Chapter 20

Chapter 20

Another role has been bestowed upon me: peacemaker.


I've spoken with my sister for my parents, and now I have to remain neutral between two of my best friends. I don't even know how it got to this. Talking to Remi and Carol has always been my escape. Aside from my family and for a time that eventually came to an end, I had Roland. They're all I have, and I'm okay with that. Now, during the happiest times of our lives, conflict has to arise?


I let myself into Remi's nearly empty condo and made myself a cup of tea. The friendship Remi and I had was always different from the friendship I shared with Carol. For starters, Remi was and always will be an open book, whereas Carol, like me, is pretty reserved. What was Remi's naturally became mine, and vice versa. She always considered me like the sister she never had rather than some author she managed turned business partner.


The friendship I shared with Carol was different. In a good way! She's my sister-in-law, but I can't just walk into her place like I do Remi's. Our relationship didn't work that way. Which I'm also completely fine with. She always lent a listening ear and sound advice, just as a sister would. Granted, she was here before Remi, so we have over a decade of friendship. But I refuse to say whether I'd choose one over the other.


Roni walked downstairs carrying a box. "Oh, hey! Remi told me you'd be coming by, but I didn't expect you over so soon."


"I can come later if you want," I went to clean my cup.


"No, it's okay. Remi's upstairs. You're coming to the housewarming, right?"


"I plan to."


"Good, because we might have a small surprise for you." A surprise for me? It's their housewarming. But see, that's the thing I loved so much about Remi. She's incredibly generous. And in my humble opinion, she made no mistake in choosing Roni as a partner. Put two generous people together, and its pure heaven, I swear.


"Remi!" I called up the stairs, taking each step at a time. As time goes on, being pregnant becomes more and more difficult. My fatigue is out of this world. The twins have been having a party in my uterus, kicking and stretching with the little space that they have. And now, for some reason, the slightest thing can make me lightheaded and dizzy... Like this staircase. Whew! I took a deep breath and closed my eyes to recollect myself so the dizziness could pass.


"You okay?" I heard Roni ask, hurrying over to help me.


"I'm just a little lightheaded. Help me up these stairs?"


"Yeah, yeah." We climbed up the stairs at a steady pace. At this point, I don't know much how much longer I'll be able to do this alone. Bending down to reach something is a complete setup. More often than not, I'm out of breath, and I miss my husband. Just my luck that I'd get pregnant right before a major world tour and have to go through the whole thing by myself. Michael is supportive in every way he can be right now, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't need him. I need him in more ways than one. At least he'll be right by my side when the twins come in February. I'll be damned if I give birth alone after carrying his babies by myself.


"Shayla! Are you okay?" Remi quickly got up from the floor and hurried to meet me.


"Yeah, I'm fine. These dizzy spells hit whenever they want. I just needed a little help. Thanks, Ron."


"Anytime. Ima go to the house, babe. I'll see y'all when I get done." Roni kissed Remi on the cheek, gave me a hug, and hurried downstairs.


"It's looking pretty good in here." I nodded as I took a seat in the only chair in the room.


"Thanks, girl. I want to sell it, but Roni wants to rent it out for extra income."


"That's not a bad idea."


"It's not until you think about keeping up with the place. I have a baby on the way. The last thing I want is some renter calling me about maintenance."


"That's what you have Ron for."


"Roni ain't gon' wanna be bothered either."


"Hire someone?" I shrugged.


"Haha. Very funny. No, I don't know what I wanna do. Maybe I'll keep it for the baby to have when they become of age. Ion know. We'll figure it out. You still working on that book?"


"Oh, you mean between buying baby stuff, getting the nursery together, looking for a midwife, and playing peacemaker? Nah."


"Peacemaker?" She crossed her arms, looking at me suspiciously. "For who?"


I sighed. "Are you and Carol okay? I wanted to wait a while before I spoke with each of you, but y'all made it pretty easy by not mentioning what happened. What's going on? I thought everything was okay."


"I did too until Carol called herself talking to me crazy. I don't know what's going on, but she's the one you need to talk to. Not me."


"Yeah, well, I wanted to talk to you first. I already know Carol is going to have plenty to say."


"Plenty to say about nothin'." She sucked her teeth. "Carol just doesn't like the fact that I'm happy."


"She's happy too."


"Apparently not, because she always has something to say when I talk about my life. She never has anything good to say about me like she does when she talks about you."


"Is that why you've been giving me a lot of backhanded compliments lately?"


She squinted at me for a moment. "Excuse me?"


"You always have something to say about my body as if I'm not pregnant. That's why Carol said what she said because it seemed like-"


"Shayla, stop it. I was playing. You mean to tell me you and Carol can't take a joke now?"


I sucked my teeth. "Remi, we ain't never played like that."


"I only made one comment about your titties." She scoffed, "are you serious right now?"


"You talked about my nose. You acted like my weight gain is something wrong when it's literally all belly. When my marriage was going down the drain, you didn't have anything good to say. Oh, and don't get me started on the constant comments about Michael and me having problems without kids knowing how bad we wanted them."


