The only person you are destined to become is the one you decide to be.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Brandon looked at the clock on the bedside table and saw that it was only three o’clock in the morning. Damn. He could’ve sworn it was a lot later than that. Maybe because he’d been staring up at the ceiling for what seemed like hours. No matter how hard he tried, his mind wouldn’t let him rest.
He turned his head and glanced at Tara, who was still fast asleep beside him. Brandon smiled. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, he decided to go to the living room so he wouldn’t wake her up with his tossing and turning.
Climbing out of bed, Brandon reached for a pair of sweats he’d thrown over a nearby chair and pulled them on before quietly going downstairs. Grabbing a bottle of Hennessey from behind the wet bar, he sat on the couch in the darkness and finally gave his mind free reign to dissect the events from earlier this evening.
Not quite ready to delve into the situation with his mother yet, he thought about his talk with RaShaun. He still couldn’t believe he’d known all this time that he and Terri had been involved.
Brandon remembered the first time he’d met her at a club opening. Terri had been an extremely beautiful woman, so she’d caught his attention with away, and he, hers. Brandon hadn’t approached her, though. That wasn’t his style. Instead, he’d sat back and waited, and just as he’d known she would, Terri finally made her way over to his table. Less than an hour, they’d left and gone to her place.
The relationship between them had been casual, more friends with benefits than anything else. Weeks after meeting when Terri first broached the subject of Brandon helping her get her ex back, he’d been more amused by the request than anything. Having just sold his agency, he’d been a little bored and at ends with what he wanted to do with his life, so he’d agreed with Terri’s request.
She had introduced Brandon to Kiki days later. It was then that he’d discovered Kiki and Yvonne were friends, or so Yvonne thought. That’s how she’d known about Terri being RaShaun’s ex-girlfriend. Terri was the first person Kiki had thought about to break up RaShaun and Yvonne. Brandon watched with interest as, together, the two women formulated a plan. Early on, he’d peeped out that Kiki was jealous of Von, but it wasn’t any of his business. He was just passing the time until he found something better to do…
Brandon ran a hand over his face as he thought about the night the three of them slept together. It had been Terri’s idea. She had told Brandon that Kiki was dying to have sex with him, especially after she’d heard all of the details from Terri about how good he was in bed. Brandon did it more so to please Terri than any desire he had for Kiki. That had been the one and only time he’d been with her.
Afterwards, the plan was put into place to break up RaShaun and Yvonne, and was successfully executed before the two lovers even realized what happened. All it had taken was Yvonne confiding in Kiki that she wasn’t sure she was ready to settle down. Kiki encouraged those feelings and suggested that maybe she needed some time away from RaShaun, to be on her own and enjoy life.
By the time Brandon made his move, Yvonne was primed and ready for a change. So began the unraveling of RaShaun and Yvonne’s relationship.
When Terri found out she was pregnant, Brandon immediately suspected it was his. However, after she took the test that determined RaShaun to be the father, Brandon had backed off, but Terri hadn’t been quite ready to let him go. She’d told him once that he was like a drug to her, a habit she couldn’t kick. Eventually her obsession shifted from RaShaun to Brandon. Her sexual appetite was even more voracious as her pregnancy progressed, and quite honestly, Brandon was there to feed it.
When he finally broke things off with her for good, she refused to leave him alone. That last day he went to see Yvonne at her job, she had followed him, jealous and demanding why he was there. It hadn’t been pretty…
“Terri, I done asked you to leave me alone, a’ight?” The two of them were in the parking lot in front of Yvonne’s office arguing.
“What are you doing here, Brandon? You do understand you were just supposed to be playing a role with her, don’t you? You act like you’re obsessed with that little bitch.”
“Nah, what I understand is that you’re the one who seems to be obsessed. How many ways do I have to tell you that I don’t want you no more?”
“But you want Yvonne?”
“Because if that’s what this little visit is all about, you’ve wasted a trip. Why would Yvonne want someone like you when she’s married to a man like RaShaun Patterson?”
That had stung. At that point, Brandon had gotten tired of her bullshit and went gutter on her.
“The question is if I ain’t ‘bout shit why tha’ fuck do YOU still want me, huh? The real question is what made you think a man like him would ever want somebody like you? Ere’body know you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife.”
Brandon closed his eyes. He took a big swallow of his drink, feeling it burn down his throat. He could still remember the look on her face at the words he’d thrown at her like bullets out of gun. Tears streaming down her face, she’d hopped in her car and spun out of the parking lot driving as if she were being chased by the devil himself.
Brandon had screamed Terri’s name, but she’d kept driving. Staring at the back of her speeding car, his heart raced out of control. If she didn’t slow down she was going to kill herself and the baby. Brandon had taken a step towards his own car to go after her, but changed his mind. He had his own problems to deal with.
Thirty minutes later, Terri was dead.
