Authors: Carl Weber
“Shit,” I mumbled under my breath before leaving a message. “Look, it’s me, Trent. I need to see you. It’s important. Call me back on my cell. You know the number.”
Manhattan Proper was packed when I walked in around eleven o’clock. I was looking for Trent. He’d asked me to meet him at the small club on Linden Boulevard in Cambria Heights, Queens. I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he’d been calling my cell phone all night, leaving messages that he needed to speak to me as soon as possible. Usually, I would have called him right back, but I was at the hairdresser getting my dreads twisted and accidentally left my cell in my apartment. I didn’t get his messages until I got home. My unavailability must have really pissed him off, ’cause his last message was downright indignant. He told me in no uncertain terms to make sure I brought my black ass right over to the club when I got home. So as usual, when Trent called I came running.
As I slid onto a bar stool, I smiled at Tim, the sexy almond-skinned bartender. He smiled back flirtatiously, wiping the area in front of me with one hand as he placed an apple martini, my favorite drink, on the bar with the other. Damn, he was cute, with his broad shoulders and tight round ass.
“What’s up, Melanie?” Tim leaned over the bar with a seductive stare. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn he was gonna kiss me. If he hadn’t already slept with my best friend, Desiree, I probably would have let him. I’d had a crush on Tim since the day we met. But as usual, Desiree spotted him first, and although she’d moved on, dealing with him would be crossing the line.
“Not much, Ti—” Some ugly-ass woman banged into my chair and I stared her down.
“Sorry,” she whined. I glared at her, then turned back toward Tim.
“Damn, it’s crowded in here for a Thursday night. What you giving out, two-for-ones or something?”
“It’s always like this on Thursdays now that we have karaoke. Every wannabe singer in Queens is here. Especially after the word got out that some music executives from Arista Records signed a sister to a record deal last month.” Tim tried to lean closer, and I sat back in my chair. “So what’s up, Melanie? When you gonna let me take you out?”
“Never.” I twisted one of my shoulder-length blond dreads around my finger.
“Don’t play stupid, Tim. You know exactly why. Because you used to go with my best friend, that’s why.”
He looked like he was about to plead his case, but I cut him off.
“Look, you seen Trent? I’m supposed to meet him here.”
Tim frowned as he pushed himself up from the bar. He’d made it quite evident in the past that he didn’t like Trent.
“Yeah, he’s out back on the patio. He’s been looking for you.”
“I figured that. He’s not drunk or anything, is he?” I gave him a concerned look.
“Nah, he’s fine. He looked a little agitated when he walked in, but he talked some stupid-ass woman into buying a bottle of Dom and he’s been fine ever since.”
“Thank God for small favors,” I thought out loud.
I lit a cigarette, then picked up my drink as I turned toward the back of the bar. I spotted Trent through the small patio door. He was leaning against the fence, flirting with two sisters in their early twenties. I had to laugh. There was no question that if Trent was anything, he was a ladies’ man. He had both those sisters mesmerized as he stood there profiling in his all-white attire. He looked like he belonged at one of P. Diddy’s Fourth of July parties in the Hamptons. I could just imagine the bullshit he was telling those sisters. Of course you know there was no sign of the urgency that I had heard in his messages.
I watched Trent do his thing with the ladies while I finished my drink. Usually I would’ve just walked over with an attitude and interrupted his little conversation. But this time, believe it or not, he ended the conversation the second he spotted me at the bar. He just handed one of the women a business card, whispered something in her ear and headed my way. You should have seen the expression on her face when she glanced at the card. She looked like she wanted to run after him. So I know she must’ve been pissed off when she saw him approach me.
“Yo, where the hell you been?” Trent demanded.
“Nice to see you too, Trent.”
I hated it when he did shit like that, no matter how cute he looked in his all-white outfit. But then again, Trent looked cute in anything he wore. He had one of those bodies that was made for clothes. My friend Desiree once said, “Trent don’t wear clothes to look good, clothes wear Trent to look good,” and she was right. Trent could wear a beat-up, old man suit from the thrift store, everyone else could be wearing designer suits, and he’d still be the best-dressed man in the place.
