April 25, 2017
Sugar sends some sweet quality time with her sisters, but it turns sour.
Music Mood: Hard Time by Seinabo Sey
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.
“You really need a man, Shug,” Odette Kyle, the youngest Hartwell daughter, stated as she snuggled her back into the cushiony leather of the pedicure spa chair and surfed Facebook on her cell. Rochelle was resting in a pedicure spa chair to her left and Sugar was lounging on the one to the right. They were visiting their regular nail shop, Nailed It, that was conveniently in a central location for the sisters to leave their jobs for a bi-weekly pedi-medi treatment.
Rochelle’s practice was in an office building in the north area of downtown. Odette, a curator, worked an art gallery that was along the eastern outskirts of downtown. Sugar’s restaurant was situated towards the westside, but it was four blocks away from the nail shop. Sugar was half-tempted to walk back to the restaurant with dripping wet feet to avoid this conversation.
Rochelle nodded in agreement. “I second that notion.”
Sugar’s eyelids slid shut, sighing, “We’ve already gone over this. I’m—”
“Celibate,” they interrupted, speaking in eerie unison. Odette and Rochelle exchanged glances with a sharp roll of their eyes.
It was a life choice she had exercised for nearly five years. At first, it wasn’t by choice. The last time her ex-husband touched her, she had gotten pregnant for the fourth time during their eighteen-year marriage. It was the longest pregnancy she had successful endured until towards the end when she noticed the baby stopped kicking and she immediately went to the hospital. Their monitoring machines couldn’t detect a heartbeat and the doctors decided to induce labor. She gave birth to a stillborn son and Lance lost all interest in being with her in that after that.
Plus, the timeline of when Mariah became his sidechick lined up quite perfectly and their extramarital affair lasted for three years. Then one night Lance finally admitted to having the affair after months of suspicion and demanded a divorce in the same breath. That brutal year of divorce court battles was difficult for Sugar. Everyone encouraged her to go out and date, but she didn’t have the heart to do it. Not out of loyalty for Lance who was still her husband, but because she couldn’t bring herself to give her heart to another and hope they’d do right by her.
After the divorce was final, she had spent the last eleven months consuming herself with the construction, opening, and managing of Sugar Mama. There was literally no time in her schedule to even glance at someone of the opposite sex in a way other than familial love or professionalism.
Well, not exactly…
Her mind often wandered back to that night six days ago revolving around a battered heavily tattooed man with gray eyes, but she always reeled herself back to reality by presenting herself with cold hard facts. How she found him—how she met him—was nothing short of a promise for trouble.
He looked like trouble in the flesh.
She didn’t need anyone like that in her life.
“I think this whole celibacy thing is a little too much,” Odette admitted.
“It’s actually rather easy,” Sugar assured. “Now, could we just relax and enj—“
Rochelle interjected, “When’s the last time you had a man?”
"What kind of question is that, Roc? I had a man for eighteen years,” Sugar replied with a frown. “You know that.”
Rochelle shook her head.
“Uh-uh, sweetheart. I mean ‘had a man had a man’,” she clarified, her hips thrust upward and she whipped the air dirtily. Sugar’s eyes bulged at the vulgar display and Odette giggled wildly.
Odette leaned over to Sugar and elucidated further, “She means when was the last time someone knocked the cobwebs out of your pu—“
Sugar interrupted harshly, “I know what she meant, Odette.”
Embarrassment smothered her from all sides at her younger sisters’ off-color behavior in a public place, earning looks from workers and patrons alike.
“Stop acting so uptight, Sugar,” Odette commanded, swatting her oldest sister’s shoulder. “You always be acting like a nun.”
“I’m not acting uptight. All I’m trying to do is figure out why are you two so interested in my romantic life,” Sugar asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Because you don’t have one,” Odette answered.
“I don’t want one,” Sugar countered. “I’m not going to be made a fool of again by committing myself to someone.”
Rochelle let out a lengthy frustrated groan that left Sugar very confused.
“What,” Sugar queried with a frown.
“Ettie, please help me out because she’s just not understanding,” Rochelle pleaded to Odette.
“My pleasure,” Odette accepted with a nod before turning her attention to Sugar. “Look, Shug. Nobody is talking about you dating someone. We’re talking about you getting some, girl. We’re talking about no-strings-attached meaningless hot fun.”
Sugar wrinkled her nose at the thought. “Thanks but no thanks.”
Odette sighed heavily in defeat, shaking her head before she decided to change the subject. “So, what do you want to do for your 38th birthday?”
Sugar blinked at the question, completely caught off-guard. She had completely forgot that her birthday was a little over a month away. She had been so consumed with running her business that chaotic days blended together so seamlessly that she often forgot what day it was in the week and on occasion she forgot the month. The past few years seemed so long and never-ending and yet it just felt like she was thirty-three years old yesterday and now she was a few weeks away from turning thirty-eight.