Sitting on the edge of the couch, Brandon held his head in his hands and slowly rocked back and forward. That day, she had lashed out at him in jealousy, and he’d taken his anger and frustration out on her. The things he’d said to her had been hurtful and unnecessarily harsh. Brandon blamed himself and would probably always blame himself for her death. He was just thankful that the baby had eventually been okay.
But the nightmares? When would they stop? Would the guilt ever subside? Brandon dug the heel of his hands in his eyes as if to banish his memory. He’d made an effort to become a better person, to try to give back and make up for the wrong he’d done. He was trying to confront the demons of his past. It was becoming easier, but times like this, he felt as if he were back at square one.
He had been using women all his life–and they’d used him back. Unfortunately, Brandon had discovered at a very young age that they were willing to do anything for him. He didn’t have to ask. As he grew older, he’d moved on to wealthy women who threw money at him hand over fist in order to keep getting the pleasure he provided them.
He couldn’t help but wonder if his life would’ve turned out differently if his mother hadn’t given them away. Brandon laughed. Of course it would have. He would’ve had the love of a mother to guide him, to direct him, the same as she’d done for RaShaun. But she hadn’t loved Brandon and Brenda enough to do that.
Angry at the hurt he felt from that thought, he stood up abruptly, chest heaving. Picking up the bottle of alcohol, he threw it against the wall and watched it shatter. The amber colored liquor ran down and stained his dove gray walls. That’s how Tara found him, moments later.
Frightened and still half asleep, she ran into the room. “Brandon! What happened? Are you okay?”
He turned around, looking at the woman who held his heart in her hands. A part of him tried to stop the words that fought to escape through his lips, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to. Brandon walked over to her and hugged her tight. He had to tell her.
“Baby…” Bewildered, Tara lightly rubbed his back. “Baby, what’s wrong?”
It was several moments before Brandon pulled back and stared into her eyes, which were filled with concern. “When I told you I would be truthful with you, I meant it. But first, I wanna tell you that I love you, Tara.”
He took her face in his hands and gently caressed her cheeks, memorizing the love he saw in her eyes. It might be the last time she looked at him that way after she heard what he had to say.
“I…I got some things I need to tell you. All I ask is that you give me a chance to tell you everything.”
“Brandon, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?”
Brandon grew silent. He was so scared of losing her, but he didn’t want their relationship to be based on secrets. Thinking of his mother, he saw that secrets eventually had a way of coming out.
Reaching for her hand, he led her to the couch. Tara had wrapped the sheet around her when she’d heard the shattering of the glass and raced downstairs. She gathered a handful of the material in her hand so that she wouldn’t trip as she followed behind him. After they sat down, still holding her hand, Brandon turned his body towards her.
“You know there are things I’ve done in my past. Things I’m not proud of.”
Tara squeezed his hand. “And that’s why it’s called the ‘past’. Baby, I know the person you are now. You don’t have to do this.”
Brandon shook his head before she even finished the last sentence. It would be so easy to just agree with her and let sleeping dogs lie. But if she ever found out the truth from anyone else…
“Tara. Please. I have to… no I need to tell you this.”
Obviously seeing how important it was to him, she reluctantly nodded. “Okay. I’m listening.”
Brandon continued looking at her as he brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. “You love me, right?”
Tara nodded. “Yes. Very much.”
Brandon nodded his head up and down. Taking a deep breath, he started from the beginning. Tara, of course, already knew about how he, Yvonne, and RaShaun met, and how he’d tried to come between Yvonne and RaShaun. She’d been there through the entire thing. What she didn’t know was that it went a lot deeper. A helluva lot deeper.
“That night, over a year ago, when I ran into Yvonne and her friends at the club, it wasn’t an accident. Terri and I set it up.”
Tara looked at him as if she hadn’t heard him correctly. “Wait, what? You and Terri. What are you saying? That you and Terri knew each other before she became involved with RaShaun and got pregnant?”
“Yeah.” Staring at the floor, Brandon nodded. Wiping his hand over his mouth, he lifted his eyes to look at Tara. “She came up to me at a club opening and introduced herself. We, uh, went home together with each other that same night.”
“What?” Tara whispered. “You…you slept with Terri? But…I don’t understand.”
“It was a casual relationship. We hooked up every now and then but that’s about as far as it went. Eventually, Terri told me about RaShaun and how she wanted him back…and that she wanted me to help her.”
“Wait!” Tara slid her hand from Brandon’s and held it up to stop his words. She closed her eyes and went back to what he’d just said. “Help her how? How was she planning on getting RaShaun?”
Brandon paused, then said the name he dreaded. “Kiki. She was in on it.”
Tara’s mouth hung open as her face closed up. “Kiki. What does Kiki have to do with this?”
Brandon said everything almost in one breath. He knew if he didn’t tell it all now, he never would. “Kiki and Terri worked together to break up RaShaun and Yvonne. You know as well as I do that Kiki was jealous of Yvonne, especially after she and RaShaun got together. She knew all about Terri from Yvonne. She looked her up and the two of them joined forces.”
