Thursday, June 21, 2018

Nothing Last Forever

"Everyday
With every worthless word
We get more far away
The distance between us makes it so hard to stay
But nothing last forever
But be honest, babe
It hurts, but it may be the only way" Nothing Last Forever by Maroon 5


The elevator opened on Uriel's floor and I was taken aback when I saw Trent with 2 other guys waiting. His eyes widen in recognition before he gave me a smile.

"Hi Lilac." He said as I stepped off the elevator.

"You know it's Lily Trent." I narrowed my eyes at him, in no mood for his banter.

He just grinned at my glare. "Are you still a Lakers fan?"

"Of course."

"Then it's Lilac." He said stepping on the elevator with his friends. "Have a good night."

I rolled my eyes and said nothing as I walked to Uriel's door. I knocked and waited a few seconds before the door finally opened.

"Why didn't you tell me you had company?" I asked, annoyed as I let myself in.

"I don't." Uriel motioned to his empty living room.

"I ran into Trent at the elevator." I confronted him.

"They just left." He said, sitting on the couch, offering me a seat.

"Monica already suspects something's going on between us. Now she is going to know for sure." I began to pace, refusing to sit.

"I'm sure she already knows. Trent tells her everything."

"Why would you tell Trent?" I stopped pacing, hands on my hips as I stood in front of him.

"He asked. I wasn't aware it was a secret." He replied, eying me up and down. He took in my braided hair, sleep shirt and fur slides. "Are you wearing pajamas?"

"No shit." I ignored the heated glance he was giving me.

He stood up. "Were you already in bed?"

"No, I was at a pajama party. Hence why I'm wearing pajamas" I said, matter of factly.

He grabbed my arm. "Did you have fun?"

"A blast." I snorted, allowing him to pull me closer.

He led me back to the couch."You wanna talk about it?"

"You think I came over here to talk?" I questioned as I sat beside him.

He smiled and wrapped his arm around my waist. "I hoped not."

When he lifted me in his lap, I pulled away.

"Sorry. Sorry. I can't.. do this." I stopped, standing up.

"Ok..." He watched me closely. "Can I ask why?"

"I can't keep making the same mistakes." Being around Trevor, then trying to use sex to feel better about myself. That's how Christian and I got started. I had to stop.

"Is this a mistake because you have a boyfriend?" He asked, curiously.

"No! I'm not a cheater! I don't have a boyfriend." I exclaimed, my face heating up in embarrassment. I wasn't technically cheating on Christian, but I was breaking the promise I made to myself.

When Uriel observed me, suspiciously, I clarified.

"I'm dating someone. He wants to be in a relationship but I haven't committed."

"Ok. I thought you didn't want a relationship."

"I don't." I realized as I said it out loud. I knew I wasn't ready for a relationship, but after everything, I didn't want one at all. "I told myself I wouldn't sleep with you until I resolved things with him." I admitted.

"Oh." He said and I felt like a complete idiot for coming over.

"I'm sorry. I'm gonna go-"

"You don't have to." He said. "In fact, let me show you something." He pulled out his laptop and started a video.

"What is this?" I frowned up, looking over his shoulder.

"Highlights from this season. Before you leave, let me show you why we're still a threat in the Western conference." Uriel detailed.

"Highlights huh? Can't be very long." I taunted him, sitting on the couch. When he stared at my thighs, I tugged on my shirt as I leaned towards him to watch.

"Longer than the Lakers." He remarked before starting the video.

I woke up the next morning, curled up on the couch with a sheet. The last memory I had was Uriel showing me older clips from when the Maverick's won the championship back in 2011. I could tell he loved his job and his team, but his enthusiasm wasn't enought to combat my exhaustion and I fell asleep. I sat up, stretching, not believing I spent the night, even though we didn't do anything. I was straightening out my shirt when I heard Uriel enter his kitchen, speaking Spanish about some car. I slid on my slides before joining him.

I was met with the sight of his bare back as he drank from a sports bottle as he listened on the phone. I admired his muscles and the line of his back before he turned and noticed me. I pointed to the door, signaling I was leaving, and he wrapped up his conversation.

"You heading out?" He ran his fingers through his thick hair. I was hit with the urge to run my fingers through his hair too...

"Yeah. Thanks for everything last night. I know it wasn't what you signed up for."

"No worries. Maybe after you get everything resolved, you can spend the night again."

"Yeah. I'm gonna go so I can work on that."

He walked me to the door. "You have my number." He reminded me.

"You have mine too. Bye Uriel"

"Bye."

I headed home, my mind surprisingly clear. Trevor's actions the night before gave me the closure I needed. We couldn't be in any type of relationship and he proved that we couldn't even be cordial. It was simple when I didn't have any other choice but to move on. There was nothing to think about concerning my relationship with Christian. My last relationship proved how hard they were even when I was in love. I did not want to put in the work to sustain a relationship with him. It wasn't fair to keep him waiting, thinking I just wasn't ready for a relationship yet when I didn't want one with him.

I went home, changed into workout clothes and took Justine out for a run. I text Forrest and Rocky back, telling them to give me a call when they woke up. Everyone else that left concerned calls or voicemails, I reached out in a group message, letting them know I was ok. Surprisingly, Sammy called me back right away. I wasn't in the mood to deal with whatever she had to say, so I let it go to voicemail.

When I got home, I took a shower before making Justine and myself breakfast. We were eating in the kitchen when Richard came in through the garage.

"Really? So you just come over, unannounced and let yourself in now?" I said, only partially annoyed.

"Yes, but this will be the last time as your surprise will be done today." Richard sat at the table with me.

I winced as I thought about the conversation I had to have with Christian. I knew that it was going to be hard so I put it off until I worked out what I needed to say. "Is it too late to return it?" I pondered outloud.

"Um, yeah. You'll see why later. Why? What's up?" Richard asked.

"I have to end things with him." I laid my head down on the table.

"Because you hooked up with someone last night?" Richard asked me.

My head snapped up. "What? Why would you think that?"

"You have no poker face... And I came over last night to check on you and you never showed." He explained. "So who is he?"

"He's nobody. We didn't even hook up last night. I slept on his couch."

"But you've hooked up before?"

"Yes."

"And?" He prodded.

"And... Nothing. He doesn't want a relationship so it's nothing. Christian wants to be together and I don't. I have to end things with him but it has nothing to do with Uriel."

"Understood." When he hid a smile, I narrowed my eyes at him.

"What?"

"Were you really going  to add me to your roster?" He grinned.

"You wish."

The surprise was going to be dropped off between 10am and 2pm so Richard kicked me out so he could get it set up. It was perfect timing as Rocky called me back. She was with Forrest at his place, relaxing as he cleaned up. I made my way over to help with the clean up.

They both asked about Trevor and how I was holding up. I gave vague answers, not disclosing why his song choice hurt me so much, but I assured them I was fine. Rocky informed me he an appointment with his Oncologist Tuesday in Wichita Falls and was already gone. I nodded, but did not comment and we changed the subject.

The rest of the party was pretty uneventful after I left. Jordan, Blake, Richard, and Ethan left right after I did. Amber got wasted off Seagrams wine coolers and fell asleep on a bean bag. Forrest and Brandon actually got to talk at the end of the night. Forrest said Brandon didn't say much, but the line of communication was opened between them. Rocky got the chill, kickback birthday party she wanted and I was glad.

While I was with Forrest and Rocky, Christian called. I texted that I was busy and would talk to him later. He text me back asking when. I didn't respond and he text me again, letting me know to call him tonight. I put my phone away as Forrest and I finished cleaning his house.

When Forrest left to return the rentals, I told Rocky all about my decision to break things off with Christian. When she asked if it had anything to do with Trevor, I said no. He was the catalyst that made me see I didn't want a relationship, but he was not the reason I was ending things with Christian.

Richard text me that it was safe to come home, but I stayed until Forrest returned. We heated up leftovers and looked at the pictures online. I uploaded the video Richard sent me of Blake kicking the Mic out of J-Mike's hand, captioning it:#MicDrop. We all got a good laugh reading through the comments. Jordan commented with an embarrassed emoji face. I replied: If the guy I'm engaged to doesn't kick a mic out of someones hands, we're not getting married. #RelationshipGoals.

I went home, a little disappointed that Richard didn't wait for me. I went outside and was stunned into silent when I saw a outdoor water curtain in the middle of the grassy area in my backyard, flanked by two palm trees. It was magnificent: the frame had a bamboo finish so it matched perfectly with my pergola. On my bar, there was a remote and a note from Richard.

It's a custom job, non-refundable. You could always sell it.

When I saw the remote not only controlled the water, but colored lights, I knew I wasn't selling it. I absolutely loved it. Justine could run through the water and she still had plenty of grass. The sound of the falling water gave a serene feeling to the backyard. I couldn't not reach out to Christian, so I called him back. I still wasn't ready to talk to him about ending things, but I had to thank him for the wonderful gift.

"It's gorgeous. It fits the backyard perfectly. I love it. Thank you so much Christian." I gushed.

"You're welcome. What kept you busy all day?" He asked me.

"I was helping Forrest clean up from the party."

"Yeah? I assumed you were hung over and didn't want to talk."

"No. I wasn't drunk at all."

"No? You were drinking 'thot juice' on Snapchat." He referred to the video posted with Richard.

"That was one of two drinks."

"So you were completely sober when you were dry humping ol dude?"

"I wasn't dry humping anyone."

