Business Before Pleasure Chapter 9
Have you ever found yourself confusing `whether' and `if'?
"Whether" means "this one or the other." "If" refers to one thing that might or might not happen.
It would be incorrect to say, "Whether or not I wake up, it doesn't matter." Instead, you'd say, "If I wake up, it doesn't matter."
On the other hand, you'd say, "I enjoyed hanging out with my friends whether I am asleep or awake."
He presses his hands up against me. Clapper fingers rub into my back. He's never hugged me like this before. Tears are rolling down his face. There is a boy that comes to help him off of me.
"You're hurting him, Dad..." the person says.
"Jr.?" I ask.
It's not every day that you wake up out of a 5 year coma. Seeing my godson standing there I hardly recognized him. He has a suit on. He looks like a darker version of his dad but just as handsome and just as classy. It's clear the kid is no longer a kid. He's a young man. And it's also clear when he smiles at me that he remembers me well. He walks over and puts his hand on my shoulder.
"What happened?" I ask.
"You don't remember?" Clapper asks me.
"I remember being in a car with Vicorio and ..."
Clapper puts his hand on me. I can feel he's being soft with me. He's being tender. He's trying to say this in the best way, "You got into an accident in that car. You had serious brain injury due to increased pressure on your brain. The damage wasn't permanent but it's clear it's taken a blow to you."
"What about Vicorio?"
"He didn't make it."
I'm shocked. I don't know how the crash happened. I don't remember that part, but I knew what I was doing when it happened. I remembered that much. I was doing the same thing that I always did with Vicorio. I was doing exactly what Vicorio told me to do. I feel this awkward pain. To them it was five years ago but to me it was a second ago. I don't understand any of it. And I am trying not to panic. The weird thing is I don't cry.
Five years have passed and I'm not tearing up at all.
That's when there is a knock on the door. It's Romelo. He has flowers in his hands. Two dozen flowers actually. Seeing all these flowers blows my mind. He smiles this wide smile. The last time I saw Romelo I thought he was mad at me but it's clear that he isn't. The guy looks the exact same as when I fell into the coma. He has on a really nice suit and has this instant charisma that only Romelo can bring into the room. He seems nervous as he walks in and I can't understand why for the life of me.
"Really?" Clapper states all of a sudden, "Look what the fucking cat dragged in..."
The way Clapper says this isn't in a joking manner. There is so much malice and tension in Clapper's voice. It's something that I don't think I ever really noticed coming from him. He looks pissed. Pissed isn't even the word. There is almost hatred there. I don't get it. Seeing how he looks at Romelo I'm just shocked to say the least.
"I'm not here to start any trouble," Romelo states, "I just came to see my friend. This isn't about you. This is about my friend."
Clapper looks like he's about to argue. I still know the look he has when he's about to argue a point. It takes his son reaching over and putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Dad..." Jr. whispers delicately.
Clapper clears his throat, "You ok with him being here, Nile?"
"Of course," I respond.
Why wouldn't I be OK with it?
Romelo looks over at Clapper, "Can I have a minute?"
"Clapper please..." I state in my hospital bed.
Clapper looks livid. He walks out making sure that he bumps Romelo on the way out. There is so much fucking tension there and I don't get it. Not even a little bit. The moment Clapper leaves it feels like Romelo is himself again. He doesn't touch me but he moves in real close. He just looks at me.
"I can't believe it," he states, "I can't believe you're up."
"Touch me. I'm real."
He smiles, "I feel like there's so much that's happened. So much that has changed with all of us."
"You look the same."
"That's not what I meant..." he adds in.
"Well what did you mean?" I ask.
He smiles instead, "You'll find out all those things soon enough. I promise. Right now I just want to look at you. God. Everything has changed but you. You're still so...perfect."
I smile. I feel like I look like shit. I have that hospital look. Someone has been keeping me shaved and cleaned. That much I'm thankful for. But at the end of the day him telling me I was perfect was a fallacy. I was far from it. Still when Romelo looks at me I kind of think he means it. I watch how he leans over in the next few minutes and finally touches me. He puts his fingers between my fingers. Our eyes lock up. I'm amazed by him, to tell the truth.
"Do you remember the last argument we had?" I ask.
He nods, "Yeah."
"I wanted to apologize."
"It's OK because if it wasn't your last wish for me to be kept in the company, these guys would have kicked me out a long time ago," he states, "I know your heart Nile. I always have."
"I shouldn't have been with Vicorio."
I look over at Romelo. This is someone who has gone out of his way to try to be with me. He's gone out of his way to try to support me in any way possible. I can't deny that he had some horrible ways of achieving his goals from time to time but his heart was in a good place.
Maybe that's why I do it.
I lean in and begin kissing Romelo. My tongue goes down his throat. He kisses me back. I can see all these years of passion just streaming out of him like music. He climbs on top of me, pulling me, teasing me and thrusting his tongue deeper into my mouth. He could care less where we were right now. I feel his hard dick up against me. Romelo wants me so bad but not as bad as I want him. I don't know how I get to squeezing his ass, grabbing a whole handful of his cheeks and pushing him forward. I thrust him onto me so that he grinds me so hard with his dick print that the bed hinges creak.
