Sugarloaf looked, felt, and smelled rich.
Not upper-middle class.
From tall skyscrapers to mansions seemingly around each turn, and everyone drove some type of luxury vehicle; Alyssa tried to figure out how the man beside her, driving his black BMW and blasting vintage Guns N’ Roses, was born and raised in this small but very affluent suburb of Atlanta.
He grew up a privileged White kid and was the so-called black sheep of his family because he didn’t go into the legal or medical professions as his brothers, father, and grandparents. He was also the only one unmarried and no children, a fact Alyssa memorized on their way to the family barbeque. She felt underdressed and quickly ran a hand through her coily and kinky locks. She briefly glanced down at her outfit—a yellow summer dress with spaghetti straps and platform sandals. She completed the look with gold bangles on both wrists and minimal makeup. She wondered if she looked a little too wild.
When Ryan asked her if she would like to meet his family, she jumped at the chance, not knowing when it would happen again. She spent the past several days looking at several different outfits and planning which one would look best on her. She’d already met his mother, who Ryan declared loved her, but the rest of his family was the real test. If they loved her as much as Elizabeth did, Alyssa was in. If they didn’t, well, Ryan’s love for her was all that mattered.
“Tell me about your family,” Alyssa inquired.
Ryan shrugged. “You’ve met my mom. The coolest chick on the planet. My dad is crazy but he’s a fun crazy.”
“And your brothers?”
Ryan thought about Grant and Billy. He wouldn’t call them racists or bigots, despite their line of thinking being, what they’ve described as, “very traditional.” If Ryan wanted everyone to have a good time and leave their parents’ home relatively unscathed, he needed to be honest with Alyssa about his brothers. “They’re Southern men with traditional values.”
Alyssa read what Ryan didn’t say. They were going to have an issue with her presence. This should be fun. “Oh, I see.”
Ryan pulled up to his parents’ driveway and parked the car. He turned off the engine and turned to his girlfriend. “I’m with you because I want to be with you and not to prove a point to anyone. If anyone has a problem with your presence, then they’ll have to address it with me.”
Alyssa released the breath she’d been holding, along with the pent-up stress about meeting her boyfriend’s family. She was going to make the best of it, despite the odds being stacked against her. “You always stand up for yourself like this?” She wondered.
Ryan swept his lips across Alyssa’s and seized hers in a demanding kiss. “I will always stand up for my woman.”
Ryan and Alyssa got out of the car and walked hand-in-hand to the front door of the palatial estate. Grant, Ryan’s older brother, opened the door immediately after Ryan rang the doorbell. Looking like every piece of warm apple pie and Americana, with his perfectly coiffed brown hair, perfect white teeth, and equally perfect trim and tall build, he greeted his brother and Alyssa. “Hello, Ryan,” Grant spoke in his low and authoritative voice; a voice he’d perfected in his many years of law practice. He used it for convincing many juries and judges the people he was prosecuting deserved every bit of punishment, “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Grant,” Ryan hugged his brother, “thanks, bro. I’d like to introduce you to someone very special to me. Grant, this is my girlfriend, Alyssa.”
Grant raised a soft eyebrow, in hopes his surprise wasn’t too obvious. It was a shame Alyssa had already caught it. “Alyssa,” he spoke to her the way an adult would speak to a child, “nice to meet you.” He grabbed her hand and shook it.
“Likewise.” Alyssa grinned.
Grant stepped aside and let Ryan and Alyssa inside the home. “Dad is downstairs in the basement doing God knows what. Mom is in the kitchen getting everything prepared and ready. Everyone else is in the family room.” He walked briskly to the family room.
“Business as usual.” Ryan shrugged.
Grant looked behind him and briefly glanced down to Ryan’s and Alyssa’s interlocked hands. Alyssa couldn’t tell if his eyes were disappointed or disgusted. “Something like that.” His head turned back forward. “Oh, there is one thing, I should tell you, Ryan…”
“Oh?” Ryan didn’t care for surprises from his brothers, for they were never good ones.
“We do have a guest here,” Grant stepped aside and let Ryan and Alyssa through.
“Ryan!” Nikki shot up from her seat and walked towards him. She quickly stopped in her tracks when she noticed the interlocked fingers of Ryan and Alyssa. “I see you’re here… with a guest.”
Ryan stared blankly at Nikki while Alyssa put a death grip on his hand. It was only noon and he already needed to get plastered.
So, she did exist.
The moment she saw Ryan enter the family room with Ms. Thing, Nikki briefly saw her dreams of being a part of the Jeffers family evaporate into thin air.
Ryan’s girlfriend was prettier than she’d thought and a lot more carefree than what the Jeffers were known for. All of them looked like they could be models in standard family photos one would see in picture frame stores. Now there was a colorful addition.
Oh, well. Nikki was going to put on her best Southern charm and be a gracious guest to the woman. For all she knew, it was probably the first time she’d been out of the ghetto and she needed to see how people with money truly lived. Nikki loved to create some future and hope to those who were underprivileged.
Besides, the woman wasn’t going to last very long in Ryan’s life. Not if she could help it.