¥¥ Chapter 1: Keo Forét ¥¥
"Check this out." I said showing Leigh my cell phone. Leigh took my phone and read the text message. "920 Waterway Drive. The door will be unlocked. It's up to you to find the room. I'll be waiting." Leigh smirked as she handed me my phone. "What is that look for?" I asked with a cocky smile. "Nothing, Keo." she said looking across the room. Leigh went to take a sip of her beer but I grabbed the bottle and set it back on the table. "Speak up, Leigh." I said still holding my smile. "I'm just saying--" "Hi, Keo." I turned to see Andrea Johnson standing behind me with one of her girlfriends. She was a small fry with peanut butter skin. Her hair was brown and stopped at her shoulders. Her eyes were brown and her lips were slightly small and somewhat full. "Drea, what do I owe this surprise?" I asked. Leigh grunted as she took her bottle back and had another swig of beer. "I just wanted to tell you that the offer still stands." Drea said smiling bright. "I'll keep that in mind." I said flashing a smile. Her eyes lit up, "Hopefully you'll take it." There was an intense longing in her voice. If I gave the word, Drea would throw me on the table and do me right here. I figured I'd give her something to look forward to, "So...are we getting together soon?" Drea smiled her eyes full of lust. "Don't you have another invitation tonight?" Leigh asked. Drea looked at Leigh and then back at me, "You're seeing someone else tonight?" "I did receive an invitation but I've respectfully declined." I said coolly. Leigh rolled her eyes before taking another swig of beer. Drea had a look of worry on her face, "Since you're not seeing anyone then we'll get together this week." "I'll check my calendar." Drea frowned. I pulled her to me and kissed her on the cheek, "I'll see you this week." Drea smiled again before saying her good-byes.
The girls walked past Van, who was toting her purse in one hand and her briefcase in the other. Van glanced at Drea and her friend before shaking her head and taking a seat. "Damn shame." she said as she glimpsed over her menu. "Don't look at me." Leigh said before taking another sip. "I never do." Van said calmly. "Excuse me." Leigh set her empty bottle down. "No offense. It's just we all know that Keo is a flirtatious whore." I snickered at her comment. Flirt, yes. Sleep with, no. Van turned the page to look over the salad selection, "Besides, you're a bit on the dull side when it comes to relationships." "And you're a bit on the bitter side hence you being single." Leigh shot back. Lucky for me the waitress came over before Van could respond. We placed our orders and I prayed Van would let it go. She did, in fact, by talking about her upcoming benefit. Why she continued mentioning it was beyond me. Between the voice mails, text messages, and emails I didn't see how Leigh or myself could forget. "Why are you throwing this benefit party again?" Leigh asked setting her empty bottle down. Van had a look of annoyance on her face, "How could you forget, Leigh? I've only told you two about fifty times." Van's accent was showing and I wasn't up for a Latin lecture tonight.
Sometimes I found our little circle rather odd. Van was an up and coming attorney working for a prestigious law firm by the name of Atkinson & Ford. Her goal was to make partner before she was forty which gave her twelve years. Very beautiful, Van stood at five six with lovely almond hair and smooth nutmeg colored skin. Often she reminded me of Carmen from L Word with a sister's attitude. Japanese Cherry Blossom always lingered when she was present and she had the emerald green eyes of Javier Santana aka her father. Still her personality favored Viola Brown also known as her mother. They both had that hardcore, down south, independent woman type of attitude. Van and her mother were far from being on speaking terms though. Her parents split when she was a little girl and it wasn't a pretty divorce. Santana got custody of Van and her sister and Van's relationship with her mother was shattered from that day on. The ultimate suicide was to tell Van that she was just like her mother. Van would run Latin thunder on you so hard with a bit of southern twang it would make your head spin. She even had moments where she wouldn't even accept that she was Black because it reminded her of her mother.
