Hotter than 6°

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Jada 2

Chapter 1

Raquel

Raquel was driving home from her late afternoon chemistry lab. The sun was starting to fade into the rainy night. She coasted along the nearly empty side streets trying to avoid the evening traffic. Raquel was about twenty minutes away from home when her car began to sputter. This was the second time it broke down in under a month. She pulled over and thanked goodness that she was not on a busy road like the first time her car stalled. Raquel was unsure of what to do after calling her boyfriend several times and getting no answer. She sat in silence for a moment contemplating her next move. She reclined the driver’s seat and began to send him a text. For the hell of it she included her best friend, Lilly and his best friend, James as recipients. Someone was bound to see her smoke signal.

The sun set as Raquel waited for a reply. She reclined her seat as the humid weather took a turn to light rain. The drumming of the rain against her car began to lull her to sleep. As the rest of Raquel’s body started to relax, there was a tap on her window. It was James, her boyfriend’s best friend, that came to her rescue.

She rolled her window down as she laughed and said, “James, always my hero. I don’t know what’s wrong with my car this time but I’m sure you can figure it out.” Raquel let go of a weak smile and popped the hood.

“So where is Marcus?  Did he call you?” Raquel yelled through the cracked window.

“You know I don’t know anything about cars, right?” James said in response. Raquel’s question went unanswered. “I really don’t know what else to do for you besides try to jump the battery. Worst case scenario you’ll have to leave the car here and we’ll have it towed to my uncle’s shop.”

James worked at his uncle’s auto repair shop but was still learning the ins and outs of the trade. He mostly focused on the daily operations. Raquel started to grow frustrated and restless while they tried to jump start her car. While the car was a pressing issue at the moment, Marcus weighed heavily on her mind. After several failed attempts at getting her car started, she hopped into James’ car and off they went.

They spent the first ten minutes of the ride barely speaking. It seemed as if an eternity of silence passed before Raquel decided to repeat her question. This time Raquel was certain that James was ignoring her question because he awkwardly shifted her attention to the song on the radio. Rather than giving him any response about the song, Raquel decided to try another approach.

“I’m hungry, James. Let’s go eat.” Maybe she could pick his brain over a meal.

James

As they pulled into the parking space in front of the restaurant, the rain started to slow down while James’ heart beat increased. He hated lying to Raquel to cover for Marcus. It’s not like he is particularly interested in her as more than a friend, but he knows a great catch when he sees one. In his eyes, Raquel is perfect. She stands at about five feet and ten inches tall with gorgeous almond shaped eyes and chestnut colored skin. In addition to being attractive, Raquel was also brilliant; she graduated with her first degree in biochemistry at the end of the last semester and is now working on her masters. To complete the package, she’s funny, understanding, and loves sports. Raquel instantly became one of the guys when Marcus started bringing her around three years ago.

In truth, James had no idea where Marcus could be. Lately, when he was not working and not with Raquel, he was with the other girl he started dating a year ago. When Marcus first met this new girl he told James that he still loved Raquel but he wanted something new for a while. His reasoning was that his new friend was like having a chicken dinner instead of the steak he had grown used to. James’ only relief was that Marcus had not introduced this new girl to him or the rest of their friends.

He brushed off his thinking and reached to the backseat for his umbrella. Before he could get out of the car and to the passenger side to open the door for Raquel, she was sprinting to the entrance of the restaurant.

“Took you long enough,” Raquel joked as she turned her attention to the hostess. “Booth for two, please,” she requested. As they followed the hostess to the table, James stopped walking and looked at Raquel like he saw a ghost.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing. Nothing at all. I just remembered the friendly bet I have with my uncle about tonight’s football game. I think we should sit at the bar,” his words seemed forced and almost uncertain. His sad, honey brown eyes deceived his full smiling lips. Raquel brushed it off and agreed to sit at the bar.

“James?”

“What’s up?” he replied as he skimmed over the menu.

“You tell me,” Raquel half demanded with a cracked voice.

James put his menu down but didn’t reply right away; they simply stared at one another intently. His thoughts raced for answers through the silence. There was no answer to be found.

James finally broke the silence, “What do you mean?”

“I mean what’s up with Marcus? Why do you keep ignoring my questions about him?”

“What questions? Raq, you haven’t asked me about him since I picked you up. If you had, I would have told you that I haven’t heard from him since yesterday,” James replied coolly.  He was nervous and wanted to stop Raquel in her tracks.

“Come on, Jay. I know you know something. Why’d you come get me instead of him? Why is it always you?”

“What do you mean; why am I a good friend? Like what are you asking me?” James continued to remain calm. He wanted to plead his case without revealing what his friend has been up to. James also wanted to tell Raquel that he had nothing to do with the foul moves his friend was making but there was no way James was going to see Marcus go out like that.

“Look, Marcus is my boy and you’re the woman in his life. When you sent me a text, I assumed it was because you couldn’t reach Marc and so I came to get you. What’s the question in that?” James was starting to ramble.

“Okay, stop. You can stop,” Raquel signaled for the bartender. “Can I have a rum and coke please? Top shelf. Okay, thanks.”

James turned his attention to the bartender and ordered a Hennessy highball, wings, and a starter appetizer.  Once the bartender walked away, Raquel told James she would stop prying and that she understood that she should talk to Marcus directly.

The tension subsided as early evening faded into the night. The pair were able to laugh and talk with ease. Raquel continued to drink but James stopped after his second highball. James called the bartender for the bill then excused himself to go to the restroom. During his absence, it occurred to Raquel that hours had passed and she still had not received any word from Marcus. She was drinking the entire night and had been far beyond her limit. While James was gone, his phone vibrates the bar. Raquel ads bitten by curiosity and was compelled to take a look.

Marcus: Thanks, man. IOU – twice. Lol

Raquel casts a worried look over her shoulder to see if James is nearby. There was no sign of him approaching so she continued to go through his phone. There is nothing in the in the inbox. Disappointed, she puts the phone back in its place and gulps the rest of her drink.

“So you ready to go?” James asked as he approached their seat. “I’ve gotta head home. It’s gloating time and my uncle has to pay up,” his gorgeous smile lit up the bar. James’ uncle was much like a father to him. His parents passed away when he was a young boy and his uncle stepped in to raise him as his own son.

“Mmhm! Dinner on you? I mean, me being the struggling college student and all you can’t possibly expect me to afford all of this,” Raquel joked. While she did not grow up wealthy, it was no secret that her older brother was now a famous basketball player. He made sure that she and the rest of their family never wanted for anything.

As Raquel stood up, she and James were practically nose to nose. James laughed nervously as he backed away. Raquel was only an inch shorter than James and probably slightly heavier than him as well.

“Let’s get you home,” he sighed. Knowing that he really shouldn’t ask, he goes against his better judgment and asked anyway, “Did you call Marcus yet?”

Raquel scoffed and headed towards the car, “No, but he said ‘thank you.”

James looks perplexed for a moment then reached for his phone. He flipped through it silently as he realized Raquel went through his phone. James followed her to his car and opened the passenger door, “Why would you go through my phone, Raquel?”

“I did no such thing. It was there and so was I. In my defense, I didn’t know it was there until it made noise,” she paused, “I was only looking out for you! What if the message were important?” Raquel pouted as her soft fingers caressed his face.

Almost furious, he brushed Raquel’s hand from his face, “Don’t do that again.” He could only be upset with himself; his carelessness could’ve blown Marcus’ cover. If Marcus thought that James spilled the beans to Raquel, he would never forgive him. Likewise if Raquel found out he was covering for Marcus, he could lose the great friend he discovered in her.

Raquel laughed and slurred, “Being drunk doesn’t make you stupid, you know that don’t you?” She was inebriated but well aware that something was not right. “You ignored me earlier when I asked you where Marcus was. Why is that?” she quizzed.

“Again, I didn’t hear you ask me about Marcus, and I’m his best friend not his guardian so I wouldn’t know where he’s been all day,” James fumed. Another lie. Lie after lie he has told to assist in building Marcus’ smoke screen.

“I sent him a text telling him that I was with you and to call me when he can. That’s why he’s thanking me,” he continued. “I’m serious Raquel; don’t go through my phone again. I would never do that to you.”

“You’re right and I apologize. I feel kind of ridiculous, I didn’t know you sent him a message,” Raquel answered. She stared out the window while playing with an imaginary object in her hand. “You passed my house, gotta make a u-turn.” As they rolled around the block, Marcus pulled into her driveway. Her best friend and now roommate, Lilly was already home.

James and Raquel got out of the car as Marcus got out of his. When they met in the middle of the driveway, they shared in an awkward silence.

Marcus              

“Sup man?” Marcus and James tap fists then Marcus turns to give Raquel a hug and kiss. “Hey baby,” he kisses her forehead.

“Hello, My Love,” Raquel replied as she smiled. “Where have you been all day?”

Marcus ignored Raquel’s question and directed his attention to James, “Yo, is she drunk?”

“I prefer ‘slightly inebriated’ but in answer to your question yes. Sort of,” Raquel interrupted.

James and Marcus laughed and escorted Raquel into the house. James kissed Raquel on the cheek and excused himself for the night. As he walked to the door he motioned for Marcus to follow him.

“Look, I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to keep lying for you,” James hissed.

Marcus stood quiet for a second, as his brow furrowed he replied, “What are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about, man. I saw you at the restaurant today when I was out with Raquel!”

“Okay, okay. Lower your voice, I saw you too. You didn’t get my text? What do you want me to say?”

“Yea, we both got your text. Raquel went in my phone and again I cleared up your mess.”

Marcus was silent. He turned to face the house; through the window he could see Raquel’s best friend and roommate Lilly walking towards the couch where Raquel was laying. “I’ll try to keep you out of it, but I’m gonna head in the house. We good, right?”

James huffed a little and shifted his feet, “We grew up together, so you already know the answer to that.” Before they parted ways Marcus held his hand out. “I said we good,” James ignored his hand and headed to his car.

Marcus blew off his friend’s anger and headed back to the house to tend to his girlfriend. Raquel was asleep before he got into the door. He sat down next to her and rubbed her back.

“Lilly, should I let Raquel stay here or should I bring her to her room? In all the years we’ve been together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her drunk like this before.”

In response, Lilly tosses a blanket over her sleeping friend, “She’ll be alright, I’ve seen her worse. Don’t you remember the night we all met?” Lilly asked with a smile.