Where had all that time gone?
“I guess a family dinner like we always do,” Sugar said with a shrug.
Rochelle sucked her teeth. “Shug, Mama and Daddy are going on that two-week cruise to the Bahamas around then. Mallory is taking Sullivan out for a boys’ night and we girls are going to take you out for a girl’s night.”
Sugar shook her head vigorously, wagging her index finger in disapproval. “Uh-uh. Oh, no, no, no. The last time we had a girls’ night, we got kicked out of two clubs, nearly caused a massive car-pile up, and almost got arrested for public indecency.”
“That’s my kind of girls’ night,” Odette approved with a laugh, high-fiving a grinning Rochelle.
“We’re having a girls’ night and that’s final, Shug,” Rochelle said firmly, a dare flashing in her eyes to challenge her decree.
Sugar rolled her eyes and exhaled through her nostrils, narrowing her eyes at her sister. “Fine,” she agreed. “Is it just going to be us three?”
“No,” Odette shook her head as she resumed her task of Facebook surfing. “Katrina, Reid, and Helena is coming too.”
Sugar pinched her nose and groaned.
Katrina was a no-nonsense woman, but when there was alcohol involved, she was just as much a wild child as Rochelle and Odette. Reid, Rochelle’s sister-in-law and law firm partner, wasn’t much of a drinker, but she loved chasing after good-looking men at clubs. Helena, Odette’s sister-in-law, was the absolute worst. She drunk heavy, partied hard, and had no self-control around men. She was the ripe age of twenty-three where consequences meant very little. She had a good heart when she was sober, but she was a party animal that acted a bit too wildly for Sugar. Often, the four other women spent a girls’ night chasing Helena down halfway across town because she decided to ride off with a man.
There was nothing wrong with having a girls’ night with women she loved and adored, but over the years, she felt like she couldn’t keep up with the increasingly rowdy meet-ups. The clubs and parties were always ‘lit as fuck’—as Helena called it—but Sugar couldn’t get into it like she should’ve—like they wanted her to. They danced, she sat on the sidelines. They guzzled drinks, she sipped and waited. She was always the designated driver; the responsible one.
She always felt out of place—like she didn’t belong. It was a feeling that she had become accustom to since childhood. Growing up, she buried herself in studies and piano. She, of course, did play and hang out with her younger siblings as the years went on, but there was always a subtle disconnect when they were together. Something that everyone knew, but no one had the guts to acknowledge it.
Sugar and Sullivan were two sides of the coin when it came to their somber natures. Sugar was on the softer end therefore more open and approachable than her twin brother while Sullivan dominated the rougher end with a difficult but protective personality. Their siblings, on the other hand, were more light-hearted and playful therefore the older Hartwell twins’ interactions with their younger sisters and baby brother sometimes resembled oil and water.
“Don’t act like that, Shug. It’s going to be great,” Odette assured, “and I promise to keep Helena in check too.”
Sugar lifted her hands in surrender. “Alright, alright. Let’s do the girls’ night.”
Odette squealed in excitement. “You will not regret this!”
Rochelle smiled. “We’re gonna get you to come out of your shell, girl.”
“I was never in a ‘shell’,” Sugar returned.
Her younger sisters exchanged ‘uh-huh’ glances.
“What,” Sugar asked with a frown. “It’s true.”
“Shug, can I be real with you for a moment,” Rochelle requested.
“Please, do,” Sugar agreed, an anxiousness buzzing through her veins as she awaited her sister’s words.
“You’re a kind of a recluse, Shug,” Rochelle revealed.
Sugar blinked, reeling her head backwards slightly as the weight of Rochelle’s announcement hit her hard—surprised her. “Beg your pardon?”
“I said,” Rochelle stated in a matter-of-factly tone, “you’re a kind of a recluse.”
“If I was a recluse then I wouldn’t be here, Roc,” Sugar replied as a desperate desire to show Rochelle the massive error in her summarized statement of Sugar’s character.
Rochelle shook her head. “You can go out into the world and still be a recluse, Shug. You’ve always found something and dragged it back to your shell to devote yourself to it wholeheartedly—obsessively even. When we were kids, you did it with the piano. Then at nineteen, it was with Lance. You stayed in that shell with him for eighteen years, but you occasionally crawled out of it to let us know you were alive and well. You were so obsessed with being the perfect wife. So much so that you even stayed with that bastard after he be—“
Sugar’s eyes widened in shock at the word Rochelle was about to utter. Was she seriously going to throw that in her face?
“Roc, that’s enough,” Odette interrupted in a swift sharp manner. “Now’s not the time or place.”
Sugar clenched her jaw. “No, she’s on a roll now. Let her finish since she’s got me all figured out.”
