Three long days had passed since Justin’s big engagement party, and Kyra was still suffering from the side-effects. It was the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. The restaurant wasn’t even that busy, and Kyra was still struggling to keep up with the tables in her section. Her mind was on everything but work.
After such an eventful weekend, Kyra was burnt out. The friendly smile she used to greet her customers and co-workers was nothing more than a façade used to cover up the nausea, sleeplessness, and depression: all the common symptoms that came along with being lovesick over Justin. It wasn’t like there was some magic pill she could take to alleviate the pain she carried within. No doctor could help her. There was no cure.
When she ran into Justin that day at the marketplace, it was as though all of her old wounds had been ripped open again. Kyra truly wanted to believe that her heart would heal eventually. All she had to do was give it time. . . But if she hadn’t gained some sense of inner peace after five years, how much longer would it take?
With Kyra’s list of regrets getting longer by the day, agreeing to help Justin celebrate his engagement had to be at the top. Kyra already knew from previous experience that seeing Justin with another woman was enough to classify as some form of psychological torture so she didn’t know why she was so quick to subject herself to such torment. Being forced to make nice with his fiancé made Kyra feel like she was being punished for every bad thing she’d ever done.
Kyra tried to move past it, but somehow every thought brought her back to that night, along with the emotions she felt at the time. Flashbacks of Justin touching Eden invaded every waking moment. Her skin practically tingled with jealousy when he kissed her right in front of her like it was nothing. The sinking feeling she got in the pit of her stomach when Eden showed her, her ring still hadn’t gone away. It felt as though she had been forced to ingest the humungous rock and lug it with her wherever she went.
Suddenly short of breath, Kyra stopped to rest against the edge of the closest table. Functioning on just a few hours of sleep, her vision became blurred, and she felt unsteady on her feet like she’d been drinking. Kyra felt so overwhelmed by her emotions they were beginning to manifest as physical aches and pains. Kyra wasn’t sure if she was about to vomit or faint.
“Hey, Diane do you think you can cover me for a few minutes? I’m not feelin’ so good . . .” Kyra reached out to the first person who passed her.
“Sure. It’s pretty slow right now.” Diane took a look around the half-empty dining room.
“Thank you.” Kyra exhaled with gratitude. She’d already started loosening her apron. No matter what Diane said, she was going.
“Are you going to be okay?” Diane looked concerned. A single-mother with a teenage daughter of her own, it didn’t take long for her motherly instinct to kick in.
“Mmm, hmm,” Kyra nodded to avoid any more questioning. She slowly walked off the floor to the area designated for employees only, however, her pace quickened the closer she got to the backdoor. When Kyra pressed all of her weight against the metal bar to open it, warm sunlight met her in return.
“Oh, thank God.” Kyra was even more relieved to see Meeka already outside enjoying her lunch break. After holding so much inside, she couldn’t wait to sit down with her and unleash.
“Hey, you! What are you doing out here?” Meeka checked the time on her phone. “I thought you don’t get a break until four-thirty?
“I don’t, but I couldn’t wait.” Kyra claimed a chair for herself. “I just . . . I need a minute.”
“What’s with you? You and Cincere get into it again?” Meeka swatted at a pesky fly trying to steal a bite of her food.
“No . . . Not exactly. . . ” Kyra kept stalling, unsure how to answer. She had noticed a change in Cincere, too although it wasn’t quite the change she’d been hoping for. These days, Cincere seemed to view her as more of his roommate than his girlfriend. At least that was how he treated her.
“Then what’s the problem? One of these customers getting on your nerves again?” Meeka let out a little chuckle thinking back on some of the horror stories they’d shared.
“I met Eden. . .” Still traumatized by the experience, Kyra couldn’t look Meeka in the eye for very long. It took all the strength she had left not to cry.
“Now, Kyra, why would you go to that party?” Meeka shook her head at her stubbornness. She already looked like she pitied Kyra, and she hadn’t even heard the full story. “I thought you said you weren’t going to go!”