"Why can't you just answer the question?" Leigh asked irritated. Their romantic tension was comical to me. Back in college Van and Leigh had their drunken night and were so in denial about digging the other one since. They couldn't go a day without snapping at the other. Leigh capped out at five seven and fifty cents. She was a red bone like her father with bone straight hair like her mother. Leigh came from an old fashioned family with religious parents. Though her siblings knew she was gay the thought of telling Mama and Papa Phillips was pure blasphemy. They often bugged Leigh about settling down with a good man or a nice southern boy but she kept them occupied with her job which was dentistry. Leigh also made a note to go to church every Sunday. Mama Phillips was infamous for wanting to share scriptures and the word of the preacher. She would also keep tabs on Van's and my attendance. Leigh constantly had to remind Mama Phillips that Van was catholic. She refused to be Baptist like her mother. I was the one that normally got the tail end of Mama Phillip's lectures. Last time I went to church with Leigh, I ended up fornicating with the preacher's daughter during communion. Leigh was mad as hell for three weeks, the longest we'd ever gone without talking. It was months before I stepped foot in another church without fear and trembling.
"Maybe she just likes hearing you tell her." I said smiling. Van and Leigh both looked at me, "Shut up, Keo!" The waitress brought our plates over to us. "I brought you some extra sweet and spicy sauce. I know how you like it." she said as she winked at me. I smiled at her, "Why thank you, sweet heart." She smiled back before slightly biting her lip as she turned to walk away. "You fucking her?" Van asked a bit loud. I shot her a look. "Were you fucking her?" Leigh asked as she put some salt on her green beans. "Why do you two always assume I'm fucking every girl I flirt with?" I asked before eating some rice. "You leave us no choice the way these basic bitches flock to you. I swear I don't want to hear shit when ya pussy falls out." Van said before tasting her salad. "What Van means is maybe you should ease up a bit casa nova." Leigh quickly followed. "No I meant what I said. I don't want to hear shit." Van stated before taking another bite. I simply rolled my eyes. This wasn't the first time I'd heard this speech.
My story was simple. I just wanted to chill and have fun. Though I was an encourage-able flirt, my loyalty remained to the five year relationship I was currently in despite its complications. Van and Leigh still spoke their true feelings when that subject came up and I still had moments when the reality of the situation pissed me off. So to avoid thinking about it, I ran across the field without actually playing. Mostly, I just utilized my gift of words. This played to my advantage as I was never seen out and about with my significant other so this made me a hot commodity around town. What can I say? Life was on a silver platter for me. I worked for a top notch computer company and had money in the bank. Not to mention my family was wealthy so I had a trust fund I never bothered to touch. In a way I felt invincible. My roots took me to the bayous of Louisiana though I grew up in North Carolina. The third child of Creole parents I always got praise for my smooth, soft hair, hazel eyes, and copper colored skin. With everything I had going for me, I could easily make a woman drop her draws quick if I wanted to. Van and Leigh were always urging me to stop given these women false hope and broken promises and settle down with in a real relationship. I had my reasons why I refused to commit to any one woman. Besides, I wasn't sleeping with them so I didn't see the problem.
My phone buzzed again. Checking my text message, I saw that Janay was in town. This time I slid my phone to Van. "Ugh! I don't want to read ya little pussy requests." she said as she continued eating her salad. "It's Janay." I replied between bites. Leigh and Van both paused for a minute. I looked from Van to my phone before finishing my steak. "Meet me at midnight. I'll be in room 1115 at the Hilton." Van read sarcastically. Dinner was a bit on the quiet side after that. Siri, the waitress, broke the silence when she brought our checks over. She smiled as she hesitated giving me mine. "We don't have all day, sweetie." Van said placing her card in the little book. Siri frowned at her. "Don't mind her, Siri. She's bitter." Leigh said as she handed Siri her book. "And you're a boring bitch but we still tolerate you." Van had a sarcastic smirk on her face. Siri caught her laugh before leaving to run our cards. "You two are a mess." I laughed as I watched Siri walk away. Too bad she's into Kai. "No mess here, boo." Van said. "She's right, Keo. It's dryer than the Sahara Desert down there." Leigh said. Van's eyes grew big before she ripped Leigh a new one in Spanish. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Leigh said standing up, "If you're going to go off, do it in English. Then I might just give a fuck." This time my eyes grew big. It was rare Leigh came like that. "I'll catch yall later." she said as she met Siri on her way back to return our cards. My phone buzzed again. "Why is she still texting you?" Van asked. "Different girl." I answered. "Well if I had to choose, I'd pick the random broad over Janay." Van said as she took her book from Siri. I took my card out and placed it back in my wallet. I winked at Siri before she walked away. That woman had body but it was never in my nature to double dip. Granted Kai never went there but still. "Keo!" I turned my head back to Van. "Can you focus please?" she asked, "You already know how the Janay story goes. That's all I'm say." "Right." I said as I followed her outside.
