(Sorry I realized that I didn’t post the entire chapter and only the ending. My apologies for those who already read!!)
As I headed to my car after another successful meeting, deciding to celebrate by spending a weekend in Minneapolis, I noticed a missed call. I stumbled in my steps when I recognized Kari’s number. He hadn’t called in the year since I’d seen him in Atlanta, and he’d left a voicemail instead of a text.
I closed my car door and flopped my head back against the back of my drivers’ seat, debating whether to listen to his voicemail. I pressed the button on the ignition to warm the car and hit the number one on my cell.
Hey. It’s me.
I stopped it, blinking back unexpected tears at hearing his voice. Kari. My baby brother. I once longed to hear his voice again the grief so overwhelming at times, when we thought he had been killed in an explosion during a terrorist attack in France. Now his voice caused another type of grief. I balled my fists, warring with myself on hearing the rest of the message that inevitably would put me back in the rageful space I’d been in before Tisha called me. But I had to get over this. This was not me to be so angry and irritable. I used to enjoy life, felt particularly lucky because everything did seem to work out for me. I had been completely blindsided by my wife’s and brother’s affair, never believing it possible for them to hurt me, let alone betray me to that magnitude. I inhaled deeply, exhaling slowly as I hit the button again.
You probably still don’t want to hear from me, and I wouldn’t leave this message if I thought you would respond to my text or call me back.
He paused and I could hear him sigh.
Trying to find the best way to say it…and I guess there is no best way for you. Kam and I are getting married. There won’t be a ceremony or anything. I wanted you to hear it from me first, though I’m almost certain that Ma called you already. I told her not to…but I knew she would because she…she worries about you…I do too. I wish things were different between us. I keep hoping you will forgive me. I…miss…you. Alright. Later.
Kari was a man of few words. I had the gift of gab of the two of us and to hear his message that bordered rambling, I knew he was nervous. I don’t know how long I sat there frozen in time thinking about our shared past, and how we were physically and emotionally distant throughout most of our lives, the five-year age gap didn’t help matters. Still, he was the only one who knew what it was like to grow up with damn near perfect parents and trying to create our own identities outside of Dr. and Mrs. Youngblood. We’d grown closer as adults or so I thought, and I’d looked forward to his move to DC hoping that we could work together, maybe even become partners in my business. Ma had been right. My difficulty in moving on wasn’t about missing Kam though there were times I missed her terribly. It was about my brother and why despite the love we have for another, we’d been antagonistic toward each other for most of our lives.
My earliest memory of Bakari Youngblood is the day my mother brought my little brother home. My mother had disappeared one day and the next she walked in with a baby. My father helped her get in the bed while she cradled the baby to her chest. She smiled and beckoned me to move closer. I remember looking into the blanket and seeing his wrinkled sleeping face. I wondered how I was I supposed to play with him. He seemed too fragile. My parents seemed overjoyed to have him, I didn’t know how to feel.
“AJ this is Bakari. He’s your little brother and I want you to always look out for him. Take care of him and make sure nothing happens to him,” Ma said, believing that I even wanted the role of big brother. I’d never asked for a brother or sister and I already didn’t like sharing my mother with her job and my father. Now, I had to share her with this baby. She tapped the bed and I climbed in the bed next to her. She wrapped her arm around me. “My two babies. Never forget I love you first because you were my first baby. The four of us will have the best lives ever, I promise you.”
I remember laying my head on her chest and falling asleep thinking I would be a good big brother and I would finally have someone to play with. Except Kari never liked the same things I did. He liked playing with my toys but only to tear them apart and figure out how to put them back together even before he started kindergarten. My parents would be amazed at his abilities and never punished him for destroying my toys. They would tell me they would buy me another one, which they rarely did. I’d always been athletic and into sports, like my father who had played football in college. Although Kari had the Youngblood natural athletic build and ability and could outrun all the neighborhood children, he preferred video games and studying insects, always fascinated in what made them tick. Sometimes, he would be so caught up searching the neighborhood for the latest bug for his collection, the other kids would laugh at him. And though I would threaten them with a beat down, I would be embarrassed of him, and yell at him when no one was around to be normal and toss a football in the streets like the rest of us.
He hated when I yelled at him, I was his big brother, I was his Ron-Ron. He never called me AJ like the rest of the family, it was a nickname, he only had for me. Tears would threaten to fall, and I would yell louder that boys didn’t cry, so suck it up. He would wipe his eyes, nod, and go into his room. My words used to matter, and he would try to do things to please me like ask me to toss a football but then he would get bored and I would be frustrated. As we grew older, he stopped caring about my opinion and I no longer cared to give it to him. I realized that despite his social awkwardness the world saw him as cute and people could overlook that he was different, moody, a loner, and that he would ultimately be fine.
