“Yeah. That’s my sister. What the fuck is she doing out there anyway?”
I could hear Homer’s phone conversation as he walked up the driveway with Bodie and his family in tow. As soon as I saw Honey, I smiled and waved while holding baby James.
“Yeah if you don’t mind. I can come out there–––Nah it's cool. I’m throwing food on the grill. Come through. I’m about to call her now and see what the fuck is going on.”
“Heeey yall,” I greeted, excited for the company. I reached in to hug a soaking wet Honey as the rest of them had to duck their heads to walk into the house. What was supposed to be a quiet home was suddenly full of life as everyone took showers and changed. Honey was the first one out with her arms itching to hold my son after missing her baby.
“Is this your first time away from him?” I asked as she stared at me. I tried to repeat myself, slowing my words and pointing to my son as she nodded.
“I miss him,” she said.
I smiled. She was still as pretty as I remembered. Beautiful dark brown hair and eyes, and didn’t even look like she just gave birth but as she held James, he fell into a comfortable gaze, staring back at her with interest.
“Pia, we may need to get some extra sheets out,” Homer said, rushing down the steps with no shirt on as he dipped into the kitchen. “Caroline is coming to stay too. Her and Ryan.”
“Ryan?” I questioned.
“Yeah, I just got off the phone with her. She and Ryan car broke down and someone I know found her. Ryan may not be staying but I don’t know what’s going on with Caroline. She said she don’t wanna go back. So have that ready for her when she gets here.”
With that, he walked off as I turned my nose up, watching him walk out to the backyard where the rest of the men were. All outside with no shirts on, hovering over the grills and popping beer bottles open. I could already smell the weed drifting into the house. Honey’s eyes followed before she looked at me with a shrug.
“Men love being naked around each other,” was all she said.
I tried to hold in my laughter before we both turned away to hide the guilty giggles. The only other girls that were here were still taking a shower upstairs so that just left Honey and I to entertain ourselves as I got Caroline’s sleeping space together. God knows she’s finally calmed down since we first met but she was still a pain to be around for long periods of time. She was someone you had to take in doses so I hope this was temporary.
Just as the thought passed through, there was a knock on the door. Homer was already sliding the glass door open to step back into the house, letting the weed filled air filter into the house before he closed it back.
“Your face,” Honey said, pointing to her own face. “You okay?”
I laughed before shaking my head.
“His sister is here,” pointing to the floor, “sister…”
“Ohhh...You want us to get hotel?
“No no nooo, it's fine. We have plenty of room,” I said as Caroline’s shrieking voice pierced through the otherwise peaceful air.
“FUCK HIM! FUCK HIM! He’s selfish and inconsiderate! AFTER EVERYTHING I GAVE UP TO BE WITH HIM!” she screamed.
“Can you calm down?” Homer tried. “My son is–––”
“Let me tell you what Antwon did! Almost put his hands on me!”
“He did what?!” Homer screamed.
Ryan was the first to walk into the living room before collapsing in the chair with a groan.
“Pia, I swear this family is cursed,” she said as I laughed before getting up to hug her.
“I haven’t seen you in forever...since...since my father’s passing...since my baby being born.”
“Ohh and is that him?” she said, getting up to sit next to Honey.
“Wait, one thing at a time...What is going on with Caroline?”
I could hear her and Homer fussing on the stairs while men I didn’t recognize walked out towards the back patio where everyone else was.
“Where is Alex in all of this?”
“Girl...his friend had to call Caroline’s phone to get a hold of me since I lost mine…” eyes growing wide, “he cussed me out so bad...I’m so scared to call him back,” she laughed. “He’s never been this mad at me before.”
“Is he coming to get you?”
“His friend Gabe is, to keep the peace between us. So I’m waiting on him now. He just left Charlotte so hopefully it won’t be too long. I told Homer I won’t need a bed or anything.”
“But you will take a bed. We have a room ready since we have a full house tonight, as you can see,” pointing to the back patio where the men were. The door slid open again as Bodie stepped back into the house with his cousins trailing behind him, all smelling like weed which I couldn’t stand.
“We’re about to head out to grab a few things from the store,” he signed towards Honey who wasn’t buying.
“Why are we here?” Honey asked bluntly as Bodie just leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. She stopped him short but he moved her hand out the way, gripped her chin hard and kissed her.
“We’re here to celebrate with friends Honey, nothing more–––”
“Liar,” she hissed with a scathing tone, “why are we here? Why did I leave my baby?”
