A few hours later, Shantreyl was at the Zig Zag Diner, sitting with Malcolm and Kaphiri at their usual table. She studied the menu with a measure of glee.
“I don’t even know where to start,” she said. “Everything sounds so good. What do you guys eat?”
Kaphiri said, “She uses organic ingredients, which I like. Her strawberry pancakes are good, as are the blueberry ones. I eat them three times a week and never get bored. She also makes excellent waffles.”
Malcolm said, “Her omelet breakfasts are delicious, as are her biscuits and gravy. Nyx’s breakfast menu is extremely popular. If you’re unsure, try the Pygmi Slam.”
Shantreyl read the description. “Two eggs cooked your way, any two bacon, ham or sausage, biscuits or multi-grain toast with jelly, hash browns or grits, and two pancakes.” She put the menu down. “That sounds like a lot of food.”
“I’ve had it before,” Kaphiri said. “It is, but it’s so good that you won’t think twice about finishing your plate.”
“Go on, try it,” Malcolm said.
On cue, Nyx came out with a coffee pot and a large glass of orange juice. She stopped at their table and looked at Shantreyl as she filled Malcolm’s cup. Shantreyl stared back.
“Well, well, well…” Nyx said. “Malcolm, Kaphiri…who’s this?”
“This, Nyx, is Shantreyl Troy. She’s my girlfriend. Shantreyl, meet Pygmi Nyx. She’s the owner of the diner, a good friend, and an extraordinary chef.”
“You’re the one who made that picnic basket for Malcolm. Everything was so delicious,” Shantreyl said.
“Thank you,” Nyx said, flicking her hair over her shoulder. “I’ve known Malcolm and Kaphiri for years and neither of them have ever brought a woman here to eat.”
Shantreyl smiled at both men. “Yeah, I’m learning that there are a bunch of firsts in regards to my status.”
“Well, welcome to the Zig Zag. What would you like to drink?”
Shantreyl eyed Kaphiri’s orange juice with lust in her eyes. “I’d like one of those,” she said, pointing. “Same size.”
“And to eat?”
“I’ll try the Pygmi Slam. Eggs scrambled with cheese, crispy bacon and ham, biscuits, and grits with butter.”
“Ah, yes,” Nyx said. “The Slam is my most popular menu item. Mal? Kap? The usual?”
“Biscuits and gravy for me today, Nyx,” Kaphiri said.
“Give me my usual,” Malcolm said. It was a ham and cheese omelet with multigrain toast and hash browns.
“Coming right up,” she said.
Shantreyl watched her leave. “I love that hair color, and she’s got nails to match. I like her style. I didn’t think that the owner of the diner would be serving us.”
“We are the only ones she does serve,” Malcolm said. “She’s got a terrific wait staff, but because of our business relationship, Nyx prefers to take care of Kap and me herself.”
“What kind of relationship?”
“We’re part owners of the Zig Zag.”
“Oh. And is that true of that place you took me to the other day, Kaphiri?”
“How many businesses do you guys own or own in part?”
Malcolm said, “Quite a few. We believe in supporting our own.”
Shantreyl nodded. “That’s really cool.”
“It can be, at times.”
Nyx returned with Shantreyl’s juice. “Food will be out in a few minutes.”
“Thank you, Nyx,” Kaphiri said.
When she left, Shantreyl said, “I talked to my family this morning while you two were asleep.”
“Is that why you left?” Malcolm said. “I woke up and didn’t know where you were.”
“I was in my office, down the hall from my bedroom. I didn’t want to wake you.”
“How’s the family?” Kaphiri asked.
“Everybody’s all right. Is there a way we can schedule a conference call sometime this week? There’s a six-hour time difference. Is this something we can plan? My parents and my sister want to meet you.”
“What time do you need me to be available?”
“We’re six hours ahead of them. Two p.m. our time is eight a.m. their time and I know they’re usually up around then. Sometimes I get lucky if I call before then, like I did today. But if you can be available at two o’clock, they’ll be ready to talk to you.”
“Baby, if you want me to take an entire day off just so I can meet your family, I’ll make it happen. There’s nothing major on my calendar this week. What day?”
“Fine, baby. Come down to the Vermilion around noon and we can do it in my office.”
Shantreyl looked at Kaphiri. “Will you be there too?”
“Do you want me to be there?”
“I do, but I don’t know how to introduce you. This is what I have to figure out. If this is meant to be a true relationship, then I don’t want to leave you out of anything.”
“You’d introduce me as Malcolm’s friend and partner. That’s good enough.”
“And you’re okay with that, Kaphiri?”
“I am. It’s true.”
“Malcolm, does your mother know about…?”
“Not yet. At some point, I’ll explain it to her and I think she’ll understand. She adores Kaphiri; she loves him more than she does her own sons, so she may very well be okay with it. We’ll see.”
“Kaphiri, do your parents know about…?”
“It’s never come up, but they won’t care. My parents are very open-minded and they love Malcolm.”
Malcolm asked, “What did you tell your parents?”
“That I’ve fallen in love with a wonderful man who treats me like royalty.”
“And they said?”
“Basically, when’s the wedding.”
Kaphiri chuckled. “They got right to the point.”
“True. But with the way I talked Malcolm up, there was no other assumption to make. And everything I said was factual.”
“I know,” Malcolm said, sipping his coffee. “And it will continue to be true, now that you understand the kind of relationship you’re going to have.”
“Baby, I’m not nearly even close to ready to tell my parents about Kaphiri. I wouldn’t even know how to begin.”
Kaphiri said, “Who says you have to tell them anything? I don’t care about titles. I know who and what I am. They need not know anything more than that I exist.”
Shantreyl looked at both men. “What about children? I want to be a mom at some point.”
Malcolm said, “What about them? I told you last night that you could have a child by me and one by Kaphiri if you want. They can be all his, or they can be all mine. It doesn’t matter. We’re raising them together. Our kids will have two fathers.”
“Co-sign,” Kaphiri said, drinking his juice. “I’m good with all of that.”
