Bet That: A Short Story
A’ja Kennedy, an upcoming actor, has an unexpected encounter with her ex Paris Brooks, who’s on a disastrous date at their favorite restaurant.
Bet That: A Short Story
A’ja Kennedy, an upcoming actor, has an unexpected encounter with her ex Paris Brooks, who’s on a disastrous date at their favorite restaurant.
Vibe: humorous, angsty, emotional, cute
Sharon Alexie as A’ja Kennedy
Ryan Destiny as Paris Brooks
Paris sits at our favorite booth in our favorite restaurant. She toys with a chopstick wrapper while observing her date. The date’s a charming brown-skinned stud. The admirer’s messy pineapple bun styles her locs, showcasing her fresh haircut. As she sits, she repeatedly licks her lips as she eyes Paris, her arm resting on the booth’s edge. Since when was she into the masculine type?
A faint smile plays on Paris’s gorgeous dark skin. She’s trying to convince herself she’s having a good time. Her fake giggles persuade her date, but she isn’t fooling me. Anytime she fidgets with shit, she’s on the edge.
The date’s gaze shifts from admiring Paris to examining the menu. Paris acts as if she’s contemplating the Japanese specialties, but she gets the same thing every damn time. We get the same thing every damn time.
She looks flawless tonight, as always. The Paris Special: minimal 90s-inspired makeup, tomboyish style, and fresh, passion twists that fall past her supple breasts. Her cropped sweater fits snugly, but her cargo pants are baggy and low on her waist. They crease at the bottom right over her crisp white and pink Air Force Ones. I brought her those. Now, she’s wearing them on a date with a motherfucker who looks like they have a jungle of flourishing plants in their downtown, aesthetically pleasing apartment.
As fresh-faced diners enter the restaurant, the sound of pouring rain amplifies. This is pathetic. It’s a rainy, cozy Friday evening. I should be chilling with a smoking hot Tinder match. Instead, I’m analyzing my ex and her date as I wait for takeout.
The date makes a suggestive remark with a flirtatious smirk. Paris rubs her thumbs against the edge of her menu while the rest of her body remains rigid. Should I rescue her? Would she save me if I was on a disaster date? Hell no. She’d record it and then send it to me with a train of laughing emojis.
Paris’s Instagram pulls up on my phone. Everything A’ja-related has been scrubbed, including my follow back. Every post she shares highlights her immaculate posture and fierce bone structure. My curiosity clicks on her “Following” list. Paris keeps a “skinny ratio.” 8K followers with under 100 people following. Dreadhead stud is on my screen in seconds.
1290 Followers 431 Following
Plant lover. Dog daddy. Engineer.
Her Instagram floods with photos of her “baby.” The “baby” is a grown-ass bulldog named Shadow. The rest of her photos flaunt after-gym shots of sweat dripping from her abs. She’s cute if you like tacky motherfuckers.
Instagram is a glimpse of her cringy personality. The real tea lies in Grays’s Twitter. Within five tweets, I learn Grays (Is it pronounced like fucking Grace or Gray’s?) is an ass-eating, Only Fans subscribing atheist with weirdly conservative views. How is she an agnostic lesbian with anti-queer marriage beliefs? My fucking head hurts.
Paris’s pussy has to be drier than a saltine cracker. No way is she sinking this low. We’re not on speaking terms, but I can’t let her crash out this tragically.
The redhead hostess lifts my order to signal it’s ready. The mouthwatering steam rising from the bag excites my stomach. Not now. “Can you hold that for a second?” I ask. I peer over to Paris and Grays, Paris’s leg is shaking so hard it’s about to turn over the table. “That table is on a trash-ass date. I’m about to ruin it.” The hostess looks intrigued yet puzzled. “So, just hold this. And can you please add another order? Same thing.”
As I brainstorm ways to help Paris, the redhead adds an extra meal and bills my credit card. “Um, good luck,” she says. I dart towards the table before my brain can convince me otherwise. Paris can never say I don’t love her ass.
