us, I hear the backdoor open, and I look over Marcus’ shoulder to see Khiêm coming to check on us. The moment he sees what’s going on, he gives me a wry smile and backs away into the house, closing the door behind him. I love that he gets this is a moment between me and Marcus. I finally got my brother and best friend back. He’s been hurting for a long time now. Finally, he’s allowing me to see just how bad it is.
“She told me to go to hell,” Marcus whimpers between sobs. “Apparently, she’s dating someone now, and she didn’t appreciate me calling her during Christmas’ Eve celebrations with her parents. Oh God…” He pulls back a little and puts a hand over his heart, wincing like he’s actually experiencing heartbreak. “I’m such an idiot.”
“No, you’re not,” I say softly, rubbing his back while he gets himself back in check. “You and Bee… there was so much history between the two of you, Marcus. She was there when you graduated high school, when grandma died, during that godawful family vacation where we all got food poisoning…”
Marcus laughs, wiping at his eyes. “That was brutal.”
“I know I gave you a hard time about her. I could see she wasn’t making you happy, and I want what’s best for you. Bee hasn’t been that for a very long time now.”
He agrees with me, raking his hands through his messy curls. “I know. I refused to give up, to acknowledge just how bad it truly was. I’ve been on the brink of breaking up with her many times before over the years, but there was always something stopping me. Her parents… they’re not nice people. And she doesn’t open up easily, so none of her friends know how bad things got when she was younger.”
“Did they… abuse her?” I ask in a hushed whisper. Oh God, I don’t like that girl, but that’s just wrong.
Marcus shakes his head. “Not physically, no. Emotionally though… it’s a long story. Which is why I made so many excuses for her all this time. I could always see where she was coming from, understand her, make it okay how she’d always run when things got serious between us. Plus, I know I’m intense. I’ve been talking about living together, marriage and kids since Bee and I were 16. That’s a lot for a girl with serious trust and commitment issues.”
I smile sadly. “Yeah, that is a lot. But you didn’t force anything on her. You’re so patient.”
“Too patient,” he grunts, his eyes dry now. “It’s not even about her crap, or how many times she ran from her feelings, but for her to never take my feelings into consideration… that’s just wrong. It actually took finding out about you and Khiêm to finally get my head out of the gutter.”
Now that’s a surprising turn of events.
“I was shocked at first,” Marcus admits when he sees my incredulous expression. “Angry, even. For being lied to, for you and him going behind my back, for him betraying my trust. But then I started to think back over everything that happened since the two of you met, and I feel so stupid for not realizing earlier that the two of you are completely smitten. I haven’t felt about Bee the way you feel about Khiêm in a long time. Years, I think. I want that too.”
I can’t help the smile thats light up my face. “Khiêm is amazing. I’ve never been in love before, and you know I’ve dealt with my fair share of assholes, but Khiêm… he’s just…”
“I know.” Marcus puts his arm around me and squeezes my shoulder. “He’s been my best friend for about ten years now. Trust me, I know how great he is.”
“Then why were you so against me and him getting together?” I’ve been wondering about this for a while now. I get that your sister dating your best friend isn’t the ideal scenario, but Marcus got so upset that it scared me. “Are you afraid we’ll break up and make things awkward for you?”
“No, it’s not that,” he assures me. “Yeah, that would suck, but it’s just… you’ve both been hurt. So many times. I’ve been forced to watch you pretty much whore yourself out to a bunch of guys that didn’t even deserve to be in your presence, and Khiêm’s exes didn’t exactly do wonders for his self-esteem, although you wouldn’t think that when you hear the guy talk.”
“I know, he told me about his last girlfriend.”
Marcus doesn’t seem surprised by that. “I figured. And I know you’d never treat him like that, and he wouldn’t treat you like anything less the wonderful girl you are, so I feel really stupid about acting the way I did, to be honest. Khiêm’s just always talking about needing to get laid, and I didn’t want my baby sister to be the one to… quench his thirst or something.”