Shantreyl said, “This may sound weird to you, but as a teacher, I deal with this often. I want my children to have the same last name as me and as their father. If I have a baby by you, its last name will be Sullivan, and if I have a child with Kaphiri, its last name will be Parker. If I’m going to marry you, my last name will be—”
“Sullivan Parker,” Malcolm said. “So will our children. This was never an issue for Kaphiri or me. We discussed this years ago. Our children will be heirs to our empire.”
“Wouldn’t Parker Sullivan make more sense?”
“Maybe, but Sullivan Parker sounds better.”
“So if I marry you, I’ll also…marry…Kaphiri? How is that even legally possible?”
Malcolm was taken aback. “If?”
“When. When I marry you.” No sense in bullshitting any more. She knew that whenever Malcolm proposed, her answer was going to be a firm yes.
“In a sense. No, he won’t be the one you’re standing up with, but he will be right there by my side when I say my vows, and the ring you’ll wear will be from both of us.”
Shantreyl looked at Malcolm, then at Kaphiri, and then back at Malcolm. She simply couldn’t believe this conversation was taking place. Just then, Nyx came out with Kaphiri’s biscuits and Malcolm’s omelet and hash browns.
“Be back with your food in just a minute, Shantreyl,” she said.
Kaphiri cut into his biscuits and gravy and offered Shantreyl a bite. “Taste this,” he said.
She opened her mouth and he slid the fork inside. She closed her eyes as the fluffy biscuits and thick sausage gravy collapsed on her tongue. Shantreyl chewed for a few moments and swallowed.
“Sweet heavens, I should have ordered that!”
“Try my omelet,” Malcolm said, holding a forkful of cheesy eggy goodness to her lips. Shantreyl took it and chewed it up, sitting back. “Oh man…that’s good too!”
Nyx returned with Shantreyl’s food, which was on two separate plates. She put them on the table and refilled Malcolm’s coffee. Shantreyl grabbed her fork and knife, said a quick prayer and dug all the way in. She was grateful for Nyx’s impeccable timing, because she needed to consider the conversation they were having just prior to her arrival with the food. She was sitting with two of the most unconventional men she’d ever experienced or heard about. Malcolm Sullivan and Kaphiri Parker might as well be from another planet. No man she knew, or heard of, was as open-minded as these two. Yeah, she’d heard of polyamory, but it was usually the other way around because most men couldn’t conceive of having another man so close to their wives or girlfriends, and there were women who were willing to put up with “sister wives” if it meant they could keep their man.
This…was not that.
A few minutes passed where there was nothing but the sound of silverware scraping plates and food being consumed. Shantreyl was hungrily devouring her food; she’d expended a lot of energy the previous day and was famished. And it was delicious.
She wiped her mouth. “I see why you invested in her diner. This is some good food.”
“It most certainly is. Kaphiri and I eat here almost every day before we go to work.”
Nyx came out and refilled Malcolm’s coffee cup. “More juice, Kap? Shantreyl?”
“Yes,” they both said and she smiled. “Everything okay, Shantreyl?”
“This is absolutely delightful,” she said. “Everything is so good.”
“I like hearing that,” Nyx replied. “I work hard.”
“Have you given any more thought to my suggestion of opening a bar next door, Nyx?” Malcolm asked.
“I have,” she said. “And yes, I’ll do it. I do like the idea of owning this corner of the block.”
“Great! I’ll contact you tomorrow sometime and we’ll talk specifics. I’m so glad you agreed to it.”
“Nyx, you won’t regret it,” Kaphiri said. “Just imagine…inebriated bar patrons stumbling out of your bar and into your diner to soak up all that alcohol with some good food.”
Nyx nodded her head, a smile on her lips. “I like the sound of that, Kap. Be right back with your juice.”
When she left, Shantreyl continued to eat. Malcolm said, “So, back to what we were talking about…what are you thinking? I saw your face.”
Shantreyl drank the rest of her juice and wiped her lips. “I was thinking that you two must be from Jupiter or Saturn or something. No man I know or have ever known or heard of knowing are as…understanding…as you two. Most men don’t even want another man to even look at their wives or girlfriends or whatever, but here you are, Malcolm, ready to share all of me with another man. Most people would question your sexuality.”
“I don’t give a smooth, clean fuck about what others think. I know exactly who I am and exactly what I want. Kaphiri has been through the fire with me and I know him as well as—perhaps even better than—my own brothers. We are who we are. Most people know better than to question me, and they for damn sure won’t ever question Kap.”
“Why is that?”
“Sullivan Parker is a diverse conglomerate and we…shall we say…have a vested interest in a lot of different businesses and accounts, and we employ a lot of people in Suva Oriana. We’re good friends with Mayor Stansfield—we’re partially funding her re-election campaign, and we have other good friends in various levels of local government. We’re part owners of the Black Knights basketball team and the Warlords’ football team. Again, we take care of our own.”
Shantreyl stared stupidly at Malcolm, absorbing all of the information just as Nyx brought her and Kaphiri fresh juice. “I thought you said that people don’t know who you are.”
“The average rando on the street doesn’t, baby,” he said. “Look, we’re sitting here in a full diner enjoying breakfast and not one person here knows us, except for Nyx. Even most of the people we employ through our conglomerate wouldn’t be able to identify us on the street. That’s how it is. We are very fortunate.”
“You guys own the Black Knights?”
“In part. Are you a fan?”
“I’m a casual basketball fan, but the Black Knights are Renee’s team and she’s a ride-or-die season ticket holder. Is there a way you can upgrade her season tickets? I’d love to get her that as a birthday present.”
“Okay,” Malcolm said. “I didn’t know you liked basketball. We’ll have to take in some games when the season starts. Kaphiri and I have a skybox at Phoenix Arena for guests, but we also have court side seats. Are you a football fan?”
“Same as basketball; casual.”
“Well, we will take in some games at Helix Stadium this fall. I’m sad I’m just now learning my girl is a sports fan.”
“Well, it never really came up,” Shantreyl said as she finished her meal. “I get so busy with the end of the school year that I don’t want to do anything extra. But back to the topic at hand, what will everyone think if I’m walking around with two last names if I’m married to you?”