"Get the FUCK OFF of him!" Clapper shouts.
I don't know how it happens but Clapper comes out of nowhere and grabs Romelo by his back. He throws Romelo to the ground and starts hitting him. Romelo doesn't see it coming. He's struggling to defend himself but Clapper is just digging into him. Punch after punch. I struggle to stop it but I'm so weak. It isn't until security comes that they are broken up. Romelo has a bloody nose. I wonder if Clapper broke it.
Clapper's reaction is crazy.
"I should have known you would fuckin' do this you little bitch," Romelo spits.
Clapper just growls, "Did you tell him?"
They are holding Clapper back. It takes several of them to hold him back. They can barely contain him. We'd fought before. Even as teens. I remember Clapper and Bron were always butting heads and fighting. Still...this was different. Maybe it's the fact that there was no passionate argument beforehand.
I'm confused what's going on.
"Tell me what?"
"He's married," Clapper states, "The moment Vicorio died he started hitting on Waverly. Got married to her..."
I don't notice it. I don't notice the ring on Romelo's finger. And I just feel stupid. I just feel so dumb. Romelo had threatened Waverly with exposing her bisexual husband and now she was married to yet another bisexual man? I feel a little sick to my stomach.
"I can explain everything," Romelo states.
Explain? How do you explain marrying Vicorio's ex-wife? I just knew Romelo. This had nothing to do with love. He was doing it for the come up. I keep shaking my head. It's kind of irritating, to say the least that I'm in this situation.
"Not now..." I tell him.
"Please," Romelo begs.
"He said not now," Clapper responds.
Clapper is still being held back. He's like a wild animal. I had definitely missed a lot.
"You both should leave," Jr. interrupts out of nowhere, "I'll take Uncle Nile home."
Being awake I just feel...normal. The doctors make a big fuss and give me all these instructions before letting me go, but when they finally do Jr. is right there. The kid is driving a Benz. I kind of want to ask him if he rented a car or something just to pick me up but I don't want to be rude so I just stare out of the window.
I'm so lost.
"You OK?" he asks me looking over, "You want me to slow down..."
He probably thinks I'm scared of being in a car again. Seeing Jr. drive period is something that I'm not ready for. My little man had definitely grown up and was doing his own thing.
"You're not good," he tells me.
He reminds me of Clapper when he says it. The kid is not only way taller than me now but he's starting to sound more and more like his dad every day with the over-protective shit.
"Just mixed up. That's all. Wondering why Labron wasn't at the hospital. Wondering why your dad attacked Romelo like that?"
"You've missed a whole lot," he states, "Shit went left when you went into your coma."
"Watch your mouth..." I state before catching myself, "I mean...damn, sorry. Keep forgetting you're grown now."
He laughs a little bit, "It's OK. You have a lot to get used to. You can still treat me like a kid if you want. You get a pass."
We head to a house. It's a nice ass house. I'm surprised when I walked in.
"Whose house is this?"
I look at it. This place looked like it was a mansion. It has this expensive rock stone exterior. Not the fake kind they put up, but real fucking rock stone. The driveway is full of cars. The windows are bigger enough to fucking walk through.
"You sell drugs, Jr.?" I start freaking out, "How many fucking times did I have this conversation with you to stay away from drugs. Huh! You got a death wish? You fucking Charles Bronson or some shit? Huh? You not too grown to get your ass beat!"
"What church you go to? You better go to a church. Sex drugs and hoes. I bet that's what you're into. Look at this goddam car. I'm getting out this drug car. How do you unlock this door? What's this fancy shit? Drug cars don't have door handles? How the FUCK do I get out of this car?"
"Uncle Nile chill..."
He presses some button on his fancy ass car opening it up. I can't believe this. I'm heated. I'm beyond mad at this point.
"Call me an Uber."
"I'm not calling you an Uber, Uncle Nile. Chill. I don't do drugs."
"You hit the lottery?"
"Naw. Uncle Nile I joined the business."
Jr. pauses, "Dad is going to kill me but get back in the car. There's something you need to see."
"We not driving dirty are we?"
"Uncle Nile. I promise you I did not turn into Pablo Escobar while you were in a coma. Just get in the car. I need you to take you to the office."
"The business that you guys started 5 years ago."
He takes me to downtown Philadelphia. We start driving and I think the kid is confused, "Jr. You're going the wrong way."
"The office is in the other way."
"Well no...the new building is right there. You missed a lot. I told you."
We pull up to a building. It's nice as hell.
"Damn. This is an upgrade. We have a suite in there?"
"Uncle Nile. Look at the name on the building."
I look at the building. The building is full of people. It's brimming with people walking in and out of it. It looks like a real fucking place that ballers go to do business. When he points though I read the name on the side of the building. It's in big bold letters.
"Why is my name on the side of a building?" I asked.
