“How could you? This is your family!” Kwame asks.
Listen, let me tell you something about my little sister Kwame. Yes. I said, sister. It was better when it was me and Calvin. Calvin and I were twins. Then Lerrick came and you know…he was cool, or whatever. Things were fine. Then all of a sudden my mother’s pussy starts singing the theme of Phantom of the Opera and this Disney Princess pops out. With her morals…
“Oh, Jesus. Do you ever shut the fuck up?”
“No I won’t shut the fuck up,” he urges, “This is your brother. You should be protecting him. You should be motivating him to be better.”
He’s making things worse. Lerrick is sitting there quiet as a mouse. He looks like he has a lot on his mind. Lerrick was the attractive one. If that makes sense. None of us were ugly…not even the Disney Princess. Lerrick was the one who always got the most attention. Seeing him sinking into himself like this right now definitely worries me a little bit. He’s acting how Calvin was acting before the end. Lerrick is stronger than Calvin though. He’ll be OK. He has to. Believe it or not, I loved him. I loved Tinkerbell as well when she wasn’t acting high off fairy dust.
“This is not a motivational movie. Kwame. This isn’t Soul Food. Big Mama doesn’t have a stash of cash hidden in her grandma panties. This is life.”
We had to do what we had to do to survive.
And right now I look at Lerrick and can see him thinking about that right now.
I roll my eyes, “Real mature.”
I was going to need an Ambien to get through this. The only reason I let Jasmine from Aladdin drag me here was because of Lerrick. Only because of Lerrick.
“One at a time boys,” Dr. Leslie states, “Stop talking over each other. It gets confusing.”
She’s frantically scribbling notes on her notepad. She doesn’t give anyone eye contact. She’s so focused. Lerrick is sitting quietly. He hasn’t moved. He hasn’t spoken since the whole thing with Leo. Ms. Kwame is pacing back and forth preparing for her soliloquy in hopes that she is going to be nominated for the best-supporting actress. I can already see the wheels turning to see what dress she’s going to wear.
And then there was me. I’m sitting right on Dr. Leslie’s desk looking down her blouse wondering if I’d bat for the other team just for an hour or two because it would be quite interesting to titty fuck her.
“Bishop has always been…he’s always been…a bad guy,” Princess Peach begins to snitch, “But this is beyond the pale. Look at Lerrick. Look at him. Bishop is so money hungry that he’s willing to risk his brother’s chance at real love. Lerrick loved Leo. Leo was perfect. Leo was prince charming.’”
“Your jealousy is showing…” I state.
It’s clear and we all knew it. My little brother was jealous of Lerrick. Ridiculously jealous. She lived vicariously through Lerrick. I remember one time she went to the movies with them without them knowing just so she could watch them in their private moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if she fingered herself to Lerrick and Leo’s love affair.
“Your cruelty is showing,” Bambi crosses her arms, “You should be lifting your brother up.”
I roll my eyes at Kwame. She watched too much Lifetime and Oxygen.
I look over at Lerrick, “Fine. Lerrick— You is strong. You is smart. You is single now. The world is your ass buffet.”
He owed me.
That’s when Dr. Leslie jumps in, “Lerrick do you have anything to add? I’d like you to come out more. Explain how you feel about your brother’s betrayal.”
Lerrick’s mute. Real mute.
“He doesn’t want to talk,” I tell Dr. Leslie.
Lerrick sighs, “He’s right.”
We all pause. It’s weird hearing this from him.
“Sorry I wasn’t paying attention,” Dr. Leslie said, “Did that come from you Lerrick?”
She’s in shock. I’m not though. I knew my brother. I knew that he wasn’t going to let this come between us. If anything this would make us stronger. I was sure of it.
“Yes. Yes, it did,” Lerrick states, “He’s right. My brother is right. The idea of loving Leo was stupid. I should be focused on Carrington. Fuck love.”
With that Lerrick gets up and leaves. I hear my Kwame chasing him down trying to get him to stop. Kwame’s plan backfired.
I look over at Dr. Leslie. Clearly, she didn’t want this either.