“How could I forget? It was your first year in college. Raqi was wearing this hot pink skin tight dress. Wasn’t that your dress?”

Lilly scoffed, “Yea, it was mine. Raquel don’t even like pink. She wanted to wear something afro-centric.”

They shared a laugh. Neither of them cared to admit what else came to mind when they replayed the nights from when they first met. Before Marcus chose to get serious with Raquel, the three of them were in a poly-amorous relationship. Sometimes he caught himself remembering the sex they would have. It started off as a game for him; a form of excitement. The girls became his little secret and he was theirs.

*****

“Come on, you not gonna kiss her?” the tall and handsome sophomore coaxed the two girls.

“We don’t get down like that,” the beautiful mahogany girl replied. Her brows were furrowed and her almond shaped eyes were squinted.

 

“Yes, we do,” the lighter toned girl replied. She was far more mischievous and willing than her partner in crime.

 

“Lilly, don’t do that. We don’t even know this guy.”

 

“Come on, Raquel,” Lilly pulled Raquel by the back of her neck and began feverishly kissing her for the handsome stranger.

 

Initially, Raquel resisted and then her shoulders released the tension and her hands draped around the small of her shorter companion’s back.

 

The trio spent that entire semester together. The polyamorous lifestyle was cool for a while but the girls started getting selfish. They each wanted their new toy for themselves.

“Marcus, I want you to choose,” Lilly said. Her gorgeous, pale green eyes pierced into Marcus as they cuddled while Raquel was in class.

“Lil, I can’t do that. I like you both,” he replied. “Raquel was never down for this and she’s staying because she loves me. You don’t love me,” he replied. “You love the idea of me and my money.”

“That’s not true,” she said thoughtfully as she interlocked their fingers. 

*******

“So how have you been?” Marcus asked as he pushed his memories away.

“Alright, I suppose. You?”

“Eh, I can’t complain. Thanks to Raquel I now have a place to stay and she even got me a job at her school. Things are picking up,” Lilly replied.

Lilly

Marcus nodded in response and headed towards Raquel’s bedroom. “I am happy for you,” he said. He stood around six feet and four inches tall and weighed two twenty with dark cocoa skin; he shadowed Lilly’s small frame.

Lilly still thought that Marcus is one of the sexiest men she had ever met. He had beautiful stark white teeth and full beautiful lips. Raquel and Marcus made the perfect couple; equally attractive and brilliant. Marcus received his Masters degree in biochemistry and worked as a toxicologist for the FDA.

Lilly had to admit that but she still felt somewhat jilted from his decision to be with Raquel. She could recall their last argument vividly.

“Marcus, you’re really going to leave me? You for real right now?” Lilly was distraught.

“Lilliana, I’m sorry,” Marcus awkwardly apologized. He did not know what to do or how to respond to Lilly’s hysterics. 

“What did Raquel say; did she ask you to do this?” Lilly had only questions. She could not understand why Marcus decided to leave her after she had just told him how much she loved him. She felt so betrayed.

“She doesn’t know, Lilly. I wanted to tell you first. Did you think this was going to go on forever? I care about you but you’re not the kind of girl that I can bring home to my mother.” Marcus didn’t flinch as he delivered the verbal blow. The reality was that Lilly was fun to be around but Raquel was sensible and easy to mold. He needed a suitable wife. 

Lilly sat down on the edge of the bed and buried her face in her hands. Marcus sat down next to Lilly and embraced her. Her mind was in a million different directions as she bawled in his arms. She could not be around when Marcus asked Raquel to enter a monogamous relationship.

************

Lilly follows Marcus towards the bedrooms, “Well, good night.”

“Night.”

**** **** **** ****

The next morning Raquel woke up to smells of breakfast coming from the kitchen. Slightly hung over she ignored the smell and went to the bathroom. The hot water from the shower stung her body and releases the tension in her forehead and temples. The smell of biscuits and bacon began to permeate the bathroom as her shower comes to an end.

Raquel stared at the mirror at the dark rings around her eyes and frowned. She struggled to remember how she ended up sleeping on her couch instead of in her bedroom.  She dismissed her thoughts and recounted the events from last night. Raquel ran her fingers through her tight, wet curls and pulled her hair into a pony tail.

“Good morning, guys,” Raquel entered the kitchen and kissed Lilly on the cheek then walked towards the stove to share in a passionate kiss with Marcus. “Sorry I fell asleep on you, baby.”

“It’s alright, love,” Marcus responded. “We made you breakfast. Well, Lilly did most of the work.” The friends shared a laugh.

Being Brazilian and Jamaican, Lilly could really tear up the kitchen. This morning she made fuba cake, bacon, and small minas sandwiches on French bread. Together they sat and talked over breakfast. This was the first time the threesome sat together since Lilly moved in. It was not at all the way she imagined it would be. She also wondered if Raquel even knew how her monogamous relationship came to pass.

“Alright, I have to get ready for work,” Lilly sighed. “I’m so full.” She leaned back in her chair, and began to rub her slightly bulging tummy.

Raquel hummed in delight, “Oh my goodness, breakfast was amazing. Thank you so much, Lilly.”  Marcus and Raquel begin to clear the table while Lilly disappears to her room to get herself together for work.

“Where were you yesterday?” Raquel asked. “I needed you, and I didn’t hear from you all day but you sent James a message. What’s up with that?”

Marcus laughed nervously, “I had some things to do. I knew that I would see you later so when James told me he was going to pick you up, I didn’t think I would have to contact you,” his lie spilled from that beautiful mouth.

“If you say so,” Raquel shrugged and headed to her room with Marcus close behind. “What’s up with you lately? I feel like you’re just blowing me off.”

Before he could close the door, Raquel pushed him against it. They slowly started to kiss and undress one another. She continued to fuss at him between their kisses. Marcus lifted Raquel off of her feet and she wrapped her legs around his thick waist. Together they fell on the bed, arms and legs tangled; their fingers are intertwined. Raquel used her hips to wind and tease the tip of his thick and long dick. Marcus joins the game of cat and mouse by rubbing his fat head at the slobbering mouth of her hungry cat while he bites on her nipples. She bites on his shoulder in an effort to muffle her moans of anticipation.

Lilly could hear the passion mounting in her friend’s room. She sized herself up in the mirror, rubbing up and down her slight curves. Her fingers traced her B cups and down her flat tummy. Lilly then turned her back to the mirror and peered over her shoulder to look at her small heart shaped ass. Lilly was a petite young woman, she was only around five feet tall but she was still curvy. Her skin was almost the same tone as a toasted peanut and her hair was neatly twisted in long and naturally gold locks.

“32-22-38,” Lilly whispered, “and still single but maybe not for long.” She rolled her eyes and continued to dress. The sounds of pleasure started to increase. “I gotta get out of here.” Quickly she finished dressing and headed out the door.

**** **** **** ****

Lilly sat at work in a daze. Thoughts of a night of passion raced through her mind as she stared at the never ending figures and dates on her computer screen.

“What’s the matter?” Howard, Lilly’s coworker, asked. “You seem listless lately. Wanna talk about it?” Howard has been trying to get close to Lilly since she started working with him.

“Oh, I’m fine. Just tired from the move, you know?” Lilly replied. She couldn’t help but roll her eyes; Howard is so pressed. Lilly began to type feverishly in the hopes that he would leave her work space. As if on cue, he nods and disappears into his cubicle. A few moments later, Lilly’s phone rings.

“Hey girl!” It was Raquel. “You almost ready for lunch?”

“No,” Lilly whined, “I actually forgot about our lunch date, Raquel! I’m sorry, girl; I have a lunch date with an old friend I ran into when I moved up here.”

“Ah, yes. I remember you mentioning that ran into a few folks last week. Is this going to be your first date?”

“Yea, sort of. We’ve seen each other in passing a few times already but this is the first time he has asked me to sit down and actually get comfortable,” Lilly responded awkwardly. “I don’t want to talk about him much though. At least until I know he is serious,” she continued.

“Ok, well can I at least know his name?” Raquel prodded.

Lilly laughed then responded, “Of course you can. His name is — just kidding. I don’t want to jinx it! Now let me finish up so I can meet him for lunch,” she playfully ended the conversation.

Lilly had started to grow slightly tired of Raquel as well. It had only been a few weeks and living with her had become a huge adjustment. They spent a lot of time together and Lilly needed to breathe. She decided to push those thoughts aside for a moment and think of her friend for a while. Lilly shut down her computer and walked towards the bathroom. Her silk stockings turned her on as the rubbed together with each step. When she got to the bathroom, she slipped into the handicap stall and pulled her panties down over her thigh high stockings. Then Lilly dipped her middle finger into her pussy to see how wet she was. She folded her panties and placed them neatly in her purse and was off to her lunch date.

***** ****

It had been thirty minutes into lunch when Lilly began to second guess her decision to date her new friend. His phone was buzzing nonstop since they sat down. It wasn’t until about an hour into lunch that he decided to turn it off completely.

Lilly gently stroked his hand over the table and bit her bottom lip. “Last night was great. It’s too bad we couldn’t share this morning as well,” she whispered. He smirked in response. There was an awkward silence thereafter. It started to seem like they didn’t have much to discuss but Lilly was determined to change that.

The food came and Lilly attempted to strike up a conversation about her culinary prowess. He was intrigued and bantered about his own. That led into a conversation about competition and then, of course, sex. She checked the time and realized just how much had gotten away from her. She didn’t mind though. He was made of money and if she played her cards right, he would soon be her boyfriend.

Howard, I had an emergency. I can’t make it back today; cover for me, please. -Lilly

As Lilly sent off her text message to Howard, she saw a message from Raquel but decided to read it later. “You want to walk me to my car?” Lilly asked him. He kindly obliged. As they neared her car, he stopped Lilly in her tracks for a deep kiss. His hand palmed her behind and pulled her in closer.

“No panties?” he asked with a sly and knowing grin. Lilly shook her head and slowly walked backwards to her car. He slipped his finger into her skirt’s waistband and walked her pace. He pressed her against the car and lifted one of her legs. She could feel his thickness through his pants rubbing on her clit.

Lilly’s body oozed in response to his advances and her nails dug into his shoulders. She lifted her skirt around her waist and he proceeded to slide into her warm pussy. She moaned quietly as her heart pounded with lust and excitement. It was around three o’clock in the afternoon and anyone could walk past at any moment but neither of them cared.

