I almost choked on the grape in my mouth when Red made his announcement. I got up immediately and headed for the patio, almost knocking over an end table on the way out of the living room.
The crazy thing was, I wasn't even sure why I ran out. It wasn't because I don't think Red deserves happiness, because he does. Hell, dude has been through almost as much as me, seeing not one, but two mothers die. That's why I made it my mission to get his girl back to him in one piece.
He's my brother. But, still, something just didn't feel right about the fact that he's getting married. I wish I could put my finger on what.
"Here you are." Red's voice came from behind the sliding glass doors. He stepped outside. "What's up, Mase? You OK?"
"I'm good, man," I said, leaning on the patio railing that faced the street. "Just needed some air. That's all." I turned my head and smiled in his direction. "Congratulations on your engagement."
I reached out to grab his hand.
"Thanks, man," Red responded with the same goofy smile he had on his face earlier. As he grasped my hand, his smile disappeared. "Mase, you know I wanted to tell you before today, but things have been crazy."
"It's cool, man."
"No, I'm serious. We're brothers. We tell each other everything. I just didn't want you to think I didn't want to tell you this."
"Red, believe me. I understand."
We both stared off the patio before he spoke again. "I've been so busy trying to keep that announcement to myself and helping Starlet with AJ, I haven't asked you how your mother's doing."
"I wish I knew, man," I said, shaking my head. "She won't tell me what's up with her, and she's been hanging out with my 'uncle' every damn day." I shook my head. "I just feel like saying 'fuck it,' you know?"
"You can't, Mase. That's not what a family does."
"Family? Man, please. I don't know nothing about no real family. My father was never around. He screwed around on my mother. The only woman I ever loved turned out to be my sister. And now my moms is sick from some shit and won't tell me what the fuck is wrong. Don't talk to me about family."
"But, Mase, what about us? We're family. Me, you, Yanni, Alex and Starlet."
"No, for real. Do you remember how you tried to learn undercover work, so you could help make sure Starlet was all right? And what about how you let Yanni stay with you after Sabrina messed up her house? And just the other day, you made sure that my Jean got back to me safely."
I turned and looked at him with a scowl. "There better be a point to this."
"What, the patio? I don't think so, Mase. I've been out here a lot and have never seen any points. Besides, that could hurt the baby."
"What?" I was momentarily confused, before sighing. "No, Red. Not a point out here. A point to what you were saying."
"Oh. Well, my point is that only family would do all of that. They won't give up on each other. You didn't give up on us, and you shouldn't give up on your mother."
His words made me finally realize why I'd run out earlier. The sight of seeing him get engaged automatically triggered thoughts of abandonment. Like I was losing someone else I'd grown close to. I smiled to myself, thinking of everything that had taken place in the past year. How my family basically drove me away—literally, and how these people I'd just met let me in, never gave up on me. And weighing all of that against what I was going through with my mother, I knew I couldn't give up on her, either.
"I can't promise you that," I said, placing my hand on Red's shoulder. "But what I can promise is that I'll do whatever you need me to do for your wedding. When's the big day, anyway?"
"We haven't set a date yet. But we're having an engagement barbecue here next week. You know how I—"
"Love steak," I completed his sentence, laughing. "Yeah, I know."
"Oh," Red blurted out matter-of-factly, "and I want you to be my best man."
Apparently, Red was contagious because I just stood there with the same goofy grin he'd perfected. No one had ever asked me to be their "best" anything. "Of course, man," I responded. "Anything for you. Now, let's get back inside and get some of that food the big girl better have ready by now."
I followed Red back inside, clear on two things: I was still hungry, and I had to buy a damn tuxedo.
Unfortunately, all those good feelings dried up the second my phone began to vibrate. I checked the caller ID. Freckles. What the fuck did she want?