Nadia sat nervously in the back seat of the taxi twisting and pulling at a tight curl that had fallen loose from her jeweled hair clip. “Stop messing up your hair, you’ll make it frizzy”, she scolded herself. “Breathe.” It had been a long year away from her hometown and now she was just forty minutes away from her childhood home. Nadia looked at the Cleveland skyline, feeling proud to be back home. Her eyes darted back and forth between the buildings, as she named them silently in her head. Key Tower, BP Building, Tower City, The Federal Bank. . . Before she knew it, she had arrived at her mom and stepdad’s grand Colonial home in the Shaker Heights suburbs. The stone Federal styled house looked regal sitting back upon a well-manicured lawn and freshly trimmed shrubs.
“Nadi sweetie, you’re home! Oh, I’ve missed you so much, look at you! Come in, come in.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. It felt good to be at home again. My mother stood there grinning from ear to ear, wearing the hell out of fifty and looking not a day over forty. Her skin was the color of light caramel, the kind you make yourself out of sweetened condensed milk. She wore her auburn colored hair up in a classic french roll with her bangs swept neatly to the left side. She kept her makeup natural and golden, accentuating her lips with a plum lip liner and a sugar plum matte lipstick. She was stunning.
“Is that who I think it is? Look at you Miss College Graduate.”
My stepfather strolled into the foyer, towering over my mother’s petite frame, the color of rich Umber. As usual, he was dressed conservatively in tan slacks and a white cotton button up. He kept his salt and pepper hair neat, trimmed and freshly lined up like he just stepped out of the barbershop. He complimented my mother very well with his handsome features, but most importantly he was always kind to me and treated my mother like a queen.
“Hi, Melvin!” I said standing on my tippy toes to give him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek.
“Look at you, you’re looking more and more like your mother every time I see you. Look at my two beautiful girls”, he smiled.
I inherited my mother’s good looks and fine unruly hair, but not her complexion. I took after my father, a warm sepia. “Here let me help you with those bags, while you ladies get things ready for dinner.” Suddenly I felt myself become weak, and my stomach turned into knots.
“I-is Devon here?” I stuttered.
“Oh, no sweetie. He should be here shortly.”
I decided not to pry and ask if he was bringing someone.
“You know, I always admire how close you two became. I know it wasn’t easy accepting Devon as your stepbrother, especially since you were the only child for so long.”
I shrugged, “Hey mom, can I change? It’s just that, I’ve been in these clothes all day and with the flight and the cab. . .”
“Of course hun. Dinner is almost ready, and I’m sure your brother won’t mind helping out once he finally arrives.”
I winced at the sound of her calling Devon my brother. I ran up the familiar oak stairs to my bedroom on the left. My door was closed and so was Devon’s. Wow, I can’t believe she kept everything the same, except for the new plush comforter on my bed.
“Thanks, mom!” I yelled down the stairs.
“You’re welcome dear!” She sang back.
The first thing I needed to do was change my clothes and take a very quick shower.
I knew I was pushing it, but I hoped my dress was casual enough to look like I wasn’t trying too hard. I spent days picking out every outfit and accessory down to my bra and panties specifically for the upcoming weeks. I changed into my new matching bra and panty set, a fitted coral colored t-shirt dress and a cute gold ankle bracelet. I brushed my damp hair back into a loose bun and let a few curls fall around my face. Careful not to draw attention to myself, I put on the tiniest hint of rose gold eyeshadow, mascara and a dab of lipgloss. I ran down the stairs to help mom set up the table for dinner.
“Better?” She asked.
“Yes, I feel like I’ve been in jeans for way too long. I feel comfortable now.”
“Good. Nadi, can you set these out for me please?” She asked handing me four wine glasses.
Just as I sat the last wine glass down, I felt two warm hands covering my eyes. Strong, masculine hands. God, the smell of him was unbearable. I stood there frozen, unable to move.
“Guess who?” He asked in a low voice.
The two hands moved away from my eyes and turned me around by the waist. Oh God, it was him.
“Devon!” I said reaching up to wrap my arms around him.
“Nadia”, he breathed. I heard him deeply inhale my scent.
He embraced me in a strong bear hug, picking me up off the floor. I missed his hugs, I missed him. We hugged for a long time until my mom walked in.
“Devon! You’re home! How are you, baby?” My mom said stepping in between us.
I took that as my queue to find something to do in the kitchen. I smiled to myself and touched my face. It burned. Damn, he missed me too. My heart fluttered with an overwhelming excitement. He didn’t bring anyone either.
“Mom!” I yelled at her. “It’s time to eat!”
It was hard to look at Devon sitting across from me and not feel self-conscious. Did he remember? Of course, he did. I looked up from my plate and knew instantly that I shouldn’t have looked into his eyes. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair studying his face. He was just as, if not more handsome than his father with a warmer version of his father’s complexion. I stared into his chestnut brown eyes rimmed with ebony and light golden rings on the cornea, similar to the rings on the inside of a tree trunk, seeming as though they bloomed from his iris. His long lashes were just as wild and unruly as my hair, going in different directions, they seemed to act as leaves shielding the bright light from the glittering chandelier above the table. He noticed me staring at him and he smiled with those perfect white teeth and those fucking dimples! I looked down at my plate.
“Why are you so quiet Nadia?” He said taking a bite of an asparagus spear.
“I’m not. I’m just eating my food”, I said keeping my head down.
