XXI: The Laughing Sun
Shantreyl was hunched over the toilet, vomiting up the remains of last night’s dinner. Malcolm was fast asleep and Kaphiri was standing at the counter, holding a glass of ice. He was a light sleeper and when he heard her in the bathroom, he got up to care for her. When she was sure that she was finished, she got up, flushed the toilet, and then washed her face and rinsed her mouth. After adjusting her bonnet, she took the glass from Kaphiri and started sucking on a piece of ice.
“You all right now, bambina?”
“I hope so, honeybunny.”
“You want to get back in bed? It’s six-thirty.”
“I probably should. I’m tired but I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep.”
“Well, come on,” he said, taking her hand. “You don’t have to sleep, but you should stay off your feet as much as possible.”
They got back in bed and Kaphiri fluffed Shantreyl’s pillows before she settled down, sucking on ice.
“Last night went very well,” Shantreyl said. The rehearsal was successful, as was the dinner. Shantreyl’s parents met the Parkers and they hit it off like a house on fire. Persephone, Marion and Shannon cliqued up immediately. Kaphiri’s family made everyone feel welcome. Zuri, Kit and the kids appeared to enjoy themselves and it made Shantreyl happy to see all three families getting along. The food was fantastic.
“I thought so,” Kaphiri replied. “Mama and Baba loved meeting your parents. It’s real for them.” He put a hand on her stomach. “I can’t wait to see their expressions when they learn we’re having a baby.”
“When do you plan to tell them?”
“Before you start to show.”
Shantreyl caressed Kaphiri’s hand. “We’re getting married today. It feels unreal, don’t you think?”
“It does. If you told me in January that I’d be married in December, I would have called bullshit. Marriage was not in Malcolm’s plans and not even remotely in mine. In fact, what we were thinking of doing is opening up another hotel. But when you came into the picture, we put that on pause. Malcolm had to focus on you.”
“You guys want to open another hotel?”
“Not one as big as the Fountain or the Vermilion, but yes. Our hotels are doing extremely well. It makes sense to open another one. We’ll get back to that sometime next year.”
Shantreyl smiled and sucked down another piece of ice before handing him the glass. “My throat’s cooled off. You take such good care of me.” Every time she had morning or evening sickness, Kaphiri was usually there to help her.
“I have to because Malcolm’s useless ass won’t do it,” he sneered. “He sleeps like he’s dead. Have you been sick at school yet?”
“No,” she said. “Thank God for that.”
Kaphiri rubbed her stomach. “Do you think you’ll be able to eat before you leave?”
“I have to try for the baby’s sake. But I don’t feel like cooking.”
“You don’t need to worry about that, bambina. I asked Nyx if she would deliver breakfast to us at ten.”
Shantreyl yawned. “Well in that case, I’m gonna try to go back to sleep. Set your alarm.”
Shantreyl had to be awakened when the alarm went off. Kaphiri gently shook her.
“Do you want to take a shower, bambina?”
“I’ll take a bath after breakfast. Is Nyx here yet?”
“She’ll be here in about twenty minutes.”
“I’d better get up then,” she said.
Malcolm hadn’t moved a muscle. Shantreyl leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Babylove?”
“That won’t work,” Kaphiri said as he got dressed. “You need to go upside his head.”
Shantreyl got out of bed and walked around to Malcolm’s side. She put a hand on his shoulder and gently shook him. “Malcolm? Wake up, babylove. Wake up.”
“You’re too nice,” Kaphiri said. He walked over and slapped Malcolm in the back of the head.
“What the fuck?” he said, coming awake in a rush. “Shantreyl, did you just hit me?”
Shantreyl jumped back as he got up. “No, Malcolm. I would never hit you. Kaphiri did.”
“The fuck you hit me for, asshole?” Malcolm rubbed his head and adjusted his pajama pants.
“It’s time to get up, dickhead. Nyx will be here soon.”
“The hell is Nyx coming over here for?” Malcolm went into the bathroom and lifted up the toilet seat.
Kaphiri said, “She’s bringing breakfast. We all need to eat this morning. Shantreyl’s leaving at noon. What time is Romeo picking us up?”
“Did you ask her to bring breakfast?”
Malcolm washed his hands and face. “That might be the smartest decision you’ve made this entire year. Romeo’s picking us up at eleven-thirty. I need to get my hair cut and my goatee tightened up.” He started brushing his teeth.
“Same,” Kaphiri said as he brushed his hair. He hadn’t had a haircut in six weeks and his hair was longer than he liked.
Shantreyl put on her favorite pair of knit pants and an oversized long-sleeved Dawnstar State University T-shirt. She stuck her feet into her favorite fluffy slippers. “Don’t be late, guys.”
Malcolm came out of the bathroom and kissed her lips. “Never, baby.” He stroked her cheek. “Have you talked to your family?”
“Momma said that they would be at the Laughing Sun no later than three-o-clock. I’ll check in with them after breakfast.”
Malcolm put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. “I’m starving, actually. Good call, Kap.”
Nyx brought an array of steaming hot food: biscuits, sausage gravy, bacon, cheese scrambled eggs, home fries, grits, beef sausages, and pancakes. She put the spread on the kitchen table and then brought out champagne and juice to make mimosas.
Malcolm pulled out a wad of bills. “How much for this wonderful special delivery, Nyx?”
Nyx flicked her beautiful dark red braids over her shoulders. “Consider this a wedding gift, Mal. Least I could do for my favorite customers. Where are you going for the honeymoon?”
“Thailand,” Shantreyl said, sad that she couldn’t have a mimosa. “We leave in the morning.”
“That’s great,” Nyx said. “You guys can return my serving trays to me when you get back, okay?”
“Thanks, Nyx,” Kaphiri said. “You’re the best.”
“Of course I am,” she replied. “Now I’ve got to run. Congratulations on the nuptials and I’ll see you guys later.”
Malcolm escorted Nyx out while Shantreyl brought some napkins, plates and silverware to the table. Soon, they were eating heartily.
“Our baby’s up for a good meal this morning?” Malcolm asked, looking at his bride-to-be. Shantreyl was eagerly putting together a layered mega-entree on her plate: biscuits, cheese eggs, and sausage gravy topped off with crumbled bacon, with a bowl of grits off to one side.
“I sure am. Lost last night’s dinner a few hours ago and I’m starving.”
Kaphiri had a stack of pancakes, some sausage and some eggs on his plate. “Your sorry ass is never aware of it when she gets morning sickness. But she’s fine now, if her appetite’s any indication.”
Shantreyl closed her eyes at the first bite. “Mmmmmn…Nyx is a-mazing!” She chewed thoughtfully and then said, “I typically don’t get sick in the afternoons, so I should be all right today.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t wake up with you,” Malcolm said. “I sleep deep.”
