“No more walk-ins!” Ben yelled out as he closed and locked the door to the tattoo shop. I collapsed down on the couch with my arms stressed, hair sprawled about after being released from my braids. Only thing you could hear was the sound of the needle buzzing as Ben went back to work with his last client. Everyone else was let off early leaving just the two of us to close up for the night.
Nobody said a word aside from the small talk Ben had with his client in the chair, talking amongst themselves until my ringing phone broke through. One glance at the screen and pushed ignore.
“Who was that?” Ben asked. “Yo mom?”
“Who else would it be? Bothering me about Francesca. I haven’t talked to her in over a week. I don’t...I have nothing else to say. She’s having dinner with her right now to convince her to at least talk to me.”
“You haven’t talked to Frannie in over a week?”
I leaned over to the table as I flipped through my phone, mindlessly looking at pictures of Francesca and her Instagram.
“You can always run up on her one night at ol girl’s house. Whoever she staying at and demand she come home to talk.”
“What am I supposed to say to her?”
“Nigga say anything! Shit! Say, I fucked up. I know I did but if you give me the chance to make things right...I’on know. I caught Delilah talking to her old nigga year or so ago. Innocent shit but I told her to cut it off altogether. Why you need to talk to another man at any level when I’m right here? Let Frannie know, aye?” holding the needle gun as he looked off into the distance, caught in his own dialogue, “I said aye? I’m not playing. I want us to be together but if your attention ain’t on me, I’ma start looking elsewhere. I’m not with that. Delilah got a smart ass mouth but she came to me that night, showed me her phone and all the messages. I said I didn’t wanna look through em because I trust her. I know she wouldn’t step out but she still showed it to me, deleted them all and his number from her phone and apologized. You should–––
My phone started to ring again as I glanced at the screen and groaned.
“Yeah?” I answered.
“Don’t you, yeah me,” my mother chastised. “I’m calling you because I broke a promise to myself over something I would never do. I’m just now leaving the restaurant after having dinner with your damn wife.”
“Oh yeah? How is she?” I muttered. “She can’t seem to respond to me and it's going on two weeks since I’ve talked to her.”
“I know. She plans on divorcing you,” she said as my heart stopped. I almost collapsed, kneeling over on the couch as my vision wavered and ears grew numb.
“Piru? Piru listen to me. Are you listening to me? Hellooo?”
“Aye, you good bruh?” Ben asked.
“Piru?” my mother called out, “just listen to me before you lose your damn mind. I won’t let her do that but you need to have your lawyers in place because she already has hers ready to serve you. We are taking that child from her, do you understand me? Are you listening?”
I heard the bells chime on the door as I looked up to see Ben ushering his client out and telling him to come back tomorrow before locking up officially.
“Tattoo is on me, let me deal with my brother real quick,” he said as the man nodded.
“Piru, listen to me.”
“She can’t leave!” I choked, face draining with tears as I stood up to grip my hair, “I’m not letting her do that.”
“Can you just listen to me, Piru? I didn’t call to hear you beg for her over the phone. I’m prepared to do what I have to do to ensure either your marriage is intact or we have full custody of Peyton. Whatever it takes. You know we Freemans will take matters into our own hands by any means. Are you still at your little shop? I spoke with your father’s sister who has been reaching out for years about getting you and your brothers together. I was hesitant about it at first because I was sure she was after money but she assured me that she thinks your siblings can help you get Francesca back. Now that your biological sperm donor has passed, she is keen on keeping everyone together to preserve his legacy or whatever she was saying. Anyway, I have given…”
I wasn’t even hearing what she was saying until Ben took the phone away from me to speak on my behalf.
“Yeah I’m here. He’s balling his eyes out right now ma’am, I don’t know if… uh huh…” he replied, scratching at his head as he looked back at the door, “yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. Alright.”
I heard the small click of the phone as Ben groaned.
“Aight so Mama got a plan,” he said. “Yo Auntie on yo dad’s side of the family wants you to come to her house this Sunday. I think they’re gonna get Francesca to come–––”
I looked up at him like he said the magic words as he nodded.
“It’s gonna be a set up for her but you better figure out how you gon get yo wife back because as far as I know? From what it sounds like? Frannie is already done with you. I don’t want this to turn ugly and the way yo mama talking, she talking like she wanna get rid of Fran altogether and keep the baby. So get yo shit together. I know you ain’t big on family but maybe that’s one of the things you need to change about yourself. Let Francesca see you’re willing to change and grow. She might look at you differently. You might move differently knowing you got all these brothers on this other side so tighten up nigga.”