Max looks incredulous as he slowly asks, “So you’re telling me you agreed to be friends with her?”
I sit at the table in our ‘chill out’ room.
I do a lot of business dealings at the club during the day. The club consists of two floors. I own the building. There were vacant rooms on the second floor, one of which is my office. There are two conference rooms. Lastly, the ‘chill out’ room which has a huge LCD TV, cable, DVD player, computer, stereo, board games, the most comfortable sofa you’ve ever put your ass on, dining table and chairs, refrigerator, a cupboard full of snacks, and coloring books and markers (for my niece).
I’m looking down and tearing up a napkin into as many small pieces as I can.
I respond, “I know, right? What the hell is wrong with me?”
My brother looks at me and smirks. He says, “She got under ya skin.” He laughs and continues, “She is pretty damn cute. And that ass, mmm nice.”
I have the sudden urge to slap him across the back of the head. My brother Max is my best friend. Well, he is, and so is Asher who we nicknamed Ghost. We all grew up together, went to school together and towards the end of our high school years Ghost moved with us. This made Mom extremely happy because as she said his parents are ‘mala gente’ or ‘bad people’.
The whole town knew this.
Mom loves Ghost as her own son. She refuses to call him Ghost though, but he doesn’t mind. He calls her Mom and he loves her as much as I do, maybe even more.
Ghost would sneak out of gym class so nobody could see the bruises all over his body. I knew they were there but it was forbidden to speak of it. I brought it up with him once and he disappeared for a week. The next time I saw him I told him I wouldn’t mention it again but let him know he was my brother and I had his back. Always.
Asher and I are thirty four. Max is a year younger than us.
Ahh, the golden boy himself!
Ghost walks into the room followed by my cousin Diego who we call Trick They both take a seat.
Max starts, “Hey Casper, guess what Nik got himself?!” He’s practically giddy.
Ghost runs a hand through his blonde hair and turns his brown eyes towards me.
He guesses, “A new car?”
“Nope.” Max pops the p. He turns to Diego and tells him, “Trick you get one guess.”
Trick looks like us in every way, same facial structure and skin tone. He is a little shorter than us but is still tall. He’s the same age as me but we went to different schools. His mom and mine are sisters. The only difference between us is his eyes are hazel.
Trick asks, “A dog?”
Max starts laughing. He says, “Get this,” Shut it knucklehead. I glare at him from across the table. “He’s got a new friend. And it’s a girl!”
Both Ghost and Trick jerk their heads up wearing questioning expressions. I nod in confirmation.
They are silent for a while before Trick smirks at me and asks, “Wait, is this a friend-friend?” He wiggles his brows at me.
I laugh and respond, “No, man, just a friend. She works across the street at that chick store Safira.”
Max chuckles “She sent him candy and a note!”
Ghost, who is staring at me like I’ve lost my damn mind, bursts into fits of laughter. He says, “What are we in fourth grade?”
I glare and tell him, “She’s nice.” I say nice like it’s a bad thing.
Trick tilts his head to the side and looks over my shoulder like he’s thinking. He enquires, “I don’t think you’ve ever had a girl friend. I mean a friend who you won’t be gettin’ any nookie from, right?”
I frown and nod.
“You’ve lost your damn mind,” Ghost mutters. “You better get a file on this broad. Just in case.”
Damn it but he is right. I need to call my guy and get file a put together. This is one of those things that comes with having money. It’s not that I don’t trust people but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I work with family and I have to make sure their safety comes first. Always.
All I know about her is her name is Tina. She took my card so I guess I’ll have to wait for her to contact me.
I look to the front of the store, smile and say, “Hey Honey, how’s it going?”
Lola runs across the studio to the staff room. She’s running a few minutes late and she knows I won’t care but she always makes an effort to please.
She comes out of the staff room replying, “Not so good. Any cupcakes today?” She looks hopefully up at me.
I grimace through my response, “No, sorry hon. I’ll make a batch tomorrow.”
Her face falls a bit. I love that she doesn’t try to hide her disappointment. She says pitifully, “That’s okay.” She sounds so forlorn I can’t help but chuckle.
“Bad day?” I ask.
She logs onto the register and says, “The worst.”
I wince as I ask, “How bad sweetie?”
She wails, “Cupcake bad!”
I laugh inwardly.
Oh woe is me!
Lola is sweet but can be terribly naive. She is twenty five and a bit of a drama queen. She is short; about 5 foot nothing. Her chocolate brown hair is layered down to her shoulders and she has sweet deep brown puppy dog eyes. So when she asks for my delicious cupcakes, she gets my delicious cupcakes.
Lola starts, “So, get this. I drag my ass out of bed to do some grocery shopping this morning. I’m waiting at the checkout. It’s so early I can’t even see color yet. I look up and that bitch Nicki is my checkout girl. She smiles and says I just want you to know the whole time you were with Alex, I was bangin’ him, too.”
Oh. No. She. Didn’t.
The look on my face must have conveyed this because Lola continues, “Uh, yeah. So I say to her I hope you always used condoms like I did because I found out he’s carrying!”
I burst out laughing and ask, “Is that true?”