I could feel my face burning so I knew I was blushing.
“So mom”, I said, speaking a little louder than I wanted to. “When’s your flight?”
“Well kids, I have some bad news.”
“What?” I asked picking at the skin on my potato.
“Well, we’re not going to have as much time together as I thought we would have. Your father, took it upon himself to move our flight to tomorrow, so we leave the first thing at the crack of dawn”, she said talking to Devon.
“Oh mom, that’s not bad news, you should be excited!” I gushed.
“I am but, you kids just got here and I don’t want to leave you here by yourselves. . .”
“Mom we’re grown. It’s not like we’re going to throw a party or anything. Go, have fun”, I said trying not to sound thrilled that Melvin had bumped their flight from three days to tomorrow.”
“I know, I just wanted to spend time with you all before leaving.”
“Don’t worry Mama I’ll keep Nadia out of trouble”, Devon said.
I rolled my eyes, “I don’t do trouble, thank you very much.”
“Just don’t kill each other while we’re gone. Hear?” Melvin said sternly.
“Naw dad, we’ll be fine.”
For the rest of dinner, we talked and caught up with the current events in each other’s lives. Mom and Melvin talked about the joys of retirement, Devon talked about his new position as an electrical engineer and I talked about the joys of being an assistant to one of the biggest bitches in Jersey. Knowing that Mom and Melvin would want to get enough sleep for their trip, I suggested that we watch a movie.
“No sweetie, I think we should head off to bed for the night. We have an early flight tomorrow. You two have some cake and catch up.”
“Alright, good night mom, good night Melvin.”
“Goodnight Mama, night Pop.”
As they headed up to bed I started washing the dishes. The house fell silent, and I knew Devon was watching me. I could feel his eyes burning holes into me.
After a minute, he walked up behind me, “let me help you with that”, he breathed in my ear.
I felt his hands run from my shoulder down to my hands, interlocking his fingers in my soaping fingers taking the sponge away from me. His touch was sudden, as he gently nudged me out of the way so that he could take over washing the dishes.
“Do you uh, want Chocolate cake or Lemon pound cake”, I asked drying my hands off with a towel.
“What do you want?” He looked at me with innocent eyes but his question was laced with something else.
When I was first introduced to Devon, he was seventeen and I was fifteen. My mother moved us in with Melvin and Devon once they were married and I was forced to accept the both of them. Luckily for her, it panned out… sort of. Melvin was of course, kind. He was careful to let me warm up to him and not crowd my space. Devon on the other hand… was love at first sight, more like forbidden love. Devon was the most attractive boy I had ever laid eyes on but I knew I had to keep my feelings for him a secret. I did my best to stay out of his way and he did his best to stay out of mine… or more like I thought he didn’t like me until the day he caught me crying in my room.
“Nadia, what’s wrong?” He asked with what sounded like genuine concern in his voice.
“Nothing, I’m fine”, I lied still sniffling.
I felt my bed shift as he sat down.
“Then why are you crying?” He said touching my shoulder.
I sat up to look at his face, was he just pretending to care? He had a calmness about him, mature for his age, as was I, but he made me feel self-conscious. I tucked loose strands of curls behind my ear.
“Paul said I was ugly and he–he…”
Devon’s face displayed a hint of resentment.
“Forget Paul, he’s a cocky dumbass that can’t pass the eleventh grade. I think you’re beautiful.”
“Pshh. You’re just saying that because you’re my stepbrother”, I said rolling my eyes.
He looked at me with all seriousness in his eyes, “I’m not telling you you’re beautiful as your stepbrother, you are beautiful, you’re gorgeous.” He wiped a tear from my swollen eye, “don’t let anyone tell you, you’re not.”
Then he got up and left. Ever since then, there was a closeness between us, but from a distance. He had his friends, I had mine. He gave me space and I gave him his, but there was always this oddness between us. Something unspoken, something that lingered and felt unfinished. We never spoke about it, but there were always long pauses in the hallways, stolen glances, but most of all silence.
“I’m having chocolate”, I said cutting a slice.
“Then I’ll have the same”, he said giving me those fucking dimples again.
“I–” “You look beautiful”, he said cutting me off.
“Thank you”, I blushed.
“Do you know what movie you want to watch?”
I watched his muscles flex through his white t-shirt as he dried and put away the last of the dishes.
“Something scary”, I said carrying our plates into the TV room.
I sat on the sofa with my legs partly tucked underneath me and began eating my cake while Devon sat at the other end. We sat in silence eating our cake pretending there wasn’t any awkwardness.
“Hmmm…I like this”, he said putting down his plate with half eaten cake on it.
“Oh, really? Thanks.”
He began to finger one of the charms on my ankle.
“What’s the “D” for?” He asked lightly touching my ankle.
I could feel my heart racing as I tried to come up with a lie, but before I knew it, honesty took over and spilled from my lips.
“Devon”, I said.
He nodded his head and smiled. Again with those fucking dimples. I took another bite of my cake waiting for him to say something. He continued to play with the charms on my ankle bracelet with his fingers as he stared straight ahead at the TV. Come on, just say it already! I thought getting frustrated. As if he was reading my mind, Devon abruptly got up and handed me the remote.
“Have a good night, Sis.”
My mouth all but hit the floor.
“Okay, good night”, I muttered in shock.
I watched in disappointment as Devon disappeared up the stairs into the darkness.
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Copyright© 2016 Brittany A.L.