Hidden Desire

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Chapter 2

“You’re not ready yet?” I yelled down the hall to Jade. I’d just gotten back from my Friday afternoon lecture- introduction to graphic design. Why did no one seem to care that if students weren’t forced to take electives and random English and math classes that had nothing to do with our majors that college could be completed quicker and would be more affordable? Putting off my last elective until fall semester of senior year had not been my best plan. But it was the only choice; I certainly didn’t want to put it off another semester and have to do it during my last semester of undergrad. If I had, I would have been able to take wine and food pairings though. I’d been so tempted, but I really wanted to have a lighter work load my last semester. I’d tried getting into the wine and cheese class this semester by stating that I wouldn’t drink until after I turned twenty-one, but I’d lost the battle.

“Almost!” She hollered back at me.

“We’re just going shopping. We’re not walking a runway.”

I heard her fake, exaggeratory gasp. “I’m always ready to walk the runway.” I laughed at her. “Just because I’m going to be a stuffy engineer doesn’t mean I can’t be fashionable when I do it.” Our majors could not be more different. She was going into environmental engineering. At least we’d both chosen majors that would allow us to help people.

“Val is going to be here any minute!”

“I’ll be ready.”

I didn’t believe her. Her worst trait was her inability to be ready on time for anything. When the time came, many years in the future, that girl was going to be late to her own funeral.

When she finally came walking down the hall, she did look like she was ready to walk down New York fashion week catwalk. Her long blonde hair was up in a high ponytail and her jeans hugged her figure. She had on a blouse, black leather jacket and a scarf that was tied perfectly. I’d always been jealous of her figure. It was hourglass but small in the middle. She had wide hips and a chest that was proportionate to her body. I, on the other hand had not been blessed with any hips and was small everywhere except for my chest which was much too big for my body.

Jade always said she’d kill for my figure. Weren’t we as women always our own worsts critics? Always wanting what someone else had.

“Remind me again why you didn’t go to design school?” I asked her.

“Because I’m a natural blonde,” she said as if it was obvious. “I’ve been treated like I’m dumb my entire life, all because of something I was born with. I’m set to graduate number two in my class, behind another woman. Engineering is still a boy’s club and the top two students at one of the best universities in the country are both women? I’m so here for that.”

I can’t imagine anyone ever treating Jade like she was dumb, talking to her for two minutes made it easy to see how smart she was.

She was grabbing her purse when my phone beeped.

Val: I’m outside.

“Val is here.”

“Told you I’d be ready.”

Jade and I walked out of our basement level apartment and out onto the sidewalk. Val was parked illegally in her Audi SUV. Jade climbed into the back while I climbed into the passenger seat.

“Hi girls,” she said.

“Hey Val!” Jade said excitedly. “Can you believe our girl is turning twenty one next week? Finally!”

“I know. I’ve been waiting for this day for so long.”

“You have?” I asked her.

“Yeah. After your brother and I graduated high school, I had this whole vision of our future. It involved you being an adult and not an eight year old little girl anymore. I imagined planning this party for you, buying you your first drink, having my sister-in-law be my best friend.”

“That’s so adorable. Is that why you you helped me get drunk when I was seventeen?”

“Yes, and don’t remind your brother. He’s still mad at me for the last time. I’ve received several warnings about not letting you get sloppy drunk.”

“Reggie’s not coming?” I asked.

“He will for a few drinks, but he’s got a game the next day so he’ll need to go to bed early.”

“Boring,” Jade said from the middle seat in the back.

“Responsible,” I countered.

“I invited Mikey too,” Val said casually. I hope that’s okay.

“O-ofcourse,” I managed to say.

I could feel Jade’s eyes burning holes into me.

She was the only one who knew about my crush on Michael.

“I think he’s having a hard time settling into DC,” Val continued. She was talking while switching lanes, cutting across to try and get to our exit.

“Why do you say that?”

“He hasn’t bought a house yet. His one in San Diego sold in like three days, but he’s living out of hotel. It’s got a suite so it’s got a full kitchen and what not, but it’s still not a home.”

“Maybe he doesn’t think he’ll be staying?” I said. “They’re always at risk for being traded again.”

“That’s the thing though, he wanted to be traded. He wanted to come home because he missed his family, wanted to watch his nephews grow up.”

“Ugh, if I went to California I would never come back. The wet coast really is the best coast.”