The funny thing is, Trent isn’t this superfly pretty boy that you’d think he was. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not ugly, by any stretch of the imagination either. But he just isn’t the type you’d expect to make women fall all over themselves. Trent’s secret is the charming, almost regal way he carries himself. Not to mention his gift for gab. He can talk with the best of them. He’s the type of man who could walk into a bar sober and as broke as a Tibetan monk, but when he walked out he’d be drunk and every woman in the place would swear he was the richest man they’d ever met.
“Melanie, did you hear me? I been tryin’ to get in touch with you all night.” This time Trent glared at me like he was scolding a child, and part of me felt like I was his child. Hell, he’d practically raised me. See, Trent’s my older brother by six years and when my dad died, Trent was the one who looked after me. Most people think my eldest brother Wil’s the one who kept our family together, but when Dad died, Wil was away at college. And since my mom was working two jobs to support us, I was left with Trent. Believe it or not, he never complained about having his kid sister hanging around. He actually made it his job to keep me outta trouble and teach me about life. It’s just too bad he couldn’t seem to do the same for himself.
“Mel, did you hear me?” he repeated himself for the third time.
“Yeah, Trent, I heard you. I was at Nu-Tribe getting my locks twisted. Now what’s so important that you had to call me fifteen times?”
Trent slid onto the bar stool next to me, gesturing for Tim to bring him a Corona. He gave me this devilish smile as he placed his arm around my shoulder, and that made me nervous as hell. He always used that smile right before he was about to ask for something.
“Sis, I need you to do me a favor.”
“What kinda favor?” I asked skeptically. Trent gulped down half his beer as soon as Tim placed it in front of him.
“Look, I want you to hear me out before you answer, okay?”
I removed his arm from around my shoulder because I knew that whatever favor he wanted, it wasn’t gonna be in my best interest.
“Just get on with it, Trent.” I exhaled.
“Aw’ight.” He took a deep breath. “Sis, I need you to ask Wil to loan you four grand.”
I paused, raising an eyebrow before I responded.
“Four grand! As in four thousand dollars? You’re joking, right?” I started to laugh, but stopped abruptly when he didn’t join in. I searched his face for some sign that this was just another one of his jests. But his face never gave me that sign, and neither did his words.
“No, Sis, I’m not joking. I’m dead serious.”
“Let me get this straight. You want me to ask Wil to loan me four thousand dollars so I can give it to you?”
Trent nodded his head and this time I did laugh, but not because anything was funny.
“Are you fucking crazy? I’m not asking him that. You want the money, you ask him for it.”
“Come on, Melanie,” he pleaded. “Wil’s not gonna give the money to me, but I know he’ll give it to you.”
“And what makes you think he’s just gonna give me four thousand dollars?”
“He wants you to finish school,” Trent explained. “All you gotta do is tell him you’re gonna go back to school, and I bet he’ll give you the money. Shit, he might not even ask you to pay it back.”
“And what if he does? How can I be sure you’re gonna give me back the money? I love you, Trent, but you have a hard time paying back your debts. You owe me two hundred dollars already.”
“I’ll sign my car over to you,” he told me desperately. Not that I believed him. “If I don’t pay you back within three months, you can sell it to pay Wil.” I guess he could see I was still skeptical, because he continued to plead. “Come on, Sis. I’m gonna pay the money back. I swear. You know I’d go homeless before I let you sell my car.”
I shook my head pitifully. “You got this shit all planned out, don’t you?”
He lowered his head, trying to avoid eye contact. “Well, yeah. Sorta.”
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, big brother, but I can’t do it.”
He obviously didn’t expect me to say no ’cause he sat back in his chair, straight as a board. “Can’t, or won’t?”
“Both.” My answer was stern.
Trent slammed his fist down on the bar. “Why not?”
“Because, Trent, I am going back to school, for real. I just borrowed tuition money from Wil. And on top of that, I’m sick of you trying to get over. You’re thirty-five years old, and every time you get in trouble, either Wil or me gotta bail you out. When are you gonna grow up? This shit is ridiculous. And speaking of ridiculous, when are you going to go see your baby? Michelle told me you ain’t gone to see that baby or given her any money yet.”
“Damn, not you too. Melanie, I am not that baby’s father! You gotta believe me on that. I am not that baby’s father. Now stop trying to change the subject. I need that money. This is some serious shit.” He placed both hands over his face, and I felt a momentary twinge of sympathy. Trent looked like he was gonna cry and I wasn’t really sure why.
