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The setting for the Sheila & K'avir stories is the Star Trek Mirrorverse. Anything Star Trek-related are the intellectual property of Gene Roddenberry. All other characters, planets, star systems and content not within said scope are my own.


Switchblade Romance (20/21)

XX:  Bittersweet Heat

Malcolm reserved the private dining room at Embers for dinner on Monday night.  He arranged the same setup he did for his and Shantreyl’s third date so that her family was comfortable.  He and Kaphiri were in the dining room, speaking to the lead attendant when the maître d’ escorted Shantreyl’s family inside.  Two of the attendants led them to the table and they got settled.  Theodore Troy walked right up to him and Kaphiri and Malcolm cast a glance in Shantreyl’s direction.  He couldn’t glean anything from her expression.

“Malcolm,” Trey said, shaking his hand.  Then he looked at Kaphiri for a moment and then held out his hand.  “Kaphiri, right?”

Kaphiri took his hand.  “Yes, Mr. Troy.”

Trey held his hand in a viselike grip and looked back at Shantreyl before looking Kaphiri in the eye.  “My wife explained the…situation…to me, and Shantreyl clarified certain things.  I’m still not sure how I feel about my Princess being married to two men—I honestly can’t really fathom what that means—but I know how I feel when I see that smile on her face.  I know how I feel when I see how she glows when she talks about you and most importantly, I know how I felt as I looked into her eyes when she told me that she was pregnant and that she was so excited to be the mother of your—well, one of yours—child.  Those feelings are super powerful, and I need to keep them intact.  I’m giving my precious daughter to you two on Saturday and I need to know that I’m not making a mistake.  Both of you swear to me right now, on your honor as men, that you will keep Shantreyl happy like that for the rest of her natural life and I won’t have to come back over here to invite you out to the parking lot.”

Kaphiri looked Trey in the eye, shook his hand and said, “You’re not making a mistake, Mr. Troy.  I swear on my honor as a man that I will keep Shantreyl as happy as she is now for the rest of her life.  I’m in love with her.”

Then Trey turned at looked at Malcolm, holding out his hand once more.  Malcolm took it, shook it, and then said, “I swear to you that I will keep Shantreyl happy, Mr. Troy.”

Trey looked at them and said, “I guess this means that you can call me Trey now.” 

Kaphiri nodded and Malcolm said, “Yes sir—Trey.”

Trey said, “Well…alright then.  I’m going to go sit down now.  Glad we got this settled.”  Then he went and sat down next to his daughter.  Malcolm took his seat on the other side of her as Shannon sat next to her husband.  Kaphiri sat next to Shannon, and the remaining chairs were occupied by Zuri and her family.   

Shantreyl was in exceptionally good humor.  She had her first appointment that morning with Dr. Korie Michaelsen, her new OB-GYN; a woman who came highly recommended.  Kaphiri and Malcolm were there with her when she learned that she was almost five weeks pregnant and the most likely date of conception was the Sunday after her birthday.  The baby was due in August.

Afterwards, as they walked to their cars, Malcolm said, “That’s one hell of a birthday present we gave you.”

Shantreyl smiled, as did Kaphiri.  “I’ll say,” she said.

“When will you schedule your next appointment?  How often will you have to go when it’s this early?” Kaphiri asked.

“Maybe once or twice a month, if all goes well.  I’ll schedule another appointment in three weeks.”

Malcolm said, “Make sure they’re on Mondays, baby.  So we can be there with you.  We’re gonna be with you every step of the way.”

“You’re not worried about being seen or noticed, or gossip?  This is your hospital and your employees.”  Dr. Michaelsen was told up front that either Kaphiri or Malcolm fathered the child, and that they would be present at every appointment and in the delivery room when Shantreyl was ready to give birth.  She nodded her head and made a note of it before asking, “Do you want to know which one of you fathered the baby?” All three said, “No.”

Malcolm ran the back of his fingers over her cheek.  “Baby, I told you…the average rando would have a hard time trying to figure out who we are.  Yes, this is Sullivan Parker’s hospital, but the employees have never seen Mr. Sullivan or Mr. Parker, and might not even be aware that it is actually Sullivan and Parker.  Romeo told me once that a lot of people think Sullivan Parker is the first and last name of one man.  I told him to keep that rumor alive.  And again…I don’t give a fuck what other people think of me.  No one will ever question me on how I choose to live my life.”

Shantreyl smiled at both men, gave them kisses and left to go to work.  As she was driving, she smiled as she remembered the day of the baby’s conception…and it had been a very good day indeed. 

But that wasn’t the only good news she received that day.  She tapped her water glass and stood up.  “I’ve got something to tell all of you.”

“What is it?” Malcolm asked. 

“Are you all right, Princess?” Trey asked.

Shantreyl’s smile was wide.  “Today at the faculty meeting, Cindy—the woman at work who’s been getting on my last nerve—announced that she was leaving at the end of this semester to take a job at a private school in Roseland Hills.”  Shantreyl started giggling and raised her water glass.  “I propose a toast…to the wonderful people…who decided that she…was the best person to run their school.”  She burst into full-borne laughter.

“Well, that’s great news,” Shannon said, raising her glass.  “What does that mean for you, baby?”

Malcolm and Kaphiri shared a quick look before raising their glasses.  “Now that’s some good news,” Malcolm said.  He looked at Trey.  “That woman has been running Shantreyl ragged this entire school year.”

Shantreyl said, “It means she won’t be riding my ass every day, Momma.  It means I’ll be left alone the way I was before she arrived.  Or so I hope.”

Shannon said, “I’m glad to hear that, Shan.  There are few things worse than a micromanager.”

Trey asked, “Does that mean you’ll get your classes back?”

Shantreyl sat back down.  “Hopefully next school year I will, but I don’t know that for sure.”  She thought about her baby.  “There’s so many variables at play.”

The attendants passed out menus.  The lead attendant said, “This is what we have on our menu for tonight.  All of the meats come in small size portions.  All you have to do is select what you want, and your server will bring it to you.  You have unlimited access; you can order as much as you want. While you read the menu, we will take drink orders.”

There were nods and murmurs of agreement.  Kit and Zuri went through the menu with their children, but Jelani was a proud eight years old and claimed he could order for himself.

Shantreyl was hungry.  She looked at Malcolm.  “I remember our date here.  I had such a good time with you, babylove.”

“And we will have many more good times to come, baby.”  He took her hand and kissed her fingers.  “What do you want to eat?”

“I’m starving,” she said.  “I didn’t eat much lunch.”  She looked at the menu and waved an attendant over.

“Yes ma’am.  What would you like?”