"Your friend posted you and Richard."

"We we're just dancing-"

He cut me off. "Look, I saw Trevor was there. I understand if you were trying to show out in front of him-"

"I wasn't-" I denied as he continued.

"but don't play me like a simp. I did that shit with Noelle. I'm not gonna do it with you."

"Wow. Ok. I don't want to get into this with you right now, so I'm going to let you go."

"Fine." Christian said, before hanging up.

I tossed my phone down, irate but convinced I was making the right choice ending things. He called me back a few hours later but I ignored his call. I ignored his texts too. I avoided his attempts to reach out to me all day Monday. I didn't even listen to his voicemails. I didn't want anything to influence what I was going to say when I broke things off with him.

On Tuesday, my plans changed. It was the release day for Christian's video Straight Outta Fucks. He changed his profile picture to the photo I sent him of me wearing his Straight Outta Fucks t-shirt. He cropped off the top of my head, so the only thing that was visible on my face were my lips and captioned it: #WomenCrushEveryday #StraightOuttaFucks #Logic #Countdown #Midnight

I was fuming when I called him back.

"Take that photo down!!!" I hissed.

"I will bae. I really need to talk to you."

"So you post a picture that I sent to you to get my attention? Do you know how fucked up that is?"

"I know I made mistakes, but you have too. I know you slept with Richard."

"No I didn't." I exclaimed, my anger raising at his admission that he did post the picture as some kinda payback. Or that this somehow made us even because he thought I slept with Richard.

"You don't need to lie. I know you went home with him around St. Patrick's day."

"You are fucking insane. I didn't sleep with Richard! Even if I did, it doesn't matter because we are not together!!!" I exclaimed.

"It matters now! I don't want you hanging out with him if we're together-"

"We are not going to be together! Take the photo down now!!!" I exploded. I hung up before I said anything else. He called back a few times but I ignored every call. I couldn't believe he was being so vindictive, but when I thought about it, I definitely could believe it. He always had the asshole side of him. I was sorry I thought I saw more to him.

After I saw he took the pictures down, I blocked him. I was still fuming about the whole situation the next day. He was so convinced I slept with Richard off of pictures. It made absolutely no sense...

Until it did. He mentioned St. Patrick's day. I did try to leave with Richard that night, but nothing happened. There was only one person who witnessed me leaving with him who was petty enough to tell Christian. I grabbed my phone.

"Hello?" Sammy answered when I called her.

"Why would you tell Christian I slept with Richard?" I said, barley containing my anger.

"I didn't." She denied quickly before taking a deep breath. "Trevor did."

"What?!?"

"He was really upset about Christian and I thought if he knew it wasn't serious between you two, he would chill out. I didn't think Trevor would say anything but they got into it at South by Southwest and-" she tried to justify.

I was so confused and angry; I didn't want to hear anymore. "JUST SHUT UP AND STAY OUT OF MY LIFE!" I screamed at her before hanging up.

I was in a funk for the rest of the week. I just didn't want to be bothered with anyone. I even took a break from social media; I didn't log in at all. Christian and Sammy tried to call, but I purposely ignored them both so they would leave me alone. I saw Monica at work but I blew her off. Q text me he was interviewing with Dr. Fahri so we talked briefly so I could give him pointers. Besides work and Justine, I barely talked to anyone. I went to the boxing gym everyday, trying to work out my frustrations. I knew Rocky and Bianca were concerned, but I told them both I was just in one of my moods and would snap out of it soon.

I was in my mood of not wanting to be bothered for another week when I received a call from EJ Saturday evening. He normally texted me funny memes or GIFs from time to time but he never called. He barely returned my calls when I called him so I answered his call right away. EJ asked if we could have a movie night. After I agreed, I asked to speak to his mom or dad. It was Ethan and he said he would pick up food, movie, whatever we needed.

I told him I had Finding Nemo, but if he could pick up an order from Joe's Crab Shack I would take care of the rest. I called in the order and showered before I went to the convenience store to pick up Goldfish crackers, Swedish Fish candy, blue Hawaiian punch, and sprite.

I was tiding up when Ethan and EJ arrived. I let EJ put the Joe's bag down on the card table in the living room before I gave him a hug.

"What is that?" I asked Ethan as he set a brown bag on the table. I gave him an one arm hug, before quickly turning to the bag.

"Rocking Crab. It's less expensive and tastes better than Joe's." He told me as I opened the bag to peak inside.

A delicious spicy aroma emanated from the bag, making my mouth water. "Really? You should have told me. You could have just went here."

"EJ loves Joe's crab nachos and this way we can compare. EJ can do a food challenge."

"I know Joe's is better!" EJ declared, reaching for goldfish.

"Wash your hands." Ethan instructed him. He went into the kitchen to do so.

"Food challenge? Look at you." I complimented Ethan with a smile.

"I watched the Cuban snack challenge video before they posted it last week." Ethan revealed.

"I haven't seen it yet." I said, taking the food out of the bags.

"Do you have newspaper?" Ethan asked me.

"No. Who reads the newspaper?" I asked.

"The crab legs have sauce, it's messy. We should eat in the kitchen or dining room." He suggested.

"But the TV is in here." I stated, walking to my  bedroom. I grabbed my older thinner towels and laid them out in the living room for us to eat on the TV trays.

Hands down, Rocking Crab won as far as the crab legs went. The sauce was an awesome combination of sweet, tangy and spice that was definitely worth the mess. I would have felt self conscious about all the finger licking I did, but Ethan did the same thing. EJ enjoyed the movie, pointing out which characters we were eating.

"People eat whale and octopus in Japan." I told him, with a teasing smile.

"That's disgusting. Did you eat any in Japan?"

"No." I shook my head, not trying to think about my trip with Trevor.

"People eat turtles too." Ethan added.

"Ew dad. How do you eat a turtle?" EJ challenged him.

"Turtle soup. Have you seen The Little Mermaid?" I asked him.

"No."

"They have a great scene where a character almost gets cooked. Let's watch that one next."

I purchased The Little Mermaid and we settled in to watch it. EJ loved the scene like I thought he would, laughing and mimicking the man's French accent. He lost interest in Ariel's pursuit of Prince Eric and went upstairs with Justine.

"He's missing some great life lessons here." I sighed dramatically.

"What lesson is that? Don't make deals with sea witches?"

"That's surface level Ethan. I low key loved Ursula. She may be a witch, but she was real. Unfortunate Souls has a lot of truths in it."

"Like?" Ethan asked. I knew he was humoring me, but I explained.

"Ursula may have exploited the situation, but ultimately it was Ariel's choice. Ariel was willing to give up her voice, her family, her life for a man she didn't even know because she thought she loved him. How insecure do you have to be to sell a piece of yourself to be something you're not?" I asked.

Ethan nodded, but didn't respond.

"You know what always bothered me about this movie?" He finally spoke. "Ariel signed her name on the contract."

"Yes... To get her 'prince'." I confirmed, confused. I just said that...

"So she could write. Why didn't see just write to him?" Ethan proposed to me.

"Ohmygod. I never thought about that." I gasped. "Maybe she can just sign her name, but is illiterate?"

"Then how legally binding can the contract be if she can't read it?"

I had no idea if he was making a joke or being serious, but I cracked up laughing. I was sure he was joking when he chuckled with me.

"What's so funny?" EJ called from upstairs.

"The movie! Come watch the rest!" I called back.

"Nope." He responded shortly, causing me to laugh again. Ethan smiled as he watched me.

I cleared my throat. "You know you don't have to stay. Did you wanna go out?" I asked.

"No." He answered plainly.

"No? Are you still dating?"

"Some."

"Anyone special?"

"No. How about you?"

"Nope. I recently decided to take a break from dating and stuff." I admitted.

"Any particular reason why?"

"I'm just not ready for a relationship or the works that goes with it. I'm going to focus on myself for the time being."

"Makes sense."

We watched the rest of the movie in silence. After the movie, he helped me clean up before he left. I went upstairs with EJ and returned to social media by checking out the video he and Jayden posted on YouTube. I laughed at them attempting to read the Spanish packaging and trying the new foods.

Sunday morning EJ and I went to IHOP for breakfast. After I dropped him off with Ethan, I returned Bianca's call. I confirmed she was alone with no Noelle and explained what all transpired with Christian.

"I'm sorry Lily. I was hoping you were right about him being a decent guy, but I can't say I'm surprised." Bianca said, sympathetically.

"What kinda things did you hear from Noelle?"

"He's selfish and manipulative. Noelle said the drug usages was getting out of hand."

I knew about the selfishness and just witnessed the manipulation. The only drug I saw him use was marijuana. "Drug use? Like weed or harder stuff?"

"Both. He has nothing but yes men around him, agreeing with everything he does for the free ride. Noelle got out before it got worse."

I sighed deeply, disgusted that I even entertained the idea with having a family with him.

"I tried to tell you-"

"I know, I had to see it for myself." It made sense though, the mood swings and how selfish and generous he could be at the same time. I felt bad he didn't have anyone looking out for him, but I couldn't be that person. I had to battle my own demons. I couldn't be with someone who didn't even recognize his.

We talked about Bianca and what was going on with her fashion line. I was so proud and thrilled for her when she told me pieces were already being produced. She also told me how her sister Brittany was pregnant again. Out of wedlock again. With Aunt Patty's full support again.

"The hypocrisy is astounding. I'm so sorry B." I empathized.