She chuckles and replies, “I have no idea. Her face was so pale, she looked like she was gonna be sick! Then she says, ‘He said I was the best he ever had, he said you’re like a corpse in bed’. So I reach over to my groceries, open a can of chopped tomatoes and dump em on her head!”
I’m laughing so hard I’m clutching my stomach, I can barely breathe. Lola looks at me and starts laughing just as hard. Then she stops, looks up slightly, scrunches her face and says quietly, “Yeah, I’m probably banned from there. I need to find a new place to get my groceries.”
I smile, “That’s the least of your worries! Tell me it was worth it.”
She smiles big as she responds, “Totally worth it.”
Lola used to be a little too sweet. That is until she met Mimi. Mimi fell in love with Lola the second she met her. She took our little friend under her wing and gave her a new motto.
Don’t Take Shit!
So, over the course of the last year, I’ve seen Lola blossom from a delicate flower into a durable weed!
That sounds bad, but trust me, it isn’t.
“So,” Lola says while counting stock. “Meems tell me you’ve got yourself a new friend.” She says friend like she wants to follow it with smoochy kisses.
God, Mimi, you suck.
Using my stern mom voice I utter, “Not. A. Word.”
She sounds exasperated when she replies, “Oh, Come on Teeny! You cannot tell me you don’t see what I see when you look at him.”
I sigh deeply and admit, “I do! I know he’s Mr Beautiful and, by the way, you should see his brother who is Mr Gorgeous. The guy spoke to me and I almost peed. I was so nervous and my neck did that stupid itchy red thing and he was all suave with his deep bedroom voice and…Gahh!”
Turning my back to her, I walk my way over to the staff room. I’m almost there when I hear Lola.
“Why don’t you ask him to lunch?”
Hmmm, I might just do that.
Two days later
I sit at the front counter and stare and the business card which stares right back at me. Mocking me.
Nik’s email address is on the card. I could just send him an email asking him to lunch or coffee.
So why is this so hard?
Stop being a chicken and just do it. You know you want to see him.
I log in to my email, start writing, and chicken out at the last minute. I save the email to the draft folder in case I change my mind.
My doorbell no longer sounds like a cat in heat, now it’s more like a mooing cow. Today is Wednesday and is the one day a week I’m alone in the store.
I smile and look to the door. What I see there makes my smile disappear and my heart sinks.
Miss She-Devil (from the dress return debacle) saunters over to the counter.
Oh, Dear Lord. Please give me strength.
I smile stronger this time and ask, “Good Morning, Miss. How are you today?”
She smiles back and replies “Oh, I’m great Hon. How are you today?”
I’m immediately suspicious of her because she’s smiling like the cat that got the cream.
I say, “Well, we aren’t too busy today so I guess we could be better. What can I help you with?”
She responds, “I just wanted to come over here and apologize for my rude behavior the other day. It was totally unacceptable and I’m really truly sorry.” She’s trying to look contrite but it comes off as constipated.
I’m shocked. I stutter my response, “Um, wow. I, ah, thank you. That’s really nice of you to do that.”
Then it comes.
She puts on a sad smile and sighs. “I know you understand as a woman, we like to wear nice dresses for our men. But three hundred dollars for the dress I bought was probably overkill.” She laughs a bit too cheerfully and places a hand on her cheek. “I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. My husband owns the club across the street and that dress was far too formal to wear there. He didn’t even look at it twice.”
What. The. Hell. Did she just say she was Nik’s wife?!
I take a close look at her. She can fake sweet pretty well. If she were auditioning someplace, I’d be impressed.
She is thin, a little taller than me and maybe a year or two older. Her long bleach blonde her is bordering silver. Her eyes are blue and look ice cold.
She-Devil sighs hard and musters up the sweetest voice she can and tells me, “It would be such a huge help if you would please take the dress off my hands. I made a mistake and I promise I’ll never do it again.” She sounds like a five year old. “My husband is really mad at me. I really need that money back.”
This doesn’t make sense to me.
Firstly, why would Nik care about a measly three hundred dollar dress when his shirts are silk and probably cost that much for a single shirt?
Secondly, he owns the club! The club is very popular (according to Mimi); they can’t be strapped for cash.
The confrontation flush I get is already attacking my chest and climbing up my neck.
I clear my throat and say, “I understand you have a predicament and I’m very sorry for you. Even if I take the dress from you I can’t re-sell it. If I can’t re-sell it, I can’t offer you a refund. So unfortunately, my answer is still no.” Somewhere deep within me courage blooms, “And that is my final answer.”
She-Devil’s murderous scowl reappears.
Oh, hey you! There you are! I’ve missed you.
She hisses at me, “This is BULLSHIT! You think you’re so high and mighty in your damn clothing store. Well, guess what? Your clothes look like shit. I’ve seen better shirts at Target! You think you’ve seen the last of me, think again! I’ll be back every damn day til you give in. And you will, Honey.” She looks me down at me, smirks, and says, “I suggest you lose twenty pounds if you want to look good in the clothes you sell.”
And then she’s gone.
Oh, Hell no!
Shit just got serious.
