VII. More Chatter
Malcolm was at the Zig Zag Diner the next day, waiting for Kaphiri. He sipped on hot coffee, thinking about the day before. Shantreyl’s ex-boyfriend’s sudden appearance was an unexpected game changer. Malcolm figured that it would take about three or four dates before he let Shantreyl know of his intentions and expectations. But Miles’ appearance simplified the entire thing. Shantreyl knew exactly what his goal was and where she stood with him. Malcolm had to figure out how to adjust his schedule so he could date her properly. If he didn’t put forth a full effort to woo her, he knew he could lose her.
Kaphiri came into the diner and headed towards their table in the back. Malcolm smiled at his friend as he sat down and removed his earbuds.
“So,” Kaphiri said as Nyx brought him a large glass of fresh orange juice, “how was your date?”
“It was great. We had a lot of fun. Rode all of the land rides, some two or three times. She was a champ about it all; we were front riders the whole time. Also, her ex-boyfriend showed up.”
Kaphiri raised an eyebrow.
Malcolm nodded, taking a sip of coffee. “I’m serious. We were on our way to get something to eat and he was there.”
“So, what happened?”
“The guy is a fucking idiot. Apparently, he and Shantreyl dated for four years, but he cheated on her with another woman for two of them. He got the side chick pregnant and decided to marry her instead of Shantreyl. Now if you could have seen the woman he actually married versus the woman he should have married, you’d be as confused as I was.”
Kaphiri drank his juice. “Was the wife there too?”
“Yes. And the baby. Shantreyl had words for the asshole; she was extremely upset and he was all on that bullshit, talking about he’s sorry for hurting her, he never meant to do it, yada yada yada...all the while staring her down like she was a fucking steak.”
“So whomever he wifed up must be a stunner.”
Malcolm shook his head. “That’s the crazy part. She’s the complete opposite, Kap. The complete fucking opposite. Shantreyl’s thick and shaped like an old school glass Coke bottle. The woman he married is more like a two-liter. For the life of me, I can’t figure that shit out unless she wasn’t fat while they were dating, and even still…”
Kaphiri shook his head. “Some men are stupid, Mal. Simple as that.”
“Well, I’m not. When we finally sat down to eat, she and I had a real-ass conversation about what we both wanted from this thing, and we’re on the same page. She knows exactly what I want and she’s fine with it.”
Kaphiri traced the rim of his glass with one finger. “What do you want, Mal?”
“I’m ready to settle down, Kap. I want to get married and I want to have a kid or two. A son would be nice. Someone to carry on the family business. We’re not getting any younger.”
Kaphiri didn’t say anything as Nyx walked up to the table, holding a carafe of juice. She flicked her long dark red hair out of the way. “The usual, guys?”
Malcolm said, “Actually Nyx, I think I’ll finally try your biscuits and gravy.”
“About damn time, Mal,” she said. “It’s been on the menu for more than a year. Kap, what about you, with your fine ass?”
“I’ll have the same, Nyx,” Kaphiri replied, giving her one of his rare smiles.
“You two just made my day,” she said as she refilled Kaphiri’s glass before she walked off.
Kaphiri took another sip of juice. “So, you really are serious about marriage. What changed?”
Malcolm shrugged. “One day, I woke up next to Donna and I just sat in bed, staring at her and at the confines of my bedroom. Our clothes were all over the floor and I was thinking about everything outside of sex. Then she woke up, went to the bathroom and I watched her spend about ten minutes in the mirror, fixing her hair and her face before coming back to the bed. She grabbed my dick, but I couldn’t muster up enough interest to get hard. All I could think about was how nice it would be to wake up next to a woman who’s not a fashion plate and how cool it would be to have a son or daughter rush into the room and jump in the bed with us. Donna started talking about something—I don’t know what—and when she didn’t get the response she hoped, she got mad and got out of bed. I didn’t say anything. I just watched her put her clothes on as she yelled at me. I didn’t know what she was screaming about. I offered to call her an Uber, and she got even madder and stormed out. I knew then that something in me was different and I wanted a stable relationship with a woman who is real in the ways Donna and her ilk aren’t.”
“What makes you think—what’s her name again?”
“Shantreyl. Spelled S-H-A-N-T-R-E-Y-L.”
“What makes you think Shantreyl is any different from Donna? You said she’s not ugly or even average-looking. She could be just as shallow.”
“She’s beautiful, Kap, but she also has substance. She teaches chemistry and physics at Heather Hills Academy in Paradise Park. She’s got degrees. She’s got personality, and from what I witnessed yesterday, she has a heart and is open to romance. Donna—and the others—I couldn’t tell you what they did for a living before they met me, if they even worked. Most of them were kept women that I didn’t keep long. Shantreyl isn’t like that. She loves her job. She has a life independent of me. She wouldn’t be content with just being my go-to girl.”
“All this after one point five dates, Mal? You really don’t know her well enough to say all that.”
“I trust my instincts. They’ve gotten us this far, right?”
“Then trust me on this. I know enough to know I want her in my life. She’s genuine; the real deal. I like that.”