"I'm ok. I use to second guess coming out, knowing that my mom was going to cut my off. I'm glad I'm living my own life, and she can live her hypocritical one." Bianca stated.

"I'm glad too." I agreed. "So another kid for Brittany. Is it the same guy she was living with?"

"No! It's another guy. They met on Instagram, he has two kids too. There moving into together like the fucking Brady Bunch. It's a hot mess."

"That sounds like a mess. Have you met him?"

"No. Is it bad I really don't want to?"

"Yes, it's bad, but I don't blame you."

We chatted a little while longer before I let her go. I then finally checked my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I had a message on Facebook from Jennifer, Christian's friend.

Lily,
I want to apologize. I feel like I'm somewhat responsible for Christian feeling like he needed to define your relationship. Talking to you both, I noticed you two had different feelings about your relationship and I did encourage him to talk to you. 

That being said, regardless of your previous actions, Christian really does care about you a lot. He is really torn up about the way things ended. I feel like even if you two decide to part ways, you should end on a honest note. I hope you will reach out to him for closure.

Hope to hear from you soon. I wish you the best. 
Jennifer.

I closed the message, wishing I just deleted it without reading. Where did she get off dispensing unsolicited advice about something she has no clue about.  My actions? What the fuck did he tell her? I reminded myself that it didn't matter what he told her. All that matter was that it was over.

It didn't end the way I wanted it to. I wanted to explain my feelings and thank him for everything he did for me. When he accused me of sleeping with Richard and posted that picture, all my plans went out the window. I'm not sure what happen at South by Southwest, but whatever occurred between him and Trevor was just that: between him and Trevor. I don't even know why they felt the need to speak to each other, but I was glad to be out of it. I was glad I was done with all of it.

After I deleted Jennifer's message, I posted my first update in the past 2 weeks. It was a meme of Ursula singing Poor Unfortunate Souls.  I captioned it: Mood.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ex-Factor

"Care for me, care for me
You said you'd care for me
There for me, there for me
Said you'd be there for me
Cry for me, cry for me
You said you'd die for me
Give to me, give to me
Why won't you live for me?" Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill

After watching House Party, I was completely on board with a jammy jam for Rocky's birthday. Once we got Rocky's approval to throw the party, she asked me if I was ok with inviting Trevor. I told her I was perfectly fine with it as long as she invited Brandon too. Once she finalized the guest list, Forrest and I planned the party.

Forrest and I worked seamlessly together. We were on the exact same page with every aspect of the party except for the location and alcohol. I wanted to have it at my house with my makeshift bar courtesy of Sammy and the Honey Bees. Forrest wanted it at his house with no alcohol at all. Rocky didn't have a preference- as long as it wasn't at her house because she was deep cleaning.

"I have more space and bedrooms if people need to sleep over." I argued as we chatted outside the front of my house. Richard was working in the backyard, and because I wasn't supposed to know what the surprise was, I took Justine out in the front. Forrest was on Spring break, so he met up with me before I had to go to work.

"I have plenty of room for the amount of people Rocky invited. And with no alcohol, why would anyone need to sleep over?" Forrest pointed out.

"But why no alcohol?" I countered.

"The birthday girl can't drink." Forrest said plainly.

"I don't think she cares if others drink. Do you really think people are going to do Karaoke without being a little tipsy?" I questioned him.

"Fine. We don't need your bar for beer and wine coolers. I have an ice chest at my place." Forrest compromised.

I sighed. "Brandon will most likely come to the party. It should be on mutual grounds at my house."

"I want the best for Rocky and Ace just like he does. Anywhere should be mutual ground because we have that in common." Forrest stated eloquently.

"Fine. Your house it is." I conceded.

Once we had all the details in place, we divided up the work and created a Facebook event to invite everyone. Mostly everyone responded they were coming. Bilal commented that he had to work, but wished Rocky a happy birthday and told her not to party too hard. I liked his comment, secretly hoping Trevor would stay in Austin with him. He hadn't responded to the invite at all.

On Thursday, I went shopping with the girls for Pajamas. I brought my lime green Fenty fur slides along for the trip. The only requirement was that whatever I got matched.

"Ohhh, that's super cute. I love the silk! We should all wear silk Pjs like TLC!" Mia gushed to me at Macy's as I looked through silk pajama sets.

"No. This is for Rocky and she said no one else better pick out a silk set." I warned her.

"Fine. She needs all the material to cover up. Lets go look at some lingerie!" Mia clapped her hands. When Amber followed, I looked over at Staci, exasperated. Staci held back her grin.

Mia was being sickeningly sweet to me all afternoon; I was instantly suspicious of her intentions. Staci confirmed that she was trying to get in good with me so she would get an invite on the next trip. There were so many reasons why that wasn't happening. I took pictures of a couple options and sent it to Rocky.

"This is sexy. Dominic would love this." Mia cooed, holding up a black lacy bustier.

I looked away as she mentioned one reason being her friend would be impossible: I knew the truth about her faux boyfriend. Either she knew and was playing along or she didn't and Dominic was lying to her. It was too messy for me to deal with.

"This is cute too." Amber told Mia holding up a dark blue nightie. Mia ended up buying both and I bought the silk shorts set Rocky preferred.

At a small boutique, Staci saw some cute blue stripped knee length socks in a display window that she loved. We went inside, and browsed around. Mia held up a long sleeved Lucky Charms sleep shirt to me.

"This is the only thing that matches your house shoes." Mia snickered.

"They're Fenty slides. And I actually love that." I took the sleep shirt and held it up to my body. It barely reached my mid thigh with slits on the side, but I would wear shorts underneath it just in case.

"Lily, we can be the breakfast club." Staci smiled, finding a Tony the Tiger tank dress with his picture and the tag line "They're Greeeeeaaaat!"on them.

"I want in!" Amber searched until she found a yellow Coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs tank and shorts.

Mia reluctantly picked a Fruit Loop Pajama bottoms and matching tank to be included. They made plans to meet at Staci's place to pregame before the party on Saturday and I told them I'd see them at the party.



Friday I had my doctor's appointment with Dr. Pereira. I told her my plans to keep doing the best thing for my clients at my job and let Adil and the rest of them play politics. I also touched on my trip to Miami with Christian and his declaration of wanting to be in a relationship. I detailed how I still was going to date him and stop hooking up with Uriel until I decided if I wanted to be in a relationship with him.

I also talked about Trevor possibly being in town for Rocky's birthday. He still hadn't responded to the Facebook invite. It would make the most sense if he didn't come, especially the way he avoided me at the baby shower. She mostly stayed quiet and took notes as I talked, but she did ask how I would feel if he came. I shrugged and repeated what Ethan said about taking what he could from the situation and revealed I would try that approach.

"That's interesting. What do you think you can take from your relationship with Trevor?" She questioned me.

"To work on myself and my insecurities so I can have healthy relationships."

"What did you take from your relationship with Jake?" Dr. Pereira continued.

"That I shouldn't change who I am or force a relationship because I'm afraid to be alone."

"And Ethan?"

"We weren't really in a relationship..." I trailed off.

She looked up from her notes. "You told me you thought you loved him before."

"Yeah, thought. I think that was tied into him being my first and getting pregnant and losing our baby. I don't know if those feelings were ever really real." I over explained, fidgeting as Dr. Pereira watched me. 

"What?" I said, under her scrutiny.

"I noticed how uncomfortable it makes you talking about Ethan. Even more so than Trevor and you're worried about seeing him. Why do you think that is?"

"I mean, I know why there's tension with Trevor and I'm ready for it."

"You don't know why there's tension with Ethan? You don't know how to prepare for him?" Dr. Pereira asked, but they were more like statements.

"Nothing to prepare for. Sometime it's awkward because we never talked about everything that happened between us, but it's better this way. " I clarified.

"And what way is that?"

"Not dredging up the past. We decided a long time ago that we were better off as friends and we're ok. No hard feelings."

"No lingering feelings at all, correct?"

"Right. No lingering feelings at all." I confirmed quickly.

"For him as well?"

"I don't know. You would have to ask him." I folded my arms.

"Fair enough. Has he done or said anything that made you feel like there might be feelings there?" She asked.

I thought about how he looked at me on Sunday...

"I don't know." I said after a pause.

"Lily-"

"I truly don't know." I stopped her. "He's really hard to read sometimes and maybe I read him wrong. If he wants me to know, he will tell me what's on his mind. If he doesn't say anything, I don't try to guess. So no, he hasn't said or done anything to make me feel like there are feelings there." I finished before we moved on.

The more I thought about it, the more Sunday kept replaying in my mind. Not only the way Ethan looked at me, but how he confessed that he did sometimes wish he could forget a relationship. If it wasn't Serena or Megan, it had to be me. What couldn't he forget? What did he want to forget? Did he just take what he could from me and move on because he couldn't be with me? He told me years ago that he didn't want to be with me; did that ever change for him?

At the end of the day, it didn't matter. The past was the past and I was moving forward. I had enough to deal with with my own feelings. I couldn't take on Ethan's hypothetically ones. I had to focus on what I could control and that was myself.



Saturday morning, I got up, turned on my music and started prepping food for the party. I video chatted with Christian as I worked. He was in Bora Bora, filming the video for Nomadic. He Factimed me while he was getting his make up done.

"I knew your abs were fake." I teased him, as his make-up artist pressed powder on his chest and abs.

"You know better." He responded with a pointed look.