Lilly let her body relax and he took slow thrusts in and out. She could feel his dick throbbing inside of her as he approached a moment of climax so she clinched her thighs around his waist and pushed her pelvis forward so that they could climax together. His pelvis crushed Lilly’s clit with ever pump. The phone buzzed again.

“Damn, I thought you turned your phone off!” Lilly was thoroughly annoyed. She was almost to the point of climax when they were interrupted. Lilly dropped her legs. “I mean really, what are we doing here?”

“You know how it is, baby.”

“I thought we were going to get serious? What’s up?”

“I need time, that’s all,” he was getting tired of Lilly. He scoffed and zipped his pants. “I’ll see you tonight, alright?”

“That’s not an answer, babe,” Lilly grabbed his shoulders to maintain eye contact but his eyes darted around her head. He quickly pecked her lips and headed to his car.

“I’ll call you, baby.” he called over his shoulder before he turned around to smile at Lilly and she couldn’t help but smile back.

*******

Raquel

“Hey, love, I’ve been trying to reach you since you left this afternoon. Call me when you can. Love you,” Raquel was leaving yet another message for Marcus. She hadn’t been able to reach him since he left for work after make up sex.

She ran her fingers over her face and rested her head on her table. Something was off with Marcus lately and she could not put her finger on what was going on.

Lilly walked in and dropped her keys on the table, waking Raquel from her daze.

“Hey,” Lilly said dryly.

“Hey,” Raquel replied, offering a weak smile.

“Did you find anything to do?” Lilly quizzed.

“Nope. I couldn’t reach Marcus for some reason so I got kinda bored. I need to get back into my studies,” she said with a chuckle. “That’s what I really need to focus on.”

“Maybe he had to work late?” Lilly suggested.

“I don’t think so. He’s been acting a little strange lately. I think he’s cheating again.”

“Girl, you are crazy. You know that man loves you! He promised he wouldn’t do it again; and I believe him this time. Didn’t you mention a friend of his that told you how Marcus had been so miserable without you?”

“Yea, maybe I’m tripping. Anyway, how was your date?” Raquel replied, quickly changing the subject,

“It was a little bumpy at first. His ex-girl kept calling him while we were eating but she eventually stopped.”

“Oh wow. At least he didn’t pick up. What could she have wanted?”

“She still has some of his stuff from when he lived with her,” Lilly told her friend.

“Oh ok.”

“So anyway, after she stopped calling, we were okay. And,” Lilly paused, “before we left, we had sex in the parking lot!” she practically burst with excitement.

“You did what?! In your car?” Raquel asked.

“No, outside of it! It was so thrilling. And you know what, I think your timid self should try to spice it up with Marcus if you think he’s drifting again,” Lilly mused.

“You weren’t present for our AM performance?” Raquel retorted, shook her head, and narrowed her eyes. “What I need to do, is regain focus on my studies. I think everything will start to fall into place then. What are you doing tonight?”

“I’m supposed to meet with my friend again tonight,” Lilly said with a smile.

“You sure you don’t want me to meet him yet? Marcus is taking me to the movies tonight. I would love for you two to join us,” Raquel offered.

“Not tonight but soon,” and with that Lilly disappeared into her room. Raquel sat quietly and played with her fingers while she stared at her phone. After several minutes of silence and empty thoughts, she got up to retrieve her books from her room. When she came back to the table she saw that she had two messages from both Marcus and James.

James: We can pick up your car tomorrow.

Marcus: Hey baby. Busy day today. Be ready by 9. Ily

Raquel sighed with relief and decided to study for a couple of hours before she started to get ready. Two hours into studying and it was getting boring. Her flash cards were done and she had reviewed them twice. Lilly had since left for her date with Mystery Man so Raquel decided she should start getting ready. She allowed the bathroom to get extra steamy before she stepped into the shower. While she showered she contemplated possible outfits.

By eight thirty, Raquel had her jet black curly hair pulled back with a banana clip and left few curls lingering in her round face. Then she put on the giant hoop earrings Marcus bought her their first Valentine’s Day together.  Raquel slipped into her orange lace bra and panties set. The color bounced nicely off her chestnut skin.

Ordinarily, Raquel would ask Lilly to choose between the two outfits laid out on her bed but she was off with Fifteen minutes into crunch time and she could hear Marcus walking into the house. Raquel settled on the dark green, ankle length sun dress with a deep orange belt, and matching wedges.

Marcus hummed loudly when he saw Raquel step out from her room. Raquel jumped with both surprise and excitement. She did not hear him walk in. “Let’s go, Miss Delicious,” he said as he approached for a passionate kiss. “You look great! Maybe we should skip the movie,” he joked as he squeezed her round behind.

“I have an idea,” Raquel replied as she pushed him away. “There’s some place I wanted to try in the city. It’s a speakeasy. You down?”

He smiled and took her hand, “Let’s go.”

Chapter 2

“We’re a little dressed up for a hot dog place, no?” Marcus cracked.

Raquel giggled and swung open the door. “Just follow me.” She headed towards a phone booth in the corner of the small restaurant.

“Um ok,” Marcus paused at the door of the phone booth. “Are we superman now?” Raquel ignored his skepticism and pushed the back of the booth open and a stairwell was revealed.

“It’s a speakeasy, silly,” she said with a sneaky smile. Marcus turned around to survey the store behind them. True indeed, the place he saw was a one for selling hot dogs. There was a couple standing at the counter ordering chili dogs and coke floats. He turned back to face Raquel and met her glare.

“Ok ok,” he hesitantly followed her up the dimly lit stairwell. At the top of the stairs they were met with another door and sounds of muffled music. Raquel opened the door and there were plush couches and chairs well placed under romantic lights. In the opposite corner there was a dance floor, a small stage, and a microphone.

“Thanks for taking me out tonight, babe,” Raquel said. She could not stop grinning as she turned to him and leaned in for a kiss.

Marcus led her to a small table near the stage. He only smiled in return. After they sat for a few minutes, Marcus excused himself to get drinks from the bar.

Marcus

Marcus enjoyed the idea of going to a speakeasy, he thought it was a dope and that Raquel did a great job picking out the bar. He wondered how many of these were in the city and even considered bringing his new friend to this hidden treasure.

“Hey, funny seeing you here. Are you here alone?” Marcus turned away from the bar toward the familiar voice.

“What – what are you doing here?” Marcus hissed and grabbed his friend by the arm. “Did you follow me? I told you tonight I would be with Raquel. She can’t see us here.”

His friend gently stroked his collar, leaned in close, and nibbled on his ear. From the corner of his eye, he could see Raquel picking around in her purse. Even with Raquel being nearby, he felt a tingle in his manhood. He knew that his new found friend was disrespectful but damn.

As his friend stroked his ego slowly through his trousers, Marcus whispered, “Not here, not now. Just meet me in the bathroom if you want to talk but you can’t stay and if you do stay, you cannot speak to my girl.” There was only a nod in response. With that, his friend disappeared into the bathroom. Marcus walked back to his awaiting beauty. There was an awkward silence as he played with his drink.

“Are you alright?” Raquel asked.

“Yea, I’m alright. I feel like dancing. You want to hit the dance floor when I get back from taking a leak?” Marcus responded with an intentional crass demeanor.

Raquel gently laughed him off and told him that she would wait eagerly for his return.

**** **** ****

Marcus rushed to the bathroom to meet his friend. When he cracked the bathroom door to see if his friend was inside, he was grabbed by the collar and pushed against the sink. They made out for several minutes but it still didn’t seem long enough. Marcus was bad at controlling his impulses and before he could stop himself, his dick was out and in his friend’s mouth.

“You should have never come here,” he said as he forcefully gagged his subordinate. “And since you did, why didn’t you bring a friend here with you?” he continued as he pushed his penis so far back and held it. Marcus did circles with his penis while it was hitting the back of his friend’s throat. “Come on and take it, bitch,” he continued with the mouth fucking and perhaps it was for too long. There was a knock at the door.

“Marcus, are you in there?” It was Raquel. For a moment Marcus couldn’t stop his pleasure long enough to answer. He just kept on going and didn’t reply. Raquel shook the door knob, “Babe?”

“Yea,” he responded, “I’m almost done,” Marcus said through gritted teeth. His chicken dinner seized the opportunity and mounted him on the sink, moving slow and steady with even strokes. Marcus was close to climax and his body started to writhe in an effort to keep his cool. He grabbed on tight and made one final thrust and held it in while he ejaculated.

He almost felt bad as he pushed his friend’s head down to clean off his dick. He groaned a little bit before he called out to Raquel to see if she was still outside the door. She was still there and her concerned tone had begun to sound more annoyed.

“Babe, what’s going on? You’ve been in there a while,” Raquel said. She kept tugging at the door. “Are you going to let me in or what?”

“Chill out, baby. Don’t make a scene. I’m using the damn bathroom,” he responded. Marcus knew he was wrong but his new friend felt so good. Now it’s crunch time and he’s stuck in the bathroom with a grinning side piece. Sidepiece tried to give him a kiss and he replied with a palm to the face.

Marcus turned to face the mirror and ran some cool water to splash his face and genitals. “Baby, please go get me some seltzer and lemon; I’m coming out now. I’m not feeling too well.” There was silence from the other side of the door as he rinsed his face and then wiped his dick. He found himself slowly jerking off as he wiped it clean.

“Okay,” Raquel replied.

“Okay,” Sidepiece Susie mocked.

“What?” Raquel thought she heard a woman’s voice.

“What?” responded Marcus while glaring at his toy. Something about what he was doing was such a turn on that even in the worst case he couldn’t help but lust after the lips causing him so much trouble. He pushed down his side piece’s head and slid his dick into those succulent lips. His eyes rolled with pleasure. “Babe,” he groaned, “I’m really not feeling well. Can you get the seltzer for me? I’ll meet you at the table.”

“Okay, baby. Do you want to just head home?”

“No. I just need a few minutes,” he stalled.

When the coast was clear, his friend stood up and said, “She’s suck a punk. I would have gotten into this bathroom if you were my man.”

“Shut up and remember your place,” Marcus quietly reminded. “You know what this is and you should not even be here. Raquel is going to be my wife.”

“That’s why you in here fucking me, right?”

“Nah, I’m fucking you cuz you let me. That mouth and them walls are super tight and always ready for me. Shit, I might give you play for longer than I planned,”  Marcus replied as he adjusted his collar and smugly stared at his friend through the mirror.

