"Hey Auntie!" (excerpt-II)
A misplaced scarf leads to a different kind of #BlackFriday deal, as Liza comes face-to-face with her homegirl's nephew for the first time. Leftovers hit different when you never knew there were any in the first place.
“Lauren, I have to thank you again for inviting me to Thanksgiving with your family. I have literally never had a meal like that before.”
“No problem baby, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself around my big crazy tribe,” she replied. “So wassup? You taking advantage of any Black Friday sales today?”
“I know you fucking lying. I’m much more of a Cyber Monday girl. I am far too grown to be out throwing elbows with someone’s cousin over a damn air fryer.”
“You are a fool. It’s not that bad out here, to be honest.”
If my phone had arms and legs, the way it would have looked at me when she said this, oof! You want to try harder to insult the woman Liza?
“Uh...Lauren, is Andre with you?”
She was delayed in responding, but I could hear her asking someone in the background to grab something.
“Yeah, Dre's here. You need him?”
My girl Lauren is five-foot-ten with a solidly built frame. Actually, after going over to her sister’s house for dinner yesterday I saw it was par for the course in the Collins family. Her sister Kamilah was maybe an inch shorter with a similar build. Scratch that, Kamilah was a capital TH, thicker version of her younger sister. Their baby brother Mike was six foot five, and all of the kids I met regardless of age were stealing from the vertical gene pool.
Lauren's husband Andre, was a former offensive lineman in the league. Dre was a big friendly teddy bear, but the emphasis was definitely placed on big. If there is anyone who isn't going to have a problem while out shopping in the craziness of this season, it's Lauren.
“Nevermind. Hey, I think I left my scarf over at your sister’s house yesterday. Do you think she would mind if I swung by to pick it up?”
“Not at all. Let me call her to make sure she’ll be home. If I don’t call you back, just check your text for the address. Let me go, I need to uh...coerce this display Kitchen-Aid mixer into my cart. Talk to you later babes.”
"Bye woman! And thanks again."
Ten minutes later I was on Georgia Avenue on my way to 495. Kamilah lived in Laurel, Maryland about thirty minutes away from me and just ten minutes on the other side of my gym. It just makes more sense to head out that way first then head to the gym after.
Pulling into the driveway in the daytime afforded a much better appreciation of the home belonging to the oldest sibling in the Collins clan. It was a big, beautifully built colonial, that somehow found a way to not come across as a McMansion.
I rang the doorbell and waited. Turning around to look at three sets of boxwood hedges on either side of the steps. The pops of color on the steel planters holding them definitely matched what I saw of Kamilah's personality in meeting her last night. Warm, lively, and inviting.
The young woman's voice broke in from behind me.
"Leah, right? Hey," Lauren's 11-year-old daughter looked back at me with the same bright eyes and pouty-lipped smile her mother had.
"Is your aunt home? I left something over here last night. Your mom said I could come pick it up."
"Yes ma'am, mommy told me. Mama Kam just ran out to the store. She said she would be right back though."
"Okay, well I can just wait in the car until she comes back," I replied.
"Who was at the door, Leah?"
The young shirtless man who walked up behind the child was nothing short of Friday after Thanksgiving leftovers delicious.
The strings from his black durag hung free down the sides of his face, lying on his chest shamelessly. The tattoo that sat in the middle of that very broad milk chocolate landscape was an intricately drawn tribal elephant head.
The detail and artwork, breathtaking.
"How may I help you miss?" He asked, snapping me out of a dreamlike state, in an even tone that sounded like late nights and bad decisions.
"This is Ms. Liza, D. She works with mommy. She was at Thanksgiving yesterday."
With this brief explanation, his demeanor seemed to relax some. As his brow unfurrowed, I could see the family resemblance. Despite their difference in hues, they both shared the same high cheekbones and expressive almond-shaped eyes that the Collins siblings shared.
I wonder if his eyes disappear when he smiles like Lauren's, I thought. And why am I thinking about what this man's eyes do?
"So should we let her in then is the new question," he asked her.
"I think so. She came to get her scarf from auntie. She left it yesterday," Leah answered.
So you're Kamilah's son.
"Got it 411," he smiled down at her, scrunching his nose.
"I can, wait in the car until your mom comes home, it's no problem."
"And have my momma cuss me out for having a guest sit outside in her driveway. Nah, I'm cool on that," he replied with a playful grin.