“I know,” Shantreyl said. “Kaphiri gets up with me, so it’s all right.”
“I’ll do better,” he replied as he brought a forkful of eggs and home fries to his lips. “Kaphiri shouldn’t have to handle that all on his own.”
“Malcolm, it’s fine. You take care of me in other ways.”
“Are you sure, baby?”
“Of course. There’s no need in both of you losing sleep while I’m sick.”
“Okay then,” Malcolm said. “I’ll leave you two to it.”
Traffic was good, so it only took forty minutes to arrive at The Laughing Sun. The venue had a bridal waiting room, replete with all of the furnishings and fixtures a bride would need to get ready for her wedding. Julie made Shantreyl change into a robe shortly after arriving.
“You’ll relax better if you’re wearing unrestrictive clothing. You’ll put on your bra and your dress thirty minutes prior. After you put the robe on, I want you to take a nap.”
“I’m not sleepy, Julie,” Shantreyl said. “I got plenty of rest last night.”
Julie said, “That’s good and all, but what did you hire me for?”
“To plan my wedding.”
“Yes. And it is a job I take seriously. You trust my professional judgment, right?”
“Then trust me now. Lie down for a little while. You don’t have wedding jitters yet, but you will soon enough. And you’re pregnant, so there may be a chance that you might get a little sick beforehand. I don’t want you tired when you walk down that aisle. All right?”
Shantreyl nodded. Malcolm and Kaphiri paid Julie well to do everything that needed to be done in regard to the wedding and it would be rude not to trust her decision-making now. She went over to one of the chaise lounges and lay down. To her surprise, she fell asleep and Julie had to wake her up after ninety minutes so that she could start getting ready. Julie had a bottle of water and a plate of fresh fruit and finger sandwiches from Aunt Pippa, who was there with her catering staff, getting ready for the ceremony.
“Eat,” Julie said, handing Shantreyl the plate. “Before you do your hair and makeup. And please don’t tell me you’re not hungry. Your stomach’s okay?”
“Malcolm expects a perfect bride to walk down that aisle and I always give my clients the service they expect and pay for.”
Shantreyl sat up, took the plate and began snacking. Afterwards, she washed her hands and splashed water on her face. It was time to start getting ready. She sat down at the vanity and looked at her reflection.
“Can you hand me my phone?” she asked.
Julie handed Shantreyl her phone. She pulled up a playlist and began playing music. Shantreyl was not going to put on her wedding gown until the absolute last minute, which for her was 3:30. She sat in front of the vanity and carefully began applying her makeup. She was just starting to remove the curling rods from her hair when someone knocked on the door. Julie answered it. It was Shannon, Zuri and Zoe. She got up from the vanity and went over to her family.
Zoe hugged Shantreyl’s legs, pressing her face into her belly. “Auntie Shan, you don’t have on your special dress. Mommy says you’re wearing a special dress today.”
Shantreyl stroked Zoe’s hair. “I’m waiting until the last minute to put it on, baby girl.”
“Can I help you put it on, Auntie Shan?”
Shannon’s eyes sparkled as she looked at her daughter. “You doing okay?”
“I’m great, actually. Julie made me relax, rest and eat before I started getting ready. I feel really good. I’m not nervous at all.”
“Good,” Shannon said. “Do you need any help getting ready?”
“No, but can you stay here with me for a while? All of you?”
“Absolutely,” Shannon said. “Zuri?”
“Of course,” Zuri said. “We’ve got a while before the ceremony starts. I’ll help you with your hair. Did you bring a curling iron?”
“I did just in case, but I haven’t turned it on. I’m hoping that my curls won’t need any heat.”
“Well, can I use it?”
Zuri handed Zoe her phone to play games with and directed her to sit on the chaise. Shannon reached in her purse and brought out a small box. “Here, Shantreyl.”
“Are these your solitaires?”
“Yes. And I want them back when all this is over.”
“Of course, Momma. I didn’t expect you to give them to me.”
Zuri had the curling iron heating up and was looking at her hair. “Are they the borrowed, then?”
“No, they’re the old. Kaphiri’s mother is lending me a choker.”
“Are they here yet?” Shannon asked.
“I expect they will be here soon,” Shantreyl said, sitting back down at the vanity. She opened the box and looked at her mother’s earrings. They were a one-carat princess cut and Shantreyl used to beg her mother to let her wear them…which Shannon never did.
Shantreyl smiled and put them on. “Momma, they’re beautiful.”
“I know,” she said, coming up behind her child. “Your father worked like a dog to get them for me...and I want them back.”
Shantreyl took out the curling rods and removed the hair wraps. “You’ll get them back tonight.” She carefully patted the back and sides of her head to make sure her hair was laid. Then, she began gently pulling the curls loose.
Zuri stood beside her, using the curling iron to freshen her curls. Shannon sat down on the chaise next to Zoe and watched her daughters. Someone knocked on the door and Julie answered it. It was Marion Sullivan and Persephone Parker. They came in and walked over to the mirror. Shantreyl stood up to receive them.
“Oh baby, you look so pretty!” Marion said, grabbing her hands.
“Momma Marion, I’m still in my robe.”
“But your hair and makeup are perfect!”
“Thank you,” she said.
Persephone hugged Shantreyl. “Hello, Shantreyl. How are you feeling? Are you nervous?”
“Nope,” Shantreyl said. “Julie’s been taking care of me.”
“Good,” she said. She reached in her purse and pulled out a velvet box. She handed it to Shantreyl, saying, “Mercury bought me this for our silver anniversary.”
Shantreyl opened it. It was an elegant choker made of silver and had as the centerpiece a large pale blue stone surrounded by what looked like diamonds. She gasped. “It’s gorgeous,” she said. “This will look really good with my gown. Thank you, Momma ‘Nee. What kind of gem is this?”
“It’s a moonstone. When you told me that your color palette was shades of blue, I knew immediately that this would work. Let me put it on.”
Shantreyl turned around and let Persephone put the choker on. Then she turned and looked in the mirror and then at her sister. “Do you like it?”
“That’s stunning,” Zuri said. “Can’t wait to see what it looks like when you finally put the dress on.”
“Momma, what do you think?”
Shannon walked over to the mirror. “It’s exquisite. With your hair up, it really shows off your neck and shoulders. And it looks good with the solitaires.”
Marion reached into her purse. “I have something for you as well, Shantreyl.” She pulled out a square velvet box. “I didn’t want to be left out.”
“Left out of what, Momma Marion? You don’t have to give me anything.”
Marion handed Shantreyl the box. “Nonsense, honey.”
