My brother, my heckler, my friend
There from the beginning and their till the end
When will he ever learn?
My brother, my mentor, my nemesis
Always knowing what the truth is
When will his love be returned?
My brother, the “Ho” and the saint
A good man, He’ll be faithful—he can’t
Because his heart has been burned!!
OH BROTHER!!!! My Brother! Save me from your friend…..!!
As parties go, this one was typical—a little food, a little music, friends old and new and a reason to celebrate. As usual though, it’s the unexpected guests that make the typical extraordinary. Note, please, that it wasn’t an uninvited guest. Quite the contrary. Everyone, it seems, realized he would be there—everyone, that is, but Caitlyn…and perhaps a few others who simply didn’t know him.
Sexy with a capital, screaming “S” is the only way to describe him. Cocky, arrogant, and extremely charming made for a dangerous combination. He owned the room as he entered it and her eyes locked with his. Pure electricity. The chemistry between them never could be denied. As usual it created an atmosphere so charged with sexual tension that you could cut it with a knife! Everyone in the room had to feel it. Nothing and no one else seemed to exist for what seemed like hours, but could only have been seconds.
Caitlyn lost herself in his gaze, all the time wondering “Why did I look into those eyes and why won’t he stop staring? Why can’t I shake this hold he has on me?” His sudden, unexpected appearance immobilized her, so like his abrupt disappearance years ago. Caitlyn could feel her heart racing in her chest, threatening to explode as she recalled the pain of losing him and how for weeks after they parted she just….existed.
Dé ja vu —2010, the first time their eyes locked like this seemed like only yesterday, the feelings were still so raw. But, unlike now, there were so many possibilities! It was time for her big brother Phillip’s graduation from UCA and she had never been more proud. Everything was going her way. She had just gotten engaged, had a wonderful new job working as a consultant for a book company, and her favorite sibling, who also just happened to be her only sibling, had just been accepted to law school at UALR. Their parents had never been more proud. She recalled thinking as she left work early that day to drive in for the ceremonies, that she was the luckiest girl alive and her family had been blessed beyond belief. In a way, she was trying to convince herself that things were better than they actually were. Usually, if things appear to be too good to be true—they are. Funny how hindsight allows for such clarity.
She was making the two hour drive alone and had plenty of time to reflect on her current situation. Though she’d never admit it to anyone other than LJ or Teia, it really bothered her that she was alone. John, her fiancé, knew how much her family meant to her. Was it too much to ask for him to take a week’s vacation from his family run business to spend time with the woman he claimed he’d do anything for? He knew how important this day was to her family, yet he chose to work instead of taking the time to be with her. It was foreshadowing for the rest of their married life that only a fool could have missed. Such a fool was she. John seemed so wonderful back then. He was a college graduate, six feet two inches tall, model handsome, on the path to a highly successful career, and even then, a bit of a mamma’s boy. But most importantly, he treated her like a queen. He definitely knew how to spoil her and always allowed her to have her way, unless of course her needs conflicted with those of his family. Damn!! Another hint for the future she missed. Ain’t love blind!!!
At any rate, the future with him held definite possibilities! Or so she thought…. But as she allowed her mind to dissect every memory, she realized that she must have been so caught up in materialistic desires that she ignored every sense of foreboding about her impending marriage. Teia appeared to like John well enough and her parents absolutely adored him! But LJ had her doubts and didn’t hesitate to share them!!! Caitlyn cringed as she recalled how offended she was when LJ told her she could do better. “Why are you settling Caitlyn?” LJ had asked “It’s obvious you don’t love him any more than you’ve loved any of your other boyfriends. Sure, he’s got money, he’s attractive and he treats you like the princess you think you are, but is he your soul mate?” Caitlyn became defensive and found herself saying things she didn’t mean because she felt so insecure in the wake of what she interpreted as a personal attack. “You’re jealous! I don’t see you sporting a soul mate on your arm, and that’s the problem! I finally found someone to spend the rest of my life with; someone who is the embodiment of all we both said we ever wanted, and you can’t handle it!!” She regretted the words almost instantly and wanted to apologize, but allowed pride to keep her from chasing after LJ as she turned and quietly walked away. She finally apologized, a couple of days later and as usual, the issue was water under the bridge. They never held a grudge against each other, their bond was too strong and they both knew it.