“You’re a piece of shit. How you gonna play me like that?”

“This little fling was your idea, remember that. I wouldn’t have touched you if you hadn’t been so convincing,” Marcus answered.

“I’m out of here.”

“Thanks,” Marcus said. “And don’t let Raquel see you leaving.” Marcus returned to his table to find Raquel texting. She still appeared annoyed.

“I think we should go home,” Raquel half demanded.

“Nah, let’s just sit and enjoy ourselves,” Marcus disregarded Raquel’s demeanor. He knew that she would loosen up in a few. He cast a worried look around the room and to his benefit, his little friend was nowhere in sight. He sipped his seltzer and bantered over the sultry woman singing from the stage. Eventually, Raquel relaxed and joined in. She was having a great time and was glad they stayed.

They danced and laughed for hours until Raquel abruptly stopped dancing and raced across the dance floor.

Lilly

“Lilly! Ayvri! What are you guys doing here?” Raquel embraced her friends tightly. Marcus remained across the room somewhat perplexed. “Lilly, I thought you were going to be with your mystery man tonight, what’s up?” Raquel asked.

“Girl, he can’t hang,” Lilly replied. The ladies shared a laugh while Raquel eyed Ayvri. She hadn’t seen Ayvri since they all graduated high school. It looked like Ayvri started to fill out with curves and all.

“Long time no see, Ayvri. Looking good,” Raquel turned all of her attention to her old friend. They hugged once more. “That is my boyfriend, Marcus.” Raquel motioned for Marcus to join her and her friends across the room.

Lilly watched Marcus seductively as he sauntered across the room. She observed him shift his feet as he stood before them and could tell that there was something amiss. Perhaps it was the semester and a half they spent in a relationship that clued her in but she ignored it. Lilly used her tongue to play with her straw and disappeared into her own world. She wondered if she could get Raquel to share a little tonight. It’s not as if they haven’t shared this man before. As she twisted the straw around in her mouth she pictured Marcus’ chocolate frame in the nude.

“To God be the glory,” Lilly whispered. The group of friends began to laugh.

“What are you talking about?” Ayvri laughed.

“Oh, nothing,” Lilly returned from space and joined in the idle chat. In the midst of all the conversation, Lilly noticed that Marcus was being a little short. She had a pretty good idea why that may have been but she continued to dismiss her thoughts and jumped on the dance floor.

For the rest of the night Lilly danced with Ayvri and Raquel danced with Marcus. Last call quickly approached so the group stumbled down the narrow stairwell and hailed a cab.

The wind whipped through Lilly’s locks as she leaned against Ayvri. They were so close that had Lilly not been so short, their noses would be touching. The thunder cracked in the distance and the lightening illuminated the street and closed the space between the unlikely pair. Ayvri gripped Lilly’s hips and leaned in for a kiss while Marcus and Raquel looked on in disbelief.

“So, when did all of this happen?” Raquel inquired.

“All of what?” Lilly said coyly.

“This,” Raquel repeated as her hands framed their bodies.

“Oh, me and Ayvri? We ran into one another about a month ago. Given how things went down a few years ago, I thought you guys should ease yourselves into renewing your friendship. Which is why I didn’t tell you.”

Raquel scoffed, “No, it’s been too long since we all hung out with one another. I’m hoping that by now, we’re over that whole messy situation. After all, Lilly and I were able to move on.” Lilly, Raquel, and Ayvri had been best friends since eighth grade. When Marcus and Raquel decided to move on to a monogamous relationship, Ayvri took Lilly’s side. It was a big blow up on all sides. “Anyway, we can have a heart to heart another time. I’m hoping that by now, we have all moved on,” Raquel offered a weak smile.

*********

They were finally able to hail a cab. Marcus motioned towards Lilly and Ayvri to hop in the cab.

“It’s okay you two,” Lilly said. “I think we are going to stay in the city for the night,” she continued. She giggled and fell into Ayvri’s arms as Ayvri removed the loose twists blowing in Lilly’s face and held her close. They swayed in unison while the thunder boomed and the wind hissed. Even with the tempest closing in, Lilly never felt so at ease.

The next cab arrived and together Lilly and Ayvri headed to the other side of Manhattan. The city was still bustling all around them and Lilly was feeling triumphant; like she could conquer anything. She leaned in and sensually kissed Ayvri’s neck. She then directed the cab driver to 7th Ave and 17th St.

 Marcus

Marcus and Raquel cuddled in the backseat of the cab as the wind whipped into the open windows and the cab disappeared in the direction of the moon light. The feeling of the air blowing around Raquel’s bare shoulders caused her to move closer to Marcus. He linked his hands into hers and took in a deep breath; if he didn’t feel it before, he felt so much now that Raquel is the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. He recounted the events of the evening and understood now more than ever that he was making a grave mistake.

The couple had overcome a lot of grief and he continued to violate Raquel’s trust. He would not do it anymore.

They got out of the cab in the middle of the square and headed to the parking garage. Marcus grabbed Raquel close and together they weaved in and out of the busy crowd.  The lower level of the garage was cool and soothing to Marcus’ numb face. He opened the passenger door for Raquel and meandered to the driver’s side.  A text message flashed on his phone that read “Meet me in two hours.”  He scoffed and clicked off his phone.

They rode back to Raquel’s house mostly in silence with the occasional look of adoration given between the two. Marcus had a lot on his mind on the ride home. His romp in the restroom with his friend would be the last. He glanced over at a dozing Raquel and knew for sure he would have to resist any further advances.

Marcus pulled into Raquel’s driveway and felt relief that Lilly and Ayvri decided to stay in the city. The storm had begun to kick up and there was a thick mist beating on the car. It gave Marcus an overwhelming feeling. He wanted to whisk Raquel away into an unforgettable moment of romance. Just as he got out of his car, the heavy mist became a deluge. Marcus ran to Raquel’s side of the car and snatched her from the passenger’s side. Raquel was startled but amused and began to erupt with laughter when he tossed her over his shoulder and ran to the front door.

Marcus was captivated by Raquel’s appearance as he set her on her feet on the doorstep. Her loose fitting dress was soaked and clinging to her curves; the rain water dripped down her smooth chocolate cheek bones and stretched her curly hair to her shoulders. Finally, he got the apartment door open. Once inside, they slowly began to undress each other and headed to the shower.

James

James had not spoken to Marcus since the night he dropped Raquel off at her house. He kept checking his phone and the only message he had received was from Raquel asking about her car. Three days have passed and the only person he has communicated with was his uncle. All of his other friends were immersed in work or school; and Marcus, his closest friend, was busy trying to keep his story straight. James was alone and decided that it is time to make a change as well as new connections.

James still resides in the same urban area of town that he grew up in. Marcus on the other hand, came from a polished family and was the star of the town. Essentially, James was a ‘have not’ and Marcus was a ‘have everything.’ They were both sports all stars but James didn’t like that he had to excel academically to stay on the teams. He would rather attend a trade school than pursue his passion playing basketball. When they graduated from high school, the inseparable friends went their own way but remained close.

Waiting around for something great to happen in his life made him feel inadequate so he thought joining a dating site would get the ball rolling. The trouble was that not many of the profiles were eye catching and if they were, the person lived much too far away. After what seemed like an eternity, he found someone of interest.

 

Ayvri D.

LikesDislikesMiscSports of all kindsKidsMe: Tall & SlenderCookingNWF – it’s not a sportYou: Tall & Athletic
The only downside was that there was no profile photo of Ayvri but then again, James had not posted his photo yet either so he went on with sending a message. After surfing the personals website a while longer and sending out a few more messages, he went to bed. There was a lot to be done the following day, starting with heading over to Raquel’s house to drop off her car.

James woke up to ten messages in his email from the website. He was excited about the prospects but decided to shower and get his day started first. He came downstairs to see a half-naked Estelle, his uncle’s new girlfriend, in the kitchen. James couldn’t help but to openly cringe as the woman was much older than he was. She looked good for her age, however, sex with a senior citizen had never been on his list of turn-ons.

“Don’t be lookin at me like that, James, less ya young ass want some lessons,” joked Estelle as she swung her hips from side to side.

“No. No thank you,” mumbled James.

Estelle chuckled and passed James a plate, “Here you go, baby,” she said. “I gotta hurry back to your uncle before he gets cold!”

James thanked her and hurried into the dining room as she shuffled up the stairs. He thumb scrolled through his inbox as he ate.  There were no messages from Ayvri just yet but Tiffany responded and Tylinn, Alissa, and Jordan responded as well. He was both pleased and surprised. Today, he felt, was going to be a great day.

********** *********** ***************

James saw Marcus’ car in Raquel’s driveway and immediately felt like the air had been taken from his chest. While he knew that it was highly likely that Marcus would be there, he still was not in the mood for conversation. Before he could reach the door, Marcus came zipping out of the entry and down the stairs. There was a short greeting between the two young men and then an awkward silence.

“I’ve been thinking about everything you said, man,” Marcus began. “I’m going to go end it now and look towards a future with Raquel.”

James nodded and replied incredulously, “That’s what’s up, bro. I’m glad.”

“Quick question though, when you saw me at the restaurant the other night, was I alone?”

James felt the awkwardness in his friend’s question but answered nonetheless, “I don’t know. I guess so. There were two menus on the table but I didn’t really stare y’all down to see what was what.”

“Oh ok, cool. Anyway, I’m putting together a surprise dinner for her so I can propose.”

“Damn, bro!” James’ incredulity turned to surprise. “So you gonna stop messing around now? That’s it?”

“C’mon, man,” Marcus feigned offense and responded with a nudge on James’ arm. “You bringing a date or you need one, ole lonely ass?”

“I don’t know yet. I got some things working right now,” James said as he rubbed his palms together. “Why? You never seemed to mind me flying solo before.”

“Nah, Raquel’s roommate, Lilly, has been moping around since she moved back up here. Y’all would be the perfect pair.”

“She better not be ugly,”

“No, she’s not at all unattractive. Actually she’s damn fine.”

James gave the side eye but decided to go out on the limb with Marcus and give her a try. “She better not be a hoe, man.”

Marcus only scoffed, “I’ll let you know when and where the dinner will be. Thanks again for taking care of My Angel’s car. I’m gonna buy her a new one when she says ‘yes.’ You need a ride back?”

“Nah, I’m good. I’m about to catch up with Raq and ask her about this Lilly girl you’re trying to put off on me.”