"Do I? They can do all types of sorcery with make-up nowadays."

"The next time I see you, the first thing we're doing is taking a shower. You know what I want when I'm right?" He asked, brazenly.

"A hi-five?" I said, playfully, not wanting to talk about that in front of someone else.

"I can think of a better use for your hand." He continued, suggestively.

"Anyway..." I replied, changing the subject. "The bungalow over the water is so beautiful. Are you staying there?" I noticed the pictures Keosha posted on Instagram was exactly like the bungalow that Christian was at right now.

"No. After the shot is over, I'm on a flight to NY to debut the video."

"Do you ever get to visit the places you travel to?" I wondered about his schedule.

"Not recently because of the album. After it's released, I can make my own schedule, spend more time in each city. Get inspiration for more songs. In fact, start planning a trip for early next year." Christian encouraged me with a smile.

"That sounds like work, not a trip. I don't want to distract you." I smiled back.

"You would inspire me, not distract me. You said you wanted to experience a Carnival right? Pick a city and we're there."

"I'll research it and get back to you." I said, lightheartedly, knowing I needed to decide what I wanted before I planned a trip with him for next year.

After I got off the phone, I continued to cook. Forrest keep texting me last minute, mundane things. When he text me about the placement of bean bags he rented, I gave him a call. He sounded stressed out so I asked him if he wanted me to finish my cooking at his house so we could get everything ready, together. He said it was up to me, but I figured I would get more done quicker if I didn't have to answer his texts. I went ahead and loaded everything in my car and headed to his place.

I had no idea why he was stressing. The place look amazing. The couch was covered with neon pillows, chairs with multi-colored covers, bean bags were placed strategically on the floor, balloons were scattered throughout the room, and a graffiti scene setter with 90's slang covered the wall. I made him drink a beer, put on my getting ready for a night out play list, and danced around as we finished cooking. An hour before guest were set to arrive, Forrest went to get Rocky while I went to the guest room to get ready. 

My sleep shirt, black athletic shorts, and Fenty slides completed my outfit. I put my wavy hair in french braids and applied minimum make-up. I sent a selfie to Christian posing in the mirror, before I went to the living room and turned on the 80's and 90s old school music that Rocky loved. The doorbell rang 5 minutes before party time and I went to answer it. I grinned when I saw Blake and Jordan, looking adorable in matching Cowboys pajamas.

"No Jordan! He converted you to the dark side." I said, letting them in.

"The best side." Jordan hugged me.

"America's team." Blake boasted as they made their way into the house.

"No wonder people think so little of America." I joked.

Peyton and Chris arrived next in flannel PJ sets, then Gigi, Amber, and Staci arrived right on time. I smiled when I saw Gigi was part of the breakfast club with a Snap Crackle Pop Pajama set.

When Richard came, I gave him a hug. "Did you really show up in your underwear?" I teased. He was wearing a muscle tank and boxer shorts.

"This is overdressed for bed." He grinned lecherously.

"Gross. Too much info." I laughed.

"No. Too much info would be if I told you what I did late at night, thinking about you-"

I covered his mouth to stop him. "Eww. Stop. I'm not drunk enough for your harassment."

We went to the kitchen to grab a drink. We both got Lime A Ritas, or thot juice as Richard called them, and posted a video on Snapchat. When I noticed it was 30 minutes past the start time and still no Rocky, I called Forrest.

"We're on the way. Go ahead and get started." Forrest explained. 

Mia arrived with Dominic next. After a quick hi and bye to him, me, Amber, Staci, Gigi and Mia took pictures together in our cereal gear. I had Richard take pictures with my phone. He grinned at us. "Can I be the milk?"

"Shut up and take the picture Richard!" I yelled at him over the music.

Forrest and Rocky finally showed up, and we all cheered and wished happy birthday to the birthday girl. She looked incredible in the soft lavender silk pajama shorts set. She had a huge smile on her face and looked radiant as she greeted everyone before taking her seat in the recliner reserved for her. Forrest was relaxed and looked happy and stress free as he got himself and Rocky something to eat. They were eating and chatting with everyone when Brandon, Jake, Dino, Ethan, and Daniel arrived together.

"Party's here!" I exclaimed, way too excited and loud as I gave Brandon another long hug.

"I think it's not awkward anymore." Brandon smiled, patting my back before I pulled away.

"Great." I cheered, my eyes finding Ethan's, curious to how he would respond to me. He gave me a friendly nod and I smiled at him, giving him a glance over. He looked great in gray sweatpants and a t-shirt. I loved the way gray sweat pants fit on guys, especially in the front...

"You gonna let us in or what?" Jake quipped.

I looked away from Ethan to Jake. "I don't know. Are you house broken Tarzan?" I poked fun at his cheetah print pajama set that match perfectly with Dino's nightie and robe. Gotta admit, he looked good too.

"You look beautiful Dino." I gave her a quick hug before leading them into the living room. Brandon, Jake and Dino made their way over to Rocky.

"Thanks Lily. No hug or compliments for me?" Daniel pulled my attention from Brandon and Forrest greeting each other.

"I'm sure there's someone else you want compliments from. She's in the blue Frosted Flakes dress." I nodded to Staci in the living room swaying to the music.

"Breakfast of champions." Daniel smiled.

"That's Wheaties." Ethan corrected him.

"Close enough. I'll catch up with you later. Get lucky." Daniel chuckled, clapping Ethan on the back as he blatantly stared at the magically delicious tag line scrawled on my Lucky Charms shirt. He headed towards Staci, leaving me alone with Ethan as my face flushed.

I cleared my throat. "So you ready to bust out those dance moves?" I asked, referring to the choreograph dances in the movie. While we were watching them together, I joked with him to get ready to do them with me at the party.

"Yes. You get started and I'll join in." He responded, mockingly.

A giggle escaped my lips, until I realized how flirty it sounded and covered my mouth. He smirked at me and I couldn't help staring at his lips-

"Do you want something to eat or drink?" I snapped out of it, backing away, right into Gigi. I jumped, and Ethan grabbed my shoulders to steady me. I stepped away from his warm hands and turned to apologize to Gigi.

"You're all good. Relax." She grinned at me. "You didn't have any more gummy bears did you?" She teased.

Amber, who was standing next to Gigi, cracked up.

"Not funny." I gasped.

"Gummy bears?" Ethan asked, interested.

"Nothing. Let's get you a drink."

I left Ethan in the kitchen with Will and step into the bathroom. I came back out and saw Sammy had arrived with Sophie. They both wore red and black camisole shorts set, respectively.

"Hey. You made it." I greeted Sammy, politely.

"Hey, you made it. I thought you might be globe trotting with Christian." Sammy gave me a wryly smile.

"Not this weekend." I replied.

"Do you know where Christian is taking you next?" Mia asked while pulling Dominic to the middle of the living room to dance.

That was the main reason Mia and I would never be friends. She couldn't care less about being friends with me until I started dating Christian. I didn't need fake people around me.

"Nowhere." I said, leaving to join Richard across the room against the wall, watching Mia and Dominic grind to Close by Next.

"You wanna go show them up?" I nudged him, playfully.

"Nope. I didn't bring my skates for ex games." Richard said, taking a sip of his 2nd drink.

I snorted.

"Get it? Skates? X-games?" He grinned.

"I got it. It was just lame." I laughed. I hung out with Richard for a few more song before I noticed people finishing eating and grouping off together. Since everyone who stated they were attending was here, I grabbed the mic from my karaoke stand and handed it to Forrest.

"Wish her a happy birthday and stuff so we can start karaoke." I told him.

"Guys, thank you so much for coming out to celebrate the beautiful Racqelle's birthday." Forrest announced on the mic. When everyone stopped cheering, he began again. "I can stand up here and give a speech about how wonderful you are Rocky, but we'd be up here all night and I know Lily is ready to start Karaoke."

"Damn right!" I declared making him laugh.
 
"Before she starts butchering songs, here's one of your favorites that makes me think of you. Happy birthday Rocky." He started the music again on the speaker and "So Into You" by Tamia started playing. Amidst the ooos and awwws by the ladies in the crowd, Forrest leaned over Rocky and she beamed as she grabbed his face for a kiss on the lips.

I noticed Brandon get up and head for the kitchen. I was on my way to follow, but Ethan waved me off and followed him. I instead picked out my song for Karaoke. When the song ended, I grabbed the mic and turned it back on.

"First of all Forrest, I don't butcher, I slay! Second of all, happy birthday Rocky! I love you. Now get up here! I need you to be the salt to my pepper! This song is dedicated to you and Ace." It took some convincing and chanting before she finally came up. When "Push It" came on, Rocky grinned and grabbed the mic from me. "I'm Peppa."

Rocky and I danced, sang and killed the song. On my verse, I grabbed Brandon and made him dance with us. He was a great sport, and when the song was over we both gave him a hug as everyone cheered. Once Rocky and I got it started, others lined up to take on their favorite old school song. It was a great time, everyone was singing, dancing or cheering on each other. They was some playful ribbing, but it was all in good fun. I even went again when Amber demanded the breakfast club girls sing to "Jumpin Jumpin" by Destiny's Child.

"Y'all know there were other genres beside R&B, pop and hip hop right?" Blake called out after our performance.

"Not at my party!" Rocky laughed at him.

"No, it's ok. I got him." I smiled and changed the song. 