I walk into the staff room, grab my keys, lock up and I’m out the door.
“You can’t use a draw four there!”
Max has been doing this since we were kids. Making up his own rules to games which he knows won’t even help him win.
I respond, “Pretty sure I can, bud.” I place the card down and he groans.
Trick can’t control his laughter and asks, “Why do you even bother, Nik? You know you’re gonna win. He knows you’re gonna win. It’s like torture watching you two. Hilarious torture!”
Ghost watches from the sofa smirking.
Clip Clop, Clip Clop
One of my sisters must be here. I don’t get up; they know where to find me.
Clip Clop, Clip Clop
The steps come quicker and harder. I face the doorway to see Tina storm past the ‘chill out’ room obviously going towards my office.
“Tina?” I yell out. I hear her stop walking and she appears at the door.
Holy Hell, she looks pissed!
She looks beautiful, too. Wearing her hair in a messy bun at the top of her head and very little make up. Her skin is flawless. She’s wearing white ankle boots and a black and white patterned knee length dress that has three buttons down the front of the chest; it’s open a little low.
God, she’s hot.
I can see her cleavage but I don’t stare.
She notices there are other people in the room and her face softens.
She says, “I’m sorry. I’ll just go. I don’t want to interrupt your…Is that Uno?” Her face brightens.
I reply, “Uh, yeah. We were just taking a break. Are you okay?”
She walks into the room, sits next to me at the table, takes the cards out of my hands, and starts shuffling.
She sighs and tells me, “I’ll deal this round”
The guys are looking at her like she’s crazy. Ghost gets up and joins the table. Max is looking at her like she’s freakin’ hilarious.
Tina finishes dealing and looks around the table. She introduces herself, “Hi. I’m Tina. I work across the street”.
Trick smiles widely at her. Don’t do that, asshole. He keeps sneaking peeks at her cleavage. He says, “I’m Trick”
Ghost doesn’t even look at her as he utters, “I’m Ghost”.
She scrunches up her face and asks, “As in Casper the friendly Ghost?”
He nods but still doesn’t look at her.
Her face awestruck, she whispers, “That is so cool.”
I clear my throat, look at my cards and ask, “So, You looked like you were ready to kill someone when you came in. I hope that someone wasn’t me?”
She places a blue 2 down and goes back to her cards. She replies in a bored tone “No. But I think the next time I see your wife I’m going to throw a shoe at her head.”
Um, what wife?
I almost choke on my question, “Um, what?”
She sighs and says, “I’m sorry. That was rude. Next time I see your wife I’ll throw something soft at her head.”
The guys look at me, then at Tina, then back at me.
Max speaks up, “Babe, he doesn’t have a wife to throw anything at.”
Tina places her cards down at leans forward closer to me and says, “She said she was married to the owner of The White Rabbit. That’s you, right?”
I nod. Max looks at Ghost, then Trick. They are all smiling.
I know why they’re smiling.
I’m going to kill her!
Tina puts her fingertips to her temples. She whispers, “God, I’m so confused.”
Trick pulls her hands down from her temples and asks, “Was she tall, blonde, and meaner than a junkyard dog?”
Tina looks up at him and nods quickly.
Rage burns in the bottom of my gut. Sissy is a royal pain in my ass. The only reason I keep her around is because she has a mouth like a Hoover. Sissy and I are not together but she has been my regular screw for a few months. I have never kissed her on the mouth; she knows it’s one of my rules. Sissy teases me by calling me Pretty Woman but I can see it hurts her. I don’t really give a shit if it hurts her, she knew what she was getting from the first time we had sex. I never once played games with her, I told her straight out that she and I were only fuck buddies. She agreed. End of story.
Unfortunately for her, after this stunt, I have to cut her loose.
This doesn’t bother me. I’ll send her a text when Tina leaves. It was fun but it is what it is.
I look at Tina and say, “I’m sorry, Tina. If I knew she was causing you trouble I would have cut her loose sooner.”
Tina looks up at me with wide eyes and responds, “I don’t want you to break up with your girlfriend because of me!”
I roll my eyes and mutter, “She wasn’t my girlfriend, just a casual acquaintance. She was becoming a huge pain in my ass anyways. Time for her to go.”
“So,” Tina frowns and purses her lips, “what do I do if she turns up at the store? I don’t want her making a scene again. Its puts customers off from coming back.” She looks uneasy.
I get up, walk over to the fridge and take out two sodas. I sit back down and place one in front of her.
Without even a thank you she opens it and sips like she’s been playing Uno with us for years. I respond, “Leave that to me. She comes back to the store, you call me. Straight away.”
Nodding, she plays with the ring of her soda can and turns to check the time on the clock on the wall.
She jumps up and yells, “Crudsickles! I’ve been here for an hour; I’ve got to get back.” She looks around the table, smiles and says, “Nice to meet you all. Hope I see you again soon.”
She turns to me, puts her small hand on my shoulder and speaks again, “Thanks Nik. I appreciate it.”
The guys watch her leave. Well, they watch her ass sway as she leaves.
Trick smiles big, still looking to the door. He declares, “I like her!”