“Filet mignon, medium well, bacon-wrapped beef and chicken medallions, roasted shrimp, rib-eye, some of those sausages, and pork tenderloin.  Can I have the warm sides?  What are they?”

The attendant said, “Tonight we have garlic mashed potatoes, baked macaroni and cheese, roasted cauliflower, fried polenta and cheese popovers.”

“I want all of that,” she said.  She was hungry.

“Would you like something from the salad bar, ma’am?”

Zuri looked at her sister.  “Um…maybe you want to stick with salads this week, Shan.  Don’t forget, you’ve got a wedding dress to fit into.”

Kit looked at his wife. "Zuri, don't."

Kaphiri glared at Zuri.  There was barely concealed anger in his eyes.

Trey said, “Well, that’s a rude thing to say to your sister, Duchess.”

“But it’s true, Daddy.”

“It’s rude, Zuri!  Apologize!”

Malcolm looked at Shantreyl, who sighed and closed her eyes, putting the menu down. The mirth that she had a moment ago was gone. He looked at Zuri and then back at his fiancée.  “Do you want to leave, baby?  We can go if you want.”

“No,” she said.  “It’s what she does.  I’m used to it.  It’s all right.” 

“No, it’s not,” he said.  “It’s not all right.”  He glared at Zuri, who was helping her daughter with the menu.  “Zuri?”

She looked at him.  “Yes, Malcolm?”

“I understand that Shantreyl is your sister and you have a dynamic.  But as long as I’m with her—and I intend to be until death do us part—don’t you ever talk to her like that again.  I don’t give a good goddamn about anyone’s feelings at this table except hers, and this is the second time you’ve disrespected her in front of me.  I will not put up with it.  You’re here on my dime at her request, so the least you can do is show her some respect.  If you find that you can’t do that, then you are welcome—even encouraged—to leave my hotel immediately and find your own way back home.”

Shannon and Trey looked at their daughter and her fiancé.  Shantreyl was gazing at Malcolm with stars in her eyes.

Zuri stared at Malcolm, her mouth agape. Kit looked at her and then at Malcolm, and then turned his attention back to his son.  He had told Zuri many times that she needed to stop teasing her sister.  Maybe hearing it from what amounted to a stranger was what it would take for her to stop.  Malcolm hadn’t berated, insulted or yelled at Zuri, so Kit didn’t feel the need to interfere.

The look Malcolm gave Zuri spoke volumes.  “Are we clear, Zuri?”

Zuri looked at her husband, and then her parents.  Shannon and Trey were staring at her, disappointment all over their faces.  She coughed and took a sip of water, suddenly uncomfortable.  “Crystal.”  Her face was warm.  “I’m sorry.”

Malcolm put the menu back in Shantreyl’s hands and told her server, “Bring her everything that she asked for, and include the dessert menu.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Sullivan.”  The attendant left immediately.  The table got busy once again with everyone putting in their meal requests.  Two servers arrived at the table and started taking drink orders.

Kaphiri nodded to Malcolm and smiled at Shantreyl.  Trey cleared his throat and said, “So, Malcolm, how’s your mother?”


After dinner, Shantreyl followed her parents and Zuri’s family up to their floor.  Zuri had two boys, Jelani and Kevin, and a girl, Zoe.  The kids clamored for Shantreyl’s attention and she gave it as they told her and their grandparents about the flight and school, and all of the other things little kids liked to talk about.

“Do you have presents for us, Auntie Shan?” Zoe asked, holding her hand.  She was a beautiful little girl who looked exactly like her father.  “Grammy and Pop Pop got us presents before we got here.”

“I will have presents sent home for you to open on Christmas morning, baby girl.”

Zuri said, “Hit your Auntie up for all the things you know your father and I won’t buy for you.”

Kit chuckled.  “Way to put Shan on the spot, Zuri.”

Shantreyl shook her head.  “It’s all right, Kit.  I’ll make sure to buy them all the things that will get on Zuri’s nerves.”

“Don’t you dare,” Zuri said. 

“Don’t tempt me,” Shantreyl replied.

When the elevator stopped at their floor, Trey and Shannon gave hugs and kisses to all and bid them a good night.  Then they walked down the hall to their suite, holding hands. 

Kit opened the door to the Executive Suite and ushered the kids inside.  Once inside, Kit announced that it was bath time and took them into the bedroom so that Zuri and Shantreyl could talk.

Shantreyl sat on the couch.  Zuri opened the fridge.  “Want something to drink?”

“A ginger ale would be fine.”

“You’re not drinking?”

“No.”  She was debating whether to tell Zuri she was pregnant.

Zuri came over and handed her sister the ginger ale.  She had a glass of wine for herself and sat on the other end of the couch.

“That Malcolm’s not playing any games, I see,” Zuri said.  “I was just teasing you, Shantreyl.  Like I always do.  I didn’t expect him to come for me the way he did.”

“You need to stop teasing me, Zuri.  You know I don’t like it, but you do it regardless.”

“I didn’t mean any harm.  I never mean any harm.  You’re my sister and I love you.  You just need to lighten up, Shan.”

“No, you need to stop teasing me, Zuri.  I’ve been telling you that I don’t like it, and it’s like you don’t hear me saying the words.  It’s always made me feel a kind of way that you ignore my feelings, and that you think it’s all right to tease me about my weight.  Just because I’m not a size 14 like you doesn’t mean I’m unhealthy or unattractive.”

“All right, all right.  Kit’s been after me to stop, but he knows that I don’t mean it.”

“All the more reason for you to stop, Zuri.  It took Malcolm reading you to get you to see reason; why you couldn’t do it when your own husband and sister asked you to makes me wonder.”

“Wonder what?”

“Do you get some sort of pleasure out of making me feel bad?  I used to look up to you.  What did I ever do to deserve your ridicule?”

Zuri sighed dramatically. Nothing, Shantreyl.  Like I said, I was just teasing.  Your skin’s too thin.  You should be able to handle a little ribbing.”

“That’s not ribbing; it’s insulting.  You deliberately hurt my feelings and you’re gaslighting me.”

Zuri drank some wine.  “Well, I’m sorry, Shantreyl.  I am.”  Then she looked at her sister.  “Is this why you didn’t ask me to be your maid of honor?” 


“Is this the reason why you don’t want me in your wedding?”

Shantreyl sighed.  “I wasn’t sure you’d be able to do it, what with your job and the kids and all.  It’s not like you live here.”

“That’s no excuse,” Zuri said. “I could have done it, Shan.  Kit’s more than capable of taking care of our kids while I do wedding stuff with you.  It’s a small ceremony, right?”

“Yes.  Just Malcolm and me, Kaphiri and Jaya.  I didn’t want an elaborate service.”

“I could have done it, Shan.  Jaya just had a baby.”

