Sitting up, she drinks half the glass and places it on the nightstand. I lower my head to hers and place my lips on her forehead. I ask, “Better, honey?”
She hugs me and whispers, “Yeah, thanks Tina. Goodnight.”
I tuck her in and make my way back to the others. Max looks at me with a raised brow; I smile at him in a way that says he was right.
I walk over to him, kiss his head and utter, “You’re so lucky.”
He reaches back and squeezes my shoulder. “Oh, I know.” He chuckles, “She tells me every day.”
“Is there a day you bring Ceecee to The White Rabbit?” I ask.
He tells me, “Every Saturday, babe, she gets bored as hell there. I let her bring her games, though.” And a plan starts forming.
I prod lightly, “What time are you there from?”
He looks up at me, eyes narrowed. “From nine. Why?”
I try to be as blasé as I can. “Just asking some questions, dear.” And I sit back down.
The guys are so into their game they don’t notice when I motion for the girls to follow me. They all stand making excuses to stretch their legs or get a drink.
We all walk over to the hallway and discreetly as we can.
Time to explore this castle.
The long hallway has four doors down each side and one at the end which is Ceecee’s bedroom. That’s nine additional rooms! This is a small mansion.
The first two doors on either side are bedrooms. We don’t explore these because that would be rude. Though, I really want to.
We open the second door on the left hand side of the hallway and gasp when we enter it. It’s a small studio!
There is a baby grand piano in the middle of the room. That’s it. Nothing else.
I start bounding up and down and send a pleading look to Nat. She rolls her eyes but nods.
We try to find the light switch but can’t so Mimi walks over to the curtains and pulls them open. We’re immediately bathed in moonlight.
Nat sits at the piano, links her fingers together and stretches them. She says, “I’m a little rusty.” She looks to us and asks, “What am I playing?”
Lola immediately replies, ’Amazing grace’.
Nat smiles at her, “Great choice, hon.”
And then we sing.
The girls disappeared a little while ago. I get up and shush the guys. There is faint piano music in the background.
We all glance around confused. I walk over to the hallway and hear the girls singing to the piano.
I wave the guys over and we make our way to the doorway. We stand just outside looking in. They are finishing up Amazing grace. No one has played that piano since my dad died. It was his and I’m happy to hear it being played. It brings back some really good memories of my father.
Nat remarks, “That was awesome. I haven’t played in a while so sorry if it was a little off.”
Then we hear Mimi. “Can you do ‘Poker Face’?”
A confused Tina speaks, “Wait, I thought it was ‘Poke Her Face’. I thought it was a sexual innuendo.”
Lola chuckles, “Like when you thought in ‘Can’t Fight The Moonlight’ the words were ‘Pardon Me The Starlight, Starlight’?”
Mimi is in hysterics, “Or when you thought ‘Hooked On A Feeling’ was ‘Hooked On The Ceiling’?”
Tina is holding her gut from silently laughing so hard. She giggles, “Yeah, I hate when I’m singing a song and the artist gets the words wrong.”
All the girls laugh at her. I’m glad she can laugh at herself.
A still chuckling Nat asks, “Any requests?”
The girls remain silent probably thinking of a choice. Then Tina speaks up.“Impossible.”
I can see a frown form on Nat’s face. She slowly shakes her head no.
Tina touches her arm and softens her voice, “Please?”
Nat doesn’t look any happier but nods. “Which version? Shontelle or James Arthur?”
Tina replies, “James Arthur.”
Nat nods and works the piano. The soft melody plays and Tina starts to sing.
I remember years ago,
Someone told me I should take
Caution when it comes to love, I did…
Tina has a nice singing voice. She carries the song well.
And now when all is done there is nothing to say,
You have gone and so effortlessly,
You have won, You can go ahead, Tell them,
Tell them all I know now,
Shout it from the rooftops, Write in on the skyline,
All we had is gone now, Tell them I was happy
And my heart is broken, All my scars are open,
Tell them what I hoped would be impossible…
She sounds like she’s in pain. I want to go over and hold her but I want to hear her tell her story. She isn’t just singing the words. This is gospel. She feels the words.