“You don’t have to ask her about Lilly. Just trust me and come on.”

James was a little disappointed that he couldn’t stay and talk to Raquel for a few like he planned but he could sense that Marcus wasn’t hearing anything about them hanging out without him. James ran inside to find Raquel. She was in the kitchen, wrapped only in her towel. James once again noted how lucky Marcus was to have had Raquel’s heart. He tossed her the keys and told her to call him later.

On his way out, James’ phone buzzed. It was a message from Ayvri asking for a photo. When he got settled in Marcus’ car, he quickly obliged. Marcus and James were practically silent the entire ride back to James’ house. James was too busy messaging Ayvri.

“You want to go out for a beer?” Marcus interrupted the silence.

“Not tonight. I have a date.”

“With who? I was just about to hook you up with Lilly.”

“You still can. I’m just exploring my options.” They were finally in front of James’ house. He peaced Marcus and hopped out before he could ask any more questions.  The truth was that Ayvri still hadn’t sent James a photo. She said she wanted to meet up. They were going to meet at Champ’s sports’ bar.

***** ****** ****** *****

James was fairly nervous as he sat at the bar waiting for Ayvri’s arrival. After what seemed an eternity, he felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned around, he immediately frowned.

“What’s wrong?” asked Ayvri. “Not what you expected? By the end of the night, I’ll change your mind.” Ayvri gently touched James’ cheek. James politely leaned back.

“You real foul right now and I’m not with it.”

“Just chill. We can watch the game then call it a night or we can part ways now and you’ll never know how good a friend I can be,” Ayvri replied.

“Yea, that ain’t a bad idea,” and with that being said, James grabbed his jacket and left. Ayvri took the empty seat and ordered a drink. This was going to be far more fun than Ayvri anticipated.

Chapter 3

James

James sat in his car seething for a few minutes and leaned his head back on the driver’s seat. Then he gripped the steering wheel and popped is forehead across the top of it a few times. After several deep breaths, he had decided that there would be no more online dating. Every time he thought about the text conversation he had with Ayvri, he cringed. He needed to get his mind off of the awful mishap in the sports bar immediately. He sent a text message to Raquel letting her know that he was on his way. Despite this failed effort to kick his loneliness, he had to get back on his horse. He was ready to meet this Lilliana girl.

******

James was glad to see that Marcus had not yet returned to Raquel’s house. He still did not feel like being bothered with his oldest friend until he proved that he was serious about kicking this new bad habit. He knocked and waited a few minutes until a golden goddess answered the door. He stammered a little before he was finally able to ask about Raquel’s whereabouts. She smiled and stepped behind the door so that he could come in.

“I’m Lilliana,” her voice mimicked that of songbirds and instantly, James was enamored. He quietly introduced himself and took a seat in the living room. There was an eternity of silence shared between the two until Raquel walked in to break the awkwardness.

“Hey, Hun!” Raquel embraced James then took a seat near him on the sofa. “Did you two introduce yourselves?” They both nodded but Lilly focused mainly on the television. Her lack of attention disappointed James a little but he decided to dismiss his feeling and attempt to converse anyway. At first it was a little difficult for James to assert himself. James was so used to Marcus being around to break the ice that he found himself fading into the background and allowing the girls’ conversation to exclude him. However, he was not ready to throw in the towel yet.

“My friend has been seeing Raquel for a very long time. Why is it that I am just now meeting you?” James asked Lilly.

Lilly let out a small laugh and explained to him that she was just moving back to New Jersey and still trying to get her bearings. Raquel gave a knowing smile and quietly excused herself. James patted the now empty space beside him as an invitation and Lilly quickly accepted. James could feel a spark between the two when their knees touched. They talked and laughed until around three in the morning. Neither of them heard Marcus creep past them to Raquel’s room.

 Lilly

Lilly walked James to the door and said good bye with a kiss on his cheek. His honey glazed skin gave off a peach tint in his cheeks as he smiled and backed down the stairs. It was early Sunday morning and the sun had not yet begun to rise.

“Hey, you want to catch the sun rise? There’s a look out a little ways from here where we can go to see it.” James smirked and exposed his beautiful white teeth. “And maybe I can take you to breakfast as well?” he added with uncertainty.

Lilly smiled and agreed to join him. “Do you blaze? I have a little stash I can bring along with us,” she told him as she grabbed her shoulder wrap from behind the door.

“No, I haven’t smoked in a long time. But,” he said with a smile, “I can make an exception for such a lovely lady!”

“Ok, give me a minute. I’ll meet you in the car.” Lilly walked back to her room. As she passed Raquel’s bedroom, she could see Raquel and Marcus lying naked on Raquel’s bed with their bodies intertwined. Lilly bit her lip as she recalled the past trysts shared by the three of them. Quickly, she pushed the thoughts out of her mind and hurried to her room. She grabbed her vintage brass cigarette case filled with rolled blunts and headed to the front door.

“Headed out so early?” Marcus asked as he caught Lilly’s balance. Lilly had her head down counting her blunts and slammed into Marcus’ broad chest.

She stammered and laughed nervously as she tried to catch a glimpse over his shoulder. Raquel was quietly stirring in her bed while Marcus slowly backed Lilly up against her door frame. “I’m on my way out with James. I have to hurry; I don’t want to miss the sunrise.”

“We need to talk about the other day and well, the days to come as well,” he replied.

Lilly felt a twinge of annoyance, “Can it wait?” she sucked her teeth impatiently and was starting to be turned off by Marcus’ tone.

“Nah, but I’ll be brief,” he replied. “I’m going to ask Raquel to marry me in a few weeks and I need your help with the dinner.”

“That’s it? That’s what you wanted to tell me that couldn’t wait?”

“Something like that. I also wanted to tell you that I’m going to miss those beautiful lips being wrapped around my dick but you understand the conflict of interest, right?” he laughed coolly and stepped back.

Lilly’s annoyance turned to anger and she stepped into his space, “You are one arrogant son of a bitch. I should tell Raquel that you’ve been coming back for more since I’ve moved back. Then what engagement dinner will you be planning?”

“You need a place to live, you won’t do that,” Marcus said as he gave her a skeptical stare.

There was no response from Lilly. She stared him down then proceeded to the door. She stopped and turned to respond, “You told me you were leaving her. You said you wanted to be with me. I didn’t pursue you. It’s over then it’s over. I don’t need an announcement. I kinda figured something was up when you left our lunch date and then I saw you guys out in NY. I’m good.” Lilly did not wait for him to reply; instead she made a quick exit and was determined to enjoy James’ company.

*****************

“Hey, I almost gave up on you!” James announced once Lilly settled in the passenger seat.

“Oh, no,” she said with a chuckle. “I was leaving a note for Raquel. Then my ex-boyfriend Kyle called. It was nothing. Let’s go!”

James turned on his smooth jazz disc and started to banter about his last time smoking weed. Lilly lit up the first blunt and passed it to her new friend. With all these men in the picture, Lilly felt her love life filling up. She listened to James’ baritone over the soft sounds of Acoustic Alchemy and watched his plump lips through her slit eyes. Lilly found James’ copper eyes the most captivating of all his handsome features.

They continued to converse until they reached the reservation and then sat in silence over heavy inhales. Smoke pooled throughout the car while they watched the day come alive. This spontaneous date was all romance and no sex; it was a pleasant change for Lilly. James played with her fingers while they made small talk. His large fingers traced the outline of her petite hand slowly. James’ working hands sent a warm sensation to Lilly’s chest. Finger tips to finger tips eased into touching palms and clasped fingers as they leaned in only centimeters from one another’s faces. Heat and sexual tension mounted between their lips as the tips of their noses touched.

Lilly’s phone rang and sent a pang to her chest. She took a look at her phone. It was Ayvri; now was not the time. Despite ignoring the phone call, the moment had escaped them.

“Almost caught me there,” Lilly joked. “I never kiss on the first date.” They moved on to breakfast without any further disruptions. They laughed and shared stories about their lives growing up and the messes they had fallen into with their closest friends. Before either of them realized it, the morning had passed them by.

Lilly’s phone called out again demanding her attention and she pressed the ignore button one more time. She was in do not disturb mode.

*******************

Raquel

“I heard you, Marcus! I heard everything. Tell me I’m wrong.” Raquel yelled across the apartment. “She’s my best friend,” her screaming was relentless.

“Baby, please, calm down. I never messed with Lilly,” Marcus was out of breath. Raquel had his clothes and shoes all over the house and he was running after her trying to pick up his things.

“Get dressed and get out,” Raquel stormed to the bathroom and locked herself in. She slid down against the door slowly and buried her head in her knees. The pain in her chest was so intense that it took a few minutes for her to release her first sob.

“Baby! Raquel, please, I’m sorry. You have misunderstood me. I’m not sleeping with Lilly. Open the door,” Marcus pleaded.

Raquel only answered with heart wrenching sobs. She got up and turned on the shower. The water was piping hot when she stepped in while still wearing the yellow silk robe she wrapped herself in when she heard Marcus break off his relationship with her best friend. Raquel kept asking herself if this moment was real. Was the love of her life really sleeping with her best friend? So many thoughts raced through her mind as she sat in the corner of her shower. Should she give Lilly, her dearest friend, the opportunity to explain? How many women was Marcus sleeping with? Could she have contracted a disease? The water was ice cold before her thoughts came to a halt. Raquel remained in the corner with the freezing water beating down on her. She was so engrossed in thought that she did not notice when the house had become completely silent.

**********

James

James smiled to himself as he watched Lilly walk away from his car and head up her driveway.  Instead of going in the house, however, she got in her car and peeled out of the driveway. He was not sure if Lilly realized he was still idling in front of the house. Raquel’s car was still in the driveway but the house seemed still. There was no loud music and the shades were drawn. James called Marcus and after two short rings, the call went to voicemail. After three more failed attempts to call Marcus, he decided to go inside. James smile faded away as he put the car in park and headed to the front door.

The house was in somewhat of disarray. Marcus’ clothing littered the hallway. James peeked into Raquel’s bedroom as he called out her name. She was not in her room but he could hear the shower water running. He tapped on the door and called out to Raquel once more. There was no answer. James’ knocks grew louder as did his voice but still there was no response. His blood rushed to his brain as his thoughts began to generate faster than his actions and he kicked in the bathroom door. There she was shivering on the cold shower floor.