Shantreyl opened it. It was an elegant tiara.
“Put it on,” Marion said. “Let me see how it looks on you.”
Shantreyl put the tiara on and adjusted her curls around it. “It’s beautiful, Momma Marion. Is this an “old” or a “borrowed?””
“It’s yours, sweetie.”
“Guess that makes it the “new,”” Zuri said.
“Thank you,” Shantreyl said. “I love it.”
Persephone and Marion smiled at Shantreyl. “When do you plan to put on the gown, honey?” Marion asked.
“3:30. Julie said that I could do it at the last minute.”
“Is it tight?”
“No. I just didn’t want to run the risk of getting anything on it, so it will be the last thing I do. It has a train and a cape, and I don’t want to trip and fall beforehand.”
“Well, if you don’t mind,” Persephone said, “can I say a prayer for you?”
“Sure, Momma ‘Nee.”
“Okay, sweetie. Stand up. We’re going to form a circle around you.”
Shantreyl did as she was asked. Persephone and Marion held hands, and then held out her hands for Zuri and Shannon.
“Close your eyes, Shantreyl. I’m going to recite this in my native tongue. It is a prayer for patience, peace, prosperity and passion for you and your new husband, and for your union to be long and fruitful.”
Shantreyl nodded dumbly and closed her eyes. As Persephone began to speak, she felt a tremor in her belly.
When Persephone finished, Marion said, “I’d like to say a prayer too.” She squeezed the hands she held and spoke clearly and calmly, praying for compassion and understanding while referencing select Bible verses. Shantreyl found herself getting warm all over and her stomach trembled again. She hoped it didn’t signify bad news.
Shannon, feeling the moment, jumped in with her own prayer of love and support, and best wishes for her daughter and new son-in-law. Shantreyl’s eyes started to water, so she blinked a few times to keep it from happening and ruining her eye makeup.
After Shannon finished, a moment passed. The women started to let go of each other, but to Shantreyl’s surprise, Zuri said, “Wait.”
Shantreyl turned to look at her sister. Zuri’s eyes were full of tears and she looked Shantreyl in the eye.
“Shan, I know that we’ve been on the outs. I haven’t been the best big sister, to the point that you don’t feel comfortable sharing your hopes, dreams, and goals with me and I am really sorry for that. I hope that your love for Malcolm and Malcolm’s love for you remain as strong as it is right now. I wish nothing but the best for you and hope that your union is a blessed one. Malcolm makes you happy and that’s what matters; all that matters. I love you, sis.”
That did it. Shantreyl started crying. Zuri broke ranks and held out her arms. Shantreyl hugged her sister and let the tears flow. Shannon, tears streaming down her cheeks, wrapped both arms around her daughters, and pretty soon, Marion and Persephone were hugging as well.
Zoe was oblivious and unbothered, happily playing Fruit Ninja on her mother’s phone.
Someone knocked on the door. Julie opened it. Jaya walked in, holding Shantreyl’s bouquet, saw all the ladies hugging and smiled at the sight. Julie remained off to one side, one eye on the clock and the other on the women. After a few moments, she said, “Shantreyl, check your makeup. It’s time to put your dress on. Everyone else needs to get to their seats. We’re starting on time.”
“Oh no, do I look like a raccoon?” Shantreyl asked as Zuri let her go.
“Yes, but it’s not too bad. Touch up your mascara. Do I look like a raccoon?”
“No. You’re good.”
“I’ll see you soon. Zoe, come on now.”
Zoe hopped up and took her mother’s hand. “Bye, Auntie Shan!”
Marion and Persephone were touching up their eye makeup as well. Then they followed Zuri and Zoe out, greeting Jaya on the way.
Shantreyl waved Jaya over and they hugged. Jaya asked, “How are you doing, Shantreyl? Looks like I missed all the fun.”
“I’m good,” she said. “I’ve got butterflies in my stomach, but they’re small ones. I’m all right. Everyone prayed for me.”
“She didn’t exactly pray, but she did wish me the best and apologized for being a shitty big sister.”
“Well that’s good,” Jaya said.
“That my bouquet?”
“Yes. Isn’t it pretty? You should see mine. Aunt Jeri and Uncle Tick did a good job with the flowers.” She looked at her best friend. “Are you ready for this? Are you ready to be Shantreyl Sullivan Parker?”
“I am,” she replied.
Julie brought the garment bag that held Shantreyl’s wedding dress and the box that held her shoes. “Come on, let’s get you in this dress. Mrs. Troy, we’ll need your help.”
“Absolutely,” Shannon said.
Shantreyl’s dress was a form-fitted off-the-shoulder long-sleeved satin Carolina blue gown. The dress had a slit up the side and a train. Jaya started zipping her up while Shannon adjusted the bodice.
“This bra is killing me,” Shantreyl said. Her breasts were sore and being smashed inside a bra made things worse. She appreciated Julie’s suggestion of waiting until the last minute to get ready.
“Can you adjust?” Shannon asked. “Your bosom needs to be full for this to look right.”
Shantreyl tucked her hand in her bra and lifted her breasts to fill out the bodice. Jaya finished zipping her up and Shannon took a step back. “Perfect. It definitely shows off your curves.”
Julie brought the matching cape and helped Jaya put it on. Shannon locked the clasp and Jaya spread out the cape. Shantreyl looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror. She couldn’t believe how different she looked.
“You’re so beautiful, baby,” Shannon said. “You’re radiant.”
“That dress is spectacular,” Jaya said. “I love that slit up the side; showing some leg always gets results and people can see your shoes. Aunt Pandora did that.”
Shantreyl sat down so Jaya and Shannon could help her put her shoes on. She sighed; the heels were five inches high and were custom dyed to match her gown. She purchased them two months ago; back when she wasn’t pregnant.
“It looks like your feet are swollen,” Shannon said.
“A little, but I think I’ll be all right.” Shantreyl slipped her feet into the shoes and after they were fastened, she stood up carefully. The heels made her tall enough so that it would be easier to kiss Malcolm; not that it was ever a problem before. She walked around for a moment and nodded her head. “They fit fine. But Julie, please have my slippers ready the moment we are done with our first dance.”
“Yes, of course.”
Jaya handed Shantreyl her bouquet. Then she said, “Let me go get ready to line up with Kaphiri. He and Malcolm look good, by the way. I would try to holler if I didn’t play for the winning team.” She grinned. “See you outside, sis.”
Shantreyl smiled. Shannon kissed her cheek and gently put the hood over Shantreyl’s head. “Your father is going to cry when he sees you.”
“No he won’t, Momma!”
“Yes he will.” She squeezed her daughter’s hand. “I’ll see you out there.”