“You stayed with that man after he did you wrong time and time again,” Rochelle continued, deciding to rephrase her previous statement for the sake of prying ears. “And now that your marriage is over, your restaurant is your new shell. You barely get any sleep. You work yourself to death.”
“Why is everyone so concerned with how I live my life,” Sugar snapped.
“Because you’re not living it like you should,” Rochelle tossed back. As her older sisters argued, Odette closed her eyes and shook her head knowing that their heated squabble was too far gone for her to have any influence in ending it.
“That’s your opinion, Roc. You say I’m not living it the way I should, but you’re wrong. I am. I love what I do. It makes me happy. If you can’t accept that then that’s your problem,” Sugar said.
For the first time in her life, Sugar was free to do what she pleased without answering to another. She went from living under the authority of her parents to living under the authority of her husband with little room for rebellious freedom. Now, that she was a free woman, her siblings all wanted a say of how she should live her life.
Mallory wanted her to hire someone to manage the restaurant, so she could be “the face” of the restaurant. Sullivan threatened to enforce a curfew upon her if she didn’t get home at a reasonable time. Rochelle and Odette were obsessed with her getting a fuck buddy and partying.
She was nearing the age of thirty-eightand yet, she felt like a child when it came to her siblings meddling in her life. The more she thought about it, the angrier she got.
Rochelle jerked her attention to Odette. “Can you please talk some sense into your sister?”
“Uh-uh,” Odette voiced, shaking her head, “I just wanted to relax and let my feet soak before I get a pedicure, but I can’t ever take you anywhere.”
Rochelle gawked. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me, Roc. Every time we go somewhere, you’re always arguing and interrogating folks like you’re in court. This isn’t court. We’re in a nail salon trying to spend quality time together. You wanna talk about Shug being some sort of recluse and air out all her business for these folks, but she could just as easily spill some tea on you. However, I wanna do the honors today because I’m tired of all this,” Odette replied, pursing her lips. “We all know you don’t walk into a courtroom unprepared. When you land a big case, you’re locked up in your office for months on end. When your caseload is small, you want to dip your fingers into everyone else's cases to keep your behind busy. Yet you too busy to even shoot a simple text message or even like a damn post on Facebook. So, don’t come for Shug’s edges and leave yours unprotected.”
Rochelle rolled her eyes, but said nothing. She leaned back against her spa chair, focusing her eyes ahead to avoid her sisters’ gazes.
Odette gestured her arms wide. “Now, can we get back to sisterly bonding or do ya’ll want to continue this civil war? If so, then let me request another spa chair away from this foolery. So, truce or naw?”
“Truce,” Sugar and Rochelle replied stubbornly at the same time.
Eventually, Sugar returned to the restaurant with a fresh French manicure and French pedicure. The early afternoon crowd was impressive but not overwhelming. She strutted into the lobby and said hello with her day shift receptionists, Clara and Darren.
“Oh, Ms. Wallace,” Darren called after her as she walked past.
She winced slightly at her last name. Even after nearly a year of being divorced, she had yet to change her married name back to her maiden name. There were lots of reasonings and excuses as to why that she often pondered in the wee hours of the morning when she couldn’t drift to sleep quite yet. There was laziness. There was busyness. Then there was the fact that she only knew how to be Sugar Wallace, not Sugar Hartwell. However, she was leaning more and more towards changing her last name, but she wasn’t in a hurry.
“Yes, Darren?” She swirled slowly on her heels to face him.
“There was a delivery that came for you. I left it on your desk,” Darren informed.
Sugar blinked in surprise. She wasn’t expecting a delivery.
“Um, thank you,” she nodded with a smile before she strutted into the dining area. She decided to assess customer satisfaction by having brief tableside conversations with the patrons about how they enjoyed the food, drinks, and service. No one had any complaints and that pleased her greatly. Her staff did an amazing job and the smiles on the customers’ faces only further drove that fact. After devoting time to that, she ventured into the kitchen, down the short hallway, and opened the door to her office. She froze in the doorway as she stared at the beautiful floral arrangement of dark pink and light pink peonies housed in a crystal cube vase.
Slowly, she walked into her office and shut the door behind her. She approached the front of her desk and planted her hands against its surface as she leaned down to take an admiring sniff of the fresh flowers. Who in the world would send her these? Her brain scrambled for an answer. She scanned the cluster of flowers for a card and found a sealed envelope in moments, She opened the small envelope and retrieved a card from inside. The written note said:
Your name is quite fitting.
Who in the devil was C?
Her face scrunched together in confusion. As a habit, she flipped the card to its backside in search of a clue. Normally, in these instances there was none, but in her case—in that moment—there was a phone number located on the back. Her heart immediately began to race at the discovery.