“Oh! My! Sweet Savior!” I scream in a deep Southern accent. Are my frizzy jumbo twists in need of a makeover? Do I look like I have no fashion sense with a neon Nike windbreaker, black biker shorts, and combat boots? Yes, but shame is an emotion I cannot relate to. “Purris. Gurl, hay!” I tap her shoulder. “Why look at you!”
Paris shoots daggers at me that scream, “What the fuck are you doing?” Her lips fight to remain tight. My Southern, devout Christian impression can make her laugh at a funeral.
“It’s been so long since I’ve seent you,” I say, putting my hands on my hips. It really has. It’s been three months, five days, seven hours, and some odd seconds. “You ain’t been to Bible Study in a mighty long time! Pastor Culver wants us to fast, but you know I can’t resist a hibachi plate. What those TikTok girls say?” I add annoying pizzazz by singing the following line while swaying. “Hello, Christ? I’m about to sin again!”
Paris snorts, trying to silence her laughter with her hand. Grays shifts her brown eyes from Paris to me; they expand with aversion. There’s no letup in my routine. I’m not stopping until Paris pisses herself, or Grays runs out of the building. My hand falls over my heart while I turn to Grays. “Aren’t we so lucky that Jesus forgives? Christ rocks! Am I right, young man?”
“Oh! Silly me! You’re one of those lesbians! That’s the appropriate term these days, right?” I ask with my face scrunched. “Either way, ain’t nothing wrong with being a little fruity!” My hands fall from my heart into a limp wrist. “The Lord loves us all! What’s your name?”
Grays is seconds away from covering her face. She checks if anyone’s looking in our direction. They have to be with my jumbotron mouth and Paris’s unceasing giggles. “Um…Grays.”
“Oh, like Amazing Grace?!”
“Something like that.” Yeah, something horrendous. “Um…I’m sorry. I just…” Grays probes their phone and then peers at Paris with squinted eyes.”I thought you weren’t religious?”
“Oh! You must be witnessing,” I say to Paris. I nod as if everything makes perfect sense. I veer to Grays. “That’s what we tell sinners when we’re trying to lead them to Christ. Our God is mighty, and He needs a mighty pack behind Him! God could use a muscular soldier such as yourself to fight off the enemy! You should come to Sun—”
“It’s been real,” Grays says with their hands up. They scramble out of the booth, tripping over their legs in haste. “I’ma head out. Sorry, this ain’t—yeah.” Grays hurries out of the restaurant before I hit her with my “Shackles” by Mary Mary praise dance.
I collapse into Grays’s spot with an exhausted sigh. “I thought that motherfucker would never leave,” I say to Paris. She’s trying to compose herself, but her laughter keeps bubbling up.
“I hate you,” she says, masking her face. She drops her hands, and a genuine smile emerges as I behold her beauty up close. Damn, I miss seeing her attractive ass every day. She dabs at her eyes with a napkin. “You are borderline insane.”
I offer a dismissive shrug and a confident grin. “My borderline insanity just got you out of a disaster date. Say, ‘Thank you, A’ja.’”
Her chestnut eyes roll to the back of her head before settling on me. She tosses her hair over her shoulder and says, “No.” Damn, not even an “Amen”?
“Wow, you’re so rude. First, you unfollow me on Instagram, and now this.” I click my tongue and wag my finger as if scolding a child. “Shame.”
A lighthearted glimmer in her eyes belies the sharpness of her tone. “I unfollowed you on Instagram because I grew tired of your sappy ass posts. Those Drake lyrics were getting very corny, boo.”
“Says the girl who posts Summer Walker lyrics every day.”
“So, you still check my stories?”
“I still follow you, don’t I? It’s not like you blocked me.” My grin turns into a teasing one. “You must love having a verified account in your followers. I know you see my name every time you check your view count.”
