The chilly air wraps my skin as soon as I step out of my family’s private jet. I inhale deeply the smell of New York City—the city that never sleeps.
Welcome Back, Bash!
It’s good to be back!
The skyline buildings, the noises, the lights, and the New Yorkers—I miss all of them. I get inside the black Rolls Royce of my Grandpa Mike. My stomach churns at the thought of being back.
When I think I get myself prepared for this, but I am wrong, and the anxiousness starts crawling on my skin. Now that I’m here, I want to go back to London and stay there for the rest of my entire life.
But I promised my family that once I finished college, I would be back—that’s one of the two reasons why I’m here.
“Welcome back, Sir Bash!” The family driver in his early forties greets me with courtesy; he turns to me and nods from the driver’s seat. “I’m Edmund Russell. Your driver, Mr. Hughes.” He extends his hand, and I immediately grip it for a handshake.
“Thank you, Edmund. Please, call me Bash if you would like to stay as my driver.”
“Sure, Bash,” he says with hesitation, “when your family is not around,” he adds with a salute.
I chuckle. “Good. Now, let’s head home.”
“Yes, sir,” he replies with enthusiasm.
I glance at him one more time before I smile. I can’t help but be amazed at the astounding city lights of an array of colors as we pass by, the colossal skyline buildings that stand tall from afar, the neon lights that flicker in different colors, and billboards flash with advertisements that blur through the car window.
My emotions start to swirl in my belly. There’s something about New York that you can’t find in any place in the world. It’s maybe because I still consider this my home?
New Yorkers are still busy even at this past midnight hour. Indeed this city never sleeps. The yellow cabs and the chaotic traffic remind me that I’m finally back in New York.
“Bash, your parents directed me to send you to your Penthouse, but first, I will drive you to Hughes’s mansion.” His deep voice bashes me out of my thoughts.
“Sure. Like you can say no to my dad.”
He chuckles, “That’s actually from Mrs. Hughes. Your mom, Bash.”
I roll my eyes. “Of course. Her baby boy is back.”
In my twenty-one years, she treats me like a nine-year-old boy. I can’t blame her, though. I’m her only son, and she almost died giving birth to me. She got into complications during the labor that resulted in her not getting pregnant again. Her doctors had to remove her uterus.
“Let’s go then. I had a long flight, Edmund. I hope we won’t stay long.”
“Sure,” he responds shortly.
I lean my head back when Edmund plays a 90s song. I can’t help, but hum as the song plays softly above my head.
“Bash, are you sure you know how to braid?” Trinity asks, looking up at me. She’s sitting on the floor in her room while I’m on her pink bed. I start separating her tangled curly red hair into two sections, then twist up the second section, and secure it with a hair clip.
“You don’t trust me, Tri? I watched it many times on YouTube. So you don’t have to worry. Lizzy won’t let me try it on her hair, though,” I say, separating the first section into three sections, then twisting it and crossing it as is shown in the video.
She lets her arms drape on my thighs. “I trust you, Bash. But make sure you do it fast. You still have to help me choose my dress for the Prom.” She tilts her head to look at me.
I push her head down. “Stay still if you want me to finish this fast.” I try to be focused on what I am doing.
“Ouch. Easy there, tiger!” She whines, hitting me on my leg.
I laugh. “It was not strong, goldfish,” I say between laughs. I do the first braid perfectly. “Look at this, Tri. It’s perfect!” She looks at her braided hair.
Her face lights up. Her eyes glimmer as she looks at me. “It’s perfect, Bash. Thanks!” she chirps, hugging my right leg.
I’ve been sitting patiently in the dress boutique for almost thirty minutes. Trinity has chosen three dresses she likes. I cross my legs and tap my fingers on my knee. I forget to bring my Airpods with me, so I have to hum some songs in my head.
Trinity emerges from the fitting room wearing a baby blue ankle-length dress.
She smiles at me. “What do you think of this?”
I look at her without an expression on my face. I shake my head.
“But it’s blue.” Her shoulders slump.
“Trinity, I’m not color-blind,” I snap, rolling my eyes.
“But we like blue,” she insists.
I take a deep breath.
Since I figured out Trinity could draw, I bribed her to help me draw and sketch. Since then, we have started to get along. But I couldn’t help myself not being too annoying and bullying her sometimes. Okay, maybe most of the time. She cried and hid away from me for days until I apologized. I needed her to help me with my art classes. I’d rather choose her to help me than the art tutor that my parents paid for. I can say I enjoy having her around.
