Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
“TT I’m talking to you!” an impatient Tangie yelled. Her face twisted into a classic Manning scowl but TT’s eyes remained focused on the book in front of him.
Finally he smirked saying, “I’ve got a history test on Monday so I’m not listening.” He stretched out on the sofa, bare feet dangling in the air.
Tangie sat in the chair opposite him twirling long, curly strands between her right thumb and forefinger. Brothers…Since Starr left for college her fond relationship with Jack turned icy. TT on the other hand would be considered either her awesome little brother or her whipping boy depending on her mood.
“Aren’t you studying a bit too early? You’ve got all weekend. Plus you get all A’s anyway,” she added.
Huh…she sighed. She had a huge problem. Last week Todd gave her money to enroll in a dance class. One seemingly harmless trip to the mall and the money soon evaporated without her even realizing what was happening. No way can I ask Jack for a loan.
“Someone has to be the genius in the family...”
“Ha...ha…ha…whatever,” she seethed under her breath.
“Why should I care that you spent all the money dad gave you,” he said nonchalantly turning a page.
“Come on TT…help out your sister. You know what dad is going to do to me once he finds out especially when mom comes back.”
“Why should I? What’s in it for me?”
“I promise to leave you alone,” she said sincerely.
Tangie…leaving him alone…not possible. “Tangie I prefer to get my money back.”
“You have loads of cash because you don’t buy anything. Why dad gives you an allowance I really don’t know.”
TT bolted off the sofa and said, “Well you spend your allowance on stupid things at the mall.”
Tangie played it cool. “When I’m with my friends how can I say no. It would look bad. I have to keep up appearances. My parents are rich even though our allowances are lousy.”
“I’m still not giving you any money. You’ve taken advantage of me for the last time.”
She showed him a wry smile, “I know where you keep your stash,” and stood up.
“No Tangie stop!”
Just as she was about to exit the living room, Jack came in with an attractive young lady on his arm. She wore a brown halter top with fitted black jeans; silky black hair tied securely in a ponytail.
“Hey what’s going on in here?”
“Finally our guardian has arrived,” Tangie said sarcastically. Who’s the new girl?” she enquired, arms folded, eyes scanning the new guest from head to toe. She understood the implication of her question when Jack was given a puzzled stare.
“Don’t pay attention to my bratty little sister. She’s always saying stupid things and can’t keep her mouth shut,” he said glaring at Tangie. Tangie blew out a breath. “Keke meet my disturbed, little sister Tangie and the little bookworm over there is my brother Trevor but we call him TT.”
Tangie remained quiet while TT extended his hand in greeting. “It’s very nice to meet you Keke.”
“Nice to meet you too, TT,” she smiled.
He blushed considering her very beautiful and pleasant unlike Tangie. He adjusted his glasses and continued, “We also have a little sister Evelyn and a baby brother Evan. Our oldest sister Starr is away at college.”
“Jack told me he has a big family.”
“Mom and Dad don’t like us bringing strangers over without permission,” Tangie interjected very annoyed at her brothers gushing over Ke-ke.
Jack snapped, “She’s my guest ok so lay off.”
“But does dad know that you’re bringing a guest over?” Then she returned her attention to Keke. “Are you staying for dinner?”
“Tangie cool it!”
Keke quickly said, “Maybe I should go.”
“No…no…Keke...please don’t go.” He quickly grabbed her hand. “My dad won’t be upset about this. Friday night, our maid has the evening off so my dad will probably be ordering pizza or something.”
“Are you sure?”
He replied, “Positive,” with a perfect smile that set her heart at ease.
“Ohhh…” came Tangie’s annoyed voice.
“Keke let’s go to the backyard before I’m forced to do something to Tangie.”
As they strolled away hand in hand Tangie yelled, “I want to see you try!” Brothers can be such a pain. “TT, I was trying to be a good sister but you asked for it,” she said and sprinted up the stairs with TT chasing after her.
“Your sister is something.”
“Yeah she believes she can get away with a lot of stuff. I sincerely apologize for the way she acted.”
“Hey it’s not your fault. Maybe if I had an older brother as cute as you I would behave the same way.” Jack couldn’t help but smile feeling a little awkward. “Jack, your cheeks are turning red.”
“Nice of you to notice…” They both laughed. “Would you like something to eat…drink?”
Sometimes he felt really nervous around her. He really liked Keke. She was the opposite of other girls he liked before – she actually had a brain and a quick wit.
“No I’m fine standing out here with you. From what I’ve seen so far, you guys have a beautiful place.”
“Yeah my parents thought this would be the perfect place to raise the Manning clan. It’s gated, quiet neighbors…”
“So do you bring other girls over?”
Tangie’s mouth strikes again. Jack scratched the back of his head. “Tangie has no idea what she’s talking about. You’re actually the first girl.”