James’ actions were frantic as he grabbed a towel from the rack and scooped her up from the floor and carried her into the room. Raquel’s dark hair stretched past her shoulders and onto her robe. She did not make a sound as James undressed her.

“Talk to me, Raquel, please,” he said quietly as he wrapped her with a towel. Raquel was a vision. He felt like he was being insensitive by wanting to kiss her. James wanted to make love to her at that very moment. He was getting aroused by the water droplets making connections on her beautifully smooth skin. Her lips beckoned him to action but he respectfully declined.

“Marcus cheated on me,” she responded hoarsely as she turned to her side and pulled her blanket to her chin. James did not have any response besides guilt. He already knew about this mystery girl so there was nothing he could say. Instead he laid down next to her and listened to her sob out her pain.

“Do you know who she is?” he asked.

“No,” she lied.

“Do you want to tell me how you found out?”

“I overheard a conversation,” she told James between her yawns. Exhaustion was taking over her body. Before he could ask her anything else, she fell asleep. He laid there staring at her ceiling wondering if he should leave. James averted his attention to her bedroom window. They day was slipping away. He quietly slid out of her bed to make a phone call to Marcus.

“Hey man what’s up?” Marcus was his usual calm self.

“Yo man what’s up? What happened with Raquel?”

“Everything happened so fast, man. But don’t trip, I got this. Let me call you back.” Before James could respond, Marcus disconnected the call. This was very typical Marcus behavior. He was missing in action when he should be here trying to make up with the woman he wants to marry.

James walked back into the house to peek at Raquel. She was sleeping soundly and looked so peaceful. He did not want to disturb her so he went back to the living room and watched television. He clicked through the numerous stations only airing paid programming or infomercials. He slouched into the cushions of the chair and let his body sink. His thoughts ventured to Lilly; he had not heard from her all evening. A faint smile crossed his face when he thought of Lilly’s flawless skin and sexy body. He loved her earthy sense of style and carefree attitude. Lilly and Raquel could not have landed any further apart on his spectrum of turn-ons. As he snuggled deeper into his seat, he fell asleep.

Lilly

Marcus had finally caught up with Lilly outside of Ayvri’s house. Before she went inside, he flagged her down. She was visibly angry as she approached his car window.

“Hop in for a second,” Marcus demanded.

“Why would I want to do that? How did you even know I was here?” Lilly replied.

“I have my ways. Anyway, come on. Get in the car, I don’t have time for this,” he answered.

Lilly walked over to the passenger side of Marcus’ car then stopped at the passenger door. “Talk to me out here. What’s up?” she asked abruptly.

Marcus rolled his eyes, “Alright. Raquel overheard our conversation. Fix this.”

The smell of burned rubber singed her nostrils and burned her eyes. Lilly did not have the chance to respond before Marcus sped down the road. She was left standing in the middle of the street with tears pouring down her face. She had no idea where to start or what part of the conversation Raquel heard. She was not certain if she should try to run damage control or face this head on.

Lilly walked to her car to gather her thoughts and catch her breath as Ayvri skipped down the stairs.

“You okay, baby?” Avyri asked as she approached Lilly’s car.

“No, I’m not. I just got some terrible news. Can we talk?”

“I’m on my way out, baby. Here are the keys, make yourself at home and I’ll be back soon,” Ayvri said.

“How are you on your way out when you invited me here?” Lilly’s heart began to sink.

“I apologize, love,” Ayvri brushed imaginary hairs from Lilly’s forehead. “A friend of mine just called to meet me somewhere to work out an important deal. I didn’t know when you were coming or if you were coming at all. I will return as soon as possible.”

Lilly had to accept Ayvri’s invitation to stay in the apartment and wait; she had nowhere else to go. She grabbed Ayvri’s keys and reluctantly curled up on the sofa to wait for Ayvri’s return.

Marcus

Marcus sat in the booth at the busy night club and waited for his side piece to arrive and like clockwork, Ayvri arrived right on time. Marcus was beyond livid at this point. It was bad enough that Raquel had found out about Lilly but now to learn that she was also friends with Ayvri made it apparent that his scheming was finally catching up to him.

“Did Lilly follow you here?”

“What? Hello to you too,” Ayvri flirted.

“Did she follow you?”

“No,” Ayvri answered. “How do you figure we were together anyway?”

“Aren’t you two together now?” Marcus surmised.

“Well, yea but —“

“Alright then,” he interrupted. He sat in silenced as he watched Ayvri play with her strawberry blond ponytail while thumbing through the menu. Her pale skin was radiant and her pink lips were so smooth. Marcus almost forgot why he invited her to the club.

“So what’s up, baby? Have you come to your senses about us?” Ayvri asked.

“Yes. I have,” Marcus paused.

Ayvri could not stop beaming at the man she had fallen in love with.

“We cannot see each other anymore,” he continued. “When we started, it was just for fun. I had already decided that I was going to be faithful to Raquel before you came along and I allowed you to convince me otherwise. That was a mistake. What’s worse is that you knew that I was seeing Raquel and didn’t tell me you two were friends.”

“I didn’t see the point. The heart knows what it wants,” Ayvri choked back tears. “Why are you deciding this now? I thought we were getting somewhere?”

“No, this was just for fun and I told you that coming in. And now it seems that you’re getting serious with Lilly, so why are you trying to hold on to me?”

“Lilly is an experiment!” Ayvri exploded. “I thought you and I were going to at some point get serious,” her mood became somber. She then calmed down and smirked before pulling Marcus to the dance floor. “This is our song! You can’t say no to this.”

Ayvri and Marcus danced nose to nose to the song “One More Night” by Maroon 5 with an indescribable intensity. Marcus could feel the heat mounting between the two of them. Ayvri grabbed him by the collar then pushed away. Marcus pulled his poison back to his chest with his hands tightly on her behind and Ayvri smiled. How could something so wrong feel incredibly right?

“No more, Ayvri,” Marcus spoke against every bone in his body.

“You sure?” Ayvri asked. “After the other night in that speakeasy, I thought I changed your mind,” she giggled.

“I love Raquel.” They continued to dance close and hard. Ayvri began to grind against Marcus. They were pelvis to pelvis and chest to chest. Adam Levine crossed his heart one final time as Marcus pulled away from his lover’s arms and started for the exit.

Ayvri gave chase behind Marcus, “One more night.” There was that flirtatious smile. Before Marcus found himself captivated once more, the song ended abruptly.

“No,” Marcus left a distraught and confused Ayvri standing alone at the door. Ayvri gave a silent vow that their affair was not over and resided at the bar for the remainder of the evening.

Before Marcus pulled out of the parking lot, he called Raquel several times. It was almost four o’clock in the morning, so he did not truly expect Raquel to answer his calls. He sat in his car pensively for almost twenty minutes. Marcus decided to pray for the first time in years. If the mighty Lord above could get him through this ordeal with Raquel unscathed, he would never cheat again and become the God fearing man he was raised to be. He tried to call Raquel again and when she did not answer this time around, he decided to give her some time and try again in the evening.

Lilly

Lilly had no idea what time she fell asleep while waiting for Ayvri to get home. The sound of the apartment door closing jolted her awake. Ayvri was standing over her and smelled of hard liquor. They did not speak as an eternity passed between them. Finally, Lilly broke the silence.

“Where were you? Are you alright?” she asked.

“I will be,” Ayvri answered as she wiped her nose. “What happened to you though; what brings you over here to spend the night?” Ayvri’s speech was slurring. Lilly could not talk to her about Marcus.

“It’s complicated and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Can we just go to bed?” Lilly replied. She stood up and pulled Ayvri by the hand towards the bedroom. Lilly pushed Ayvri down on the bed and straddled her. Ayvri reached around Lilly’s back and unhooked her bra as she pulled her down for a passionate kiss.

Lilly let out a soft moan and bit Ayvri’s bottom lip. As they kissed and undressed one another, Lilly thought about the mess she was in. She also thought about James and if it mattered to him that she was getting serious with Ayvri. James was new in her life and she had known Ayvri for years so she decided that with Ayvri was exactly where she wanted to be. If anyone could understand Lilly’s plight, it would be Ayvri.

Ayvri rolled Lilly on to her back and interrupted her thoughts. She lifted Lilly’s knees to her shoulders and started to kiss and suck on the back of each leg. She slowly worked her kisses towards Lilly’s glistening pearl. Lilly’s body shuttered as Ayvri blew on her clit before she worked her tongue into her opening. Ayvri’s finger entered slowly in and out of Lilly’s taut behind as her mouth worked over her pussy.

“Is this what you came here for?” Ayvri whispered.

“Yes,” Lilly moaned. She ran her fingers through Ayvri’s long and silky hair as she placed the arches of her feet onto Ayvri’s lower back. They romped and wrestled until the sun came up.

*************

Lilly sat on Ayvri’s bed with her legs crossed, smoking a blunt. Her locks were piled on the top of her head in a messy bun.

“You know I hate it when you smoke in my house,” Ayvri complained.

“I’m sorry, I forgot,” Lilly took a final pull from her spliff then pinched the end.

“You ready to talk now?” Ayvri asked.

“No, I’m not. The person I really need to talk to is Raquel,” Lilly said.

“What happened?” Ayvri asked.

“Do you remember when I left school? I told you that I found out that Raquel was sleeping with this guy I had started dating?” Lilly attempted to jog a false memory she had given Ayvri many years ago.

“I do,” Ayvri replied. “You were dating a guy and she moved in on him.”

“Well, Marcus was that guy and we were all kind of dating,” Lilly paused to let the new information sink in.”

“Why am I surprised? I can’t believe you went back to him. So how did it get messy this time around?” Ayvri furrowed her brows. Maybe this is what has caused the abrupt ending of her relationship with Marcus.

Lilly frowned and replied, “I’m not too sure because I haven’t faced her yet. I gave Marcus a few blow jobs since I’ve been home and she found out about it.” To Lilly’s credit, she knew how to slant a story in her favor. “It was completely harmless. I was just, well I don’t know what I was doing but I regret it.”

Ayvri matched her girlfriend’s frown, “Why would you do that and how long have you been doing it?”

“C’mon Ayvri, you’ve seen him! Plus, and please don’t judge me, I needed the money. But I stopped once you and I started dealing with each other. It was just a few times, I swear,” Lilly pleaded.

“So, you’ve been prostituting,” Ayvri replied flatly.

“No, that’s completely different. He’s the only man I’ve ever done that with,” Lilly quickly retorted.

