#57 This is a respectable business, not a brothel!
It’s getting close to midnight, and Quang wants to propose soon, so Jagger and a few of the parents are heading over to grab all the kids. And… it’s time for me to get the dress. Which might sound like an easy feat, but it’s not, because the moment I get backstage and head to the room on the right, I get distracted because I hear a pained grunt on the other end of the room. It sounds like someone is hurt, so I rush over to open the door.
Oh fuck. Not hurt – aroused.
Jagger’s eyes lock with mine, a horrified look on his face. I see Rose on her knees before him, still bobbing her head up and down while his hands are knotted in her hair.
“Sorry!” I squeak out, slamming the door shut again. Breathing hard, I throw open the door to the room where the dress is, only to be met by a yet another image I’m never going to be able to wipe from my brain. Uncle Aston, balls deep into his wife, fucking her up against the wall.
“Occupied!” he growls, not even looking to see who walked in.
Scarred for life, I shut the door and lean against the wall, beathing hard. What the fuck is wrong with people? Can’t they just wait until they get home to do get naked? Or at the very least find a room with a door that locks?
Suddenly, I hear Aunt Shaughna’s voice from the other end of the hallway, a door slamming against the wall as she shouts: “What the actual fuck! I don’t know who the hell any of you are, but this is a respectable business, not a brothel!”
A minute later, she walks out with Manny, Ayaan and Holly in tow, all of them fixing their clothes. Holly has the good sense to look embarrassed, but Manny and Ayaan mostly seem annoyed by the interruption. Shaughna sees me leaning against the wall and she looks from the closed door next to me to the one across from me, and she sighs heavily, rushing over right away.
“I wouldn’t-” I try to warn her, but she’s already kicking open the first door.
“Jagger, you better detach Rose from your penis right fucking now, or I’m telling Nathanial, and I’m pretty fucking sure he won’t hesitate to kick your ass out of his house, you dirty boy!”
“Aunt Shaughna!” Rose exclaims, running out, her hair all over the place and her lips swollen. “Don’t tell my dad!”
“Then don’t blow your boyfriend in my club!” she screams back, her cheeks flushed. “Who’s in here?” she asks me, gesturing to the last door.
“Aston,” I reply, shuddering when the image pops back into my mind.
“Of course,” Shaughna grumbles, opening the door and peeking inside. “Aston, fuck your wife someplace else, will you? There are kids here. You’re way too old for this!”
Apparently, Aston and Annabel were already done, because they walk out fully clothed. He looks smug, while she’s bright red, hiding her face against his shoulder. “You’re never too old for hot public sex,” Aston says, grinning from ear to ear.
“Can I be you when I grow up?” Manny asks, holding up his hand to high-five Aston.
“All of you – out!” Shaughna yells, pointing to the curtain that leads back to the karaoke bar. “Now! Go party while I try to pretend I didn’t just see three cocks, two pussies, and two one set of tits, and hear a whole lot of moaning and panting I didn’t ever want to hear.”
“Drama queen,” Aston mutters, tugging Annabel with him through the curtain. “Like you’ve never been there.”
“Don’t tell my dad,” Rose pleads with Shaughna again. “You know how it is, I’m a little buzzed, and Jagger is… well, look at him!”
I’m pretty sure she means that he’s too hot not to want to suck off in a backroom, but right now, Jagger mostly looks like he wants to dig a hole into the floor and disappear into it. Serves him right for getting it on in a public place. Surely, he should know better. When Shaughna finally vows to not tell Rose’s father, the two of them leave, with Manny, Holly and Ayaan right behind them. Ayaan winks at me in passing, squeezing Manny’s ass.
Well, at least that means they’re not sinking their claws into Marcus.
“Nia,” Shaughna says, putting her hands on my shoulders. “Welcome to my life. I’ve wanted to poke out my eyes so many times just so I wouldn’t have to see shit like this. You okay?”
I shake my head and shudder. “That was… gross.”
“What are you doing back here anyway?” Shaughna asks curiously. “Surely you’re not sneaking off to meet Khiêm somewhere? You two don’t seem like the public sex type.”
“Definitely not,” I agree right away. Although honestly, I used to be, back when I was getting drunk four nights a week, happy to do whatever guys wanted me to do for just a bit of validation. I’m so glad I’m not that girl anymore. “I’m picking up… something.” I gesture to the room where Aston was having way too much fun with Annabel mere minutes ago.
“By all means, do so,” Shaughna says, watching me grab the garment bag. “Should I ask what’s inside?”
I shake my head. “You’ll see soon enough.”
We head into the club together, where I hide the garment bag just behind the curtain at the edge of the stage, so Amy won’t see it yet. Quang meets my eyes, and I nod, motioning him onstage. He smiles brightly and moves over, telling the DJ to stop the music and hand him a microphone. I make my way back into the throw of bodies, finding Khiêm to put my arms around him and give him a kiss.
“What is Dad doing?” he asks, looking at the stage with a frown.
“You’ll see,” I reply vaguely, kind of smug about knowing something he doesn’t.
