“It wasn’t what it looked like,” Copper is begging his brother.
Copper chasing down Topaz is a thing for the ages. The look on Topaz’s face is really sad. Anyone would feel bad for him. We are pulling up at the house now and Copper has the nerve to bring Ainsley in the second Uber. They are still trying to find out how everything happened.
Then there is Onyx. He’s quiet, really quiet, to the point that it would be suspicious to anyone paying attention. Fortunately for the youngest Monroe brother Topaz wasn’t paying attention. Topaz had one thing on his mind.
“You’re both dead to me,” Topaz states.
Those worse cut like a knife, especially coming from Topaz. He was close to Copper in a way that he’d never been close to Onyx. I can look into Topaz’s eyes and see that he feels alone. He feels as though he can’t trust anyone in the world. The whole world knew the dirty little secret that was going on in his family and moving forward, there would be no way to hide anything.
It’s Ainsley who makes a hard attempt to run for Topaz. Tears are streaming down her eyes. The desperation in this girl reminds me of a junkie who is only inches away from her obsession.
She reaches out, desperate and foaming at the mouth for Topaz.
“Please Topaz, let’s talk about this.”
But I’m there to block her.
“You’ve done enough, Ainsley,” I let her know, “It’s time for you to go home and stay away from Topaz. For good.”
I meet her emotion with a vicious cold stare of protection. She opens her mouth ready to argue but I think she realizes I have the moral high ground in this situation. Her mouth shuts. Topaz walks into the house and she just stands there. Emotion is washing over her like a storm. Not a normal storm either, no, I’m talking a hurricane, the kind of hurricane that weathermen talk about and get people to stock up on bread. It’s some real shit here. It’s some real fuckin’ emotion.
“Please just let me talk to him.”
“It’s time for you to leave, Ainsley.”
There’s no reason for her to be here. Not anymore. Topaz leaves at that moment. He walks into the house. Topaz is more worried about his relationship with his brother and Onyx…well, Onyx has abandoned her almost completely. He’s gone into the house.
I’m out there alone with her and I won’t let her pass.
“I can’t live without him,” she states.
I nod, “I understand.”
I nod, “I’ve been in that situation before. I feel bad for you Ainsley. I think you’re a good person. I really do.”
I nod. I give her a warm smile. It’s one of the warmest smiles that I could give her. The smile makes her feel comfortable enough to run into my arms. She’s sobbing uncontrollably. The tears soak up against my shirt. I’m such a good person that I let her cry. I let her get it all out for about 10 good minutes. I don’t say anything. I just let her express this emotion. She really did love Topaz I think. I wonder what made her attracted to Onyx in the first place. I wonder why she crossed that line in the first place. I don’t’ want to ask though. I don’t want to be too insensitive at this moment.
I whisper to her rubbing on her back, “I’d like to help you, Ainsley.”
“You would?” she asks, “God, you’re such a good person. I’m sorry if I’ve been a bitch. You don’t know how much I appreciate you being out here for me, Coy. You know? It means the most. Anything you can do, anything at all, I’d appreciate it.”
She smiles. It’s weak and desperate.
I lean over to her and pull a piece of paper out of my pocket, “I’d like to help you out with that. Here is a list that I think would help you.”
She still has a smile when she takes the paper out of my hand. She seems confused when she starts reading the list.
“Cyanide, Strychnine, Arsenic…”
There is a pause. I can almost hear her stomach turn at that moment. There is this vicious queasiness. She wants to cry more. I can tell. She stares at the paper weakly trying to make sense of the paper, trying to understand my intentions and trying to put together her own circumstance. The confusion slaps her from side to side so much that she is literally moving her head around in circles.
“A list of poisons, their prices and some black market dealers I researched in the area that will provide them to you for quite a low price,” I explain to her, “You said you couldn’t live without Topaz. I expected that. I just wanted to make sure you had the resources to do something about it. I’d go with the cyanide personally. Sure it may cause some vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding, along with pain, but death will happen within hours of ingestion.”
