Stronger Than Me
Kennedy had to swallow the bile that threatened to erupt. Her grandmama used to warn against calling anybody a fool, but damn! How blind could one person be? The town had the total population of a little over eight hundred damn people. Someone not knowing your business was about a rare as a Big Foot sighting, but then again, Marcus swore he saw one once. It took a few minutes to squash the anger and disgust enough to walk into the dim light bar.
She didn’t have to look for Marcus. The grating sound of his cackling laugh hit her eardrums as soon as she walked in. He was sitting in the corner near the back, flanked by two men too polite to call him on whatever bullshit he was spitting out. Fuck! Of all the people for Marcus to be hanging out with, it just had to be Byron Mack and Emery Daniels. The pair of them had joined the Marines back when she was in junior high and quickly became town legends. Not because of any war they might have been in, but they had pooled their money and bought out half the viable businesses in county- not just the town.
The duo were actually half brothers, though it was never discussed out in the open Byron being black and Emery being lily white. Their daddy wasn’t the discriminating type, shocking old ladies into a coma by opening dating whoever the hell he pleased and spreading his seed just as generously. Rumor had it he’d been run out of town by many an irate daddy back when both men were babies. Roberta was a backwards little place at times.
Kennedy knew both men had returned a few months back. It had even made the papers. She hadn’t seen either man though, not that she’d want to. Whereas once she might have teased and flirted, now she just hid in the shotgun house she and Marcus rented. It saved her from running into anyone Marcus might’ve owed money to, or more importantly any of her many cousins and aunts.
“Hey baby, come on over here!” Shit. Marcus was drunk. His words not so much slurring as running together to over exaggerate his slow, lazy drawl. “You ain’t gonna believe this shit.”
Kennedy’s stomach dropped. Her steps were heavy as she slowly made her way to the table. She really hadn’t wanted to stick around here. She’d worked the midnight to seven shift at the gas station, and then gone straight to her part time job at the grocery store, where she’s been on her feet for five hours straight. All she wanted was some sleep before the nightmare that was her life started all over again. The bills weren’t going to pay themselves and Marcus hadn’t worked in over a month. He kept telling her there were “things in the fire”. All she heard was more money stomping out the front door.
She made her way to the table, mentally reminding herself to keep her head up, spine straight. It was a damn shame she had to remind herself to do that. She looked Byron and Emery directly in the eye and wished like hell she hadn’t. They’d been cute older boys when she was little, now they were full grown and drop dead freaking gorgeous. She stifled the urge to try to hide the boots that had seen better days or cross her arms over the sweater she was wearing to hide the obvious age and wear.
The Marines had taken prime male specimens and turned them into living, breathing statues of Greeks gods. Byron’s hazel eyes swept her figure in a quick assessment before he caught himself. Obviously what he’s seen made him pity her, and damn it that was something she really didn’t need. She could keep her cool when people whispered when she walked by, ignore the knowing smirks and stare down anyone daring to throw a disapproving frown in her direction. The one thing she couldn’t fight back at was pity. A wasted emotion that stuck in her craw and made her want to throw up whenever she actually remembered to eat. She glared right back at him, letting him know just what he could do with his damn pity. She had no need for it.
Emery, on the other hand never let his amber waver from her face. She didn’t detect he felt sorry for her, but then he could’ve been better at hiding it than his brother. She was shocked when he actually got out of his seat when she made it to the table, holding out the chair next to him.
Wasn’t expecting that one.
“Baby, Emery here decided to go into business with us, you know fixing houses and shit.”
Kennedy winced but managed to bite her tongue. Damn, one more person she was going to have to be sure to avoid in the future after the money had dried up and there were no construction jobs.
“That’s, uh…” Wait, did Marcus just say “us”? “Did you say us?” She directed the question squarely at Marcus. Oh hell no was she getting involved in his shit. She finally had money going into her secret account three towns over. She was not quitting any of her jobs to help Marcus do a damn thing.
“Yeah, baby Emery and Byron own the gas station, the grocery store and it ain’t like the pizza place is gonna miss you none.”
Just like that. He really believed he could just decide her life over some beers with two men she didn’t even really know.
“No.” Kennedy stood, not really caring who was watching or what they’d say about it. “I’m not quitting any of my jobs for whatever hair brained scheme you’ve suckered these poor bastards into.” And if they didn’t appreciate being called bastards, they’d get over it. She really couldn’t be bothered to care. By all that holy she reached her limit. She wasn’t going down this road again.
“Shit, Kennedy don’t get your panties in a bunch. Why don’t you sit the hell down and listen for once?” Marcus was actually pouting. Pouting like some toddler.
“No, I won’t.”
Let him find his own damn way home. She was tired; she was going home and going to bed.