He ignored her as he walked towards the door with his cousins who had guilty expressions on their faces. Bodie could lie but it was clear they didn’t like lying to her.
“BODIE!” she yelled angrily before gently passing my son towards Ryan.
“This just isn’t the night for relationships,” she sighed as Honey went after her husband.
The door slammed shut as I peeked over the hallway with Ryan doing the same and saw Honey standing in front of the closed door, just catching the wind blow through her hair.
“Whew...if it isn’t one thing, it's another,” I said, hearing Caroline scream at her brother upstairs.
“Definitely going to be a long night,” Ryan agreed.
“You ready?” Gabe asked as I yawned.
“Yeah, I’ll be down in a second…”
I put Caroline’s phone back on the charger and quietly gathered my shoes to walk out of her daughter’s bedroom. The house was quiet and everyone was asleep by the time Gabe came. I tiptoed out of the room after whispering to Pia goodbye. She pulled herself out of the bed to walk me down the stairs.
“I think Honey left,” she whispered. “Did you hear her leave?”
“I think so...Is her boyfriend not home?”
“No, they didn’t come back. I asked Homer what they were doing out this late in a state they’re not familiar with and he kinda brushed it off. I don’t blame her...She probably went back home to her child.”
“By herself?” I asked as Pia turned the light on to fix herself something to drink. “I hope she’s okay. It’s not really safe right now.”
“I’ll keep you updated,” she yawned again. “Go on, don’t want him knocking on the door and waking Homer up or you’ll never leave.”
“Right,” I laughed as we hugged. “I’ll text you as soon as I get a new phone.”
I stepped out into the dark neighborhood where it seemed like none of the lights worked on purpose. Gabe was standing outside of his car with his arms crossed while I smiled at the sight of Alex in the passenger seat fast asleep.
Thank God. I was not trying to ride back with his friend by myself.
“You know this nigga been pissed and fussing the whole way here,” Gabe said as he opened the back door for me. “Argued himself straight to sleep.”
I slid into the back seat and smiled at Alex’s light snores before closing the door shut.
“Make no mistake about it, this man is crazy about you,” Gabe said as he pulled out, “you staying at yo ex boyfriend brother’s house ain’t a good look, nor is it a good look to be going off by yourself at a time like this.”
“I know, I know. If it was the other way around, I would feel a way so I already know.”
“I’m talking this man hollered and went on about you the whole way Ryan. Don’t ever put me through nothing like that again. All I wanted to do was experience the gathering, have a lil fun and go home.”
We came up on a red light as Gabe shook Alex’s arm loose.
“Aye! Wake up! They got Ryan! They got her!”
Alex jumped up like an old man, looking around with his hair wild in his face as he immediately reached for beneath his seat, just between his feet and grabbed a gun.
“Aye, aye! Hold up! I’m joking!” Gabe laughed as Alex turned to look back at me with red eyes. “Bruh! I’m fucking with yo old war veteran head ass! Who was you planning on shooting?!”
Gabe continued to laugh as Alex pinched at his nose and laid back down, leaving the gun in his lap, and ignoring me completely.
“Alex, I want to apolo–––”
“I got somebody picking up your car now to bring it back to Charlotte,” he said, cutting me off as I smiled, “don’t say shit else to me until we get home.”
“Last chance, you sure you don’t wanna at least see what’s going on for the gathering?” Gabe asked as Alex cut him a look. Gabriel ended up showing him his phone as Alex pinched at his eyes to keep himself away before glaring at the screen. I started to lean forward, wondering what they were looking at but they both just smiled at the same time.
“Where they found her at?”
“Nigga, that’s what I’m tryna find out,” Gabe laughed. “I told you this was going to be a wild gathering. We know who to stay away from and we ain’t no punk ass niggas either. So what’s up? I drove you down here for yo girl...least let me have a lil bit of fun before we go back. After that, I’m done.”
“You sure?” Alex pressed as Gabe raised both hands in the air before gripping the wheel. “Fuck it.”
“What happened to her?” Tucker asked as I looked up at my husband with a nervous smile. Audrey was barely standing on her own as she took a sip of her bottled water through a pink straw. Her eyes were red and glossy, mouth wet and body swaying as she suddenly shouted,
“I can’t hear with everyone talking! JUST SHUT UP!” she screamed before looking behind her, “I said be quiet! Do you want me to come over there?! Huh?! Because I will!”