“It’s not like I really wanted to!” Kyra squealed. “Justin kept askin’ me,” she argued.
“So you guys have been hanging out a lot lately?” Meeka continued to probe, however, Kyra was quick to kill her assumptions.
“I wouldn’t say all that. I’ve only seen him a few times since he’s been home,” she recalled.
“I still can’t believe you went to his engagement party!” Meeka exploded suddenly. “What were you thinking?”
“I wish I could tell you. . .” Kyra gave a weak laugh. Looking back on it, it was almost funny to think her plan would actually work. When it came to love, it never was that easy.
“Why didn’t you call me? I would’ve went with you. . .” Meeka whined. “And please tell me you didn’t go there by yourself.” Her eyes widened with worry, as though Kyra had actually put herself in danger by going, however Kyra remained prideful.
“No. I had a date,” she replied.
“Who?” Meeka jerked her neck back in surprise.
“Cincere,” Kyra told her.
“You took him with you! Kyra . . .” Meeka left her mouth wide open as she sat there staring in disbelief. She kind of wanted to laugh, but she felt like she would be wrong if she did.
“Yeah, yeah,” Kyra was quick to shut her down before she could get started with another one of her lectures. Meeka was her friend. Kyra respected her opinion, but she was going to have to save all that for another time.
“So is she pretty?” Meeka’s bluntness made Kyra cringe, but Kyra couldn’t even fault her for asking. It was the number one question every girl wanted to know. The second a girl found out her ex had a new girlfriend she automatically rated the new girl’s worthiness based on whether she was uglier or prettier than her. Out of all the criteria they were judged upon, looks always seemed to be most important.
“She’s okay. I guess. . . ” Kyra’s comment was accompanied by a salty look. Because while Eden might’ve already had the Hartwell’s approval; she would never have hers.
“Ugh, I am so over you and Justin.” Meeka closed the plastic to-go container she’d been eating out of and tossed it in the trash. “When are you ever going to tell me about what happened with you and that one guy from the club? Dominic?” she asked.
Every time Kyra heard that name, she rolled her eyes so hard they almost fell out of her head.
Running into Dominic at the engagement party was certainly a surprise, although Kyra wouldn’t describe it as pleasant. Feelings of shame and guilt resurfaced as soon as he did, except this time they were for a different reason. Not only did Dominic know Justin. They were practically related. Finding out Dominic was Eden’s brother was just another reason for her not to like him.
“Oh. You’ll never guess who his sister is.” Kyra hinted.
“Wait. . . So he was there?” Meeka was slowly starting to catch on.
“You know, Justin’s fiancé, Eden? Well she’s the little sister he was tellin’ me about.” Kyra filled her in on the disaster she’d been faced with.
“No!” Meeka covered her mouth.
“Yes.” Kyra nodded.
“So do you think Justin knows about you and Dominic?” Meeka panicked.
“No. But at this point, does it even matter? We’re not together anymore so it’s not like he can really be mad at me. . . Plus, if you saw how he was with Eden, you would know he clearly doesn’t care about me.” At first, Kyra started to get angry, but the more she talked about it, her anger dissolved into hurt.
“Not that I don’t feel bad,” she sighed heavily. “I mean . . . what are the odds that the one time I decide to have a one night stand it’s with his brother-in-law?” Her expression was one of disappointment and disgust.
“Very high, apparently,” Meeka tried to get a laugh out of her, but Kyra wasn’t amused by her sarcasm. She wasn’t happy that because of Dominic, she had to delete Justin from her phone and ultimately, her life. All she had to do was push a button, but it wasn’t that easy to delete him from her mind.
“Come on, Meeka you know it is. It’s only a matter of time before my name gets brought up and Justin starts askin’ questions. How does that make me look?” Kyra stressed.
“Yeah, you got a point there.” Meeka agreed.
“How are things goin’ for you, though? Do you still talk to his one friend, Rico or whatever?” Kyra posed a question of her own.