“How do you know she knows?”

“Marcus told me last night when I got here.”

“You saw Marcus last night?” Ayvri was surprised.

“Yea, right as I pulled up. He cornered me right after ‘ending it’ as if there was something to end in the first place.” Lilly buried her face in her hands and began to cry.

“I have to go to work, are you going to be ok?” Ayvri had to put an abrupt end to their conversation. She was not feeling Lilly and needed to take some space.

“I’ll be fine. I won’t be here when you get back. I have to go see Raquel and make this right.”

Ayvri leaned in to kiss Lilly good day, “I’ll see you tonight?”

“Maybe, we’ll see.”

Chapter 4

Raquel

It was six in the morning when Raquel finally opened her eyes. She stared at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity then rolled over to check her phone and saw twenty-seven missed calls from Marcus. She would not be bothered with him today or for a while for that matter. After stretching and rolling around a bit, Raquel got out of bed to face the day. She could not bear to stay in the house anymore surrounded by memories of her best friend and ex-boyfriend. Nor could she stomach the thoughts of what they could have possibly done in her very own apartment.

“Hey Raquel,” James interrupted her thoughts as he tapped on the door frame to her bedroom.

“Oh hey, good morning. I’m surprised you’re still here,” Raquel replied with a weak smile. “I’m sorry, James, I don’t want you in the middle of what’s going on with me and Marcus. I shouldn’t have told you he was sleeping around.”

“It’s cool, Raq, we’re all friends. I won’t bring it up unless he does,” James felt his lie burn his lips.

“What made you come by anyway?” she asked.

“I was dropping Lilly home and I saw Marcus storm out,” he answered.

“Oh, Lilly’s here too?”

“No, she left right before he did.”

“I have to tell you something about Lilly. –”

“Thank you for introducing us, Raq. We really hit it off.” James cut Raquel short. “She’s great but I know my date is the last thing you want to hear about.”

“James that’s not it,” Raquel said with a heavy heart.

“Well whatever you want to tell me about Lilly can wait. It’s your moment,” he said pushing her kinky curls out of her face.

“Ok, James,” Raquel relinquished as she plopped on to her couch. “I’m going to go stay by my parents’ house for a few days. I want Marcus to sweat it out a little bit, so keep that between us.”

“Yea, sure. Do you need anything before I go?”

“Nah, I’m good. I’m going to start packing,” Raquel said as she walked James to the door. He kissed her on the forehead as they parted ways and she turned around to start picking up the stray clothes that lay around her home.

**************

The apartment was finally back in shape when the front door creaked open. Raquel walked to the living room with her over night bag in tow and greeted her oldest friend.

“Hey Lil,” Raquel began, “Do you have something to tell me?” she asked. She stared at Lilly intently as she waited for an answer. The answer did not produce itself fast enough.

“I know what you did to me after I welcomed you into my home,” she continued with a passive tone. “and it’s probably the single most foul thing you’ve done to me since we have known one another.” There was a pause as the air started to thicken between them.

“I know how it sounded yesterday when you over heard Marcus and I talking,” Lilliana jumped in nervously. “He made it seem like it was some ongoing thing between us and it wasn’t, I swear.” Lilliana stepped towards her friend slowly with her hands out.

“I love you, you’re my best friend. You have to believe me when I say it was nothing and I regretted it as soon as it happened,” she left out the part about how she thought it would blossom into something more. Lilly also failed to mention that her Mystery Man was Marcus. When Marcus canceled their second real date, Lilly knew it was over. She was as much surprised as everyone else when she ran into him and Raquel at the speakeasy.

“It was obviously enough that he felt the need to break it off with you, what’s up with that?” Raquel asked; her questions were likened to pleas for a good reason to put the whole situation behind them.

“Raq, the truth,” Lilly said, “is that I sucked Marcus off for money,” Lilliana stated bluntly. Like word vomit the rest of her tall tale came spilling out, “I didn’t have any money when I moved back to town. He offered to pay me for a blow job and I accepted. It happened twice and it hasn’t happened since,” Lilly stood there waiting for her friend to respond as they stared at each other.

Raquel took small steps towards her friend and grabbed her hands as she slowly found the words to reply, “You slept with my man for money,” she said with short breaths. “Money you could have asked me for, you slept with him to give you?” She squeezed Lilly’s hands as she pulled her closer.

“Lilly,” Raquel’s voice was at a near whisper as she continued, “you are a sad waste. But I loved you anyway. You left me and shut me out for no reason then came back like nothing happened. Marcus complained about your presence every single day since I have allowed you to move in. He’d say such awful things about you and suddenly, he stopped,” Raquel said as she released the grip she had of Lilly’s hands.

A sense of clarity washed over Raquel’s face, “That makes sense now. I’m going to my parents’ home for a few days; I don’t know how long I will be gone but your things need to be cleared out by the time I return.”

With those final words, Raquel headed to the door then stopped short to look at her friend once more. Lilly stood there with a blotchy red face and her fists clenched appearing to feel hurt and lost. Raquel’s expression softened as she walked over to Lilly and placed her hand on her shoulder then she hauled off and punched Lilly in her jaw, “Get the fuck out, Lilliana,” Raquel said, “you are not moving fast enough.” She stood there staring down on Lilly with tears streaming down her cheeks as Lilly scrambled to get off of the floor. Lilly’s golden dreads were in a tangled mess and her head was ringing.

Raquel grabbed her over night bag and stormed out of the apartment, “Leave my keys with James,” she hollered over her shoulder. She jogged down the stairs to the driveway and tossed her bags into her trunk. Before she got into her car she started kicking dents into Lilly’s car. Before Lilly could stop Raquel, jumped into her car and peeled down the open road.

***************************

Lilly

Lilly leaned her head against the wall as she cupped her throbbing jaw. She could not believe Raquel punched her like that and what she found even more unbelievable is that she didn’t hit her back. Raquel’s harsh words were like a broken record in Lilly’s mind. Lilly slowly slid down to her knees as she wondered if Raquel truly meant all of those nasty words.

She alternated from crying and packing for the rest of the day and well into the night. She would peek into the mirror from time to time to look at her swollen jaw line. Her beautiful skin with small brown freckles now had a black and blue mass on it. As she examined her face, she heard the front door open.

Her heart dropped as she called out of the bathroom, “I’m leaving now, Raquel, please,” she pleaded.

“It’s me,” Marcus’ voice boomed from the living room.

Lilly stepped out of the bathroom in a rage and ran at Marcus with a rain of kicks and punches. He was caught off guard as he stumbled backwards and tripped over the coffee table. That did not stop Lilly’s rage as she fell with him to the floor she continued her assault. Marcus, being at least a foot taller than Lilly over powered her and was able to get off of the floor.

“Look at my face!” Lilly screamed as she stood up, “Look at it!”

Marcus could not maintain his frown as he examined Lilly’s face. “Damn, she got you good,” he said.

“Fuck you,” Lilly hissed as she knocked his hand from her cheek. “What the hell are you doing here anyway?” Lilly asked as she went to her room to retrieve her bags.

“Where’s Raquel? Marcus asked as he followed Lilly down the hallway.

“Find her yourself,” Lilly huffed past him and out of the door. She quickly loaded her car and hopped in.  “If you do find her, I hope she never speaks to you again,” Lilly hollered as she reversed out of the driveway.

*****************************

“Ayvri, I need a place to crash for a few days,” Lilly told her friend as she sped down the freeway. “Raq went off and punched me in the face right before she kicked me out.”

There was an awkward silence over the phone as Ayvri thought about the arrangement. “First let me tell you that you deserved to get your teeth knocked in.”

“I don’t need to hear ‘I told you so.’ I know I was wrong and I knew I was wrong when I did it,” Lilly rebutted.

“Yea and you didn’t think she would lay you out,” Ayvri continued. “Hell no your scandalous ass can’t stay with me.”

“Ayvri,” Lilly said with a pout, “you’re going to do me like that?”

“Ok, you know I’m not. I’ll see you when you get here.”

Lilly finally arrived to Ayvri’s house and curled into her arms. They laid on the bed in silence. Lilly cried quietly while Ayvri stared at the ceiling.

“I’m going to whip up some dinner, I’ll come get you when it’s ready,” Ayvri squeezed Lilly’s shoulder kindly and left the room.

Lilly stared at the ceiling with tears overflowing to her ears. Her life was crumbling yet again due to her foolish mistakes. Raquel was Lilliana’s biggest advocate and now she was gone. How can she fix this?

Chapter 5

 

Raquel

Raquel pulled up to the iron gate guarding her brother’s driveway.

1-4-3-2, she entered the code into the pin pad. As the gate slowly opened to the magnificent landscape, Raquel felt a layer of relief wash over her. She hadn’t seen her brother since he dropped out of college a few months ago to play professional basketball. It broke their parents’ hearts but of course, they were on board with almost anything that would make him happy.

She grabbed her bags and jogged up the stone steps guarding the entrance to his large but humble home. “Hey Lance. Thanks for letting me come over,” Raquel said as she embraced her older brother. “I couldn’t bear talking to Ma about Marcus and what happened tonight,” she continued as she held him.

Lance is extremely tall. He stands at around six feet, ten inches and is lean. He is the largest of their siblings and also the most athletic. His skin tone is similar to his sister’s chestnut complexion. Lance has high cheekbones, full lips, and almond shaped eyes that mirrors hers as well.

“What did happen between the two of you?” Lance asked as he backed into the foyer to give Raquel room to walk inside. “Did he hit you?” he asked as he gave her a once over.

“I can’t right now, Big Bro,” Raquel replied blandly. “I can’t,” she repeated then scoffed. “But rest assured, you taught me well. He wouldn’t dare put his hands on me,” she joked as she threw air punches in her brother’s direction.

Lance started dodging Raquel’s fake punches and grabbed her around her waist. He lifted her over his shoulder and took off running towards the living room. She could not stop laughing. Quality time with her closest brother was exactly what she needed. They began to wrestle around in his all white living room. Just as Raquel started to get the best of her brother, his girlfriend, Francesca, walked in. Lance looked up from Raquel’s firm head lock and frowned.

Raquel sized her brother’s girlfriend. Francesca is taller than Raquel but much slimmer. She was about a shade lighter than Raquel and her skin was clear; she wore no make up and dressed expensively but somewhat tacky. There were bobbles and glass adornments dripping from her outfit. Raquel turned her lips up at this unwelcome guest.

