“….so, let me get this straight. First, you refuse my calls and act like I don’t even exist, now you want me to show up at your family dinner to help you go off on your parents?”
“You make it sound like I’m using you, that’s not what this is…”
“Oh no….that’s exactly what this is. You didn’t want anything to do with me before, but now you need to prove your truth so I’m just supposed to show up to save you?”
I sighed and shifted my weight. I was standing in a lavish apartment overlooking the water in my city’s upper north side. It was an up and coming district, home to a small community of prominent lesbian women and gay men – with a strong presence of lesbians of color — the kind of place I lived in my dreams.
As mentioned, my newly discovered sister developed a habit of calling several times a week, leaving messages encouraging me to return her calls. Each time I’d delete the voicemails and ignore her text. At the time, I was concerned for my finances. Dealing with Ameya meant risking the wrath of the woman I believed to be my mother; but that didn’t matter now. The damage was done; going forward, my only focus was damage control.
“I’ve done some work with my therapist and she helped me realize how irrational it was for me to shut you out without giving you a chance to explain your side of things.”
”Explain my side?” My sister laughed and took a drag from a vape pin. A pineapple smell filled the room. “I don’t have anything to explain. I’m just as innocent as you are in all of this.”
“….well, I wouldn’t say seducing my best friend’s husband just to get to me is innocent….you could’ve just called…or even come to my house…”
“Yea…that’s what happened.” She laughed and rolled both eyes in her head. “Anyway, what’s really going on? Why the sudden interest in parading me around the family?”
“I told you, my therapist—“
“Excuse me?” I didn’t understand what she meant…
“Bye to the bullshit. You’re about to lie to me. Why should I trust you if you don’t even trust me enough to tell the truth?”
I paced for a moment, trying to come up with a viable answer to appease her inquisition, but my mind was blank. A big part of me wanted to confide everything in her and share my truth, but how did I know I could trust her? Hell these days, I didn’t know who to trust.
“You’re worried you can’t trust me….” She spoke without looking in my face. “With a friend like Carmen, I can see how you’d be concerned.”
The hell was that supposed to mean?
“A friend like Carmen? What the hell do you mean a friend like Carmen?”
“…I don’t know if I can trust you…” Her tone was antagonistic.
I stared at her for a moment, considering if I’d made a mistake by coming here. This wasn’t a plan, it was an irrational reaction to unreasonable stress on a bipolar brain. In my mind, I would come here, profess my need, and she would gladly accommodate my request like some bastard child pining for legitimacy. Now I realized that wasn’t the case.
Ameya wasn’t interested in anyone’s validation or acknowledgement. Ameya was only interested in the truth — and she was here to make sure we all faced it. But still…why?
“Why would you need to trust me?”
“I don’t know you….” She snarled her lips and shot me a side-eye.
“You came here looking for me!” I snapped back, a confused look on my face.
“Not today I didn’t.” She shrugged. “Today, you came here looking for me, which makes this extremely suspicious considering I’ve been begging you to come here since we met. I even reached out when Carmen died and you brushed me off with a generic ass thank you card. You’ve had my number and address for several months and you haven’t bothered to reach out….NOW you show up and I’m suddenly supposed to be …what….grateful? Excited? I’m not really sure what you want from me….sis.”
Her “sis” was laced with sarcasm, but underneath I sensed a bit of pain. She took my failure to cope with the truth as rejection and I couldn’t blame her. Everything she’d said was true; but it wasn’t for the reasons she thought. It wasn’t about her, it was about my family — and despite our biological connection, that didn’t include her.
To acknowledge her was to acknowledge things about my life I didn’t want to believe true. To acknowledge her was to acknowledge the fact that one of the people I knew as my biological parent wasn’t that at all. Don’t get me wrong I wholeheartedly believe it’s not the blood that makes you family- it’s the love -and I have no doubt my parents love me; but, three decades of lies and secrets and a secret twin? It was hard to excuse all that.
“….expecting the truth when you’re not willing to give it…”
Dr. Sanchez’s voice reigned in my head. I exhaled and took a seat at the bar, cradling my forehead in my palm. If I wanted her help, I was going to have to give her what she wanted.