Tara’s breathing quickened as she looked at Brandon with disbelief in her eyes. “Are you telling me that you, Terri, and…Kiki…” Her face contorted as she spat out Kiki’s name. “The three of you schemed to break up RaShaun and Yvonne from the very beginning?”
Again Brandon nodded.
“So when you just ‘happened’ to see Yvonne that night, it was all a part of your plan?”
Brandon paused before answering. “Yes.”
Tara turned her head away from him as if she couldn’t stand to look at him. God, please let this all be a bad dream. Please let me wake up now.
She took a deep breath and looked at Brandon, but he was still staring at her with eyes that pleaded for two things she didn’t know if she could ever give him: understanding and forgiveness.
Her feelings must have been reflected in her face because Brandon stood up and paced a few steps before turning around to stare at her. “Tara, I was a different person back then. You know that. Other than my sister, I didn’t give a damn about nothin’ or nobody. Hell, if the truth be known, I didn’t even care about myself. When Terri came to me about this, to be honest, it was…amusing. No big deal. So I agreed.”
“No big deal? Amusing?” Yvonne screeched. She closed her eyes tight. “This is crazy. I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe Kiki was working with Terri all this time. I’ve always known that bitch was a snake in the grass, but no one could tell Yvonne anything. She swore that people just misunderstood Kiki until she found out about all of the lies Kiki had told RaShaun about her. That bitch is lucky Yvonne didn’t kick her ass worse than she did when she discovered Kiki had been coming on to RaShaun. Sneaky, back stabbing, no good skanky whore.”
Brandon got quiet. He knew she didn’t like Kiki, but he didn’t realize to what extent. “Tara….”
“I mean, yeah, Terri and RaShaun had a history together. But Kiki’s ass? What made her think that RaShaun would even touch her with a ten foot pole?”
“Hell, she’s slept with almost half the men in town. Fuckin’ slut! No decent man would even think about screwing her ass.”
“Baby, I wasn’t a decent man back then.” Brandon quietly broke into her tirade. Unable to look at her, he stared down at the floor.
Tara frowned. Now what? “What are you talking about?”
Raising his eyes to meet hers was one of the hardest things he ever had to do in his life. “I said I wasn’t a decent man back then.”
The frown on Tara’s face turned to one of comprehension, then disbelief, then disgust. Her voice shook with emotion. “Brandon, tell me you didn’t…”
Brandon cleared his throat before telling her everything. The threesome between himself, Terri, and Kiki. How he thought the baby Terri carried could’ve possibly been his at the time. How he and Terri continued to see one another throughout her pregnancy. And then finally, the day he and she had words in the parking outside of Yvonne’s office. His voice became hoarse with emotion when he came to the part about how she sped away and was killed in the car accident minutes later.
Tara sat there staring at him with tears rolling down her eyes. She slowly stood up. Brandon walked over to her, but she quickly shook her head and sidestepped out of the way.
“Who are you? How could you be so…devious and conniving? You’re no better than Terri or Kiki.” The laughter that burst out of her was stingingly bitter. “What am I saying? You’re just like them.”
“Tara, please. I’m not that person no more.”
“I don’t want to hear that!” She screamed, anger taking over. “You keep saying that like it automatically absolves you of all responsibility. You expect me to believe you’ve changed that much?” Tara brought her hands up to cover her face. “Oh, God, I should’ve listened to my cousin.”
“Baby, don’t…don’t say that.”
“Go to hell!” Tara yelled.
She averted her eyes from his face. She couldn’t even look at him. Stumbling on the sheet, Tara angrily pulled it from under her feet and balled it up in her hand as she hurried upstairs. She didn’t want to be anywhere near him right now.
Brandon was right on her heels. “Tara, wait. We need to talk. I told you everything for a reason. If I were the same person I was back then, I would’ve kept everything to myself.”
Tara ignored him and reached for her clothes.
“So, being honest with you counts for nothing? A minute ago, you were telling me how much you loved me, and that the ‘past was the past’. But, baby, I didn’t want us to start off with hidden lies and unspoken truths as the foundation of our relationship.”
“I don’t even know if we have a relationship. Does fucking each others brains out constitute a relationship?” She sent him a hot glare as she put her clothes on.
Brandon felt as if the air was slowly and painfully being squeezed out of his lungs. He struggled to keep his tone even so that the fear gnawing in his stomach wouldn’t reflect in his voice.
“So that’s how you feel. Now you don’t love me. Is that it?” he asked, desperately trying to capture her gaze. “Is that what you’re saying, Tara?”
When she rolled her eyes at him and tried to walk past him, he grabbed her arm to stop her. Tara slapped his face and jerked her arm away. “How could you do those things? You slept with Terri? And Kiki??” She reached for the door to leave the bedroom.
“No. I don’t wanna hear it, Brandon! I said, no!” She screamed when he encircled his arms around her from behind.
Brandon just held her tighter against him as she struggled. He didn’t care what he had to do to keep her there. The only thing he was sure of at the moment was if she walked out of that door and left him, he would be losing the best thing that ever happened to him, and after the life he’d led, that was no exaggeration.
