Excerpt from the forthcoming novel WITH BENEFITS
Long Branch, New Jersey
“I bet she was screwing him all along,” Faith said. “And you probably knew it too, deep down inside. Your problem was you smelled new pussy and stopped using your brain cells.”
As Kyle listened to his sister he staggered from his bedroom – where he was when Faith called and woke him up – to the second bedroom. He checked his aquariums and fed the guppies, ran his fingers over the silent keys of his electric piano, and stepped back into the hall.
“I hope you kept it wrapped up, boy, because her husband was probably getting it too, so who knows what big hairy germs they were passing back and forth?”
“I always did,” Kyle said as he headed to the living room. “And why are you calling me asking about her?”
Over the summer he had only mentioned in passing to Faith that he was seeing a girl named Gerri. Faith hadn’t shown much interest, probably because lately his relationships had had a short shelf life. For his sister to call this morning to ask after Gerri was curious, especially since that relationship had come to a crashing halt yesterday.
“I asked how things were going with her because Lawrence and I are throwing a dinner party on Saturday and you need to come. I thought it would be nice if you brought a date, but it looks like it won’t be this Gerri chick. Her husband might not approve, ha-ha! You really bought her line that she was separated?”
“You know, you can change the subject at any time.”
Kyle’s living room windows and balcony door faced east. When he opened their blinds the still rising sun fired laser beams through the tree foliage across the parking lot. The light made him squint and aggravated the dull ache in the center of his brain left courtesy of the four beers he’d consumed yesterday and last night.
“So for real, are you okay, big brother?”
“I’m good. It wasn’t that serious.”
He’d had the first beer with a sandwich while he’d been wasting his time waiting for Gerri to show up while she was probably banging her husband to celebrate their getting back together. He drank the other three after she’d called him to say adios. He hadn’t had four beers in one day since he was in college. Now his head was making him pay.
“Good,” Faith said. “Dinner is at four. Don’t be late.”
“So what’s up with this dinner; you and Lawrence trying to play Ozzie and Harriet now?”
“Can you keep a secret?” Faith asked.
“Depends.” Coffee. He needed coffee.
“If I tell you, you can’t breathe a word.”
“To anybody. We want to do this before Erica goes back to school.”
“So you’re getting married, huh?”
“You know what, Kyle? You make me sick. How’d you know?”
“You just gave it away by saying you wanted to do it before Erica leaves, so it had to be something big. So are you doing it soon or just announcing that you’re engaged?”
“We’re planning for a wedding next year in June.”
“Cool. Now you can stop being a loose woman living in sin.”
“Shut up. So do you think it’ll be weird for Mom and Dad, being there together?”
“Why would it be weird?” He turned away from the punishing sun and headed for the kitchen.
“Well, when we go to Mom’s for dinner Daddy’s not there anymore, so this will be the first time since they split up that we we’ll all be together.”
“Nah. They see each other enough. They do lunch sometimes during the week.”
“Then maybe it’ll be good for them, all of us being together as a family again.”
“How so?” He opened his refrigerator, hoping to discover something that could pass for breakfast that didn’t involve cooking, but no such luck.
“I don’t think she’s happy,” Faith said.
“About her and Daddy splitting up. About the divorce.”
“That’s all you’ve got to say about it?”
“What else can I say? It’s not like the marriage police broke into the house and made them split up. This is what she wanted.”
“Hold up; you’re blaming Mom for this? She was going through some things…”
“Which apparently had nothing to do with Dad, unless you know something I don’t.”
“Kyle, are you mad at Mom?”
“I’m not mad. I’m just not wearing blinders.”
“Meaning you can feel sorry for Mom if you want. I don’t want her to be unhappy, either. But let’s not forget that she’s not the victim. Dad is.”
There was an extended silence on the line, and Kyle knew that Faith was mulling over how she wanted to respond to his comment. He knew she wanted to argue against his point. Well, she could bring it if she wanted to.
