This is a sneak peek at chapter one from my Valentine's Day novella, Living Out a Love Song, available exclusively on ByBrookelynMosley.com!
I opened one eye to sneak a peek in front of me at my best friend, Clarke.
Her eyes were closed, her pursed lips sliding from left to right as she swished the wine she sipped in her mouth. Clarke’s cheek bulged on one end and then bulged on the other as she moved the liquid around behind puckered lips.
I immediately closed my eyes to try doing the same with the wine I’d sipped.
“Do you taste it yet, D?” she asked.
I swallowed the wine as I opened my eyes.
“The black currants and vanilla?” She pushed, eyes filled with enthusiasm. “You taste it now, right?”
I sighed. “Nah, girl. I just taste wine.”
She exhaled exaggeratively, her shoulders sagging for a beat. Clarke inhaled an encouraging breath next.
“Okay.” She waved her hand in the air, the one free of the wineglass. “Let’s try this one last time.”
I dropped my head back between my shoulders and grunted.
“Because I swear it’s there,” she promised. “Like, I wouldn’t lie to you about it.”
“You have been trying to get me to enjoy this wine for half an hour now, Clarke, and it just taste like alcohol to me. I’m sorry.”
She pointed at me. “If you say that one more time…”
“Come on, pleaseee,” she whined. “This is my favorite wine and I want my best friend to taste what I taste, so she can understand why it’s my favorite. Plus, the guy I’m hooking you up with from my school loves wine and will probably order it when we go out to dinner next week and I don’t want you saying shit like it just taste like wine around him. I will die from embarrassment.”
I fought not to roll my eyes. Because I was not anticipating spending Valentine’s Day with uppity strangers from Clarke’s uppity school, drinking wine that tasted like alcohol to me but pretending like I loved it.
I wanted to spend it with a guy I loved eating and drinking what I wanted with. But I could never tell Clarke that because it would hurt her feelings… both not wanting to drink wine and who the guy is I would like to eat and drink with instead.
“Okay,” she announced, holding up her glass and signaling me to pick up my wineglass off the table again. “You ready?”
We were in her basement at her parents’ house. Down in their basement, they kept dozens of blank labeled bottles of red wine in their wine cellar on wall mounted wine racks that extended as tall as the walls. Her grandparents owned a vineyard in California, so this was the wine from their vineyard, and Clarke was about to get drunk off her own supply.
The only reason I was at her house was because she asked for me to stop by so she could beg me to double date with her on Valentine’s Day. Well, Valentine’s night.
Clarke was a cheerleader at her university, Brookville U, and would be cheering for her school at her school’s rivals, Langston University, in Manhattan, the next night. So, she drove from school, which was less than twenty minutes away, to ask me in person to double date. I wanted to say no, but how could I when she made it a point to ask in person?
I’d just broken up with my boyfriend, Clyde, the week prior and I wasn’t feeling like being around people, much less in the company of another guy.
“Okay, sip,” she instructed before taking a sip out of her glass.
I did as she asked, allowing the wine to sit on my tongue for a bit, trying my hardest to detect this damn currant and vanilla this girl swore was right there in the taste.
She closed her eyes, and I did too, knowing damn well closing my eyes didn’t work the half a dozen times she instructed me to do it before but doing it anyway because I needed the reprieve.
Because every time I looked into her eyes, I saw Clyde. The boyfriend I broke up with. With my eyes closed, all I could see was him examining me with the same eyes she stared at me with, wondering why I was ending things with him.
Just thinking about Clyde was giving me the blues. I missed him and it had only been one week. He’s been calling me nonstop, and I have been ignoring all his phone calls. I knew it was only a matter of time before I ran into him in this small ass town but I had to do my best to avoid him at all costs even if he refused to understand that us breaking up was for the best.
I moved the wine around my tongue, squeezing my eyes closed, trying to focus hard on finding those damn currants.
When I inhaled the air out of defeat, I inhaled Clyde. The scent of Clyde’s cologne wafted up my nose. I squeezed my eyes closed tighter when I realized his scent wasn’t in my head.
“Ooooh, I’m tellin’,” Clyde teased, his deep voice echoing around the cellar.
My eyes popped opened, and I turned my head to find him closing the distance between himself and us.
I turned away and gulped what I sipped, deciding to be done wine tasting right then and there.
“Over here drinking up that wine Nana has aging down here,” Clyde arrived beside us and picked up the bottle we were drinking from. “Damn, and it’s almost done? Wow.”
Clarke snatched the bottle out of her brother’s hand. “Nana said I could have this one, so boom!”
My ex is my best friend’s older brother, and she did not know he was my ex… or that Clyde and I were ever together.
And I wasn’t dumb enough to tell her either.
“Mm-hmm.” Clyde focused on me and licked his lips slowly. “What’s up, Danyelle?”
He knew what was up. Clyde wore his feelings on his face. I could tell he was here at his parents’ home because he knew I was.
Clyde hasn’t lived with his parents in five years and has been living on his own in a luxury apartment complex a few miles from here.
So, how did he know I was here?