I climb up on her desk, sit Indian style right in front of her face. Finally, her eyes look up at me.
“It’s just me and you now Doc.”
She looks nervous. She gets like that sometimes when we aren’t having group sessions. I can tell she thinks I’m the devil or something.
“What do you have planned, Bishop? You always have a plan and I know you’re keeping your true plan a secret.”
I smile, “Well if I tell you, it wouldn’t be much of a secret, would it.”
“We talked about your secrets. Don’t you think it’s time you tell your brothers the truth?”
It’s visceral how I look at this woman. If her job was getting in our heads she was always good at that. She was always quite excellent when it came to that. The truth that she was referring to was something we had talked about a while ago. Something I told her not to bring up again. Patient-Client privilege, you know? So why is she bringing it up now?
Can’t trust these fuckin shrinks.
“They can’t handle the truth.”
“That’s not up to you to decide.”
I laugh at that moment.
“Listen, lady,” I state with a smile, “I am the head of this family I tell them what they can handle. Right now I need them to handle getting rich. The Stuyvesants are our come up. And I’m going to lift both of them up…kicking and screaming if I have to.”
She looks at me as though she’s disgusted. Wasn’t the first time. Not surprised by it anymore. I was going to have to make sure to stop Kwame from coming to see this lady. She was definitely bad news and the more she talked the more dangerous things would get.
You probably think I’m a bad guy. I get it. Maybe I am.
It’s nighttime the next time I see Lerrick. He’s sitting on the couch listening to music. There is no privacy in this place. He sees me walking past. His eyes gaze past me. I remember it was just how Calvin was. I snap at Lerrick a few times to get his attention.
Finally, I stop the music.
“I did it to prove to you that Leo isn’t the one. This is all part of the plan little bro. To show you what your priorities need to be. It’s like some secret agent shit. Like Mission Impossible, but with sex.”
Finally a response. He looks up, “What do you want?”
“We just got our eviction notice from the landlord,” I state, “I would love to take the time and give you all sorts of apologies about what I did, but we don’t have that luxury. So I’ll give you some ramen noodles. Or a few hits of weed. I’m poor and not very imaginative. This is all I have to offer,the unicorn-like wonders of poverty.”
He’s not surprised that we are being kicked out. None of us are. My attempts to cheer him up fall flat. Truth is he would have been wasting his time with Leo and that would have gotten us nowhere. Now at least we have a chance.
“What do we have to do?”
He knows the truth. Sure he’s hurt about Leo. But he should have listened to me in the first place. Leo wasn’t in love with him like he thought he was. Now he knew the truth. Now all of a sudden Carrington was looking a lot better to him.
“What do we have to do?”
“Call him. Call Carrington. Arrange to bring him here…”
“You’re going to fuck him,” I state, “On camera. I showed you how it’s done. He won’t even know he’s on camera.”
And then what?”
“And then we blackmail the fuck out of him.”
He thinks about it for a second or two but then nods, “Fine.”
“Don’t fall in love with him. The only thing you need to do is lovingly bend him over and lovingly fuck the shit out of him.”
He leaves. I’m sure he’s going to do what he has to. He’s going to call him.
What I don’t notice though is my little sister Kwame standing on the side of the room. Clearly, the lil bitch has something to say. I can see her stares. She’s crying. Fucking crying. I’m talking about tears coming down his face.
“What are we becoming?” Kwame asks.
He knows what I’m planning on doing to the Stuyvesants. He knows how I plan on getting that money. And it’s clear as day he doesn’t agree. But it didn’t matter. He didn’t need to agree. We needed Lerrick. Lerrick was the sexy one. He was the one with history with Carrington. As long as Lerrick agreed that’s all that mattered.
“Survivors,” I tell him bluntly.
“This is dangerous, Bishop. That family is rich and powerful. How do you think they’ll deal with us blackmailing them?”
“They will give us money is what they’ll do. We’re in Texas. The Bible Belt family won’t like their gay son bent over squirming and clenching his toes while he’s taking our brother’s big black dick.”
“Why didn’t you do it then—-?” he asks, “Why involve Lerrick?”
“Lerrick has the ties.”