She turned her head and smiled at him. “Then it makes me feel really special.”
“You are a special girl,” he said and placed a hand around her shoulder. “Let me take you on a tour of our backyard.”
He took more than was necessary over to Evan’s daycare – two full bags just in case. Charlotte shook her head but appreciated his not wanting to leave anything essential behind.
“Sweetheart, please help daddy with the keys.”
He knew if he rang the door bell or knocked those kids of his wouldn’t hear a damn thing.
Six children…Over the years both of them made significant changes to their lives especially Evangeline. She switched from being a full-time lawyer to a part-time legal consultant. He cut down on the hours he spent at the office. He was pretty sure that Evan would be their last child and recalled her saying, “I’m finished Manning. This womb is officially closed for business.”
Todd smiled. He appreciated Evangeline giving him the family that he always wanted. He enjoyed when they were all together and his girls’ arms were wrapped around him…pure love. Then there were times when they drove his patience to the limit but it all comes with being a parent. He wondered how it would be when the kids were gone.
Todd Manning, loving husband, devoted father. With his family he expressed immense love but outsiders still saw and experienced the same cold and calculating bastard. What would Evangeline think about him then if one of the children followed his same path?
As they stepped inside Evelyn asked, “Daddy, when is mommy coming back?”
Today she hadn’t called and he couldn’t reach her. He feared her Uncle’s illness was getting much worst but he still had hopes that she’d return as promised.
“In the next two days.”
“How long is that?”
He replied, “Use your fingers baby then I’ll tell you if you’re right or not,”
Evan might need a bottle. Evelyn needs to be changed and given a snack.
“Daddy is this two days?” she asked displaying three fingers.
“No baby, try again.”
This house is way too quiet. I wonder where they are or what they may be doing. He peeked into the living room and saw no one only an open book on the sofa.
Meanwhile Evelyn thought real hard and finally got that last finger down. “Daddy is this two days?”
“Yeah you did it sweetheart!” Todd expressed joyfully, “You’re so smart like your mom.” Evelyn giggled. “Now let’s go upstairs to your room.” When she started sprinting up the stairs he warned. “Evelyn, be careful! Remember what mommy said about running up the stairs.”
When they reached the top of the stairs he thought he heard some sort of noise coming from one of the bedrooms. Here we go again.
“Evelyn, please go to your room and wait for me.”
He heard coming yelling from Trevor’s slightly ajar bedroom. It was time to take action before it got out of control.
He pushed the door opened and shouted, “Tangie, TT!” He gazed at them suspiciously then his eyes scanned the room. The room was in quite a state and he couldn’t recall it being this messy.
Caught by surprise they both yelled, “Dad!”
“Well…” He wanted an explanation.
Tangie was first to respond. “TT and I were arguing as usual.”
“Humph…Tangie go to your room and stay there until I call you,” he commanded.
“But dad I didn’t do nothing wrong,” she argued. Todd’s stern look made it clear that he meant business so she decided it best to go to her room.
He saw the look she gave TT before she left. “Are you going to tell me what was really going on?”
“It’s like she said dad…we were just arguing.” His eyes were everywhere except on his father.
“What happened to your glasses?” He observed it mangled on the floor. “And your room? It must have been quite an argument.”
At the same time Evan became agitated. TT saw his chance. “Dad, may I please go because I need to finish studying?”
The little boy genius. “Alright you can go,” he said attempting to soothe Evan. “TT wait…where’s Jack?”
“I think he’s outside in the backyard.”
In the backyard…That morning he told Jack that he would be in charge until he came home – no problem dad. Yet he comes home to find these two arguing. What the hell was Jack doing in the backyard? Evan started to cry.
“Evan, don’t cry. Daddy will get your bottle...shhh…shhh…”
20 minutes later…
Evelyn had trouble deciding what to wear while he rocked Evan to sleep.
“Sweetheart, please wear that one,” he pleaded. Almost a week with the kids and he was mentally tired.
“You like this one daddy?” she asked pointing her finger at a green blouse with different colored triangles at the front.
“Yes I love it and you can wear it with your jeans.” He hoped his voice was pleasant enough.
Todd let out a sigh of relief. Within another 20 minutes Evelyn was dressed and Evan off in dreamland.
The sun dipped below the horizon and orange, red, yellow colors streaked across the distant sky. Evening was fast approaching but Jack and Keke barely noticed steeped as they were in an interesting conversation while sitting by the pool.
“There are a lot of rumors going around about your father.”
“Most of it is true,” he said plainly, “I won’t lie and neither would he. Which ones are true and which aren’t I really can’t say. My father rarely talks about his past but once his family is happy then my father is happy.”
“And if you guys aren’t happy?”
“Do you really want to know?” His intense blue eyes held her in a trance until she shifted hers away.