Shantreyl looked at her sister.  “It’s no big deal, Zuri.  Really it isn’t.  And Jaya’s all right.  She’s already got her dress and shoes.”

Zuri said, “Maybe not to you.  But if the reason you didn’t ask me to stand up with you on your wedding day is because you were mad at me for teasing you, then I humbly apologize.”  There was a twinge of sadness in her voice.

“Did Momma say anything to you?”

“No.  Should she have?”

Shantreyl shrugged.  “I was just wondering.”

“Answer my question, Shan.  Did you ask Jaya to be your maid of honor because you were mad at me for teasing you about your weight?”

“Mad isn’t the word I’d choose, Zuri.  Exasperated is more like it.  I’ve been telling you for years to stop making fun of me and you haven’t.  I’m tired of asking you to be civil.  I don’t even believe that you mean the apology you’re giving me right now.  I fully expect for you to be back to your usual scornful self tomorrow.”

Zuri sighed, feeling her face get warm.  “I won’t be, Shan.  I really am sorry.  I won’t tease you anymore, I promise.  Please answer my question.”

Shantreyl took a long swallow of ginger ale.  “Zuri, you know that we’re not close.”

“And you’re blaming me for that, Shan?”

“I don’t blame you for anything, Zuri.  Our relationship is what it is.  I can’t make you stop doing the things you do, but I don’t have to put up with it either.”  Shantreyl sighed, feeling her face get tight.  “I didn’t come up here to fight with you.”

“I don’t want to fight with you either, Shan.  I just didn’t…”  Zuri put her wineglass down.  “I really didn’t think it was that serious.”

Shantreyl finished her drink and stood up, smoothing her clothes.  “It is.”  Then she yawned.  “I’m tired.  I need to go home.  What do you and Kit plan to do tomorrow?”

Zuri looked sad.  “Daddy told me that there’s a Christmas market on the boardwalk.  We’re all gonna go and maybe to the mall afterward.  I promised the kids we’d do one of the day cruises on the river.  Will we see you tomorrow?”

“I’m not sure.  It depends on my schedule.  I’m getting my final fitting tomorrow and I need to touch base with my wedding planner.  And I’ve got some last-minute grading to get done before Thursday.”

Zuri nodded, getting up.  “Well, we’ll see you when we see you, I guess.  When did you plan to go shopping for the kids?”

“Thursday after work.  Text me and tell me what they want.  I’ll have their gifts shipped to your house so that you don’t have to worry about taking them on the plane.”

“Thank you,” Zuri said as Shantreyl walked to the door.  “But Shan, before you leave…”

Shantreyl turned to look at her sister.  “What is it?”

“I really am sorry for teasing you.  I didn’t realize…I didn’t realize how much it hurt you.  I won’t tease you anymore.  I promise.”

“To be honest, Zuri…I’ll believe you when it happens.  I’ve heard this from you before.”

“Well, this time I’m for real.  You’ll see.”

Shantreyl shrugged her shoulders.  “All right then.”  She turned towards the bedroom and yelled, “Good night, Kit!  Kiss the kids for me!”

Kit replied, “Good night, Shan!  I will!”

Shantreyl walked down the hall to her parents’ suite.  She had a sneaking suspicion that Zuri got on the phone to their mother the moment she walked out of the suite.  Zuri always ran crying to Shannon whenever she and Shantreyl had a hard disagreement.  Zuri was their mother’s favorite.  It didn’t bother Shantreyl because she was a daddy’s girl through and through.  She knocked on the door and a moment later, Trey answered.  He held out an arm and kissed her forehead before escorting her inside.

Shantreyl looked at her father.  “I saw you talking to Kaphiri.  Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine, Princess.  We had a conversation.”


“Everything’s okay.  He told me what I needed to hear, and I could see the truth in his eyes.  It’s that same truth I see whenever he looks at you.  He loves you.  Malcolm loves you.  I can’t be mad about that and I’m certainly not going to interfere.”

“So, you’re okay with my relationship with him?  I really do love him, Daddy.  I love both of them.  Our relationship works.  We’re a family.”

“They make you happy, Princess, and they can take care of you.  That’s enough for me.  Now what are you doing here?  Are you all right?”

“I was trying to be a good sister.  I wanted to spend a little time with Zuri.”

Trey sighed.  “After that little incident at dinner, I imagine it didn’t go so well.  Your mother’s talking to her right now.  Apparently, she’s in tears.”

Shantreyl sighed.  “Daddy, Malcolm does not like it when she teases me about my weight.  Kaphiri doesn’t like it either.  I’m already apprehensive about it and that’s why Malcolm spoke up.  I don’t like it and I’ve told her a thousand times to stop, but my feelings don’t matter to her.”

Shannon came out of the bedroom, on the phone.  “Hey baby.  I’m on the phone with your sister.  She’s very upset that she can’t be in your wedding.”

“Hi Momma.  I’m not surprised.”

Trey said, “I’ve had enough of this shit.  Tell Zuri to come down here and we’re going to settle this right now.  I’m tired of you two not getting along.  You’re too old for this.”

“Daddy, it’s not my fault!”

“I’m not singling you out, Princess.  You’re both to blame, as far as I’m concerned.”

“But I haven’t done anything wrong!”

Shannon spoke into her phone.  “Zuri, your father says to come down here right now.”

A minute or so later, Zuri knocked on the door and Trey answered.  “Come in, Duchess.  Go sit on the couch next to your sister.”

Zuri’s eyes were red.  She sat down and folded her arms. 

“Okay,” Trey said, “The first issue on the table is what happened at dinner tonight.  Duchess, you said something that offended Shantreyl’s fiancé.  He clapped back…and you weren’t expecting it.  Right?”

“Daddy, you were there.  You know what happened.”

“Don’t get smart with me, Zuri Diane Troy.”

“No, I wasn’t expecting for him to clap back.”

“And you’re not an idiot, so you know exactly why he responded the way he did.”

Zuri didn’t say anything.  Shannon put her hand on Zuri’s knee.  “Your father and I didn’t realize how deep this went until tonight. How long has this been going on?”

Shantreyl said, “Zuri’s been teasing me about my weight since we were teenagers.  And I’ve been telling her for years to stop doing it, but she never does.  She always has something slick to say about my size.  Malcolm’s doesn't like it and I’m tired of it.”

Zuri said, “But I never meant any harm, Momma!  I would never deliberately hurt my sister.  It was just jokes!”

“For you maybe,” Shannon said.  “But it clearly isn’t that for Shantreyl.  You need to quit.”

“Duchess, I want you to apologize to your sister right now.  And stop all that bullshit.”

“I already did, Daddy, but she won’t accept it.”

