This was not happening. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t.
Jade let out a sigh of disbelief when she looked down her quiet, suburban street and spotted Nigel’s black Acura quietly idling alongside the curb.
Yes, this was happening.
At 2:45 in the friggin morning, this was happening.
The night wind whipped her cropped tresses in every direction as she slipped inside the warm car and pulled the wool jacket tighter around her body.
“Nigel! What are you doing? This is totally unacceptable! What if Nate wakes up?” Her voice was as fierce and loud as a whisper could get.
Nigel looked at her solemnly. “Jade, I’m not gonna do this. We have to tell Nate. Tomorrow. We have to.”
He’d lost his mind completely, that’s what it was. Jade could only come to this one conclusion as those asinine words passed Nigel’s lips. “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I need you to get a grip, Nigel. Are you crazy? Nathaniel can never know about this. You hear me? Never. He has too much going for him right now for us to selfishly ruin it just because you can’t have your cake and eat it too, right now. I will not do it.”
Nigel was unmoved. His voice hollow and resolved. “I can’t let him raise my son, Jade. I’m sorry. We have to tell him, baby. I’m serious. This shit … it’s not cool. My brother’s wife is pregnant with my son. I mean, this is really fucked up, Jade. We have to come clean. I owe it to my brother. I owe it to my child.” Nigel started the car, slipped around the corner and out of any eyes’ sight that may have been lurking.
“And now you decided this, Nigel? Now? For six years you sat by unaffected, watched Nate romance me and even take my hand in marriage, and now you want to tell him? You are insane. This is not happening, Nigel. There is too much at stake. For all of us.” She sat back and folded her arms, indignant.
There was a time when she would have sold her soul to be Nigel’s exclusively. Now that things were much, much more complicated, he wanted to confess his love? It didn’t make any sense. “You had your chance to have me all to yourself forever, Nigel. You didn’t want that, remember? I love you Nigel, I do, but there is no way we can tell him and not end up having one heaping pile of shit to clean up.”
Nigel’s eyes pierced through her, his long locs tied back, allowing his bone structure to glow under the soft lights of the street lamps. Realization flooded into them as he took her hand.
“You telling me you want me to let another man raise my son? You want to just go on about life and never tell him?”
“It’s your brother, Nigel. Your twin brother. It’s not like you won’t be in our child’s life.”
“I don’t give a fuck who it is, Jade! How can you sit here and tell me to let another man raise my child?! You think I’ve been ‘unaffected’ this whole time? This shit is eating at me. Killing my spirit every time I’m forced to see you with him.”
His sudden outburst startled Jade. She’d never seen him this mad. The anger pooling in his eyes told her he was convinced in his decision to tell Nate the truth.
“Take me home, Nigel. Do what you have to do. Just know there will be consequences far greater than you think.”
“Do you love me Jade?” Nigel’s frown was deep, his voice coarse.
“Of course I do, Nigel. But this was not supposed to happen.” She said flaccidly, staring down at her slightly swollen belly.
“You play in the mud, you have to deal with the stains, baby.”
“Sweetheart, have you seen my Beige tie with the brown stripes?” Nate called out in frustration from the expansive walk-in closet in their bedroom.
“It’s on the bed, babe. I already took it out for you.” Jade responded to her husband, securing the clasp on one of diamond earrings he had recently given her.
He joined her in the bathroom a few moments later, tightening and straightening the beige tie that perfectly completed his look. He smiled at her, kissed her on her brown cheek.
“You know, it’s just breakfast. You don’t have to wear a suit.” She said casually, examining the black stretch turtleneck and gray slacks she wore.
“I’m the mayor now honey, I have to look the part at all times.” Nate responded.
“You’re not the mayor yet, baby. You’ve still got a couple months before you’re sworn in, but I understand. You still want to impress my daddy. That’s very cute.” She teased, knowing the real reason why Nate wanted to look the part. After six years, her father still gave Nate a hard time about Jade. Only in fun for the most part, but it still rattled him occasionally.