“Come on, Lance, you know how I feel about the White Room. It’s for show,” she said with a pout as she tossed her flowing hair over her shoulder.

Raquel squinted at the young woman as she got to her feet then helped Lance off of the floor. Lance continued to frown back at his girlfriend as he walked out of the living room.

“Don’t start,” he said as he walked down the hall towards the kitchen. “This is my sister, Raquel. She’s going to be staying with us,” Lance continued. “Raq, this is Francesca.”

“Nice to meet you,” Raquel said flatly.

“You can call me Franky,” Francesca said with far more enthusiasm. “I’m so happy to finally meet you! I’ve seen your photos online. You are so much prettier in person,” she rambled. “Lance, she’s so much prettier. How could you not tell me how pretty she is?”

Lance and Raquel stared at Franky as she went on and on about Raquel and the activities they could do together. She didn’t seem to notice that she was having a conversation alone. Raquel looked at Lance quizzically. In response, he shrugged his shoulders and tossed her an apple as he sat on the kitchen island.

Franky eventually stopped for air. Raquel started to giggle before she replied, “Francesca, no offense, love, but I’m here to see my brother. After Lance and I hang out, maybe we can all hang out. But right now, I need my family.”

“Oh,” Franky replied. “I understand and please, call me Franky,” she said. Her enthusiasm was unmoved. “Let me start dinner.”

“Well, I wanted take Raquel out to dinner. You should call some or one of your homegirls over. We’ll see you later, babe,” Lance said as he pecked her on the forehead. Franky watched them walk out of the kitchen in silence then grabbed her phone to make plans.

*************

Raquel changed her clothes quickly and went to meet her brother in his garage. There were seven beautiful, well maintained cars. He even had a gold 1960 Edsel. Raquel walked around the garage in awe. Her slender fingers stroked each car as she passed. She could remember the hours they spent together working on his car. Raquel was the baby and he was the second oldest boy. The twins, Hunter and Gavin didn’t seem to need anyone but each other and their oldest brother, Ezekiel was always chasing tail. Saturdays were for Raquel and Lance; no parents and no other siblings were allowed.

Raquel heard the side door to the garage door open followed by slow steps down the stairs. “I’m by the Edsel,” she hollered over her shoulder.

“I know. I saw you from the camera room,” Franky replied. “You know your brother, he takes forever to get dressed,” Franky said as she smiled and pointed to the camera over head.

She continued to smile as she walked closer to Raquel backing her into the car, “No, no. Don’t lean on the cars. He hates that,” Franky said as she reached for Raquel’s hand to guide her off the car.

“What are you doing?” Raquel asked cautiously as she gently pulled away from Franky.

“Raq, I think we got off to a bad start. I’m going to take you out tomorrow. I already cleared it with Lance and he,” she paused. “He thinks it’s a good idea,” she finished as she reached out to hold Raquel’s hand again. She held it so tight that Raquel was unable to pull away.

“What’s your problem?” Raquel tried to pull away.

“Smile, Raq,” Franky replied, “the cameras are watching. Tomorrow will be fun, I promise. I love your brother and I don’t want to make a bad impression.”

“Sis,” Lance called down the stairs. “Is Francesca down there?”

“I’m here, Babe! I was just telling Raquel about tomorrow,” she said as she let go of Raquel’s hand. “She’s so excited.”

“Ok, cool. Did you find something to do?” he asked between kisses.

“Yes,” Franky replied as she slipped away from Lance. “You guys have a good time.”

Raquel couldn’t wait to get out of there. They hopped into his 458 Spider and peeled out of the garage.

“She’s a weird one. And a little aggressive, no?” Raquel inquired.

“Nope, not going to do this with you. Franky was a hard pill to swallow but I’m glad I did. She’s sweet,” Lance replied. “I met her through a team mate not too long ago.”

“You act like I’m about to verbally attack the girl!” Raquel protested. “The chick is crazy. Period. You could probably see her in action in your camera room,” she mocked Francesca’s high pitched tone.

“Where to first? I think we should go see Hunter and Gavin. Maybe throw a family get together back at my house. Lil’ kick back or something,” Lance suggested, ignoring his baby sister.

“Aw man,” Raquel said instantly feeling nostalgic. “I haven’t seen the twins since Ma and Pop’s anniversary party last year. What are they up to?”

“Same thing they have been up to only they are in separate apartments now. Hunter moved a few months ago,” Lance replied. “Gavin met a girl. Hunter met a guy. Seems serious. They’re talking about joint marriages and whatnot.”

“Wow. You remember when Ma said they would probably never separate?” They both laughed. “Let’s go see Eze,” Raquel suggested. “Maybe the twins will meet us there.”

Raquel and Lance spent the rest of their hour drive talking about the antics they all would get into growing up. When they finally arrived to their older brother’s home, he was standing outside holding his daughter, Rouhi.

“Habibi!” Rouhi squealed as she reached out for Lance and Raquel.

“Habibi!” Lance and Raquel exclaimed in unison. Rouhi showered them with kisses in the midst of their group hug. Her soft little hands were filled with so much love, Raquel could not stand it. Feeling her niece’s love made her think of Marcus and all of the plans they were making. She quickly pushed those thoughts from her mind and carried her niece into the house.

Anji, Ezekiel’s wife, was in the kitchen cooking a traditional meal from her native country, Nepal. Raquel could snack on momos and sukuti all day and she couldn’t wait to dive in. Anji greeted her extended family warmly and fussed at her husband for reaching into the pot. She was adopted and moved to America when she was only an infant. After she graduated college, she moved to Nepal for a year to get to know her culture. There she learned how to cook traditional dishes and speak her language more fluently. She is usually soft spoken yet elegant. Whenever Ezekiel would take Anji places, her reddish brown skin, thick dark hair, and pale green eyes would be the center of attention. Her striking features are shared by their precious two year old, Rouhi.

The doorbell rang and Rouhi jumped out of Raquel’s arms and raced to the door. It was Gavin and his girlfriend.

“Habibi!” Rouhi, shouted again. She is quite a sweet heart. Eskimo and butterfly kisses were exchanged between Rouhi, Gavin, and his girlfriend Sharay.

“Where’s Hunter?” Raquel asked.

“He told me to send his love as he will not be joining us this evening,” Gavin replied.

“Okay, why?” Lance wanted to know.

“I honestly don’t know. I think it has something to do with his boyfriend Tony,” he said. “He hasn’t been coming around lately, you know and I think he’s feeling left out. I mean look at us,” Gavin continued with a chuckle. As they surveyed the room, it was true that everyone appeared to be in a happy and functional relationship. Even Raquel who was, at the moment, less her other half.

“That’s too bad. We have to start keeping in touch because we can’t have him held up in his house all the time because his boyfriend left him. Besides, Raquel broke up with Marcus,” Lance said.

“That’s not true. We are just going through something,” Raquel quickly retorted as she gave her brother a look of death. “I’m going to go see Hunter and you’re right, we do need to keep in touch. I love you guys,” she announced as she pulled her brothers in for a group hug.

“Habibis!” Rouhi shouted again as she squeezed in the middle.

**************

Raquel

Raquel and her siblings piled into Ezekiel’s Yukon Denali to head over to Hunter’s house. As they drove, Raquel lamented in her old neighborhood. She was so happy they all made it out in one piece. Twenty minutes later, Ezekiel turned onto a quite side street lined with modest homes and large yards. Towards the end of the block, there was a cul de sac with smaller houses. Hunter’s house, of course, was on the end. The house looked like an old doll house with fresh paint. The roofing is different shades of blue octagon and rectangle shaped shingles while the house itself was constructed with pale bricks and had coral trim and shutters.

Hunter was not flamboyant in any shape or form so the house did not appear to be his taste. It was a new purchase with his long term boyfriend. Three years ago, his parents and brothers were quite surprised when he introduced Anthony to them. Gavin, however, had always known his twin liked men; he revealed his sexual preference to Gavin when they were in high school. First, Anthony met his parents for dinner and then Lance and Francesca at one of Lance’s games and Ezekiel and his family at Rouhi’s second birthday party. Raquel was supposed to meet Anthony at their house warming coming up but it doesn’t look like that will be happening.

The siblings crowded around their brother’s front door. He made them wait for about ten minutes. When Hunter finally came to the door, he didn’t greet anyone, he turned around and flopped down on the sofa.

“Hey y’all,” Hunter finally mumbled.

Hunter was no longer identical to Gavin. He had gained about twenty pounds and his skin was ashen. Gavin, normally Hunter’s mirror image, stood over his gloomy brother. He pulled Hunter to his feet and walked him over to the over sized mirror on the wall. There they were, best friends for life standing in the mirror shoulder to shoulder only Hunter was slouching.

Raquel, Ezekiel, and Lance watched and silently compared the two. Hunter’s skin no longer glowed like his twin nor did his eyes. Usually he stood with pride and strength exuding from every part of his body.

“Look at you,” Gavin finally uttered. “Look at you. You are but a mere shell of yourself and I don’t like it. Please, Bro, come with us. I think it’s time for you to move on.”

Hunter broke down in his brother’s arms, “Tony hasn’t called in months. I bought a house for us to start our new life together for God’s sake.”

Raquel’s heart broke for him. The siblings gathered around Hunter and hugged him.

“Come on, let’s get out of here for a while,” Ezekiel said as he guided Hunter to the door.

As they walked out, Raquel saw a photo of Anthony and her brother hanging on the wall.

“Is that Anthony from high school? I thought you said we don’t know his boyfriend,” she whispered to Lance.

“We didn’t,” he replied. “You might have, I think he graduated with you and Lilly.”

Raquel said nothing back and how could she? Her mind raced because she knew where Anthony disappeared to while her brother sat in their home appearing to be a hair away from committing suicide. It was strange seeing photos of Anthony on her brother’s wall. Their sweet poses and happy faces perplexed and even angered her. Raquel immediately wondered if Lilly knew that Anthony was dating her brother; she wanted to know if this was yet another fatal secret Lilly had kept. Raquel’s anger dissolved into both guilt and disappointment. because this discovery should not be about her and what happened between her and her best friend. She needed to tell her brother what was going on because she knew exactly what Anthony was up to and she could not discern what troubled her more. Was it the fact that she went to high school with her brother’s boyfriend and did not know this entire time or was it more troubling that the young man she went to school with was no longer a man at all and now living his life as Ayvri?

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