“I didn’t say that!” Shantreyl said.  “I just told you I don’t believe you mean it!  You’ve apologized before…and then you turned right around and called me fat, or swollen, or chunky, or some other slick insult!”

Zuri wiped her eyes.  “I’m sorry, Shantreyl.  I never meant to hurt you.  I won’t insult you again.”

Trey and Shannon looked at their youngest.  Trey said, “Princess?  Accept your sister’s apology.”

“But Daddy, I don’t believe she means it.  She’s gonna turn right around and say something about me not being able to fit into my wedding gown or something like that.”

“I said I wasn’t gonna insult you anymore, Shan!  Damn!”

Shannon said, “Give Zuri the benefit of the doubt, Shantreyl.  Please.” 

Shantreyl rolled her eyes.  “All right.”

“Shantreyl Denise Troy, you can do better than that.”

Shantreyl turned and looked at Zuri.  “I accept your apology.”

“Duchess,” Trey said, “You need to be very careful about the words that come out of your mouth.  You are not a child and I shouldn’t have to tell you this.  What you say has consequences.  You experienced that tonight, and I hope that it taught you a lesson.  I don’t want to hear about this happening again, all right?”  Trey wiped his hands on his jeans.  “Now, about the wedding.”

“What about it?” Shantreyl asked.

Shannon asked, “Why don’t you want Zuri in your wedding?”

Zuri said, “Because I hurt her little feelings!”



Shantreyl spread her hands out, palms upward.  “And there it is.”  She stood up.  “I’m tired, Momma.  I need to get home.  I’ve gotta go to work tomorrow.”

“Sit down, Princess,” Trey said.

Shantreyl had had enough.  “You heard what she said, Daddy.  I’m not about to waste any more of my time.  I’m exhausted…and you know why, so I need to be leaving.”

“Shantreyl, you heard your father,” Shannon said.  “Sit down.”

Shantreyl folded her arms but didn’t sit down.  That’s why I don’t want her in my wedding.  Can I go now?”

“Duchess, apologize!” Trey said.  “This is ridiculous!”

Zuri sucked her teeth, sighed deeply, and looked at her sister.  “I’m sorry, Shan.”  Her tone was laced with sarcasm.

Trey shook his head.  “Zuri, what in the hell is wrong with you?”

Shantreyl put a hand on her stomach.  “I’m tired.  I don’t have to put up with this, and you and Daddy can’t make me stay.  I’m sorry, but this is the reality of Zuri’s and my relationship.  This is why we hardly speak.”

Shannon said, “Baby, please don’t leave.  We can make this right.”

“I’m sorry, Momma.  I’m tired.  Good night.”  Shantreyl walked to the door and opened it.

Trey said, “Princess, come back here.  I’m not asking.  We need to resolve this once and for all.”

Shantreyl turned and looked at Trey.  She couldn’t believe that she was about to deny him—her father, her hero—something.  “Good night, Daddy.”  And she walked out, closing the door behind her.


By the time she got home, Malcolm was in the guest bedroom, in the middle of a phone call when she walked in and kissed him on the lips.  He gripped her ass and mouthed the words, ‘I’ll be off in a few minutes.’

Shantreyl nodded and went to the master bedroom.  Kaphiri had a tub full of luxuriant bubbles ready.  She smiled at him as he squatted to remove her shoes.  “How’s the family?”

“I’m not sure.  Zuri and I got into it.  She apologized for insulting me, but as I’ve told you before, her apologies are akin to toilet paper.  She’s very upset that I won’t let her be my maid of honor, but it’s like she doesn’t want to understand why, or she simply doesn’t give a fuck.  My parents pulled us together for a come to Jesus meeting and it didn’t go well.  Zuri apologized for insulting me again and I explained to my parents why I have a hard time accepting her apologies.  My mom asked me why I didn’t want her in my wedding, and Zuri showed her true self.”  Shantreyl repeated what Zuri said and how she said it.

Kaphiri was behind her, helping her remove her top.  “What in the hell is wrong with her?”

“I really don’t know, honeybunny.  Under normal circumstances, we talk maybe once every three months or so, and the conversations are always short simply because I don’t trust her not to insult me.  This is the first time in years that we’ve tried to have a meeting of the minds and it blew up in all of our faces.  I’m tired.  My back hurts.”

Kaphiri unsnapped her bra and Shantreyl sighed deeply as he slid it off her shoulders.  She cupped her breasts and moaned.

“Are they still sore?” he asked, sniffing her neck.

“Yeah, but I can deal with it now that I know why.” She smiled as she thought about it.  “I’m having our baby, honeybun.”

Kaphiri carefully removed her pasties.  “How can you stand to wear these all day, bambina?” He sniffed her again.  “The pressure doesn’t hurt?”

“I don’t have a choice.  I can’t go to work with my nipples poking up.  Do you know what my colleagues would say?  Do you know how my boys would react if they saw them?”

Kaphiri cupped her breasts and kissed the side of her face as he began to massage them.  “I know how I would react, so point taken.”

“Come on,” she said, sliding her fingers into the waistband of her skirt.  “Help me get this off.  I don’t want my bath water getting cold.”

“You smell so good,” he said.  “Your scent is different.  It’s not the oil I made for you; it’s something else…I like it.”

Shantreyl stepped out of her skirt and panties.  “Kaphiri, I need to take a bath.  What you’re smelling is day old musk, and ew.”

“No,” he said.  “I know that scent.  This is different; deeper.  I’ve been smelling it for the past two weeks or so…it must be a side effect of your pregnancy.  It’s intoxicating.”

“How in the world can you smell that?”

“I’ve got a sensitive nose.”

“Get me a hair clip,” she said, pulling her hair into a topknot.  Kaphiri passed her one and she clipped her hair.

“Are you gonna take a bath with me, honeybunny?”

“I’ve already showered,” he said as he helped her into the tub. “Besides, you know I can’t fit.  My legs are too long.  The one we’re gonna have installed in the house will be big enough.”

Shantreyl smiled, thinking of her new house.  The land had been purchased, and they were going to break ground at the beginning of the year.

“Sit up, let me wash your back,” he said as he squirted bath gel into her favorite scrunchy. 

Shantreyl closed her eyes and leaned forward so that he could wash her back. Suddenly, she heard her phone ringing.

“Do you want me to get that?” Kaphiri asked.

“No.  It can wait,” she replied.

Just then Malcolm walked in with her phone.  “Do you want to answer this, baby?  I can hold it for you.”

“Put it on speaker,” she said.  “Who is it?”

“Your mother.”

“Do you want us to leave?” Kaphiri asked.

“No.  As far as I’m concerned, you’re my husbands and I won’t keep anything from you.  Go ahead, Malcolm.”