“You shouldn’t care what others think, but if it makes you feel better, just reference my last name. Kaphiri won’t care, but on paper you’ll be Shantreyl Sullivan Parker.”
“Your relationship is unreal,” Shantreyl said. “I have never ever heard of male best friends being so…open…and willing to go halfsies on everything, including a wife and kids.”
“I’ll admit, we’re not the standard. But Kaphiri and I are where we are because we understand one another on a fundamental level. I’ll never comprehend Melvin’s antediluvian ass and Mike is very much ordinary. Kaphiri knows me in a way they don’t.”
“I know I keep asking this but I can’t stop thinking about it. What will your family think of me if I have Kaphiri’s baby? What will Kaphiri’s family think of me if I have your baby?”
“My mother absolutely will not care who fathered her grandchild as long as you give her one. I don’t give a shit what my brothers think. Kaphiri’s parents are very much aware of our connection and have no problem with it. And if you give Mercury and Persephone Parker a grandchild, you’ll have the keys to the kingdom. They’ve wanted one for years, but they don’t put any pressure on Kaphiri. They’ve always let him be who he is.”
Nyx brought the juice and sat it on the table. “Anything else?”
“No,” Malcolm said. “Everything’s spectacular, as usual.”
“All right,” she said. “You guys have a great day.”
“Thanks, Nyx,” Shantreyl said.
“You’re more than welcome. Hope to see you again at some point.”
Shantreyl smiled. “Absolutely.” She was going to have to bring Renee and Jaya here for brunch.
When Nyx left, Shantreyl took a long drink of orange juice. She wiped her mouth and said,” All right then. Let’s talk logistics. Now that I know I’m the meat in a Sullivan Parker sandwich, how will my day-to-day change? We live in three different places and I’ll be back to work in a month, which means our schedules won’t coincide. I get up at five in the morning and I’m home around five in the evening. Malcolm, you don’t go to work until ten and you’re usually there until eleven or midnight; at which point I’m asleep. Kaphiri, I assume you work the same kind of schedule Malcolm does, so where does that leave us? We won’t see each other and I don’t like the idea of that.”
Kaphiri looked at Malcolm. “She has a point.”
“Indeed she does,” he replied. “I’ve gotten used to spending Sundays and Mondays with her that I’ve forgotten that it’s a temporary thing. Tell us what you want, baby.”
“I’ve gotten used to seeing you on a weekly basis and I need for that to continue. I guess that means only Sundays. But when we get married, I’m gonna need for my husband—husbands?—to be home with me in the evenings, especially if we’re planning to have kids. I’m not about to be doing that on my own.”
“Fair enough,” Kaphiri said. “I’ll change my schedule. I’ll go in an hour earlier and get off at six p.m. I’m fine with that. Malcolm?”
“I’m willing to do that as well, but maybe it’ll be better if we alternate days. I prefer that one of us be available in the evenings. You know how unpredictable casino life can be.”
“I do. Shantreyl, is this acceptable?”
“I guess it has to be.”
“No,” Malcolm said. “If you want me home in the evenings with you and Kaphiri, then I’ll be home in the evenings. I just like keeping an eye on things. It’s the way I’ve been since we had the hotels built.”
“I’m fine with you and Kaphiri taking turns. Let’s test it out, see what happens. If I don’t like it, I’ll let you know.”
“Fine with me,” Kaphiri said, covering his empty plate with a napkin.
“All right then,” Malcolm said.
“Next thing: where will we live? I live in Siren Heights, you live in Kanzhao and Kaphiri lives in Dastara. I’m forty-five minutes from my job in Paradise Park and I don’t want to commute any longer than that. Kaphiri has this awesome renovated factory he lives in and I don’t blame him if he wants to keep it. Your Summerwind apartment isn’t big enough for the three of us. So…how are we going to handle that?”
“Of course we’ll live in the same house, especially after the wedding. We can start house-hunting so that we can find a floor plan you like.”
“And I have no intention of selling my chocolate factory,” Kaphiri said. “I put way too much work into it to sell it. It will be an alternate residence…at least that is how I plan to treat it.”
“Okay…but in the meantime?”
“After we leave here, we’re going to Bernhardt to get you a new bed. Until we have our own home, we’ll stay with you…unless you want to stay with one of us.”
“I’m totally fine with you staying with me. I’m going to have to make room for you guys, but I can do that. I’ve got plenty of closet space in my office and in the guest room on the first floor.”
“You have a guest room?”
“Next to the garage. I have a spare bedroom down there that I use for storage, but I can put my winter wardrobe down there for the time being.” She finished her juice and put a napkin to her mouth to hide her burp. “Excuse me. That was an amazing meal.”
“Glad you liked it,” Malcolm said. He pushed his plate back.
“I think we’re ready to leave,” Kaphiri said. He waved one of the servers over and asked for the bill.
Malcolm stood up, straightened his clothes and pulled out Shantreyl’s chair. “Off to Bernhardt and then to Triple Creek Farms for groceries.”
“Triple Creek Farms? I normally shop at Publix or Kroger’s, baby. I’m a teacher; I don’t have Triple Creek grocery money.”
Malcolm looked at her. “Baby, we’re buying your groceries. You should know by now that you don’t pay for anything. Besides, Triple Creek Farms has a better assortment of fresh produce, meat and organic items, which Kaphiri likes. They also have a fantastic bakery and wine selection, which I like.”
“Uh, okay then,” she said. This was going to take getting used to.
Kaphiri paid the bill and they left the diner.
The shopping trip to Bernhardt was interesting. Shantreyl used Kaphiri as a measuring stick; if his feet didn’t hang off the mattress, then it was worth it for her to check the comfort. If the combination of Kaphiri’s and Shantreyl’s comfort was enough, then Malcolm tested the bed. She suggested that all three lay on the bed at the same time in the manner in which they slept to be sure of the bed’s comfort. That attracted the attention of several shoppers, which the threesome ignored. They tested nine different mattress combinations before they settled on a brand that Shantreyl really liked and matched all of their comfort levels.