She’s weak. Her desperate bug-like eyes looking up at me with all this soured emotion.
She mutters words so low that I can barely make them out.
“Why are you doing this?”
I smile at her, giving her a pat on the shoulder, “I’m a nice person.”
I smile as I walk away. I expect her to leave but an hour later someone calls the cops to get her off the premises. At first I’m not sure who it is until Onyx knocks on my door. There is awkwardness in his eyes.
“Jericho wants a meeting downstairs…now.”
I’m shocked I’m being invited to a Monroe brother meeting. Coming downstairs it’s clear that Jericho called the cops on Ainsley.
We are all gathered in the dining room that night. Jericho has his phone up. He’s reading all the headlines from TMZ. It’s really bad. It’s as bad as everyone thought it was.
“What were you guys doing at the hotel in the first place?” Jericho asks, “What the hell is going on here?”
No one says anything.
“We were going viral,” I explain.
You would think that he’d appreciate me answering him when no one else says anything. Jericho is standing there looking upset as though these were his own kids or something like that.
“What does that even mean?” he asks.
“It doesn’t matter,” Topaz responds.
This seems to piss Jericho off even more. I can literally see the steam coming off of him. He’s beyond pissed.
“I got a TMZ up my ass saying that we’re streaking—-STREAKING down Hollywood Boulevard. Is this a joke? You think it’s funny to swing your dicks around in public now?”
Onyx starts laughing. Maybe it’s the idea of Jericho talking about their dicks. I’m not sure what causes the laughter. After a stern look from Jericho he stops though and things go back to being quiet and awkward. No one is saying anything.
“Are you done?” Topaz asks, “I don’t want to be in this room with him.”
We all know he’s talking about Copper. Copper hasn’t said a word since he’s gotten in the room. I think he’s more confused than anything. He knows what this looks like.
“Did you do this?” Jericho asks Copper.
“Of course not,” Copper responds.
“Fuck you man. I mean that,” is Topaz’s response.
There is a cold shrug at that moment. Copper was trying to put his pride aside but I think this is the fifth time tonight that Topaz has cursed at Copper. The two boys used to be really close at one point. All that was gone. It had completely disappeared.
“Topaz, Ainsley has been blowing up my phone,” Jericho offers, “Maybe you should talk to her. Maybe it was all a misunderstanding. We can’t let this split us apart. We got a good thing going.”
“It’s not all about money Jericho.”
“Are you joking me? Who asked you?” Jericho asks me.
He’s aggressive with me. He’s more aggressive than I thought he would be. When he says that I raise an eyebrow. I’m shocked by it to be honest.
It’s Topaz who comes to my defense, “Yo—lay off my brother. Who the fuck you think you talking to, man? You work for us. Not the other way around. You talk to him again like that and I’m going to fire your ass!”
Topaz raises his voice in the most aggressive way. I’m appreciating the fact that he has my back but I’m also really suspicious of the fact that Jericho even came at me in the first place. I’d been nothing but nice to him.
Jericho doesn’t respond. Maybe he knows that Topaz is the oldest brother and he calls all the shots at this point. He humbles himself almost immediately.
“We should get some rest…like Gem said. We won’t resolve this tonight,” Onyx states.
We all separate at that moment. I look over at Topaz I smile at him. I haven’t been able to talk to him since I kissed him. I didn’t think it was the right time. I can’t read his emotion. Was he disgusted? Did he like the kiss? Was he confused? Regardless of what he was, he doesn’t show it. I watch as he walks away. And I know at that moment during this awkwardness that nothing in this family was ever going to be the same again.
The tension in the house is palpable. The tension is in the way that Copper walks into the kitchen in the morning with Onyx and I already there. I’m making breakfast for Onyx. Copper smiles at me. He never smiles. That fake tension carries through as he tries to make an awkward conversation with us.
“They say it’s going to be a drought again,” he’s saying.
Did he really care about the drought in California? Right now every gossip site is talking about him and Ainsley. I don’t have it pulled up but Onyx does. Onyx is in his phone. I can tell what he’s looking at. This is the biggest embarrassment the Monroe brothers have ever faced.