“Then why isn’t he settling?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” Val admitted. She and Michael hadn’t always been close. When she got together with Reggie he was livid, even though he had no right to be. And in college there was a rough junior year. He and Reggie didn’t speak for months. Val and his mom had been getting married to Thomas and despite how big of an asshole their father was, Michael didn’t take it well.

Val had accused him of falling back into his pattern of misogyny and Reggie had defended her. I’d only been twelve at the time and I didn’t understand a lot of it. I was just happy when everything had been worked through.

Sometimes I felt guilty that Val told me so much about Michael without him probably wanting her too and without her knowing that I had a huge crush on her brother. I knew he’d been going to therapy to try and work through the trauma he had with his dad. As far as I knew, neither of them had heard from him since the day his mom said she wasn’t going to take him back. But I also wasn’t sure that if Michael had heard from him that he would tell Val in an effort to protect her.

“What type of dress are you thinking about for the party?” Val asked, clearly not wanting to talk about her brother anymore.

“Little black dress obviously.” I should probably listen to Jade. She had the best fashion sense out of anyone in this car.

“I don’t look great in black.”

“Isn’t the theme black and white?” Val asked.

“Yeah.”

“Then obviously you have to wear a white dress.”

“Okay, maybe the old woman is right this team.”

“Watch it brat,” Val teased her right back. Jade had been the roommate I’d been paired with freshman year. She’d fit right in with all of us immediately and her and Val got along great which I loved since they were my best friends.

“With nude shoes.”

“Nude shoes don’t mean the color you think they do for me,” I quipped at her.

“Louboutin makes a variety of nude cooler shoes,” she said. “Nude to match almost every skin color.”

“As if I can afford that.”

“I’l get them for you,” Val said. “It’ll be your birthday present.”

“Reggie will kill us both.”

“Please, that boy hasn’t looked at a bill in ten years. He throws the football and brings home the money. I do everything else including paying our credit card bill.”

“Where can I get one?” Jade asked.

“You prefer football or basketabll?” Val asked her. “I’ve got a husband on one team and a brother on another. I can probably even get you in with the hockey team too.” The professional sports world was a small one, especially in DC.

“Ohhhh hockey players? Yes please.”

“Done. At least one will be at Val’s birthday party.”

“This is just supposed to be a low key thing,” I reminded her. “And now there’s guys from all the major teams in the district. It’ll be swarming with paparazizi.”

“Come on, little sister,” she teased me. “Which one do you want? I can get one for you too.”

“And face my brother’s wrath?”

“Please,” she scoffed. “I’m his wife.”

“As if the gigantic three stone diamond on your hand didn’t give that away.” She still wore the promise ring he’d gotten her in high school too, just on the other hand. Her engagement ring was an upgraded version of the promise ring- three stones for their past, present and future. The middle diamond of this one was three carats and the surrounding diamonds were one carat each. It was gigantic and blitzy. He’d gotten it for her after his first season in the NFL.

“I want one,” Jade whine from the backseat making us both laugh.

“You’re too young.”

“Um you and Reggie have been together since you were eighteen,” I reminded her. “And in love with each other since you were like five.”

“And we’re the exception, not the rule. Dn’t get married young.”

“You’re no fun. How about a starter marriage at twenty-two and then a divorce at twenty-five and my forever marriage at twenty-eight?” Jade asked. She was being completely serious.

“You young kids,” Val says while finally pulling into a parking spot outside the high end mall.

“Hey, don’t lump me in with her,” I say as I climb out of the car.

“She’s your best friend and roommate.”

“And you’re my best friend and sister-in-law.”

Val and Jade just rolled their eyes at me before walking away from the car and towards the mall. I chased after them, half walking half jogging until I was caught up.