She found a bed that she fell in love with at first sight. It was a four-poster gothic style. Shantreyl had always wanted an elaborate gothic bed, but the price range was always way outside her budget.
Malcolm noticed that she was staring at the bed. “Do you like this?”
“I love it,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a gothic canopy bed, but I can’t afford it on a teacher’s salary…and it’s a luxury anyway, so…”
Kaphiri came up behind her and put his hands on her waist. “I like this,” he said. “I like how it looks.”
“What do you think, Malcolm?” she asked.
“Honestly, I don’t care. I just want us to be comfortable. Can this bed frame hold a California King mattress?”
“Lord, I hope so,” she said.
“I’ll get a customer service rep,” Kaphiri said.
Malcolm said, “This won’t match any of the furniture you have, baby.”
“I’ll get a piece at a time,” she said. “I just…I really want this bed.”
“Do you want to go ahead and get the full bedroom set? I see no need to get it piece by piece.”
She smiled weakly at him, her mind and heart a miasma of emotions. “I…I want the whole set…please.”
Malcolm nodded. Shantreyl thought it interesting that he didn’t even glance at the price tag. She resisted the urge to look at it herself.
Kaphiri returned with a customer service rep. Malcolm asked, “Can this bed frame hold a California King?”
“This particular bed? No; it goes no higher than a king, but if you are interested in this style of bed, we do have one that can hold a California King.”
“Can we see it?” Shantreyl asked.
“This way, please.”
A minute or so later, Shantreyl was staring at a gorgeous canopy bed with sheer black curtains and a black and red comforter set. That she loved it was obvious. Malcolm smiled to himself and shook his head. Clearly, she was fantasizing about sleeping in it.
“What do you think?” the CSR asked.
“I love it,” Shantreyl said. She turned to Malcolm. “Do you like it, babe?”
“I love that you love it and that’s good enough for me.” Then he turned to the CSR. “Does it come in a full bedroom suit?”
“We’ll take it,” Malcolm said.
The CSR smiled and nodded, trying not to look too gleeful. “The entire suit?”
“The entire suit,” Kaphiri said, “and the Novaform mattress set that fits it.”
The CSR’s smile got even wider, thinking about her commission. “We can do that.”
“But wait,” Shantreyl said. “I don’t have linens to fit the bed.”
“That’s fine, ma’am,” the CSR said. “If you go to the second floor, you’ll find our linens section.”
“Let’s take care of the bedroom furniture first, baby,” Malcolm said.
“No need,” Kaphiri said. “I’ll take her to the second floor and you can catch up when you’re done.”
Malcolm looked at the CSR. “How soon can it be delivered?”
“I’ll have to check, but I think Friday might be the earliest.”
Malcolm put his hands in his pockets. “How much would it cost to have it delivered this evening?”
“Sir, I don’t think that’s possible. We have a schedule…”
“Would your manager know?”
Malcolm was cheerful. “I’m ready to spend a whole lot of money in here…I’d hate for you to be the reason it doesn’t get spent. Don’t you guys work on commission?”
“We do. I’ll be right back with the manager.”
Shantreyl looked at Malcolm. “Are you serious about this?”
“We need a new bed, don’t we?” he replied. “I’d rather not have to wait for it. They can deliver it tonight and I’ll pay them a little extra to move your old furniture to the room on the first floor. It’s empty, right?”
“Yes,” she said, staring at Malcolm with happiness in her eyes.
“So, let’s see what happens. You go ahead and pick out some bed linens and I’ll catch up with you when this is done.”
Shantreyl kissed his lips. “Thank you, Malcolm.”
“I want you happy, baby. That’s all.”
A little while later, Shantreyl was at the counter with Kaphiri. She found three different sets of bed linens that would go well with the new bed. He insisted that she select high-thread count Egyptian sheets because that was what he was used to.
“I can’t wait to try them out,” she said.
“You’ll love it. Good thing your bedroom walls are a neutral color,” he said.
“I’m glad about that as well,” she said as the clerk rang up their order. I’m going to have a good time redecorating tomorrow.”
The clerk quoted a total and Kaphiri gave him an onyx-colored credit card. As he was signing the receipt, Malcolm walked up to the counter.
“How did it go, babe?” Shantreyl asked.
Malcolm smiled at her and took one of the shopping bags. “It’ll be delivered around eight o’clock tonight. So when we get back to your place, we need to empty your dresser drawers.”
“Okay,” she said, smiling at him.
“Do we have everything we need from here?” he asked.
“I think so,” she said.
“All right then,” he replied. “Let’s go get you some groceries.
About three hours later, Shantreyl had full cabinets and a full refrigerator. Kaphiri bought around $350 worth of groceries from Triple Creek Farms. They were sitting on her couch with the TV on. Malcolm was searching Netflix as ShoNuff came over to inspect Kaphiri. He carefully picked her up and sat her in his lap, scratching her fur.
Shantreyl examined her toenails for polish chips. “Are you guys planning on spending the night? You both have to work tomorrow. What time are you leaving?”
Kaphiri said, “Don’t you want to test out the new bed?”
“That’s what we expect from you, baby,” Malcolm said.
“I’m still tired. We were up late last night and I was up early with my family...I don’t think I have the energy to break in the bed properly. Can we do it on Sunday?”
“Sunday? Why must we wait until Sunday?” Kaphiri asked.
“Well, because of your schedule—”
“I thought we agreed to adjust it.”
“Oh…you were planning to start immediately? I was thinking you’d do that when I went back to work in August.”
“No point in putting it off,” Malcolm said. “It will mean waking up earlier than either of us are used to, but we’ll adjust. I’ll go first,” Malcolm said.
“Okay,” Shantreyl said. “So you’re spending the night with me tomorrow? You’d better bring some clothes or something. You can store your toiletries and stuff in the guest bathroom. Maybe you guys should decide which of the rooms you want your bathroom stuff in. My bathroom is—sorry—full.”
“I’ll take the room on the first floor,” Kaphiri said. “Malcolm can have the room down the hall.”