“I’m sure we’ll find water somewhere,” I respond after almost a full minute of awkward silence.
Then there is nothing. There’s nothing until Topaz comes down the stairs. He doesn’t have a shirt on. He has his earphones in. He walks right past everyone in the kitchen, grabs a water and starts leaving. It’s awkward. It’s awkward as hell. Topaz grimaces as he leaves.
Copper looks over at Onyx, “I have a meeting with our publicist about the misunderstanding back at the hotel room. I was hoping you would want to tag along.”
“I’m good,” Onyx responds.
That’s all Onyx says. Then Onyx just gets up and walks back to his room. Even in the loud, eco-friendly mansion we can hear the door slam.
Copper looks at me at that moment. There is that smile. It’s the smile of a desperate man. It’s the smile that lets me know that all that ego he had was gone completely now. He had no one. He didn’t have Topaz. He didn’t have Onyx. He didn’t have his mother. He didn’t even have fucking Ainsley. He was a man alone desperately looking for someone.
And I’m the only one there.
“I didn’t sleep with her,” he tells me.
It’s random, but I’m the only one who would listen so he’s telling me at that moment.
“I believe you,” I explain to him.
I nod, “100 percent.”
I make my way over to Copper. He’s sitting at the island in the kitchen. He has bags underneath his eyes. I don’t think he’s gotten much sleep the night before. I wouldn’t have been able to get much sleep either. He’s stressing.
“My publicist is thinking I should push back the album,” he explains, “He’s saying that this news is putting me in a bad light. My whole career is fucked up over this and I didn’t even get some pussy. Can you believe it?”
I shake my head, “Listen Copper. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe this is God’s plan. Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson.”
He pauses and looks around.
“Could you talk to Topaz for me?” he asks, “I know that’s asking a lot, but he listens to you. Just talk to him. Just let him know that I didn’t sleep with Ainsley. I mean it.”
“I’ll talk to him,” I promise.
“I appreciate that man,” Copper responds.
Then he gives me a nod. It isn’t a big show of real consideration but it’s a lot for someone like Copper with his guard up. Copper isn’t like his brothers. He’s not going to let me in just off the strength of family. It took a lot more for him, so I know when he gives me that nod and walks away that I have made significant strides with him.
I find myself going to check on Onyx. It’s just important to me to make sure that I’m OK. I find him in a room that is really dark for the morning. It’s as though he’s blocked out all the lights from entering the room. I can tell this must be his mood. When I walk in, he doesn’t seem surprised. He hardly turns his head when he sees me walk in and sit on the bed. He hardly looks at me. He’s just laying down on his pillow with this heaviness.
The Monroe brothers were taking this hard.
“This isn’t like you,” I break the silence.
None of it was. Not the silence or him being rude to Copper earlier. Topaz was taking this the hardest but Onyx wasn’t far behind.
“My life is falling apart,” he explains, “My mother is in a coma, one of my brothers is in a scandal that everyone is talking about and my other brother is…he’s…”
There is a pause.
“He’s what?” I ask.
That’s when Onyx turns to me. I knew this was going to come up but I just didn’t think it would come up so soon. To be honest I thought he would be having this conversation with Topaz before he brought it to me. I’m wrong though. I knew the look he was giving me right now. I’d seen the look before.
“You tell me,” Onyx states, “You tell me what Topaz is . You probably know better than I do.”
“You’re talking about the kiss?” I state but then realize there’s no point in waiting for his answer, “You’re talking about the kiss. Fine. I’ll tell you. It was nothing. It was just us…experimenting. Boys will be boys, you know. You never heard of kissing cousins.”
“That’s not your cousin. That’s your brother.”
“That’s incest,” Onyx states, “And it’s lowkey disgusting.”
He makes this face at that moment. This face that you are supposed to make when you are disgusted by something. He’s judging me. How irritating is that? This is a boy who was fucking his brother’s girlfriend and he find what I did disgusting. How odd is that?