Paris jerks her head back with attitude. “Girl, please. Whatever. Your show got renewed because lesbians love ogling you, but you’re still regular ass A’ja Kennedy to me. You’re lucky Grays doesn’t believe in watching TV, or your little charade would’ve been unsuccessful.”
Fuck, I miss that feistiness. It adds to her undeniable sexiness. When I met Paris on campus during our senior year, her attitude lured me. We had mutual friends and had been social media acquaintances for some time. When we met in person, she tried to act like she didn’t want me. That was a lie. She was always first to engage with my posts. She had her eyes on me like mine were on her.
My legs stretch as I get comfortable. Paris juts her lips and scans the area as if to ask me why I’m still here. “Why were you with a Black lesbian with a Karen complex, anyways?” I ask. Paris is a tough critic. She approaches life’s adventures with a realistic perspective. She’s never been downright impolite, but she’s selective of who she spends her time with.
Paris laughs dryly before cutting her eyes at me. “If you must know, nosey. My coworker said I needed to get back in the dating field.”
“Let me guess.” I act like I’m thinking before muttering, “Antoine.” Paris is a pediatric nurse practitioner. She obtained her graduate certificate a year ago, but she’s already making waves at a physician’s office. Antoine is the messy-ass receptionist, who doesn’t like me, for some reason.
“Yes, Antoine.” Paris laughs at my annoyed facial expression before continuing. “I should’ve known not to take his dating advice, but I did. He set me up on a blind date. His extra ass only sent me information on her once I arrived. I found her Twitter and saw nothing but red flags. I tried to leave before she showed up but wasn’t fast enough. And you know I can’t say ‘no’ to a free meal.”
“Especially not a free meal at our restaurant. It’s wild that you brought her to our place.”
“I didn’t bring her anywhere. Antoine chose the spot, probably to be petty since he can’t stand you. And the keyword is our. You don’t own it.”
“You and that smart mouth…”
“Is it too aggressive?” I smack my lips. “How’s your little co-star?”
“She’s exactly that a co. star.”
“Not what I heard,” Paris says before pursing her lips.
The hostess arrives at our table with my completed order. “Um, so your second entree is ready. Change of plans? Are you dining in?”
“Yeah. No need to take her order. I’ll share mine with her.” Paris opens her mouth to argue, either that she doesn’t want to share food or that she doesn’t want to eat with me. “I ordered the Chef Special just the way we like it. Two orders. One for me, one for you.” As she said, she cannot turn down free food.
The hostess hands me the bag and gives us water to wash our food down. Paris has her hands in the bag in seconds. She’s popping open her tray before I can thank the girl. She rubs her hands together and grabs her chopsticks. “Where’s my thank you?” I ask, grabbing my food.
“Up your ass,” she says. She drizzles the white sauce over the perfectly grilled meats and fluffy rice with a flick of her wrist. “I didn’t need your help to take care of Grays. And I didn’t ask you to buy me food, so. What is there to thank?”
“Wow, you’re telling me you would’ve handled MAGA dyke on your lonesome?”
The light laugh she emits warms my heart. “Why did you come and rescue me anyway?” She stuffs the chopstick into her mouth and closes her eyes. When she moans softly, my ears tingle. Fuck, I miss making her sound like that.
“I saw you fidgeting and ran to save the day. When did you get into masculine people? You always liked stems.”
“As I said, it was a blind date. And why are you asking me questions? You completely glossed over you and your little co-star.”
I drop my chopsticks and groan. “Because there’s nothing to say about me and my little co-star. Everything I told you that day stands, Paris.” Paris sips on her water, studying me. “Look, P, I understand how it looked, but it wasn’t like that. Yas is my co-worker. We got close while filming, but it was a sisterhood if anything.”
“Oh, sisters text and complain about their partner not being in the mood for sex? Sisters send flirtatious texts at 3 AM?” Paris cocks her head with an agitated glare. Here we go. “Your ‘sister’ sent half-naked photos to you. Your ‘sister’ told you to leave my ‘aggressive ass.’”