Finally, Tara’s struggles ceased. She grew deadly still, head bowed, sniffling, and it broke Brandon’s heart in two. He leaned down and brought his face to hers, kissing her cheek even as she tried to turn away.
“Please don’t cry. I can’t stand it. I’m so sorry, Tara.”
He continued to whisper soothing words of love, regret, and heartfelt promises until she turned around. Tara didn’t look at him, just slipped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest.
Brandon reached down and wiped the tears away from her face. “I can’t lose you. Please tell me that you forgive me.”
Tara swallowed hard. Sniffing, she finally eased away enough to look up at Brandon. When she did, she saw the anguish displayed on his face as his eyes anxiously searched hers.
She knew he desperately needed absolution, but she didn’t know if she could give it to him. She closed her eyes, but all she could see was him in bed with Terri and Kiki. Shaking her head, Tara abruptly pushed away from him. She couldn’t stand for him to touch her with the same hands he’d so intimately touched Kiki with. If it had been anyone else other than that troll, she cold possibly get over it, but…
“Would you have preferred that I not told you, Tara?” Brandon asked her quietly. “I mean, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I’m trying to stand up and be a man, take responsibility for my actions. I know it’s not easy for you to hear, but dammit it ain’t easy for me to say either.”
Folding her arms, Tara cast a quick glance at him from the corner of her eye, but remained silent.
Brandon took a deep breath. “I have never, in my life, felt about any woman the way I feel about you. Tonight at RaShaun’s house, you heard how my life was and the things Brenda and I went through. That wasn’t even half of it. Believe me, I’m not trying to get your sympathy, I’m just being honest. There was never anyone who ever cared about me, or took time out to teach me right from wrong. Baby, it was trial and error for me. I had to do what needed to be done to survive, to take care of my sister.”
Seeing that she wouldn’t even give him an inch, Brandon sighed and went over to sit on the bed. With his face devoid of any expression, he leaned down with his elbows on his knees and stared up at her. “Have you ever wondered how I got into my…profession?”
“Brandon, I don’t see what that has to do with–”
“You know how old I was when I first had sex, Tara? I was eleven years old. Eleven. Not much older than Jonathon is now. Know who it was with? The administrator of one of the orphanages we were in. Someone who was supposed to be looking out for the welfare of the children she was in charge of.” The corner of his mouth lifted in a bitter smile. “See, men aren’t the only ones who are molesters, and I’ve come to realize that’s just what she was. For three years, she had sex with me every chance she got. She taught me what she wanted and how she wanted it. She told me she’d make sure Brenda and I were taken care of as long as I took care of her. It went on until someone caught us. She was fired and we were moved to another orphanage.
“But that was the first of many experiences of exchanging sex and getting something in return so you see, my head was fucked up at an early age. And when I got older, women wanted to pay me for it.” He looked away for a moment, then back at Tara. “Brenda doesn’t know all of it, but that’s how I put her through college. The woman I was with at the time was very wealthy. In exchange for me being at her beck and call, she paid Brenda’s tuition until she graduated. That’s the kind of life I had, so you see, when Terri came to me and told me what she wanted, I didn’t see what the big deal was,” Brandon shrugged. “That shit was child’s play. I’m not sayin’ that it was right, but I didn’t give two shits about somebody gettin’ hurt. Then when Terri was killed in that car accident…”
He stared into space as if reliving that time before standing and determinedly bringing his attention back to Tara.
“To be honest, baby, if you walk out of that door and never come back, I can’t say that I’d be surprised. My mother was able to do it without too much trouble, so why should anyone else be any different?” He spread his hands out beside him, palms up. “Tara, I can’t be too much more open with you than what I’ve been. This is me. I’m hoping you meant what you said, and that you do love me, at least enough to stay with me and work this out, but…I understand if you can’t.”
Tara opened her mouth to tell him exactly that. That she didn’t think she could be with him after learning everything, but something held her back from saying those words. She thought about what he’d told her. He was right. He didn’t have to tell her any of this. He had to have known there was the strong possibility she would leave him, yet he took that chance and was truthful about everything…
Then it hit her. Just like she’d been defending him to everyone else, those words remained the same. No matter what he’d done then, this was the type of man he was now. Strong, loving, and honest.
Tara looked at him standing in front of her waiting on her to make a decision. Closing her eyes for a moment, she decided to go with her instincts. They’d honestly never led her wrong, so as difficult as this was, she had to trust her gut. Making up her mind she opened her eyes.
“I do love you, Brandon. And we…we can get through this. I’m not going anywhere.”
Brandon closed his eyes briefly in relief. He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her securely. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost you. I promise on my life, I’ll never hurt you again.”
Tara nodded. For reasons she couldn’t explain, she trusted him.
They removed their clothes and got back into the bed and held each other tightly until they fell asleep. Brandon felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and for the first time in a long time, he slept peacefully throughout the night with Tara in his arms.