Malcolm sat on the edge of the tub and answered the phone.  

Shantreyl said, “Momma.”

“Are you all right?” Shannon asked.

“I’m fine.  I’m taking a bath.  Is everyone okay?”

“I wish you hadn’t left when you did, Shan.”

“I hope you understand why I did, Momma.”

“Your father is extremely upset, Shantreyl.  I don’t ever recall a time when you flat-out disobeyed him.”

“I hope he understands why I did it.”

“He does, but it doesn’t change the fact that you walked out on him, on us.”

“Momma, I don’t have to sit there and put up with Zuri’s shit.  You heard her, both of you.  You heard what she said.  My feelings are little, so they don’t matter, and so that means she will not stop with her insults because she doesn’t believe she’s hurting me.  She’s gaslighting me.  Why should I subject myself to that?”

“After you left, Zuri and your father had it out.  You’ll never believe what it all boiled down to.”

“Momma, I don’t care.”

“Listen to me, Shantreyl.  Zuri admitted that she’s been jealous of you since you were teenagers.”

Kaphiri made a face.  Malcolm mouthed the word, ‘What?’

“Why in the world is she jealous of me?  She’s the one who got all the privileges!  She’s first in everything!  She gets everything she wants!  She’s perfect!  She’s your favorite, Momma, and don’t deny it!  You let Zuri do whatever she wants to do!  You’re always defending her!  How is she blaming all this on me?”

“Calm down, Shan,” Shannon said.  “I’m not trying to upset you. I’m just telling you what she said.  She basically said what you just said about her, except that you’re Trey’s favorite and you’re stuck up.  And Zuri is not perfect, baby, nor does she get everything she wants.”

Shantreyl started to pop all the way off, but Kaphiri began massaging her neck and shoulders.  Malcolm said in a low voice, “Don’t get upset, baby.  It’s not worth it.”

“Shantreyl, please don’t get upset.  You need to know what was said, and after about thirty minutes of tears and anger on Zuri’s part, she calmed down.  She said that she was sorry, and that she really and truly meant it.  She said that she was never going to insult you again and that she would prove it to you.  She loves you, Shantreyl.  Is there any way you could change your mind and let her be your maid of honor?” 

Shantreyl took a deep breath and looked at Malcolm.  Kaphiri was still rubbing her neck and shoulders.

“Momma, why is this so important to Zuri?”

“Well you know that Zuri didn’t have a ceremony and I think she regrets it.”

“And that has what to do with my wedding?”

“Shantreyl, don’t get snippy with me.  I won’t put up with it, all right?  Can you forgive your sister?”

“I will in time, Momma, but only if she demonstrates that she’s earned it.  This isn’t something I can just shake off.  You heard what Zuri said, and I’m sorry, but that hurt my little feelings.  And my feelings matter.”

“So I guess that’s a no,” Shannon said.  She wanted to cry; she felt like a failure as a mother.  She had not known how tenuous her daughters’ relationship was.  Everything was always “fine.”  Had she known it was this bad, she could have handled it a long time ago.

“Yeah.  It’s a no. Jaya’s already got her dress and shoes, and she has already made arrangements for a babysitter for Renaya.  And there’s one more thing; something important that I didn’t mention.”

Shannon sounded tired.  “What, Shan?”

“Zuri doesn’t know about my relationship with Kaphiri.  He will be in the wedding photos; the husband-and-wife photos, and I don’t need her asking me a million questions why. I don’t feel like explaining him to her.  I don’t have to explain him to her.”

“You didn’t tell her?”

“She also doesn’t know I’m pregnant.  And if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather her not know that either until I’m ready to tell her.”

Shannon sighed.  She was tired of all this.  “Shantreyl.  Please.”

“I didn’t start this, Momma.  I’m sorry you and Daddy have to deal with it, but it wasn’t me who started it.  This is all on Zuri and she needs to own it.”

“I can’t believe I failed you two like this,” Shannon said.  Tears slid down her cheeks.  “I had no idea how bad this was.  I am so sorry, Shantreyl.  I didn’t know.”

“You don’t need to shoulder the blame,” Shantreyl said.  “We’re adults.  She knows exactly what she’s doing.”

“No,” Shannon said.  “This goes back to when you were teenagers…back to when your father and I had some control over your lives.  Had we known it was this serious…”  Shannon wiped her face.  “Maybe we can all talk in a couple of days or so, when everyone has calmed down.”

“Okay, Momma.  We can do that.  But Jaya is my maid of honor and that’s the end of it, all right?”

“All right, baby.  Get some rest and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  Good night.”

“Night, Momma.”

Malcolm hung up the phone and Kaphiri finished washing Shantreyl’s back.  When he finished, he put the lid down on the toilet and sat on it.

“What in the hell happened?” Malcolm asked.

Shantreyl told him what took place, and he stared at her.  “All that because I checked her?”

“This isn’t your fault, babylove,” she said as she began to bathe.  “You defended me.  Don’t feel bad.”

“I don’t, but this is crazy.  She’s really that butthurt by not being your maid of honor?”

“She did it to herself, as far as I’m concerned.”

Kaphiri said, “Let’s not discuss it anymore.  It’s done.”

“Yeah.  Let’s not,” Shantreyl agreed.  “Everything okay with you?”

“All’s fine over here,” Malcolm said.  “I’ll go get the bed ready.”  He’d purchased four extra pillows for Shantreyl’s comfort and arranged them on the bed in the configuration she liked.  Then he went and put on his T-shirt and boxers.  Malcolm got the TV ready and scented the room with Shantreyl’s eucalyptus spray.

While Malcolm was getting ready for bed, Kaphiri helped Shantreyl out of the bath and carefully dried her body.  He sniffed her neck again and closed his eyes.

“There you go again,” Shantreyl said, smiling.

Kaphiri held her upper arms and kissed her neck.  “I love your scent, bambina.  It’s sexy as hell.  I want to lick your pussy before you go to sleep.”

Shantreyl smiled at his reflection as she reached for her T-shirt.  “I’m too tired to return the favor tonight, honeybunny.”

“You know that I don’t require reciprocity, bambina.  I just want to know if the taste of you has changed since you conceived.  If it’s as good as your scent…mmmn.”

“Are you serious, Kaphiri?”

“When am I not serious when it comes to sex?”

Shantreyl slipped the T-shirt over her head.  “I’ll never stop you when you want to swim with your face.”

He kissed her cheek.  “I’m going to put on my pajamas, all right?”

“Okay,” she said as she began to twist up her hair. 