“This is going to be an interesting experiment,” Shantreyl said.
“It’s going to work,” Malcolm said. “Watch.”
“Well, are either of you gonna spend the night tonight?”
“I’m not,” Malcolm said. “You’re tired and I have some things to do before work tomorrow. But neither of us are leaving until after your furniture has been delivered.”
“Are you gonna talk to your brother?”
“Talking doesn’t work. The only thing Melvin really understands is an ass-kicking.”
“But he’s bigger than you, Malcolm.”
“Don’t let my skinny frame fool you, baby. I can hold my own. Melvin and I have fought before. I’ve beaten him four times out of six.”
“I’m sorry you feel you have to fight him because of me.”
“Why are you apologizing?” Kaphiri asked. “You didn’t do anything wrong. He put his hands on you. I would have wiped up the floor with him, but I didn’t want to ruin my parents’ cookout.”
“I’m just glad I didn’t see him do it, or I would have,” Malcolm said.
Shantreyl leaned over and kissed Malcolm’s cheek. “Don’t let him hit you in the face.”
Malcolm smiled. “I won’t.”
A few minutes passed and Shantreyl’s stomach growled. "Are you two hungry?”
“Not really,” Malcolm said.
“No,” Kaphiri said. “Are you?”
“We ate breakfast around noon, and it’s going on five o’clock. I’m starving.” She got up, walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge, staring at the overflowing shelves. She could certainly get used to Kaphiri buying her groceries.
“What do you feel like eating? Leftovers?”
“I don’t feel like cooking, actually. I think I’ll have a sandwich, some potato chips and one of those giant oatmeal raisin cookies. Perfect meal for watching TV with. Those leftovers will be saved for tomorrow. I’m not doing a damn thing.”
“Whatever makes you happy, baby.” Then Malcolm looked at the TV. “What are we gonna watch?”
“Let’s watch a movie,” Kaphiri said as ShoNuff got off his lap. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out a wet wipe and wiped his hands. “It’s not something Malcolm and I get to do often.”
Shantreyl was busy making a sandwich. “That’s gonna change if you two are trying to make a life with me. Pick a horror movie, please. One with at least three stars.”
She put together a club sandwich on wheat bread, cut into quarters with the crust cut off and had a bowl of Lay’s next to the plate, along with a glass of peach iced tea. When she returned to her seat, holding a tray with her food on it, she sat down and put the tray in her lap. The moment she got comfortable, both Malcolm and Kaphiri snatched a piece of sandwich off her plate.
“Are you serious?” she said, frowning. “I thought neither of you were hungry!”
Kaphiri helped himself to some chips. “Yeah, but that sandwich looks good.”
“I think I’ll actually have one now,” Malcolm said, reaching for another sandwich quarter.
“Me too,” Kaphiri said, taking the last one.
Shantreyl looked at both of them, annoyed. “You’re both kidding, right?”
“Not at all,” Malcolm said. “That was delicious. I can’t even recall the last time I had a sandwich.”
“Same,” Kaphiri said.
Shantreyl sighed. “Okay then.” She got back up and went into the kitchen to make more sandwiches. Clearly, this was going to be an interesting situation, living with two men. She pulled the ingredients back out, put her phone on the counter and turned up the music. While making the sandwiches, she started singing along to Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain.”
In the den, Kaphiri softly punched Malcolm in the arm and inclined his head towards the kitchen. Malcolm smiled. He had never heard Shantreyl sing before.
When she returned to the couch a few minutes later, she had a tray filled with more finger sandwiches, more cookies and three large glasses of peach tea. She sat between them and handed each man a napkin. “We’re good now?” she asked.
Malcolm squeezed her thigh. “We’re good. Except I’ve never heard you sing before. How come?”
Shantreyl made a face. “I don’t know, baby. It’s not on purpose.”
“You have a beautiful voice,” he said. “One day, you’ll have to sing for me.”
“I’d be more than happy to, Malcolm. I sing to my students.”
“Do they like it?”
“They love it.”
“What in the world do you sing?” Kaphiri asked.
“Lab instructions and lesson objectives.”
“Does it work?”
“It does, because they are actually listening to what I’m singing, which isn’t the case when I talk or lecture. However, it’s more effective with my upper grades.”
“Genius,” Malcolm said, eating one of his sandwich quarters.
“I don’t know about all that,” Shantreyl said. “What are we about to watch?”
“Velvet Buzzsaw,” Kaphiri said. “The title alone got my attention. Not sure if it’s horror, though.”
“Well, all right then,” she said, and they began to eat.
A few hours later, Shantreyl’s new bedroom suit was in place. Malcolm waited long enough to ensure that she was satisfied with where everything was. The bed took up a considerable amount of space, but there was enough room for all of the new furniture. Shantreyl’s eyes shone with happiness.
“Are you okay with it, baby?”
Shantreyl walked up to him, threw her arms around his neck and kissed his lips. “I love it, all of it! Thank you, honey. You spoil me so.”
Malcolm gripped her ass and rubbed her nose with his. “Whatever makes you happy, Shantreyl. We’re breaking it in tomorrow night, right?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
“Okay,” he said. “I need to get going. Walk me out.”
As they walked towards his truck, Shantreyl grabbed his hand. “I had a really good time at the cookout yesterday.”
“And what about after?”
“A good time was equally had. Better, even.”
“So, are you okay with…everything?”
“You mean with Kaphiri?”
“Then I need to confess something, baby. Last Thursday, when Kaphiri was keeping me company, I…I kissed him and we ended up making out. It was me that initiated it, not him.”
“I know,” Malcolm said. “I knew you were attracted to him. I just hope that your attraction is more than just physical. I hope that you can fall in love with him.”
“I imagine so, but we’ll know for sure before the end of the summer.”
“He will take good care of you, Shantreyl. Just like I will.”
“I believe that,” she said. “I’m having the best summer ever.”
“We can do better,” Malcolm said. What, do you have five or six weeks before you go back to work?”
“Something like that.”
He opened his arms and she walked into them, looping her arms around his neck. “I love you, Malcolm Sullivan.” She kissed his lips.