Grunting, Brandon turned over and pulled the pillow over his head.
“Brandon…” This time the persistent hushed voice was accompanied by an insistent tapping on his shoulder.
Brandon rolled over and looked through squinted eyes at his sister. So he wasn’t dreaming. Brenda gestured for him to come downstairs before walking out of his bedroom. Brandon looked at Tara to make sure she was still asleep. Seeing that she was, he climbed out of bed and pulled on his sweatpants and walked half blind from sleep to join Brenda. He found her in the kitchen pouring a glass of orange juice.
“Hey, Sis. What’s up? Everything okay?” he asked in a scratchy voice. “Damn, what time is it?”
“Yes. Everything’s fine, and it’s after eight. Sorry to use my key and let myself in, but I rang the doorbell several times.”
“Yeah, we really just got to sleep a couple of hours ago.”
“Spare me the details,” she grinned knowingly.
Brandon looked at her and smiled. “Nah, we were up talking. I told Tara everything.”
Brenda’s eyes widened. “Everything? How did she react?”
“She was a little pissed off at first, but I think everything’s going to be okay.”
“Oh, Brandon, I’m so glad. I was worried about you not telling her.”
“You sure you okay? What are you doin’ up so early?”
“Its not that early. But…I’m going to meet Diane for brunch. And I want you to come with me.”
“Nope.” Brandon took her glass of juice from her hand and went into the living room.
Brenda followed behind him. “Brandon, please. I did a lot of thinking, and RaShaun’s right. Maybe it’s best if we make an attempt to move forward. I really think she wants to try and make amends.”
“Make amends, Brenda? Tell me how she thinks she’s gonna do that? Look, I understand if you want to see her and get to know her. Fine. Do it. But I’ve met her and as far as I’m concerned, that’s enough.”
“But Brandon, she’s our….”
“Don’t. Don’t say it because she’s not!” Brandon didn’t mean to yell, but just the thought of that woman wanting to have a relationship with them now pissed him off.
“Brenda, I said no.”
“Why not?” Tara asked from behind them.
They both turned around. Neither had heard her come into the room. She stared at Brandon, waiting for an answer.
“Baby, you already know why not. Now if Brenda wants to forgive and forget, then God bless. We’re twins, but it doesn’t mean we always think alike.”
“What happened to forgiveness? And letting the past stay where it belongs?”
Their eyes locked and held as Tara sent a silent message to him. “Its not the same thing and you know it.”
“No, but the outcome is the same.” She walked up to him and slid her arms around his waist. “Baby, it’s not going to help anyone to hold on to past hurts. You’re trying to punish your mother, but the only thing that’s accomplishing is you holding on to the hurt and anger, and you already know it wont do anything but eat you up inside. You need to do this for yourself. Not Diane. That’s the only way you can truly get on with your life.”
Brandon stared at her for several long moments before resignation set in. He looked over at Brenda who was silently pleading with him. “Fine,” he sighed loudly. “But I cant promise anything.”
“Thank you, baby. That’s all we ask” She reached up on tiptoe and kissed his chin. He lowered his head and kissed her on the lips before turning back to Brenda. “Give me about thirty minutes.”
“Make it twenty,” she grinned.
He glared at her, then loudly blew out a breath in irritation before turning to go to his room. Tara and Brenda heard him mumbling about the ‘bossy women in his life’ before he climbed the stairs two at a time.
Brenda and Tara grinned and gave each other a high five. At least it was a first step. They sat and talked until Brandon came back into the room. He had showered and thrown on his clothes.
“We may as well get this over with. Come on,” he told Brenda reluctantly. He kissed Tara goodbye, before he closed the door, he turned around to look at her. “You’ll be here when I get back, wont you?”
“Where else would I be?” she smiled.
He returned her smile before walking out.
Brenda and Brandon strolled into the hotel lobby downtown to meet Diane for brunch. Heads turned as the attractive pair walked by, but they were oblivious to the stares their looks attracted; they had become so used to the attention they barely even noticed it anymore.
Diane sat at a table and watched their approach. Pride and love filled up her heart until she thought she would burst. She would never forgive herself for giving them up, and could only hope they would give her a chance to be in their lives now, if only in some small way. She smiled as they made it to her table.
“Good morning. Thank you for meeting me. It means a lot.”
Brenda smiled. “Thank you for inviting us.”
Brandon pulled his shades off and ignored her. He pulled the chair out for Brenda to sit down then sat himself.
“What do you two have planned for today?” Diane’s voice was overly bright to try and hide her nervousness. “Yvonne and Shaun wanted to make sure I extended an invitation for dinner. If you’re not busy,” she hurriedly added.
“I’m busy.” Brandon said without missing a beat.
Brenda frowned at her brother, but he kept perusing the menu. Although he felt her stare, he didn’t bother looking at her.
“Why don’t we go on and order?” Brandon suggested impatiently. “I don’t plan on being here long.”