A little while later, Shantreyl was in bed, eyes closed, bedsheets knotted in her fingers.  Kaphiri had her legs up and open, face buried between her thighs.  Malcolm lay on his side of the bed, watching them intently.  They hadn’t been intimate since the end of November due to Shantreyl’s fatigue, so he was quite happy to witness even a little bit of action.

He put his hand on her cheek and turned her face to his.  Shantreyl gazed at him, her eyes full of passion, unable to stop making the sounds that Malcolm and Kaphiri loved to hear her make.  Malcolm kissed her and she put a hand on the back of his head.  He rubbed her cheek and ran his thumb over her lips. 

“You’re so beautiful like this,” he said, kissing her again.  “I love that look in your eyes.”

Shantreyl’s back arched as she climaxed while Kaphiri noisily sucked up the evidence.  Neither one of her beaus tended to be silent whenever they ate her out.  She liked it and understood Kaphiri’s penchant for wanting to listen whenever she and Malcolm had sex.

Mmmmn,” he said.  He sat up, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and then put it on her stomach, rubbing it in slow circles.

“Do I taste different?” she asked after she caught her breath.

“You do…and it’s good,” he replied.  “Malcolm, you need to get in on this.”  Kaphiri got off the bed, removed his T-shirt and pants and then got back on the bed.  He crawled over Shantreyl and planted a kiss on her lips.  “I want you, bambina.  How tired are you?”

She smiled at him.  She knew this was going to happen.  Kaphiri was never satisfied with just an appetizer.  He preferred to have a full meal.  Shantreyl stroked his cheek and ran her fingers through his hair.  “How horny are you, honeybunny?”

Kaphiri kissed her navel and said, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do,” before burying his face in her belly.

Shantreyl looked at Malcolm and caressed his cheek.  “Are you horny too, babylove?”

“You know me, baby.  I can participate or I can watch, if you’re too tired to fuck both of us.  I can get mine either way.”

“I am tired, but I think I can muster enough energy for a few minutes of fun.”  She took off her T-shirt.

Malcolm kissed her again and scooted back to give them more room.  He propped his head in one hand and got comfortable.  He didn’t want to exhaust her further.  “I think I’ll watch this time.  Have at it, Kap.”

That was all Kaphiri needed to hear.  He spread her legs and slowly ran his erection over her labia.   Shantreyl slid her fingers through his hair and gently gripped the back of his head as he entered her.  He held one of her thighs as he thrusted, matching her kiss for kiss.  She was still good and wet, and it felt like heaven being inside of her.  Kaphiri moved slowly and steadily, dropping kisses on her lips, her face, her neck…wherever he could plant one.

Bambina,” he moaned.

“Oh honeybun,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck.  “Harder.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“I’m sure.  You won’t hurt me.”

So he gave her what she asked for and she began making those sounds that he loved.  Kaphiri wanted to record her sex sounds to use in his music, but due to all of the activity going on in their lives, he had not had the chance to ask her permission.  He planned to ask her when they went on their honeymoon.  His mind was already at work on how to incorporate them into his latest project.

Malcolm masturbated as he greedily absorbed the scene before him.  He didn’t know when it happened or where it came from, but he loved watching other people have sex live.  In the past, whenever he craved a side of voyeurism, he would go to the Zodiac to have that need fulfilled.  He was so thankful to now have intimate partners who didn’t mind him watching.

Kaphiri took Shantreyl’s wrists and pressed them into the mattress as his thrusts went deeper.

“Honeybunny,” she moaned, spreading her legs wider.  He felt so good, so hard, so right.  “Yes,” she said, in a whispery voice.  “Like that…like that...”

“Mmmmn,” he murmured, putting his hands on her waist.  He grabbed her and rolled over so that she was astride him.  He wanted to look at her face.  “Ride me, bambina.  Ride me.”

She obeyed his command and put her hands on his chest, rocking back and forth, head tossed back.  Kaphiri stared at Shantreyl as she took his hands and put them on her sore breasts.  “Don’t rub them so hard, okay?” she whispered.

“I would never hurt you, Shantreyl.”  He caressed her breasts as gently as possible while she rode him as slowly and as deliberately as he had done her when he was on top.  She gazed at Malcolm, who was watching them with one hand in his boxers, eyes shining in pleasure.  He adored the way she looked whenever they made love.   

Shantreyl reached out to him.  She was tired but she wasn’t about to leave him out. “Babylove…come here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.  I’m sure.  Come to me.”

Malcolm quickly removed his clothing and crawled over to them.  Shantreyl leaned and kissed his lips without missing a beat.  Then she leaned forward to kiss Kaphiri and adjusted her legs.  Malcolm knew exactly what she wanted, and he made it a point to always give Shantreyl whatever she wanted.

“I need lubricant,” he said.  Quickly, he retrieved a bottle of oil from the nightstand and resumed his position.  He oiled his hand and rubbed his dick while dripping oil down between Shantreyl’s buttocks.  He carefully slipped his thumb inside her anus and was rewarded with a soft sigh.  Even though they’d had sex in this position before, Malcolm and Kaphiri were always careful to make sure she was ready to receive them when it came to the back door.  After hearing her response, he put a hand on her lower back and eased into her.  She held still as Malcolm entered her and gasped as he filled her, but it was cut off by a kiss from Kaphiri.  She closed her eyes as they adjusted to each other’s presence and found a rhythm that was pleasing to all.

Oh shit,” she moaned, putting her hands on Kaphiri’s biceps to balance herself.  Oh yes, like thisI love it like this.”  Her tender nipples scraped Kaphiri’s chest and she uttered a soft cry of pleasure.

Malcolm said, “Sit up and arch your back for me.”  He held her by her upper arms and her back contorted to comply as he thrusted.  Kaphiri grabbed her breasts and thumbed her tender nipples.  A few moments later, she threw her head back and moaned when she suddenly climaxed.

“Shit,” Kaphiri said as she drenched him.  Not too long after that, he busted a sizeable nut and Shantreyl laid on top of him as Malcolm reached his own climax.

A couple of moments passed and then Malcolm got up, then Shantreyl.  She went to the bathroom to relieve herself and clean up.  Kaphiri remained on the bed, eyes closed.

“I’m tired,” he said.  “That was great.”

“It most certainly was,” Malcolm replied.  “Baby, are you all right?”

Shantreyl sat on the toilet.  “I’m good.  Apparently, I needed that.  I’m definitely ready to go to sleep.”

A moment later, she got up, flushed, and went towards the sink.  She put three washcloths in the sink and ran warm water over them.  Then she handed Malcolm one.  He turned around and threw it at Kaphiri. 

“Heads up, Kap,” he said as Shantreyl handed him another washcloth. 

The cloth landed on Kaphiri’s chest with a wet smack.  He took it and cleaned himself up.  “Thanks.”