So, I gave her truth; well, at least a version of the truth. I left out the parts that made me look like utter shit.
”I don’t mean to come across as abrasive and self absorbed. I realize I initially ignored your calls and I’m really sorry, for real. I’m sorry. But listen,” I pleaded.
“You have just as much reason to want to get to the bottom of all this as I do. You’re saying she’s “our” mother and she claims she’s not; and if what she’s saying is true….” I paused to give her a moment to think,
“…that means the man you believe to be your father isn’t that; at least not biologically…”
I stepped back and folded my arms expecting a reaction. I’d dropped a bombshell, or so I thought. Ameya just laughed.
“Why do you think I came here? I already know this smart ass. If you’d ever taken the time to call me, you’d have known too.”
“What? But you said….”
“I gave you ten percent of the story, it’s not my fault you took it as 100.” She flippantly waved her hand in my direction.
“Plus, I wasn’t trying to give you too much from jump. I could tell your ass is the delicate type. Too much at once and you’ll crack; likely how you’re doing now.”
Okay. Clearly there was a bit of resentment brewing as a result of my ignoring her. She spoke as if she knew me, and she kind of did; but still, she didn’t. Considering the circumstances around my meeting her, she was one to judge.
“You know what, maybe this was a mistake.” I curled the corners of my mouth into a frown and snatched my purse from the nearby coffee table. Ameya chuckled.
“LIKE I SAID…DELICATE. LOOK AT YOU, RUNNING.”
She sat on a cream colored sofa, crossing toned thighs, allowing her arms to rest across the top of the seat. A smirk settled on her face. She shook her head slowly from left to right.
“Carmen was right, you’re not at all like me when it comes to dealing with life.”
I’d made it to the door and had every intention of leaving, but the mention of Carmen’s name – AGAIN – caused me to double back. I stormed over to the couch, face contorted, sick of her clearly calculated remarks.
“If you have something to tell me about Carmen, SPILL THE FUCKIN TEA OR DRINK IT AND SHUT UP. What you not gone do is keep throwing out breadcrumbs expecting me to ask for a bit like I’m some gotdamned peasant!”
“Alright sis, yaaaaaassssss……” She rose from the couch in dramatic fashion, snapping her fingers and rolling her neck. She grinned like a pervert in a paradise of virgins. Something about it made me want to grin too.
“I knew you had bite. This whole suburban-soccer-mommy-and-me-Stepford-wife-I’m-just-blessed-and-highly-favored-while-secretly-sucking-down-anti-depressants-and-seeing-a-therapist-several-times-a-week-to-keep-from-downing-the-entire-bottle is SO unbecoming.”
The befuddled look on my face gave away my truth.
“Yea….I told you, you should’ve called me. I can tell you some things about yourself I should not know.”
“What the hell do you know about Carmen?”
“I know you shouldn’t have trusted her. I know she wasn’t who you thought.”
“….and that means?”
Ameya went into the kitchen and grabbed a glass picture filled with what appeared to be Sangria from the fridge. She pulled two goblets from the cabinet and filled them both, then returned to the living room where she invited me to join her on the sofa.
“Carmen met me a few years ago. She accosted me in a club once while I was performing…like completely flipped out, thinking I was you. She came running on the stage screaming, covering me up. I assumed she was drunk and thought nothing of it, until I left the club and found her waiting for me outside. Hell, I almost shot her ass. She was damn sure lucky that night.”
She slid my glass toward me urging me to drink. I accepted the offer and was glad I did, it was refreshing. She continued.
“What stood out to me was her laughter when I pulled out my gun. She said, ‘Oh, you’re definitely not my Mya…’ then extended a hand and introduced herself despite me holding a gun in her face. I was intrigued.” She smiled recounting the past.
“…that’s when she pulled out her phone and showed me a picture of you…..which was….huh…I can’t even tell you how that felt. You have no idea how long I’ve know about you….my father told me you existed long ago; I just never believed I’d actually find you! I guess all those childhood prayers of ‘God please help me find my sister” worked out.” She paused to take a gulp from her goblet.