“Bullshit. I’ve seen you literally grab a waiter’s dick, scream 2nd base and end up getting his number in the end. You could have gotten the Stuyvesant if you wanted. So what is it? Why all of a sudden don’t you want to get involved?”
I pause. I never hated someone so much that I loved.
“I’m doing what’s best for this family. All I need for you to do is shut the fuck up and stay out of the way.”
That’s when he looks at me and he says, “You’re going to fall in love one day. I’m talking about deep in love. So deep in love. So deep in love that it hurts. And you’re not going to be able to be with that person that you love. And you’ll understand exactly what you did to Lerrick then.”
I roll my eyes and walk away as though I don’t care.
Truth is I did care.
Truth is it was too late.
Somehow I end up outside. It’s a warm night. I’m puffing on some weed. I do this every night. The apartment is way too small. Way too tight. Way too many personalities clashing in a small face. Sometimes it was good to be alone. I felt like I was going crazy.
That’s when I see him.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen him. Love at first sight perhaps was a thing. And maybe I’m selfish for not seducing Carrington. Maybe deep inside a part of me was holding myself out for him. Him. This perfect stranger whom I’ve loved all my life without him knowing. He’s smoking a cigarette. He’s back.
Virgil. That was his name. I’ve known him since we were kids. We went to the same school. All throughout. He was probably the first kid I ever met. His dad owns the building. I hadn’t seen him in years but he’s back in town now. When we got an eviction notice, it was the 1st time I’ve seen him since high school. I was going up there to try to talk his dad out of it but then I saw him. The guy I crushed on my whole life.
“Hey…still here? Thought you went back to law school…”
“Do I know you?” He responds.
It’s awkward as hell, “We’ve met.”
Not like we lived in the same building. Not like we didn’t go to the same elementary, middle school and high school. Not like I didn’t sit behind him in homeroom staring at the back of his head. We didn’t know each other though.
I was always so loud. So strong. Except when it came to him.
He wouldn’t. Fuck the fact that he was back. Fuck the fact that when I saw him again I fell in love deeper at this point. He was in his towel there. He answered in his towel. His dad had mentioned in passing that Virgil was in law school. It was weird at first but every day I fell in love with the idea of falling in love. It was unpredictable and crazy but I loved it. When he first arrived at school I didn’t notice him, not more than a regular math teacher anyway, but soon it was different. His eyes weren’t just deep they had dark gray flecks in them and his arms were bulging with veins and his smile—fuck his smile.
Almost immediately he turns back around and continues puffing on his cigarette ignoring me as though I don’t exist. He’s beautiful. I’ve seen him every single day since he’s been back from college. He ’s a boy-next-door kind of guy. The kind of guy who probably goes to church or something. The kind of guy who doesn’t realize just how sexy he is. Chestnut skin, nice body, and a face that looks like Trever Jackson off of Superfly. He looks so innocent but he grew up in a bad neighborhood so he is down to Earth and seems comfortable with being in the hood.
I wasn’t used to guys ignoring me. Wasn’t used to guys acting as though I didn’t exist.
“Wait I do know you—-Bradshaw right? Something Bradshaw.”
I don’t know why I’m excited. I’m a fucking idiot.
“Yeah. That’s my last name.”
“We went to school together. Calvin right?”
I roll my eyes. Great. How embarrassing is this?
“Actually no. That was my brother. I’m Bishop.”
I offer him my hand but he’s staring down the street so hard he doesn’t even notice it. He doesn’t react to it and keeps staring out.
“Aw damn. Sorry. How’s Calvin?”
“Pretty good you know. I mean he’s dead but besides that…”
“No, it’s OK. He’s been dead for a while. I’m sure he’s used to it by now.”
It gets awkward. Real awkward. He looks like he thinks I’m a weirdo. I guess I am. That was a pretty fucking weird thing to say. Why the hell does this one guy have this kryptonite against me?
“ Well… have a nice day.”
He is putting out his cigarette, clearly not in the mood to have a conversation. Fuck him and his perfect arms, his huge dick print in his shorts, and the relentless ability to ignore me.
“Hey, you go to law school, right?”
