“Put up your mugs.”
I reach for the heavy crystal tankard mug, extending it across the table towards my twin brother, Asher Smith, careful not to let my eyes slide to his left. He sent a cryptic text message.
It’s on!!! Meet me at the spot in an hour.
I finalized the email I was typing, told my assistant to forward my calls to my cellphone, and now here I am in a bar at three pm with Asher, his wife Jazz, short for Jasmine, and his best friend and business partner Dylan Jameson—the one I’m avoiding in public. It’s complicated.
“What are we celebrating? And hurry cause I’m hungry.” I ask as my heart warms, pride does not start to explain the feelings tumbling in my chest. The smile on his face tells me it’s good, really good. But I use this moment to give him a hard time. I mean, isn’t that what sisters are for?
“Patience is a virtue.” Asher says over his glass.
“Bite me, kid brother.” I kick him. That’ll wipe that smug look off his face.
“Ouch! And you’re wearing those god-awful pointy heels.” The gang laughs. I lift my legs to avoid the sweeping motion of his foot as he tries to return my sisterly love tap.
“Children, children,” Dylan chimes in, “stop teasing. Get to it. I have plans.” And I break my rule as my eyes meet his. Always the mediator. His strawberry blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and his wicked smile. He winks, and my heart skips a beat. Everything about him reads off limits. But like a child fascinated by the fire, I reach for the flames praying I don’t get burned. Not my smartest move.
The waiter returns with our standard order of spicy wings, seasoned fries, and Dylan’s insisted upon house salad on the table. And we’re still waiting on the reason for this gathering in the middle of the day.
Jazz sits her mug down places her elbows on the table turning towards Dylan. “It must be a woman. For you to pass on wings and beer—”
“And the salad—” He adds.
“We all know ain’t nobody touching that tired salad but you. Who goes to a sports bar for salad?” Asher looks throughly confused.
“Asher, focus.” I cut through their banter. “What happened to the toast? Y’all are the worst.” I reach for a wing and Jazz, my hopeless romantic sister-in-law, smacks my hand and the slippery chicken tumbles to the table. “Ouch.”
“That’s for kicking my husband.” She winks and has the nerve to laugh.
“Thanks, babe.” Asher leans over the table and kisses her dismissing the raised mugs in the air, our food getting cold, and the ticking clock.
“Get a room. Make the toast already cause this mug is heavy.” I retrieve my wing praying the five-second rule applies. Dylan drops his head chuckling.
“Okay, okay. We closed on a space for Smith & Jameson.”
“What?” I spring to my feet, and my wing flies across the room. “Sorry," I say to no one in particular as I round the table, pulling Asher into a hug. “I knew it. I knew you would get it.”
Asher and Dylan were finding it difficult to secure a location for their international beer garden and eatery. They wanted a space near downtown but roomy enough for at least six truck vendors to park and offer food. But finding adequate space stalled their brilliant plan.
“Your call did it.” Asher said.
I pull back placing my hands on his cheeks. “No, your business plan did it. I’m just doing my part.”
“My good luck charm.” He whispers under his breath for only us to hear. I hate when he calls me that, and he knows it. “Don’t give me that look.” He holds up a finger. “Let me have this moment. Please.”
“Okay.” I reluctantly agree.
“Thank you.” He kisses my cheek, the joy dancing in his eyes is infectious. I feel a silly grin matching his spread across my face.
“You’re welcome.” I go back to my seat, we lift our mugs with more vigor this time.
From struggling to this. I’m Vice President at BrandShare and up for a major promotion to partner. He’s independently wealthy from his business ventures, and he’s on course to build a legacy with the Smith name on it. I look over at Asher, certain it will only get better.
“In the words of William Shakespeare, ‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves’. My destiny is connected to each of you and I’m a blessed man.” He smiles at Jazz as she brushes away a tear. “This toast is to my beautiful wife, talented and uber-wealthy best friend, and my twin.”
“And Momma,” I add. “Don’t forget Momma.”
“Never.” Asher’s head drops for a brief second and when he looks up again, his eyes are glistening with unshed tears. “I will not fail with odds stacked so perfectly in my favor. We have a prime location in downtown Austin, the vendors, forty-nine of the fifty craft breweries on board, and in three days we’re off to Ireland to secure a deal with one final brewery.”
Dylan places a hand on Asher’s shoulder. “Man we got this.”
He nods. “Let’s toast to Smith & Jameson Beer Garden. That we get the final contract with Impose Brew and we open our doors to the public by the summer. To Smith & Jameson.”
We repeat as our mugs chime reflecting the excitement swirling around our table. I tap Asher’s glass. Then Jazz. Then Dylan, and our eyes hold longer than they should. I’m frozen. The sounds in the bar and of Asher and Jazz talking cease to exist. He mouths, Don’t be late. I look back and forth to ensure no one saw it but me. He smiles and I find the strength to pull from his vortex.
We pass the time drinking beer, eating wings, and Dylan steps away to take a call and Jazz heads to the ladies room.
“When will BrandShare make their partnership decision?” Asher asks.
“Soon. They usually announce it by now, I don’t know what the hold up is.” I lick the spicy sauce from my fingers. I push around the contents on the messy table searching for the little wet towelettes. “I inked a deal for $5 million dollars yesterday. I’m just hoping that’s enough.”
“That should guarantee your offer.” He finishes off the fries passing me a napkin.
“I hope so.”