Kari had my mother and pretty much any female who ever met him wrapped around his finger, with his chubby cheeks and deep dimples, that he’d inherited from my mother. He didn’t even have to smile for the indentations in his cheek to show. He could do no wrong in Ma’s eyes. If he didn’t feel like doing his chores, he would say he had some big school project, or refuse to come out of his room, and she would tell me to do his chores for him. She seemed to cater to him, which bothered my father as well. I would hear their late-night arguments about how she babied Bakari too much, she would protest and say that he wasn’t like me and had trouble fitting in, that Kari needed her more than I ever did. I wanted to scream that I needed her too. So, what if Dad and I like doing the same things when he was too busy with work to hardly do them with me. Ma was busy too, but she always made time for Kari’s various academic events and rarely made any of mine because I didn’t need her approval or guidance as much as Kari. I remained silent because deep down I knew it was just an excuse. She always loved him more. Plain and simple.
And maybe that’s why she was able to forgive him for having an affair with my wife.
Starting the ignition, I changed my mind, no longer feeling celebratory, and decided to fly back home to DC.
“That was a fucked-up call,” I yelled at the screen and gulped down my beer.
Jamal, my favorite cousin, yelled at the screen too. “They must be paying those refs to cheat.”
We were at Lucky’s Sports Bar, enjoying the Wizards game. I’d called him when I returned from Minneapolis not wanting to be alone with my thoughts in my condo. We had just went into half-time and Jamal turned to me and asked, “What’s up?”
“What do you mean what’s up?”
He snickered. “Aaron, you rarely hang out with me anymore so you must want to talk.”
“I don’t like bothering you and Shay.” Shay was Jamal’s wife of four years.
“Dude, before your divorce, you didn’t care about interrupting time with my wife. Stop it…I’m here for you always. I figured you want to talk about Kari.” He looked across the bar for a moment then turned his attention back to me.
“You know your mother called mine.” Our mothers were close sisters.
“What did you hear?”
“Something that we both know would happen sooner or later. They plan to go to a Justice of the Peace, no ceremony sometime next month.”
“That’s what Kam always wanted. She never wanted a wedding. All my idea.” I took another swig of my beer, wishing I had listened to her more over the years. “It still feels like a knife in the gut.”
“I can’t imagine how you feel.” Jamal added, “Maybe it’s time you found someone else, too.”
Tisha’s beautiful brown face sprang immediately to mind and brushed the thought away. I wanted to explore sex with her again but anything more would be too weird since she and Kam still were best friends.
Jamal tapped my shoulder. “Shay wants to start setting you up. She has plenty of single friends.”
I laughed out loud. “No thanks. I love Shay but I’m good. She thinks I should marry a nice church girl.”
“Don’t knock the church girls, those be the freakiest ones. Sex you all night and repent for their sins the next morning.”
Smiling at the truth of his words I reminded him, “I can get my own women.”
Jamal tipped his beer in the direction across from us at the bar. “Like those women, especially the one in the black whose been eye fucking you since the second quarter.”
I looked up and across the bar but from my angle I couldn’t see them. “She might be checking for you.”
Jamal tapped his ever-widening stomach and shrugged. “I’m a big teddy bear, who loves his wife, sitting next to the eligible GQ smooth. Those ladies don’t even know I exist.”
“All groomed with a head full of hair that ain’t going nowhere, showing off you work out, smelling good, trying to make me want to holler.” He gestured to my designer sweater and slacks.
“You a straight fool.” Chuckling, I accused, “Hey, not my fault you choose to dress in sweats all the time.” My cousin Jamal was a giant at six-four and his thick frame and had been a college football and basketball player. Now he was a pharmacist and I’d been helping him toward owning his own pharmacy.
Jamal suddenly smiled and waved. “They’re on their way over here. Ooh, wee, they are fine as fuck.”
I snapped, “Jamal, I just told you I can get my own women.”
He snickered. “Too late. Let me live through you vicariously. You may be able to convince them to do a threesome.”
My dick stirred at the thought. I had a threesome, years ago back in college. “Fuck it. I ain’t got shit else to do.”
I swiveled around ready to greet them when I recognized one of the two ladies that approached me with a huge smile. Her skin was only a shade lighter than her long blonde and brown hair that she draped long and full over her perky breasts that she had on display in her body con black dress. “Leela?”
“Aaron, I thought that was you.” She walked right up to where I perched on the bar stool and moved in between my legs and pressed her firm breasts tight against my chest and placed a slow kiss on my cheek. Leela smelled amazing. Instead of backing away once she hugged me, she kept her arms loosely around my neck and remained inappropriately in my personal space, her pouty red lips too close to mine. She purred, “I hope you feel as good as you look. How have you been?”
“I’m…good.” I gazed into her brown eyes, wondering how in the world did I end up at the same bar as Kari’s ex-fiancée and if I would take what she was obviously offering. Kari had told me how sexually aggressive she had been when they first met. I then looked at Jamal, who now had the biggest smirk on his face. He has always been messier than a woman. He’d recognized her before he waved to her. I asked wryly, “Leela, you remember my cousin, Jamal?”
Her eyes never left mine. “I do. I saw him first and then I noticed you. Can we go somewhere and talk?”
“I guess…want to grab a table?” Her sexy friend dressed similarly but in red lingered behind her seductively leaning across the bar, and I smiled slowly. “Table for three?”