Then it was just Shantreyl and Julie. Julie checked the time. “I’m going out. You’ve got about five minutes before your father comes to get you. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Shantreyl said. “I’ll be ready when Daddy comes for me.”
About two minutes later, Trey knocked on the door before opening it and walking in. “Princess?”
Shantreyl turned to look at him. “Hey Daddy. I’m ready.”
Trey stood there, staring at her. Memories of Shantreyl as a little girl flooded his mind and he blinked rapidly, pushing back sudden tears. A long moment passed. Trey put a hand over his heart. “I’m not. Princess, you look magnificent. You are a vision to behold.” He coughed and patted his chest. “I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready to give my baby girl away.”
“Too late, Daddy.”
“I know,” he said, holding out his arm. “I know. Come on, we need to go.”
The sun was a giant glowing disc and the sky was a mix of pinks, oranges and blues. It was a beautiful day to get married. Everybody was seated. Malcolm stood at the front with the minister, ridiculously handsome in a dark blue Hugo Boss. He wasn’t the least bit nervous. For him, everything was as it should be.
The DJ put on Musiq’s “Love.”
In the doorway, Kaphiri tucked Jaya’s hand into the crook of his elbow and they took their sweet time strolling down the aisle. Jaya’s smile was wide. Renee sat in an aisle seat in the second row, smiling at her and Jaya knew that she was reliving their wedding day. Kaphiri looked for his mother and smiled when he saw her. Persephone was already crying, dabbing her tears with a handkerchief. Mercury had a huge grin on his face.
After Kaphiri escorted Jaya to her spot, he took her hand and gently twirled her into place. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. Jaya smiled at him before he went and took his place next to Malcolm. Julie motioned to the DJ, who stopped the music and asked the crowd to rise when Shantreyl and Trey appeared in the doorway.
The DJ put on Jesse Powell’s “You.” Everybody stood up and turned to look at the bride and her father. Malcolm stared at his wife-to-be, mesmerized at how beautiful she was. He heard Kaphiri’s intake of breath and silently co-signed.
Trey and Shantreyl waited for one minute and thirty seconds as the song played through to the first chorus. This was Kaphiri’s idea.
Trey looked at his daughter. Tears slid slowly down his cheek. “Ready, Princess?”
“Yes,” she said, determined to keep her own tears in check. She was not about to mess up her eye makeup again.
Trey put Shantreyl’s hand in the crook of his arm and they started walking down the aisle. Shantreyl quickly found her mother, who had shiny eyes, but no tears. Zuri had a big smile on her face, but no tears. Then Shantreyl looked at her grooms. Kaphiri was smiling at her, but was that a tear in Malcolm’s eye? Was he trying not to cry?
Shantreyl beamed at him. If Malcolm started crying, then she was going to lose it completely.
Trey walked her down to the front where Malcolm stood. He carefully removed the hood of Shantreyl’s cape. Then he kissed her forehead. His eyes were full of tears.
“I love you, Princess.”
“I love you too, Daddy.”
Trey turned and shook Malcolm’s hand first, then Kaphiri’s. “Do right by her or I will kill both of you,” he murmured. Then he took his seat next to Shannon.
Shantreyl handed her bouquet to Jaya and took Malcolm’s outstretched hands. He said in a low voice, “You’re magnificent, baby. We’re so lucky.”
“So am I,” she replied.
The DJ cut the music and Shantreyl and Malcolm turned to look at the minister.
While the wedding party was taking photos on the beach, the guests were allowed to go to the dining room and begin eating. Aunt Pippa and her staff put on a spread: an antipasto tray, figs, melon and prosciutto, and a Tuscan garden salad as appetizers; cedar-plank roasted salmon, sautéed chicken breasts with mushroom gravy, and vegetarian lasagna as entrees, and a wide variety of sides. Aunt Proserpina made a simple round double chocolate cake topped with and surrounded by fat succulent strawberries for Malcolm, and an ornate four-tiered lemon almond cake for Shantreyl.
Julie had everything arranged based on Shantreyl’s comfort. The dinner tables surrounded the dance floor so that she and Malcolm could get their first dance out of the way as soon as they were done with photographs. When they were ready, Julie sent a signal to the DJ, who proclaimed that the wedding party was ready to be received by the guests. He announced Jaya’s and Kaphiri’s names as the maid of honor and the best man before putting on Al Green’s “I’m Glad You’re Mine,” a song that Kaphiri chose.
Kaphiri and Jaya came out first and did a quick dance before taking their seats at the designated table. The, the DJ announced, “May I introduce to everyone…Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Sullivan,” and everyone clapped when they walked out on the dance floor and started to dance. Malcolm’s dancing ability improved over the past few months, but he would never be as good as Kaphiri, so Shantreyl wasn’t about to have him do any complicated steps. She kept the dance simple and would save the complex stuff for her eventual dance with her other husband.
Malcolm twirled his new bride around and her dress billowed, showing off her legs.
Someone wolf whistled. Shantreyl thought it might have been either Melvin or Uncle Tick. Someone else shouted, “All right now, Malcolm!” and someone else said, “You better do it, boy!”
Marion said, “That’s my baby out there!” Then she looked at Persephone. “Look at Malcolm dance!”
“Why are you so surprised?” Shannon asked.
Marion said, “He couldn’t dance before he met Shantreyl. My son has two left feet, or at least he used to. She’s been teaching him and look at him now…!” The expression on Malcolm’s face as he danced with his new wife was one that Marion would treasure for the rest of her life.
“Can Kaphiri dance?” Shannon asked.
“Yes,” Persephone said. “Merc and I taught him how. We don’t play that about dancing. I know Kaphiri will take Shantreyl for a spin on the dance floor after they eat.”
At the end of the song, Malcolm took Shantreyl’s hand and led her to the table where Jaya and Kaphiri were. Shantreyl sat between him and Malcolm. Kaphiri leaned over and whispered in her ear, “That next dance is mine, Mrs. Parker.”
She beamed at him. “You bet your ass, Mr. Parker.”
“You look positively sinful,” he said. “Where’s your cape?”
“So do you,” she replied. Kaphiri was wearing the pure fuck out of a dark blue Armani. Jaya was right; both of her men looked gooood. “Julie has it.”
“Are you tired?”
“A little bit. I asked Julie to bring my slippers so I can get out of these stilettos. My feet hurt.”
“Whenever we have our first fuck as man and wife, wear them.”
Shantreyl looked at Kaphiri. “Are you serious?”
“I sure as hell am. Maybe you don’t see how good your legs look with those shoes on, but I do. I want those heels up in the air as soon as possible. I want you to grind them into my shoulder blades.”
“How come you haven’t asked me to do that before?"