I run my hand over my face, trying to wipe away the regret of my foolish actions.
“Nothing to say?” Paris asks me, pushing away her food. “I don’t have siblings, A’ja. But I wouldn’t talk to them the way she talked to you. I thought you would be more mindful of your actions. You didn’t say shit when she overstepped her boundaries. You entertained her flirting with you. When we argued, she was the first person you went to. You let her shit on my name and our relationship. It’s like…you say it was nothing, but it had to be something.”
Paris throws her hands up. “Don’t.”
“Paris, it was nothing romantic going on between us. I was a dumbass. I admit I entertained Yas, but I never touched her. I let it go too far. I let her get comfortable.”
Paris exhales an exasperated breath, causing her shoulders to droop. “Why?”
“‘Cause I was fucking stupid…and bored, I guess?” I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, realizing I sound silly. “We prioritized our time as a couple. Once I got the lead role in my show and you began working at the physician’s office, our schedules never synced up. When I was home, you were at work, and vice versa. I got lonely, so Yas and I communicated more. It was innocent at first, but then shit started going downhill.”
“So, instead of picking up a hobby or hanging with friends, you emotionally cheated?”
Paris’s expression is stoic and unchanging, like a statue. Seeing her reduced to tears was far worse than this. Her world came crashing down when she surprised me at my trailer that day. Yas was in there with me, massaging my back after I complained about a spasm. I believed it was a harmless action, but if I were in Paris’s position, I would have interpreted it differently, too. I held her back from beating the makeup off Yas’s face.
Once Yas exited, Paris fell to pieces. Our sex life had declined, and it was apparent I wasn’t happy about that. She suspected I was fucking Yas as a supplement. Although my text messages cleared me of physically cheating, the messages Yas and I exchanged proved to be just as damning. When taken, there are things you shouldn’t allow someone to say to you. Yas flirted with me, and although I didn’t reciprocate, I also didn’t discourage her. Paris threw my phone at me and stormed out of my trailer. When I got home, all her shit was gone.
“I’m not proud of my decisions, Paris. I let Yas play in both of our faces. I failed us. Every day, I think about what I could’ve done differently. Every action I think of is simple. The distress I caused you eats at me because it was all so avoidable.” My gaze fixes on Paris, but she avoids making eye contact. She watches other diners enjoy their evening, reminding herself not to make a scene.
“I never wanted her, Paris. All I wanted was you. I swear, I never had a sexual thought about Yas. I shared intimate shit that I wish I could take back, but it wasn’t like that. You’re always on my mind, even while filming. I miss watching you walk out the door in your adorable scrubs, ready to take on the day. I miss snuggling up with you on the couch, drinking wine, and commenting on Real Housewives. I miss recounting the details of our day and daydreaming about our perfect home together. I allowed Yas to become too comfortable in our friendship, and as a result, I distanced myself. We don’t talk like that anymore.”
Crossing her arms, Paris tries to swallow the lump in her throat. “Streets are saying something different.”
I shake my head, dismissing any potential gossip. “We’re in Atlanta, Paris. The streets lie about everything.”
“Last month, one of my coworkers showed me a photo of you. Her cousin took it at some day party. Yas was on your lap in broad daylight. We’re not together anymore, A’ja. There’s no need to lie.”
Why are her stupid ass coworkers always in our business? They’re just as bad as Yas was. This type of shit didn’t happen until I started getting a little fame. Now, everyone has a random ass photo of me. Everything is a fucking conspiracy theory. “Paris, look at me.” She doesn’t. “Paris, for real. Please.” She huffs and turns her head slightly. “Yas got on my lap for maybe a few seconds. We were both drunk, and I told her to get her ass off. We were out with the entire cast. Whatever the photo showed, it wasn’t like that.”