I laugh at that idea. I know Khiêm used to joke about that, and it had been a while for him when we first got together, but he’s not the type for lots of one-night stands. “You know he’s only been with six women before me, right?” I ask Marcus.
He looks at me with raised eyebrows. “Really? I know he only had two serious girlfriend, one friends-with-benefits in college, and there were three girls he dated for a few months before they decided to call things quits, but I figured that there might have been some one-night stands or something. Only those six? Wow. I’ve met all of the girls he’s slept with, then.” Marcus squeezes my shoulder again. “You’re the prettiest of them all. And the nicest.”
“Thanks, bro.” I ruffle his hair, and he does the same to me, which makes me scowl. “Hey! I spent half an hour on my hair before we came here!”
“Khiêm can touch your hair,” Marcus counters.
“Yeah, but Khiêm is allowed to do lots of things to me you aren’t.”
Marcus scrunches up his nose in disgust. “Ew. Okay, I so don’t want to know what you mean by that. Gross, Nia. I’m okay with you and him, but I’d very much like to go on pretending you and him sleep in separate rooms and are always fully clothed.”
I think back to earlier tonight, when Khiêm bent me over the couch. Technically, I was still clothed, my panties only moved to the side enough for him to pound me… My toes curl at the memory. Better not tell Marcus about that, though.
“What are you going to do now?” I ask Marcus, turning the focus of the conversation back to him. “About Bee, Gracie, this whole mess?”
He grunts and leans against me heavily, his arm still around me. He grabs his wine and downs half of it. “Fuck if I know. Just focus on one thing at a time, I guess. I think it’s safe to say I ruined things with Gracie, and I can’t even blame her for hating my guts. I was horrible to her. Besides… I don’t think I’m ready for something serious right now, and she may seem all fun and carefree, but she’s a very serious girl. You either commit to her, or she sends you packing.” He smiles when he talks about her in a way I haven’t seen him smile about Bee in years. “Maybe one day… I don’t know. For now, I need to find a place to stay for the next week while Bee gathers her things and finds a place to live. Then, when the new year starts, I’ll have my bachelor pad back, and I will just focus on work, I guess.” He shudders. “I think I might have to move back in with Mom and Dad until New Year’s Eve. God, it’s been years since I had to fight with Aliyah and Pierre to get more than five minutes in the bathroom. When Aliyah stays at my place for the weekend, I’m always more than glad that she’s got her own tiny little ensuite so I don’t have to share with her.”
“You’re staying with us,” I decide, taking a sip of wine. “We’ve got an extra matrass in my workshop, and I think you could use Khiêm’s support right now. And mine, for that matter. We’ve got beer.”
“Well, if you’ve got beer, I’m sold,” he jokes, nudging me. “No funny business while I’m at your place, though. I so don’t need to hear my sister get defiled by my best friend.”
I choke on my wine, laughing and coughing at the same time. “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”
We stay outside for a little longer, but we eventually grow too damn cold and head back in. Everyone is still here, eating ice cream, drinking wine, and joking around. When we walk in and join the others, Mom decides it’s time to exchange gifts. We always get everyone one gift each, so with a family this big, it takes over an hour to unpack everything. Me and Khiêm gets lots of couple gifts – his and hers towels, mugs with Mr. Right and Mrs. Always Right on it, a coupon for a couple’s massage, stuff like that. Marcus makes a face each time we open a gift, but I can tell he’s not truly bothered anymore.
At the end of the night, Khiêm doesn’t even need to be told that Marcus is coming home with us. My darling brother is a little too buzzed to drive, whereas me and Khiêm didn’t have more than a glass and a half or so. I drive home in Marcus’ car while Khiêm takes his own car with my brother. Back home, Marcus crashes in my workshop right away, while Khiêm and I change into comfortable clothes and snuggle on the couch for another hour, watching a movie. Not having to hide around my brother is pretty fucking great. It sucks we can’t have sex – I’m not risking Marcus overhearing anything or walking in on us – but it’s a small price to pay.