Love Thy Neighbor

By: Belle Aurora

Prologue

The wedding





The White Rabbit is packed with wedding guests. I look to the bride and groom.

So happy.

I smile and watch my very pregnant best friend, Valentina, dance with her brand spanking new husband, Nikolai. The song Tina chose for their first dance as man and wife is ‘Amazing’ by Cassie Davis.

It’s perfect.

Nik holds Tina close, rubs his nose gently up the length of hers and whispers something against her lips. Tina smiles and responds with closed eyes. I roll my eyes.

What dorks.

Love sure does funny things to people.

Tina met Nik just over a year ago and spent the beginning of their friendship denying her feelings for him. They remained friends for a while, but anyone with a brain could see the sexual tension between them was so thick you could slice it with a knife.

To cut a long story short, my sweet best friend watched Nik for two weeks through the windows of her store, Safira. Nik would come outside of the club he owns, The White Rabbit, for a cigarette break. Tina would watch his scowling face and become sad.

Tina doesn’t like to be sad.

So she decided to anonymously send Nik some candy with a note attached. Talking about this now makes Tina laugh. Truth is, she was mortified when Nik sent his brother, Max, over to the store to fetch whoever wrote the note. You see, Tina wrote the note unknowingly on Safira stationary. And the rest is history.

Together, they make a whole.

You would never guess from looking at Tina the sorrow and tragedy she has gone through in her short life. Losing her mom and daughter in the same accident left her hollow for a long time.

It left me hollow too.

See, we lived in Cali. We grew up together. Our parents are Croatian and friends which somehow meant we were automatically friends, too. So, I spent most of my childhood looking out for sweet little Tina who doesn’t have a nasty bone in her body. I love her more than anything. She believes I saved her life when I moved in with her after her daughter and mom passed away, but the truth is, she saved mine.

There is nothing more heart-wrenching than watching your dearest friend deteriorate before your eyes. Tina became a hollow shell, and living in Cali was only making her worse, so she moved to New York. I lasted two years before I packed my shit and followed her down. Living without Tina close by is something I never want to experience again. My heart was shrinking by the day.

I’m not what you would call a ‘nice person’. I tolerate people on the best of days.

Don’t get me wrong, once you pass the friendship barrier I’ve got up around me, you’re in.

But Tina is a part of my heart. She helps me be a good person. She makes me want to be a better person. Going through what she has, she should be a shrew. But she’s my everyday reminder that life goes on and you have to go with the flow or risk being sucked into a vicious current.

I glance over at the bar. Lola and Trick are wrapped up in each other. Not unusual.

Lola loves Trick with all her heart, but Trick is having a hard time committing to her. I’m unsure why. She’s smart, loyal and loving. Trick is funny and a total knucklehead, but he’s lovable too. You can’t help but laugh at his awful jokes. There’s more to Trick than he’s letting on, but until he lets it loose, we won’t know.

My eyes continue to scan the room. Max and Mimi sit with Ceecee, Max’s daughter. Max and Ceecee are laughing at something, and Mimi is scowling. She’s obviously being made fun of. A smile spreads across my face. Max and Ceecee live with Tina and Nik, so I see them a lot.

I love them both.

Max is a good friend and really great at talking people off their metaphorical ledges. And Ceecee is so adorable, you just want to eat her up. She was left a paraplegic after an accident when she was just a baby. So they’re another good example of how life goes on and can be good again.

Mimi, or Meems, has completely transformed since I got to New York. She was as surly as they come. Not at all a touchy-feely person. Ever since we’ve been hanging with the guys, she’s smiling and laughing more.

The guys are what we call…well, the guys. The group consists of Nik, his brother Max, their cousin Trick an old childhood friend, Ghost.

Ghost.

Damn the man.

Yeah, damn him.

Ghost is somewhat like me. He’s not a people person either. In saying that, we aren’t friends.

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