Brandon signaled the waiter that they were ready. After they gave their orders, Diane asked Brenda about her job and things she liked to do in her spare time. Before long, they were talking easily and even laughed a little. But Brandon sat there and just stared at his mother. What was her angle? What did she really want from them?
Diane caught him watching her with the thoughtful expression on his face. “What about you Brandon? What do you do?”
Brenda kicked him under the table. Brandon didn’t look at her but he felt her hard stare. He sighed and swallowed back the sharp retort lingering on the edge of his tongue. “Lets just say I’m in between jobs right now. I’m…making a career change.”
“Oh? What did you do before? You’re so well spoken, I’m sure you were a raging success at whatever you’re previous job was.”
Brandon’s eyes narrowed. She was pushing it with the ‘let’s get to know each other’ crap.
Brenda saw the sudden glint in his eyes and stuttered nervously as she tried to answer for him, but Brandon spoke over her and said exactly what she was trying to avoid.
“I was in the male escort business. I fucked rich women for money to keep me in the style in which I’d grown accustomed.” Smiling like a predator that had its meal in its immediate sight, Brandon went in for the kill. “You know. Sort of like you did with your husband when you got pregnant by his best friend.”
Diane had been taking a sip of water, but when she heard his last sentence, she gasped, causing her to sputter and choke.
Brenda reached over and patted her on the back as she glared at her brother. “Stop it, Brandon!” she hissed.
Brandon looked at her innocently. “What, Sis? I’m telling the truth. That’s what this little shindig is all about, ain’t it? Getting to know us. Makin’ amends. The truth is, she didn’t want to give up her fancy life, so in exchange she continued to let her husband fuck her…in more ways than one.” He settled deeper in the chair and grinned. “Maybe I really am my mother’s son.”
Diane’s hand slammed down on the table. “That’s enough!” She didn’t raise her voice but there was an unmistakable hint of steel in her tone. “You will not speak to me in that manner.”
Brandon’s smile turned cold. “What is that, your ‘Mommy’ voice? Sorry. I wouldn’t know.”
“I understand you must hate me right now, and you have the right to feel that way. But no matter how you may feel, I won’t let you sit there and use vulgar language towards me.”
Brandon leaned towards her. “And just what in the fuck are you supposed to mean to me? I’ll tell you. Not a got damn thing! So either take me or leave me. Wait. Let me guess which one you’re gonna do,” he said sarcastically.
Diane sat there breathing hard as she narrowed her eyes. Brandon looked at Brenda and saw the same exact expression on her face. Brandon smirked at them both, then picked up his Mimosa and took a healthy swallow.
Obviously making an attempt to calm down, Diane breathed in deeply and sat back. “You think you have everything figured out? Don’t be so sure. Things are not as cut and dried as you make them out to be, Brandon.”
“Oh yeah? Enlighten me,” he said in a bored tone.
“Do you think it was easy for me to give my babies away?” Before he could answer, she continued. “Days after I signed the adoption papers, I went into a deep depression. I…I tried to commit suicide twice.”
Brenda and Brandon looked at her with wide eyes. For once, Brandon didn’t have anything to say.
“I couldn’t live with what I’d done. And on top of that, your father had just been killed. I wasn’t able to mourn him openly, so I kept it all inside. Finally, I felt as if I couldn’t deal with life any longer. On the first attempt, I took sleeping pills. Charles found me just in time and rushed me to the hospital. The second time…” She looked down at her wrists and slowly turned them over so that the back of her hands rested on the table.
Brenda and Brandon noticed the very faint but still visible puckered slashes on her inner wrists. Brenda gasped in horror.
“I was in the bathtub, had been wondering about where you both were. Praying that you were okay. Crying because I ached to have you with me…I’d gotten to the place where every time I took a bath, I’d bring one of Charles’ razors and set it on the side of the tub. One night, I finally got the courage to use it. By the time Charles found me this time, I had lost a dangerous amount of blood. After they stitched my wrists up, I was put in a psychiatric hospital. Luckily, there was a doctor there who actually cared enough to try and help me. She prescribed anti depressives and worked with me to get to the root of my problems. Eventually, I got better.” She looked at them both. “But I never forgot you. Not for one moment.”
Brenda wiped the tears from her eyes with her napkin and reached over to grasp her mother’s hand in hers. Diane squeezed her hand and tried to smile through her own tears. She looked at Brandon and held out her other hand.
“Please, please forgive me. I loved you both from the minute you were born. If nothing else, please believe that.”
She stared at Brandon until he lifted his gaze from the table. He looked down at her outstretched hand, which seemed to be begging for his. Almost of their own violation, his fingers uncurled from the fist he had resting on the table and slowly moved towards her hand. He hesitated and then slipped his hand in hers. The tears welled up in his eyes as he felt his mother’s touch for the first time in his life.
Diane’s tears fell as well. Brenda reached out and took Brandon’s other hand. They sat that way for several long minutes, instinctively knowing that this was the first step towards their healing.