“No…it’s not my place to ask such questions but I’m sure he would do anything to protect his family,” she said rising.
He took her hand in his and they slowly walked on. “Your friends must have warned you about me.”
“I won’t tell a lie,” she smiled, “They said that I must be careful around you because you are trouble with a capital T. You do have a reputation.”
“Then you must enjoy walking on the dangerous side,” he joked.
“A girl likes what she likes and I like you.”
He replied, “Glad to know cause I like you too,” and warmly squeezed her hand.
Soon after arriving in the kitchen, Todd began experiencing a nagging headache.
“Daddy I want apple please.”
“Alright baby,” he said stroking his head. “I’ll see what’s in the fridge.”
“Are you sick daddy?” she asked concerned.
He immediately tried to allay her concern by saying, “I’m just a little tired. Give daddy a kiss right here,” pointing to his forehead, “And I’ll feel much better.” She kissed him on the forehead and embraced him. “Now I’m all better,” he smiled.
He found the apple slices, set them in her plastic bowl and gave her a juice box. “Go in the living room with your brother.” He needed to track down Jack.
Jack and Keke were returning from their stroll when they saw Todd standing on the back porch, waiting.
He said, “I see my dad is waiting for us,” and quickly released her hand.
“He doesn’t look too happy.”
“Don’t worry about it. He’s cool cat once you get to know him.”
“Dad, I would like you to meet Keke Washington.” He added, “She’s a friend from school.”
It doesn’t seem like she is helping out with homework. “Hi my name is Todd Manning. It’s a pleasure to meet one of my son’s school friends.”
Keke shook his hand and replied, “It’s nice to meet you too Mr. Manning.”
“Keke, could you excuse us for a moment.”
“Of course Mr. Manning.”
Todd’s mouth curved downwards. “Didn’t you promise that you would look after your brother and sister until I came home?”
“Dad I know but you see…I forgot about it.”
“I have nothing against your friend but I expect you to keep your word even if it is simply to take care of Tangie and TT. Maybe you’re not ready to take on responsibility.”
“I’m sorry ok…geez.”
Todd continued, “Now you’re bringing a girl over…looks pretty serious.”
“Dad it’s nothing serious…we’re just hanging out.”
“I hope so.”
“I do remember our father and son chat,” he said sarcastically and walked away.
Todd muttered under his breath. His relationship with Jack had never been close. Now that he was a teenager he felt them drifting further apart.
Much to Tangie’s dismay the Manning men were really enamored by Keke including her father who joined in the conversation. They all sat around the table with Evelyn sitting on Todd’s knee, eating pizza and drinking soda. She casually nibbled at her remaining pepperoni pizza and listened.
“Both my parents are accountants.”
“I don’t find you boring at all.” The words slipped from Jack’s mouth and everyone stared at him while Keke cleared her throat.
“Maybe you know my father Mr. Manning.”
“Is your father – Clarence Washington?” She shook her head yes. “His firm handles the accounting for my newspaper.”
“See dad in a way our families are connected.”
“I see it clearly Jack,” he stared at Jack then asked Keke, “So do you have any plans for college?”
“It’s either going to be Harvard or Princeton but when the time comes I’ll be confident in my decision.”
“That’s my dream too…to attend Harvard,” TT said excitedly.
“Sounds like you’re a pretty smart kid.”
“I try my best,” TT blushed.
“Oh brother,” Tangie sighed and sipped her soda.
Keke reminded him of what a young Evangeline might have been – beautiful, confident. Damn he missed her and part of him worried that he still hadn’t heard from her.
Jack smiled smugly knowing that Keke had made quite an impression on his dad.
“Well I already know which college Jack is going. It starts with an S and ends…”
“Dad!” Jack yelled horrified. For a moment everyone sat frozen.
“I was attempting to say ends with M like Salem University,” Todd clarified.
Jack lifted an eyebrow. “Huh…never heard of it.”
Todd replied, “See what I mean,” which made everyone laughed. Jack smirked and shook his head from side to side.
When everyone finished clearing the table, Keke, TT and Evelyn stayed behind in the living room watching tv while Jack and Tangie were asked to follow their father to his home office.
Jack pressed his back against the wall and waited in the hallway until Tangie was finished.
Tangie’s hazel eyes appeared stunned. “Two weeks dad?” she asked, setting her right hand on her hip. “That’s not fair.”
The teenage years when all parents were old, evil and intrusive, limiting their freedom. “Keep it up and I’ll tack on a couple more.”
She knew he would do it. Never get on the bad side of her father or you’ll be punished more severely. She resigned to accept her fate. “Alright dad. What do I have to give up?”