When Cotton Eye Joe came on, I laughed when everyone booed and jeered. Blake grabbed the mic from me. I knew it was going to be a country song and I was right. He sang Lonestar "Amazed" to Jordan which was entire too sweet for me. I went into the kitchen to grab some food.

While I was making my plate and chatting with Peyton, Jake joined us. When Peyton left to take a plate to Chris, Jake stood next to me.

"I'm guessing by your trip to Miami, you took my advice about Richard?" He asked me.

"No, I didn't. Richard and I are great. Why do you ask?" I challenged, taking a bite of my slider.

He raised an eyebrow at me. "So you and Richard and you and Christian?"

"That's right. Boyfriend number one and boyfriend number two." I said, cheekily.

He huffed a laugh. "Sure. I don't believe you, but ok. Be careful and be safe."

"Always." I told him. "And... Whatever you think you may have picked up on Richard, or anyone else, can you keep it to yourself?"

"I have." He nodded. 

When he went to leave, I stopped him. "Thank you. I'm good, but thanks for looking out for me."

"Always." He smiled before leaving.

While I was finishing my food, I heard a big commotion in the living room. I walked out with my plate and barely held on to it when I saw Trevor and J-Mike. Trevor and J-Mike both looked like Hugh Hefner wanna-bes with robs, slippers and their hair slicked back. Trevor even came complete with a blonde playmate in a pink baby doll, matching boyshorts and heels. 

I retreated to the kitchen and threw my plate away. Forrest joined me and handed me a beer.

"You ok?" He asked me.

"No." I grabbed it and took a long swig. "I told you we needed hard liquor." I deflected with a joke.

"I'm serious. I have no problem kicking him out." Forrest said, dead serious.

"No. It's not worth it. Let's go celebrate Rocky's birth." I smiled weakly.

Almost every one of my friends sent me sympathetic glances when I returned to the living room. I keep my head up and sat on a bean bag with Richard after he patted the seat for me. I tried not to worry about them and turned my attention to the death glare Blake was giving J-Mike as he laughed at something neither Blake nor Jordan found funny.

Eventually, I lost the battle and watched Trevor as he sat with his arm around her, chatting with everyone. He looked good: tanned and healthy, but his smiles didn't lite up his face like they used to...

I tore my eyes from him to her. She had golden blonde hair that was perfectly straight and fell to her lower back. Her cloudy blue eyes were framed with dark thick lashes. She was absolutely beautiful and they made a stunning couple. I can't lie, it crushed me.

"You need me to get my skates on?" Richard asked me, putting his arm around my shoulder.

"Huh?" I grunted, watching as Trevor took off his robe to give to her.

"X-games. Your ex came to play them. Wanna beat him at his own game?" Richard tempted me, as I tore my eyes from Trevor.

"No. Games are for children. I'm too grown for that." I said, almost believing myself.

"I'm not. Be right back." Richard hopped up from the bean bag.

"No- Richard, stop." I tried to grab his arm but he shook me off and he headed to the front of the room. I covered my face when he grabbed the mic.

"Every note is for you Lily." Richard said. I looked up when "Ignition" by R. Kelly started to play. It brought the mood back up in the party as everyone sang and danced along with him. He eventually grabbed me and made me sing while he danced on me. I smiled at his corny old school dance moves and was laughing by the time the song was over.

"Thank you." I whispered in his ear with a smile as we returned to the bean bag.

"Anytime." He smiled back, kissing me on the cheek. "This is going to drive him crazy. Is it friendly kiss? Is it more? He won't know what to think." He said softly in my ear. I shook my head and pulled away.

J-Mike got up and snatched the Mic, announcing "I got one!".

He walked over to the karaoke machine and picked his song. Sublime's "Wrong Way" came on and he sang the first few bars to me.

"Annie's twelve years old, in two more, she'll be a whore
Nobody ever told her it's the wrong way"

He hammed it up, loving the attention and singing with everyone. When he tried to sing to Jordan, kneeling in front of her, Blake kicked the mic out of his hand. It took everything in me not to crack up laughing  as J-Mike picked up the mic and Forrest turned the karaoke machine off.

Richard whispered "mic drop" and I couldn't hold back my laughter. I had to leave the room and went outside to calm down. Richard followed me, but made it worse by letting me know he got it all on camera.

"I knew some shit was about to pop off when he started singing. I thought you were going to stomp him." Richard laughed, playing on his phone.

"Last year, I might have tried." I admitted, honestly, silently thanking Dr. Pereira.

Amber came out to check on us and we both laughed at the video as Richard put it in slow motion. I was wiping tears from my eyes when I heard a familiar song playing. A sick feeling came over me as I recognized the opening strains and the voice singing it.

"What's wrong?" Amber asked me, catching my change of mood.

"Nothing." I said, walking back into the house.

Sure enough, Trevor was singing "Truly Madly Deeply". The cheesy, romantic love song he knew I loved. The one he played on my brother's wedding video after public confessing his love for me, convincing me without a doubt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. The song I still couldn't hear without thinking of him. He was singing it with his blonde, watching my every move as I walked back in the room.
I leaned against the wall, the pain and anguish making me unsteady on my feet.

I wanted to turn the pain into rage: it was easier to deal with. I wanted to grab the mic out of his hand and beat him with it. Instead, I just stood there and watched. I watched every second of his painful performance, reminding myself this was the man I cut off: Not the person who adopted Justine for me or built me a food house or loved me when I didn't love myself enough. I needed to remember this person; a man who could take something so sweet and meant so much to me and twist it until something ugly. 

When the song was over, I closed my eyes, repeating my self affirmations and reminding myself of the person I was and who I wanted to be. Once I had my feelings under control, I walked over to Rocky to hug her goodbye.

"I'm going to head out. Enjoy your birthday." I told her as we embraced.

"Are you ok?" She asked me, searching my face for any cracks in my armour. I just smiled.

"I'm ok. I'll see you tomorrow. Love you."

"Love you too Lily."

I waved and said bye to everyone else.

"You leaving already?" Trevor asked me, a sardonic smile on his face.

"Yes. I don't think anyone is going to top your performance. Great job. Your mom would be so proud." I answered, calmly, turning around so I didn't have to see his reaction. It fucking hurt but I welcomed the pain. That was what I was taking from our relationship: we brought out the worst in each other now. I needed to get out of there before the worst part of myself made an appearance. I was at my car when someone grabbed my hand.

I jerked away, and they just gripped me tighter. I glared at whoever touched me in the dark until I recognized Ethan. "I'm fine, really. I just need to go." I said as calmly as I could muster.

"Ok. Text me when you make it home." He squeezed my hand.

I nodded and waited for him to let go of me before I got in my car and took off.  I didn't even realize where I was going until I was there. I just knew I didn't want to go home and be alone with my thoughts quite yet. I sat outside Uriel's apartment for a few moments before I text him.
 
Me: Do you still want to get together?

I waited, ignoring phone calls and text from my friends for a couple minutes before Uriel finally text me back.

Uriel: When?

Me: Right now. I'm outside your apartment.

Uriel: Give me 5 minutes.

I text Ethan that I made it home before I went up to Uriel's apartment.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rabbit-Hearted Girl

"The looking glass, so shiny and new
How quickly the glamour fades
I start spinning, slipping out of time
Was that the wrong pill to take? (Raise it up)
You made a deal, and now it seems you have to offer up
But will it ever be enough? (Raise it up, raise it up)
It's not enough (Raise it up, raise it up)
Here I am, a rabbit-hearted girl
Frozen in the headlights
It seems I've made the final sacrifice
We raise it up, this offering
We raise it up" Rabbit-Hearted Girl by Florence + The Machine

I called Forrest to let him know I was on the way to pick up Justine as soon as we arrived in Dallas. He told me he would keep her for another night if I went and checked on Rocky. Earlier that day, he was throwing around ideas for Rocky's birthday and she went off on him. Apparently, she went to a birthing class and had a list of things she had to do before Ace arrived. He offered to help, but that made it even worse. He wanted me to check in to make sure she didn't need help and that she wasn't over doing it. I quickly agreed and headed straight to her house.

"What are you doing here?" She asked me when she opened the door for me.

"Souvenirs!" I said, cheerfully, trying not to stare at her messy braids, oversized sweatshirt and jersey shorts. She looked absolutely worn out and I knew she was in her overzealous mood and was doing too much. "I wanna tell you all about Miami! Let's sit down."

I let myself into the house, eying the baskets of baby clothes scattered in her living room. "Are you busy?"

"Yeah. I am.-" she started.

"Perfect time for a break." I cut her off, giving her no choice as I flopped on the couch. I took my time, telling her every detail of Miami, showing her pictures and gifting her a guyabera blouse and a South Beach muscle man onesie for Ace.

"Put it on the pile on the floor. I'm washing all his clothes." Rocky instructed me.

"Um, why?"

"Because they need to be cleaned in baby friendly detergent before he can wear them. Ace will have little immunity. Everything needs to be deep cleaned."

"Ok. You still have plenty of time. Why don't we finish this load and do one basket of clothes a day from now on?" I suggested.

"There is no time! I need more birthing and parenting classes. I still need to get his bedside bassinet together before I can even start to deep clean my room. I don't have the routes to the hospital down. I haven't even packed a hospital bag! I should've started this months ago. What if I go into labor early?" She fussed.

"We'll get everything done on time.
I'm here to help-"

"Yeah, you're here now. What happens when you're out of town? Or at work?" She questioned me. "I'm prepared to do this alone." She struggled standing up.

