69,274
07.03.2019

We don’t speak again. Just find solace in each other’s embrace.

A few minutes pass and I yelp as my cell phone blasts ‘Little Talks’ by Of Monsters and Men from my pocket.

I jump up, fish it out of my pocket and answer. “Hello Miss Molly, everything okay?”

I’m shocked when I hear her sniffle. “Oh child. I tried to get him down but I can’t reach him. And the blood…so much blood. He’s tangled up. I can’t get to him. I’m so sorry, child.” She says this all in a rush and it’s hard to decipher.

My heart races. I’m so confused. She sounds shaken and distraught.

I coo, “Molly, tell me what happened. There’s blood. Someone’s hurt?”

Nik jumps up and is by my side in a flash. He turns me to face him. His face questioning. I shrug. Molly isn’t making any sense.

Molly splutters, “Bear, child. Bear is dead.”

No.

I watch Tina’s body go rigid and her face drains of color.

She whispers, “Okay, Molly. I’ll be home soon.” Her face is blank, void of emotion and her eyes lose focus.

Tina has turned into a droid.

I wrap a hand around her waist, squeeze and ask softly, “Sweetheart, what happened?”

She pulls my arms off of her slowly and stands there a moment looking like she’s close to losing her mind.

Her eyes are empty. My Tina isn’t here right now.

I watch helplessly as her face shifts into a grimace, crumples, and she bursts into tears.

I don’t do tears well but the first thing that comes to mind is ‘whoever made my girl cry is going to pay in a big way’. I pull her into my arms and rock her while she cries.

She repeats softly, “He’s all I had left of her…” like a mantra.

Tina cries for a while. I hold her tight and let her.

She stops crying after a few minutes and I ask her what happened but Tina is vacant. The lights are on but she’s long left the building. And I’m worried.

I call Nat, who closes down Safira and within minutes she’s in my office. She asks if she can use the ‘chill out’ room for a while. I approve. She asks for some alone time with Tina. I nod and return to pace in my office.

Half hour passes and Nat comes into my office. Her eyes are puffy and she whispers, “Bear’s dead.”

My face falls. Damn. I know Tina loved her cat but I’m unsure why it caused this reaction.

Nat says, “There is more to this you don’t know. Bear wasn’t just any cat. He belonged to someone Tina loved very much. He was all she had left of that person and now he’s gone and Tina feels disconnected.” My brow furrows. She continues quietly, “Tina carries a lot of baggage. You’d never tell by looking at her now but she’s had a tough time over the past five years. Be patient, Nik. She’ll let you in, just treat her with care.”

I’m surprised.

Tina seems like the most together person I know. Finding out she’s had it tough breaks my heart. I’m desperately curious now but I won’t ask. It’s Tina’s story to tell.

I nod and say, “I’ll send Ghost over to the apartment to get Bear.”

Nat nods and goes back to the ‘chill out’ room to be with Tina.

My poor girl.

This was a bad day for her. I’d do anything to make it better.

Ghost returns from Tina’s apartment glowering.

Fuck me. This is not good.

He closes the door to my office and I know it’s worse than what I thought.

He sits down putting a leg on his knee and shaking it. He says, “Cat was decapitated.”

My body stiffens.

What the fuck?

Ghost continues, “Body was strung up by its tail on the back porch like a lantern. I spoke to Nat. She knows. No way is she telling Tina. She mentioned that Tina said some shit to Omarr. She dissed him. A few times. This looks like a message to me, brother.”

It was. A very clear message that read Don’t fuck with me.

I nod. I only have one choice.

I have to kill Omarr.

For the first time in two years, I closed Safira early. Nat called Mimi and told her not to come in for her shift. I’ll still pay her, of course. It’s not her fault I broke down today.

Nat drives me home in my car, she orders Chinese food but I can’t stomach it. I just want to go to bed and pretend today didn’t happen.

Bear is gone.

My only link to Mia is gone. And I know he went in a bad way because no one will tell me about it. Nat told me Ghost picked him up and took care of him.