That’s how women were when it came to relationships, he thought. No matter what went down, it was never the woman’s fault. If a happily married woman ran up on Denzel or Idris Elba and he told her that he wanted her to run away with him, if she did it she wouldn’t blame herself. She’d blame her husband for not being Denzel or Idris. That’s how women rationalized their way out of the shit they pulled. It was always the man’s fault for not meeting some real or imagined need, and never about the fucked up shit they pulled. Faith feeling sorry for Mom was proof of that.
“And what if they decided to get back together?” Faith asked, dodging the debate bullet.
“Then I’d be happy for them. But I’d be worried about Dad.”
“Because he might be wondering if what happened before might happen again. That’s a lot of stress, loving somebody and not being sure it’s real and that it’ll last.”
“Of course it’s real. I think they still love each other, and if they want to try again, they should.”
“Just like that.”
“Yes. What – you don’t think they should get back together?”
Kyle wondered how Faith would feel about their parents reconciling if their situation were reversed. What if Dad had been the one who’d said he’d needed to go find himself or whatever reason it was that Mom told her and Erica? Would Faith still be okay with it then if Dad said, “You know what? I changed my mind. I’m good now, so let’s act like I never took your mother’s heart and ground it under my heel. Let’s all be one big happy family again.” Would Faith still be okay with them getting back together if Dad had done that to Mom?
“Yeah, if it’s what they both want then I’d be happy for them.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“You sound kind of strange. Are you sure you’re okay about Gerri?”
Kyle clicked on the overhead fluorescents in his kitchen. The little bastard in his head with the sledgehammer took an extra hard swing, making him wince. “That was about sex. Period. She came over here, got naked, we did our thing and she was gone. If she was screwing her husband too it’s not my issue. Plenty of women like having their cake and eating it too.”
“Why would you want to be with someone like that?”
That’s a good question, Kyle thought. “It was just something to do.”
“Yeah well, don’t let it get you down, big bro. Get out and go do something. Today’s going to be a nice day.”
The coffee helped Kyle’s headache if not his mood. He stood on his second floor balcony, leaning on the rail as he sipped java and wondered what he was going to do with his day. Faith was right; he needed to get out and do something. Thanks to the fiasco with Gerri he hadn’t gone out at all day yesterday, so he’d blown half his weekend.
If things had gone as planned yesterday he’d intended to propose to Gerri that since they’d spent Saturday getting their mutual freaks on, they spend Sunday having sex like normal human beings. So much for that bright idea.
He looked down at the parking lot, where his Chrysler sat gleaming under the morning sun. It didn’t need washing, but it was something to do. And another coat of wax could never hurt. That and detailing the interior would eat up a few hours of the day.
Something in the back seat of his car – a black mass – caught Kyle’s attention. He leaned over the rail and focused his vision through the window glass. Then he remembered. It was his gym bag.
He’d been in a hurry after playing racquetball with cute ass Dr. Britt Chandler on Friday evening. He’d rushed home to grab a shower, and then rushed back out again to go pick up the scarves and blindfold he didn’t get to use on Gerri. In all that rushing he’d forgotten to bring his gym bag inside so that he could wash his gear.
Britt told him that she had plans for Saturday, but she hadn’t said anything about Sunday. Maybe she wasn’t busy today, so it would be cool to give her a call. He could ask her if she wanted to go to lunch one day next week and see where the conversation went from there. He figured that since she wasn’t all starry-eyed about trying to land a man she might not view hooking up for lunch as a big deal, and therefore might be more inclined to say yes.
Kyle was surprised at himself that as he dashed down to grab his gym bag he felt an excitement almost as powerful as that he’d felt yesterday while waiting for Gerri to show up so that he could tie her to his bed. He thought that that was crazy, since all he was going to do was make a phone call to some chick he barely knew and wasn’t trying to get with.
COMING MAY 2013