I stood up too to help her up. "You're not doing this alone. Forrest won't even go out of town-"

"I'm dating him- that has nothing to do with Ace. This is not his baby! Ace is my responsibility." She declared before stomping back to her room. I followed her, thinking I discovered the real root of her frustration. I found her in her closet, pulling out a duffel bag.

"When was the last time you talked to Brandon?" I asked her.

"He texts once a day to check on me." She scowled, folding clothes into the bag.

I was confused to why that upset her. "Have you asked for his help?"

"I don't need his help. I got it." Rocky said, stubbornly.

I racked my brain, trying my hardest to keep my patience and figure out how I could get Brandon more involved without it seeming like she needed help. I could tell at the baby shower Brandon would be willing to do more, but Rocky was still so hostile towards him. I saw why he backed off but I understood why Rocky would be frustrated attending classes and doing everything alone.

"It's his baby too. Can I at least call him and tell him about the classes? He needs to know how to baby proof and CPR and what else Ace needs. It'll be good for him to know the routes to the hospital and where your and Ace's things are, just in case." I reasoned with her.

She frowned up, but after a few moments, she nodded. I pulled out my phone and put it on speaker so she could hear the conversation. He picked up on the 2nd ring.

"Hello?" Brandon answered.

"Hey Brandon. It's Lily." I started.

"Is everything ok? How's Rocky?" He immediately asked. I gave Rocky a little look before I replied.

"She's good. I'm actually at her house with her right now. She's going over her birthing plan and putting together a few things for Ace. I was wondering if you had time to go over them with us."

"Yes. I can be there in 20 minutes." Brandon responded eagerly.

I looked over at Rocky, questioningly. She nodded with no hesitation. "That'll be great." I confirmed.

"Ok. I'll be right there." He swore.

He was over in less than 15 minutes. I took the last pile of clothes to the laundry room as Brandon and Rocky talked. I gave them their privacy, but I wanted to be close just in case. After I got a load started, I rejoined them in the living room.

Rocky was still going over what all needed to be done. She was much more at ease, but I noticed how she tensed every time Brandon mentioned things he needed to do to his apartment as well. Thankful, he stopped bringing it up when Rocky stated she would feel more comfortable if Brandon saw Ace at her house, at least for the first few months. I was happy to hear them plan to go to a few classes together. He even stayed and put the bassinet together.

Once the bassinet was secured in her room, I sent Rocky to bed too.

"When Ace's gets here, you'll be on his schedule so relax while you can. I can take care of the rest of his clothes." I argued when she protested.

"Ok. Wake me up when the last load is done drying."

"Sure." I lied.

When she went to bed, I expected Brandon to leave. He didn't. He stuck around to help me with the clothes. The silence was deafening, so I turned on some music as we folded.

We folded for about 30 minutes, before the awkwardness got too much for me. I turned off the music, took a deep breath and turned to him.

"Look, I'm probably overstepping my bounds here, but I want to talk with you." I started.

He looked at me warily. "Look, I already know I fucked up. I fucked up over and over again. I'm trying to make it right with Rocky. I'm taking her lead and trying to be here when she asks for my help. I don't know what else to do." He confessed to me.

"You know Rocky; when does she ever ask for help?"

"Never."

"Exactly. She needs you; she wants you to be here for Ace. Don't follow her lead with that: Just be a good father to him."

When he just nodded, I continued.

"I'm not going to say I know what you're going through, because I don't. I can't imagine how you feel after everything that's happened between you and Rocky. I do know what pain feels like and how it can make you act out, but those actions become habits, then it becomes who you are. Don't let that pain turn you into something you're not."

He nodded again, deep in thought. Instead of turning to the clothes, I got up and sat next to him.

"I've wanted to do this every since I found out about Bil-" I stopped when he flinched. "Everything." He froze as I put my arms around him in a hug. "One of the first thing I learnt in therapy was becoming self aware and realizing my shortcomings so I could work on changing them. You've already done that: I promise you it will get better. Forgive yourself and give everything else time to heal."

He relaxed a little and hugged me back, awkwardly. "This is really weird." he said.

"I know, but I don't want it to be weird between us. Let's hug the weirdness away." I told him, holding him tighter. "Still weird?"

"A little." He admitted.

"Alright. That just means I'm gonna hug you every time I see you." I warned him, letting him go.

"Seeing you means seeing Rocky so I'm cool with that." He confided in me, with a small smile.

"Cool." I said returning back to my seat on the floor.

By the time Rocky woke up, we had the clothes all washed and folded. Rocky instructed us where to put the clothes. Once we had them put up, Brandon offered to take Rocky on a test route to the hospital. Rocky agreed, and I gave her a hug goodbye before she joined Brandon in his car.

"When you pick up Justine, tell Forrest I said thank you. I know he sent you over here." Rocky commented.

"What?!? No way. I just needed to tell you about Miami." I replied, with a grin.

"You could have told me over the phone. Bye." She waved me off.

Even though Forrest offered to keep Justine, I was anxious to see her so I headed over to his house to pick her up. I told him Rocky was good, just overwhelmed with preparing for Ace. I left out how I brokered a little peace with Brandon; I figured that was for Rocky to tell him. I gave him his Cuban coffee and cigars before I headed home. I had a few missed calls, but I was so worn out, the only person I called back was my dad before I crashed in bed.



I woke up Monday morning to a shit ton of notifications on Instagram and Facebook. Some of them were from pictures Staci, Amber and I posted on the plane, but majority of them were from a video Shawnee posted and tagged Christian and me in. It was a panoramic shot at the pool party of everyone rapping and dancing to Christian's song, Straight Outta Fucks. It stopped on Christian and I, stretched out on a lounger: I was rapping to him, complete with hand gestures, before he pulled me in for a kiss.

I wore sunglasses and a long red wig but because she tagged me in it, anyone who knew me would recognize me. I immediately untagged myself knowing the damaged was already done based off all my new friend requests and dms. I read through a few of the comments criticizing everything from my body, my outfit and how my parents raised a thot/groupie/gold digger whore before I sent Shawnee a short message, telling her not to tag me in any of her post again.

I gave my brother a call as I took Justine outside. After he guilted me for dad hearing from me before him, I gave him the edited version of my trip to Miami. He mentioned how strange it was for a guy I did not consider my boyfriend to fly me out for a weekend. I ensured him again I was not in a committed relationship with Christian and promised he would be the first to know when or if I was. He advised me to stop making out with guys I wasn't in a committed relationship with, which I responded by hanging up.

Bianca surprisingly was up when I gave her a call back, even though it was before 9am her time. After she instructed me to caption all my pictures with the designer of my clothes or Noelle's Swim Shop link (and waited for me to do it), she wanted to know all about Miami. I laid in bed with Justine and told her everything.

"Wait! How have you never heard of edibles before?" She made fun of me.

"Um, I'm not a stoner. I know people cook with THC, but pre-packaged weed snacks? You can't find that in Texas."

"It's everywhere in Cali. That tells you you've been gone too long."

"No, that tells me I've been gone long enough." I countered.

"So I guess when you and Christian settle down and get married, it won't be in California?" She questioned.

"Hahaha. You got jokes."

"I'm dead serious. He wants to be in a relationship right? That's the next step. Are you two going to live in different states the whole time?"

"Stop. I haven't even thought of the logistics of it because I don't even know if I want to be in a relationship with him."

"That's something you should be considering. What does a relationship even mean for him: Y'all face time each while he tours the world and he flies you out for dates?"

"According to social media, I'm just a groupie, thot, gold digging whore so I guess I should take whatever I can get." I changed  the subject, venting about Shawnee posting the video and tagging me in it.

"Wait a second. Babe, do you know who Shawnee is?" Bianca asked who I assumed was Noelle. There was a distance conversation that I couldn't make out and Bianca gasped.

"I thought she sounded familiar. She posted a picture of Christian and Lily and tagged them in it." Bianca continued her other conversation. "I think so too. It's obvious she hasn't posted pictures. Are you friends with her on Instagram?"

After a moment of silence, Bianca asked again. "Lily, are you friends with her on Instagram?"

"Oh, so you're talking to me now?"

"Yeah. Duh."

"You weren't just a second ago. Yeah, we are."

"Yes she knew.... Super shady like you said." Bianca continued on her conversation.

"What's shady?" I asked, intrigued.

"Shawnee. Noelle thinks something happened between Shawnee and Christian. She's not sure what or when, but Shawnee was always bitchy towards her."

I thought about it, remembering how I felt the same way when I first met her. They both had a lot of tension for two people with no connection besides mutual friends/family. 

"Noelle said she wouldn't be surprised if she posted that picture to cause problems." Bianca concluded.

"There's no problems. I just untagged myself and asked her not to do it again." I shrugged.

"Ok cuz. Anyway, if you decide to be in a relationship with Christian and he flies you out again, don't pop any pills or snort any substances. Drug free is the way to be!"

"Shut up B!" I laughed.

I tried to call Christian back but he didn't answer. I dragged myself to work, seriously contemplating using my sick time. I probably would have if Shawnee hadn't tagged me in a picture to her 3 million plus followers in Miami. Thankful, I just had to deal with Dr. Clayton as Dr. Fahri didn't make an appearance. Besides a few change requests from athletic trainers and making a couple rounds ever so often, I hid out in the team lead office. When I got off work, I went grocery shopping before going home. I was putting away groceries when Christian called me. I answered and put him on speaker phone.