There is the resemblance.
Unlike her sister, Kamilah had a broad toothy smile that made her cheeks stand out and almost shine. This specimen of a man possessed the same facial structure and mannerisms, and he hadn't even uncorked full wattage.
Fuck me, those lips.
"Please come in," he said, standing to the side.
The heat that emanated from his body when I passed was wrapped in the scent of black chamomile. I could feel his eyes familiarizing himself with every inch of me that I was a fan of and those that were forcing me to head to the gym this morning. He was clearly fresh out of a shower and getting ready to do something to the day and my mind was now in need of the same. I wanted to feel what he was thinking when I walked by.
Do something to me, please I thought. Or at least let me do something to y--
"Please have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?"
His bare feet padded across the dark-colored hardwood floor on the way to the kitchen with Leah, disappearing from view. They were talking about something that had the younger girl laughing hysterically and though I could not make out what was said, the natural heaviness in his tone was filling in quite nicely.
The low hum from my vibrating cellphone was followed by a text preview from Lauren.
L.C.: You make it to the house okay? Was your scarf there?
I made it okay alright. The better question is why in the hell did you not tell me your nephew was this damn fine. And where is his damn shirt?
“Here you are, miss.”
He walked towards me in slow motion with a blue carton extended in my direction.
“You didn’t answer when I asked if you wanted something. It looks like you’re on the way to the gym, so I thought coconut water would be the best bet. Hope that's okay.”
“Oh, right, sorry. Thank you. My mind is all over the place right now,” I forced out with a small chuckle. "I've been meaning to give it a try. Coconut water that is."
...and that too. That print resting on the other side of those dearly departed cutoff grey sweat shorts you have on is distracting. Shit! I’m gonna need you to back up sir, for both of our sakes.
“So what are we working on today miss Liza?”
He moved back to the wall by the kitchen and leaned against it, sipping on an unmarked bottle of green liquid. The way he looked at me with such intention was unnerving if for nothing else because I’m trying not to get caught eye fucking my new homegirl’s nephew in his momma’s home. The latter of which fed me so amazingly last night.
“I uh...I’m just going to work on a little bit of everything. It’s been a while since I went to the gym. Looking to get a jump start on my New Year’s resolution you know? These curves aren’t gonna keep themselves in check.”
The way his tongue eased between his lips, licked the top one, then pulled the bottom one in-between his teeth almost made me say damn this scarf. This entire scene is entirely too much pressure and if I didn’t know any better I would think Lauren set my ass up for this chance encounter.
I forced myself to pull my gaze from thick lips framed by a freshly manicured goatee to see the bottle he was drinking from was moving back towards his side.
Okay, I’m tripping. I don’t even know this boy's name and he has me tripping. Get it together Elizabeth damn.
“Unsolicited advice,” he said in a questioning tone.
“Make sure to grab a list of the classes the gym offers. A good rule of thumb for first-timers or people going back to the gym is not having a plan. Take the different classes for a test run to see what works best for you. Finding what you enjoy, increases the likelihood that you will keep coming back.”
There goes that grin from earlier, oh my gawd!
The sound of keys hitting the door and its opening finally put me out of my misery. Kamilah walked in and the mood in the room instantly changed. Her smile was big, her voice distinct, and she just had this incredible magnetic air about her.
“Well welcome to the land of the living David Marcus. So nice of you to join us.”
The playfulness in his voice as David jumped over the coffee table and closed the space between them was impressive and beautiful to see. He peppered her with kisses all over her face as she laughed and tried to wiggle out of his embrace. Why am I smiling so hard? Why are his legs so chocolatey and muscular? Did I just say chocolatey? What the hell…
Shit, how long has she been calling me?
“Yes ma’am...I’m sorry, yes?”
David looked at me with a peculiar gaze, one he punctuated with a head tilt.
“Daydreaming over there a little bit ain’t you?” Kamilah said in a tone that matched the look on her son’s face.
“I guess so, I’m sorry.”
“Okay. Sorry, you like to go by Liza right?” she added, “did David Marcus offer you anything?”
This has got to be a trick question.
“Yes ma’am. He was a perfect gentleman. And Liza or Elizabeth is fine,” I answered.
He is most definitely a perfect, gentleman. Those cheekbones, that jawline, those toned arms, the two lightning bolt veins that disappear into his waistband. I have got to get out of here.
