With his sister as a roommate, is Darien doomed to live a lonely, useless life?
|Trigger warning ▼
"Junk all over." Darien pointed to the makeup palette and mirror. "I try to keep a certain image."
Jasmine nodded. “On call for your ladies.” She poured herself bright red cereal, and splashed the milk.
She whispered, "It's my home, too."
They hadn't even eaten yet. He waved his iphone in her face. "I gotta get this."
Caller ID said, "Charmaine, 8.9."
He faked a smile. "Oh, honey!"
"That's all you care about." Jasmine stifled herself and faced the window. “Why do I bother living?"
"Bad time, Dare Bear?" Charmaine cooed. "Donnie would love to hear from little old me."
As he watched Jasmine, Darien struggled to maintain his front. "No, Charmaine, it's nothing."
The silence hung in the air. Jasmine's pained expression matched Darien's mood.
He shrugged. "Jasmine and I were just having a discussion."
"And she's more important."
"Charmaine?" He bit his lip and grabbed the back of his neck.
Would she detect the fear in his voice? After a few seconds, he sighed. "Don't be like that.”
She scoffed. “Hey, you got your priorities.”
"But, she's my sister!" He bit his lip.
Jasmine perked up.
"Yeah, whatevs. Talk to the hand."
He locked eyes with Jasmine. "You see what I put up with?"
"Maybe you're right." Jasmine wiped away the milk. "Maybe I am nothing. Just throw me out like old nachos."
As the strength left him, he let his shoulders sag. What did she mean? He didn't even meet her eyes. "Yeah, maybe I should."
"Can I not be as important as a phone?"
Charmaine always checked her email as Darien begged for her attention. When did he become one of those people? He softened his voice. "Some things, a sister can't offer."
"Oh, so if I was some kind of whore...?"
"Don't, don't even start." He caught the reflection of his eyebrows: aggressive. But, why did she not see? "You know what I mean."
"No, I don't. What do I have to do to be important?"
He couldn't explain. "Nothing, Jasmine. You don't have to do anything."
He looked down. Under his breath, he said, "I do."
"Doesn't seem like it," she said to her red sugar kibbles.
"Breakfast candy. You want diabetes?" If she would take better care, she would feel better. He grinned. "For that, I should throw you."
She frowned at her breakfast. "Sorry I embarrass you." She dumped the bowl, pitched the cereal keeper, and walked out.
The throb in his head lurched; she hadn't heard the compliment. He tugged at his tie and considered eating the cereal himself. "Maybe she'll move out." He stared at the cupboard.
The next morning, fruit adorned the counter. Granola, honey, and tea circled them for inspection.
Jasmine strode in.
Darien trudged toward the coffeemaker. "I bet you're proud of yourself."
Her smile fell.
"I know why you did this. Isn't gonna work."
Her shoulders slumped.
The words, I'm proud of you, Jasmine. One more great thing isn't going to make you any better in my eyes, stuck in his throat. Why hadn't he said them? "As impressive as this is, it's not going to change anything."
Nothing he said could calm her. He wolfed down a banana. "Good choice of fruit bowl, though."
She snatched her purse, and stalked toward the door.
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Run away, then."
She caught his eyes and continued out.
That gaze burned; once again, he hadn't said what he meant. How had it gone wrong this time? "Well, don't be too late," wasn't quite the thing.
Outside of work, he never said the right thing. Maybe not even then--when had he last had a repeat customer? He shook his head and scanned their apartment.
The entire room, with its muted hues, proper paisleys, and well-kept desert plants.
The decor spoke well of those who lived there: hyphenated but assiduously American. He owed all that to Jasmine. Even in her absence, she towered over him, pushed, and rushed him. No matter how he said it, he came out as an attacker. Why shouldn't his sister crowd him? All the other women ran for the river.
Late that night, on the doorstep, Charmaine pulled Darien in for a sweet, teasing brush of the lips. "Guess I had you wrong."
Darien smirked, and kicked his head back. "Damn right. I'm even worse than you thought."
"Big words. Must be good in bed."
"Wouldn't you like to know." He clicked the key fob and leaned through the door.
Charmaine giggled as she pushed him across the threshold.
The banana peel remained on the counter. "That's not right."
Inches away from Darien's nose, Charmaine whispered, "I should hope not."
Darien pushed away. "I mean, Jasmine hasn't--" He scanned the apartment.
"You're hiding behind Jasmine again." She pouted.
He had no time to argue with some fool. He served her an envelope from his sport coat. This time, his silken voice purred, "Yes, absolutely."
She raised her eyebrows and wrinkled her lips as she took it.
How had he allowed Charnaine in his home? "It's a cab ride. The fare, anyhow."
"How to make this clearer?" Darien leaned in. "My sister needs me; I'm there."
"What, from a banana peel?" She shelved the money and tapped her screen. Walking away, she waved him off. "Whatevs. I can get my own ride."
"Great." He ran his hands through his hair.
Jasmine had made only one post: "It's been fun. Checking out of the Life Spa."
When Father died, that's the words Jasmine used: "He ended his stay at the Life Spa." Darien sat down with a thud.
No GPS, no geotag.
Leaving this meant there would still be time; he had to believe she wanted him to come. He thought of where to go, pinched the bridge of his nose.
The hospital where he had said goodbye to father? Some special place for the two? No, he wasn't that good at guessing and had no time for mistakes. Find My Device reported that her phone had shut off near the lake, an hour ago.
Darien ran down the pier behind Betty's, a fishing bar.
Jasmine waved, a bottle in her hand. "Knew you couldn't resist. Brought you wine."
"Damn it, Jasmine. Don't joke like that. You're too young."
"I'm standing in your way." She threw her head back. "Just a waste of your time."
He put his palms up. "Never said that."
"Always trying to get me out of the way."
His barrage of subtle and not so subtle hints all carried the wrong message. "But, that wasn't--"
"It's okay. I can leave now; you've said goodbye."
"No, Jasmine." He grabbed for her.
She pushed away, and fell over the rail.
His jacket fluttered into the lake as he swam to her.
He struggled to keep his head up as she slipped and splashed in his grip until he lay her out on the sand.
As they coughed up the brine, she gave him an uncomfortable smile. "Why? I'm not important."
"Never said that."
A look of horror came over her face and she sat up. "Your phone!" She yanked it out of his pocket, and tried to blow on it.
"All your contacts. I didn't mean to..." Horrified, she stared at the black screen. "I've gone too far."
He grabbed the toy and threw it in the lake. "Good riddance."
She dropped her chin and reached up to hug him. "You never said I was important before."
"Never thought it mattered." Kneeling over her, he ran his fingers through his hair and returned her embrace. "Besides, those girls...."
She rolled her eyes and smirked. "You'll get diabetes."
He nodded. Something had gotten through, however faint. Now that she asked him, though, he could finally take better care of himself.
"You know," she said, looking far into the distance. "Sarah's been asking for a roommate. For a while"
She was offering to give him his space--at long last. He sat down, beside her. "Who will cramp my style?"
"Oh, I'll be on call."
“You know, there's..." Now that he'd found Jasmine, he wasn't ready for her to leave. “...no rush."
She reached out to pat him on the hand. He lay back, letting the lake wash it all away.