I whip out my phone and slide it over to her. She stares at it with doubt, then lifts it. She goes through the last texts Yas and I exchanged. “I asserted boundaries with her,” I explain. “I told her I’m not interested in her that way. When she tried to say some slick shit about you, I told her to shut the fuck up. At this point, we’re just castmates.” Paris’s lips quiver as she wipes away a tear, trying to compose herself. “Paris, I fucked up. My love for you knows no bounds. Whatever I need to do, I will do it. I will do anything to call you mine again. Just name it, babygirl.”
Paris can’t control the tears that stream down her face. She covers her face, but her ragged breathing gives away her heartache. I move to her side of the booth, taking in her sweet perfume and holding her in my arms. She grasps me, burying her face into my breast as she cries. “I’m sorry, babygirl,” I coo. The remaining pieces of my heart pound in my chest. I’m unsure what I’ll do if we don’t resolve this. Paris keeps me sane when my life can be a clusterfuck of chaos. I love her more than anything. I need her.
I hand Paris a napkin once she gets everything out. She cleans herself up and looks down. “I can’t sit here and act like I’m not still in love with you. I miss you and don’t want anyone else. Still, I’m unsure if I can trust you again,” she whispers.
“Are you willing to try?” My thumb caresses her shoulder as I peer at her. “We don’t have to jump back into things. One step at a time. Hang out with each other more. Figure shit out as it goes. Fuck, I don’t know. I just know we deserve at least one more try.”
Paris is quiet for an abnormal amount of time. Her brain weighs all the options. She’s surfing through all the possibilities and logistics. My chances are slim, but I’m praying for a miracle. I’ll show her how apologetic I am if I can get a slither of a chance. She’ll never worry about me breaking her heart again.
“You understood what it was when you got with me, A’ja. I don’t give out second chances.”
My eyes burn as tears well up, but I can’t let them fall. I’m the one who fucked up. Paris shouldn’t feel bad holding me accountable for my faults. “I under—”
“But I’ve never been in love until you.” Paris wears a vulnerable expression with a hint of desire in her eyes. “Your actions were idiotic, selfish, and hurtful, A’ja. For all the years I’ve known you, you’ve been smart, selfless, and considerate. I’ve been thinking about what happened for months. Some days I hate you. Some days I believe you’re worthy of forgiveness. Some days I barely feel a thing. No matter how I feel, I know I love and miss you. So, I’m going to follow my heart and try to trust you won’t do something that stupid again. Don’t smile.”
I bite my lip, and she giggles. “I’m not moving back in. Baby steps. We’re not back together, but I’m willing to work towards rebuilding our relationship.” Paris stares at me before giggling again. “Fine, smile! You’re about to bust your damn lip!”
The raindrops outside slow to a stop as soon as I break into a wide smile. I want to kiss her so fucking badly. But maybe we’re not there yet. “Paris, thank you. You won’t regret it. We will restore our relationship to its previous state. Shit, we’ll surpass it. I know it.” I grasp her hand delicately and press a kiss onto its back.
She lunges towards me and clashes her velvety lips onto mine. The flavor is reminiscent of raspberries, and our lips synchronize, leaving me craving more. She pulls away, and the silence between us fills with heavy breathing and intense eye contact. “How about we pack our food and head back to the crib? We can warm it up and catch up on Real Housewives,” I suggest.
“Tuh! Who’s we? I’m waiting on the next episode.”
My lips straighten as she laughs. “You’re so fake.”
She grabs my cheeks and squeezes them. “Don’t get all pouty and cute. I’ll act shocked every time a housewife throws a drink on another, just for you.”
“I take that back. You’re so real.” I pucker my lips for another kiss, but she releases my cheeks.
“You gotta earn more.” My groan is primal, coming from the very core of my being. “Be a good girl and pack our food back up, and maybe I’ll kiss you again…later.”
I pack the food up with the utmost care as if it’s fragile, precious cargo. Our lips will meet again tonight and every night after that for the rest of our lives. Bet that.
I hope you all enjoyed my first original short story (outside of a creative writing class). Short stories are hard for me because I get invested in my characters, but this was fun. I can’t wait to write more. Remember, you can submit your own short story requests here.