“Cell phone, hanging with your friends at the mall and most of your allowance...” Her eyes questioned his latter decree. “I’ll use that money to enroll you in that class and replace TT’s broken glasses.” Tangie bit her tongue. She knew TT possessed another pair – her father’s way of teaching responsibility…must be her mother’s influence. “One more thing you’ll spend those couple of weekends assisting your Aunt Vicki with volunteer work.” Todd pause, waited then asked, “Do you have anything to tell me?”
She replied, “I didn’t take TT’s money.”
“I’m happy to hear that,” he said with an air of relief. “Let’s say goodnight and we’ll have a nice chat tomorrow.”
“Goodnight dad,” she softly said and gave him a small kiss on the cheek. “I’m sorry about what happened...that it got out of hand.”
He embraced her warmly saying, “You’re still daddy’s angel just try to abide by some of the rules or your mother will come after me.”
Jack didn’t understand why his father wanted to suddenly chat with him but he also had something on his mind.
“Dad you didn’t have to embarrass me like that. I’m not stupid!”
“Yet you’re skipping classes,” he pointed out. “Let’s cut past the bullshit! Are you on drugs?”
During the past couple of months he noticed a change in Jack’s behavior and was recently informed by the principal about him cutting classes. Around Evangeline he acted pretty normal but he seemed removed from the rest of the family. Jack just reacting like a typical Manning teenager…he wasn’t sure.
“Would it help if I were?” he asked, irritated by his dad’s presumption.
“Yes it would then I can understand what the fuck is going on with you. Jack, why won’t you talk to me?! You do know how much I love you,” he said, laying both hands on his shoulders.
“I know that dad but I don’t want to talk about it right now. Just need some space.”
“Are you going to go to your classes?”
“Sure…whatever.” Then his mood changed as if he realized something. “Dad, please don’t tell mom about this,” his voice and eyes pleaded.
“If you keep this up then she will know something is wrong.”
Evangeline and Jack shared a special connection which Todd envied sometimes. Evangeline loved him unconditionally and never spoke ill about Blair in his presence. In his heart he had two moms and he loved them both.
“Dad I need to take Keke home,” he said easing out of his grasp.
“Tell her goodnight for me.”
“Sure.” He opened the door. “I’ll work it out,” and closed it softly behind him.
In many ways he failed Jack and if nothing good came out of what he was going through then ultimately the blame would lie with him. He didn’t have the time to dwell on it. The evening wasn’t over. There were still things left to do before he could truly relax.
On the drive over to Keke’s residence conversation remained casual but scarce. She sensed a drastic change in Jack’s mood than when they spoke earlier and speculated that the conversation he had with his father affected him a great deal.
“Well thanks for bringing me home,” she said after he escorted her to her front door.
“I see that the lights are on so I better go before your father comes out with a shotgun.”
“More like an equipped calculator,” she corrected. They shared a small laugh. “I enjoyed talking with you and being around your family even if it got off to a rough start.”
He reached out and lightly touched her cheek. “I hope we do this again real soon.”
“We will,” she replied as their eyes locked. They heard someone stirring inside. “I must go.”
He stood watching for a moment while she walked away, opened the door, turned and mouthed call me. He nodded yes and softly said, “Goodnight.”
Although the shower was a refresher he didn’t feel like going to bed…Evangeline wasn’t there. He was about to go outside on their upstairs balcony when he heard…
Talk in everlasting words, and dedicate them all to me.
And I will give you all my life; I'm here if you should call to me.
You think that I don't even mean a single word I say.
It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away
The familiar ringtone meant one person. He quickly grabbed the phone and said, “Sweetheart I’ve been so worried.”
"I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to call earlier. I was too busy rushing around.”
“I hope you Uncle is alright.”
“He’s doing much, much better. I believe I’ll be coming home real soon.”
“How soon?” Something to look forward to…
“All you need to do is look in front of you.”
He saw the bedroom door unlock and she stepped inside looking absolutely amazing.
She felt the intensity of his crystal blues and carefully set down her luggage and coat. “I saw that you’ve been taking good care of our family.”
“Missed me?” she asked in an enticing whisper walking slowly towards him.
With every step she moved deliberately, seductively. The scent of her perfume, black, silky strands cascading around her shoulders and those sexy curves… Damn! Damn! Absence does make the heart and body want to explode.
Even after all these years of marriage I still burn for him. And the fact that he looked like he just stepped out of the shower made him extra sexy.
He cracked a smile and said, “Come over here and I’ll show just how much I’ve missed you.” His body missed every part of his ebony goddess wrapped around him.
Instantly they were in each other’s arms unleashing a week’s worth of stored up passion mixed with some lengthy tongue action.
Letting go she breathed, “Huh…huh…you missed me that much.” She felt his erection on her midsection and she moaned already wet with desire for him.
“Even more my love...” He captured her lips once again before carrying her off to that lonely bed that now would be filled with their lovemaking. At least until Evan wakes up.