"Hey. Did you tell Shawnee not to post pictures of us together?" He asked me.

"No. I told her not to tag me in her post." I corrected him.

"What's the difference? The only post you would be in are the ones with me."

"Exactly. I don't want my social media tagged with yours or Shawnees's." I began to explain.

"What? I can barely hear you. Take me off speaker."

"Give me 5 minutes and I'll call you back."

After I put the food away and made myself a bowl of cereal, I called him back.

"I don't want my profiles tied to yours or Shawnee's. I have a behavioral clause at my job because my clinic is affiliate with the Mavericks. It's one of the reasons I keep my profiles private. I can't be tagged at wild parties with drugs and naked people in hot tubs. Just the apperance of impropriety is enough to violate the behavioral clause." I explained.

"Are you sure that's it?" Christian asked.

"What did you mean?"

"You never post pictures of us, you were weird about inviting all your friends to Miami. Are you trying to keep us on the low?" 

I took a deep breath. "Kinda. You might be used to it, but I don't want to read random people's comments about me. It makes sense not to post pictures together and feed into it."

"Bae, you can't listen to the noise. The comments, the gossip, the bullshit: Those aren't things you ever get used to, but you'll have to learn to ignore it being with me."

"Noted, but everyone important to me knows we're dating and that's good enough for me while we figure things out."

"What do we need to figure out?"

"If we want to be in a committed relationship." I replied.

"You need to figure that out. I know I want a relationship with you."

"And what does a relationship with you even looks like? Do you wanna do long distance indefinitely? What do you envision for our relationship now and in the future?"

"I'm going to be straight with you: I haven't thought about my future like that. I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. I know whatever happens, I want you by my side."

"Ok." I said, simply.

"Ok, you're ready to commit?" He asked, hopefully.

"Ok, thank you for your honesty, but I still need time."

"Take all the time you need. I'm not going anywhere." He promised me.


On Tuesday, I knew that Rocky was going to a parenting class with Brandon, so I reached out to Forrest to see what he was up to after I got off work. He and Blake met up with Jordan at a happy hour in Dallas that he invited me to. I joined them after work, pulling a white hoodie on top of my scrubs.

I greeted everyone, giving a hug to Q, Robbie and Kayla who I hadn't seen in forever. I sat in a barstool next to Forrest.

"How are you and Rocky doing?" I asked, reading over the menu.

"We're ok. I wish she would accept my help, but at least she's reaching out to Brandon." Forrest stated.

"Yeah?" I said, both proud and surprised by his outlook.

"Yeah. It takes too much energy to be mad at someone and it's not healthy for her or Ace. I'm glad they found peace." Forrest said.

"Me too."

The waiter came over and I order a burger and a beer. While we waited for food, I asked what Forrest was planning for Rocky's birthday. He told me since Rocky mentioned not even wanting to get dressed on the weekend, much less go out, he was thinking a Pajama Jammy Jam.

"I have no idea what that is. Is that a slumber party?" I asked, confused.

"You've never seen House Party?" Q asked me with a grin.

"Never."

"It's not going to be that wild. More like a kickback where everyone wears their pajamas. Good food, good music, and good friends." Forrest explained.

"Sounds like good times. I think she'll go for that." I nodded my approval.

My food arrived and I dug in. While I was eating, Q asked me, "Is your clinic still hiring?"

"Yes!!!" I exclaimed.  I knew with Q's experience he would be a great candidate. I told him the shifts and benefits and what I negotiated for when I started, but advised him he should definitely ask for more. I sold him on the no weekends and possible evening shift. I sent him a text with Adil's infomation to send his resume.



Rocky called Forrest as we finished up eating. Forrest made plans to meet up with her and bring her fried oreos. Blake, Jordan, Q, Robbie, and Kayla all headed out while I waited with Forrest for Rocky's treat. I watched highlights of the Maverick's lost to the Warriors on Friday on the big screen across from us. Uriel crossed my mind as his business card sat in my purse. When Forrest left me to go to the restroom, I pulled out my phone and Uriel's business card.

Me: Sorry about that lost against the Warriors. They are the top seed in the West. Still feel good about Maverick's playoff chances?

I grinned when I got a response right away.

Uriel: Still in great shape for the 6th seed Lily. Lakers still in last place?

Me: If we are, that guarantees the first draft pick for us to rebuild! How did you know it was me?

Uriel: You are the only non-Maverick fan I associate with.

Me: I'm not a non-Maverick fan... Just realistic.

Uriel: So you say. You're using my number. Does that mean you want to get together?

A tingle of excitement ran over my body as I smiled and text out a response.

"Is that Christian?" Forrest asked me, rejoining me.

"Umm, no." I answered.

Forrest looked confused for a moment. "Who was it then?"

"I don't think you've officially met him. His name is Uriel. He's the guy from my birthday dinner."

Recognition settle on his face. "I thought that was him at the St. Patrick's day parade. What's up?"

"Nothing. He works for the Mavericks so we've hung out a few times." I explained, plainly.

Forrest narrowed his eyes at me, but left it alone. "Food's here. You ready?" Forrest asked me.

I nodded, putting my phone away, guiltily. I knew Christian and I weren't in a committed relationship, but if the places were reversed, I would be devastated if a guy was sleeping around after I told him I had feeling for him and he said he needed time. I knew that's why I was feeling guilty about texting Uriel. When I got home, I text Uriel back.

Me: I can't. Good luck with the playoff push.


Wednesday morning, I called Rocky to ask how her class went with Brandon. She told me it went well, and Brandon invited her to a Jesus Resurrection Celebration for Easter. Rocky still had questions about different birthing options and Brandon's mom Deborah and EJ's mom Megan would be in attendance. Rocky said she would go if I didn't mind going with her. I didn't even  realize Easter was this Sunday; I instantly thought of last year and running through a field blindfolded to Trevor. I quickly agreed, gratefully for the distraction.

At work, I reached out to Adil to see if he would be by the center this week. He confirmed he would be in around noon. I made an appointment to talk to him at 2. I checked my email, confirmed I had Q's resume, and looked up any volunteer activity for the following weekend. I figured I could do something positive and productive on Sunday to keep myself busy. There was a meal at a homeless shelter,  but it was full of volunteers already.

I scheduled my break to be around 2 and joined Dr. Fahri in the team lead office.

"I need to speak to you." I greeted him.

A crease developed on his forehead, but he motioned for me to have a seat.

"I sent you a resume from a former colleague."

"Let me conform I have it." He nodded, pulling out his laptop

"Ok, he's been at his job forever and he's looking for a better opportunity. I feel like he will be a great fit here." I talked Q up when his computer powered up.

"Got it. I'll review it sometime this week."

"Ok. Nice. One more thing and I'll be out of your hair." I stated when he went back to his laptop.

He stopped to watch me, cautiously. "Go on."

"Um... Your fiancee works with the volunteer groups right?" I asked.

"Yes..." He answered.

I took a deep breath, a little nervous to ask him a personal question with him acting so standoffish. "Online it says they have enough volunteers for the shelter on Sunday. I didn't know if there was anyway she could squeeze me in or if she knew of any other volunteer events for Sunday?" I blabbed, nervously.

"Why yes; I'm sure she can fit you in. I'll give her a call and let you know before I leave. Is that all you need?" He said, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes. Thank you." I said, standing up and leaving. I thought everything concerning Paul Bolen would blow over, but judging by Adil's guarded demeanor, he was still upset at me questioning his decision. I took a deep breath, knowing I would have to make amends to get back on his good side. So when he came over to inform me his fiancee said to be there at 9am Sunday morning, I pulled him aside in the huddle room to talk while I watched the floor.

"There's one more thing. I need to apologize for my outburst a few weeks ago. It was unprofessional and it won't happen again." I apologized, hoping my voice sounded sincere.

"It's ok Dr. Harris. We all have our moments. I knew when I recommended you you were passionate about your job. I can handle an outburst here and there." Dr. Fahri replied, nonchalantly.

Inwardly, I glowered at the mention of being "passionate" and him being able to "handle" me but I kept my composure. "It wasn't even that. I let my pride get in the way of being a team player. I really thought I made the right decision by not allowing him to accelerate so soon. In the future, what did you look at to determine what was right?" I employed Ethan's kiss ass to kick ass technique.

"It all came down to liability."

"Isn't there more liability on us if Bolen gets reinjuried?" I asked.

"Not for us. My job is to facilitate cooperation: I did that and a decision was made. Clayton and Dennison signed off on his rehab plan. If anything happens Lily, we're clear." He advised me.

I took everything in me to smile. "Ok. Thank you for the information." I said, hiding my disdain. Adil knew we shouldn't have rushed his rehab, he didn't care because it didn't blow back on him. He wasn't looking out for what was best for our client; he was covering his ass!



Friday night, I was venting to Christian about Adil and him playing scapegoat instead of doing what was best for our clients when he stopped me.

"Have you thoughts about taking a break?" Christian asked me.

"Like vacation? Yeah, I have time off for my dad's wedding this summer. I can't wait."

"No, like real time off. A year or more."

"Even if I wanted to, I have these things called bills. Apparently, if you don't pay them, things get shut off or taken away." I said, sarcastically.

"You know I would take care of that. You could come on the road with me. I was thinking about our future together and I can see that." He revealed to me.

"What about kids and a house and settling down? Can you see that?" I asked him.

