“Wait, what?” I blurted out, hardly able to talk without spitting.
“Brothers,” She quietly repeated herself, almost whispering. Momentarily, I watched her stare at the navy carpeted floors beneath us, avoiding my eyes.
I felt a wave of nausea temporarily engulf the pit of my stomach. I braced myself in dreaded anticipation of that sick, unsettling sensation. Then, to my surprise, it passed seconds later, almost as suddenly as it had begun.
“Well,” I paused. “I’m not going to lie…I’m having a lot of really conflicting thoughts right now…”
“I know.” I watched my best friend hang her head. “I’m a really bad person. I already know it, I know what you’re going to say.”
“I mean, yeah, you kind of are,” I admitted. “That’s really messed up, and you probably shouldn’t be doing it. But it’s also kind of cool, not gonna lie. How many girls can say they’ve actually been with two brothers?
Selena patted her nose with a Kleenex, careful not to get the tissue material caught in her nose stud. While I hadn’t quite made her smile, I noticed that the corners of her mouth were turned up more than they were before. “You really think so? Does this make me hashtag #goalsasf*ck?”
“No,” I replied slowly and carefully. “Hashtag #slutgoalsasf*ck’ maybe, but not goals goals.” I told myself it probably wasn’t a good idea to glorify her behavior any further.
She furrowed her brow, looking both confused. “What?”
“It’s a goal that you can tell someone like me, because I’m not going to judge you. But it’s kind of a trashy goal, like I wouldn’t write home about it,” I replied. “But I’m both super repulsed by and super proud of you.”
Selena breathed a huge sigh of relief. “See, I knew I would feel so much better after talking to you. Phew, I feel so much freaking better, it’s not even funny.”
“I would say good, but I’m definitely not trying to encourage you to call me out of my house at the crack of dawn on a regular basis,” I said. I felt relieved. I honestly thought I’d heard the worst from her at that point. Stupid me.
“Sorry about that,” she answered quietly, before sitting up straight. “I’m so glad I told you the truth about what I’ve been up to. Now that you know about Alex and Michael, I was hoping you could help me make a really important decision.”
“About?” I prompted her. I felt a lump forming in the back of my throat.
“Really, Jade?” Selena laughed, nervously. “I mean, which guy do I make my full time investment? Duh. What did you think I was gonna ask you?”
“Selena,” I began. “Have you lost your f*cking marbles?”
“What?” She threw her hands up in the air. I knew from previous experience that I needed to cover my ears and move farther away from her on the couch. “How are you going to give me a pat on the f*cking back and tell me it’s cool and then start treating me like there’s something wrong with me?! Dammit, Jade, what the f*cking f*ck!”
Her voice rose with every word she spoke. Seconds after she’d finished, we were interrupted by the sound of her baby son screaming and crying from his bedroom.
“I hope you’re happy,” I hissed at her, getting up to rush down the narrow hallway that led to his bedroom. “Stephan, I’m coming!”
By the time I reached him, his fine black baby hair was damp and stuck to his scalp. His chubby, naturally tanned cheeks were red, his blue eyes were too. I thanked God nearly every time I saw him that he looked like his mother.
“Come here, Stevie,” I cooed, lifting him up into my arms. He always felt heavier than he looked. “It’s okay, honey, it’s okay. Come on, we go see Mommy.”
“Stevie, Mommy’s sorry,” Selena said as she saw me approach the living room with Stephan in tow.
“Whatever, Selena. I hate when you scream like that, you sound like you’re freaking twelve,” I chastised her.
“I’m sorry,” she replied, her tone subdued and sincere. “I shouldn’t have yelled. I was just upset that you weren’t taking me seriously. I meant what I said about, you know, having to choose… I really like Alex, but Michael is just….really amazing. I love how together he is. Thirty one, it’s a great age.”
“You’re really trying to tear apart two brothers, Selena?” I began again. “You’re really trying to make some great karma for yourself aren’t you?”
“Oh stop with the karma,” she protested. “Don’t you think I deserve to be happy, Jade?”
“I don’t care about ‘deserve’, I think you need to get your life together,” I replied, trying to sound stern. “Selena, you have a son…It’s one thing to be fooling around with these guys, but you have to think about Stephan first…”
“Look, I’m going to choose between them regardless of whether or not you help me,” she retorted, with a flip of her curly black mane. “At least if you help me, it’s more likely to be an okay decision. You know?”
I shifted Stephan in my arms, setting him on my lap so that I wouldn’t have to carry him any longer. He sucked on his left thumb while I bit my nails pensively. “I mean that is true. If I help you out though, you have to really listen to me. I’m not getting invested in this whole thing if you’re not going to really listen to what I think. God, this is so f*cked up…”
“I always listen!” Selena glared at me. I couldn’t tell if she was feigning being insulted, or if she was serious. Her frosty blue eyes made for a magnificent poker face.
“Selena, you never listen,” I corrected her.
“Okay maybe sometimes I don’t,” She admitted.
“I’ll meet them,” I continued. “and I’ll let you know who you should pick. What if I hate them both?
“If you hate them both, I don’t want either one,” she assured me.
“You absolutely, 100% promise me now?” I desperately needed to confirm her sincerity.
“I will, okay? Pinky promise.” She offered me her little finger, and we linked our pinkies together. I won’t lie, I definitely felt my confidence increase, if only slightly, as the result of this exchange.
Selena slid closer to me on the couch and kissed me on the cheek, before also kissing her son’s face. Stephan reached out to touch her mouth and she kissed his little fingers. “Dios Te Bendiga, Preciosito,” she said, before giving him one last kiss. Part of me thought it was weird for her to be giving her son God’s blessing after talking about her extravaganzas with two, full-blood brothers. I told myself that this was my best friend, who I loved unconditionally, and that I should try my best to refrain from being too judgmental of her.
Selena laid down on the couch next to me and laid her head down on my lap. “I’m so glad you’re going to help me. Now I’ll be able to sleep tonight.” She closed her eyes. I always noticed how her long, naturally black un-mascara-ed eyelashes were. In a matter of minutes, I heard her breathing thicken as her chest begin to rise in slumber.
“No, honey,” I gently scolded Stephan, as I carefully pried the handful of my wavy dyed-auburn hair that his determined little hands had grabbed on to out of his grip. His lower lip began to quiver. I had a matter of seconds to stop the tears from flowing.
“Shhh, Stephan,” I tried. “It’s okay honey. You want me to sing you a song? Rocka-byeeee Steeeephaan, on the treetop…..”I rocked him back and forth as I sang to him, as softly and quietly as I knew how. He passed out even more quickly than his mother. I felt like I was seeing double, with my best friend on my lap and her mini-me in my arms.
I closed my eyes, and I prayed. “Please God, please help me through this sh*t she’s always putting me through. Pretty, pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top. Love Jade. Amen.”