He shrugged. “It just occurred to me when I saw your wedding shoes.”
Malcolm looked at Shantreyl. “What’s he bending your ear about?”
She said, “Having sex with these stilettos on.”
Malcolm nodded. “Oh hell yeah. Is that something we’re doing tonight? I figured you might be tired.”
Shantreyl smiled weakly. “I don’t think so, babylove. I’m worn-out. My boobs are killing me, and my feet hurt.”
“There’s no rush, Mrs. Sullivan,” Malcolm said, kissing her knuckle. “We have all the time in the world.”
Just then, Julie came up and squatted next to Shantreyl. “Here are your shoes,” she said, handing Shantreyl a pair of pale blue satin slippers before putting her cape on the back of her chair. “Give me your heels and I’ll make sure they’re in the limo when it’s time to leave. It’s cold out, so you’re going to want your cape. I’m having the servers put together meals for you to take home. People are going to start coming by to congratulate you and you won’t have time to eat. I’ll make sure that you have some appies to nibble on, but if you want to consume dinner while it’s hot, it’s not going to work. Trust me.”
“I do,” Shantreyl said, taking off her stilettos and handing them to Julie. “I trust every word you say.”
“I’ll have the servers bring you guys some appetizers, wine and sparkling grape,” Julie said. “We’ve got the facility for four more hours. When do you plan to leave?”
Malcolm and Kaphiri looked at Shantreyl. “Baby? It’s up to you.”
“What all do we have to do next?”
Julie looked at her phone. “Kaphiri and Jaya have to raise toasts to the bride and groom and give about 25 minutes for guests to raise their own toasts. With as large a family as present, I’m sure we may need a little more time than that, but no longer than ten minutes. Then the bouquet toss, more dancing, and then the cutting of the cakes. After the cakes are cut and served, you can go. I think we can have everything wrapped up by 9:00 p.m. Everyone else has to be out by 10:00, but I’ll make sure of that.”
“Okay,” Malcolm said. Then he looked at Kaphiri and Jaya. “Let’s get the toasting out of the way.”
Jaya nodded. “Let’s. I’m tired too and I miss my daughter.”
“When will we get to meet Renaya?” Kaphiri asked.
“Soon,” Jaya said. “When she’s a little older.”
Julie came back with the microphone and handed it to Kaphiri. “Do you want to go first?”
Kaphiri looked at Shantreyl and they smiled at each other. He said, “Yes,” took the microphone and stood up. Shantreyl looked at Malcolm and took his hand. “Come with me, babylove.”
Malcolm got up. “Where are we going?”
Kaphiri took Shantreyl’s other hand and they walked over to the grand piano. Kaphiri handed her the microphone and sat down. Malcolm looked at him. Shantreyl said, “Stand right here next to him, okay?”
“Okay,” Malcolm said. “What’s all this?”
“It’s a surprise. I want to make sure I can see you both, all right? Kaphiri, are you ready?”
He adjusted the adjoining microphone. “Yes.”
Shantreyl turned on the microphone and spoke to the audience. “Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for sharing our special day with us. This,” she turned to look at Malcolm and Kaphiri, “is dedicated to my husband.”
Kaphiri began to play, and to the surprise of everyone in the room, he began to sing. “My love…there’s only you in my life…the only thing that’s bright…”
Shantreyl sang, “My first love…you’re every breath that I take…you’re every step I make…”
Then together, “…and I…I-I-I-I…want to share all my love with you…no one else will do…”
Malcolm stared at Shantreyl and then turned to look at Kaphiri, and then back at his wife, and then back at his best friend. When he looked at Shantreyl that last time, there were tears streaming down his cheeks.
The audience was dead silent. Persephone and Mercury looked at each other. They knew their son loved music and was talented with instruments, but that he had a voice? He’d been sitting on that for over thirty years? They were as flabbergasted as everyone else in the room.
“I know…I’ve found in you…my endless love……ohhhh, and love, oh love…I’ll be that fool…for you I’m sure…”
Renee and Jaya made eye contact. Renee mouthed the word, “Wow.”
Shannon and Trey smiled at each other. A very long time had passed since they last heard their baby girl sing…and for it to be now…with her new husband, who had a voice that complemented hers perfectly…?
Malcolm kept turning his head to look at Kaphiri and then at Shantreyl. He wasn’t even trying to hide his emotions. Tears slid down his cheeks and there was a lump in his throat. These two had schemed to surprise him, and he was most definitely surprised. Whose idea was it?
They sang in perfect unison. “…cause no one can deny…this love I have inside…and I’ll give it all to you…my love, my love…my endless love…”
When the song ended, the room exploded in thunderous applause. Shantreyl put the mic down, put her hands on Malcolm’s cheeks and rubbed the tears away with her thumbs. Then she kissed his lips.
Kaphiri stood up, smiling. Malcolm turned to him and muttered, “You mutha…fucka…!” Then he hugged him before looking at Shantreyl again. “When did you two come up with this?”
Shantreyl squeezed Kaphiri’s hand. “It was his idea, and when was it, honeybunny? Sometime in October?”
“That’s right. We practiced on the nights you had to work.”
They walked back to their table to a grinning Jaya, who hugged Kaphiri when he sat down.
“I did not know you could sing like that,” she said. “I didn’t know you could sing at all!”
Kaphiri shrugged. “No one knew except Shantreyl. Not even my parents. I’m typically very private with my music. But I’m able to share it with her.”
Jaya nodded. “You should have seen the expressions on everybody’s faces when you started singing.”
“Yeah…I’m going to hear about that later on. Your turn,” Kaphiri said, handing Jaya the mic.
Jaya said, “How am I supposed to beat that?”
Kaphiri shrugged again. “I don’t know.”
Jaya shook her head and stood up. Everyone turned to look at her. She said, “Well…there’s no way I can top Kaphiri’s toast and I’m not even going to try…”
The audience laughed and Jaya spoke from the heart, spinning a brief story about her role in how Malcolm and Shantreyl met, which brought more laughter. After that, Julie took the mic and opened the floor up for guests. Just as she predicted, it took about thirty minutes to get through all the toasts. Then the DJ started playing music and encouraged everyone to get up and dance. People started coming over to offer congratulations to the happy couple.
Julie had appetizer plates delivered to the table and Shantreyl snacked on fruit and prosciutto as everyone came by. She was hungry and wanted more sustenance, but the receiving line was long.
The dance floor was packed by the time the couple was done receiving well wishes. Malcolm sat back in his chair and took a sip of wine. “I’m tired,” he said. “When are you going to have your dance with Kaphiri?”
“Now,” Kaphiri said and took Shantreyl’s hand. “You feel like it, bambina?”
“A short dance,” she said. “I’m tired too.”