Malcolm held her tight, closing his eyes. This was the first time she actually said the words ‘I love you’ to him. He swallowed the lump in his throat and rubbed her back. “You know that I’m in love with you,” he said. “I want a future with you. I want children with you. I want a life with you so much, Shantreyl. I want everything with you. You have no idea.”
“I’m learning,” she said as she laid her head against his shoulder. Her heart was beating so fast. “And I want the same with you, Malcolm.”
They held on to each other for a few long moments and it was nice being in each other’s arms. After a while, Malcolm released her. “I’ll call you tomorrow sometime, all right? I need to leave now, baby.”
Shantreyl nodded and after giving him another kiss, Malcolm hopped into his Range Rover and drove off. When she went back into her townhouse, Kaphiri’s tall self was sitting on the arm of her couch, looking absolutely scrumptious.
Shantreyl smiled at him and thought, ‘Two boyfriends? A built-in side dude? This is gonna work out fine.’ She said, “Are you spending the night?”
“If you want me to,” he said. “I’ll get up early and go by my place before I go to work. I want to sleep in that bed. Do you want me to spend the night, bambina?”
Shantreyl smiled at him. “Yes, but we’re going to sleep this time, Kaphiri. I’m worn out.”
“I won’t keep you up,” he said. “Come on, I’ll help you make the bed and put your clothes away.”
“All right,” she said.
A little while later, the bed was made and her clothes put away. Shantreyl turned on the shower, looking forward to sleeping in her new bed. She planned to sleep late and get in touch with Jaya and Renee tomorrow. She stuffed her hair into a shower cap and put a fresh towel on the counter before getting in. Shantreyl stood under the wonderful warm water, eyes closed, giving thanks to whatever deity had blessed her with meeting Malcolm.
Just then, Kaphiri entered the shower. Shantreyl turned to face him. “Kaphiri, what are you doing?”
“Taking a shower with you. Turn around, let me wash your back.”
Shantreyl turned back around without another word as she passed her bath scrunchy and eucalyptus bath gel over her shoulder. She stood still as Kaphiri sudsed her scrunchy and began rubbing it all over her back and buttocks. When he felt that she was soaped enough, he whispered in her ear, “Can I wash your front?”
Shantreyl couldn’t help but smile. “Yes.”
“Good. Don’t turn around, bambina.”
And then those wonderful soapy brown hands were all over her breasts and belly. At some point, he put the scrunchy on the shower shelf and then it was just his hands, gently squeezing her boobs and fondling her nipples. She smiled to herself because he clearly had a thing for her breasts. A moment later, she was pressed against him and his hands went over and around and across her breasts and belly. She raised her arms and looped them around his neck to give him more access to her midsection.
“You’re so soft,” he said.
“I’m glad you like it,” she replied, pinching one of her fat rolls. “Side effect of my love affair with food.”
Shantreyl remained in that same position for a few more minutes. Kaphiri was getting aroused and she didn’t want him to get it up for something she was too tired to give.
“I’m ready to get out,” she said.
“All right,” he said. He took a step back while she rinsed herself off. When she got out, he said, “I need to bathe, so see you in a few minutes.”
When he emerged from the shower about five minutes later, a towel tied around his hips while rubbing his head with another towel, Shantreyl was sitting on the turned back bed, wearing a short green silk nightgown and twisting up her hair. There was a black bonnet next to her. She cast a quick glance in Kaphiri’s direction; she couldn’t help it.
‘Jeez, he’s so fucking fine. How in the hell did I end up in this situation?’
“You didn’t do that last night,” he said as he dried his hair.
“Yeah…and it was a problem for me this morning; hence the headband. I can’t forget to twist up my hair at night no matter how entertaining you and Malcolm are, and you need to be okay with seeing me like this.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I don’t know. A lot of women don’t want their men to see them looking less than 100% put together. I was like that when I first started dating Malcolm, but by the time we progressed to the point of him coming to my house, I didn’t give a damn. Either he would be okay with how I look at home or he wouldn’t.”
“Well I guess you know the answer to that. His ex-girlfriends hardly ever gave him that option. They were always physically flawless.”
“Are you okay with me not always being physically perfect?”
“Of course I am. You look great. You’re beautiful.”
“Lies. At any rate, I’m almost done. Do you have clean clothes in your bag?”
“I do. They’re in the other room. I’ll be right back and then we’ll go to bed. Turn on the TV.”
“Do you mind if I select something for us to watch?”
“I’m fine with whatever.”
When Kaphiri returned to the bedroom, wearing pajama bottoms and a T-shirt, Shantreyl was in bed, spraying a light fragrance. Kaphiri got in bed and closed his eyes.
“What’s that? Eucalyptus?”
“Yes. It helps me relax.”
“You didn’t do that last night either.”
“Well, I was distracted. But it is something I do regularly. Another thing I do at night is listen to scary stories on YouTube. Malcolm doesn’t know this; usually, he keeps me occupied.”
Kaphiri rolled the new duvet back and slipped his feet underneath it. The room was a lot cooler tonight. “Really?”
“Yes. I’m a horror head. One of my favorite channels is Chilling Tales for Dark Nights.”
“You’ll have to indoctrinate me,” he said as he lay down.
“I’ll do that,” she said as she turned off the lamp. She grabbed the remote and selected a story from the menu. “I’ve been listening to Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, but I’m always asleep before it ends. Not sure if that implies I’m exhausted or that the story is boring.”
“Can I have a good night kiss?”
“Of course you can. You don’t have to ask.”
“I don’t want to assume consent,” he said.
“Well, you’re my new bae,” she said. “Consent is given unless I revoke it.”
“I won’t do anything that will make you want to do that,” he replied. “I apologize for not asking you last night. I just…I wanted you so badly—”
“No apology necessary, honeybunny. I wanted you more than you wanted me.”
“I doubt that but there’s no need to debate it.” Then he gave her a funny look. "Honeybunny?"
She caressed the side of his face and touched the tip of his nose. "Your eyes are the color of pale honey and it just rolled right off my tongue. Honeybunny, honeybun. Are you all right with it?"