It was bad enough that LJ didn’t much care for John, but Phillip seemed to hate him on sight! She was so nervous the first time they were to meet. Phillip had just come home for Spring Break and she couldn’t wait to introduce her two favorite men to each other. She so wanted them to get along. She and Phillip had always shared a bond that made them the best of friends as well as siblings and it was his opinion she valued most. Her parents were easily charmed by John, and it didn’t hurt that he had the ability to take care of their little princess in a manner befitting true royalty. But the one quality that she and Phillip had always shared was their ability to screen each other’s mates. Phillip either liked you or he didn’t—there was no in between—and he usually made up his mind based on first impressions. Caitlyn could tell by the fake smile he sported after five minutes of small talk with John, that there would be problems. It became even more obvious when he excused himself with some weak story about a research paper he had to complete. That boy hadn’t ever stressed over writing a paper—he usually had some female lined up to do that for him.
That night, after John left, Caitlyn barged into Phillip’s room. “Hey little girl, haven’t you ever heard of knocking?” Phillip attempted to joke. But he could tell by the storm on her face that she wasn’t in the mood for humor. “Okay, let’s just cut to the chase then”, he continued once he noticed that Caitlyn appeared content to just glare at him “I think he’s a pompous asshole and you could do better….” “BUT…” he interjected just as Caitlyn was about to give him a piece of her mind “I figure no man will ever be good enough for my baby sister, so I guess I’d better get used to this one since he at least knows how to treat you like the princess dad and I know you are.” She was so overwhelmed by his sincerity all she could say was “I’m glad—just give him a chance, I know you’ll love him once you get to know him”. She didn’t even sound convincing to herself, so it wasn’t surprising that Phillip and John’s dislike for each other would soon become the elephant in the room that no one acknowledged.
Wow! Time flies, Caitlyn thought as she noticed the clock on her dashboard. She had been driving for over an hour—obviously on auto pilot, since she didn’t remember passing Arkadelphia, the home of her Alma Mater Henderson State University (HSU). Usually she made a point of taking the first Arkadelphia exit to drive down Pine Street through town until she arrived at the Sonic exactly one block from the campus. They had the best cherry limeades in the state! Then she would cruise the campus and remember the “good ole days” which really weren’t so long ago! Oh well, maybe on the way back. She was pushing it as it was. She still had to stop at Wal-Mart to grab a card and a few other necessities for the occasion and on top of that, the beautiful day was beginning to get a little more overcast the closer she got to Little Rock.
One hour and a lifetime of memories later, Caitlyn took the Springhill exit to cut back to one of her favorite Wal-Mart Supercenters located in North Little Rock. As usual, parking spaces near the entrance were scarce, even more so since it had began to rain buckets. Miracle upon miracles, Caitlyn scored a parking spot near the garden center entrance. She quickly jumped out, popped up her umbrella and negotiated the puddles as she crossed the short space between her car and the sliding doors.
What was it about Wal-Mart, she wondered, that gave her such a sense of peace. It was sort of like coming home, there was such familiarity with her surroundings. She could probably attribute that to the fact that not only did she frequent her local Wal-Mart almost daily, but she never ventured out of town that she didn’t take the opportunity to scope out other Wal-Mart stores. At any rate, since the layout of each store was so similar, she knew exactly where to go to get the items on her list and quickly resume her trip to Conway. As she was checking out, Caitlyn experienced the weird sensation that you get when you think you are being watched. She turned just in time to catch the intense gaze of a man that could best be described as…FYIIINE!!! DAMN!!! Her heart was racing so fast she abruptly turned away to regain her composure; which was rather difficult since she was pretty sure she had just creamed her panties. When she mustered the courage to glance around and check to see if he was still looking, his cell phone rang and he appeared to be engaged in an intense conversation no longer paying her any attention. Just as well, she thought. I am engaged, after all. And I don’t need any complications at this point in my life…but somehow she got the feeling that she might have just missed out on something…something she couldn’t quite explain. “That will be $32.58”, the clerk stated as she finished ringing up Caitlyn’s things. Caitlyn handed her two twenty dollar bills and finished loading her buggy as the clerk opened the cash drawer to retrieve her change. “Thank you.” Caitlyn murmured absently as she stuffed the change in her purse, and retrieved her umbrella from the buggy. She paused briefly in the breezeway to pull the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and situate her umbrella so she could better negotiate the cart, the umbrella and her purse. That feeling of being watched plagued her again, but she didn’t bother to look around this time, she just rushed through the sliding doors towards her car, pushing the button to pop the trunk as she approached.