I sat against the headboard while Janay stood on the balcony sipping Merlot. She turned around and I saw the sweat glistening on her milk chocolate skin. "Look in the box." she said. There was a black box on the table by the wine bottle. I slid off the bed fully naked and made my way to the table. The wind gave me a chill as I stepped out onto the balcony. "Keo! Someone might see you." Janay said glancing out on the city. "Yeah, well I've always been more of an exhibitionist." I said before gasping at the coldness of the railing on my bottom. "That's what you get freak." Janay chuckled, "Now open the box." I opened it to see a fly ass Fossil watch. "Baby, it's beautiful!" I said before kissing her. After a few kisses Janay pulled back and told me it was for her husband. "The fuck you show it to me for then?" I asked. "Keo, don't be like that. You know Isaac is going to expect something when I return." Janay positioned herself so I could feel her breasts on my body. "Whatever, Janay. I've told you before. He's only with you for your money." I snapped. "And what's your reason?" she shot back. "Woman do I look like I need a dime from you? I never gave a shit about your money." I walked back into the room. Janay followed me, "Why are you acting like this? You said it didn't matter who I was with as long as we made time for each other." "And I'm regretting ever saying that shit. This is so one sided. I always try to make plans with you but it's always about Isaac while I get bullshit excuses. You only call when you and he are at odds or you need an itch scratched that Isaac can fulfill. Either way you run right back to him in the end. That's not making time, Janay." I said as I put my underwear on. "Keo, you don't mean that." she said. I threw my shirt on and started working on my jeans. "Baby stop. Keo, please." She placed her hands on mine. I didn't look at her. She dropped to her knees and when I felt my lower garments coming down, I couldn't help but smile.
I woke to the sounds of car horns and morning traffic on the streets below. Reaching over I felt nothing but sheets. Lifting my head up, I saw a note resting on the pillow beside me. It read:
My Dearest Keo
I have an early meeting. Didn't want to wake you. I'll email you once I'm home and settled in.
My cell rang. Climbing out of bed, I grabbed it from the nightstand. "Hello." I said groggily. "You took ya dumb ass over there didn't you?" I sighed, "Van, it's too early for this shit." "Whatever Keo. I'm over you continuing to let this bitch hurt you." Van hung up. Getting myself together I busied myself with a nice hot shower. Housekeeping seemed to enjoy the show as she watched me getting out. This of course was realized when I opened the door suddenly catching her red handed. She made a sexual advance once I came out of the bathroom but I declined. It was better if I just got ready for work. Any minute my secretary, Margaret, would start blowing my cell up. My Tahoe was waiting for me when I walked out of the hotel. Just as I expected, my cell started ringing. "Morning, Margaret." I said as I eased into traffic. "Skye is waiting for you in your office." she said sternly. "On my way." I replied a bit upset. This meant I couldn't swing by Mama Ruby's for hot chocolate. "Janay sent flowers." Margaret said with a disapproving tone, "I will admit this is a pretty shade of blue and they smell just marvelous. I don't expect an argument about my sending them back." "I should be there in twenty minutes, Margaret."
Skye was sitting on my couch when I walked in my office. "You look chipper." I said as I hung up my coat. "And you look like you were laid last night by a married woman who treats you like shit." Skye replied dryly. I leaned against my desk, "I take it you had another fight with Dylan." Skye shook her head, "She left." Had this been anyone else I probably would have spoken my true peace. Being that this was my boss I chose the road most traveled by. "I thought you two were doing well." I said trying to sound concerned. Margaret brought me a mug of hot cocoa. "When she listens, we're doing well." Skye said in a tone. Margaret looked at me as she realized what she walked into. No secret it was that Skye beat on Dylan. Skye was a bit older than Dylan but hell, she had me by at least four years. Doesn't mean she'd put her hands on me without usexchanging blows. Personally, I was glad Dylan had finally left. In a way, I was more so glad for myself than for her. There were many nights Dylan showed up at my door step totally battered. I'd try my best to fix her wounds but more times than none she should have went to the ER.
