“It was so nice to meet you, Caroline! Such a sweet lovely child,” Mrs. Autumn said as we hugged, “such a lovely woman.”
“Thank you. I at least try to be,” I laughed before escorting her out of the house. Last client of the night and I was the only one here. I took to my pink scarf to wrap my hair up for the night, reached underneath my shirt to unclip the bra to toss on the table, and grabbed the last stack of money, ready to count up the total for the night.
“Hello?” Nevaeh answered with a yawn as I sat down on the couch with my notebook in hand.
“I’m calling to check in on you. Do you need anything?”
“We’re fine. Junie just came back from work with food from the kitchen. I’m helping me make his plates for tomorrow.”
“Are the bills taken care of?”
“Yes, for the most part. Yes.”
“What does for the most part mean, Nevaeh?”
She went quiet for a second and instead of forcing it out of my sister who did not have a consistent job and wasn’t magically inclined like the rest of us, she was the one I worried about the most. Especially when she was pumping out babies. Junie did his part but Nevaeh had bills of her own that were starting to stack up.
“How much is the credit card bill now?”
“I got it down to 243, but—”
“I’ll take care of it,” dabbing my thumb on my tongue as I continued to couch the money, “we made a little extra today so I’ll send you the money to pay it off.”
“Thank you Caroline,” she sighed. “Did you see outside? There isn’t a moon out. Junie pointed it out to me and wanted me to ask what that meant.”
“When there is no moon? It’s just total darkness? That means a witch is being born while another one dies.”
“Oh...well I’ll...make something up then. Last thing he needs to hear is that. I’ll be waking up with pieces of salt stuck to my body.”
“Night sissy. Love you,” I laughed.
“Love you more.”
I got on the call with the next sister to see how she was doing but Trinity was probably off with her husband dancing in the kitchen, high off whatever strand of weed and not worried about anything but themselves. I called Siren to make sure she was okay. Ahmad always managed to keep the wildest sister together and under control. Omni didn’t answer but Tucker did. Not that she had anything financially to worry about with him.
“She’s asleep now,” Tucker replied as I turned my attention towards the front door, realizing somebody was about to walk in with the key, “she barely makes it through the day without feeling tired.”
“When is the midwife coming?”
“Sometime next week. My father moved back in with my mother so that the midwife has a place in the guest home.”
“Your parents are back together?” I asked, shocked.
“No. My mother is happy with her boyfriend at the moment. Just makes things complicated now that her husband moved in with her again but we’re all accommodating my wife and the baby so they will deal.”
“Well you be sure to tell her I called,” I said, eyes glued to the door until a quiet Antwon walked in. “I have to go. I’ll text her in the morning.”
“Alright,” Tucker said, not the usual aggressive demeanor that he used to have. He was humbled when my sister left his sorry ass and I was glad for it. Everything about Tucker calmed down for the better. We ended the conversation with a quick goodbye as I sat my phone down and watched Antwon walk into the kitchen with food. Army green t-shirt with regular denim jeans, sneakers already off on the porch and not a word to me.
He was naturally quiet unlike his brother Akil but Antwon was also moody, unlike his brother Akil. Wasn’t too vocal unless he had to speak up but he was passive aggressive and it was one thing I didn’t do. I don’t do men, and I don’t do passive aggressive behavior. If there’s a problem, say it. So when he stepped out of the kitchen with a carton full of mini tacos, I cleared my throat. Stopping him in his tracks just before he could turn and head for the stairs.
“Is there a problem?” I asked. “You’ve been ignoring me for at least two days now—”
“Because I’m becoming impatient with you,” he said. My mouth dropped as I shot up from the couch.
“Impatient with me?”
Before he could answer Akil came walking up the porch steps, whipping back the screen door after kicking his shoes off, and Tallulah wasn’t too far behind. He always looked different every time I saw him and this time with his round gold frames, his dreads hanging freely from his head, dark jeans and a grey shirt, he looked like a historian for the streets. A bohemian thug if you will. Maybe it was the glasses giving him a look of intelligence.
“Did you even ask her bruh?” Akil asked as he quickly grabbed the button of his jeans before pushing his way into the guest bathroom, “ask her!”
“Ask me what?”
Tallulah came walking up with her little Chanel bag she probably snatched from Jasmine, her high ponytail with the large hooped earrings and the usual leggings, sneakers and cropped shirt with gum smacking loudly in her mouth.
“Hey boo,” she greeted with a wave, setting her purse down as Antown sat down at the table.
“Where are yall going?” I asked.
“Girl honestly?” she let out with a laugh, “the boys and I were just gonna ride around the city tonight playing music and smoke for a lil bit. Just to find something to get into. That’s why they came here to eat first.”
The boys… When did they become the boys?
“I know that may not be your thing, Caroline but you should still come. We got a full tank of gas, a new whip, and my playlist is full of the feel goods,” she boasted as Akil came out of the bathroom with wet hands.