“We went to an early breakfast at an IHOP up the street from the club and…well…you know Carmen. I wish I could say it was drinks or drugs…but, she was charming and attractive….hell I gave it up. HOWEVER….” She held up perfectly manicured fingers,
“I HAD NO IDEA she had anything with you. Carmen presented you as a friend who was living a lie and she was tying to help you live free. She told me of your love for women, but claimed you’d married a man and lived in a state of depression to appease your family name. She even told me about your seducing her husband once out of desperation….”
“Hold up, excuse me? I did what?” I interrupted with an attitude.
“Oh….I’m sorry, is that part not true?” She raised her eyebrows showing a sincere look of surprise.
“Hell no it isn’t true! IIIIIIIII dated Barnard first, he was my fiancée when Carmen seduced him claiming she wanted to prove he wasn’t worth marrying.”
“Ohhhhh” Ameya took another drink from her glass, looking as if she’d let the cat out the bag – in purpose.
“…well, I’m just sharing with you what I was told. Im not surprised though, Carmen told A LOT of lies.” A vein briefly appeared in Ameya’s temple. I knew that look. I’d seen it a thousand times on my own face. Seriously, Carmen?
“….so, how long did she lead you on before you found out who I really was?”
“Is it that obvious?” She wrinkled her brow exactly as I did when I felt exposed. It was…odd… looking into your own face.
“It wasn’t…until a moment ago. Carmen’s placed that exact look on my face many a day.”
“Yea…. well…it was you she loved. The rest of us were just….” Ameya looked away and swallowed hard.
“Never mind. Anyway, yes…we were together; but I quickly realized her infatuation with me had everything to do with you – despite our identical appearance, give or take about fifteen pounds….” She paused and ran her eyes up and down my frame.
Yes, she was physically more fit than I…. otherwise we were practically indistinguishable. Besides, her fifteen was a bit of a stretch. I had ten pounds on her…tops! Okay, maybe twelve…but only because I was bloated!
“Initially, Carmen told me she’d make the introduction, but she explained you didn’t adapt easily to change. She asked me to let her break the news to you gently. I agreed, considering your fragile mental state and all…” I assumed that was an ill-described reference to my living with Bipolar Disorder. I started to correct her ignorant description but didn’t want to interrupt.
“…I understood where she was coming from though. I found out about you when I was seven years old and it rocked my entire existence. I didn’t even want to imagine how it’d feel to find out after decades of lies. I agreed to wait a few months and give her an opportunity to explain things to you and make an introduction. I hoped we could confront our parents together; but after six months of ongoing excuses and marathons of sex, I accepted the reality that Carmen was using me as a filler. Then, you showed up at my club….”
She paused her story and went to the kitchen to refresh her drink. She offered to top me off, but I declined. I was still nursing half a glass of the first drink and already feeing a healthy buzz.
“…you didn’t see me, but I saw you.” Ameya confessed as she rejoined me on the couch.
I started to put two and three together in my head and recalled the night Carmen took me to a new lesbian club a few hours outside the city. I’d gone looking for her and passed by an office with a cracked door from which I heard a woman’s moan, followed by Carmen’s voice. I investigated and saw a woman leaning against the desk, head thrown back, and Carmen down on her legs. I didn’t need to linger around to see what would happen next. That was also the night I met Sopia…
“Carmen was supposed to introduce us that night…but when I got done with my shows, you were gone. She’d deliberately left the club without introducing us. I knew all I need to know then. I confronted her the next day. That’s when I learned she had you holed up in some cabin not far from the club and you weren’t just a best friend, but her lover.”
THAT’S where she went! I thought recalling Carmen’s disappearance for a few hours that weekend. I awoke from a nap to a note that she’d run to the store to pick up a few things for dinner…. she didn’t return until three hours later, reeking of weed and another woman’s perfume. I inquired where she was and why she smelled of perfume, but she brushed me off and we ended up in a fight. That was our last weekend together….and even then, she was fucking around.