“Miss…Miss…excuse me, but….” Caitlyn turned and saw the handsome stranger from earlier running towards her in the rain. “Miss…you dropped this” He breathlessly exclaimed as he shoved a folded piece of paper in her hand. Confused, Caitlyn briefly glanced at the paper and back to his anxious gaze. Time stood still once more as she was drawn into his eyes and mesmerized by the raindrops caressing his face. She could almost feel her hands replacing the rain and involuntarily shivered as the heat pooled between her legs. She was about to yell to the retreating figure that she didn’t drop anything, when he shouted “That’s my phone number, call me!!!” He smiled and winked at her before turning and resuming his sprint across the parking lot. Caitlyn was momentarily stunned by the erotic images that invaded her thoughts, but quickly began to grin and blush as she tossed the remaining bags into her trunk, pushed the buggy out of the way and dived into her car curious to see what was on the note he had given her.
You took my breath away. CALL ME….JAY. 501-944-9411. For a few moments, Caitlyn just sat there remembering how it felt to look into his eyes. She was grinning from ear to ear, but the moment was ruined by the ringing of her cell that snapped her back to reality. The R&B beat of Alicia Key’s hit Falling, notified her that it was John before she even looked at the Caller ID. Anyone who was special to her at all had a significant ring-tone that she associated with them or their relationship to her. John had told her time and again that he thought downloading ring-tones was juvenile and ghetto. One of the reasons his wasn’t updated…. OH WELL!!! It certainly made it easy to decide when or when not to answer, and since she was still somewhat miffed at John, she choose to hit the ignore button. “Give him something to think about, letting me make this trip alone.” she muttered to herself. As she drove across the parking lot towards the gas pumps, she scanned the parking lot searching for a glimpse of “Jay”. Inexplicably disappointed, she swiped her Wal-Mart gas card and filled up as she prepared to drive back to I-40 and continue her trip to Conway. At least now I have something more pleasant to focus on for the last half hour of my drive, she thought as she relived the heartwarming scene from Wal-Mart over and over while listening to the steady beat of the rain hitting the sunroof and the sounds of Usher basing from Sirius XM Heart and Soul. Somehow “Confessions” seemed to be so appropriate for the fantasy she was living in her mind.
The rest of the trip proved uneventful but tiring. Caitlyn pulled up to the entrance of the hotel John had booked for her, wanting nothing more than to get to her room and freshen up a bit before meeting Phillip and heading to the graduation. All things considered, she had made good time. It probably didn’t hurt that she drove the majority of the way with the cruise set on 80 mph. She took one last look at the folded piece of paper that had kept her attention for the last 30 minutes or so. As tempting as it was to call, if for no other reason than to hear his voice once more, she convinced herself to put the number away. Placing it in the tray on the console, she retrieved her wallet, removed her keys from the ignition, climbed out of the car and stretched like a Cheshire Cat as she hit the automatic lock button.
“Wow” she gasped as she took in the extravagance of the hotel lobby. John always knew where the best of everything was, having lived a life of luxury. This hotel probably didn’t even live up to his expectations, so accustomed was he to five star establishments. But it was certainly impressive to Caitlyn who rarely traveled, and when she did, always used her Hilton Honors Card to book an economy hotel. There must have been others who valued luxury as well, if the lines leading up to the registration area were any indication.
“Good evening, miss. Do you have a reservation?” The desk clerk asked as he motioned for Caitlyn to move up to the counter.