"I'll give you as many kids and houses as you want Lily. You believe me when I say I'll make sure you have everything you need?" Christian elaborated.

"I believe you." I said. I just needed to figure out what I wanted. I don't think I would ever want to stop working, but it was definitely fun to fantasize. We stayed up late, talking about a life of traveling and having a family. We both had absentee parent chips on our shoulder, so we agreed that once we had kids they would be our entire life. We talked of all the things we still wanted to do and experience before we had kids. 



Saturday morning, Richard was over to work on whatever "surprise" Christian bought for me and to let the lanscapers in with the plants that finally came in. Justine and I went to pick up Rocky, decked out in our Easter gear. When Rocky saw Justine's bunny ears and my Easter egg shirt, she explained it was called a Resurrection Celebration because the church felt like to much emphasis was put on the Easter bunny and eggs. Zipping up my hoodie and removing Justine's ears was a quick remedy as we headed to McKinney.

The celebration was a huge fair set up in the field located behind the church. There were multiple bounce houses, games, food stands, and a main stage. Rocky gave me a little look when I gave Brandon a huge hug and he gave me a genuine smile. We walked around, played a few games with EJ, and  hung out with Ethan who was manning a huge slide before we purchased some food and got settled with Megan and Deborah at a picnic table.

Deborah had me in stitches as she told us the story of giving birth the first time. She told Rocky how her doctor scheduled a C-section 7 months in because of the size of Ethan's head. When Megan co-signed, saying she had to have a C-section too after being in labor for a day, Rocky's eyes widen in horror. Megan had her phone out and was showing Rocky pictures of newborn EJ when Ethan joined us.

"Huh..." I said, tilting my head to examine his face. He had his signature low fade and a trimmed goatee. The burnt orange of his loose Resurrection Celebration T-shirt looked amazing with his skin tone, but I've never seen him look bad in any color. He looked great, as usual, but I still gave him a criticizing glare.

"What is it?" He asked, rubbing his facial hair.

"No. You grew into your head nicely." I teased while everyone laughed.

"I don't even want to know." Ethan shook his head.

EJ played the drums with the youth choir and praise dancers before church announcements and prayers ended the fair. Deborah was instructing Rocky to be clear with her doctor about what she wanted before she went into labor while the fair was shutting down. 

"Why don't you two spend the night? We have church in the morning and brunch at my house after." Deborah invited us. When Rocky looked over at me, I had to decline.

"I can't. I'm actually volunteering tomorrow." I explained.

"All day?"

"I'm not sure about the hours." I replied.

"What about you Racqelle? The guest room is all yours and we can talk more." She smiled at Rocky.

Rocky looked disappointed as she answered. "Lily's my ride. I wish I could."

"I will take you home." Brandon quickly offered.

Rocky looked at both of us. "Thank you. I think I will stay."

I got Justine and my things together and said goodbye to everyone. Deborah told me I could stop by her house anytime Sunday, and I agreed, knowing I would probably wouldn't. Ethan walked Justine and me to my car so I could give him EJ's Cuban candy and snack food and his souvenir of a figurine hummingbird wearing a Panama hat.

He smiled and took it. "Thank you. I don't know what I would do without my figurine collection."

"You're very welcome." I said, with a grin.

"On a serious note, thank you for talking to Brandon." Ethan said. "I know it couldn't be easy for you after everything."

"It kinda was. I've been where he was and I only had a relationship end. He had to deal with a engagement ending and becoming a dad. I know he's a good person who has made a few bad decisons but haven't we all?"

"Right, I spent so much time coming down on him for his mistakes, I didn't realize how much he was still hurting. I appreciate you for being there for him."

I smiled. "Anytime."

He opened my door for me. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Probably not."

"Why not?" He questioned me.

"Urgh... Thinking about last Easter and the resurrection of old feelings. I won't be good company." I answered honestly as I got in my car.

He nodded understandingly and closed my door. "Take care Lily."

"You too. Happy Easter."



Sunday morning, I got up bright and earlier to head to the homeless shelter. I meet with Farzan, Adil's fiancee, who signed me up, gave me a volunteer t-shirt and hairnet and had me in the kitchen mashing potatoes. I was working on a 3rd pot when I heard someone call my name.

"MonMon!" I smiled as Monica made her way over.

"Don't start!" She warned me with a smile, as we half hugged. "I didn't know you were volunteering today. Why didn't you call me?"

"It was last minute. Besides, I assumed you would be doing the family thing with your husband."

"We're doing dinner. You're welcome to come."

"Ohhh... Are you planning to hook me up with someone?"

"No. Isn't your boyfriend some rapper?"

"What? No. I don't know any rappers!" I laughed.

"Christian Wilson?"

"He's a producer and were dating but he's not my boyfriend." I explained.

"Oh. Ok. Uriel felt shitty that you made him your side dude but I'll tell him you are not official with him." Monica stated.

I put my masher down and stared at her. "He told you that?"

"No. Trent thought something was going on between you two. You just confirmed it." Monica gleamed at me.

"I didn't confirm anything." I picked back up my masher and commenced mashing.

"C'mon Lily. Did my matchmaking work? Do you like each other? I need details." She harassed me.

"If we were hanging out, the only connection we may have had was not wanting anything serious. Neither one of us are ready for a relationship." I said, vaguely.

"Hmph." Monica scoffed. "So you fucked him. Damn, Trent was right."

"Shhhh... I didn't say that!" I said in a hushed voice as I looked around at the other volunteers. "Can we focus on something else? Like goodwill and this mountain of potatoes?"

"Sorry girl. I have pea duty. Let me go open these cans." She smiled at me.

"Peas? The fuck?" I exclaimed.

"Shhh... Goodwill Lily." She said, sashaying off.

After a long day of cooking and serving, I went home super exhausted. Monica invited me over for BBQ, but I was in no mood to get dressed or socialize. Rocky text me that she made it home, so I headed to Boston Market to grab some food. I had a missed call from Ethan and I called him back as I waited in the drive thru.

"Are you still volunteering?" He asked me.

"No. I'm on my way home. Why? What's up?"

"I know you said you didn't want company, but I can drop off a plate of food if your hungry." He offered.

"Yes! Yes! Please and thank you!!!" I said, enthusiastically. I never had a bad meal from his mom.

She didn't disappoint. Ethan brought me 3 platter plates filled with ham, chicken, bacon, waffles, mini-frittatas, crepes, french toast casserole, muffins, bagels, jello salad and fresh fruit. He heated up all the hot food for me while pouring me a glass of orange juice. Deborah even made a plate for Justine with stewed vegetables and chicken. 

I was so touched by the gestures, tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn't help but think of the family I desperately wanted and the one I thought I would build with Trevor. I tried to remind myself of everything I had and repeated my self affirmations in my head, but the ever observant Ethan caught my distress before I could pull myself together.

"What's wrong?" He asked me, putting my drink in front of me.

"Nothing." I shook my head. "This is why I knew I wouldn't be good company." I laughed at myself, wiping my tears away.

"Do you want me to leave?" Ethan asked, concern on his face.

"No. I'm ok. I tried to be positive and productive so I wouldn't get emotional today but I did anyway."

"Do you wanna talk about it?" He asked me, handing me a tissue.

"No. I pay a therapist to talk about it. I'm sick of talking about it. I just wanna be over it. Do you ever wish you could snap your fingers and forget?" I dabbed my face with the tissue.

"Sometimes." He said, so softly that I wouldn't have known he spoke if I wasn't looking at him. He met my eye, and I felt something zing through me. I stared at him, and he returned my gaze and there was no doubt in my mind he felt it too. It was an awareness, something in his eyes that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

"Serena?" I asked, guessing if that's who he wanted to forget. Maybe that was what I was feeling: we shared the same loss and desire to move on. He shook his head and the air left my body.

"Megan?" When he shook his head again, my heart raced.

"If you say Karen, I swear to god we're not friends anymore." I joked, lightly, trying to lighten the mood and still my thumping heart.

Ethan smirked and looked down at the table. Once our eye contact broke, the air returned to my body and my heart beat slowed.

"No, not Karen. I don't even think about her, but I wouldn't want to forget her either. That experience taught me about myself and the man I want to be."

"It's that easy huh?" I thought about Trevor all the time. It was a daily struggle for me. I was so tried of struggling.

"Not every time. If there's no way to make it work, I take what I can from the situation." Ethan said, looking me in the eyes again. I broke eye contact, and looked at the microwave as it beeped, signaling the food was ready. Ethan got up to retrieve it and I made my way to the living room couch for some more space.

"Do you wanna watch a movie with me? Forrest is throwing some Pajama Jammy Jam party based off House Party for Rocky's Birthday and I need to do research." I called to him.

"Sure. That party was in the sequel." Ethan informed me, bringing me my plate on a TV tray.

I thanked him before I grabbed the remote. "You've seen them?"

"All 4. My sister was a huge Kid n Play fan."

"Oh wow, now I know I'm outta of the loop if you've seen it." I kidded, digging into my food.

"It's not a Disney movie so that doesn't shock me." He sat on the couch next to me.

"Shut up."

"Don't talk with your mouth full of food."

I flicked a piece of cantaloupe at him.

"I'm telling my mom. She'll never send a plate over for you again." He threatened me with a smirk.

"Alright. I'm sorry." I smiled, pleasantly. He wiped a crumb off my face before we settled in to watch the movie.