*repost for the blog today*
“I never liked these stairs,” Caroline complained as she took her time going up the cement steps. Her heels just had to be long when she gripped the railing of the apartment building while I stood at the top, impatiently waiting with my daughter in hand. I didn’t care for the two of them matching outfits, especially when Caroline saw Violet’s yellow dress, and opted to wear a yellow top for the trip. I told her not to do that shit around me because people will think we were together. Damn sho don’t do it when I try and match with her so I changed Violet’s clothes halfway into South Carolina. Gave her a black tank top and matching shorts like she was about to play ball and slipped her white sneakers on.
Now we both stood, waiting for Caroline to finally make it to the top level as Violet reached out for her hand.
“Thank you VV,” Caroline smiled. “Let’s go knock on Uncle Mikey’s door, okay?”
“I’m telling you, I don’t think he’s here. I don’t see his car, I don’t see Ryan’s car—”
“Well he’s not in Augusta with her because she doesn’t have her own place to stay outside of her parents so where could he be? Pia said she’s not answering her phone. It’s been weeks—-”
“I’m just saying, this is a waste of time,” I said, coming up on my brother’s door.
“It’s not a waste of time if he’s just ignoring us,” she snapped before respectfully knocking on the door in front of us. “MICHAEL!? OPEN THIS DAMN DOOR! NOW!”
I pinched my nose with frustration, hating that I had another long drive with her. Even Violet tried kicking at the door before slapping her hand down on the wood.
“MIKEEEY!” she screamed, looking up at me with approval, “MIKEEEY?!”
“Alright, that’s enough!” I snapped. “He’s not here. I told you he’s not here.”
“Is he working?”
“I don’t know but he’s not here—”
“No matter,” Caroline said as she reached in her purse for a set of keys, “always keep a spare just in case something happens and I need to get in.”
“The nigga ain’t home! He didn’t die! He’s just not home!”
“Well then you can stay out here until I can confirm that but it's hot, I need to pee and I’m thirsty. I just so happen to have a key,” waving the metal piece around before slipping it into the lock. “You feel guilty because you didn’t go to your brother’s side when the fight happened. Why would you? He’s the one that hit me.”
“Yeah, you make people wanna do that sometimes Caroline.”
“Sounds like a people problem, and not a me problem,” she shrugged as the door popped open. The blast of cool air felt so good, I stepped in right behind them and closed the door with a lock.
“Well, he’s home,” she said, motioning towards the TV in the living room on sports highlights. The heat from the stove could still be felt. “Just not here.”
Apartment was a little all over the place with a few packed suitcases and bags in the corner. Caroline walked over to the living room where there was a pile of gift bags and boxes while I kept Violet close. Shades to his balcony were open to let in that natural light and his kitchen was cluttered with jars and bags full of things only a root doctor like him would have.
“No this nigga didn’t,” Caroline muttered as I plopped down on the dining room chair. She turned back to hold up a small poster before gasping as her eyes nearly crossed. “NO HE DIDN’T!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked, getting up as she shoved the it in my hand but I already saw the gifts and wedding invites scattered on the coffee table. I felt a knot form in my chest as I read the date of the ceremony that already passed and flipped the back to see a sonogram.
Ryan’s having a baby…
“He got married without his family,” she said, sitting down on the couch as she went through the gifts, “and it looks like all of anybody and everybody was there but us. Did you know about this? Is that why you didn’t want to come here?”
“I didn’t know about any of this,” I said. “I barely knew about Ryan.”
“Oh so when I say Michael is a selfish asshole!? Are you gonna believe me next time?! He did this on purpose!”
“I’m just as pissed as you Caroline—”
“Well you need to do something about it because the moment I see him? I’m finishing what he started.”
There was a sudden intrusion of the key entering the lock before the door whipped open. Michael looked around like he was ready to fight before relaxing at the sight of us.
“Boy, why you standing there like you…”
Carol Skye came turning in behind him as she peeked into the apartment and smiled.
“I knew sooner or later they were gonna turn up over here,” she laughed as the two came in with a handful of grocery bags, “Homer, go get the rest out of the car. Caroline, help me set up this kitchen.”
“Not today chile. It’s Sunday, I came to enjoy a meal with my son. Since yall are here, you can help. I don’t want to hear no arguing.”
“Mama!?” Violet shrieked as my daughter ran straight for her grandma’s leg. Whatever Caroline and I had to say towards Michael went out the window when our mother was around.
“Hi Grandma’s baby girl! Oooo look at my oosie juicy! My tootie pootie! You ready for some good home cooked food? We’re gonna have family time today. Ya daddy, ya Uncle, and Auntie are all here because we’re gonna have family time. How does that sound?”
Violet buried her face into her leg with a laugh as Carol gave us a warning look.
“The bags, now. Caroline, start cleaning this meat while I clear this counter off. Won’t be no fighting or arguing. What’s done is done, do I make myself clear?”
“Yes ma’am,” we all answered meekly. Michael held the door open for me as we got the rest of the bags.