Remi stared at me for a moment as she processed what I said and figured out what she was going to say in response. "Are you serious?"


"As a heart attack."


"What is this? Are you and Carol ganging up on me now? Shayla, I don't know if it's your hormones or something causing you to become forgetful. Still, you must have forgotten how Roni and I welcomed you into our home when Michael was driving you crazy last year. Or when Michael pulled that stunt at the VMAs, you called me. You didn't call Carol's bougie ass. And I'll never forget when you called me damn near every night about how your marriage was going to shit last year. And now that I've made a couple of comments regarding your pregnancy and your shit show of a marriage, I'm the problem? Girl, get out of my house with that shit." I'm not moving. One for the simple fact that it took me a minute to sit down on this dinky uncomfortable ass folding chair. And two, we're resolving this because, of course, I didn't forget all the times Remi was there for me. She always has, and I'm sure she always will be; however, it's her actions now that need to be brought to her attention.


"No. Remi, you have always been a good friend to me. I'll give you that. I'll forever be grateful to you. It's just your recent comments that I'm trying to get to the bottom of because we have never played like that, and you know it. I don't know if it's jealousy or-"


Remi threw her head back and laughed. "Me? Jealous of you? In what world, Shayla-Elizabeth? Because you absolutely have nothing that I want or need!"


"Then what is it? What are the comments for? Why do you think-"


"I'm not doing this. In fact, I refuse to continue this conversation with you. You've lost your mind. Like, I said before, you need to talk to Carol about this. Not me. Come back and talk to me when you're not overruled by hormones and emotions."


"Why are you dismissing and belittling everything I have to say, Remi? I came all this way to talk to you about this, and you're just-"


"Shayla, it's time for you to go." She went downstairs without even offering to help me.


VII


"Marlon, get off that game and show your Aunt Shayla that book like you told her you would!" Carol called up the stairs before coming to sit with me at the island in the kitchen. "I told you she wasn't a good friend. She knows she's wrong. Why else would she dismiss and belittle you?" She shook her head. "What grown ass woman even thinks it's funny to comment on a pregnant woman's body?" I don't even know what to think now. If I continue to try to get to the root of the problem, Remi will just continue to dismiss it. That's how she's always been when it came to certain confrontations. I just never thought she'd do that to me.


"She was there for me when Michael was showing his ass..." I sighed.


"That doesn't negate whoever this woman thinks she is now. Shayla, I know it probably seems like I didn't like Remi's choice in a partner. But in all honesty, I could care less who she decides to be with. She's a grown woman. But ever since she got with Roni, she ain't never been the same. That woman done changed. And I'm not saying Roni don't like you, but Roni don't like you. And either it's rubbing Remi the wrong way, or it's rubbing off on her."


"Ron was accommodating when I visited, though."


Carol sucked her teeth, "Shayla..."


"Here you go, Auntie." Marlon Jr. tossed the book I requested earlier on the counter.


"You better put that book down the right way. We ain't one of ya lil friends." Carol said through tight lips. Marlon rolled his eyes and did exactly as he was told, then hurried back upstairs. "Sometimes, I don't know what I'm gon' do about that boy..." She shook her head. "Anyway, people who don't like you can be nice to you for the sake of others. Remi has been defensive ever since she got with that joke. Babies are a blessing, don't get me wrong, but you really have to watch who you have them with. Roni is not the person Remi should be bringing children into the world with. Yeah, she may be happy now, but that will all be over soon. And that idiot bought her a house... Remi hasn't been a good friend to you since Roni officially got in the picture. She's just too scared to admit it."


"Why do you think Roni doesn't like me? And why would that even influence Remi? I'm not understanding that." Every time I've been in Roni's presence, I've been shown nothing but love.


"Well, something or someone is rubbing off on Remi, sis. And like I said, once Roni got in the picture to stay, Remi has been different toward you. That's all Ima say." Carol threw her hands up in the air.


I shook my head. "I don't know. I don't like this conflict between you two. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to fix what was already over with, but what am I supposed to do, huh?"


"Girl, you're pregnant. Don't worry about other people right now. You've got bigger fish to fry." She's right. I can't put myself in the middle of other people's problems. If Carol and Remi don't like each other anymore, that really isn't my business. That's between them, no matter how bad I want to try to fix this. I shouldn't. Especially not at a critical time like this. "Just know when you invite both of us to the baby show, I'm probably going to act like sis doesn't even exist." That got a little laugh out of me.


"Oh, shoot," I palmed my forehead.


"What?"


"The baby shower.... I don't want to do that alone... Michael and I will have to figure out something because this deserves a celebration with everyone we know. I've gone through most of this pregnancy alone. I don't want to do the baby shower alone too."


"You won't have to do it alone. You've got me... Katherine... Plenty of people will help you with the-"


"No." I shook my head. "I can't control the fact that Michael's away on tour right now, but I can and will control this baby shower. He will be by my side one way or another."


"Well, alright, Mama!" I refuse to remember my pregnancy with me being alone the entire time. And I'm showing now? It was easy to hide my belly before, but now, the twins are more than ready to tell the world they're here.

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