As Brandon drove back to his house, his mind went over the last couple of hours. The visit with Diane had still been a little awkward, but pleasant enough. For the first time, he saw things from a different perspective. It would take some time, but he was beginning to think that maybe, eventually, he would be able to have a relationship with her. Maybe he and Brenda would finally have a chance to be a part of a real family. Just the thought made his heart light with hope.
Tara had called and told him she was running to the store for a few things and would be back in about an hour. Brandon pulled his car in the driveway and hopped out. As he made his way to the front door, he whistled a tune under his breath but stopped abruptly when he saw a package sitting in one of the chairs on his front porch. Frowning, he reached down and picked it up. The only writing on it was his name.
“What in the hell is this?” he mumbled.
Brandon unlocked his door and walked in. After carefully tearing the envelope open, he reached in and pulled out a case with a DVD in it. Now even more curious, he went to the TV and slipped the disk into the DVD player. He backed up and waited for it to start. The image that appeared was the last thing he ever expected to see.
Terri’s face came on the screen, then his. They were in bed naked. Terri was gazing up at him seductively while performing oral sex on him. Brandon, head thrown back and eyes closed, grasped a handful of her hair.
“What the fuck. When did…” He was confused as hell.
He squinted as he tried to place when this was recorded. A third person walked in view of the camera. Brandon inhaled sharply when he recognized Kiki. She pushed Terri out of the way and straddled him, but he stopped her and reached for a condom. Once he did, Kiki proceeded to ride him like she was a star in a porno film.
Feeling nauseous, Brandon paused the DVD. The envelope he still had in his hand fluttered to the floor. He looked down at it and noticed a corner of a letter sticking out. Reaching down to pull it out of the envelope, he unfolded it and quickly skimmed over the contents. Brandon’s face changed from shock to anger as he slowed down and read it again:
Hey, Brandon. I hope you enjoyed our little home movie. I know I do…frequently. Since you obviously think you’re too good for me now, I thought I’d send you this little reminder of how good it was with me…before I send it to the board of directors of Haven House. I think they'd find it interesting to see how kinky the boyfriend of Haven House's Director is.
Your sister works there too, doesn’t she? Brenda?
I also plan to send a copy directly to that bitch you’re with now. I’m sure she’d love to see how a real woman fucks a man. She probably could use the lesson. Hell, I may even keep a copy in safe keeping for little Faith. When she’s old enough, I’m sure she’d love see what a freak her mother was, haha.
So, if you find that you’ve changed your mind, and would like to start a mutually satisfying relationship, cum see me, boo. You have two days. Otherwise, copies of these DVD’s will start showing up in the most surprising places. See you soon.
Brandon slowly lowered the letter to his side. Blackmail? His face turned dark and threatening. Turning the TV off, he put the disk back in the case and angrily walked to the door and yanked it open.
That bitch done messed with the wrong one. The wrooong fuckin’ one. I’mma kill her ass! Brandon thought to himself as he slammed the door behind him.
His hand was shaking so bad from fury, he could barely get the key in the lock. “Fuck!”
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, but that did nothing to quiet the rage building up inside him. That bitch actually had the nerve to try and blackmail him. Done lost her got damn mind. But she was gettin’ ready to see exactly what blackmail got her in just a minute.
Finally getting the door locked, he turned around and practically ran into RaShaun and Quincy. He glowered from one of them to the other. He was so furious he hadn’t even heard them drive up. What in the hell were they doin’ at his house?
Quite frankly, it didn’t matter. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t in the mood for it. Not now.
“What!” Brandon snarled aggressively.
“Whoa.” RaShaun raised his eyebrow at the hostile greeting. He thought they had made at least a little progress last night. “Take it down a notch, man. We’re not here to start anything.”
“Then why are you here? Believe me, its not a good time right now.”
Quincy grimaced at Brandon then looked at Rah. Brother or no brother, he still was an arrogant little son of a…
RaShaun tried again. “Look. The women have apparently gotten together at the house to start cooking dinner. Tara said she called but just got your voicemail. Q. and I were going to shoot a few hoops at the park and wondered if–”
“Cant. Got somethin’ to take care of. Excuse me.”
Brandon tried to walk around them, but RaShaun reached out an arm to stop him.
“Hold up, man. Apparently, something’s wrong. Maybe we can help.”
Brandon looked at RaShaun’s outstretched arm before slowly bringing his eyes up to meet his. “No. You cant. But what I do need you to do is get the fuck outta my way.”
RaShaun’s eyes narrowed as he felt his own temper trying to wake up. “I’m only trying to help. Maybe if you tell me–”
“Just cut the concerned big brother act! Less than twenty-four hours ago, you and your buddy here were ready to jump on me and beat my ass. Now, you want to know if you can help me? What you can do is move!”
He tried to elbow his way around RaShaun, but RaShaun’s temper won the battle. Yeah, he was trying to take the high road and reach out to Brandon, but that didn’t mean he’d let him talk to him like he was stupid. He pushed Brandon in the chest and walked up on him.
“Who in the fuck you think you talking to? Huh?”