“Yes, It should be under Caitlyn Cannon.” Caitlyn replied while searching her wallet for her Master Card.
“I’m sorry miss, but could it be under some other name?” He asked, glancing at her from behind the computer screen.
“Sure. My fiancé made the reservations for me, so he might have booked the room with his credit card to guarantee late arrival. Try looking for John Carter or Caitlyn Carter.”
“M’am, I’m sorry, but there doesn’t appear to be a reservation under either of those names. Do you, by chance, have your confirmation number?”
“No.” Caitlyn replied as she thought of what other way John could have made her reservation. “As I stated earlier, my fiancé made the reservation for me. I am supposed to be here for four nights. Surely there has been some mistake, would you mind looking again?” Caitlyn asked.
“Certainly, Ms. Cannon. But, are you sure your fiancé made reservations at this hotel?” He inquired.
“Yes. I know this is the hotel he told me he was going to book, because I immediately typed the name into Mapquest for directions.” Caitlyn assured him.
“Again, Miss, I am sorry, but there doesn’t appear to be a reservation for you under either of the names you’ve given. Under normal circumstances, I would secure a room for you anyway, but this is graduation weekend and we have no rooms available.”
“You have got to be kidding me.” Caitlyn gasped exasperated.
“No, Mam, I’m not. I wish I were. I’m afraid all hotels in Conway are already booked solid. I just checked for a gentleman a few minutes ago. You might try the Little Rock area.” He suggested.
“This can’t be happening. I just left Little Rock and I don’t have enough time to try to find a hotel there before graduation.” She whined.
“Again, I am sorry miss. If there is anything else I can do to help you…” He began as he motioned for the next person in line.
“Thanks, but unless you can magically produce a room for me, that will be all.” Caitlyn said as she turned to walk past the waiting guests.
Begrudgingly, she returned to her parked car and retrieved her cell phone to call John. “Good Afternoon, Carter and Company. How may I be of assistance to you today?” Gwendolyn, John’s much too cheery, fake, secretary sang in her typical manner of answering the phone. For some reason, Caitlyn really didn’t care for Gwendolyn that much. It could be her tendency to “forget” that Caitlyn called, or maybe it was the way she switched personalities when John was around, or… it could be that cloying perfume and heavy makeup. Probably all of the above, and Caitlyn was sure the feeling was mutual.
“Good afternoon, Gwen. May I speak with John please?” Caitlyn asked in a sugary sweet tone.
“Who may I say is calling?” Gwen asked
Bitch you know damn well you know who this is. Caitlyn thought. It’s not like I don’t call there daily. “It’s Caitlyn, Gwen, and it is urgent so please put me right through.” Caitlyn stated, trying to remain calm.
“Oh Caitlyn!!! I’m so sorry, honey, I didn’t recognize your voice. It must be your cell phone. You sound so distant. Are you enjoying your vacation?” Gwen asked, as if they were old friends or something.
How does this heffa know that I’m on vacation? Caitlyn wondered. “Gwen, I would like to speak with John NOW, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.” Caitlyn replied, purposely ignoring Gwen’s question.
“Sure thing.” Gwen replied “I’ll put you right through.”
Caitlyn thought she heard a sarcastic giggle before she was connected, but chose to ignore it as she waited for John to answer.
“Caitlyn, baby.” John crooned. “I’ve been calling you. I was beginning to get a little worried. Is everything OK. Gwen said you sounded distressed.”
I bet she did. Caitlyn thought to herself. Nosy bitch! “I must have been pumping gas when you called. I was going to call you back once I got settled into the hotel, but it appears that I don’t have a reservation.” Caitlyn explained.
“What do you mean no reservation? Are you sure you’re at the right hotel?” John asked.
“That’s funny.” Caitlyn replied. “The desk clerk just asked me the same thing. Yes, I’m sure. I am also quite sure that I don’t have a reservation, unless you have a confirmation number to give me.”
“Hold on just one moment. I’m sure Gwen kept up with the confirmation number.” John stated before putting Caitlyn on hold.
