Chapter 2


Chapter 2:

Previous Chapter 1


Mariah clasped her hoop earrings, puckered her pink lips in the mirror and winked at herself. She gave her freshly laid ombré bob of gray, silver and pink another brush over. As soon as she fixed any stray strands, her door rang repeatedly. Without asking who, she let in her brother, Don.

He came through the door, absent of a hello, “So when were you going to tell me about Paola’s art show?” Mariah glanced up to her brother’s brown eyes. Tall ran in their family, Mariah looked average height beside Don’s six-foot-three height. As siblings, they shared similar deep brown skin tones; Mariah’s complexion embraced deep warm tones to that revealed her moments fluster and blushing. Whereas, Don’s brown was rich and smooth to match his calm and collected demeanor.

Mariah rolled her eyes and went back to finishing her makeup. “I’m not doing this with you. You both like each other, both 30, both acting 13.”

“I’m not acting 13. Her dad is just a hard ass. I’m trying to keep it professional.” Don rubbed his beard as he smiled.

“Keeping it professional while sleeping with your boss’s assistant?” Mariah shot out. Don gave a look of confusion and concern knowing that conversation wouldn’t go any deeper if he wasn’t mentally prepared for it.

Taking strides across the kitchen and living room, Don walked past a slew of furry slippers, flats, low and high heels across the floor. Everyone knew Mariah’s love for five-inch heels no matter what occasion. “Where are you going?” Mariah wore a button-up dress that stopped short of her knees paired with sneakers. “I never see you wear sneakers.”

“I’m supposed to see Steven tonight. I also told Paola I would help her move some of her paintings.”

“Steven, huh?” Don took a seat on Mariah’s plush computer chair and crossed his legs at the ankles. “I thought you dumped that guy months ago,” he asked with his hands resting upon his head.

Mariah returned to the mirror, fixing her makeup. “Yeah, and then Steven got some promotion and asked me out. I got time, so what gives.” Don shook his head and watched Mariah scramble across her apartment. “You know I’m not a sucker for a guy in a tie, but he posted online looking very sexy in a suit. I just sent a little emoji, nothing crazy.”

Don shook his head in shame at his sister and it provoked her giggle fit. “What’s wrong with you?” Mariah joked and made pouty faces. “I’m sure Paola would give you the time of day if you flashed that banker money. And then you would have your own date instead of barging in my apartment every day.”

“I don’t have to do that.” Don shifted in his seat, clearly uncomfortable. His sister had a way of digging deep into his nerves as a way of getting him to exit her apartment.

“Well, how else is the boss man going to let you spank his daughter?” Mariah rolled her eyes. Don’s thick eyebrows frowned, annoyed with how pushy Mariah could be. She didn’t know he actually liked Paola and had no idea how else to impress her. He thought Mariah being her friend and his sister would benefit his chances, but all it’s done is leave him aggravated.

In an attempt to make Mariah uncomfortable in return, Don asked, “How are you managing a date with Steven and have enough time to help Paola?”

Mariah couldn’t help but think Steven was the tall, dark and handsome type of average. Who orders a gin and tonic? She thought to herself. He wore a turtleneck underneath a gray blazer, sporting a shiny watch that glimmered in the light as he reached for his drink. Even in his outfit, he seemed plain. Mariah was thirty minutes in her self-proclaimed two-hour limit and already she could do without Steven’s work jargon. She hadn’t been able to get a word in except to order her drink. His arrogance interrupted her too many times each time she attempted to speak to their server.

Immediately, succumbed to her own thoughts, Mariah leaned on her arm, cheek mushed against her fist. The ultimate bored move. “I’m doing you damage, huh?” Steven crossed his arms over his chest.

“Oh, no!” The lie was loud. “Let me run to the ladies’ room. Be right back.” Mariah wanted to put her foot in her mouth. She took a swift walk towards the back of the Peruvian dive bar for the bathroom. The short walk gave her enough time to check her phone and remember she needed to help Paola. She forgot. Again.

She passed a doorway to a courtyard for bar hoppers to relax in an outdoor confined, leafy area. Mariah stared in awed at the golden string lights paneling across the roof. “Do you like it?” A thick, heavy accent guided Mariah’s attention to a man standing to her right. Though he stood a few feet away, she immediately took notice of his tall and commanding presence. His attire was a simple white button up and slacks, his jacket looped over his arm.

“Yes, actually. Takes a lot to wow me, but these lights are stunning.” Mariah kept her smile short as her body did a round about.

“Maybe I can wow you around the gazebo area we have back here?” He held a loose smile, extending his hand. As soon as Mariah felt his very welcoming invitation, she wanted to take his hand so badly. However, next came Mariah’s impulse, “You own this place?”

Despite Mariah’s intrusive question, the man showed off a toothy smile and nodded approvingly.  He brought his hand to his chest, “With all my heart I own this place.” Mariah stood still by the doorway, smiling back at this mysterious man. Her bathroom break could be a few minutes, right?

All of a sudden, Mariah felt her phone buzz in her hand. Paola was going to be late, something Mariah knew beforehand but a heads up meant Paola was going to be extra late. Which Mariah only assumed to mean she had more time for her evening.

“I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m actually here on a date. I don’t want to be rude.” Afterwards, Mariah scurried off, not even taking a second to give the man another look. Her heart thumped through her chest the entire walk back to Steven. Before she pulled her chair out, he hurried off the phone, clearing his throat. “Sorry about that,” they said at the same time.

Provided the heavy silence cloaked over the bar table, Mariah twirled at the straw with her fingers, gathering her words for farewell. Meanwhile, the suave man from the courtyard found his way in Mariah’s distant view. The man took a seat by the bar with a wide glass already tucked in his hand. She watched the way he made the bartender laugh while she fixed his drink.

“Look,” Steven interjected, “I can see you don’t want to be here.” This caught Mariah by surprise and her eyebrows raised. Steven continued on, “And quite honestly, neither do I. I wanted to stunt and shit, but that’s whack and you aren’t really making it worth it.” Dripped with arrogance, Steven calmly played with his watch as gathered his bearings. Without warning, Steven threw a few bills on the table and finished his drink.

“The fuck?” At that very moment, Mariah screwed up her face. She watched in disgust as he fixed his corny turtleneck and managed to use the tiny button on his jacket. Then, he was out the door before she could speak again.

Alone at the table, Mariah sat in disbelief and a clenched jaw. Being humiliated was cool and all when you didn’t have a fine man guy sitting front row the entire time.

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