Q. leaned against one of the white pillars. Apparently this was a pissing contest between brothers. He’d let them handle their business unless it got out of hand.
Brandon’s expression became enraged. He pushed RaShaun back, dropping the DVD on the ground. They tussled briefly before RaShaun managed to pin Brandon up against the door.
“Man, get the fuck off me!” Brandon growled.
“You need to calm the hell down. That’s part of your freakin’ problem. Always running off half cocked and damning the consequences.”
Q. raised an eyebrow and looked at RaShaun. Before meeting Yvonne, RaShaun had been the same way when pushed.
“I told you I had something to do. Its none of your business what it is or how I take care of it. You think I need you to look out for me? I been lookin’ out for myself since–”
“Yeah, I know, since you were a kid!” RaShaun interrupted and finished the sentence for him. “But maybe it’s time you let someone help you once in a while. It would make things a lot easier. And anyway, shouldn’t you be thinking about someone other than yourself now. You and Tara are in a relationship I assume?”
“Tara’s part of the reason I’m….” Brandon bit off the rest of his sentence. Taking a deep breath, and lowering his tone, he said through clenched teeth. “Will you please take your arm off my fucking neck?”
Amusement slowly faded out anger as the corner of RaShaun’s mouth lifted. He was only pinning Brandon to the wall by the chest, not his neck…this time.
“Well, since you asked so nicely…” RaShaun slowly moved back a step, smirking when Brandon rubbed his chest and glared at him. “Now, why don’t we go inside and you tell us what has you so fired up and ready to whip somebody’s ass.”
Brandon stared at him for a moment longer. He snatched up the DVD from the ground then turned around and unlocked the door.
As Quincy and RaShaun followed him in, Quincy glanced at RaShaun and whispered from the side of his mouth. “Damn, bruh. You had to struggle a little bit more than usual wit his ass. Thought he was gonna take you there for a minute.”
“Li’l motherfucka is stronger than he was last time.” RaShaun winced and flexed his shoulder. “Damn. I’m gonna have to start hitting the weights again.”
Brandon turned around impatiently and glared at them. When he didn’t say anything, RaShaun gestured with his hand for him to start talking.
Brandon rolled his eyes and folded his arms. “Somebody is apparently calling themselves tryin’ to blackmail me,” he muttered.
RaShaun froze. “What?”
Quincy immediately turned official and shot questions Brandon’s way. “What happened? Did they send you a note? What are they trying to blackmail you with? Let me see what they sent you.”
Brandon hesitated. He still hadn’t had a chance to tell RaShaun the entire story as he’d done with Tara last night. “I appreciate the offer, but I can take care of this myself.”
“Cut the shit, Brandon,” RaShaun snapped. “Did you hear anything I just said to you outside? Now tell us what’s going on.”
A look of uncertainty crossed Brandon’s face before he came to a decision. If he was going to come clean, he may as well come clean with everything.
“First, I need to tell you something.”
He looked RaShaun directly in the eye and told him what he’d revealed to Tara last night. He confessed everything from his initial part in coming between him and Yvonne, to the ending when he and Terri had that last argument in the parking lot of Yvonne’s job. Lastly, he told him about the DVD that he’d just received.
After Brandon finished, RaShaun stared at him with a long, concentrated look without speaking.
Brandon returned the stare and braced himself for Shaun’s reaction. “So. Still wanna ‘help’ me?”
“Is that everything?” RaShaun asked quietly. “Is there anything else you need to tell me?” His eyes told Brandon that if there was more, he needed to tell him now, but Brandon shook his head.
Seeming to come to a decision, RaShaun nodded. “Alright. We’ll deal with all that later. First things first. This shit with Kiki. You said she’s blackmailing you?”
Brandon’s face showed his surprise that RaShaun gave a damn after what he’d told him, but he quickly masked his expression and nodded. “Yeah.”
“Why the hell would you let her record you?”
“I didn’t know!” Brandon hated to sound defensive, but RaShaun had a way of quietly grilling a person without raising his voice.
RaShaun nodded, his expression dark and menacing. “That fucking bitch. She’s been a thorn in my side one way or the other since I met Yvonne. I guess she didn’t learn her lesson when Yvonne kicked her ass.”
“I guess she didn’t.” Brandon’s face now held the same look as RaShaun’s.
“She’s like a recurring nightmare. Every time you get a few peaceful nights of sleep, it fucking pops up again out of nowhere and keeps you awake. Well, this time, we’re going to make sure she gets the picture once and for all.”
Quincy looked from one of them to the other. Damn. Now how the hell did everyone miss the resemblance between the two of them all this time? He decided it was time to step in.
“Wait a minute. Before you two go ‘running off half cocked and damning the consequences’….” He deliberately threw RaShaun’s own words back at him. “I have a plan.”
RaShaun and Brandon turned to look at him. Seeing the intensity in their eyes, Q. shook his head again. Damn. They really are brothers...
“Okay. This is what we’re gonna do…”
© 2017 S.K. Hardy
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means without the written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.