“All right,” he said. “Come on.”
As they were dancing, Shantreyl said, “I’m so happy,” she said. “We’re married, honeybun.”
“I know,” he said. “Twenty-four hours from now, we’re on a beach in Thailand, sipping on cocktails.” He smiled at her. “Well, Malcolm and I will be sipping on cocktails. You, my wife, will be sipping on grape juice.”
Shantreyl laughed heartily when Kaphiri spun her three times and brought her close, her back to him. He put one hand on her waist, and they moved together as one, keeping it as chaste as possible. Malcolm was talking to his brothers while watching them dance.
Marion, Persephone and Shannon watched Kaphiri and Shantreyl. “They look good together, don’t you think?” Persephone asked.
“He looks so happy,” Marion said. “I’ve known Kaphiri most of his life, Shannon, and I’ve never seen him smile as much as I’ve seen him do it this year.”
“Are you and your husband comfortable with their lifestyle?” Persephone asked. “With your daughter being with both of our sons?”
“Shannon said, “It will take some getting used to, but we’re fine with it.”
Marion said, “All we need now is a grandchild. I hope they get pregnant soon.”
“That makes two of us,” Persephone said.
Shannon smiled to herself. They didn’t know…and she wasn’t about to mention it.
Shantreyl ended up dancing with Kaphiri through three songs simply because he was so much fun to dance with, and then found herself dancing with Mercury. Kaphiri had moved on to her mother.
“Welcome to the family,” he said. “You’ve made this old man happy.”
“Thank you, Baba,” she replied. “I’m happy too.”
“They’re blessed to have you, so take good care of my boys, all right?”
“I will, Baba.”
Shantreyl changed partners and ended up in her father’s embrace. She looked up at him, her brown eyes luminous. He smiled at her. “I already miss you, Princess. Please don’t let it be another three years before we see you again.”
“I’ll do better with that, Daddy. Maybe I can come home next December, if it’s okay for the baby to fly.”
Trey chuckled. “Your mother will be back here before then. She already told me that she planned to come when you go into labor, and I will join her as soon as I can. I can’t wait to lay eyes on my baby’s baby.”
Shantreyl smiled at her father. There was a brief pause, then she asked, “Are you sure you’re okay with my marriage, Daddy?”
“I’m okay with it, Princess. I know what I need to know about Malcolm and Kaphiri, and I’m good with it.” He kissed her forehead. “You just take care of yourself and my grandchild, all right?”
“Okay Daddy,” she said.
A little while later, Julie announced that it was time to cut the cakes. Malcolm escorted Shantreyl over to the dessert table. Together they cut into Shantreyl’s cake, then Malcolm’s, looped arms and shared bites without spilling crumbs on their clothes. Everyone applauded and then Julie proclaimed that it was time for the bouquet toss. All of the single women crowded around and one of Kaphiri’s cousins caught the bouquet.
When it was time for them to leave, Malcolm and Shantreyl went over to her kinfolk. Trey and Shannon were sitting with Zuri and her family. Kit and Trey stood up and shook Malcolm’s hand.
“We’re about to leave,” Shantreyl said. “We’re flying out in the morning. When are you leaving?”
“Our flight leaves in the evening,” Trey said, hugging his daughter. “Zuri was able to get the same flight back as us.”
“Except we’re sitting in coach,” Zuri said.
“What time’s your flight?” Trey asked.
Malcolm said, “Ten. We gotta be up and out of the house by seven. Suva Oriana’s airport is busy, and I don’t like playing games with security or immigration.”
“How are you feeling, honey?” Shannon asked.
“Honestly, Momma, I could lie down right now and go to sleep. I wanted to come say my goodbyes.” She removed the solitaires and gave them back to her mother. “Thank you.”
Shannon squeezed her hand. “You’re welcome, baby.”
Kit came over and gave her a hug. “The ceremony was beautiful, sis. Malcolm, you’re a lucky man.”
“I know,” Malcolm said. “I’m blessed.”
“You sure are,” Trey said. “Remember what I told you.”
Shantreyl hugged her niece and nephews and assured them that their gifts would be under the tree on Christmas Day. Then she hugged Zuri. “I’ll call you when I get back from Thailand, okay?”
Zuri nodded. “Okay, Shan. Travel safely, all right?”
“Same for you, sis.”
Malcolm hugged Shannon and nodded at Zuri. “Have a safe flight.”
“You too,” Shannon said as Trey put his arm around her waist.
Marion was sitting with Pretty Ricky, sipping on some wine. Malcolm led Shantreyl over and she hugged his mother.
“The ceremony was lovely, honey,” Marion said. “And Kaphiri’s duet with you…I’m so happy and so proud, my heart could burst. God is so good.”
“Well, we don’t want that,” Malcolm said.
“I know that’s right,” Pretty Ricky said, shaking Malcolm’s hand. “Nice service, Mal. And may I say you are a knockout, Shantreyl.” He winked at Malcolm. “Good job, son.”
Malcolm ignored Pretty Ricky’s last comment. “We have to be up early in the morning, so we’re leaving now. We’ll be back in a week.”
Marion hugged her son and kissed his cheek. “You take good care of her, baby. Travel safely, all right? I love you.”
“I will, Mama. Love you.”
Marion reached out and held Shantreyl’s hand. “I love you too, sweetie.”
Shantreyl smiled. Then she yawned suddenly and covered her mouth. “I’m sorry, Momma Marion. I’m really tired.”
“Well, don’t waste any more time with me and Richard. Take her home, Malcolm.”
A minute or so later, Malcolm and Shantreyl were standing with Persephone and Mercury.
“Beautiful ceremony,” Mercury said as he hugged Shantreyl and shook Malcolm’s hand.
“It was absolutely lovely,” Persephone agreed. “You all look so good!”
Malcolm said, “Did Kaphiri see you before he left?”
“Did you see the stunt he pulled with our bride?”
Persephone and Mercury grinned. “We…never…knew! Of course we had something to say about keeping that a secret! Shantreyl, you have an amazing voice! Will there be more duets to come? The Parkers will expect that at the next cookout.”
“You’ll have to ask your son,” Shantreyl said. “Everything musical was all his idea.”
“You cried, didn’t you?” Mercury asked Malcolm.
Malcolm nodded. “I did. I expected for him to raise a glass and say some slick shit about how hard it is being my friend…not a duet with our bride. Caught me completely from the left.”
Shantreyl yawned again. “I’m so sorry. I’m really beat.”
“Honey, that’s all right,” Persephone said. “Weddings take it out of you.”
Malcolm put an arm around her. “Well, we’re about to leave. We’ve got an early start in the morning.”