"When you went into the coma, the business really took off. It started with the meeting that you had. You impressed the lady so much that she took you guys on as a client. Soon enough you grew from there. And they changed the named. It was Labron's idea to change it to Nile in honor of you."
My heart drops.
"This is...this entire building is their business."
"Your business. Uncle Nile, Nile Corporation is a quarter yours, Uncle Nile. You're worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
I feel faint. I feel so faint when the kid tells me that. I'm struggling to breathe. I literally walk out of the car and walk into traffic. I am about to get hit if Jr. does run out and stop the cars who are swerving past. He escorts me across the street to the front of the building. I watch as his personal valet comes to pick up the car as if this is a fucking hotel or something. I'm so shocked. I feel weak to my knees. Jr. is literally holding me up.
"My dad is going to kill me if anything happens to you..."
"I want to go in," I state.
I could care less about Clapper or anything else. I wanted to see what was created. We started off in a fucking office with no furniture. How the fuck did this happen?
"Uncle Bron is in there..."
"Good. I want to talk to him."
"He's kind of...nervous to see you," Jr. states, "He blames himself for what happened to you. That's the reason why he didn't go to the hospital."
I remember the last thing me and Bron talked about. He had gotten mad at me. Matter of fact he blasted me for me pushing up on him and trying to turn him into something he's not. I remember how angry I was when he said those things to me. It still does hurt honestly. It hurts so bad. It's easy to say after all these years you would get over it but the truth is it didn't seem that long to me.
I still feel weird about it but there was no way seeing Labron was going to keep me away from seeing what Nile Co. had become.
Jr. hesitates but takes me in the building. It's everything that I imagined from the front. There is a grand entryway to the building with multiple elevators from the lobby. Advertisements of Nile Corporation are playing on huge screens in the lobby. It's unreal.
We get on the elevator with all these businessmen. They all seem to speak to Jr. They all know who he is but I'm invisible to them. Maybe it's the way I'm dressed. I don't know. At this point I don't care! I feel like a fly on the wall and I'm amazed.
When we get a floor, I see a bustling office space. Noise. People making deals. People selling things.
Hundreds of people had to work at this job. Maybe even thousands!
"This way Uncle Nile," Jr. states.
The metal interior of the building is slick and highlighted with attractive brightly colored signs that immediately catch your attention. I can hardly control myself seeing floating black panels that can swing open or closed to transform the conference rooms into open-office layouts.
I feel overwhelmed by the people as I walk through the semi-private cubicles with workers, free of dividing walls collaborate with each other freely. The open feel carries onto the communal areas. It makes the workspace feel alive all around me.
And when he takes me to Bron's office I feel awkward.
"Are you sure you want to see him?" Jr. asks.
Jr. gives me privacy. I knock on the door and hear the sound of Bron calling for me to come in. I open the door and walk in.
The awkwardness of the moment seems to be immediate for me but for him, he doesn't even notice who I am at first. He must think I'm one of his employees. He barely looks up from his computer screen. The office is beautiful. It overlooks the city. This has to be one of the tallest buildings in Philadelphia.
"You guys have done well," I state.
That's when he realizes who he is. He is sipping his coffee and I watch as the coffee dribbles down his face in the next few seconds. He quickly grabs a napkin and hops to his feet.
"Wh---what are you doing here!" He barks.
"You avoiding me Bron?" I ask.
Bron doesn't hesitate to run to the door and close the door to give us privacy at that moment. I've never seen him this nervous. When he closed the door he just kind of stares at the doorknob as though afraid to turn around. It takes him a minute to finally turn around and when he looks at me he just seems out of it.
He's so handsome. Even now. The look on his face just seems so uncertain about how this conversation is about to go. I wonder what he's thinking. I've always been horrible at reading Bron. I couldn't see if he was happy or not. I couldn't see if he was excited.
"I was going to come see you...I just..." he pauses.
"I don't blame you for happened to me."
He takes a step closer. He looks like he wants to hug me but he stops short as though uncertain if I'd accept it or not. He's so much in his head. I feel like I don't even know what is going on right now.
"I blame myself for what happened to you," he explains, "I stayed away from the hospital. None of us are talking right now. The old friends."
"You own this business together. How do you not talk?"
"Well with the lawsuit Romelo is filing against us for control of the company and me finding out that Clapper is the father of Athena..."
He sits at that moment. He sits on the desk.
I feel like shit.
"Tell me about it."
"There will be time for that," He explains, "Right now though. It's about you. Right now there's only time for you. About what I said when you got in the car with Vicorio. It haunted me. Every day I wondered what I would say the moment that I saw you again. I visited the hospital daily. I would stare at you hoping you'd wake up just so I can have this conversation with you. Just so I can tell you how much I regret saying what I said back then."
"Listen, it was in the past. No point in regretting it. I chose to leave with Vicorio. It was an accident. Plain and simple."
"Its more than that. I struggled how to put into words how I feel about what happened. I struggled to put into words how I feel about you. Truth is though. I don't know. There are no words. This is how I feel about you."
That's when Bron kisses me...
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