“This is definitely going to be a party to remember.”

~~~~~

By the time we’re done shopping my arms were overloaded with bags. I ended up getting a gorgeous white dress and a pair of pumps that blended almost perfectly with my skin shade. To say I was obsessed was an understatement. I’d gotten a lot of other clothes too since fall was rolling in fast. I’d upgraded all of my make-up and had the best day with my friends.

We were loading the bags in the back of the SUV when Val’s phone started to ring. “Hey, baby,” she called into it. It could only be Reggie. “Nothing, just finished shopping with Val and Jade.” She nodded her head while he spoke like he could actually see her. “I’ll ask.” She looked at the two of us. “Do you guys want to come over for dinner?”

“Always.”

“I would love to,” Jade said. “But I’ve got a dinner shift starting in like an hour.”

“You still coming, Ty?”

“Yeah.”

“Just Tyler. Oh, Mikey too? No problem. Do you want us to stop and get something? Okay, baby. See you soon. I love you.”

“Michael is coming too?”

“You’re seriously the only person on the planet who calls him that.” I didn’t have a good response, so I didn’t give her one.

“What are you in the mood for?” I asked her. “I’m thinking pizza and wings.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Come on, Jade, I’ll take you home.”

“Oh, no,” she protested. “It’s out of the way from here to your place. I’ll uber.”

“You sure?” She asked.

“Yeah, as long as I can leave my bags in the car and have Tyler bring them back for me.”

“No problem.”

“Later love muffin,” she said kissing my cheek before walking away. She was crazy in the best way.

“How are my nephews?” I asked Val. She’d put a firm no baby talk rule into effect while we’d been shopping. But we weren’t shopping anymore.

“Tiny little terrors that I love with all my heart.” I laughed loudly at her. If they were anything like Reggie, she was going to be in for it. Mama said she had to wait so long between babies because she could barely keep up with Reggie once he was on the move. And Val had two to try and keep up with. “I can’t believe Vincent is going to be four,” she said sadly. “It seems like just yesterday I was giving birth to him.”

“And I was dying from hypothermia after my first visit with him. I’m going to haunt him with that story when he’s old enough not to be too traumatised by it.”

“Don’t traumatise my child.”

“Anymore in the future?” I asked her.

“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to ask a woman about her uterus?”

“Yes, my mama raised me with manners. I just want to know if I can look forward to having another niece or nephew to spoil.”

“Hopefully you will,” she admitted which made me squeal. “You’re the reason I’m not already pregnant?”

“Me?” I asked in disbelief.

“No way in hell was I going to be pregnant for your twenty-first birthday,” she said making me laugh.

“I know how the rest of this story goes, please don’t finish it.” She just wiggle her eyebrows at me. “If you weren’t married to my brother, we could talk about your sex life, but since you are, we never can.”

Her head tilted back as she laughed at my expense. “I mean I guess that’s fair. I don’t want to know about Mikey’s either.”

I did.

“But we can talk about yours,” she continued.

“Mine?” I asked with a snort. “It’s non-existent.”

“You’re still a virgin?” She asked. She wasn’t judging me, just completely curious. I nodded my head at her, unwilling to make the words come out of my mouth. “Still waiting for the perfect guy.”

“You did,” I said. “You and Reggie have only ever been with each other.”

“What makes you think that?” She asked.

“Is it not true?”

A slight blush crawled across her cheeks. “I was with someone before Reggie.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. I didn’t value my virginity. And I thought Reggie was sleeping his way through the cheerleading squad. I decided I wasn’t waiting for him anymore. I don’t regret it. I really did like Keegan; his only flaw was that he wasn’t your brother.”

Maybe that was what I needed. Had I been holding onto my virginity because of Michael? I wanted to pretend like I hadn’t been, but that wouldn’t be honest.

It was time to give up on my Michael fantasy and focus on the reality. I had plenty of guys ask me out throughout high school and college; I’d gone out on a few dates, but never let it get very far, only ever a kiss.

Val pulled into the pizza place and we both climbed out. Two large pizzas, two orders of wings, and an order of breadsticks later, we were walking back to her car. One thing that had stayed consistent over the years, Reggie and Michael could eat, even more now since they were so much bigger than they had been in high school and college.

Val talked my ear off about my nephews while we were on our way home. She was such a good mom. Even though Reggie made enough money to support both of them, in the first few years after graduating college and then getting her master’s degree she’d worked. She’d scheduled her therapy sessions around Reggie’s training, but she’d love her job. After Vincent had been born, she didn’t want to hire a nanny- ever. She’d stopped doing therapy and focused on raising the little munchkins. She still played the clarinet, flute, piano and sang. Only now, she was playing with and for her kids.

There was a car I didn’t recognise in the driveway when we finally pulled up to their house. I assumed it was Michael’s. It was a sleek looking Mercedes. Unlike Reggie, he tended to be a little more flashy with his millions.