“Look…Ameya, I had no idea Carmen was invo –”
“You don’t need to apologize for Carmen’s fuckup. It wasn’t your fault and part of me knew better – I just think I was enjoying the ride, figuratively and literally. Carmen spoke as if we were in something serious. We even went on vacation with your college friends…umm… Tess and Yani, I think it is…”
I nearly choked in surprise, “Carmen took you on a vacation? With Tess and Yani?!” Hell, she hadn’t even taken me on vacation with Tess or Yani!
“Yep. We went to Barbados, St. Thomas, Turks and Caicos…”
“She told me those were work trips…”
“…and she told me you were just a friend.”
We sat together in the silence for a moment. Likely thinking of the same things – Carmen…Carmen’s lies…our parents…our parent’s lies. It was too much stress to process at once. I needed a release or I was going to crack…and soon.
I asked for another drink, she quickly refilled and offered me some of her vape. I refused. I needed more than some fruity flavored air to help me cope with this – but don’t tell Dr. Sanchez I said that.
“So how did you end up at that hotel with Barnard?” I finally asked, hoping to change the subject. I wasn’t much interested in learning the details of her love affair with my lover, but I did want to know how I was involved in all of this.
“Oh…” She laughed. “That….” She rolled her eyes and took a drag from her vape. “Well, that was all me, but it wasn’t what you thought. I didn’t seduce Barnard. I was screening him, and Carmen knew that. She hired my firm to do the job.” Ameya stood and grabbed a locked file box from the bookshelf near the front door. She retrieved a key from a nearby table drawer and proceeded unlock the box and pull out white folder with Carmen and Barnard’s name in BOLD BLACK PRINT on the front.
“Look through it. You’ll see all you need to see.”
She nearly shoved the folder in my face and returned to her seat. She proceeded to check her phone leaving me to examine the contents of the folder she’d unearthed. The first few pages appeared to be an application of sorts. The next few pages were essay questions detailing a variety of topics including their current relationship goals, desires, weaknesses, strengths, fetishes, and fantasies. Then there were a series of questions about their daily schedules, personal habits, and meal preferences. It appeared to be some sort of couple’s therapy? If it were, I’m pretty sure showing me this was breaking a myriad of consent laws.
“What is this?” I shook my head in confusion at the mess of papers she’d thrown in my lap.
“Read the forms titled Spousal Consent and Expectation of Services.” She replied still scrolling through her phone.
I pulled the form titled “Spousal Consent” and began to read what appeared to be a list of things Carmen consented to Barnard’s participation. It included things like romantic dates, kissing on the mouth, expensive gifts, vacations, holidays away, and interaction with the kids. I was still confused, then I read the Expectation of Services:
…PARTY AGREES AND UNDERSTANDS OUR “WIFE SUPPORT” SERVICE IS PROVIDED ON AN AT WILL BASIS AND MEMBERSHIP MAY BE TERMINATED AT ANY TIME IF IT IS FOUND YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF OUR AGGREEMENT. THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL. WE DO NOT PROVIDE SEX FOR MONEY. OUR SERVICE IS “WIFE SUPPORT” AND ALL PHYSICAL CONTACT BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS IS AT-WILL AND DOES NOT TAKE PLACE AT THE REQUEST OF OR RESULT OF THIS CONTRACT. WIVES CAN EXPLICITLY FORBID WOMEN WILLING TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL CONTACT IF PREFERRED. OUR NETWORK OF TRAINED WOMEN ARE READY TO SERVE YOU BY SERVING YOUR MATE, YOUR FAMILY, OR YOURSELF…WE ARE HERE TO PERSONALIZE THE PACKAGE OF YOUR DREAMS.
“WHAT THE HELL IS A WIFE SUPPORT SERVICE?” I asked with my bullshit face.
“Exactly what it sounds like. I provide support for busy wives. Just in ways other people…don’t.” She put her phone down and folded her hands in her lap.
“…no disrespect, but…this sound like you’re selling hoes to me…”
“Hoes suck dick for pennies in back alley hotels and the backseat of cars. They revel in their whoredom. My girls are the exact opposite.”