"Don't call me that in front of Malcolm," he said. "He will find ways to use it against me."
"I'll try my best not to," she said.
She caressed the side of his face and touched the tip of his nose. "Your eyes are the color of pale honey and it just rolled right off my tongue. Honeybunny, honeybun. Are you all right with it?"
"Don't call me that in front of Malcolm," he said. "He will find ways to use it against me."
"I'll try my best not to," she said.
Shantreyl got under the covers and scooted close to Kaphiri. They shared a sweet kiss and he put an arm around her.
“Snuggle next to me,” he said. “Like you did last night.”
“So you liked that, did you?” she said as she tucked herself into his side.
“I did. You’re soft and you smell good. I like the intimacy. I like having your head on my chest.”
Shantreyl began to rub Kaphiri’s abs. “It’s a shame you’ve never experienced it before. What else haven’t you done?”
“Forgive me for saying, but it’s hard to believe that you’ve gone your whole adult life without that form of creature comfort. I know you’re a loner and you prefer solitude, but you’ve missed out on some really great things.”
He idly rubbed her lower back. “I get to make up for lost time with you.”
“And you really want to do that with me?”
“I do. Malcolm has never dated a woman like you before, as you well know. When he opened up about what he wanted after he started seeing you, I knew you were different. Marriage, kids, a future…he had never talked like that before. I knew then that if you were woman enough to make a man like Malcolm focus on actually starting a family, then you would be woman enough for me.” Kaphiri began playing with one of Shantreyl’s nipples. “I want a family too.”
She looked up at him. “Kaphiri, we don’t really know each other, so I hope I’m not a disappointment.”
“We will get to know each other, Shantreyl. You already know what you need to know about me, and you’re not going to be a disappointment. All I need to do is show you that I’m worth your time and attention.”
“If Malcolm weren’t around, would you have chosen me on your own?”
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t have chosen anybody. I’m not built that way. I simply am not good with meeting people. It’s a major character flaw, but I own it. I could have spent the rest of my life single.”
“That would have been a waste.”
“That’s what my father said.”
“Do you have a good relationship with your parents?”
Kaphiri continued to play with her nipple. “I do. They understand me and they don’t try to force anything on me. When I told them that I was bisexual, all they really wanted to know was if it would interfere with them getting a grandchild. I told them that I didn’t know. I like having sex with men and with women, but I didn’t see myself associating with anyone—male, female, or non-binary—long enough to have…something…with. They accepted that and I’m fortunate to have such progressive and supportive parents. Then Malcolm and I had a conversation one day and he realized that he could help me out. Whenever he met—and it was only a matter of time—the right woman, she would be good enough for both of us. Seventeen years later, here you are in my arms.”
Shantreyl yawned and rubbed his abs. “So this was all Malcolm’s idea?”
“Yes. When he explained it to me, I was surprised that he’d even thought that far ahead. He told me that he didn’t want me growing old alone, and if sharing a wife and kids was what it took, then so be it. We both researched the concept and learned all about polyamory.”
“I bet most of what you learned were about polyamorous relationships with one man and multiple women.”
“Indeed. Of course, that wasn’t going to work. Malcolm is a one-woman man, and he and I aren’t jealous of one another. We’ve been friends for way too long for any fuck shit like that. Our brotherhood predates any romantic entanglements on either of our parts. You might even say that we love each other more than we will love the woman who is willing to put up with us.”
Shantreyl yawned once more as her hand made large circles over his washboard abs. “I would say that.”
“Does that bother you, bambina?”
She shook her head. “It doesn’t. Far as I’m concerned, I’m winning at life right now. Malcolm has already utterly ruined me and then to be gifted with you as a bonus bae? There ain’t nothing anybody can tell me right now.”
“As long as you are happy and satisfied.” Then Kaphiri yawned, which triggered another yawn from Shantreyl.
“Come on, let’s go to sleep,” she said. “I can barely hold my eyes open.”
He checked his phone. “I’ll probably be gone when you wake up in the morning.”
Shantreyl closed her eyes as she rubbed her cheek against his chest. “Feel free to wake me up if you wanna smash before you go to work.”
Kaphiri squeezed her ass. “No…the honor of breaking in this brand-new bed goes to Malcolm. He paid for it. You and I will finish the process tomorrow night.” He kissed her forehead. “Start the story.”
Shantreyl had the remote sitting on Kaphiri’s chest. She grabbed it and hit PLAY. She smiled at him and handed him the remote. “Put it on the nightstand. I don’t want to move.”
“Good night, bambina,” he said, closing his eyes and brushed another kiss against her forehead as the story began. Within minutes, both were asleep.
The next day, Renee and Jaya were sitting on Shantreyl’s couch, listening to her recount everything that had happened after the cookout. Both women wore identical expressions of surprise.
“So, what do you think?” Shantreyl asked.
Jaya simply stared at her friend, rubbing her belly. Renee kept trying to find words and stopping.
“Malcolm’s gonna spend the night with me tonight…we’re breaking in my new bed.”
“That bedroom set really is nice,” Jaya said. “Right now, that’s about the only thing I can comment on. Are you going to get drapes for the canopy?”
“Bet your ass I am.”
Renee finally found her voice. “So you get to freely fuck Malcolm’s fine-ass friend? You get to have that hottie as a side piece?”
“Well, we have our own connection independent of my relationship with Malcolm.”
“How are you going to keep them separate, Shan?”
“I don’t have to do that, Renee. It’s not even an issue, at least not so far.”
Jaya let out an audible breath. “Shantreyl, I have to say…I expected to hear just about anything, but I never expected to hear you tell me that you’re going to be a participant in a polyamorous lifestyle.”
“Do you not like that?” Shantreyl asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Jaya replied. “I just never thought of you as being a willing participant in an alternative lifestyle. How will you be able to love them the same?”
“I won’t love them the same, Jaya. I can’t because they’re two entirely different men, but I believe I can love them both. I’m already in love with Malcolm, and if Kaphiri keeps on the way he has, then loving him won’t be difficult. You have to be happy for me.”