“Not really.” Meeka shrugged. “We exchanged numbers, but he got on my nerves always asking me to send a pic.”
“Ugh!” Both of the girls looked at each other and laughed when they realized they shared the same reaction. They even made a similar face.
“Alright well, let me get back up in here before Chris get to yellin’.” Kyra got up to head back inside. She didn’t even want to think about how much trouble she would be in if she got caught taking an unscheduled break.
“Okay. Just remember you can call me if you need anything.” Meeka made sure to remind her.
“I will.” Kyra smiled as was leaving. She appreciated her offer, although she silently hoped she wouldn’t have to take her up on it.
“Thankfully for Kyra, she managed to creep back inside the restaurant undetected by her boss and take back over her section. Kyra wasn’t surprised to see not much had changed since she was gone. It was almost as if she had never left.
“Hey, Kyra, can I talk to you?” Kyra thought she was busted until she realized who the deep voice belonged to. Justin had been walking so fast he practically bumped right into her. The way he came storming into the restaurant, Kyra thought maybe somebody owed him some money. She had never seen him look so determined.
“Hey. . . What are you doing here?” Kyra’s laughter came as a result of confusion and excitement. That night after the engagement party, Kyra swore she would never talk to Justin ever again however it was hard to keep those promises when she was looking right at him. When it came to Justin, her willpower was practically non-existent.
“I came to see you . . . You got a minute?”
“My shift isn’t over until eight.” Kyra groaned over the fact she still had six hours left. “Call me later?”
“I would, but we need to talk – now. This can’t wait.” Justin sounded almost irritated by her suggestion.
“Well, it looks like it’s gonna have to.” Kyra shot back. As she went about checking on her tables, Justin followed her close.
“Excuse me sir, is there a problem?” Kyra’s manager, Chris, came over to join their conversation. He had no reason to address Justin in such a polite, yet confrontational tone, but one look at the baggy Balmains Justin was wearing and Chris assumed he was there to make a scene.
“No problem.” Despite the manager’s nasty attitude, Justin kept a cool head. It was hard to get mad when he knew he had enough money to buy the building they were standing in. He could even have it named after him if he wanted.
Still, Chris refused to leave Kyra alone with him. He didn’t even know Justin, so it wasn’t like he could take his word for it. He had to check with Kyra first.
“Is everything okay here?” Chris turned his next question over to her.
“Yeah. . . We were just talking,” Kyra put her head down in embarrassment. People were starting to stare.
“Sir, I cannot have you distracting my staff and disturbing my guests. . . I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I am going to have to ask you to leave,” Chris whispered.
“I’ll leave.” Justin grabbed Kyra by the hand. “But she’s coming with me,” he announced.
“I beg your pardon?” Chris clearly didn’t understand what Justin meant and neither did Kyra. She looked just as confused as he was.
“Kyra will no longer be working for your establishment effective immediately.” To their amazement, Justin took the liberty of speaking on Kyra’s behalf. Justin had such a hold on her she had to practically fight to get her hand back.
“Justin!” Kyra stepped in before he could do any more damage. “Chris, don’t listen to him,” she pleaded
“Kyra, go get your stuff. . . We’re done here.” Justin ordered her along despite what she was saying. The way Justin spoke to her let her know Chris wasn’t in charge anymore. He was.
Her manager looked to Kyra for answers, but Justin shot her a look that shut her up. Not that that stopped her form glaring at him on her way to clean out her locker. She didn’t know what provoked him to do it, or what was about to happen next, but from the time he got there, Justin made it clear he wasn’t leaving unless Kyra was leaving with him. He didn’t care if he had to carry her out himself.
“Justin, what the hell are you doin’?” Kyra tore into him the second they reached the street. “Are you fuckin’ crazy? I can’t just leave!” she screamed.
“I’m doing you a favor,” Justin answered calmly. He wasn’t fazed by her one bit.
“A favor?”Kyra squinted at him. “Justin, you probably just cost my job! Now what am I goin’ to do?” she whimpered.
