Layla and Khalfani Pt. 3

By Josie Hunter

Layla’s P.O.V

My high heels pressed into the plush carpet of the narrow hallway to her apartment. I had been thinking about seeing her for weeks and if I didn’t confront her now—not that there’s a real chance we’ll be friends after this—the bad blood would continue to boil. As selfish as it was, I at least wanted some type of closure. Khalfani came to me with his bullshit a couple of weeks ago, so I should be able to come with my own. Right?

I arrived at her door—apartment 1209—the silver beveled numbers glistened under the fluorescent lighting in the hallway. I knocked twice, waited a few seconds, knocked twice again, waited some more, then knocked too many times to count. If I had to annoy her in order to apologize, I would. Hearing shuffling behind the door, I stepped back, dropped my head, and took a deep breath.

The door opened, and there she was. Erin. All of her curled blonde hair was swept to the left side while she wore a silk powder-blue robe. Did she have company? Khalfani? She looked startled to see me, her blue eyes bulged a bit before her face fell to an annoyed and exhausted expression. She was wearing a lot of makeup, but it didn’t hide the tiny pimples sprinkled across her cheeks. Gone was the radiant tan Erin usually sported; instead, her skin was pale and sunken in around her eyes. Probably stress? Damn.

“What are you doing here?” Erin sighed.

I swallowed to moisten my dry throat before saying, “I wanted to talk to you.”

“I’ve been ignoring you on purpose. Get out of here.” She tried to close the door, but I put my hand on it to stop her.

“Erin, wait.”

She rolled her eyes. “Layla, I said get out of here.”

“I know what you said.” I took a deep breath as my heart sped up. “C-can you please let me in? I need . . . I need to . . .” Honestly, it was hard to say it. I looked down and took another deep breath. “Please.”

I felt her eyes bore a hole into me. Then I heard some movement, making me lift my head to see that she opened the door wider for me to walk inside. Her place was just as beautiful as the last time I was here . . . for her bridal party get-together. Her floor-to-ceiling windows displayed a view of downtown Manhattan, and with the golden sun setting behind the skyscrapers, it was definitely a sight to see.

“So, are you just gonna apologize or try to justify why you broke up my marriage?” Erin interrupted my gaze. Um, you guys weren’t married yet, is what I wanted to say, but I kept my mouth shut. “Cuz both aren’t needed.”

I turned around, finding Erin leaning against her kitchen’s marble countertops with her arms crossed. Pursing my lips, I just looked at her, clenching my jaw and waiting for her invitation to let me sit. Was this even worth it if she was gonna keep throwing it back in my face the entire time?

She motioned for me to sit on her teal suede couch that’s perpendicular to the windows. I mouthed a “thank you” and sat, putting my bag next to my feet as she plopped down in the grey velvet armchair across from me.

“Why are you here? I thought I told you to get out of New York City?”

Immediately, I scoffed, “You’re not the boss of me.”

“Oh really?” she challenged, shifting in her seat so her left leg crossed over the other.

I kissed my teeth and slightly rolled my eyes, holding my forehead. “Look, Erin . . . I knew you were angry, but you weren’t serious, were you?”

“Of course I was fucking serious, Layla!” She rolled her eyes and looked out the window, the sun outlining her jaw and all the imperfections underneath her makeup. “You always thought I was some prissy, rich girl who always got what she wanted.” She shook her head, as if to stop incoming tears. “Well, I wanted my mom to come back, but that didn’t happen!” Awkward silence. “I just spend all Daddy’s money cuz I’m Daddy’s little girl and Mommy’s not here, right?” I never thought that about you, I mused, but again, I kept quiet. She slowly turned her head to make eye contact with me. “You just . . . you always undermine me.”

“I never undermined you.” My eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

“Really? When haven’t you undermined me? You undermined me when you thought I was stupid enough to not figure out that you were sleeping with Khalfani. Right?”

I was speechless for a moment. Unfortunately, she was right. “When I first met you Erin, you came to me, asking me to help you frickin’ study—you asked me to tutor you.”