“Yeah, now that he got this baby on the way. I told him I want to have dinner with him and his wife on Sundays just to get my time in with him before he becomes a father. Once that child comes out, everything is about to change,” Carol laughed as Michael and I sat at the dining room table. The women remained in the kitchen with Violet sitting flat on the floor with a pot of peas to snap.
It felt like we were kids again when we watched her dip the battered chicken legs into the pan, laying each of them flat while they both had dabs of flour all over their arms and neck where they were popped. Violet was moved out of the kitchen, and away from the grease as she watched in awe as two generations shared a kitchen together.
“Yall remember the time when Michael came running down the street in tears because of them two dogs coming after him?” Carol asked as I laughed. “Ethel called me talking about, Carol!” she mocked with the spatula in her hand, “Carol! Yo boy out here running rabbid! I said huh!? Which one you talking about?!”
“Aye, them niggas set that dog loose on me on purpose!” Michael pointed out.
“Because yo lil black behind didn’t have no business being over there. That’s why.”
“Oh my God, that was the funniest day of my life. I was on the porch doing Trinity’s hair when we saw him,” Caroline laughed.
“She said, Carol! Come out here and get this boy before he bring them dogs to the house! So I get off the phone, you know Kenneth is away so I’m grabbing the water hose outside, told the girls to go in. Pregnant and all, and I see this lil thin black thing walking on two sticks screaming. Ain’t never seen a boy run that fast. Everybody was outside watching and hollering out, GO MIKE! GO MIKE! I said, get on in the house!”
“Trinity and I could barely contain ourselves so we watched from the couch—”
“Chile,” Carol sighed before mocking how Michael was running, “when I say that boy was running like the Olympics were in town.”
Violet started to laugh at her grandma flailing her arms about. Caroline popped the oven open to check on the small tray of mac and cheese before peeking in the crockpot to check on the neckbones and greens.
“Boy, you couldn’t tell me nothing. I saw them two beasts running after my child. I grabbed that water hose, aimed it like I was in mothafucka Iraq, and fired off.”
“Maaaa,” Michael laughed, practically falling out of his chair.
“I ain’t lying!” she huffed before playfully holding her hand out like she was spraying a water gun. “Michael came flying into the house just to have his sisters mock him all night. I said boy?! Where the hell you been?! Who told you to go past the stop sign!? I don’t care if you got family that lives up and down this street, you don’t go past the stop sign. He talking about,” dropping her shoulders, “but mama? Mama I was over at Rodney house playing the game and then we went to his backyard tryna pick some peaches when them dogs came out and tried to attack us. One? Rodney don’t have no damn peach tree in the backyard. That’s one. Two?! Where yo ass been at, really?!”
We all laughed as Michael slid both hands down his head with embarrassment before looking up with a cheeky grin.
“Come on yall and fix yall plate. You know I’m too old for this,” Carol said, tapping the spatula against the pot. I looked out the balcony window seeing it was almost dark out. After spending hours of just talking and reminiscing, we all gathered around the kitchen with our plates. It was subtle but I watched Michael lay his head on Carol’s shoulder and thank her. She put whatever down to give her full attention to my brother and wrapped her arms around him. There was a brief moment of silence before she pulled back and took the smallest plate to fix. Michael and Caroline made eye contact before she sighed with a roll of her eyes.
“You know I’m crazy because I love just a little too hard sometimes,” she said.
“I know,” he admitted as I stepped to the side, letting the oldest sister and youngest brother have their moment.
“Ride or die,” Michael said, slapping hands with her as they snapped their fingers apart.
“In this life and the next baby brother,” she smiled before slapping him hard upside the head with her hand.
“Nigga, what the FUCK?!”
“How could you get married without us?! We are not that bad to where we can’t be at a damn wedding!”
“Oh he’s going to have another one,” Carol said, tapping a glob of mac and cheese on Violet’s plate, “best believe he’s gonna have another one, and we’re having the baby shower at my house. I already told Ryan, no exceptions. Just bring yo lil family on up here and get used to us. Now, Homer knows he gotta get married.”
“That’s actually why I’m here in South Carolina,” I said as everyone turned to look at me. Before I could explain any further, Violet was tugging at my mama, getting ready to cut up if she didn’t have her plate soon. We all grabbed a seat at the glass table with my daughter sitting in my mama’s lap. Michael sat at the head of the table while Caroline, and I sat beside each other.
“I was gonna go around and look at some wedding venues—-”
“Wedding?” Mama cut in. “What happened to engagement?”
“She don’t want that. She said if I’ma marry her, I better have her at the altar when I ask her to be my wife. Mama, she’s been engaged twice already. The plan was to do it in the fall. Just after Violet’s birthday but seeing that Michael is married...I’ma just go all the way and do it at the Moon Run.”
Carol just stared at me while Violet had a greasy mouth with bits of meat coating her cheek. Michael grinned between the two of us while Caroline continued to eat.
“What does that mean?” Carol asked. “The Moon Run is almost here… You… You think she’s ready for that?”
“I’ma go the traditional way first and then take her to the church of her choosing. That way I don’t have to worry about the venue and doing all the planning. I’ma do it the way I’m supposed to do it.”