“You’re keeping something from me, aren’t you?” he asks, giving me a searching look.
“You’re one to talk! People have been dropping hints that you’re hiding something from me all night,” I counter, poking his chest.
He chuckles and repeats my earlier words: “You’ll see.”
We focus on Quang, who taps the microphone to test it, causing everyone to wince at the sound it makes throughout the whole space. “Hi everyone,” he says, waving lamely. “Sorry for interrupting, but it’s fifteen minutes to midnight, and I’d like to say something to my lovely wife before the new year starts. Amy, would you come up here, please?”
His wife looks completely flustered as her daughters push her to her husband. She’s looking shy with all eyes in the room trained on her.
“Amy…” Quang starts, gazing at her with adoring eyes. “When we met, you were only 19, and I was 21, only living in the States for a year. We met when you were visiting a friend, and I smacked into you at the train station, which led to us getting to talking about the book you were carrying around with you. I fell in love with you right then and there, and I was so lucky you agreed to stay in touch. Six months later, I didn’t hesitate one second when you agreed to move in with me if I moved across the country for you. My English was terrible, and you didn’t speak Vietnamese yet, but we didn’t need to be fluent in any language to speak the only language that matters… the language of love.”
“Ahw,” Khiêm says, tugging me closer. “This is cute.”
“We got married before we moved in together, because we both knew your mother would never accept me if I didn’t get on one knee before taking you away from her. Our wedding was a small affair, in a dress you didn’t love, and the ring I slipped onto your finger was all I could afford and therefore way less than you deserved.” Quang grabs his wife hand and sinks down on one knee.
“Oh my God.” Khiêm gasps, his fingers digging into my skin. “Is he…?”
“Amy, will you marry me again, and allow me to give you the ring, dress and wedding you should have gotten the first time around?” Quang produces a small black box from his pocket and flips it open.
Amy gasps and reaches down with trembling hands, taking her updated ring from the box and slipping it back onto the finger. “Of course,” she says, eye brimming with tears. “I’d marry you a thousand times over, Quang.”
The room erupts in loud cheers, everyone holding up their glasses, clapping and whistling. Their kids are dumbfounded, all four of them, and Khiêm is crying. I give him a sweet kiss, but then I need to pull away from him and join them on stage, which makes everyone’s attention shift to me.
“I have one more surprise for you,” Quang goes on. “I proposed to you all those years ago so I’d get to live with you, but when your mother passed away before our wedding day, we still went through with it, because we wanted to be together forever and we wanted to honor her memory. She was making a dress for you she never got to finish, and you didn’t want anyone else to touch it, so it’s been in our house all these years, collecting dust.”
I move behind the curtain, where I take the dress from the garment bag and take it with me onto the stage. There is a collective gasp when Amy staggers back against Quang, looking close to fainting. She’s full-on crying now.
“My dress,” she whimpers, and for a moment I worry she hates what Sonia and I did to it, but then a smile lights up her face and she reaches out to touch the intricate flower pattern on the skirt. “Oh, Nia, did you do this?”
I nod. “I hope I did okay.”
“It’s beautiful,” she assures me, unable to stop staring at the dress. “Just like Mom planned…” When she’s done admiring her own finished wedding gown, Aimee comes over to help me and we carefully put it away backstage.
When we get back, Quang and Amy are with their kids, who are all congratulating them. Khiêm pulls himself away for a moment, looking at me as I try to get off the stage. He shakes his hand and holds up his hands, signaling for me to wait. Confused, I stop on the top step, waiting for him to join me. He ushers me back up, grabbing the microphone.
“Sorry, everyone, but I need a second too,” he says, looking sheepish. “It’s only five minutes before midnight, and I really want to do this… well, this year.”
“Do what?” I ask him, looking around to see if anyone has any idea what the fuck he’s talking about. Judging by Jagger’s and Marcus’ excitement, this must be what they were whispering about. Everyone else look baffled, including my entire family.
“I swear Dad and I didn’t plan this together,” Khiêm says, laughing softly. “I had no idea he was going to do this, and I didn’t tell him what I was planning either. I guess I’m just a sappy cheeseball like him. Apple, tree, all that shit. So… Nia…”
Wait… what? What is happening?
“I know it’s only been four and a half months,” Khiêm says, putting the microphone in the stand so he can take both of his hands in mine. “So feel free to say no. No harm, no foul. I will ask you again in a year, like we originally planned, but I just… I need to do this now. I need you to know how much I love you.” Without further ado, he pulls out a little black box and sinks down onto one knee, flipping open the box with one hand while the other squeezes my now clammy one.
I feel like I’m hallucinating. This isn’t really happening. I’m only 22 – almost 23, but still. Too young. Way too young. It hasn’t even been anything close to a year. We only told Marcus everything earlier this month. Jagger only found out today, for crying out loud.
“Nia,” Khiêm says, his dark brown eyes showing me just how much he loves me. “Lovely, sunshine, my Xīngān… will you marry me?”