“And you’ve looked at me as a person who didn’t know what they were doing this entire time. All nine years of our friendship. That’s how you see me. As a fucking child. Helpless. You felt bad for me, didn’t you? You were never my friend.” She got up, going to her kitchen to pour herself some red wine. Probably some fancy Pinot Noir. That’s her favorite.

“That’s not true,” I said in a low voice.

After taking a sip, Erin said, “What is true is you fucking my fiancé. My best friend. Going behind my back like that. . . I can’t believe you.” She took another sip.

“You’re right. I did sleep with Khalfani.” I stood up and strolled to sit at one of her round bar stools, clasping my hands. “Remember that breakup I told you about years ago? How we were always on and off since high school and we had this very weird relationship and I hadn’t seen him in years? That was him. Khal—Khalfani.” I dropped eye contact, deciding to follow the grey swirl in her marble to distract myself. “When I found out you guys were dating . . . I felt some type of way for a reason—jealousy?”

“You felt it.” Erin claimed matter-of-factly, sipping her wine while side-eying me through the glass.

Briefly, I clenched my teeth. Ooo, she is testing my patience. “Yes, I was jealous. I was jealous of you. You always seem to get what you want and didn’t have to work that hard to get it.”

She tilted her head, seeming confused. “Didn’t you come from an affluent family, too?”

“We were well-off—comfortable, but not affluent.” She looked incredulous. “There’s a difference.”

Erin slitted her eyes at me. “Is it because I’m white?”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s because I’m white. Khalfani was with a white woman and that was a problem. I was with him.” There was a pause as I averted my gaze. “I remember you saying he played football in college and how all the white girls would stare at him. . . It’s because of that, isn’t it? He was with a white woman. He wasn’t with you: a Black woman. Right? And that pissed you the fuck off.”

“That’s not true,” I said, a little too fast for my liking.

“It is true,” she said with a bite in her tone. “It’s very true.”

“Erin—”

“It is! Am I wrong?”

I shook my head, thinking. “I don’t know—I just felt like something was off about you and him. And I couldn’t put my finger on it. So, I called him one day and asked him how y’all met in the first place.” My mind raced back to that conversation months ago. “I just knew that something was off and that he didn’t love you for the right reasons.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me that?” She put her glass down to pull at her hair, frustrated. “Why did you let me waste my time then? Huh?! Why didn’t you tell me these things?”

I opened and closed my mouth repeatedly. “I-I don’t know.”

Erin shook her head and sipped more wine from her glass. “That’s not good enough, Layla. If you’re not going to be honest with me—”

“Look, Erin I-I-I don’t—I’m still in love with him.” I dropped my head, ashamed. Sadly, that was the truth. Fuck! “He drives me crazy and I fuckin’ hate him sometimes, but . . . I got on him so hard in high school and college, and I pushed him away. I pushed him away and I . . . I

guess I didn’t want to be too hard on him this time. So, I-I just enjoyed him,” my voice dropped an octave, “even when he wasn’t mine. I fell back in love with him.” I shrugged. “And I realize now that that was not smart because I lost you. I lost you as my friend—my best friend.” Silence. “I’m sorry.”

Erin’s blue eyes stared back into my brown ones and for a moment, all felt right—normal, even. It felt like we exchanged some understanding between us. Maybe forgiveness? She took the back of her hand and swiped at her mouth, sitting her glass by the sink before recorking the bottle. “Yeah, well, whatever.”

“I am. I’m sorry.”

She nodded with her lips poked out, looking off into space. “I think it’s time for you to leave.” She slowly lifted her eyes to mine.

My heart dropped to my stomach and my throat went dry. “Erin. . .”

“Layla,” her voice strained as she refused to look at me, “please. Go.”

I breathed heavily through my nose as I got up from the stool, retrieved my purse from beside her couch, and went towards her door. I looked back at her one more time and she didn’t return the gaze. Rubbing my lips together, I nodded my head as I gripped her doorknob and let myself out.

In the hallway, I shook my silk press out of my face, and with my head held high, I started my strut down the hallway, holding back tears. I heard movement behind her door, indicating that she locked it.

Wow, that’s it? I guess we’re done for good.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

https://unsplash.com/photos/Mg9xdh3keeo

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