“What?” I scrounged my forehead until I couldn’t scrounge anymore.
“Listen, honey.” Her tone was condescending, as if she resented having to explain.
“Whores go directly after men. They look to break up families and fuck up homes. My service works with families. My girls work with the wives to determine their needs in the home, as well as their spouse, and they step in to provide that form of support.”
She widened her eyes and cocked her head giving me a stern look,“Sometimes, that includes providing sexual services where a wife prefers not or maybe cannot- you know for medical reasons.” She paused to sip her drink.
“Other times they might serve as a nanny, a cook, someone to whom their spouses can talk about their day, provide massages, run errands – many of my girls don’t even have sex.” She shrugged as if that made anything better.
“What does this have to do with Carmen and Barnard?”
“What are you dumb? Carmen hired my services for Barnard. His latest love…Christie….she’s one of mine.”
“You’re responsible for that bit—”
“Aye…watch your mouth, that’s one of my best friends.” Her look was severe. I decided to hold my tongue.
“Why would Carmen hire someone to be with Barnard?”
“If you really have to ask that question you are way more self-absorbed than Carmen suggested.”
It was a dumb ass question. Obviously, she hired someone to do the things she didn’t want to do — be a wife to a husband.
“This still doesn’t explain why Carmen showed up at my house with photos of you and Barnard accusing me of sleeping with her husband!”
“I gave Carmen 24 hours to bring you to me or I was going to contact you myself. From what I understand, you two weren’t talking at the time. I guess she used it as a diversion to get us together.”
As stupid as it sounded. It made sense. Carmen was known for going to the extremes to get my attention, especially if we weren’t speaking. Once, after I found out she was messing with a woman from my church, she faked an entire asthma attack just to get me to the ER where she was waiting – PERFECTLY FINE – all to get me to talk to her. At the time I thought it was romantic; now it just seems manipulative and…wrong.
“Carmen set me up?”
“Well…kinda, but not exactly. Carmen said she had some big secret that was sure to make you leave Derrick Michael once you found out. She didn’t want anything else jeopardizing whatever it was.”
“What kind of secret…”
“If I knew what it was would I call it ‘a secret’? I can tell you whatever it was she mentioned getting the police involved.”
Carmen called several times asking me to meet, but I’d refused out of anger. She said it was too important to talk about over the phone or text. She claimed she needed to see me in person, but I ignored her requests assuming it another one of her ploys for attention. Dammit!
“None of this makes sense…” I chewed on the inside of my lip trying to put the pieces together. I wondered if Carmen’s visit to my parent’s home had anything to do with this secret …or maybe her death?
“Why wouldn’t she just tell me who you were?” I asked as if Ameya somehow had the answers.
“…and have to explain why she spent several months in bed with me first?”
She had a point. I took a long swig from my goblet and looked around for my phone. I’d turned the ringer off on arrival and needed to make sure I hadn’t missed any important calls.
“It doesn’t matter now anyway. At this point all I want to know is the truth. About everything, starting with us.” Whatever secrets Carmen had for me were my business; had she wanted Ameya to know she would’ve told her. I’d have to investigate that piece of information on my own. So, I did what I could to redirect the conversation back to the reason for my visit.
“Riiight. Back to that.” She muttered.
I looked down at my phone and noticed several missed calls from various members of my family along with five unread texts from Derrick:
WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU! YOU NEED TO GET HOME NOW!
GOTDAMMIT AMYA! AS USUAL YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU AND YOU’RE MIA!
YOU BETTER NOT BE AT THE GOTDAMNED MASSUESE!
AMYA IT’S AN EMERGENCY, CALL SOMEONE BACK NOW!!! IT’S TIMAYA!!!
AMYA…CALL ME BACK…ASAP…911!!
“SHIT!” I panicked. “Something’s going on with my daughter…” My fingers shook trying to dial my phone, but my mother’s number flashed across the screen. She was calling. Instinctively, I picked up.