“Oh my God,” I let out, trying not to laugh as people walked by her, looking at Audrey like she lost her mind. She was completely out of it. “I gave her one honey jar...she barely took a sip and next thing I know, she was like this...I’m scared to call Michael because he’s going to blame me. I didn’t realize she was so sensitive to this stuff. We barely even got a chance to walk into the Underground without her acting like this!”
“SHUT UP! I don’t know a Barb!” she hollered out before her head fell back as I quickly grabbed her by the shoulders to keep her upright.
“What are they saying?” I asked, trying to get her attention. She threw her hand in the air to brush it off.
“They want me to talk to someone named Barb. I don’t know a God damn Barb, who the hell is that?” she slurred. “You don’t hear them?”
“No,” I laughed just as Tucker moved me out the way to grab Audrey.
“Who is this man? WHO IS HE?!”
“He’s my husband!” I laughed, trying to calm her down as she slapped Tucker’s hand away. He lacked zero patience because he ended up grabbing her by the waist and slinging her over his shoulder to walk out.
“You let me down! LET ME DOWN YOU, YOU BASTARD! I DON’T KNOW YOU! HELP!? HELLP! THIS MAN IS TRYING TO KIDNAP ME!”
“Ominaya shut her the hell up!” He hissed as I tried my hardest not to pee on myself from laughter. Audrey was fighting and flinging about on his shoulder as everyone watched, unsure on how to react. “Next time you come out here after fighting me tooth and nail on going by yourself, you better stay out here–––”
“Husband that’s not funny,” I said as we stepped outside of the train station to walk to the nearest parking lot.
I watched Audrey fight and reach out like she was grabbing for someone and could see the absolute fear in her eyes.
“Please don’t let him take me!” she cried as my smile dried up, realizing she was tapping into something traumatic that happened to her. “PLEASE!”
“Tucker put her down–––”
“I’m not dragging her–––”
“Just put her down!” I hollered as he stopped and dropped her to the ground. My husband stood with his hand on his hips, irritated and tired as he reached to retighten his durag on his head.
“Audrey, can we go see Michael? You want to see Michael?” I asked as I watched her break down into more tears. Tucker was already getting on the phone as people walked by, looking from Audrey to him, thinking he was at fault.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with meee,” she cried softly with a sniff, “I keep seeing the same thing over and over and...I don’t know how to interpret–––”
“What are you seeing?” I asked, bending down to her level as I moved her hair back from her face, “what are you seeing?”
Her eyes were looking beyond me as I turned back, catching just a second of it...A hint of what she was finally seeing before it faded with a blink. It was a group of loved ones, filled with emotions, trauma, and pain standing together like a crowd, staring back at her, waiting. They were waiting for her but the moment I blinked, and stood up, it was just the street again as a car drove by. I looked back at Audrey, realizing she might be something a little different from a medium. She was on a whole other level of spirituality that I haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe Trinity could talk to her.
“Michael isn’t picking up,” Tucker said as I stood Audrey upright.
“Call Trinity. We’re going to take her to Trinity,” I said. “Hopefully she didn’t already hit the road for South Carolina. I can walk her to the car, just get Trin on the phone.”
By the time we got Audrey in the car, she was mumbling to herself, having a full on conversation with whoever she was seeing this time. Trinity was still at home when we pulled into the driveway. Both cars were parked outside despite having a garage. The small light over the main door popped on as we walked up to the door, holding on to the railing for balance and the first one to open was her husband Dre. Massive in size and blended weight, he stood shirtless with slides and socks on as he stepped aside to let us in. It was the rare moment that I got to see my sister as a wife and not as the annoying tomboy raising hell everywhere she goes. She was standing in the kitchen in a robe wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra as she cut the stove off and tapped the black pot with the wooden spoon. She took one look at us with her hair all over the place before pushing her glasses up and turning back to focus on the food.
“Let me make his food first and then I’ll deal with whatever this is,” she said with a distracted tone. “Sit her down on the couch in the living room.”
Audrey sat quietly down, eyes wandering around the house in a daze while my sister began setting Dre’s plate.
“Tucker do you want some?” Trinity called out from the kitchen as he immediately jumped up. “Since you here.”
“What is it?” he asked, already walking towards the kitchen.
I grinned after watching Tucker get his plate as he sat down at the table already licking his fingers. He was going to eat it regardless. Dre was fixing himself something to drink before grabbing his plate as he leaned down in attempt to kiss her but she moved her face, clearly not in the mood. She was upset about something but she wasn’t going to let it show with me being here and he must have known what it was about because he just smiled and shrugged like whatever.