Shantreyl wiped down her thighs and derriere, and then looked in the mirror.  She was wiped out and ready to go to bed.  She adjusted her bonnet and put her T-shirt back on.  Then she went and got into bed.  Kaphiri had been sweet enough to arrange her pillows to her liking.

Malcolm started the story for that night: Drew Stepek’s Knuckle Supper.  He knew that it would be one they’d have to listen to multiple times because none of them were going to be awake long enough to get through the first chapter.

A few minutes later, all three were fast asleep in their usual positions: Malcolm on his stomach with his arm hanging off the bed, Kaphiri on his back, and Shantreyl comfortably on her side in her nest of pillows.


That Thursday afternoon, Shantreyl got a text from her mother right before her last class.

The three of us are getting together this evening.  You, me and Zuri.

I need to go shopping for the kids, Momma.

I know.  We’re going to join you, Shantreyl.  I cannot leave here knowing that you and your sister are having these issues.  It’s kept me up for the past three nights.

Shantreyl looked at her phone.  She loved her mother, but she was over Zuri and her mess.  However, she understood how her mother felt and she was normally not one to disobey her parents. 

All right, Momma.  I don’t know what you expect, but I’m not about to put up with Zuri’s foolishness.  I just want to enjoy shopping for the kids.

I understand, baby.

What’s Daddy gonna do?

He and Kit are taking the kids to the movies.

Well, you can meet me at the food court in Cascades Mall in Kanzhao.  Sit in front of Shirl’s Cookies.   I should be there by 5:00 p.m.

Okay.  See you then.

Later, Shantreyl met her mother and sister at the mall.  Shannon gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Zuri looked at her sister.  “Hey Shan.  How are you?”

Shantreyl looked at Zuri and couldn’t discern anything from her expression.  “Busy.  So many things to do, so little time.  I got two hours to get this done.  Malcolm is sending a masseuse to my house at eight.  My back’s killing me.”

“Hm.  That’s nice.”

Shannon looked at her daughter.  “Are you all right?” 

Shantreyl rubbed her back.  “I’ve been on my feet all day, Momma.  That’s all.”

Zuri asked, “Is your dress ready?”

Shantreyl looked at her sister.  Again, Zuri’s expression was even.  “Yes.  It fits perfectly.”

Shannon asked, “When are you getting your hair and nails done?”

“I’m getting my nails done after I get off work tomorrow, and then I’m going home.  I’m doing my hair myself, Momma.  I don’t have time to sit in a salon all day, and Malcolm loves my hair as it is.  It’s gonna be a simple up-do with a curly bang.  Something to show off my neck.  Kaphiri’s mother is lending me a choker.  Did you bring your solitaires?”

“I certainly did.  I’ll give them to you on Saturday when I see you.”

Shantreyl looked at Zuri.  “I didn’t get a text from you about what to get the kids.  What do they want?”

“Kit was supposed to find that out, Shan.  Let me call him, okay?”  Zuri whipped out her phone and called her husband.

Shannon looked at her hands.  “I need to get my nails done too.”

“Do you want to go with me tomorrow to the nail salon?”

“I’d like to, baby.  I want to spend as much time with you as possible.  Your father and I leave Sunday night.  So do Zuri and Kit.”

Shantreyl smiled at her mother.  “That’s fine, Momma.  I get my nails done at Electric Nails.  It’s in Mercado Plaza on Westfield Avenue in Siren Heights.  I’ll text you.  I get off work at 11:30 and should be there no later than noon.”  Shantreyl glanced over at her sister.  “Is Zuri coming?”

“I don’t know, baby.  Do you want her to come?  It would be nice.”

“I don’t want any mess like the other night, Momma.  I’m already stressed.  Even though Julie’s been handling everything like the boss she is, I can’t help but worry.”

“The only thing that’s gonna happen on Saturday is your wedding, Shan.  Relax, all right? It will be fine.  Now, about the rehearsal?”

“We’re doing it tomorrow at six in one of the Vermilion’s conference rooms.  Dinner will be at 7:30, at Carnival.  Malcolm has reserved the entire restaurant for us.”

“The whole restaurant?  How many people are coming to the dinner?”

Shantreyl smiled.  “Tomorrow, you get to meet Kaphiri’s parents, his aunts and uncles, and maybe his cousins.  The Parkers are a large, close-knit group and they consider Malcolm family.  You’ll also meet Momma Marion’s boyfriend Pretty Ricky, and Malcolm’s brothers Melvin and Michael.  Renee and Jaya will be there as well.”

“Pretty Ricky?”

“Yes.  His name is Richard, but everyone calls him Pretty Ricky. You’ll see.”

“How many aunts and uncles does Kaphiri have?”

“Seven aunts and four uncles.  Fifteen first cousins.  God knows how many second cousins.”

“Wow,” Shannon said as Zuri came back over.

“What’s the word?” Shantreyl asked.  “Where do you want to start?”

“Zoe wants one of those American Girl dolls.  Kit wants to get her one, but I refuse to pay $100 for a damn doll.”

“I don’t mind getting her one.  In fact, I’ll get her two, and some doll clothes.  What about Jelani?”

“He’s into gadgets and tech.  He asked for an iPad Pro, and Kit and I said absolutely not.  He’s eight.”

“Would you be all right with an iPad mini?”

“Let me run it by my husband.”  Zuri sent Kit a text and a moment later, got a response.  “Yeah, he’s fine with it.  If he’s good, then I’m good.”

“And Kevin?”

“Kevin’s an artist.  He draws, paints, builds…anything along those lines.  Kit and I bought him a bunch of LEGO Creator sets and an art table.  I don’t know where we’re gonna put it all, though.” 

“I’ll get him some art kits.”

Zuri put her phone back in her purse.  “At the rate we’re going indulging these kids, Kit and I will need a bigger house.  Jelani wants his own room.”

“Are you considering getting a bigger house, Zuri?”  Shantreyl thought about her own house and realized Zuri didn’t know about that either. 

She thought, ‘It’s a damn shame I don’t feel comfortable sharing my happiness with my sister.’

“No, but it is something Kit and I need to discuss.  We’ve got three growing children in a three-bedroom house.  Either we add on to the existing property or move into a larger place.”  Zuri looked at her sister.  “Where are you and Malcolm gonna live after the wedding?”

Shantreyl paused for a moment and then said, “We’re having a house built.  In the meantime, we will live in my townhouse.”

Zuri looked at Shantreyl for a long moment and then said, “Oh, that’s nice.” 

Shannon looked at her eldest.  Clearly, Zuri wanted to say more.  Part of her wondered if it was something that was intended to hurt Shantreyl.  She planned to ask Zuri about it later. 