“I get it now,” Kaphiri said. “She adds legitimacy to your existence.”
“That’s right. Who would dare question me with a woman like her by my side?”
“Who would dare question you anyway, Mal? Or me, for that matter? We own this fucking city. So now what?”
“I want to see her again, but this weekend looks to be insane. We got some Triad high rollers coming in on Thursday. What about the Fountain?”
“Same, except they’re Yakuza and they’ll be here Friday.”
Malcolm finished his coffee. “I have to see Shantreyl this weekend, but I don’t know how I’ll get away in order to do that.”
“Malcolm, you know we do have qualified managers who can handle things if we need to be away.”
“I know. I just like to be around when certain groups come through, just to make sure everything’s on the level.”
Kaphiri finished his orange juice. “Why don’t you invite her to the Vermilion for dinner then? Pick a restaurant and get the chef to prepare a meal just for her and use the private dining room. Carve out a few hours; you’ll still be on site if you’re really needed, but take that time and be with her.”
Malcolm nodded. “Good idea.”
“I’m going to come by. I wanna meet her. I need to meet this woman who’s got you—my brother, player extraordinaire—nose wide open, thinking about settling down and having a family. I have to meet her. Does Mama Marion know?” Marion was Malcolm’s mother.
“Not yet. I want Shantreyl to have an engagement ring on before I introduce her to Momma. So that she knows I’m serious.”
“Well, it’s not like you’ve brought home women for Mama Marion to meet, so I’m sure she’ll know you’re serious. You don’t have to wait until you put a ring on it.”
Nyx brought them steaming hot plates of fluffy biscuits covered in thick white sausage gravy.
Malcolm closed his eyes. ‘Smells fantastic, Nyx.”
She shook her long, dark red hair. “Gonna taste even better, trust me. I’ll refill your drinks shortly. Anything else?”
“No,” Kaphiri said. “It looks good.”
Nyx nodded her head and walked off. “Be right back with your drinks.”
“Just so you know,” Kaphiri said as he cut into his biscuits, “Mama and Baba are having the cookout in about a month or so. They told me yesterday.”
“All right!” Malcolm said. “I’ve been waiting on that!” Kaphiri’s parents, Mercury & Persephone Parker, were known for their legendary cookouts, among other things. “Can I bring a date?”
Kaphiri gave his friend an Are you kidding? look as he ate his food.
Malcolm thought a little more. “Can I bring a couple of extra people?”
“Malcolm, you know you can bring whoever you want to the cookout. Mama and Baba would never limit you. You’re family. Who are you thinking about bringing other than Shantreyl?”
“She’s got two best friends and they’re extremely close. I want them to come so that Shantreyl doesn’t feel lonely around what is essentially a bunch of strangers. I need her to be comfortable in our world. These women are important to her, so they’re important to me.”
Kaphiri smiled slyly. “I gotta meet this mythical woman. That pussy has scrambled the fuck out of your brain.”
“Call it whatever you want to,” Malcolm said. “When you meet her, when you lay eyes on her, you’ll understand. When you get to know her, experience her, you will understand.”
* * *
Jaya lay on her stomach on the bed, smiling as Renee dropped kisses over her back, neck and shoulders. Her eyes were closed and she groaned in pleasure as Renee kneaded her lower back. Renee was draped partially over Jaya’s back and legs, kissing and massaging her. Jaya had her first real bout of morning sickness earlier and Renee was comforting her.
“This feels so good, babe.”
“Does your tummy still hurt? Has my baby calmed down yet?”
“No, and yes, our baby is calm now. But don’t you stop worshipping us.”
Renee kissed the back of Jaya’s ear. “I will never stop worshipping you, Jay. I love you so much. Too much. You are our little one are my heart.” Renee had been in love with Jaya since she was sixteen.
“Mmmmmn,” Jaya said as Renee gripped her ass. “No such thing as too much love. Raise up a little. I want to turn over on my back.”
Renee backed off and Jaya rolled over. Renee draped one of her legs over Jaya’s and began caressing one of her breasts while they kissed and locked legs. They were deep into the make-out session when Jaya’s phone rang. Renee reluctantly poked her head up and looked at Jaya’s phone.
“It’s Shan, Jay,” she said. “Answer it. We gotta know how the date went.”
Jaya groaned. “We can find out later, babe.”
Renee kissed her nose. “If we get the conversation over with now, we’ll have the rest of the day to fool around. You know you’re curious to find out how her date with Malcolm went.”
“So let’s take twenty or thirty minutes to get the uno-uno from Shan, and then it’ll just be us for the rest of the day.”
Renee gazed into her wife’s chocolate eyes. “Jaya Denai Harris, have I ever lied to you or broken a promise to you?”
Jaya stared into her wife’s chocolate eyes. “You have never lied to me nor broken a promise to me, Renee Michelle Harris.”
Renee kissed Jaya’s lips once more and gave her breast a gentle squeeze before handing Jaya her phone. “Call Shan back.”
Jaya called their friend and Shantreyl answered on the second ring. She put her on speaker. “Hey Shan.”
