“The place is looking good, Bro.”
Oliver hugged his big brother and made a beeline to the kitchen.
“Yeah. Moms hooked me up.” Isaac replied half-heartedly.
“No coffee, yet?” Oliver asked as he took the empty carafe from the burner. He inspected the system and gave a failing grade. “We have to get you a French Press. That way you can make as little as you want or more, when you have people over. You know how to use one?”
“No, Master Chef. But, I’m sure you’ll teach me all about it,” Isaac teased his little brother.
He playfully smacked the back of Oliver’s neck as he passed.
“Where’s Farai this morning?”
“She had a meeting downtown.”
“How’s that going?”
Oliver shrugged. “Good, I guess. But, I don’t know why she’s doing all of this. I’m good in France,” Oliver insisted.
“So you keep saying,” Isaac leaned against the kitchen counter, folding his muscular arms across his chest. “But, I don’t understand why you feel like her checking out opportunities to expand into the States is about you, Baby Bro.”
Oliver bristled. He didn’t want to talk about Farai’s career moves or any moves for the matter. He poured two cups of coffee and carried them over to the kitchen table. Isaac followed.
“This was the first thing Lacey ever bought for me. A damned table.”
Oliver laughed at the memory and ran a hand over the trestle table that once was the only piece of grown up furniture in his studio apartment in Little Five Points. Things had changed so much since those days.
“She hated my apartment. But, I loved that place. I had some great times in that spot,” Oliver fondly recalled.
“O, what happened to you that day?” Isaac interrupted.
He sat across from his baby brother and took a sip of the piping hot coffee.
“The day I got busted.” Isaac answered.
Oliver sat back in the wooden, blue chair and put his feet up, in the empty chair across from his.
“I was coming across the playground and saw all of the police cars and the Jump Out Boys. I knew it was a bust, but I didn’t know it was for you,” Oliver sipped from his own cup. “The closer I got I could see them walking in and out of our door, so I went around back to our room and watched through the window. When everything looked clear, I climbed inside, through the window.”
Isaac smiled a little, a nodded approvingly.
“Then what’d you do?”
“The place was a mess, but I remembered where you told us to find the money if anything ever happened to you and I took five one hundred bills and went back to the Boy’s club until night fall.”
“Five one hundred dollar bills?” Isaac yelled across the table, his eyes narrowed. “What’d you do with the rest of the money? It should have been at least seventy-five hundred dollars in there!”
“I didn’t count it, but it probably was that much in there. I stacked it back inside of that old floor model TV. For y’all - just like you taught us, because I never did see you or Benji.”
“You didn’t see Benji before you left?”
Isaac and Oliver both sat up leaning towards each other over the round table top.
“He never came to the Boy’s club?” Isaac pressed.
“No. I hadn’t seen Benji until I picked him up from the airport that first Christmas he came here to Atlanta,” Oliver whispered, almost to himself. “I’d forgotten why I went back to the Boy’s Club.”
“You went because it was part of the plan.”
Olive nodded silently. “I know. I remember. You always said that if anything ever happened to you, ‘Go to the Boy’s Club’ and tell them we needed help.” Oliver laid his head in his hands. “I’d forgotten all about that.”
“But, Benji never came for you?”
Oliver shook his head. The uneasy feelings he felt that Christmas when Benjamin asked him all of those questions about Isaac’s recount of the day he got busted rushed back to him. Isaac read the concern on Oliver’s face.
“What? What did remember?” He coaxed Oliver.
“He was very nervous about visiting you when he came the first time,” Oliver replayed the scene. “He kept asking about what you’d told me about the bust. And I told him that we’d never talked about the bust. That we’d only talked about how I ended up coming to Atlanta. Have you asked him about it?”
“No. I wanted to talk to you first.”
Isaac’s mood darkened. His usually bright, expressive eyes narrowed. Oliver recognized the storm brewing behind them. He sipped from his coffee cup and retreated into his private thoughts.
“Izz,” Oliver tried to break his brother’s retreat. “What’s going on? Talk to me.”
“While I was in awaiting trial in the city jail, I heard talk about Benji balling out and spending a lot of money around the neighborhood. He never came to see me while I was there.” Isaac looked into his baby brother’s eyes. “You came as soon as you found out I was near you.”
The brothers smiled warmly at each other.
“As soon as I found you,” Oliver corrected.
He’d started looking for his brothers as soon as he bought his first laptop computer.