“You sound homophobic.”
I throw out the accusation like a baseball and Onyx catches it by raising his eyes.
“I’m far from homophobic. I have tons of gay fans,” he explains.
“That’s like a white person saying he can’t be racist because he has black friends,” I retort just as harsh, “You sound ignorant. I thought you were better than that. Things are changing. This is a new day and age. Don’t be so close-minded. Don’t tell me you never wondered what it would be like to kiss a guy.”
“No…of course not.”
“Then why are you being so hateful.”
“Hateful? Hold on. How did I become hateful?” he starts, “I’m not even talking about the gay thing. If Topaz was gay that would be fine. But you’re his little brother…”
“Would you rather I go experiment with a stranger?” I ask, “What kind of brother are you?”
The more I talk, the more confused he gets. With that question Onyx just seems to surrender mentally. He opens his mouth and starts to throw something out but stops himself, probably not sure if he’s going to offend me and retreats again. Then he just sits there. Maybe if he wasn’t feeling some type of way about his family’s dynamic he would have challenged me. But he didn’t. It helped when people thought you were their only friend. They let you get away with a whole lot more if they depended on you.
“Listen, I didn’t mean to offend you,” he states after a few seconds, “I’m not close-minded.”
“I wanted to talk to you about my feelings but I couldn’t. You always seemed so homophobic.”
“You think? I swear I don’t mean to ever come off that way. I love everyone yo, real shit,” he tells me.
“Oh yeah. You probably don’t even notice it. As though kissing another guy, even if it’s your brother, would automatically turn you gay.”
“What? That’s ridiculous…”
“Exactly. You’re not close-minded like that,” I respond with a knowing smile, “I knew you’d be OK with me kissing you.”
I start to go over to Onyx. He doesn’t let me though. He gets up off the bed. I can tell he’s uncomfortable. He’s just as uncomfortable as Topaz was when I first tried with him. Onyx stops and moves away. He heads for the door.
“I should get something to eat,” is what he ends up saying.
Dammit. Maybe I went too far.
That’s when I notice Onyx waiting at the door for me, “You coming…or no?”
I spend the day with Onyx. You would think our awkward situation would have made him feel uncomfortable around me, but it’s the opposite. We spend the day talking about sexuality in general. He wants to know more about it. His curiosity is clearly showing and by lunchtime he’s just getting somewhat blunt with it.
“You ever sucked a dick?” he asks.
“Sure have,” I explain.
“Now that has to make you gay,” he responds, “I mean that literally is the definition of gay at that point.”
“Sexuality is a spectrum,” I explain to him, “There are people who fall in love for other people’s personality. They have this connection. You know. This deep connection and then all of a sudden they start finding that person attractive.”
Onyx pauses. He’s thinking about it. I can literally see his brain trying to wrap around the concept. He’s older than me and probably has had a lot more sexual encounters based on how he looks but there is an innocence to Onyx that I find fucking adorable. He’s always been so shallow, whether it came to how he looked or how famous he was. To him sexuality was taking his shirt off and having teenage girls go crazy.
Maybe it was the whole drama with Ainsley that was causing him to question more about sexuality. I wasn’t sure what was kicking this off, but I’d be happy to help him.
“How’d you know for sure you were gay?”
“How’d you know for sure you were straight?” I ask.
“I mean I just assumed.”
I shrug, “Maybe that’s the issue. Haven’t you ever had a deep connection with a guy before?”
“I mean, you, of course,” he explains, “But that’s not sexual.”
“How do you know?”
There is an awkwardness.
I laugh taking him off the hook, “Not with us specifically, Onyx. But what if you had a connection with a guy like me. What if you allowed it to grow? Whose to say you don’t find that guy attractive at some point. If you’re so closed off to it you would never know. Not unless you tried.”
The wheels are turning and turning. I was making progress. I mean maybe he wasn’t vulnerable like Topaz. Maybe he wasn’t going to let me kiss him right here like that, but Onyx was asking questions. Someone doesn’t talk for this long about a topic he wasn’t interested in.