“Liza, you have one more time to call me ma’am. I am only three years older than my sister. You calling me old?”
“Oh lord no, I’m sorry Kamilah. That was...I’m just...I’m not woke yet,” I managed to push out. “Not used to being up and out of the door this early on a Saturday. Headed to the gym for the first time in forever.”
“Ah, I gotcha," her energy remained the same but her tone shifted slightly. "Good for you.”
Her raised eyebrow made me increasingly nervous. Now I was wondering if I could match David’s speed if I had to race to the door and sprint back home. My car would be fine if I left it here right?
“David Marcus, go look in the office and grab Liza’s scarf. It’s in the long white box on top of the bookshelf.”
After taking her bags into the kitchen, Kamilah came back with a cloth bag and held it out to me. Inside were four Tupperware bowls containing fried turkey, green beans, some of the dirty rice I overindulged on last night, and a small container of gumbo. The moment I started to raise my hands in protest she gave me the Lauren face, but more intimidating.
She big sister’d me.
I took the bag, said thank you and she smiled in kind. Then I tripped all over myself like I did last night in telling her how amazing everything was because it was damn good. Thanks to my job, I have been allowed to taste a wide variety of cuisines and delicacies from all over the world.
All three of the Collins siblings, needed their own cooking show. Last night's Thanksgiving meal was straight out of a movie.
I had heard from some of my coworkers that Lauren was a wiz in the kitchen. But after last night, I wanted to find a way to be adopted by the entire family. And to think I thought I needed to get back in the gym before, messing with these folks would turn that into a definite.
“Get up off the floor fool!”
Kamilah’s booming voice and subsequent laugh filled the entryway with high-fidelity level sound. When I looked to my right I understood why. David had returned from the office with a long brown Burberry box filled with black satin innards. Laying inside was my favorite cream-colored scarf with differing shades of gray horizontal stripes. My aunt had gifted it to me last Christmas before I moved up north.
Standing to his feet in front of me now, his bare chest teased me mercilessly. He was easily a foot taller than I was. Thankfully, Kamilah’s presence kept me from reaching out and touching something that I had no business yearning to test the hardness of.
Two chocolate nipples I was dying to taste the sweetness of.
“Thank you, sir,” I feigned a curtsy that turned his grin into a full-on blinding smile.
“Please don’t encourage him,” Kamilah broke in. “David Marcus, take Liza’s bag to the car for her please.”
He peeked inside and snapped his head up.
“Ma! Is this the last of the gumbo?”
“No boy, I stashed yours in the refrigerator in the garage.”
“Oh okay, then I will gladly usher the young lady to her car. Right, this way ma’am.”
Outside, David Marcus arranged the Tupperware in a box he pulled from the garage then placed it in my trunk. After holding open my door for me to get in, he closed it and motioned for me to roll my window down.
“Don’t forget, grab a list of classes the gym offers. Drink that water on the way to the gym and make sure to stretch before you even think about doing anything.”
“Yes sir,” I replied. “Are you one of those IG trainers specializing in women clients?” I laughed.
He returned my laugh with a grin and leaned on my car door. The black chamomille scent now creeping inside and making itself comfortable right under my nose. I could feel my eyes glazing over in real-time.
“Nah, I’m a kinesiology major. Contemplating going into physical therapy in the future. Our team trainer stresses stretching at every turn. Anyway, good luck at the gym.”
David stood up and stepped back from the car.
Subconsciously my eyes moved from his collarbone, across his chest, down his ripped stomach, and followed the flat, hard pelvic muscle that ran inside black boxer briefs. Those got damn grey cutoff sweat shorts hung loosely around his waist and another stolen glimpse at the print would have been prolonged if I wasn’t fearful of mama bear peeking through the blinds.
There was no second thought needed. I am a lot of things, but a fighter isn't one of them. If Lauren knew where my thoughts were right now, she'd drag me to high hell and tell me about myself during the beating. Kamilah doesn't come across as the talking type. All action.
When I looked up, David Marcus' eyes locked onto mines and my fuck or fli...my fight or flight reflex cranked up my car and took me in reverse down the winding driveway. I somehow managed to muster a weak smile in his direction, placed my car in drive, and accelerated to the stop sign.
Taking slow deliberate breaths in the process.