I got to know Dylan a bit during our odd encounters. Though her showing up was declared our little secret, I had to tell Margaret, Van, and Leigh. Leigh thought it was smart to let her stay so she wouldn't get hurt any worse. Van, of course, thought otherwise. "Your career you're fucking up." she'd say. To her surprise, I never slept with Dylan. No way was I going to have my boss' personal drama come into my house any more than it already had. Besides I grew to care for Dylan's well-being on an entirely different level. Though Skye would never know, often times I encouraged Dylan to leave. "Are you listening?" I shook my head and came back to the present. "You haven't heard from her, have you?" Skye asked. "No." I said calmly. Skye ran her fingers through her dreadlocks before walking out of my office. Margaret quickly closed the door, "She called me last night." "Skye?" "No, Dylan. She was leaving town. Said to tell you good-bye." Margaret sat down on my couch, "Shall we go over your schedule for today?"
"She seriously left?" Van asked in utter shock, "I thought she was going to always be a Lifetime bitch." Leigh tossed her bag of chips back in her chicken basket. "Can you ever be sensitive to someone's misfortune?" she asked, "I can only imagine what you say about dying cancer patients." "I'm just saying. She stayed all this time on her own accord so she brought it on herself." Van said before taking Leigh's chips. "I'm sure it's more than that, Van." Leigh replied disappointingly. I looked out on the street watching the lunch rush creep by. "So, Daddy is cooking tonight. He wants you two to come." Van said between handfuls of chips. Leigh's face lit up, I just smiled. Santana was awesome and we loved going over there. We'd go all the time but Van refused to bother her father with our shenanigans. Van's father had no sons so having Leigh and I around to watch sports and drink beer was wonderful to him. "I take those expressions as agreements that you two will come?" Van asked shaking her head. "Hell yeah! We love Santana!" Leigh said excited. "Well my house, five o'clock." Van said sternly. "I'm head back to the office." I rose from my chair. They looked at me a bit confused. My mood had yet to really pick up once I learned that Dylan left. "You ok?" Van asked. "Yeah." I said unconvincingly, "I'll see you at five."
Back at the office, I mainly kept to myself. Even Margaret stuck to buzzing my phone when she had a question. Van called around three. "You're really upset about Dylan, aren't you?" she asked. "That obvious?" I asked back. "Yeah. I apologize for being insensitive. It must be hard trying not to worry about her." Van said. "Yeah and Skye steady pacing past my window doesn't help at all." I replied. "Do you think she knows?" Van asked. "Doubt it. Aside from you and Leigh, only Margaret knew and she'd never make a peep." Suddenly Skye walked in. "Let me get back to you." I hung up. "I'm going to look for her." Skye's face was sick with anger. I prayed at that moment that she didn't find Dylan. "What about the Balton & Hollister account? Aren't you supposed to have a telephone conference with them tomorrow?" I asked. "I am. Handle it for me. I trust you'll do well. I'll call tomorrow to get the status." she said as she turned around and walked out. Fuck me! Dropping a bomb like this when I knew nothing about the company was so not cool. Now I was going to have to try and research as much as I could before I left for Van's. Great. Just fucking great.
My cell rang twice on the way to Santana's house. Van wouldn't let me answer though. She refused to let me talk to Janay in her presence. We pulled up to Santana's house. Like little kids, Leigh and I raced to the front door. Van shook her head as she came behind us and opened it with her key. Santana was seasoning some steaks and chicken in the kitchen. We gave him hugs and instantly went to work. Santana almost always had me make my chili and rice. Van always had her Jell-O specialty and Leigh made her awesome southwestern salad. The other sides were already done. "We just need to throw these on the grill for a spell and then we're good." Santana said. The smell of seasonings lingered in the air. We all sat in the back yard drinking beer and laughing up a storm. Van turned on some mellow Latin music and, as always, Santana lit up a cigar. The conversation took many turns from careers to history to philosophy to embarrassing baby stories. Around seven thirty we checked the grill to find amazing looking meats just waiting to be devoured. We fixed Santana's plate and then ours. Joining him in the living room, we all got comfy and turned on the football game.