“It’s plain, Trinity. Try something colorful. You have nice skin color, your hair, and your eyes.”
She glares. “I thought you hated my hair and my freckles, and my skin is translucent.”
I laugh in my seat as the sales lady approaches us. “I said pale, and I did not say translucent. Ms. Jenna, can you please help my girlfriend here.” I stand up and wrap my arm around Trinity’s exposed shoulder. She ends up elbowing me.
“Choose a perfect dress for her?”
The saleslady’s face lights up like she has some idea. “I know what’s perfect for her. She got beautiful skin with redhead and green eyes.” Ms. Jenna scans the dresses one by one until she stops and grabs the black, red, and green dresses.
“Put these on. The size fits for you, dear.”
Trinity and I go to the same school from grade school to high school, and we become best friends. Sometimes, I think of her as a lesbian because she never dates anyone. Unlike me, I dated some girls, but I broke up with them when they started to be mean to Trinity, and she got into trouble because of me.
“Stay away from Bash, Ugly Kiara. If you don’t want me to ruin your pathetic life!” That’s my girlfriend, Alesha yelling at Trinity in the gym during their P.E class. I had just finished practicing football when I decided to talk to Trinity to teach her Calculus. I cross my arms over my chest as I watch them intently.
“You tell your boyfriend to stay away from me. Not the other way around!” Trinity responds. Her face turns red with anger. She tells me she doesn’t like Alesha since I started dating her a month ago.
“He will tell you, ugly! He’s just waiting for the right time. That’s why I’m telling you now. Do you even have a date for Prom? I bet nobody asks you yet, right?” Alesha pokes Trinity on her shoulder.
“I don’t go to that lousy dance or Prom. That’s for brainless cheerleaders who want to lose their virginity with drunk horny boys!”
My lips curve to smile. I can’t help but chuckle.
“You’re just jealous because Bash chooses me over his loser of a maid!” Alesha yells again. Students are already circling while Trinity and Alesha are in the center.
My jaw clenches. That’s a lie. First, I didn’t ask Alesha to be my Prom date, and Trinity is my best friend and not my maid. I sprint toward them and push two students to give me away. Alesha’s eyes widen when she notices my presence. Trinity doesn’t look me in the eye, but I can see the pain in those green orbs.
She walks away out of the crowd, but I manage to catch her arm and grip it tightly.
“Let go of me!” She struggles to loosen my grip and starts crying. My heart just breaks for my best friend.
“Let her go, Bash.” I hear Alesha’s whining voice at my back.
“Stay away from me, Alesha, and stay away from Trinity! If I see you near her again, you will lose your cheerleading team!”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“We’re here, Bash,” Edmund announces after opening the car door for me.
Nothing changed in this mansion. The last time I stepped in here was three years ago. It’s just me who gets three years older—I gained some muscles, become mature, and more focused on life.
I get inside the mansion where I grew up with my sister, Lizzy. A sweet scent, a hint of mixed perfume, and alcohol assaulted my nose.
“Surprise!” I almost jump at the voices and the flickering of lights in the crowded living room.
My hand was quickly on my frantic chest. “I could die right now with a heart attack.” I rolled my eyes.
“Welcome home, baby boy!” Mom literally sprints toward me, and I meet her halfway with a huge hug.
“I missed you too, mom,” I say, kissing her cheek.
“Son, good to see you back home.” Dad’s deep husky voice is one of the strong traits I got from him. After hugging him, I move to my beautiful sister Elizabeth Catherine, who’s two years older than me.
“Hello, sweet little brother,” she sings with the brightest smile on her face.
“Missed me, Lizzy?” I hug her tight, lifting her from the floor, causing her to shriek. “You weight nothing, Lizzy. Are you even eating?”
She rolls her eyes as soon as we break our welcome embrace. Everyone comes to welcome me, except for the one person that I longed to see for these whole tormenting three years.
I scan the crowd, but I can’t find her beautiful face. I take a long deep breath and swallow hard, pushing back the thought of what I am afraid of finding out.
I feel disappointed.
Lizzy wraps her arm around my waist and whispers in my ear, “she didn’t come.”
I nod, pressing my lips hard into a thin line. Lizzy knows all my secrets. My body suddenly drains out of energy while everyone is enjoying my come back. I take the champagne glass Lizzy offers for the toast when I hear the familiar voice from my back.