Falling out of love is hard, Falling for betrayal is worse,
Broken trust and broken hearts, I know…
My chest tightens with anger.
Damn it, Tina’s been hurt. Badly.
And now when all is done there is nothing to say,
And if you’re done with embarrassing me,
On your own you can go ahead, Tell them,
Tell them all I know now, Shout it from the rooftops,
Write it on the skyline, All we had is gone now,
Tell them I was happy, And my heart is broken,
All my scars are open, Tell them what I hoped would be impossible...
Mimi discreetly wipes a tear away from her cheek. Lola has her hands covering her mouth and her shoulders shake with silent sobs. They’re feeling everything Tina is feeling. The thought of someone hurting Tina this badly makes my gut coil with rage.
I would do anything to make her better.
I remember years ago, Someone told me I should take
Caution when it comes to love, I did…
Tina’s voice is steady as she sings. Her eyes are closed. Natalie’s lips quiver as she plays the piano.
The song finishes and Tina lowers her head. Her shoulders shake and I know she’s crying. In a broken voice she says, “I hate him so fucking much.”
I want to kill the motherfucker that hurt her. I’ve never heard Tina swear like that. She’s been hurt bad and I don’t know what to do with this information. I guess I’ll just have to be patient and wait for her to tell me when she wants to. I motion to the guys to back away from the door. We walk back to the table and continue our Poker game.
Max plays with his cards, eyes lowered to the table. He mutters, “I don’t like it.”
Me either, brother.
Poker night was a blast! Not that I played any Poker. Or did much of anything else, but the company was phenomenal and we got to know each other even better. Real friendships are staring to form.
Even Ghost tugged my hair when we said goodbye. Which I guess is his equivalent of a hug.
After I sang for the girls and we had our cry fest, you’d think I would be in no mood to go back out to the guys and joke around. But when I broke down the girls all came over to comfort me, and I realized how lucky I am to have them. My life could be so much worse than what it is and I need to be grateful.
We pulled ourselves together and fixed our makeup the best we could then went back out to the guys. As soon as we walked into the room they all turned to look at us and I could tell they knew something was up.
Max broke the silence by asking, “How about a movie?”
This broke us out of our sorry spell. The girls and I love watching movies together! We all joke and tease the actors. It’s a sure good time. We all agreed quickly.
Nik went to a cabinet and pulled out two DVDs, he held up ‘Step Brothers’ and ‘Old School’.
They must be Will Ferrell fans.
We all wanted to watch Step Brothers. We arranged ourselves on the three huge three-seater sofas. Nik, Max, and myself on one sofa, Mimi, Lola, and Trick on another and Ghost and Nat on the third.
I sat in between my favorite brothers. Mimi sat on one end of their sofa, Lola in the middle, Trick laying with his head in Lola’s lap his legs dangling over the armrest. Ghost sitting on the end of their sofa with Nat sitting at the opposite end throwing scowls his way.
C’mon guys! Can’t we all just get along?!
The movie started and we all relaxed. Some way through the movie Nik, Max, and I had become all tangled up together looking a bit like a human caterpillar. Nik put a pillow on his thighs, I put my head on his lap and lay sideways in a fetal position, Max with his head resting on my thigh. We were all laughing our heads off and there were a few times I thought I’d actually pee.
Halfway through the movie I look around to see Lola take Tricks hand and play with it. That surprised me. Nat had fallen asleep. She’s funny that way, she could fall asleep at a rock concert and there is no waking her without physically picking her up and placing her on her feet. She was in an awkward position and I could see Ghost glowering at her sleeping form. After a few more seconds staring at her, he pulled her towards him, lay his body full on the couch, put a pillow on his chest and lay her head on it with her laying on top of him. Of course, he sighed like it was the biggest chore he’d ever done but within minutes, he’d fallen asleep, too. This surprised me even more. They actually looked really sweet together.
I can’t wait to tease her about it!