“That means you’re really smart. I may be needing some help with something soon,” I state.
I had no money. Shit. I look over at him though. Truthfully I have to admit I had a crush on this guy and I did need help. Fucking with the Stuyvesant was going to be something dangerous. Something that I needed to make sure I had all my t’s crossed and my I’s dotted.
So I nod. It’s a lie. But fuck it…did I seem like an angel to you?
“Oh yeah. You will be heavily compensated.”
We end up in his apartment which just so happened to be the landlord’s apartment. I look uncomfortable and I think Virgil can tell because he puts his hand on my shoulder.
“Have a seat…let’s talk business…”
My skin tingled where he touched me and my heart beat erratically in my chest so hard that I thought it might fly out. There were butterflies – no, lions – in my chest, but it felt good.
I finally admitted to myself what I knew all along, but was too afraid to admit it: I liked him. A lot. Sure I didn’t know him. Sure I have just been fantasizing about what his lips would feel like for the past three months since he’s been back every time I saw him out there smoking in front of the building. He ignored the bums walking by asking for the money or the drunks—including me—-who’d come home late off cheap booze. He was the kind of guy who had a mission in his eyes. No doubt he would be successful in life.
I liked him. And I didn’t like anyone. I loved my brothers. But I didn’t like anyone. Not anymore. Not since Calvin died.
“So I wanted to ask you some general questions. My mother, she worked for this family and for some reason she ended up killing herself on their property. Can we sue?”
“Wait hold up…are you serious?”
“Oh shit, I did go over that a little fast,” I pause and rewind, “Have you ever heard of the Stuyvesant?”
“The Billionaire family? Who hasn’t?”
The Stuyvesants were a legend at this point.
“Well we were invited to the Stuyvesant’s wedding and my mother caused this huge scene committing suicide,” I state.
I’m trying not to sound so nonchalant. I dealt with things like this in my own way. Suicide and shit like that ran in my family as far as I knew. You always expected it. Mom was troubled. She always was. And I swear my dad used to say half the Bradshaws were fuckin nuts and the other half thought they were normal.
“Why do you think the Stuyvesants would be liable for your mother’s death?”
“Why go there?” I ask, “My mother was batshit crazy but every night I go to sleep and see her face when she did it. She had this look. This look that said she was doing this on purpose. Here on purpose. She wanted someone to see it.”
“Cadmus Stuyvesant,” I state, “The patriarch of the Stuyvesants. But there is something else…something else that happened…”
I shy away from it, “Can we not talk about it? Can’t we just like sue them and see what happens?”
He sighs a little bit. Virgil crosses his arms, “Listen. If you want my help, then you are going to have to tell me why you think Cadmus is liable?”
“She told me if something happened to her I should go to him,” I state, “She specifically told it to me and not my brothers. Maybe she meant that if something happened to her that he would be the cause.”
“Why would she tell you that?”
I don’t respond.
That’s when Virgil walks over to me. He smells so good. SO FUCKING GOOD! He sits right next to me. It’s the most attention he’s given me ever. For the first time he sees me and it makes me nervous because if I tell him this I’d be letting him into a part of me that I didn’t know.
“None of them knew. None of my brothers,” I explain, “I had to protect them. You know. I always have to protect them. And that’s why they think I’m the bad one. But I’m not. I’m the one who shows up when they can’t handle something. I’m the one who surfaces. I take the brunt of the pain.”
“My dad. My dad was a bit of a drinker. It’s how I got my bruises. Some went away but I have the worst ones still. They won’t ever go away. He made sure of that. He gave them to me for them to stay. And, theoretically, my self-induced scars. But, what hurts worse is the insecurity. The internal brokenness that only a person exposed to abuse can experience. It’s like this: you take the blows so your brothers don’t have to. Because I can take the shit. I’ve always been the one to take the shit.”
I don’t know why tears are coming down at this moment. Tears usually don’t come down. I hadn’t cried in front of anyone ever. I cried a lot though. I’d lock myself in the bathroom and make sure no one could see me. Then I’d cry. Away from Kwame. Away from Lerrick.