“He’s going to watch a game he recorded, let’s go down to the basement,” she said as I grabbed Audrey’s arm.
“Who would have thought you were such a homemaker,” I teased as she pushed her glasses up to look me over.
“Bitch, I will box you––”
“I’m just saying!” I laughed, following her down the wooden steps of the dark basement until she popped the lights on. My mouth dropped at the sight of the markings on the ground, the single dark blue couch in the corner and a shelf full of things even the Underground didn’t have. She had a single wooden table with chairs around it. A deep freezer and a bathroom with a tall mirror propped against the wall inside, forcing yourself to look at your reflection at your most intimate moment.
“Sit her down,” she said as she tied her hair up in a bun and looked through her shelf.
“Delilah doesn’t even have all of this,” I said in awe.
“Nah, she got more than what I got but I don’t need much to do what I do...Dre hates coming down here by himself,” she laughed. “But he wants this basement so bad...We fight about it almost weekly. It’s supposed to be a man cave Trinity,” she mocked. “Men do men things down here.”
“Well, it's true. Men typically have the basement, women have the house,” I said as Audrey walked towards the mirror. She was quiet when she stepped into the bathroom and stared at herself, just staring, and very much still under the influence because she looked like she was going to break down at any moment.
“Well I lost that battle,” Trinity said as she pulled two jars off the shelf to place on the table, “so I’ve been moving my stuff out. He’s going to be redoing the basement while I’m in South Carolina.”
“Is that why you looked upset in the kitchen,” I laughed.
“He ordered a pool table and everything. He’s splitting it into a game room on one side with the couch and mini bar and a pool room on the other.”
“You two can’t at least share the basement?”
“He suggested that. I said, nigga no. I don’t want to cut this in half. I don’t ask for shit else but space for me to do my work. We argued some more and I just said fuck it,” throwing her hand up, “fuck it. You got it. You always got it.”
“So where will you do all of your–––”
“He’s giving me the guest bedroom upstairs but that’s for family and friends to stay over so he knows I’m not taking that so…” she shrugged, looking beyond upset as my mouth dropped.
“He doesn’t want you doing it in the house,” I said, realizing what Andre was doing. “I can’t believe you agreed to that! Trinity!? Why didn’t you say anything, we could have put our money together and got you a space or–––”
“I’m just ready to go home to South Carolina,” was all she said as she sat down. “I can do whatever the fuck I want in this house because I’m that nigga but…”
“He pays for everything,” I said as she nodded.
“Fucked up part is...he knows I’ma be down here playing games and shit with everybody so I ain’t completely against it but…” shaking her head as she pointed to Audrey staring at herself in the mirror. “She’s not a medium.”
“I figured that…She hasn’t been able to communicate with them or she refuses to do so.”
“Nah, she made a deal with somebody or something when she was younger. Something happened to her where she made a deal for it to stop but in exchange...she’s been tormented ever since. I can’t…”
Trinity was quiet as her nail tapped on the table, staring at Audrey stare at herself. She was listening. Trinity had gotten so good, she didn’t need to be in Audrey’s face to read her. She simply picked up on her energy surrounding her.
“What happened to her?” I asked, sitting down as Trinity reached for her notepad and pen to write.
“The same thing that happened to me,” was all she said as she drew a door on the paper and wrote, do not enter in front of it. She paused just as Audrey turned to look back at Trinity with tears in her eyes.
“Michael really knows how to pick em, I swear,” she muttered, tearing the piece of paper off to start a new sheet. “Can you let me in the door, Audrey? I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m not trying to come at you. I just want to come inside.”
Trinity continued to draw a door that was growing bigger but scratched over it like it was blocked. Just where the doorknob would be.
“What is she then?” I asked cautiously as Audrey turned back to look at the mirror.
“She’s broken among other things,” Trinity muttered, drawing another door as she circled around it. “She’s not letting me in. Either she’s blocking me or her mama. Somebody don’t want me to see something and until I can get through, I won’t know how to help her. She’s definitely no medium though. The spirits are attracted to her but it's her they’re attracted to. Not trying to communicate with anyone else but her. If she wasn’t so fucked up,” Trinity concluded as she tore off another piece of paper to draw the same door, “she could be a powerful priestess. Bigger than Delilah, bigger than Caroline..hell, bigger than me. She got ties and connections that go back...I can tell.”