When the game went off I noticed that Van had fallen asleep on Leigh. This was only amusing because Leigh drifted off halfway through the third quarter. I nudged Leigh's leg and she woke up. She jumped at the sight of Van laying on her. Leigh's jumping woke Van who looked a bit shocked as well. Santana chuckled and I followed suit. Van quickly stood up, "You guys ready?" This made Santana and I laugh harder. Leigh turned red as Van fumbled for her keys. "No plates?" Santana asked. "Heck yeah that was some good food!" I said jumping up. Leigh and I went into the kitchen and made plates. My phone buzzed, it was Siri asking if I would come by the job. I told her that I would try to swing by. Van came in the kitchen and started rushing us. Santana came in behind her and they exchanged some words in Spanish. I don't know what they were talking about but it clearly was making Leigh uncomfortable. Santana let it be known that he approved of Leigh being with Van. "Ok, well Santana. It was awesome to see you again." Leigh interrupted. Van and her dad stopped going back and forth. Leigh gave Santana a big hug before telling us she'd wait outside. "I think they should go for it too." I said giving Santana a hug. "Shut up, Keo!" Van said. "I'll be outside with Leigh." I said walking out. The car ride home was so quiet you could have heard a fly shit.
I came into my office the next morning to see Janay sitting on the couch. "What are you doing here?" I asked. She looked up at me with a less than happy expression. "I've been calling you for a few days now. You refused all my calls. What other option did you leave me with?" she asked back. I walked over to my desk and Janay followed me. "Why are you avoiding me, Keo? Is this about the watch?" she asked. I looked up at her, "Yeah, Janay. It's about the watch." "Keo, are you serious? It's just a fucking watch!" "Janay, please go." I said as I sat down. "If it's that serious, I'll buy you one just like it, Keo. Gosh! Why are you tripping? I wanted your thoughts because you and Isaac have similar taste." She explained. Did she really just compare me to him?""Ok, for real. You need to leave." I stood up and started ushering J towards the door. She jerked her arm out of my hand, "No! Tell me what the problem is, Keo." "The problem is you don't get it. That's the problem. You make everything between Isaac and me a competition. You assume because he's with you for your money that I'm with you for your money. I'm not mad about the watch, Janay. I'm mad that you left without saying anything. You could have woken me up and you know it. Instead you sneak out on me to sneak back into bed before Isaac woke up." I didn't intend to raise my voice at Janay but this situation was irritating the hell out of me. "What do you want me to do? Tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it." Janay's eyes held annoyance.
My next statement quickly caused the annoyance to be replaced with anger. "First off, you need to recall that I was there for you when you didn't have a dime. Secondly, you need to figure out what you really want. I'm tired of doing this with you, Janay." "Oh my gosh! Are we really going to have this discussion again?" she asked, "We've been through this a hundred times already!" "No! You've fed me bullshit a hundred times! I'm tired of creeping around with you." Now Janay was ready to leave. I prevented this from happening by grabbing her arm. "I'm serious woman. You need to make up your mind. After having this conversation, I'm honestly hoping that you choose Isaac." I let her arm go, "Now you can leave." Janay turned around and took a step towards me. Suddenly Margaret walked in and came to an abrupt stop. "Mrs. Gunning." Margaret never hid her dislike for Janay. That was one of the things she had in common with Van. "Mrs. Anderson." J said with a forced smile. "Keo, the consultant for Balton & Hollister is on the line." I nodded my head, "Thank you, Margaret." "Good day, Mrs. Gunning." She said before standing to the side so Janay could leave. "Keo, we'll talk soon." J said to me. "Not if you don't have an answer for me." I said before sitting down in my chair.
"Don't you look something awful?" Margaret said as she handed me my hot cocoa, "I hope you're prepared for your meeting this morning." She followed me into my office. "You know I'm not. Totally forgot--" "Oh, Keo." Margaret said with disappointment in her tone, "You really need to get that little girl under control. She is not going to support you once you're unemployed." "Yeah I know." I said as I skimmed over my emails. Margaret hated when I acted nonchalant towards her scoldings. She let out a frustrated sigh before heading toward the door. "I'll conference the client's consultant in." I took a sip of my cocoa and responded to Leigh's lunch invitation. Told her I would probably skip lunch since I had this meeting. A few minutes later, Margaret told me she had the representative on the line. There was no way I was going to pull this off. Taking a deep breath, I picked up the phone. "Cybertech. Keo Foret, Manager of Customer Relations."