“What do you mean Gwen kept up with…” Caitlyn began, but stopped as the soothing elevator music kicked in once more, notifying her that she was on hold. “OOOOHH!!!” she groaned through clenched teeth. “No he didn’t have that bitch make my reservations. He volunteered to take care of my arrangements. I could have done this myself. I bet she screwed the reservation up on purpose. I can’t believe this shit!!” Caitlyn was in the middle of her own personal tirade when John came back on the line.
“Baby, I am so sorry. Gwen said she forgot to make your reservation. With all the chaos we’ve had around here lately with inventory and all, it’s no wonder the poor thing forgot. She feels just awful. She said she would be glad to call and get you a reservation someplace else, if you’d like.” John explained
“Thanks, but no thanks! She has done quite enough!” Caitlyn barked.
“Now, baby, calm down. Don’t you think you’re being a bit unfair? After all, Gwen did say she was sorry and…”
“You know what John, you’re right. I shouldn’t be mad at Gwen. I should be mad at you for volunteering to make my reservations and passing the task off to her in the first place. I should be madder still that you didn’t think enough of me to be here handling this! But, right now none of that even matters because I have to find a hotel some time tonight and I don’t even have time for..”
“Not that again. Caitlyn, I have tried to explain to you that I can’t just up and leave for every little thing. I have a business to run. I can’t believe you found a way to bring this up again. I thought we settled this before you left.” John interrupted, yelling into the phone.
“Just forget I called John, ok? Just forget I called!!!” Caitlyn immediately disconnected the call and turned her cell phone off. By this point she was so frustrated she couldn’t see straight. The long drive, unexpected rain and forgotten hotel reservations caused her shoulders and head to ache. She inhaled and exhaled deeply several times in an effort to calm herself and to hold back the tears that were threatening to come.
“This too, shall pass.” She said aloud as she slowly exhaled for the third time. “This too, shall pass.”
Aware that she didn’t have time to drive back to Little Rock, rent a room, freshen up and make it to the graduation on time, Caitlyn explored her only other option. She drove directly to Phillip’s apartment.
Thankfully, the apartment was only a couple of miles away because all that tension and drama was punctuated by her need to relieve herself. She had been on the road for over two hours and hadn’t taken the time for a restroom break. Caitlyn swung her car into the parking space beside Phillip’s SUV and jogged up the stairs to his apartment. She rang the doorbell several times with no response. Hmmmm ….she thought, looking around and peeking in the window. His vehicle is right out front. I wonder where… About that time, Phillip threw open the door, a towel wrapped around his waist and an exasperated look on his face.
His expression immediately softened when he realized that it was Caitlyn who had interrupted his activities. “Caitlyn!!! Come on in. What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you for at least another couple of hours.” He said as he ushered her into the apartment with an embarrassed grin on his face.
“I’m sorry, was I interrupting something?” Caitlyn inquired coyly, knowing damn good and well she could hear the female humming in the shower and she could see the undergarments strewn all over the apartment.
“Naw, No, I mean…Well, you know what I mean. Hey just give me a minute. Make yourself at home. I’ll be right back.” Phillip nervously replied on his fast retreat to his bedroom.
The hilarity of the situation definitely lightened Caitlyn’s mood and she almost forgot about her problems. Almost. She was still mad at John for being so inconsiderate. The truth be told, she was more hurt than angry. It just didn’t make sense to her that she was here alone. Not only that, but it appeared she might have to find out which hotel her mom and dad were staying in to see if she could get a roll away bed. At least for tonight. She could just hear her mother now. “What do you mean she forgot to make your reservations? I’ve told you that you better get rid of that woman before you two get married. She is trouble, I tell you, trouble.” And although Caitlyn would definitely agree with her on that point, she also knew that her mother would never be able to see how John was at fault for this. She would simply have to think of some plausible explanation for not having a room; an explanation that would avoid any discussion about John. Already, her parents were BIG advocates of John and the entire Carter family. Though she hated to admit it, Caitlyn knew it had more to do with their wealth and position than any love they had for John. Appearances were so important to her family, especially her mom.