“Your damn daughter is down at the police station explaining why she and her little friends thought it was a good idea to bust you over the head to hide a got damned pregnancy and where the hell are you?!?”
“WHAAAAAAAT?” I jerked with such surprise I felt a sharp pain shoot through my neck. “I thought something was wrong with Timaya?”
“YES GOTDAMMIT, SHE’S PREGNANT!! AND HER LITTLE BOYFRIEND TRIED TO MURDER YOU TO HIDE IT!”
This was obviously some dumb ass mistake. There was no way my twelve-year-old child was pregnant and sitting in a police station pending attempted murder charges.
“Where is Derrick Michael? Where are you?”
“Down at the police station with the rest of the family, and your lawyer, where you should also be! GET HERE…. NOW!”
She hung up in my face.
I sat in a state of confusion, as if my mind had been cracked. I was sure I’d gone to bed and awoken in someone’s twilight zone. There was no way I was going to accept the idea that I’d built up so much negative karma over my life that I deserved all of this trauma from the universe at once. MY twelve-year-old-genius-of-a-daughter-whose-never-even-gotten-a-bad-conduct-mark PREGNANT? MURDER? NO WAY!
“I gotta go. Family shit.” I said downing the rest of my drink.
“Well, I’ll go with you.” Ameya offered. “There’s no way you’re brushing my ass off that easy this time.”
“I really don’t think this is the best time…I have to deal with some serious shit.”
“We’re already dealing with some serious shit….” She frowned and slipped on a blue jacket and matching boots. “…besides, you look like you can use the help.”
I realized I was leaning, slightly, but noticeably enough that I didn’t need to drive. If I was going to get anywhere, I had no choice but to allow Ameya to drive me. The nearest Uber was nearly twenty-five minutes way and I didn’t feel like explaining why I didn’t have my car. She was my only option.
I sighed as we headed out the front door.
“Look, you can drive me; but I’ll need you to stay in the car when we get there and let me deal with my daughter first – and not because I’m trying to hide you or anything but—”
She threw up one hand and used the other to shove me out the door.
“Sisssss, shut upppp! Whatever is going on with your daughter – my niece – is important to me too and I wouldn’t put myself before your child. Right now, all I need you to worry about is putting the address in the GPS and drinking these bottles of water so you cut down some of that buzz. Okay?”
“Yea…. okay…” I slumped in the passenger’s seat and began praying – then stopped. I’d prayed every single day my entire life and it hadn’t stopped this shit from happening, what would it change now? I stopped praying and prepared myself for the worst.
“Just promise me when we get there you’ll stay in the car and keep your head down if they come out. Now is not the time.”
I spoke as we pulled into the parking lot of the police station nearest my home. Derrick brought in our daughter voluntarily to save us the embarrassment of them picking up her by police car like a common criminal…the perks of bearing the burden of the Tibideaux family name.
“Of course. I’m only here to be a support right now Amya. I wouldn’t act a fool around your children anyway…” Her eyes locked on something in the parking lot. I followed them and saw the last person I wanted to see coming our way.
“SHIT, INDEED.” Ameya smiled as we watched Merline Lulabelle Tibideaux waltzing our way. A look of determination attacked her face. She was never going to believe I didn’t bring Ameya here on purpose.
“Please stay cool Ameya…” I said, preparing myself for the confrontation to come. My supposed mother stormed over to my car and yanked on the handle, yelling obscenities I didn’t even know she knew.
“HOW DAREEEEE YOU BRING HER HERE AMYA! HOW DARE YOU! AND NOW! HOW GOT DAMNED SELFISH CAN YOU BE?!?”
“It’s not what you think…listen…it’s not.” I took a deep breath, my head still woozy from the oversized drinks I’d enjoyed before my arrival.
Ameya started to laugh. She further antagonized the situation by waving at Merline who responded by beating on the window just in time for the rest of the family to walk outside and witness the fiasco unfold. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Catina, we’d likely still be there arguing in the wind.
“MOM!!!!” She yelled, staring through the driver’s side door talking to Ameya.
“WHYYYYYYY is there another woman in the car with your face!!!!!”