That’s when I feel him. Virgil. He is touching me again. Fuck…
“You need to let that out,” he says rubbing me slowly, “Those old memories are dangerous. They cause agony that can only be seen on the inside.”
“I know the pain. The pain that no one else sees because… well, no one else cares.”
“Listen, I care.”
He smiles, “I’m paying attention ain’t I?”
He was. For the first time, he was looking at me. Paying attention. No distraction. No Kwame being dramatic or Lerrick stealing everyone’s fire. For the first time, it was about me. Bishop. It was actually about me on the inside. And it felt good to know someone was there listening at least.
“He would get really drunk. Real drunk. Sloppily drunk. And he’d want to hit someone. And to protect my brothers I’d be his punching bag. Every single time. And one time after he beats me so bad that I can’t see my mother comes and tells me that if anything happens to her I should go find Cadmus Stuyvesant…”
“I know right. Ever since then I’ve been trying to figure it out. What the connection is between Cadmus Stuyvesant and my mother.”
“Does she have any letters. Do you have access to her emails? Her phone records?”
“Give me them…”
“Don’t worry about it,” he states, “I’ll do some investigation for you. We can worry about anything else later on.”
He was a good guy. A part of me wants to lean in and kiss him. He’s close enough for me to do it. I wonder how he reacts.
But I don’t.
I don’t kiss him because I’m an asshole. I’m a bad guy and the last thing I want is to scar a guy like this with my bullshit. He was perfect just the way he is. And truthfully all I can think about is maybe I’m too much of a piece of shit to even get that close to a guy like him.
Kwame was right.
And his words from earlier were lingering.
Days pass and I try to get Virgil out of my head. I’ve never shared my abuse with my brothers but I had an idea that they knew. None of them experienced it. I made sure of it. I made sure that I took it all on me. And I hadn’t stopped. I hadn’t stopped being my family’s protector and never would stop. That included my mother.
I was going to find out what happened to her. One way or another…
This wasn’t about money for me. I’d let my brothers keep the money and get their lives started. I wanted this for another reason.
The Stuyvesants owed us. I’m not sure how. I’m not sure how much but I was going to make them pay.
“The landlord’s sexy son is at the door,” I hear Kwame call out.
I push her out of the way and open the door just wide enough to see Virgil standing out there. He has this look on his face. The kind of look that seems to want to reveal something desperately.
“I have something and you won’t believe this…” he whispers.
“ASK HIM IF HE WANTS TO COME IN TO EAT!” I hear Kwame screaming out, “I JUST MADE LUNCH!”
I close the door and step in the hallway making sure it’s shut. Knowing Kwame he would be trying to eavesdrop on our conversation and right now I didn’t need anyone involved with this. I’ve been waiting days for this. This was going to be important.
I needed to know what it was.
“Sorry, my brothers are in there?”
“How many brothers do you have?”
“Do they all look like you?” he asks with a smile.
“Better looking, unfortunately.”
He smiles biting his lip, “Doubt that. I mean you’re a pretty beautiful guy.”
Interesting way to describe someone. I try not to smile, “Beautiful?”
He pauses, “Oh fuck that didn’t sound right. I meant on the inside. Especially knowing how you took those beatings for your brother’s man. That was…I dunno. Beautiful. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve been working so hard man. It motivated me to read through hundreds of documents your mother kept.”
He was motivated by me? My mother was a hoarder so I thought I’d take him weeks or months even to get through all that. But he was here just a few days later after I gave him the stuff.
The way he looks at me makes me anxious. I wasn’t surprised that he thought I was beautiful. Hell, I was a good looking guy. But beautiful on the inside.
No one had ever called me that.
And for some reason, it makes me uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I struggle to change the topic, “What do you know?”
“I went through records. Letters from one of the boxes your mother kept,” he states, “I found some stuff. Some important stuff. She was writing Cadmus about your father.”
“What did she have to tell him about that piece of shit?”
“Turns out that isn’t your father. Turns out that your father was born sterile.”
My heart races.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that you and your brothers aren’t Bradshaws,” he tells me, “I have reason to believe that Cadmus is your father. Your last names should be Stuyvesant.”