“Just you, and these two?” I questioned. “You, and two men?”
“I don’t see the problem, especially when I just invited you,” she said with a pout of her lip, “it's early. Go grab some shoes, maybe a blanket and a pillow and just come on.”
“Who is driving?” I questioned.
“Girl, I don’t know… Probably Twon.”
“And yall don’t know where you’re going, you’re just—”
“Caroline? If you don’t stop questioning things and just let it be. We don’t hang out that often...Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever hung out with just you but my nigga is the brother to yo nigga. Why not double up? Have you and Antwon even hung out? Outside of this house and the little grocery store runs? Everybody already thinks yall dating.”
“We’re not,” he said.
“Okay then so come out with us as friends or whatever yall are. It’s early. Night is still young. Let’s have a good time.”
“I’m not with the drinking and driving,” I immediately stated, “let that be known now. If yall start that foolishness, let me out and I can Uber home. I’m not trying to be out all night either.”
“Girl just put your shoes on and let’s go.”
“Yall go ahead without me,” Antwon suddenly said as my nose turned up. Akil even looked at him funny while Tallulah threw her hand on her hip. “No sense in being the third wheel.”
“Not when Caroline is coming,” she pointed out.
“Don’t worry about it. He’s right,” I said, sitting back down on the couch, “yall two have fun. I’m going to finish counting this money up, pour myself a shot, and go home.”
Akil looked between Antwon and I before walking towards Tallulah and whispering something in her ear. She nodded with a smirk and the two just simply stepped out of the house, closed the door and was off for the night. I waited a few minutes, letting Antwon feel comfortable enough to finish his meal before I marched right over to him, smacked the tray away to the point where it fell into his lap. All of the food spilling out on his jeans and bent down to his level, getting in his face so he knew I meant business.
“So what the fuck was that about?!” I snapped. “You act like I’m supposed to be infatuated with you and you barely talk to me! You barely speak outside of telling me we’re connected! Okay so how!? I like you and I don’t know why! I’m attracted to you but I don’t know why so yes! I question things like that! I know you but I really don’t know you! I don’t know where you come from! I don’t know what you are! I don’t know how you got here to find me! You just showed up one day and—” I backed up as he stood up, cleaning the food from his lap, “you just showed up one day and said, I’m here to work! You do sneaky shit outside of this house that has me questioning everything! Where do you get money from if you have no other job! Who is your sister that isn’t really related to you and if Akil isn’t really your brother then what is he!? YOU DON’T SAY A WORD TO ME OUTSIDE OF, we’re connected. I’m your soulmate,” I mocked. “Okay and?! The fuck!? That don’t do anything for me Antwon! So what?!” I clapped. “I’ve had my heart broken before! I’m not—” backing up again as he grabbed my wrist, damn near snatching it with his grip, “Antwon, boy if you don’t let go of me. I swear I will turn this house upside down trying to hurt you—”
He leaned in while jerking me close to his body and placed a hard kiss on my lips. I started to scream with my hands balling into a fist against his chest but my body betrayed me. Melting like butter against his frame, I wrapped my arms around his neck just in time for my legs to jump and wrap around his waist.
I don’t know what was happening. I couldn’t explain it other than I needed to be touched. The fact that he was a man barely crossed my mind. Not until he had me upstairs in the back room where we kept two twin beds pushed together. Both of us stripped of our clothes with me straddling his body, I gasped, hand pressed against his pelvis at the sheer force pushed into me. I became completely still, crowning stomach with my fingertips, head leaning back with my mouth drawn open as he slowly bucked, keeping me together. Antwon’s hand gently slid up my thighs with his haggard breaths, trying to keep himself calm as he pulled my hand from his body and held it close to his mouth for a kiss.
The last bit of energy I had left seemed to escape my lips like a dark cloud pouring out of my mouth and into the air as he continued to innocently kiss my hand. I knew what was happening and I didn’t have the energy to fight it.
I felt him push further into me like he was inserting his entire body inside as I gasped again, choking on the lack of air. Last thing I saw when I felt his hands gently grip my neck, was a young girl...a young woman in a bright blue dress walking down a dirt road next to a man kissed by the sun, so bright you could barely see his frame but our hands were touching, clinging by the pinky finger and there it was…. She smiled when she looked at him before everything became black.
“You get to hang with your Aunties today, how does that sound?” I asked my daughter while taking the wrapped up pre-ordered place out of the car. Whenever we had clients, they always asked about the food whenever Junie just happened to deliver lunch to my sisters, now he made a profit out of it. Adding a menu for those looking to eat something good, folks would come by the house just to place their order and come back in two days to pick up their meals. While he was at work, I was usually the one to deliver the cases.