Sugar retrieved her cell from her purse and dialed the scribbled seven digits. Her heart throbbed even more violently than before in her chest as she placed the device against her ear and listened to it ring. She sat down in one of the two chairs in front of her desk, jittery with anticipation. She counted the rings and just before the last one, she changed her mind and hung up the phone. She tossed the phone from her hand like it was a hot potato and watched it skid to a halt halfway across her desk.
She had a very strong gut feeling that a man sent her these flowers and she had sworn off all men.
She had told herself this.
She had told her meddling sisters this.
She had told the universe this.
She didn’t need to know who C was nor did she want to deal with him, but she decided to keep the flowers because they were too gorgeous to be thrown away.
“He does have good taste though,” she muttered to herself, cocking her head as she admired the floral arrangement from where she sat.
It was then the phone rang and vibrated due to an incoming call. Fear spiked inside of her for the briefest of moments before she realized that it was Mallory calling. She picked up the phone and answered it.
“What is it this time, Lory?”
“Look, I’m not…going to be…able to…come in tonight,” Mallory announced in between wet noisy kisses. Sugar rolled her eyes sharply before she glued her attention on the ceiling.
She arched an eyebrow and shook her head, curiosity getting the best of her even though she knew her mind would be filled with cringeworthy mental images if he answered truthfully. “Pray tell me why. Are you sick?”
“Well, I am seeing…a nurse as…we speak,” Mallory spoke in between another series moist noisy kisses that made Sugar want to gag. This time around she could hear a giggle in the background, which made Sugar roll her eyes even harder.
“Will you be able to get a doctor’s note?”
“Mm hm,” Mallory hummed, which was followed by a low moan from a woman.
“Bye, Lory,” Sugar huffed in an irritated tone before she ended the call. Before she could even pry the phone from her ear, another call came. Immediately, she answered it thinking it was Mallory, no doubt, trying to explain his case as he always did.
“I don’t want to hear any of your silly excuses. I have a business to run, so every time you chase after fast tails, I’m the one who gets left in the dust. So, excuse me for being so tired of you choosing play over work. I don’t have that luxury. I can’t afford that luxury,” Sugar spouted.
“Play isn’t as expensive a luxury as you think.”
Sugar’s eyes widened slowly at the smooth deep southern voice that was very much not her baby brother’s. It alerted her at first as she didn’t know who she was talking to, but it didn’t talk long to figure out who it was. The ‘who’ she was on the phone with was also the same ‘who’ that sent the flowers and the same ‘who’ she cleaned the blood off his face in her empty restaurant at nearly three o’clock in the morning.
“So, you’re C,” she finally spoke, her voice a little shaky.
“So, you remember me then?” She could detect from his tone that he was pleased—charmed even.
“How can I forget? Our introduction was very,” she cleared her throat, “unique.”
“I wish we could’ve met under different circumstances.”
Sugar scoffed. “Actually, the circumstances we met under were perfect because it allowed me to see what kind of person you truly are.”
“And what kind of person do you think I am?”
“Trouble,” she answered. “You get pushed out of a car bloodied and battered. You didn’t want medical attention, which would have probably gotten the police involved. You probably didn’t want that, now did you? I only patched you up to be kind, but don’t mistake my kindness as an open call for a man. I don’t want one. I don’t need one and if I did, it wouldn’t be you. I’ve had more than enough seedy men in my life to know that you’re probably one. So, thanks for the flowers, but no thanks to everything else. Now if you excuse me, Mr. C, I have more important matters attend to.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to keep you from them,” he said so calmly that it surprised her.
She just insulted him. She literally accused him of being trouble—of being a seedy person—and in return, he spoke to her with such a respectful even-tempered manner. Lance would have exploded. There would have been more than a few men that would have become extremely angry and defensive from her sharp-tongued accusations. However, there was no hint of anger or disappointment in his voice. It was almost as if he had expected her rejection and had accepted that fate well in advance before he even sent the flowers.
If that were the case then why did he even bother?
“Um, thank you for,” she paused, searching for a word as she recovered from being caught off-guard by his composed response.
“Understanding,” she finished, clearing her throat with unease.
Uncomfortable with the concept of saying goodbye, she quickly ended the call. Pulling the phone away from her ear, she stared at it for a long moment as she bit on her lower lip.
That wasn’t what she expected.
That wasn’t what she expected at all.
Here is another update! I went to a friend's party last night and I was tipsy as all get out, but I had a strike of inspiration and I couldn't wait to get home to write after some dancing and more drinks, of course. I had a great time at the party and writing the beginning of the chapter was great after I got home.
This chapter was great insight into the sisterly relationships between the Hartwell sisters. Rochelle is the hardheaded arguing type. Sugar is the older shy level-headed sister. Odette is the fun cheery baby sister who is always forced to pick sides.
And then we have the ending of the chapter where Sugar makes the decision to reject Chef and yet he was rather accepting of it, which confused her so much...
Have a wonderful Sunday!
Feedback is greatly appreciated! :)
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