“What does that mean Homer? I’m a simple basic Christian woman in this family, I don’t know what all this other stuff is.”
“After the Moon Run, I’ma get my cousins together. Get Yuma together and spend a night out there. Initiate her into my family, my world, my pack, and my life… Then we’ll do it before God.”
“I know you will,” she stated with a stern tone before smiling, “how are you gonna pull this off without her knowing until the day of?”
“Delilah should be the one to plan her bachelorette party. Delilah or Nevaeh,” Caroline suggested while wiping her mouth, “you can’t surprise her with a wedding ceremony. She needs a night with her little friends and whatnot.”
“You’re really doing this,” Carol said in awe, “my baby boy is really doing this.”
“If Michael took the chance and made the jump?”
“Right over the broom,” he nodded. “I’m somebody’s damn husband now. Shit is crazy.”
“Life is too short,” I agreed. “I want another baby. Been tryna put a baby on her for the longest.”
“Yo father wasted no time with me,” Carol said as I shook my head, “everytime I look, I was pregnant with one of yall. Over and over again.”
“Aight, we get it,” Michael said.
“If you gonna lay it down on her, lay it right,” she said with a straight face, “it ain’t that hard—”
“Oh my God,” Caroline laughed as Michael got up with his empty plate.
“Ain’t that right baby girl, you want a little brother or sister?” she cooed towards Violet, making her knee jump. “Oooo, she’s getting sleepy. Look at her eyes…”
I smiled at my daughter’s expression like she was trying her hardest to stay up and chew her food but her head was nodding off to the side every other minute.
“Go on and put her to bed. I’m staying the night here so put her in Michael’s room with me,” Carol said as I got up and did as told. The next hour was spent cleaning up, and washing dishes. I went and got Violet’s overnight bag, got her settled while talking to Pia on the phone just to check in. Once I did what I had to do, I met the rest out on the balcony as I brought one of the dining room chairs out to place in the corner. Michael was in the middle of lighting up a blunt while Caroline, to my surprise, had one of her own to finish. Together, we sat up there and smoked between the four of us and really caught up.
“How Omni holding up?” Carol blew out, “Tucker bending over backwards to get her back?”
“They’re doing good,” Caroline nodded. “She moved back in with him.”
“She’d be a fool not to. I know you mad, and I know you’re hurting but you’re also pregnant. You put up with a lot of shit that nobody tells you about when you get married. Only thing people say is, it's hard. Life is hard in general but a marriage? Sheeeit,” she sang. “She best be getting on with her husband and making it work. They got a child to bring into this world.”
“I would never tolerate cheating.” Caroline boasted with an attitude, “it’s beneath me and a waste of my time.”
“You’d be surprised what you would tolerate when you’re married with mouths to feed and look after. Trust me,” she laughed. “I am living proof that I put up with a lot. That’s why I say, if you’re getting married...Make sure Homer this is it. She’s the one. I love me some Pia. You know I do, but you better make sure she is the one.”
“No, listen to me boy,” pointing her finger at me, “you better make sure she is it. You’re gonna spend every waking moment with this woman and—”
My phone started ring as I looked down with a cloud of smoke blowing from my nose to see Pia’s Facetime call. I showed the screen to my Mama who smiled.
“She must know we're talking about her,” she laughed.
“Hey Pia,” I greeted before cheesing at the sight of her laying on the pillow with them thick chipmunk cheeks of hers. “I’m out here smoking with the fam right now.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to bother you,” she said quickly as Caroline leaned over to look at the screen with red eyes. “Hi Caroline.”
“Heeey Piaaa!” Mama shouted.
“Pia, what’s good! We was just talking shit about you!” Michael let out.
“Boy stop it. We were not. Pia, we were talking about the married life,” my mama chimed in.
“Oh lordy, I’ll let yall get to it. I just called because I didn’t get a chance to say goodnight,” she said softly.
“Oh yeah, my bad. I was moving so fast with Violet, I didn’t get a chance to…”
My voice dried up when I watched her pull out her black dildo she affectionately called Cobra to her mouth, seeing her tongue just tap dance on the top of it. I took a deep swallow, cleared my throat while tugging at my basketball shorts.
“Goodnight Homer,” she grinned, panning the camera down to her legs where she had absolutely nothing on in between. She already started on herself before hanging up the phone as my tongue jammed into the corner of my mouth. Looking up, I noticed three pairs of eyes watching me as I cleared my throat.
“What were we talking about? Marriage?” I asked.
“I was saying, you need to make sure she’s the one.”
“Oh nah...she’s it. She’s the one,” I said with a nod, wondering if I could make a run to my car and catch her in mid stroke, “Pia is most definitely the woman for me. Just getting everything together. It’s about that time.”
“Yeah I bet she’s the one,” Michael mumbled with a knowing smirk at me, “I know that look anywhere. I better not wake up to no cracked towels and socks in my shit. I know that much—”
“Ewww!” Caroline shrieked as Carol coughed repeatedly while I laughed.