“I am, Shan. I am, I promise. I’m just trying to get my head around it. Like what if you prefer to spend more time with Kaphiri than with Malcolm? What if you really just want to be with him and him alone?”
“That’s why we’re experimenting, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
“Well, let’s hope not,” Jaya said. “Here Renee and I were thinking that you and Malcolm were boo’ed up in bed all day yesterday after that awesome cookout, and it turns out you got yourself a second boyfriend, almost $400 in groceries, and a brand new bedroom suit which had to cost a pretty penny for that enormous bed alone. Your Monday was really…productive.”
“I’ll say,” Renee agreed. “They hit you with a lot over the past twenty-four hours.”
“I admit, I’m still processing it all. There is a lot to consider.”
“I’m still processing the fact that Malcolm said he was fine with you as his wife having Kaphiri’s baby.”
“But I won’t be just Malcolm’s wife…in spirit, I’ll also be Kaphiri’s wife. That’s how they see it.”
“Whooo, now that is some shit,” Renee said. A moment later, she said, “But that baby’s gonna be fucking gorgeous.”
Shantreyl side-eyed Renee. “Bitch, all my kids are gonna be beautiful!”
“Where are you three going to live?” Jaya asked.
“For now, we will be at my place in the evenings, but Malcolm said we can start house hunting soon. I find the house I like, that’s where we’ll move. I promise that I won’t be too far away from you guys. I’m used to you two being so close that I don’t think I can give that up. Our Friday afternoons are everything to me.”
Renee laughed. “Well shit, tell Malcolm to buy us a house too, just in case. So we can raise our kids together. That rich muffucka can afford it.”
Jaya laughed along with her wife. “He might actually do that if it makes Shan happy. So, did you talk to your family about Malcolm?”
“Yes. They’re happy for me and on Thursday, I’m setting up a conference call in Malcolm’s office at the hotel. First, Momma and Daddy, and then Zuri and Kit.”
“I’m surprised he hasn’t proposed yet,” Jaya said, rubbing her tummy. “I mean, all of the pieces are on the board. I wonder what he’s waiting for?”
“Likely he wants to see if this little experiment will be successful. He did say that if I couldn’t make it work with Kaphiri, then we couldn’t be together.”
“That alone,” Jaya said.
“Little experiment my ass,” Renee said. “And talk about looking out for your homie? Malcolm and Kaphiri took that to the nth power.”
“And you don’t want to lose Malcolm, so you have to find a way to make it work with his best friend.” Jaya said.
Renee continued. “No one we know has a friendship like theirs. That shit is definitely…different.”
“It’s not going to be difficult,” Shantreyl said. “Kaphiri spent the night with me and it felt good being in his arms. We have some things in common, so we will build on that. We all want it to work, so it’s going to work.”
“So tonight is Malcolm’s night?”
“Yes. We have to break in the bed.”
“You mean you and Kaphiri didn’t do that last night? I imagine that with the way that he can move his hips, the sex must be superb. You didn’t have sex with him?” Jaya asked.
“Girl, I was so tired from the day before. Kaphiri and I had sex the night before last—he fucked me standing up—and he wore me out for the second time that day; the first being on the dance floor. And then I woke up early to talk to my family, so I had nothing left in the tank for last night.”
“And where was Malcolm when you were getting that good old upright D?” Renee asked.
“Sitting over in the corner, watching. He’s a voyeur. And dig this: when he thought that Kaphiri and I weren’t gonna have sex, he got mad.”
“Really?” Jaya said, her eyebrows raised. “He got upset?”
“Yes, but then Kaphiri cut right through my bullshit and we gave Malcolm what he wanted.”
Renee and Jaya looked at each other. “Girl, I don’t want nobody watching Jay and me get down,” Renee said. “The very idea creeps me out.”
“And Kaphiri had no problem with that?”
“Are you sure they’ve never done this before with another woman?”
“They say they haven’t and I believe them.”
“They’re that comfortable around each other?”
“They are. I told them that they had to be from Jupiter or something, because…”
“Neptune, Pluto…shit, another galaxy,” Renee said. “Be-cause…”
“So, what are you going to tell your parents?” Jaya asked.
“Nothing. I’ll introduce Kaphiri as Malcolm’s business partner and that’s it. He said he didn’t need me to tell them anything else.”
“What about kids? Your mother and sister will know if you have Kaphiri’s baby; what will you tell them if they know you’re married to Malcolm?”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
“No,” Jaya said. “I need to know now how you are going to handle that. You have to have a story in place, Shan.”
Shantreyl bit her lip as she gave Jaya’s request some thought. “Malcolm and Kaphiri want to raise our children together. It won’t be Malcolm’s son or Kaphiri’s daughter; it will be Malcolm and Kaphiri’s child, and all the kids—however many we’re able to have—will have the same last name. Sullivan Parker. Same as mine will be.”
“I understand that, sis,” Jaya said. “But what are you going to tell your mother and Zuri? Zuri especially. You know how she is.”
“I know,” Shantreyl said.
“Just tell them the truth,” Renee said. “It’s not gonna matter one bit, is it?”
Shantreyl nodded. “It’s not. And to be honest, I’m not about to lose sleep over what Zuri and Momma may think about me being in a polyamorous relationship if I’m happy and taken care of.”
“Which you sure as fuck will be,” Renee said. “I’m jealous.”
“Are you sure about that, Shantreyl?” Jaya asked. “You know how anxious you get at times when you have to deal with your sister.”
“Jaya, I am not about to let Zuri upset me over my relationship with Malcolm and Kaphiri. She can accept it or not. I don’t give a shit. If she has a problem with me living with and loving two men, then that’s on her. We just won’t be talking that much. I’m not about to let her sabotage my happiness with her shadiness.”
“I heard that,” Renee said.
“As long as you’re happy, Shan. It’s your life and you have the right to live it as you choose. If this is what the universe has in store for you, then who are we to shoot it down?”
“Thank you both for understanding,” Shantreyl said.
“Of course, sis!” Renee said. “Jay and me, we got you. Always.”