I carried the pizzas while Val carried the rest of the order into the house. I could hear Vincent and Zeke shrieking with laughter and their little feet running across the hard wood floors. Next I heard the deep rumble of Michael’s voice. When we walked into the kitchen, he had just swept both of our nephews into his arms, tickling them while they giggled like the little maniacs they were.

My ovaries.

He would be such an amazing dad.

“Hey, baby,” Reggie greeted Val with a soft kiss. I was jealous. I wanted Michael to greet me that way. Val took her kids from her brother while my brother greeted me with a kiss on the cheek. Once his hands were free of our nephews, Michael did the same. I could feel it tingle where his lips had only briefly pushed against my skin.

The table was already set so we sat, Val and Reggie each taking a child next to them and helping them eat while they ate themselves.

“Pizza on the east coast is so much better than on the west,” Michael said after he’d finished his third slice. Much like the younger people in our presence, he was also covered in pizza sauce.

“You eat messier than my kids,” Reggie told him. Michael just shrugged uncaring as he finally reached for a napkin and wiped his face.

“But Mexican food is way better on the west coast,” he said. “No comparison.”

“Bet it doesn’t compare to Mexico City,” I said. I’d gone to Mexico City with Jade last year for a week. It had been an amazing cultural experience and the food was the most fantastic food I’d ever eaten.

“You’ve been?”

“Last year, with Jade.”

“I’d love to go. I’ve only been to Cancun and Tijuana.” I knew all about those trips. He’d been splashed all over the cover of the gossip magazines with a different woman on his arm at each stop. “How’s your trouble making best friend, anyways?” He asked.

“Still a trouble maker. You’ll see her at my birthday party next week. Speaking of, Val promised her a hockey player. You guys know anybody on the team?”

“You make it seem so scandalous,” Val said. “I just promised her an introduction. She asked where she could get one,” she said holding up her ring. Reggie chuckled at his wife.

“I’ve got one I can invite,” he said.

“She’ll be thrilled.”

After dinner Reggie said the kids needed to go to bed. “I’ll take Tyler back,” Val told Reggie.

“I can,” Michael offered, making my heart rate automatically increase. “You and Reggie take care of the kids together. Val’s place is close to my hotel anyways.”

“You really need to find a house,” Val told him.

“I’m working on it.” The words didn’t exactly sound believable.

“Do you mind?” Val asked me.

“No, not at all. I just need to get the shopping bags out of your car.”

“Take the boys upstairs,” she told Reggie. “I’ll be up in just a second.”

Val walked to the front door with us, standing in the doorway and unlocking her car so I could collect my things. “I got it,” Michael said, lifting all the bags in one go and carrying them to his car. I opened the trunk for him and let him set them in there.

“Bye!” Val called from the porch. Michael and I waved and called our own goodbyes as we slid into his sleek Mercedes Coup.

“How are you liking being back on the East Coast?” I asked as he pulled out of their neighbourhood.

“It’s great being able to see my family all the time,” he said. “But it feels different. California never felt like home, but somehow, being back here doesn’t feel like home anymore either.”

I hummed a response. “It might just take some time.”

“We’ll see. I’ve still got some time to get settled before the season starts. Oh, check the glove box.”

Opening the compartment in front of me I pulled out an envelope that had my name written messily on it. “Those are tickets for all my games. Some of them are floor seats; some of them are box seats. The ones that conflict with Reggie’s games or you can’t go to, just let me know and I’ll make sure I can get them to someone else. There’s two for each game so you can always bring Jade or another friend.”

“Can I give them to Jade and someone else if I can’t come?”

“Of course. Jade is cool.”

Did he have a thing for Jade.

“Do you like her?”

“God no,” he said shaking my head. “She’s not my type.”

“I didn’t think you had a type.” For the fist time as I spoke I turned my head to look at him instead of keeping my eyes focused forward. His jaw ticked slightly.

“ I didn’t think I did either.” Turning his head away from the road momentarily he looked at me. “But I’m starting to think that’s not true.” His brown eyes held some emotion that I couldn’t place or decipher in the darkness that was surrounding us.

Was he talking about me?

He couldn’t be.

There was no way.

Before I could come up with any type of response other than to stare at him, he was puling up outside my apartment. Parking illegally, he turned the four way flashers on before climbing out. I was struggling with getting my door open when it was opened for me. Michael offered me a hand and helped me stand. Collecting mine and Jade’s bags from the back, he didn’t hand them to me. Instead, he started walking towards my door, down the steps that lead to the basement apartment. He stood to the side, allowing me to unlock the door. Michael followed me inside and set the numerous bags on the bench we had situated next to the entrance.

“Bye, Princess,” he said. “Lock the door behind me.” Leaning in quickly he kissed my cheek again, leaving me standing there dumbfounded as he closed the door behind him. A few moments later, I still hadn’t collected my thoughts. “I said lock the door, princess.” Shaking my head out of my trance, I did as he told me to and pushed my ear up against the door. A few seconds later, I heard the unmistakable sound of his footsteps moving away.

That was so confusing.

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