Chapter 54: Hit Me With Your Best Shot

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“You’ve got the incline up pretty high, old man,” Jared said.

“Just need to blow off some steam, bro,” Jayden huffed.

“That bad, huh?”

“Yep.”

“You know I’m here, right?”

“Yep. Love you, man.”

“You too. Take it easy on that incline now.”

The relationship between two men–especially brothers–is a funny thing. There aren’t many words, but powerful messages are exchanged. That weekend, Jared decided to take a break from his epic workouts, logic study, and space travel to spend time with his nieces and nephew. It just so happened that Mackinzie had come over for a visit, so he struck up a card game with them.

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“Ummm,” Mackinzie hesistated, “I don’t know how to tell you guys this, but…my father died.”

“What?? When,” Jared asked.

“Last week.”

“Last week?! How come you guys didn’t tell us? We would have loved to come to the funeral and check on you girls.”

“I know. Mom said the voices told her not to tell you guys, and you know her and those voices.”

“Yeah, right. But still….”

“It was probably for the best,” Brandon spoke up. “I mean, with all the mess going on here, why throw death on top of it. No disrespect, of course.”

“I know, I get it,” Mackinzie said. “I felt the same way. We’re ok though. He was a great dad. Very involved in our lives. Good provider. Took care of mom with all of her crazy. I miss him, but I’m good.”

“That’s good to hear, Mackinzie,” Jared said. “I know you all come by all the time, but please, we’re here for you all for everything. Ok?”

“Thank you, uncle Jared.”

Jared whipped the youngsters into shape a few times on the card table and then he went to hang out with his own son.

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“Mackinzie…I need your help.”

“What’s up, cuz?”

“How do I talk to girls?”

“Shouldn’t you be asking your mother about this?”

“I’m not talking to her right now!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot. That was silly. Who’s this girl?”

“She just moved here from Bridgeport, but she’s originally from Al Simhara.”

“Egyptian, eh? I bet she’s beautiful.”

“Oh, Mackinzie. You just don’t know! I could look at her all day.”

“Awww! That’s soo cute! Well, it sounds like you know her pretty well already, so what’s the problem?”

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“Well, I don’t have a problem talking to her about regular things, although I do get nervous and don’t have much to say around her. Even still, we have a great friendship. I just don’t know how to talk to her about other things. You know…like, how can I find out if she likes me?”

“Most of the time the girl is waiting for the guy to make the first move, so you’re going to have to tell her that you like her first.”

“Awww! Why does the guy have to do all the work?”

“That’s just the way things are, little cuzzo! I’m gonna go take a quick dip in you guys’ pool before the party. You know you’re the first in the entire neighborhood, right? If that doesn’t say ‘status,’ I don’t know what does!”

It was Bianca’s 18th birthday, and she was throwing a huge party. Everyone was rushing around the house making sure it was clean and making preparations. At the last minute, Maliyah decided to bake a cake for her baby girl. When the cake was finished, she placed it on the dining room table and lit the candles. Bianca was in there cleaning up dishes from breakfast. It was the first time in months that they had spoken or even been in a room together. At first, Bianca ignored her, but as she was leaving, she felt a gentle tug in heart. Just like Giancarlo said, she did love her mother.

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“Ummm…thanks for the cake, mom.”

“You’re welcome, dear. I hope you like it.”

Within a few hours, all the guests had arrived, an the party was jumping. The living room was filled with family and friends, and Bianca just stood in the midst of them soaking it all in.

“I wish things could always be like this,” she thought.

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After the dancing, everyone had worked up an appetite, so Bianca called everyone to dinner and drinks. Maliyah, Jared, Serena, and Jasmine joined Bianca in the dining room for a nice, quiet dinner.

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“Isn’t this nice,” Maliyah asked.

No one said anything. Although Jasmine was still very beautiful and sassy, between her being very close to the end of her life and the voices, she had become a bit senile in her old age. Her children didn’t bother to keep her up to date on the family drama for her own sake. Even still, Jasmine felt a bit uneasy around Maliyah and didn’t say anything to her all night.