Mercury gave Malcolm a hug. “Safe travels, okay?”
Persephone hugged them both. “Kaphiri’s waiting for you in the limo.”
Shantreyl and Malcolm waved bye to everyone before getting into the limousine. Kaphiri was indeed waiting for them, a vodka tonic in one hand, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle, AirPods in his ears. Shantreyl’s stilettos and two bags of reception food were beside him.
“Whew,” Malcolm said. “Glad all that’s over.”
“Glad you could finally join me,” Kaphiri said as he removed the AirPods and took a sip of his drink.
“How long have you been out here, honeybun?” Shantreyl asked, smoothing her gown and cape as she sat down.
“About fifteen minutes.”
Malcolm motioned to Kaphiri’s drink. “Pour me one of those.”
Kaphiri slid over to the bar and made another vodka tonic. “Mrs. Parker, do you want anything to drink?”
“I would love a glass of wine…but some orange juice will have to do.”
Malcolm grinned. “That it will, baby. How’s your stomach?”
“So far, so good. I’m hungry though. Can’t wait to eat whatever’s in that bag.”
“I’ll heat it up when we get home,” Kaphiri said as he passed Malcolm his drink. Then he handed Shantreyl a bottle of orange juice and she drank it in three swallows. She closed her eyes and absently caressed her bosom.
“Ugh,” she said. “I’m ready to come out of this gown. My boobs have been smashed since 3:30.”
“Take your bra off,” Malcolm said. “You don’t need to keep wearing it. We’re going straight home.”
Shantreyl unclasped her cape and turned so that Malcolm could unzip her gown and unfasten her bra. The moment she felt it loosen, she reached inside her gown and took it off. Then she quickly removed the pasties and sighed gustily once her nipples were free. She closed her eyes and carefully massaged her breasts, moaning softly.
Kaphiri stared at her. “Do you want either of us to give you a hand with all that?”
“Only if you want to,” she said.
“Come sit by me,” he said. “Malcolm, you can rub her feet.”
“Are your feet still hurting, baby?”
“I won’t turn down a foot massage, babylove.”
Shantreyl sat on the seat next to Kaphiri and put her feet in Malcolm’s lap. Kaphiri finished his drink and gently tugged Shantreyl’s gown down so that he had access to her breasts. He put his hands on her boobs and she winced.
“Are they gonna hurt like this for the whole nine months?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Jaya said hers stopped hurting about three months in.”
Kaphiri massaged them gently while kissing her ear. Malcolm finished his drink, removed Shantreyl’s slippers and began kneading her foot. She sighed again and closed her eyes, relaxing completely. Kaphiri started kissing the side of her face.
“Can I have a kiss, bambina?”
Malcolm nodded. “Yeah, you guys haven’t made it official. Where’s your ring, Kap?”
Shantreyl opened her eyes, put her feet down, and then turned to look at Kaphiri. “I’m sorry, honeybunny. Let’s rectify that. Give me the ring.”
Kaphiri reached into his pocket and took out his wedding band. Shantreyl took it, held his hand and stared into his beautiful amber eyes. “With this ring, I thee wed…” she said and slid it onto his finger.
Kaphiri put his hands on her cheeks and thumbed her lips. “I love you so much, Shantreyl Parker,” he murmured. He kissed her, putting into it far more passion than Malcolm had been able to do in front of the guests.
After a few moments, she reluctantly pulled away and stroked his bottom lip. “I love you, Kaphiri Parker.”
Kaphiri continued to massage her breasts but moved his kisses back to the side of her face. His breathing began to change. Her scent was playing hell with his sensibilities. Maybe it was a bad idea to be touching her like this.
Shantreyl put her feet back in Malcolm’s lap so he could continue the massage. Malcolm looked at his friend. Kaphiri clearly wanted more than just a kiss.
“Have you fucked around and started something, Kap?” he teased.
“I believe I have,” he said, gently squeezing her breasts. “Make me stop, bambina.”
“Stop what?” Shantreyl said, her voice light with happiness.
Malcolm massaged her ankle. “Kap knows you’re tired, but he will still try to fuck…if you let him.” He chuckled. “Were you ever this horny before we became a thing? You can’t keep your hands off her.”
Kaphiri said, “It’s the way she smells…it drives me crazy.”
“I’m tired,” Shantreyl said. “I don’t have the energy to give you what you want, honeybun.”
Kaphiri took her hand and put it on his stomach. She looked at him and kissed the tip of his nose. She reached down, unfastened his belt and pants, and then unzipped him before slipping her hand inside his boxers. It didn’t take long for him to become fully aroused. Kaphiri tilted his head back while she stroked him and closed his eyes as a low moan escaped his lips.
Shantreyl smiled at Malcolm and removed her feet from his lap. Then she got up and knelt between Kaphiri’s spread legs. She adjusted her dress and leaned forward so that she could give Kaphiri some head. The moment her lips closed around him, he emitted a soft growl and put a hand in her hair.
Malcolm sat back and watched as he sipped on his vodka tonic. The sight of his wife on her knees in her wedding gown performing fellatio on her husband in the back of a limousine made him smile. He reached over and grabbed a handful of napkins so that Shantreyl could wipe her mouth when she finished sucking Kaphiri’s dick. With the way he was holding on to her head, Malcolm suspected it wouldn’t take long.
And it didn’t. After uttering an “Oh, Mrs. Parker,” at the moment of climax, Kaphiri came in her mouth and she carefully wiped her lipstick off his penis with her fingers. Then she tucked him back in, zipped him up and fastened his trousers. Malcolm handed her the napkins and she wiped her mouth.
“Kaphiri, get her a bottle of water,” Malcolm said.
He did so and handed it to her, his eyes shining with emotion. Shantreyl, still on her knees, drank half the bottle in two large swallows. Then, without saying a word, she crawled over to Malcolm and got between his legs. He sat and watched her undo his pants, pull his dick out and start stroking it. He was hard in moments and she smiled up at him before lowering her head to take him into her mouth. Malcolm held Shantreyl’s head with both hands, guiding it in the rhythm he liked. She could take a lot without gagging and as always, it was glorious having her mouth on his dick.
“Oh baby,” he said in a low voice. “Yes, Mrs. Sullivan…”
And just the same as Kaphiri, Malcolm nutted in Shantreyl’s mouth. She grabbed a fresh napkin and wiped her face again. After taking her seat next to Malcolm, she finished drinking her water. Then, as casual as she could be, she opened the compact mirror above her seat and checked her makeup. Her lipstick was smeared. She went to wipe it off completely, but Kaphiri said, “No. Wait.”
“For what, honeybun?”
“Until we get home. I like seeing your lipstick smudged and knowing the reason why. Indulge me, bambina.”