Nik was absent-mindedly stroking my hair and Max was snoring and drooling on my thigh.
And I was smiling like an idiot.
Ever since I met these guys, my life is more fulfilled. I love my girls with everything I am but I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. I feel I’ve found that missing puzzle piece. And we all look so stupid right now that I can’t stop the giggle that forms in my throat.
Nik stops stroking my hair, lightly pinches my cheek and asks, “What are you laughing about, sweetheart?” He sounds amused.
I tilt my head up to look at him. I give him a small smile and say, “Look around. We’re a bunch of misfits that fit perfectly together.” He frowns and then turns to look at everyone. A big grin settles on his face and I know he gets me.
I turn to watch the movie and he begins to stroke my hair again.
It’s now Saturday. After we said goodbye on Thursday’s Poker night, Max advised the girls we were invited to next week’s Poker night, too. I guess they liked having us around.
We didn’t see each other on Friday because we were all busy. And today I’m doing something I haven’t done in two years.
I’m taking the day off.
I’ve left Nat in charge of the store. When I told her I wasn’t working she looked at me like I must be seriously ill but after I told her what I was going to do today she thought it was an awesome idea.
Today, I’m very underdressed and nervous about seeing Nik in this state. I walk out of Safira and make my way over to The White Rabbit.
I arrive on the second floor and walk down to the ‘chill out’ room. There, by her lonesome, is Ceecee. She hasn’t seen me yet and I smile at the back of her head. I don’t know how today will turn out, I could be making a huge mistake but I won’t know unless I take the chance.
I creep over to her and cover her eyes, her body stiffens. I say, “Guess who, honey bear?”
She giggles and cheers, “Tina!”
I chuckle and walk around her, “You’d be right my dear! Get your things, we’re leaving.”
Ceecee looks so confused that I giggle and tease, “Well, c’mon slowpoke, we’re going to be late!”
She whispers, “Where are we going?”
I kneel in front of her wheelchair and stroke her pretty auburn hair. I tell her, “We’ve got a big day of deluxe princess treatments to get through.” I use my best bored tone and straighten my spine. “I know it’ll be difficult to get through but, hey, when you’re a princess you have to do all the things princesses do, right?”
Her face holds a look of shock but she whispers, “Right.”
Then she beams and fast as lightning is out the door yelling, “Daddy!”
I follow her out. Max is out of the conference room in a flash, “What is it, baby?” He sounds alarmed and kneels in front of her with his hands on her shoulders. When he sees her smiling face he relaxes slightly. “What the heck, Ceecee? You scared the hell outta me.”
Ceecee beams, “Tina’s taking me for a deluxe princess treatment! Can I go? Please, daddy, please, please, pleeease!” She holds her hands together in front of her chest just under her chin like she’s praying.
Max finally notices me and asks, “Hey T, what’s this all about?” He smiles at me.
I use a matter of fact tone, “Well, as princesses, we need to do what princesses do. We need facials, manicures, pedicures, we need to get our hair done and finish with a massage. We’ll be gone most of the day.”
I hear someone clear their throat and Nik is standing in the doorway of the conference room. His eyes are on me and dancing. “Tina, you look beautiful.” I look down at myself. My sweatpants are not beautiful; they are tatty, huge and comfortable. I look up at him and state, “You need your eyes checked, Niki.”
He laughs and says, “So, where are you taking my Cricket for said princess treatment?”
I give Max a card of the salon down the street and say, “I called and booked us in this morning. We’ll be a few hours. I hope Ceecee isn’t busy.” I give Max a meaningful look. I know she was going to be bored all day and really want him to let her come with me.
His eyes crinkle, he know what I’m doing. He responds, “No, Ceecee isn’t busy. If she wants to go with you she can…”
Ceecee puts her little hands in the air and shouts, “YIPPEE!”
“…As long as you take my credit card and pay for the both of you with it.”
My face falls and I glower at him. He smiles big at me. He knows I hate this.
He pulls out his wallet, takes out a black shiny credit card and says, “The limit is enough to buy a new car.”
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