I can see someone’s tried to clean blood off my back porch. Thinking of Bear in pain makes me want to retch. He was the best cat and a great companion. All those lonely nights felt okay as long as Bear was purring around the place. The apartment feels empty without him. I walk passed his food bowl. There will be no feeding him tomorrow. I will never see his feed me dance again. Or hear his sweet meow. Or cuddle him.

Nik asked me if I wanted to stay with him tonight but I refused. I wouldn’t be great company and I’m thankful he didn’t push. The last thing I need would be to get angry with him. I need space.

He got me.

Today was a really bad day. And I’m over it.

Time to hit the hay.

I excuse myself without eating and kiss Nat on the cheek.

Finally, in my nice warm bed I’m allowed to feel whatever I should be feeling.

I’m hurting. Real bad.

A silent sob takes over me. I thought I was passed days of feeling like this. Like I don’t want to wake up tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal. Some days are just hard and you want to go to sleep and wake up a week from now knowing the problem is gone. Everyone feels like that once in a while.

Life can be overwhelming.

I sniffle and bury my face under my covers. I hear the door creak and Nat hops into bed with me. She snuggles close and without a word, we fall asleep.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Nat shrieks.

I jump up on my bed in a Kung Fu pose preparing to kick some ass. My head is throbbing and my eyes sting from crying. I see a shadowed outline of a person at the edge of the bed.

I throw myself onto the large individual’s back and put them in a choke hold. My arms are shaking but it’s better than sitting around waiting to be killed. Like Bear.

I yell out, “Call the cops!”

Natalie turns on the bedroom light and we both freeze.

Nik’s face is red and veins are popping out on his forehead. To top it off, he’s dressed only in underwear.

I quickly loosen my arms but wrap my legs around his waist and hug his shoulders.

I squeal, “Honey! What are you doing here?”

Still with me attached to him he doubles over to catch his breath.

He puffs out, “I,” puff “came to see,” huff “if you’re okay.”

I look at the digital clock on my bedside which reads 1:46am.

I’m still in a state of shock.

I ask in disbelief, “At one forty six in the morning?”

He stands up and breathily replies, “Yeah. I didn’t think this through, huh?”

Nat replies sternly, “Uh, no. No, Nik. You didn’t. You broke into the apartment a few hours after someone broke in and killed Bear! Not the smartest thing you’ve ever done.”

Nik nods and looks apologetic, “I’m sorry, guys. I couldn’t sleep knowing Tina was upset. So rather than be up all night I came over, and Ghost had a key made for me, by the way, and gave me the security codes.”

That makes sense.

Ghost breaks into our apartment every other week. Why wouldn’t he give out spare keys and security codes to the public?

I kiss Nik’s neck and whisper, “Thank you for thinking of me. Let’s go to bed.”

Nik nods and looks at Nat as if expecting her to leave.

She shakes her head and says, “Nuh uh. You must be out of your mind if you think I’m sleeping alone after that.”

I jump in the middle of the bed, my best friend climbs in on one side and my boyfriend jumps in on the other.

You know what? Life isn’t so bad after all.

Then I think about what just happened and burst out laughing.

The bed shakes as Nat and Nik laugh with me.

I don’t think we’ll get much sleep tonight.

Chapter Twenty-one

Naughty Nooner

I wake up a little before the alarm is set to go off. I feel smothered.

I look to my left to see Nat has an arm on my belly and both her legs tangled in mine.

Wait. One, two, three, four, five, six legs.

I look to my right and Nik is on his stomach, smooshed faced with his legs also tangled in mine.

We’re a gigantic pretzel.

I try to wake Nik first. I pinch his nose closed but all this does is make his smooshed lips flap and vibrate as he breathes heavier out of his mouth.

I can’t stop the hysterical laughter that bursts out of me.

I’m so tired. My head and eyes hurt like a mother. Bear is gone but I know he’s with my Mom and Mia. And I had the most uncomfortable sleep. But at least I was surrounded by two of the most important people in my life. And the way Nik sleeps is absolutely hilarious. I’m running on empty and absolutely hyper.

Nat and Nik both awaken to my loopy laughter and snorts. They lift their heads up and look at me like I’ve lost my mind. And, truthfully, I think I might have.