"Wait, wait, wait. Janay got mad because you told her to make up her mind?" Leigh asked. "I'm surprised you said that much." Van commented. Kai started laughing, "Van, you are so cold." Leigh placed her arm on Van's shoulder, "Oh friend of little faith." Van shrugged Leigh's hand off of her, "I will sue you for sexual harassment." Kai started laughing harder. I shook my head with a smile. "Why do you put up with Janay anyway, Keo?" Kai asked. "I guess for the same reason you tolerated Asilia when you two first met." I replied. "Slow down, man. Sil is different. I knew she wanted to be with me." Kai quickly retorted. I apologized to Kai for my statement. "We got history, man." Was all I could come up with. "Keo, please, that bitch was always causing you stress. In college, she was screaming gay and running around with the lesbian welcoming committee of Chapel Hill. Soon as we graduated, she hopped on the hetero band wagon. I told you when we first got to California that that wolf in sheep's clothing would do that. After she came back to you married, I told you that she only wanted you to satisfy an itch. Janay is nothing more than a bisexual she-wolf trying to blend in with the crowd she's currently in at the time." Van's cockiness surfaced as she sipped her Moscato. She knew no one would challenge her. "I think I'm done with dinner." I said rising from my seat.
Leigh's hand caught my arm. "Don't act like that, Keo. Though Van's approach was not the most tactful, she does make a valid point. You've had a stressful back and forth with Janay for five years. You won't even date another woman because of the false hope Janay instilled in you. I hear you when you say Janay needs to make up her mind but you need to make a decision as well." I looked at my best friend. "Nothing is keeping you connected to this woman. You need to decide if you're ready to walk away." Kai shook her head, "That's some deep shit you just said, L." I started laughing at Kai. Asilia walked up to the table and gave Kai a hug. Briefly studying their interaction, I saw that Kai's statement held truth. Asilia looked at me and smiled, "Hi, Keo." Kai gave me a serious look. "Hello. Is Kai treating you as only a queen should be treated?" I asked. "Of course, better." She replied looking at Kai. We hung out at Mama Ruby's for a while longer before parting ways for the night.
"You're here early?" Margaret asked when she came in my office to find me on my computer. "Yeah. I figured I'd do some last minute research on the company." I said before taking a sip of hot coco. "Good idea. I'll have the conference room setup. I'll also let legal and the tech team know to be here at nine." Margaret said walking out, "Oh yeah and Dior." I spent forty-five minutes researching the business and tried to think of the perfect opening line. Around a quarter to nine, I decided to make my way to the conference room. I gathered my materials and headed for the door. Suddenly my phone rang. Damn it! Glancing at the door, I considered letting it ring. I could always check my voicemail. What if it's important? Letting out a frustrated sigh, I retreated to my desk and answered the phone. "Hello." I said. "Wow! Glad I'm not a potential client." "Skye?" I was totally caught off guard. She laughed, "No worries, Keo. I was hoping to catch you before the big meeting." Now I was releasing my folder and portfolio. "How's it going?" I asked. "Good, good!" "I take it that means you found Dylan." I replied. "Yeah, yeah. She was at Jexmi's house. Said she needed some alone time." Skye chuckled after her last statement. This made me a bit nervous. Though I still had Dylan's number, I dare not text her right now. Skye's calmness was a dead giveaway that Dylan was within range to be struck down. "So, since Dylan has returned home I take it you'll be returning to work on Monday?" I asked. There was some muffling in the background and I heard Dylan's voice. She asked Skye if she wanted some breakfast. Skye told her she did before focusing her attention back on me. "Possibly. Depends on whether my lady lets me out of the house or not. She thinks we need to spend some time together. Ya know, away from all the distractions of work and friends." I answered with a casual humph. Margaret walked in, "Five minutes to show time. Dior just came into the conference room." "I'll let you get to that. Good luck." Skye said. "Thanks." I replied before hanging up. With that said I gathered my stuff and followed Margaret to the conference room.
Everyone looked at me as I came in. Dior was sitting at the head of the table. "Keo, I'm looking forward to seeing how talented Skye's protégé is." he said with a sneer. Dior and I had beef that was far from a secret. He was a six foot two inch Italian with olive colored skin and black hair. His Armani suit was on point and he looked at his Rolex before turning his attention back to me. Dior would never let our beef affect his money or his business but he let his dislike for me be known. It didn't worry me none. His now ex-wife declared at the Christmas party that I did not attend that she wanted to be with me. Nobody wanted her. Margaret frowned when I had busted out laughing at the story. It was funny because Skye was sleeping with her, not me. "Keo, you want to start the meeting?" Margaret asked. I nodded and the tech guy started the call. I took a deep breath as I waited for Balton and Hollister to pop up on the screen. No turning back.