“That’s because I have a better one for you.” Justin finally turned to face her once they reached his car.
“What?” Kyra sniffed back the tears that were forming.
“You remember Chicago?” Justin leveled with her eye to eye.
“Like I could forget. . .” Kyra sighed.
“What happened that summer changed the both of us . . . But I would like to think it changed us for the better, wouldn’t you?” Justin continued.
“Justin. . . What the hell are you talkin’ about?” Kyra pushed away from him when she snapped out of her daydream. She’d gotten so lost in his eyes she almost forgot she was mad for a second. It had to be at least ninety degrees outside, and the firmness of his chest pressed against the softness of hers still gave her chills.
“I want to help you,” Justin explained. “But only if you let me.”
“And you really thought this was the best way to go about it?” Kyra came back at him with a full-blown attitude.
“Maybe not . . . But I’ve been meaning to ask you this for awhile now so here it goes. . .” Justin took a deep breath to hide his nervousness. “Kyra . . . I want you to be my personal stylist.”
“Oh my God, Justin, you cannot be serious.” Kyra mumbled. He’d tried to make it sound like it was some grand idea, but she didn’t look nearly as excited as him.
“Hell yeah, I’m serious! Do you know how many compliments I got on the suit you picked out for my party?” Justin struck a pose that made her giggle. “Plus, I know fashion has always kind of been your thing. So I figured hey why not let you worry about it? I’m too busy to keep up with that kind of stuff, anyway,” he reasoned.
“Justin, just because I like to dress nice doesn’t mean I know what I’m doin’. I don’t know the first thing about being a stylist,” Kyra admitted.
“Don’t worry. You can start with me until you build your clientele. Trust me, I know a few people who could use your help.” Justin laughed at his own joke. “It’s just with me still being so new to this industry I need to make a good impression. I can’t afford to let people think they can run over me. . . . And besides . . . You know what I like.” Justin licked his lips after he looked her body over. The second he put his hand on her shoulder, Kyra soaked her panties all the way through.
“Consider this your retainer for the month.” Justin pulled a thick stack of money from his pocket, and Kyra’s eyes lit up. The thick stack of hundreds was bound by a mustard-colored band.
“But Justin. . . Its $10,000 dollars here. . .” Kyra ran her thumb over the bills and the same excitement she felt when she first saw him came rushing back. That was more than enough money for her to catch up on some bills and do a little something nice for herself. It was as though all of her problems were solved. All of them except one. . .
“That’s nothing. You’ll see. That is . . . if you’re serious about this?” Justin raised his brow.
“Wow. . . You have no idea what this means to me, Justin. . . Thank you.” Kyra couldn’t deny she was tickled by the gesture. An opportunity was the most valuable, meaningful gift Justin could ever give her. That was worth more than money.
“So it’s settled then.” Justin opened his car door. “If you’re free tomorrow, I need you to do some personal shopping for me.”
“Sure. What do you need?” Kyra asked.
“Well I have a charity event coming up in a few weeks so if you could pick out a couple different outfits to choose from that would be great. When you’re done make sure you call me, and we’ll set up a time to go over everything. In the meantime, here’s my card.” Justin handed over his black American Express as he ran down her instructions. Once he got her to agree, he went right back into full business mode.
“Don’t let me down, Kyra. I really need your help on this one. I need someone I can trust,” he confessed.
“I won’t,” Kyra promised.
“Make sure you get some rest tonight. You have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow. A good friend of mine has a few events coming up so I set up time for you to meet with him as well. Okay?” he added.
“Okay.” Kyra perked up when he kissed her cheek.
“Let me know if there is anything else I can do. If there’s anything else you need, anything at all . . . Don’t hesitate to ask.” Justin looked up at her from the driver’s seat. One tap on the gas and he was gone.
Justin left Kyra stuck trying to figure out if she was more stunned by the money he put in her hand or the kiss he planted on her cheek. Whenever she was down, Justin always knew what to do to pick her up again. No one else had the power to make Kyra feel like he did.