It was early the next morning and I was glad to see Caroline’s car already in the driveway. I would be able to tell her to her face not to worry about the credit card bill. Junie somehow managed to squeeze out a little money and help pay it down for the month.
“I wanna hold it,” Mai complained with her hands out. I gave her my keys instead to hold, keeping her occupied while I stacked one bag full of wrapped plates on the roof of the car.
“You need some help?” a voice called out as I looked back to see Antwon. He was shirtless, and barefooted as usual wearing thin sweats as he stepped down with a welcoming smile.
“Thanks,” I said. “I normally wouldn’t have the little one with me, but I have a shoot to do today. Is Caroline here or her car is just—-”
“She’s asleep,” he quickly cut in as my brows came together in confusion, “I mean, you know what I mean.”
“I don’t,” I laughed. “What do you mean she’s asleep? She doesn’t sleep.”
“She did last night,” was all he said as my mouth dropped.
“No you two didn’t! Twon?!” I laughed, watching him take the two bags towards the house. I scooped my daughter up and quickly followed behind into the freshly cleaned house that smelled like lemon joy and a bit of bleach. All the windows were open with fresh air circulating and even though the sun was barely out, it felt so bright in the house.
“Were you cleaning this morning or was she?” I asked, setting my things down as he placed the plates in the fridge. “Caroline is good but she’s not this good. I know she has a tendency to be a homemaker but this is—”
“I helped a little bit with the cleaning,” he said, cutting in again which he normally didn’t do but it was then that I noticed, he was a little on the anxious side. Nervous even, but in a good way? I couldn’t explain it. I looked up the stairs, eyes lowering as my heart started to pound, realizing my sister wasn’t coming down to greet her niece.
“Where’s Caroline?” I asked again. “Caroline?!” I yelled out.
“She’s not…” Antwon started just as I heard footsteps on the stairs. I walked over with a nervous knot caught in my throat until I watched a shy Caroline Skye walk down the stairs in Antwon’s green shirt, matching perfectly against her chocolate complexion. She had her short hair pulled back into a ponytail, and her bare feet out but something was off. When she smiled, her normally dark brown eyes suddenly shined a pretty chestnut against the natural morning light as she waved to my daughter.
“Hi,” she whispered, voice still raspy with sleep, “hi peanut…”
There was a tense pause between the three of us. Caroline was smiling at my daughter who kept close behind me like she was suddenly shy. I looked at a nervous Antwon who watched me carefully before I turned back to my sister. This wasn’t Caroline but she hasn’t had an episode like this in God knows how long.
“So…” I dragged out, looking between Antwon and my sister, “what happened last night?”
“Oh it was wonderful,” she said as she plopped down on the step, tugging the shirt over her knees before playfully burying her face and smile in her hand as she laughed. “I feel so embarrassed about how it happened but I knew… I just knew it was going to happen. I’ve been waiting on him.”
“Uh huh,” I nodded, heart pounding hard against my chest, she didn’t even sound like Caroline anymore. Her voice was so airy and light. So carefree. Nothing like the stern and protective big sister that I was used to. “You’re not my sister…”
“I am,” she smiled. “I will always be your sister, no matter what.”
“But you’re not Caroline.”
“Afraid not,” she said before sighing, “she’s no longer here...with us.”
My mouth tightened as I looked towards Antwon who refused to look at me.
“I know this is going to be a strange and hard adjustment,” she said. “I still don’t feel like myself yet but I am still your sister. I am still—”
“But where is Caroline?” I asked again. “Where is the one I grew up with? The one I spoke to on the phone last night? I know she has her moments where she’s not herself but you’re different. What happened to Caroline?”
She looked towards Antwon for help before tilting her head to the side to look at me with guilt. That’s when I noticed the bruise. A dark purple like ring around her neck where it was obvious she was choked.
“She’s gone, Nevaeh. I like to think she’s with me just no longer the host...but last night she was put to rest. She’s finally able to sleep and—”
“What happened to your neck?” touching my own as I looked to Antwon, “did you do that? Did you—”
“Listen…” he started. “I want you to listen to me before you panic. I— She wasn’t remembering me. She didn’t recognize me and I thought if I just…I didn’t want to hurt her. I didn’t set out to do this.”
“She didn’t struggle like you would think. I think she was truly tired and just wanted rest,” she added.
“Oh my God,” I cried as I backed up, almost falling over my own feet.
“Please don’t freak out!” she yelled with her hands out, “please! I’m sorry this…I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe we should have done something a bit more formal,” she said through her teeth as she glared at Antwon. “Nevaeh please...I’m still a Skye. I’m still your blood related sister.”
I grabbed my daughter, yanking her away from the house as I rushed down the steps with my trembling hand trying to get a hold of my phone.
“Hello?” Trinity yawned just as I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and snapped.
“GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!”
“Nevaeh? Nay?!” Trinity yelled. “Shit, I’m coming.”