I’d been avoiding his phone calls after breaking up with him via phone call, so I felt cornered.
“What do you mean, it’s over?” He asked into the phone when I told him I wanted to end things between us soon after he answered my phone call. “What are you saying right now?”
“Clarke is stopping home next Friday,” I started. “And—”
“And what?” He fussed. “What does Clarke have to do with any of this, Dani?”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this over the phone right now.”
“Trippin’?” He interjected. “Yeah, you damn sure are. And you’re trippin’ hard. I’m coming over so we can talk face-to face because you can’t be serious.”
“No, Clyde,” I said. “It’s over. We’re done. And there’s no amount of talking that’s going to change that.”
“Hey, Clyde,” I greeted, diverting my eyes off him soon after the words left my mouth.
Because I couldn’t maintain eye contact with him.
Clyde sported a fresh lineup, and he was wearing all green, different shades of the color. A classic designer forest green sheepskin bomber, and a sage green pullover hoodie and matching joggers. My favorite color and my favorite color on him. And he knew that.
He knew he came here looking good on purpose.
Everything Clyde did was intentional, down to the way he communicated with me. Which was always through classic R&B songs.
“Umm…” I cleared my throat, focusing on Clarke. “I’m gonna head out.”
“But we’re still wine tasting,” Clarke insisted.
I sputtered a laugh. “No, boo, you’re tasting the wine. I’m drinking it at this point and thankfully I’m not driving because I think I have a buzz following behind you trying to chase a taste that’s just not there for me.”
My eyes wandered in Clyde’s direction to see his attention fixed on me.
“Plus,” I added, rolling my eyes off Clyde. “It’s my turn to make breakfast for my grandparents tomorrow morning, so…”
Clarke pursed her lips. “So you’re choosing breakfast with the old folks over drinking good ass wine with your girl?”
I was choosing to get from under the heated gaze of her brother, my ex, was what I was really doing.
His cologne was suffocating me. It wasn’t heavy on him or anything, but it was the scent he knew I loved to smell warming on his skin. The way he showed up here, wearing my favorite color, looking and smelling so damn good.
Dammit, I needed relief from it all.
I approached Clarke with my arms outstretched. “I’ll call you.”
“All right, fine,” she agreed, embracing me. When she stepped out of her hug, she told me, “Take a picture of what you plan to wear to our dinner and send it to me so I can find something similar in my closet.”
I smiled, a part of me thankful that not too much has changed between us.
Clarke was finishing her undergrad in college and me the first few months in my cosmetology school. I’d finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life years after our high school graduation. Well… kind of. Cosmetology was my grandmother’s idea. I was only going along with it.
Everything was changing around me. Our small town on Long Island, my friendships, and now my love life. Clarke had a crew of new friends at her university now that she often spoke about, so it felt nice knowing that Clarke still had room for me in her life. Coordinating in dress to other people might be something childish, but I appreciated the thought and the idea that nothing has changed between us for the over fifteen years we’ve known each other. We’ve never been the same size, Clarke being several sizes smaller than me, but she always wanted for us to coordinate whenever we went out. And she did not know how much I loved her for being so annoyingly sentimental.
“Will do,” I told her, turning to damn near escape out of the basement’s wine cellar. I lifted my gaze to Clyde. Held his attention long enough to say, “Bye Clyde.”
He twisted his thick lips to one side of his mouth as his eyes followed me. “How you gettin’ home, Danyelle?”
My back was to the two of them when I squeezed my eyelids closed but kept sprinting towards the stairs. “I’m gonna call a cab.”
Although I had my driver’s license, I didn’t own a car. I would drive my grandmother’s white Toyota around town to run errands, but to hang out with friends and such, I’d cab it around Long Island.
“I can give you a ride,” Clyde offered behind me.
“It’s fine,” I shouted, turning to climb the stairs.
“It’s not,” I heard Clarke say to her brother. “Please give her a ride. You know she would never ask because she’s always been too proud to beg.”
“I said I’m fine,” I tried again. I also tried to climb the stairs two at a time, an ill-fated attempt to make it out of their house door before Clyde did, as if that would make a difference.
Clarke and Clyde’s childhood home was always one of my favorite places to visit. Unlike the beautiful one-story house I grew up in, theirs was a two-story palatial property that was every bit of the luxury you would imagine a New York State home in the suburbs would look.
Giant chandelier at the entrance. Two-sided winding staircase that led to the bedrooms upstairs. Giant Olympic sized pool in the backyard. Her parents’ house was immense. Unfortunately for me, its size did not benefit me, delaying the time it took for me to get from the basement to the front door.
Clarke’s parents were out for the evening, so although the lights were on in the entryway, there was no one else in the house to bid farewell to.
I was reaching for the front door’s doorknob when Clyde extended his arm from behind me, his big hand covering the knob.
I gasped, turning quick to glance at him.
“Not you trying to run away from me,” he teased low, pulling the door open.
“Not here.” He held the door open for me to walk through. “Let’s go.”
“I said, I’m fine.”
“And I said, let’s go,” he remarked, taking me by the wrist to escort me to his car.