“Hey sis,” Renee said.
“Hey you two. I hope I’m not interrupting anything. I got brunch for us from PotRoast. I have so much to tell you about yesterday. Would you believe me if I told you Miles was there?”
Renee and Jaya looked at each other. Renee’s expression was clear: We can say no. I meant it when I said thirty minutes.
Jaya’s expression was equally clear: We gotta know what happened now, babe. Miles was there! We’ll pick up where we left off afterwards, okay?
Shantreyl said, “Jaya? Renee? Y’all there?”
Renee continued to stroke Jaya’s breast. Are you sure?
Jaya nodded. I’m sure. Then she said, “We’re here. What did you get for brunch?”
“Cheese eggs, French toast, sausage and bacon, fresh fruit, stuffed biscuits and hash browns.”
“That sounds pretty good,” Renee said. “But Jay had a bit of morning sickness, so…”
“I’m all right now,” Jaya said. “I’m sure I can eat a little something.”
“You sure?” Shantreyl asked. “We can talk later if you’re sick.”
“No, I’m fine,” Jaya said. “Give us fifteen and we’ll be down. Can’t believe Miles was there. I have to hear about this.”
Jaya hung up the phone and looked at her wife. “Sorry, babe.”
“Nothing to be sorry about. We’re still going to have the rest of the day to do whatever we want. I wanna hear about Miles too.”
“Okay then. Let’s get dressed.”
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, they were seated around Shantreyl’s dining room table, eating brunch while she talked about her date with Malcolm.
“We rode all the land rides, and we rode in the front. I thought I’d be hoarse from screaming so much. He was a perfect gentleman and we were having a fantastic time until lunch. I wanted pizza, but stopped to go to the restroom. When I came out, Miles saw me and had the nerve to come up to me.”
Jaya, holding a forkful of eggs, said, “What in the world did he say to you?”
“That fucknugget actually had the nerve to say that he never meant to hurt me and that he could have handled it better. Then he went there and said that he was intimidated by me and he couldn’t keep up.”
Renee rolled her eyes. “That lying-ass motherfucker!”
“Right,” Shantreyl said. “Lying-ass liar.”
Jaya looked confused. “Your drive and brilliance were some of the things he liked about you. What is this intimidation nonsense?”
“Who knows? He’s a liar. I did get to say everything I’d wanted to say since we broke up. And guess what…the whore he married was there too, along with their ugly little fucknugget of a brat. Miles asked me if I had moved on and he looked at Malcolm funny.”
“The baby’s ugly?” Jaya asked, trying not to laugh with a mouthful of food.
Renee laughed out loud. Shantreyl said, “Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t stick around to see. I’m just being petty. I don’t know what their rug-monkey looks like. I’m so glad Malcolm was there with me.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Not really, but he kept his eyes on Miles and kept holding my hand. After I walked away from the asshole, we went to have lunch at a pizza joint. Malcolm was really sweet about the whole thing. He let me have a few minutes to myself and when he sat back down, I was calmer. I told him about Miles and what happened between us. He couldn’t believe that Miles left me for that woman, who has to weigh about 300 pounds now.”
“Shit, I still can’t believe it,” Renee said. “He left a dime for a dollar.”
Shantreyl continued. “What’s funny about the whole thing is that Malcolm told me while we were eating that he could tell Miles wanted me back.”
Both Renee and Jaya looked at her. “WHAT?”
“He said he could tell by the way Miles looked at me that he regretted the choice he made. I didn’t sense that, of course, but Malcolm insisted that was the case. I don’t think he’d lie about something like that.”
Renee said, “He’s probably right. Some men can pick up on that. And I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Miles regretted his mistake. It was a no-brainer for the rest of us. He’s a fucking idiot.”
“Turns out I’m glad it all happened,” Shantreyl said, eating a stuffed biscuit. “Malcolm and I ended up having a real-ass conversation about us.”
“So…?” Jaya said, a stuffed biscuit in her hand.
“I asked him what he was doing with me, what did he want out of this? Was it all about sex, or what? I needed to know what his intentions were because I’m not wasting another second on a useless ass man.”
“What did he say?” Renee asked, licking her fingers. “This French toast is amazing.”
“Basically, long story short, he’s courting me. He really likes me. He’s tired of the runaround and wants to get married and have a family. He asked me if I was okay with him courting me knowing what his endgame was. I said I was fine with it. I like him too.”
Renee and Jaya stared at their friend in silence. A long moment passed and Shantreyl said, “What?”
Jaya nodded her head and cut into her hash browns. “You got a boyfriend, sis.”
“And if we heard your ass correctly, he’s gonna wife you up at some point,” Renee said, eating a piece of sausage.
Shantreyl shrugged. “I’m not about to presume anything. Yeah, he did pretty much say that, but then again so did Miles. And you see how that turned out. I’m now all about what a man does, not what he says, and I pretty much told Malcolm that. He wants to woo me; I’m open to it. He wants to impress me and win my heart; I’m open to that as well. But I’m not about to assume anything. Talk is motherfucking cheap. Miles taught me that.”