They walked into The Wake Up, a quaint new breakfast restaurant, forty-five minutes later. Jade’s heart almost skipped a beat. Nigel was early. Sitting alone, intently staring down at his intertwined fingers resting on the table on the far left wall. Neither her parents nor his were anywhere in sight.
It was unlike them to be late. She felt a lump form in her already dry throat. This was not going to be good.
Nigel stood up to greet them as they got close. “What’s up Mr. Mayor?” He said, giving his brother a hug.
“That’s Mr. Mayor Sir, to you.” Nathaniel joked.
“You look lovely as ever, Jade.” Nigel said casually, kissing her on the same cheek Nate’s lips had grazed that morning.
“Thank you.” She responded dryly, a nervousness filling her body already.
Was he really going to go through with this?
Nathaniel looked around, confused. “Where are the parents?”
At this, Nigel shot Jade a knowing look. “They’ll be here in a half hour or so. I uh, need to talk to you about something before they arrive. Have a seat, brother.” He looked over at Jade, her pretty face losing more and more color by the second. Then he thought about his loin’s fruit growing inside of her. He couldn’t continue with this deceit any longer. He’d had enough of watching Nathaniel love the woman he was supposed to be with.
“What about?” Nathaniel asked, his brown furrowing with curiosity. It had to be important for Nigel not to want their parents to be included.
Just as he started, Jade began coughing. Lightly at first, then pulling what sounded to be a lung up through her throat. “Excuse me.” She said between coughs, covering her mouth and sliding away from the table. “I’m going to go to the ladies’ room.” She looked to be on the verge of tears as she walked away, giving Nigel a last pleading glance over her shoulder.
Nathaniel’s concerned eyes were trained on her as she turned the corner, then traveled to Nigel. Momentarily forgetting about Nigel’s pending talk, he had something he wanted to talk about too, before his wife returned to the table.
“I’m worried, man. Real worried. Something’s not right.” He said, rubbing his forehead with his left hand, a habit he’d had since elementary school whenever something was stressing him out.
Nigel returned his worry. “What’s not right, man?”
Nathaniel sighed. “I think Jade is cheating on me.”
Nigel’s thunderous heartbeat nearly broke his eardrums. “Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know man … she’s just, been distant lately. Ever since we found out she was pregnant, she’s been acting strange. I don’t think she’s as happy as she says she is to be having my child. Then last night I wake up at three in the morning, and she’s not in bed. When I got up she was just sitting at the dining room table in the dark. Looked like she had been crying. I know something is going on. I just feel it. Something ain’t right.”
Nigel nodded, listened to his brother say the words he was just about to say himself. Saw the hurt masking Nathaniel’s eyes just to say them, and felt like shit. If Nate only knew that his own flesh and blood was the cause of Jade’s distant demeanor towards him, the growing swell in her belly.
This was the moment of truth. Would he execute the plan he had gone over and over again in his head last night? Would this conversation really happen?
“Nate … chill man. It’s probably the pregnancy that has her feeling weird. You’ve read the books, women get even more emotional when they’re pregnant. Jade wouldn’t do that to you, man.”
At this, a deep breath escaped Nathaniel’s body. All he needed was someone to confirm that he was crazy. That the woman he adored so much could not possibly be interested in another man. He smiled, relieved. “Thanks man. I hope not. I certainly hope not.”
As if on cue, Jade exited the bathroom, looking a little renewed, but worry still sprinkling her brow. She relaxed at Nathaniel’s bright smile beaming at her.
“You alright, baby?” Nate asked.
“Just fine. A little early morning sickness is all.” She replied as Nate’s long arms scooped her in a hug.
Over his shoulder, she locked eyes with Nigel, sitting across from them somberly. He stared up at her, then shook his head subtly.
He hadn’t had the nerve to destroy his brother like that. But one way or another, this situation had to be dealt with, and soon. He knew that.
Because when you played in the mud, you always had to deal with the stains.