Shantreyl sensed that there was more Zuri wanted to say, but she wasn’t going to push it.  She asked, “What all have you two bought for the kids if space is an issue?”

As Zuri ran down the items she and Kit purchased for their children, Shannon remained quiet and watched her daughters interact.  Maybe they would be okay.  She meant it when she said that she wasn’t going to leave Suva Oriana without being sure that her daughters’ relationship was intact.

A couple of hours later, Shantreyl was done buying gifts for her niece and nephews.  After shopping, Zuri suggested they have dinner at the food court, but Shantreyl declined, as she had one hour to get home and get ready for her massage, and she had to cross the Oriochi River and deal with downtown traffic in order to get home.

“I’ll see you guys tomorrow at the rehearsal dinner,” Shantreyl said.  She hugged her mother and reached for Zuri’s hand.  Zuri took it and squeezed. 

Once Shantreyl was gone and they were walking out to the car, Shannon asked, “What were you about to say when Shantreyl told you that she and Malcolm are having a house built?”

“What do you mean, Momma?”

“You said, ‘That’s nice,’ but it was clear from the look on your face that that wasn’t what you really wanted to say.”

“That’s not true, Momma.”

“Zuri…no one knows you better than me, except maybe Kit.  What were you thinking?  Don’t lie to me.”

Zuri sighed.  “It’s not what you’re thinking, Momma.  It’s the simple fact that so much has happened to Shan this year.  She met a man at a club in April…and here it is, December, and she’s marrying him.  They’ve only been together eight months.  Does she even know who he is?”

“Are you seriously questioning Shantreyl’s blessings, Zuri?” 

“I’m questioning the man, Momma.  It hasn’t even been a year.  Who in the hell is Malcolm Sullivan?”

“I’m confused, Zuri.  She dated Miles for four years and you know how that turned out.  You were ready to fly over here and shoot him when you learned what he did to her.  Now she’s met a man who knows exactly what he wants and it didn’t take Malcolm long to realize that Shan is the woman he wants to spend his life with.  Your father and I married six months after we met.  Sometimes you just know.  Malcolm knows.”  Shannon side eyed Zuri.  “Or are you questioning Malcolm because he took you to task for insulting your sister?  Is that what this is really all about?  Is this more of your jealousy?”

Zuri didn’t say anything.  Shannon shook her head.  “Zuri, you are too old to be acting like this!  You’re all bent out of shape because Shan won’t let you be in her wedding.  But when you act like this, who could blame her?  There’s so much going on in her life right now that you as her sister should be aware of, and you’re not because she doesn’t trust you!  You should be her best friend!  You should know things before I do!  I know you love her, but you don’t act like you do.  Your sister has worked hard her entire life and she deserves to be happy.  If you keep up this foolishness, Shantreyl will cease all contact with you and you won’t be included in any of her life events.  And that would break my heart.”

Zuri got in the car and shut the door hard.  Shannon got in and looked at her eldest.  “You better get it together, Zuri.  Maybe you don’t need to go to the wedding if you can’t be genuinely happy for your sister.  Maybe you should just go home.”

“Are you gonna tell Daddy what I said?”

“You know that your father and I have no secrets between us.”

“Are you gonna tell Shan what I said?”

“No, and that’s only because I don’t want her to get upset.  She’s getting married in two days and what she needs is for her family to support her.  You need to figure out how to do that in less than 48 hours…or don’t go.  Are we clear on this, Zuri?”

Zuri pulled out her phone.  “We’re clear.”

They rode back to the Vermilion in silence.


After her blissful hour-long massage, Shantreyl put on a pair of lightweight sweatpants and a T-shirt.  She texted Renee, asking if it was all right to come by.  Renee said it was fine, and two minutes later, Shantreyl was entering their house.

“How’s it going, Mrs. Sullivan Parker?” Renee said.  “How’s your family?  Want something to drink?”

“No, I’m all right.  Family’s fine.  How’s Jaya and my little ladybug?”

“Jaya just put her down for the night.  They’re good.”

Shantreyl sat in her usual spot.  Renee sat down.  “So, are you excited?”

“I’m more tired than excited, Renee.  I went shopping for Zuri’s kids after work with Momma and Zuri, and then I had to get home by eight because Malcolm booked me a massage.  I won’t be here long; I have something to tell you and Jaya.  Tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day and I need to go to bed.”

Just then, Jaya came downstairs.  “Well hello, stranger!”

“Hey sis,” Shantreyl said.  “Sorry I haven’t talked to you two this past week.”

Jaya sat next to Renee.  “You’ve been busy, sis. It’s fine.  You haven’t seen your family in three years, and you know we’re not going anywhere.  You excited?  In 48 hours, you’ll be married and off to Thailand.”

“It all feels like a dream, Jaya.  But I came here to tell you a couple of things.”

“What is it?” Renee asked.

“The first is this: Cindy’s leaving to go work at a private school in Roseland Hills.”

Jaya and Renee both said, “What?”

Shantreyl’s smile was wide.  “I know, right?  The bitch will be gone come January and I couldn’t be happier.”

“Look at God,” Jaya said.

“Man, that’s fantastic news, Shan!” Renee replied. “Talk about a fucking win!  We need to celebrate.  What do you want to drink?” 

“Nothing,” Shantreyl said.  “I’m good.”

“Why not? We have to celebrate this victory, sis!”

Shantreyl smiled so wide she knew all her teeth were showing.  “Because I’m pregnant.”

Jaya and Renee sported twin expressions of surprise.

Shantreyl rubbed her stomach.  “Went to the doctor Monday morning…five weeks gone.  I conceived the day after my birthday.  Talk about a gift.”

“Wow!” Jaya said.  “Congratulations, Shantreyl!  That’s great news!  We’re going to be aunties, Renee!” 

Renee said, “So…do you know which one knocked you up?”

“No,” Shantreyl said.  “My doctor asked if we wanted to know who fathered the child and we all said no.”

“Really?” Jaya said.

“We’ll find out after the baby is born and starts to grow and develop.  Kaphiri and Malcolm have a thousand-dollar bet going.”

“Sounds legit,” Renee said.  “I should join in.”

“I’m so happy for you, Shantreyl,” Jaya said.  “You’ve had the best year ever.  Now aren’t you glad we went to the club that night?  I know I am.  Do your parents know that you’re preggo?”

“Yes, but Zuri doesn’t.  I can’t share this with her right now.  She’s on some bullshit.”  Shantreyl got up, yawning. “I need to go to bed,” she said.  “I just wanted to come over and tell you guys that Cindy’s gone and Renaya’s gonna have a play cousin come August.”

Renee and Jaya stood up and the three ladies shared a hug.


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