BrandShare is a boutique marketing firm I joined after graduate school. My department specializes in subscription boxes. I pair companies with products as a means of expanding their presence in the marketplace and increasing brand recognition. My clients range from high-end cosmetic companies to custom chocolatiers. I’m on track to making partner by my twenty-seventh birthday less than two weeks away.
Waiting for them to announce it is killing me. Then it hits me. “What if—”
“Don’t worry. They’re slow, not stupid.”
“Brother you are totally biased.” I smile appreciating his unwavering confidence in me.
“Damn right. Join Smith & Jameson, we can use that marketing brain of yours.” He leans forward, I shake my head. That’s not an option.
“One Smith is more than enough to secure the legacy. Besides, I have a job.” I try to sound nonchalant about it. Sure it has become more of a grind than a passion, becoming a partner would give me more control of the clients I work with and inject some excitement back into my career.
“It’s not only about our legacy. This is our family business.” His knowing eyes scan my face, and I glance away. “Is that the only reason you won’t accept my offer?”
The beer garden is their business. And the rest of his statements sounds like the Charlie Brown teacher in my head as I see him.
“You two think y’all have us fooled.” I hear through the haze. “We all know you guys are attracted to each other.” He motions across the room towards Dylan talking with another woman. “Just get together already and save us the awkward tension.”
“There’s no together for me. And what tension?” I roll my eyes, over this conversation. “BrandShare, you, Momma, that’s more than enough for me.”
“Being alone sucks.” Asher states.
“I’m not alone I have you.”
“Big sis, I pray you find a man truly worthy of how precious you are.” His eyes pierce through my facade and hit his intended target—my fragile heart.
“Yeah right. I’m the ball buster, remember?” I laugh. His grimace says he’s not buying it. “My hands are full. Partnership. Your spot. And who knows I may finally take up a hobby.”
I look over again, Dylan is retrieving his phone from the gorgeous petite blonde. He drops it in his pocket. Player. I need to get out of here. I find the wet wipes and clean the remaining sauce off my hands as Jazz returns, her face tense. I turn a questioning gaze to Asher, his face clearly reads, Don’t ask.
“I’m out. I want to stop by my office before heading home.” I toss the dirty wipe on my plate grabbing my purse from the back of my chair. “Congratulations again.”
“Babe, I'll be back.” Asher stands as I do.
“Stay here. I’m fine.” I motion for him to sit back in his eat. “My car’s right across the street.”
“I’m walking Yuki to her car.” He talks over me, kissing Jazz’s check. Then he places a hand on my lower back guiding me to the front door.
“Good night Jazz," I call over my shoulder. “See you Sunday.” Call me, I mouth. She nods, I send her air kisses. “Love you.”
The sports bar is near capacity. Which isn’t a surprise since they have Friday night half-off Happy Hour. I maneuver around people, tables, and chairs, finally reaching the exit. “What’s that all about?”
“We’re in a rough patch. I hope getting this trip behind us will relieve some of the stress and get us back to honeymooning.” He opens the door, and I step out into the chilly evening.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Nah, you’ve done more than enough. I predict….” Stopping next to my car, I turn with a smile. We’ve played this game since we were kids and now my very grown, very handsome brother is once again predicting our future.
“Oh, brother.” I roll my eyes. “You do recall that you get it wrong about one hundred percent of the time. I appreciate your tenacity.” I pinch his cheeks.
“Such a hater.” He flicks his hand in my direction like he’s shooing a fly away. He chuckles shoving his hand in his pockets, then he pulls me against him. Together we lean against my car as if our destiny is written in the Austin skyline.
“Did you ever think we’d be here?” He asks so low I almost miss it.
“Like physically? Against my car, in a parking lot?” The sun is dropping, and the breeze is perfect.
“Are you charging for these terrible jokes? Because you are laying it on heavy tonight.” I dig my elbow into his side. He folds over laughing. “No, smarty pants, our lives.”
“Never. Do you think it will get better?” I rest my head against his shoulder, his head now resting on top of mine.
“I know it will.”
“Then tell me, oh wise one. What do you predict?” I trust very few people in my life, and this man is one of them. If he says the sky will be purple in the morning, I will bank on it. Only one other man comes close, Dylan.
The sound of chatter rings through the air as if the bar door was opened and closed. I glance toward the door, and there’s Dylan. He taps the face of his watch and disappears.
I wonder if Asher noticed but he continues, “This time, two weeks from today, our lives will change for the better. You will be 27. You will be the first female partner at BrandShare. Smith & Jameson will secure the contract with Impose Brew and my marriage…” his voice drops.
“Will resume the honeymoon,” I finish for him, placing my hand on his chest. I kiss his cheek, disarming my car doors. “It’ll work out, you’ll see.”
He glances down into my eyes, and a faint smile crosses his face. I squeeze his arm and lower inside my car. “When are you telling Momma?”
“Let’s do it in the morning. Meet me over there. We’ll go to breakfast.”
“Cool. I’ll be there around nine. Love you.”
I sit in my car staring at Asher’s retreating back. Images of Dylan chatting with that petite blonde hanging on to his every word. What am I doing? Comparing myself to the blonde?
Flipping down my visor, I touch up my lipstick, and my mother’s face stares back. I slap it closed and try to scrub my thoughts clear of any comparisons to her. I pull the visor open again.
“Yuki, you control your destiny. You are a partner. No more secret meetings with Dylan. No more comparing yourself to petite blondes. No more Dylan.” I said that already. I close the visor and rest my head on the steering wheel. It can’t hurt to say it a few more times. “No more Dylan, no more Dylan, no more Dylan.”