“So why Topaz…” he asks out of nowhere.
“Why Topaz?” he asks, “Why not me?”
What a weird question to ask…
Just as I smile I hear someone walk through the door. The person doesn’t just walk in. They barge in. It’s Jericho. I haven’t seen him for a while. When he walks in I can tell that he has something on his mind. It’s something relatively important. You can tell that a mile away.
“You want to take a ride with me?” he asks.
He hasn’t even looked at Onyx since he walked into the room.
I get up at that moment. Weird. Real weird Onyx looks just as confused as I am when I follow Jericho out onto the driveway. We get in his truck. For the first few minutes we just drive around silently. No one says a thing. Jericho clearly has something on his mind. I smile at him in a flirty way but he doesn’t even seem to be the slightest bit interested.
“Where have you been?” I ask, “I haven’t been seeing you around.”
He ignores my question.
“I had a talk with Topaz,” he explains to me, “Earlier today. He said that he’s thinking about pulling the cord on Mrs. Monroe.”
“Oh yeah, I heard about that idea. Crazy right?”
“Heard about it? Because he said you supported it.”
There is a pause. Was he really coming at me over this old lady? I had better things to worry about. The fact that they hadn’t just killed her yet was more irritating than ever. Why the fuck was she still in the conversation?
“Listen, I support my brothers.”
“You really support them,” he explains,”They support you too. Which is why I wanted to talk to you one on one in the car away from them.”
”It’s weird we get along?”
“They are all getting along with you but seem to be pulling away from everyone else including me. Why so nice? It seems weird after going over the letters that Topaz shared with me. You know? The ones that you and Topaz wrote each other back and forth.”
Jericho pulls something out of his bag at that point.
“Why were you going over our private letters?”
“Because things weren’t adding up. Ever since you’ve come around things have been a complete fucking mess. This all started literally the day I picked you up from the airport.”
“I’ve been nothing but nice.”
“That’s the problem. You’ve been too nice,” Jericho confronts me with this very sordid expression that sends shivers up my spine, “Why are you so nice? In the early letters you wrote Topaz, you weren’t the slightest bit interested in a relationship with the Monroe brothers. What changed?”
“People are free to change their mind,” I add.
“But not free to change their handwriting.”
That’s when he does something I don’t expect. He pulls out old letters out of his bag. I look down. I wrote half those letters to Topaz. The early half were in a different handwriting. Slightly different. He must have been paying attention in detail to know that it’s a different penmanship. He must have been really studying. I look at Jericho. I look at the letters. I look back at Jericho. My smile seems to fade just a little bit.
“What are you saying here Jericho?” I ask.
“I’m saying halfway through the letters with Topaz, the handwriting changed. In the beginning you were a lot more resistant and then all of a sudden you became more open to meeting your long lost brothers. So which set of handwriting is yours.”
I blink. Twice.
“You some handwriting expert sir?”
“Am I wrong?”
He doesn’t answer my question. He’s staring at me. Maybe he is expecting me to break or lose my cool. That doesn’t quite happen, at this moment at least. Right now I smile, with full set of teeth, in the most uplifting way I put my hands on the dashboard.
“I know you’re upset because I haven’t been paying attention to you after our sexual relationship. After thinking for a while I felt like it wasn’t really appropriate for a 16-year-old to be carrying on an illegal relationship with someone your age. You can go to jail for that, you do realize that…”
“Are you…threatening me? Hold up, hold on, this isn’t happening right now, right? Did you just threaten me?”
“Of course not, all I’m saying is that maybe you should focus your energies on something else. The boys are trending right now. Sure it’s for a negative situation but I’m sure you can use that to make some money right? I don’t see why you’re focusing on things that aren’t relevant.”
He is staring at me…hard. It’s a steel stare.
“I don’t know what you’re up to little boy but both of these cannot be your handwriting. So who wrote the first couple of letters?”
I lean in on the dashboard.