“Well,” Maliyah continued, slightly embarrased. “I just want to say something to my dear daughter. I know we don’t see eye to eye, and I know you think I’m a horrible person. But I love you very much, and I am extremely proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished. Happy birthday, darling!”

Bianca wasn’t sure if she should believe anything Maliyah said, but to save face, she simple said “thank you.” Everyone finished their dinner and went back to partying. Bianca decided to blow out the candles alone. She wished that her mother would stop lying to herself.

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As the night came to a close, Bianca went to all her guests and thanked them for coming–especially Giancarlo. She really hoped he was going to stick around afterward.

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“Hey! Did you enjoy yourself?”

“I sure did! You guys have a pretty sick house! Did you guys buy this or have it built?”

“A little of both! It’s been in the family for years. My great great great grandfather Xavier built it himself when it was just a little shack. Every generation after that adds on and makes improvements.”

“Wow. That is remarkable! I didn’t know people still lived that way.”

“Yep. We do!”

Jayden had missed the entire party because he was working 5-11, so he came in just in time to see everyone and get some cake. Bianca introduced him to Giancarlo, and he was very glad to meet him. He had mixed emotions, of course. He was tired and sweaty from work, and a little hungry on top of being frustrated and upset about his life. He was very happy and proud of his youngest daughter who was definitely a daddy’s girl, and he was especially proud that there was a young man in her life. He just didn’t know what to feel, so he tried to keep quiet. He wanted to slip away, but he couldn’t move. He was overcome with emotion.

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“Dad? Are you all right over there? Dad? Dad!”

“Huh?”

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing. I’m going upstairs. Goodnight.”

“Is your dad going to be ok,” Giancarlo asked.

“Yeah. He’ll be fine. There’s just a lot going on right now.”

The next morning was Saturday, and everyone slept in. It was rare that the Pruett children would all sit down and have breakfast in the same room, but it happened that way that morning. Jayden was walking by and saw all three of them together, so he took advantage of the opportunity.

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“Oh look! You’re all here. I want to say something.”

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“I know we haven’t discussed what’s going on, but you’re all grown and you’re not blind. I know you know your mother and I are going through a rough patch. But I want you guys to be strong and support each other. We’re going to make it through this.”

“You don’t know that, dad,” Bianca said with tears in her eyes.

“I know, honey. But I choose to believe that we will. I have to keep the faith. We all do! Don’t give up, ok?”

“Yes, sir,” they all said.

“Good. Now, I’ve decided to have a black and white party this afternoon. Aunt Jasmine is very old, and I want her to see everyone together before she goes. Besides, your mom seems to behave nicely at parties, so why not, right?”

They all chuckled. They finished breakfast and then retreated to their rooms to put together a killer outfit for the party. Jared was especially proud of his outfit.

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“Smokin!”

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Everyone had a great time, and Jasmine loved having everyone over. She asked about Cory and his family, but they told her that they were out of town. They didn’t want to kill her spirits with the old news of his death. As the party drew to an close late into the night, everyone started to drop like flies so Jayden decided to start cleaning up and Brandon helped.

“So, dad…how do I talk to a girl?”

That question was like music to his ears.

“You talk to her just like you talk to everyone else.”

“That’s what everyone keeps saying, but I can’t seem to talk right around her.”

“You must like her a great deal.”

“Yeah.”

“Look, Brandon, just be yourself! There’s no sense in trying to pretend to be something you’re not because then she falls in love with the wrong person and you have to act all the time. Just tell her how you feel.”

“How I feel?”

“Yeah. If you don’t know what to say, tell her. If you feel nervous, tell her. Girls dig it when you’re honest with them.”

And then he thought about his own girl and was sad again.

“Son, I’m gonna…go upstairs.”

11-09-14_7-19 PMBrandon watched him leave and felt so sad for him.

“Dad, wait!”

“What is it, son?”

He didn’t quite know what to say, so he just spit it out.

“Are you and mom gonna get divorced?”

“Absolutely not! Pruetts don’t get divorced. She knows better than to pull a stunt like that.”

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