I looked back at Audrey, wondering how Michael came across this woman again as Trinity stood up and walked towards her. Audrey started shaking her head, muttering the word no over and over before Trinity pressed her thumb against her forehead, smearing some type of sticky red substance against her skin before knocking her out cold.
“I could teach her a thing or two,” Trinity said with a pity as she looked down at Audrey’s limp body. “She’s going to be out for some days but at least it will be quiet for her. That’s the best I can do. Michael is going to have to watch her until she wakes up.”
“She’s supposed to leave for South Carolina with us in the morning.”
“Maybe she’ll wake up by then,” Trinity said with a shrug.
“Yeah,” she let out as she began to pull more jars off the shelf to place in a box, “when I get my own space for this, I’ll work with her personally if she’ll let me. Siren and I talked about going half on a space anyway so hopefully we can get that set up.”
We looked down at a sleeping Audrey just as my phone started to ring. I looked down at the screen and cringed at the sight of Michael’s name before answering.
“Heeeey my favorite youngest brother–––”
“I’m outside,” was all he said.
“Outside? Trinity’s house?”
“The basement, it's locked.”
There was a sudden pound on the door causing both Trinity and I to jump as she rushed up the steps fussing at Michael while letting him in.
“You banging like I’m the one that did it! She brought her to me! I didn’t do anything!”
“She had one drink Michael, barely a sip!” I pleaded as he came down the steps with his eyes zoning in on Audrey’s limp frame on the floor.
“Least yall can mothafucking do is get her off the floor! This is why I don’t bring nobody around yall because of shit like this! What happened to her?!”
“She just had a sip...not even a sip of a honey jar and she was...it made her–––”
“I’on wanna even hear it! The fuck!? Why yall can’t accept that she ain’t like yall! She’s not into this shit!”
“Because it's apart of who you are so she…”
The look Michael gave me caused me to shut up as Trinity continued to pack her things. Andre and Tucker came down, wanting to see what the commotion and fuss was about.
“Don’t call her up, don’t text her...don’t fucking bother her Omni. You probably did this shit on purpose to fuck with her–––”
“I didn’t!” I argued. “I actually like her! I wanted to help her! That’s why I brought her to Trinity! For her to get help! I wasn’t trying to––I was trying to help her! I wanted her to have a good time, and see what it's like being what she is! I didn’t think she would react this way!”
Michael ignored me as he carried Audrey up the stairs with Tucker opening the door.
“Trinity? You don’t have to do this right away–––”
“I said I would make dinner, give you your food and ignore you, why the fuck are you talking to me?” Trinity asked as Dre let out a pushed sigh.
“Because I’m grown, and I’m your husband and when there is a problem–––”
“Ain’t no problem. I’ll be on the road by six and have this stuff cleared out by then,” she said as she continued to pack up her stuff, “what else you need to know?”
“You don’t have to have this cleared out by morning is what I’m telling you. You’ve been down here all day. I just want you to come to bed–––”
“Dre please,” she begged as I started for the stairs, “please leave me the fuck alone bruh. Just let me be. All I ask. You want the basement, and I want to be left alone.”
I pushed open the door with Dre close on my heel, deciding to leave Trinity alone as I walked out of the house altogether, still hearing Michael fuss at Tucker about me.
“Just tell Omni to stay the hell away from her. You don’t like how I talk to my own sister, well then you tell her yourself what I said. Sick of it. I knew it was going to be some bullshit when she invited her out tonight. Even Homer said not to let Omni go with Audrey and look what happened.”
“First of all! You’re treating her like a damn child! She’s a grown woman! Secondly, she was going to the Moon Run! If you got a problem with your own sister hanging out with your girlfriend because I like her! What do you think will happen when she gets to South Carolina?! You can’t stand your own family and you act like you’re ashamed half the damn time, Michael! I didn’t do shit on purpose but–––”
“Handle your wife Tucker,” he said, cutting me off as he got in his car and sped off. I threw my hands in the air and glared at Tucker who shook his head.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt her! Why is he acting like this?!”
“Let’s go home. Let him figure it out but I’m ready to go home, now.”
I woke up to the smell of something burning and the dim lights eased my eyes to look around the room. Michael was texting on his phone in one hand and a burning smudge stick in the other hovering over me as he stood with basketball shorts barely clinging to his hips beside the bed.
“Nigga what the fuck you mean Caroline is staying with you? Ain’t she married?” he asked.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I have no idea what’s going on. My house is full right now so if you’re planning on coming up here to stay, you may need to find another house to crash at.”
I slowly turned over on my side as Michael looked up and smiled.