"Keo, please don't tell my husband I'm having a long island at one in the afternoon." Margaret chuckled as she set her glass down. I smiled at her. The meeting was perfect. We landed the deal and to our surprise Balton and Hollister were looking to open a location out here in California. Dior was shocked to hear that both locations would fall under us as two separate accounts totaling four million dollars for our company. The first million dollar deal ever and I wasn't even partner. The CEO's said that they would give me a small commission if I agreed to come out next month and oversee the installation of our systems. Dior was beside himself to the point he offered me another bonus if I saw this whole thing through with no fuck ups. Once the meeting was over multiple people congratulated me on my way to my office. Dior killed that plan when he came in and made himself comfortable on my couch. He started throwing out names of people I should assign to the team that would be coming to New York with me. Van's call saved me. I agreed to meet her at the beach after work. Soon as I hung up I grabbed Margaret and told her I was taking her to lunch. "You did really well today. I'm proud of you." Margaret said as we ate. "You worked just as hard. Once I land this bonus you'll definitely get a raise as well." I told her. Margaret's face lit up and for a second I thought she was going to leap across the table and hug me. "You deserve it, Margaret." I said smiling at her, "Matter of fact, take the rest of the day off." I told her.
"I love the beach." Van sighed. The sun blended nicely with the pink and purple sky. "Viola is coming into town this weekend," Van said looking straight ahead, "Plans to stay for a few weeks." "Really?" "Yes and apparently my father thinks it a good idea for us to do dinner." "Wow that's deep. Santana is better than me. Your mom is a real…burden." "Bitch is the appropriate word, Keo." Van said coldly. "Well I'm not going to talk about ya mama." I replied. She started going off in Spanish and I just put my arm around her. I knew this was hard for Van. Her mother felt all Van's accomplishments were pointless because she was gay. We sat in silence and I wiped the tears from her eyes. She rested her hands in her lap and leaned her head on my shoulder. Here and there we would make small talk. After a while Leigh showed up and sat down beside us. "Congrats." she said to me. "Thanks." I said as Van lifted her head from my shoulder. "Is there a dress code we need to follow next weekend?" Leigh asked Van. "What do you mean?" "For the benefit. I prefer to only dress girly when I visit my parents." Leigh said. "No, no dress code." Van replied quietly. From there, I proceeded to tell my best friends about the meeting in greater detail to include my trip to New York to manage the installation. They were highly impressed and started talking about how many opportunities would come of this project. Leigh's phone rang and she was reluctant to answer. "I love my job but I hate being on call." She said before answering. Apparently a child was in dire need of a dentist. We said our good-byes to L and she left.
Van and I made our way back to our cars. "You should come by my house tonight. I'll make you dinner." Van said as she climbed in her Nissan Pathfinder. Before I could decline, Van gave me the infamous sad face so I agreed to come. At her house we ate spaghetti and watched Noah's Arc. In the middle of an episode, Van randomly asked me if I thought she was attractive. "Sometimes I think Leigh is right. I'm just a bitter person." she said. "I think you let your mother's thoughts of you keep you from being happy." I replied calmly. Van called her mom something in Spanish. "See. You can't even hear her name without getting upset." I said. Van got up and walked over to her patio window. I followed her and wrapped my arms around her. "Get off. You side with the enemy." Van said as she pulled away. I picked her up and spun her around. Van burst out laughing, "Keo! Keo put me down!" When I set her down she turned around and hit me in my chest. "You ass!" "You feel better?" I asked. "Yes." she replied, "Thank you Keo."
The next morning I woke up to find Leigh in my kitchen and Van setting the table. Leigh cracked some eggs into a bowl. Van walked over to the couch. I smiled at her. "I think I met someone." Leigh announced as she put some chopped onions into the frying pan with the eggs. Van and I both looked at her, "Who?" "I'm going to respect her privacy." Leigh replied as she added some seasonings. Van wanted to say something but refrained. "She's nice. You'd like her." Leigh said. Van's face gave a look that said otherwise. She changed her expression when she saw me looking at her. Leigh finished the eggs and set the rest of the food on our plates. We carried them to the dining room table. My cell phone rang and I answered. "You finally got over it." I looked at Van and Leigh and mouthed that it was Janay. Van jumped up but Leigh caught her arm. "What's up?" I asked sitting down at the table. "I have a surprise for you." Janay said in a girly tone. We bowed our heads and said grace. "Do you have company?" Janay asked with an attitude. "Van, Leigh, and I are having breakfast." I replied calmly as I waited for J's attitude to change. Janay wasn't worried about Leigh but I knew she wouldn't attempt to fuck with Van. "Tell them I said hello." Janay finally said. "Yep. So what's this surprise?" I asked before stuffing some eggs into my mouth. "I can go with you to the benefit." she said excitedly.