Caitlyn’s train of thought was interrupted by the appearance of what could best be described as “the flavor of the month” dressed only in red thong panties. “Excuse me.” The trick giggled. “I think I left my bra and other clothes in here.” She didn’t even have the sense to be embarrassed. Nor did she ask who I was or introduce herself, Caitlyn thought, shaking her head at the retreating figure.
A couple of minutes later, Phillip reappeared fully dressed and properly embarrassed. He was quickly ushering “Ms. Thong” out of the apartment, with some meaningless promise to call her later tonight.
“Phillip, I am so sorry. I should have called first.” Caitlyn began
“Nonsense!” Phillip exclaimed pulling her into his arms for his signature bear hug, lift and spin. “My favorite sister never has to explain herself to me!! You are always welcome wherever I am and you certainly don’t need to wait for an invitation. I’m just so glad you could make it. What have you done to your hair?” Phillip asked, referring to the new “swinging bob” cut Caitlyn had gotten just for this trip.
Well, maybe not just for this trip. She knew the reason she had really finally agreed to let J’Renee’, her stylist for the last twelve years, give her the cut she’d been dying to try out on her was to rebel against John. She was so frustrated with him for not changing his plans to be with her, and she knew how he loved long hair. In some small way, she was hoping to get his attention and make him notice her. It’s a good thing she liked her new haircut, because John didn’t even bother to see her before she left; which kind of defeated the purpose. But, she thought, she couldn’t wait to see his face when she got back. And after that stunt he just pulled with his secretary, she DARED him to make even one negative comment.
Where is ole what’s his name, anyway?” he asked as he put her down.
“Stop that!” Caitlyn admonished, playfully punching Phillip in the stomach. “You know his name is John. It’s not that hard to remember. And, anyway, I don’t want to discuss it. Let’s discuss Ms. Thong instead.” She laughed.
“OH No!! You’re not getting off the hook that easily!” Phillip replied. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…the girl has finally come to her senses and left Creepy Carter.!” Phillip teased.
“That’s not funny! Don’t call him that. It’s not nice!” Caitlyn reprimanded, all the while thinking of all of the unflattering names she’d been calling John since she left the hotel. “No, I have not left John! Anyway, he’s not that bad…is he?” Caitlyn asked on a more serious note.
“Just like a woman! Get a guy’s hopes all up just to dash them! Baby, it’s like I’ve always said: If you like it, I love it! I’m not the one who has to marry him. But, I will say this…you shouldn’t have to ask me if he’s that bad.”
Silence hung between them as they each thought of what to say next. “ Well…is my hair really that bad?” Caitlyn asked. “No, I love it! You know I’m not hung up on hair. It looks good to me, but I can’t wait to see what mom has to say about it.”
Caitlyn groaned at the thought of her mother’s opinion of her new “do”.
“About Ms. Thong…” she began and Phillip grinned, relieved to know that they both wanted to change the subject. They got along famously as long as they didn’t have to discuss John. It was a mutually acceptable, unspoken arrangement that they needed to remember the terms of each time they were together. Caitlyn just wondered how long it would work for them without causing a strain on their relationship.
Caitlyn eventually explained the situation to Phillip and pleaded with him not to mention any of their conversation to either of their parents. Phillip suggested that she just stay at his apartment for the night and her parents would be none the wiser since they were only in town for one night anyway. Caitlyn agreed and headed straight for the shower after handing Phillip her keys so he could retrieve her bags.
“Caitlyn!” Phillip yelled over the sound of the shower. “Yeah!” Caitlyn yelled back. “There is just one thing you should know if you’re staying here tonight!” He replied.
“And that would be…” Caitlyn inquired as she stuck her head from behind the shower curtain.
“Well….” Phillip hedged. “There’s sort of this little celebratory party here after the graduation!” “PHILLIP!!!” Caitlyn moaned. But, realizing that this was a special occasion and remembering how she celebrated each of her graduations, she plastered a smile on her face and said “You know what? That sounds like fun and I could use a little fun right about now!” Surprisingly enough, by the time Caitlyn finished her shower; she was actually looking forward to tonight’s festivities. She just wondered where her mom and dad fit into the plan. Little did she know, her parents would soon prove to be the least of her worries.