“What kind of trouble are you in, anyway?” I waited for his answer, but I didn’t get one. We were interrupted by a tall, dark-skinned woman with flawless makeup and a boyish haircut. She was trying to step in between us.
“Excuse me. Can I get by?” I moved my feet so she could get to the bar, but she seemed more interested in Trent than she did in getting a drink. She must have seen our unmistakable family resemblance, ’cause she was taking a real chance on a beat down stepping between a sister when she was talking to a man.
“Hiya, handsome.” She smiled flirtatiously, inspecting my brother from head to toe. “My name’s Indigo. I was hoping you might buy me a drink so we can get better acquainted.” Sister was bold if she was anything. She just didn’t know who she was fucking with. A big butt and smile was not what my brother Trent was looking for.
“Buy you a drink?” Trent laughed for the first time since I’d seen him. “Are you out your mind? I ain’t buying you nothin’.”
The woman took a step back, looking both surprised and embarrassed by Trent’s negative response. And I can’t say I blamed her. But she didn’t know that in Trent’s world, things were the other way around. He didn’t buy the drinks, women bought him drinks and a hell of a lot more.
“Did you hear this shit, Mel? She wants me to buy her a drink.” Trent turned his attention to me, then back to her. “What the fuck you come here for if you ain’t got no money?” Trent asked her viciously.
“Who said I didn’t have any money?” she snapped with attitude. “I just wanted to get to kno—” She stopped herself in mid sentence. “You know what, just forget it.”
“You already been forgotten.” Trent smirked, about to continue his insults as she walked away. I had to grab his arm to stop him from tormenting the poor woman anymore.
“Trent, forget her. I wanna know what’s going on. Why do you need four thousand dollars?”
He lowered his head and sighed. “So, how do you like those Mets?”
“What? You know I hate baseball. Stop trying to change the subject, Trent. I wanna know what the hell’s going on. You’re not gambling again, are you?”
Trent glared at me. “Who told you that? It was that big mouth Diane, wasn’t it? She always talking about something she don’t know nothin’ about.”
“All right, then, tell me what you need the money for.”
“Well, to be honest…”
Trent’s last words were interrupted when Tim placed fresh drinks in front of us.
“What are these for? We didn’t order another round. We’re not even finished with these.” Trent pointed at his half-full Corona and my apple martini.
“Hey, look. If you too good for free drinks…” Tim reached to pull the drinks back.
“Free drinks?” Trent gave Tim a cynical glance, pulling closer the full bottle of Corona. “Who can say no to free drinks? So to whom do we owe the pleasure? I know it’s not your cheap ass. You ain’t bought a round of drinks since you started working here.” Tim ignored him and pointed to the end of the bar.
“See the woman over there, looking through the karaoke book?”
Trent and I turned toward the woman, then glanced at each other with our jaws hanging open. It was the woman who’d asked Trent to buy her a drink less than five minutes ago.
“She bought us a round of drinks?” Trent asked in disbelief.
“Not just you. She bought the whole bar a round.”
“What? Get the fuck outta here. That chick ain’t got no money. She practically begged me to buy her a drink a few minutes ago.” Trent laughed. “If I were you, I’d go ask that lady to see the cash before I started handing out free drinks, ’cause that bitch is broke.”
“I doubt it,” Tim said confidently.
“Aw’ight,” Trent teased. “That’s your ass, not mine.”
“What are you, stupid? Don’t you know who that is?” Tim glanced at us and we both shrugged our shoulders.
“Man, that’s Indigo Jones.”
“And…is that supposed to mean something? What is she, an entertainer or something?”
“No. Don’t you read the newspaper?” Tim stared at Trent in disbelief, then turned to me. “You don’t know who she is either, huh?”
“The name sounds familiar. But I really don’t have a clue.” Tim shook his head, and all of a sudden it came to me. “Wait a minute, Trent. He’s right. She was on the news recently.” I looked up at Tim, and he smiled. “She’s the woman from St. Albans who hit Lotto the day before she and her mother were supposed to be evicted. Didn’t she quit her job to take care of her dying mom or something?”
“Yep, that’s her. But she didn’t quite hit Lotto. She won the Pick Five for a hundred grand.”
“A hundred gran…” Trent choked on his beer. “You lyin’, right?”