Maybe he wasn’t getting it. Maybe if I lean in a little bit to let him know I mean it. Maybe if I smile. Maybe then it would mean more to him.
“Listen here,” I whisper to him, “Why are you doing this? I thought we were friends. I don’t get why you’re coming at me over something so petty. Haven’t I been nice to you this entire time?”
He’s thinking about it. He’s thinking about everything. I can tell he’s confused. I can hear his breathing steady a little bit in the weirdest way.
He looks at me. I look at him.
Jericho wouldn’t be wise to become a problem at this point. I didn’t do well with problems.
“I know,” I tell him, “I get it. You’re doubting people. Usually I ask people in situations like this what your gut is trying to tell you. Listen to it? Hear what your gut is trying to say. Then ignore it. We should be friends, Jericho. Trust me. You’ll want to be my friend. I’m a good person. You’ll want to be on my good side. Do you understand? Say you understand? Just nod. OK. Do what’s best for you…”
His phone rings at that point. Jericho picks it up, “Ainsley…Ainsley calm down. Ainsley calm down I’m going to be right here.”
He hangs up the phone and damn near slams it.
“Everything OK?” I ask.
“It’s Ainsley she’s going crazy. We should stop by her place….it’s right down the street.”
He looks at me. He’s as surprised that I’m asking the question as I am with trying to understand what is going on.
“She doesn’t sound right. Her voice…it sounds…different…”
“So what? What does that have to do with us?”
He ignores me. None-the-less we are driving to Ainsley’s apartment. Jericho is relentless. He has to keep putting himself into shit he didn’t have anything to do with it. The entire drive to Ainsley house I’m irritated. I’m beyond irritated.
He goes in the house and I follow behind him.
Ainsley’s house is exactly like you would expect it to be. It’s a penthouse with pictures of her and Topaz all over the house. She really was in love in a way. It’s a shame that she was having an affair with Onyx. Sure she was trying to end it but that didn’t matter now, did it? I walk into the house after Jericho. It smells like perfume in here. Very feminine. That’s for sure.
“Oh my god,” I hear Jericho saying from Ainsley’s bedroom.
I walk to the door. I take my time. I don’t see much of a reason to rush any longer. Jericho is stuck staring at Ainsley on the bed. She’s not breathing. He’s checking her pulse and from his expression I doubt she has one.
“She’s dead,” he says.
He looks back at me for a minute. There’s only one thing that comes into my mind when I see her dead body laying on her bed. That thing was simple: Why so much pink? How fucking tacky was it that this girl had pink sheets, a pink dresser and even pink vases with pink lilies near her bedstand?! It was just pure tacky.
As I’m looking at her décor my eyes fall flat on Jericho and realize that he’s studying my face for some odd reason. What the fuck? I think he expects something. I’m not sure what it is. Do I act shocked? Do I act sad? Do I look upset? Should I call the cops? Should I cry? I’m not sure what I should do at this moment so I just stare at her and then stare at him.
Then I do the only thing I know how to do.
From his reaction I don’t think this what I should be doing. I’m quite horrible at things like this. I lose the smile and instead look solemnly at her body.
“Well she looks pretty,” I state.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asks.
He is panicking. I don’t know why. I shake my head. I had no time for this. The hell with trying to get in touch with my emotions. I look around the room. That’s when I see it. The list I wrote. Sure enough she poisoned herself. She was a better person than I thought she was. How nice of her to kill herself using my recommendations. That was a really sweet thing to do. It’s a shame she was dead now, maybe we could have been friends.
I reach for the list with my shoe to sweep it closer to me. I’m surprised when before I reach it Jericho grabs it all of a sudden. He looks at the paper, reads the list and when I try to reach for it he turns away from me so that he can study the list.
“This…this is your handwriting…” he states.
“You shouldn’t have done that…”
I take the vase and crack it over Jericho’s head. Jericho falls on Ainsley’s pink rug. The back of his head is bleeding.
I repeat it to his unconscious body. What a damn waste of a sexy man.
“I said you shouldn’t have done that.”