Nik excuses himself to shower and change clothes. We spend the morning getting ready for work. I ask Nik if he brought his car but he said he came by cab because his car makes too much noise and he didn’t want to wake Ceecee.

Once we’re ready we got out to my car. After I battle with her for five minutes to please open for me, we squeeze into my baby. Nat climbs through to the back so Nik can take the front seat.

I try the ignition.

Nothing.

Nat is already laughing. We go through this every morning. She tells Nik I own a clown car.

I glower at her while I put my foot up onto Nik’s lap and kick the passenger door while turning the ignition.

She starts.

Works every time.

Nik looks like he’s not sure whether to laugh or get the hell out of the car.

We’re on our way to work and Nat says, “Nik, turn on the radio.”

He shakes his head and replies cynically, “I would but I’m scared the roof might fly off.”

Nat and I burst into laughter. We laugh so much we both sob and laugh at the same time.

By the time we get to work our moods have lightened.

Nat kisses Nik on the cheek before moving to open the store. Nik stays behind with me and wraps his arms around my lower back.

He says ,“I’m so sorry yesterday was bad for you, sweetheart. I’ll spend forever making it up to you.”

What?

I’m confused.

I ask, “What do you mean, honey?”

He answers on a squeeze. “Omarr. He’s my problem, not yours. I’ll fix it. I promise.”

Sweet Lincoln’s Mullet!

Nik blames himself for yesterday. I know Bear’s death is Omarr’s doing. No one needed to tell me that. But still, no one will tell me how and, quite frankly, I’m okay with that. Some things are better left not knowing.

I pull back a little and hold his face in my hands. I say, “It’s not your fault, honey. Don’t think that, not for a second. Omarr killed Bear. Not you. He is a psychopath. Again, not your fault. He can spend his life blaming the way he is on his brother’s death but that only makes him a weak person. Not. Your. Fault. Got it?”

I see emotion flicker over his face. He puts his lips on mine and whispers against them, “God, I love you.” Then he kisses me deeply. I wrap my arms around his neck and stand on my tiptoes.

I pull away from the kiss and bury my face in his neck. I breathe him in.

As long as I have Nik, nothing will ever seem that bad.

I whisper into his neck, “You make life better.”

His body stills a moment before he squeezes me.

I turn and walk without looking back.

Time for work.

You make life better.

Whoa.

If there ever was a compliment to beat all compliments, it would be that.

Sneaking into Tina’s apartment last night was a dumb idea. I didn’t think it through. But I spent most of the night tossing and turning. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I kept wondering if she was okay or what if she felt uncomfortable sleeping there after what happened.

I made the quick decision to call a cab and head on over. I used my spare key and typed in the security code. It went haywire when I kissed Nat’s forehead thinking she was Tina.

All hell breaks loose.

Nat starts screaming. Tina jumps up onto the bed like she’s Bruce Lee then throws herself on my back and starts choking me.

Yeah, not good.

Thank god Nat turned on the light otherwise I might’ve passed out. I could feel Tina shaking against me but she had me in a tight grip. Adrenaline gives people strength they didn’t know they had. I didn’t want to hurt her so I just let her choke me. I’m surprised I’m not purple this morning.

Then Nat refuses to leave and we had some weird sleepover in Tina’s bed which is luckily a king. Just when I’m about to fall asleep, Tina bursts out laughing.

I couldn’t help but laugh, too. Then Nat joined in. The whole thing was pretty amusing, though.

Weird sleepover aside, I’m glad I was close to Tina last night. As soon as we settled in bed, I felt calm wash over me. If I’m being completely truthful, I’m glad Nat was there too. Because if I were Tina, having two people I love in bed with me after a bad night would have made me feel a whole lot better.

I’ve decided not to do anything stupid regarding Omarr. Killing him will bring up a bunch of questions by the Sixes and I’m sure Tina would know. I don’t want her to ever feel unsafe around me. I’m her protector.

I’ll have to set up a meet with Uncle Jerm and work this out the right way. But I swear to god, if that asshole comes near my girl again I don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself.

❮❯