Shantreyl looked at Malcolm. “What about you?”
Malcolm rubbed her thigh. “I’m fine either way, baby. You all right?”
Shantreyl stretched her legs and wiggled her toes, smiling like the cat that got the canary. “Never better, babylove.”
Malcolm said, “You looked sexy as hell down there on your knees, sucking dick in your wedding gown. If you weren’t tired, I’d bend you over right now.”
“Co-sign,” Kaphiri said.
Shantreyl smiled at them. “Can I get a rain-check?”
“You can get anything you want, bambina. You know that.”
She put her feet back in Malcolm’s lap. “Right now, I want you to finish my foot massage.”
When they got home, Malcolm grabbed the bags of food and Shantreyl’s stilettos. He unlocked the front door as Kaphiri scooped Shantreyl up and carried her across the threshold. She laughed and kissed his cheek as he carried her up the stairs.
Malcolm turned on the oven, fed ShoNuff and changed her litter box. He made sure the house was locked up and as he went up the stairs, he heard Shantreyl laughing. When he entered the bedroom, Shantreyl was standing in the middle of the room with nothing but her panties on, helping Kaphiri out of his suit. He was singing to her. Malcolm watched them for a few moments, feeling warm and fuzzy from the inside out. He was still quietly relishing that reveal.
“I turned the oven on,” he said.
Kaphiri turned to look at him and nodded as she untucked his shirt. “I’ll go warm up the food.” He kissed Shantreyl and walked out of the bedroom.
Shantreyl walked over to Malcolm and began helping him undress. Malcolm ran the back of his fingers along her cheek. “So, Mrs. Sullivan…are you finished packing?”
“I have a few more items to put in my suitcase, Mr. Sullivan.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Exhausted. I’m going to take a quick shower after dinner and go to bed.”
Malcolm kissed her lips. “You make Kaphiri so happy,” he said. “He never really experienced the kind of intimacy that couples share. All of the little things that you do, like holding his hand, combing his hair, taking showers with him, cuddling him and being receptive to the way he is are new to him. He has no fear that you will reject or deny him, so he’s able to open himself up completely to you. His parents and I didn’t know he could sing, but you brought that out in him. I love you so much more for that.”
Shantreyl smiled as she unbuttoned Malcolm’s shirt. “I love him, Malcolm. I want to do beautiful things with him, and it’s easy because I know you’re not jealous.”
“Of course not. I’ve had the experience of being loved, and I want the same for my brother. Like I told you, I knew you were the one even if you didn’t realize it at the time. Your willingness to spend time with Kaphiri separated you from the others, and after that, it was just a matter of filling in the blanks.”
She removed his shirt and began unbuckling his belt. “I’ll never understand how all of those women you dated overlooked him, but their loss.”
Malcolm grabbed her T-shirt off the bed and handed it to her. “He wasn’t meant for them. Simple as that.”
Shantreyl put the T-shirt on. “I’m starving. Let’s go eat our wedding dinner.”
Later, Shantreyl was sitting on the bed with a gift bag in her lap, tying down her hair while waiting for Kaphiri and Malcolm to come to bed. She was done packing for the honeymoon and was ready to go to sleep.
Malcolm entered the bedroom and looked at the TV. “What are we listening to tonight, baby?”
“I’ve got a Jason Hill lineup planned but I have a feeling we’ll all be asleep soon.”
He got on the bed next to her. “I know I will. What’s that in your lap?”
“Let’s wait for Kaphiri, okay?”
“All right,” Malcolm said.
A minute or so later, Kaphiri entered the bedroom and got in bed. “I’m beat,” he said.
“That makes all of us,” Malcolm said. “So baby, what’s in the bag?”
Shantreyl reached into the bag and pulled out gift boxes, handing one to each man.
“What’s this?” Kaphiri asked.
“My wedding gift to you,” she said.
Malcolm and Kaphiri opened their presents and Shantreyl pulled out a third gift box.
“Baby, you bought us jewelry?” Malcolm asked. He held up a beautiful yellow gold chain.
Kaphiri held up his gift, which was an identical chain, except it was white gold. “You didn’t have to get us anything, bambina.”
Shantreyl opened the third box. “I wanted us to have something that is uniquely ours. I got the idea from you, Malcolm.” She held up her chain, which was identical to the others, except it had alternating yellow gold and white gold links. “To match our wedding rings.”
Shantreyl took Malcolm’s chain and put it on, then did the same to Kaphiri. Then she put hers on. “What do you think?”
“I like it,” Kaphiri said. It’s simple. I’ve never been one for ostentatious jewelry. Thank you, bambina.” He leaned over, kissed her lips and then fluffed her pillows.
“I love it,” Malcolm said. “And yes, it does match our wedding rings.” He kissed Shantreyl’s lips.
She handed him the bag after putting the boxes back in it. “Put this on the nightstand.” Then she got under the covers and settled back into her pillows. A moment passed, where Kaphiri and Malcolm got ready to go to sleep, but the TV remote was in Shantreyl’s hands.
“Are you gonna start the story?” Malcolm asked.
“In a few minutes,” she said. “I just want you two to know that you have made me so happy this past year. I love you both very much and I am committed to our relationship. I can’t wait to begin our married lives and have our baby. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for either of you. But there is something that’s been weighing on my mind for the past few months and for the most part, I’ve been able to ignore it.”
“What is it?” Malcolm asked. “What’s wrong, baby?”
Kaphiri reached out and put a hand on her stomach. “What’s the matter, bambina?”
“Our relationship is perfect,” she said. “It’s perfect. And if there is one thing I’ve learned about this world is that nothing’s perfect. There’s always something wrong or off, usually just under the surface. We don’t argue. We don’t fight. You two have always been honest with me. You’re both unbelievably faithful and your families approve of our relationship. We’re not struggling financially. There are no baby mommas or outside kids for me to deal with. Again, perfect. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop and it hasn’t, so Jaya told me not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I’ve tried my best not to. But I can’t shake this feeling.”
Malcolm and Kaphiri looked at each other. Malcolm said, “What is it, Shantreyl? What’s worrying you?”
She grabbed Malcolm’s hand and reached for Kaphiri’s. He held it out for her to take. “Bambina, please. What’s bothering you?”
Shantreyl looked at both men. “Is there anything in your lives that I don’t know about that might come up later? I promise I can handle anything you throw at me, and there’s nothing you can say or do that will change the way I feel about both of you. I just…I have to ask…is there anything about you two I don’t already know that I should?”
Kaphiri and Malcolm looked at each other and a very, very long moment passed. Shantreyl looked at them. “Malcolm, Kaphiri…is there something you need to tell me?”
END PART 1, VOLUME II