I felt Van's eyes staring a hole through my head. "Oh boy." Leigh said as she looked at her plate. "I don't see the need for you to come. I don't think your husband would approve. Besides, I've only purchased one dinner plate." I said. "You act like you don't want me to come." Janay said sounding offended. "Please don't put words in my mouth. I'm trying to chew my eggs." I replied. Leigh snickered as she dropped her fork. "We'll discuss this later. Got to go." I said before hanging up. Soon as I hung up, I calmly ate my breakfast while Van told me she would not hesitate to get in Janay's ass if she said anything out the side of her neck. I let her finish before changing the subject. "Met a girl huh?" I asked Leigh as I finished my eggs. "I did. Not sure how to approach her though." Leigh replied as she finished her breakfast. "You haven't spoken to her?" I asked. "I have but she doesn't know I'm interested." Leigh took her plate into the kitchen. I followed her, "Do you plan to tell her?" "In due time." "Fair enough. Smackdown vs. Raw?" "Mario Kart." Leigh replied. "Are you two just going to leave me in here to go play video games?" Van asked through a mouth full of food. "You'll be fine. The boogey man only comes out at night. Even then your mouth would run him off if nothing else." Leigh said as we headed into the living room. Van called her some name in Spanish and went back to eating her breakfast.
An hour or so later, Van threw the Wii remote at Leigh, "Got your ass handled!" Leigh tossed her remote onto the coffee table. "Keo, grab a controller and let's play. Oh yeah and spill the beans about this chick, Leigh." Van said as she sat back down. "So you can scare her away?" Leigh asked. "How would I scare her?" Van asked. "With your bitterness." Leigh said. "Ah shit." I said as I fired a red mushroom at Toad's kart. "I am not scary." Van said proudly. "To us." Leigh said as she snatched the remote from Van's hands. She shot off the couch and Leigh did the same. I watched them have an old fashioned stare down. It was hilarious to watch. Van muttered something in Spanish and Leigh's glowering stare softened. "Awkward." I sang jokingly. They both looked at me, "Shut up, Keo!" Leigh backed down completely and handed the remote back to Van. She didn't take it, just grabbed her purse and chucked deuces as she walked out the door. Leigh sat down right after the door shut and we continued on with the game. After a few races, Leigh and I decided to head to the gym.
I caught several eyes watching me while I lifted weights. "Going to tend to your groupies?" Leigh asked. I ignored her question. "You know I've been thinking a lot about what you said the other night. I think I am going to call things off with Janay." I said as I finished my set on the tricep press. "Call things off? For good?" Leigh chuckled as she sat down to do her set. "Why are you laughing?" I asked as I watched Leigh push out her set. "Because, you've said that exact same statement before. Then after two months tops yall are right back together as if nothing ever happened." Leigh said as she finished her set, "I know you well enough to know that you aren't quite sure yet." I pushed my third set out quick, "You do know me well." "Look Keo, I do believe that you are tired of Janay's games but I can understand your hesitancy to walk away. I mean, despite the bullshit, you two have been involved for five years. That's not an easy thing to walk away from." I swear Leigh's ability to see both sides to an argument was one of the things I loved about her. Though I knew where she stood on the matter I appreciated the fact that she acknowledged how I felt about the situation. "I'm going to do it. This shit isn't healthy. Besides, with this big opportunity at work, I can't afford any distractions. Janay is becoming a distraction." I said, "Matter of fact, I'll call things off within the week." "Two hundred bucks says you'll choke." Leigh snickered. "Not very supportive are you, Leigh?" I asked looking at her with a raised eyebrow. "You know I am but not for this. You need more time to think about this, friend." Leigh replied, "Deal or no deal." We shook hands and continued our arms workout. By the time we finished, I had made conversation with several women agreeing to hang out in the next few weeks. Leigh just laughed as she stood behind me with her arms crossed.