CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO
DETECTION

The last time Keith went to Coquette, it was a gift from his parents before they left on their quest for business propositions and stock market approaches all around the world. It took an hour to get there from the small town he lived in, but the food proved to be worth it. His mother, if he recalled correctly, had French roots and felt it was appropriate that her son learned about the food. Apparently, she didn't think of perhaps taking me to the place itself, as well. Ironically, she ended up going there along with several other sites. She did try to send a postcard once in a while, but Keith guessed that it just wasn't something constantly on her mind. How motherly.

Enjoying yourself and indulging in worldly comfort wasn't something Keith was against, just something he didn't see the point to. If one wanted to achieve anything, it was best to lay aside all luxuries and get to a point where they could be used at any time. The true success of any businessman comes when he is able to vacation any day he wants and not lose a penny. But, now, walking down a sidewalk with his boyfriend, Keith wasn't so sure that was why he was angry. No, not angry, he was humiliated. He knew next to nothing about the people he called parents. Their age and nationality was the same information you would know about a celebrity, and, to Keith, they were not celebrities. They were his parents. Keith hadn't heard from them for months and hadn't physically seen them for years. His childhood was barely over and it was already starting to look extremely dark.

"Xear said he'd meet us at the entrance," Lloyd interjected, bringing Keith out of his thoughts. "Although, I'm wondering why you didn't just want me to park there in the first place. We didn't have to walk, you know."

"I know, I just..." Keith muttered, not slowing his pace, afraid Lloyd would leave him behind. In more ways than one. The right words did not seem to form. How could he explain to Lloyd what he had difficulty explaining to himself? Oh, just so you know, my parents basically abandoned me at the age of thirteen to travel the world and seek out wealth while I fended for myself after the nanny ran away. Yeah, right. "...wanted to walk a little. Also, the restaurant is usually quite full at this hour. Not a lot of parking space available." Then, for the third time that evening, he pulled a little at his red tie. He saw Lloyd glance from the corner of his eye. Keith quickly flew his hands down to their respective sides, but it was too late.

"C'mere," Lloyd whispered, turning Keith to face him. Slowly, he adjusted the tie a little tighter. Keith blushed, thinking about what else he wanted around his neck, but let that thought slip right past him because now was not the time to sport an awkward boner. Lloyd leaned down tenderly to place a light kiss on Keith's lips. It lasted a few seconds and sent chills down his spine. "It's okay to be nervous, baby. These are your parents. And I know you probably haven't heard from them in a while."

You have no idea. "Yeah, yeah, I know..." Keith muttered looking down. "I just..." Maybe if I tell him the truth. "I feel like you won't..." Like my family. "...like the food."

Lloyd raised an eyebrow. Keith feared that he didn't believe him and that he'd break down in a crying mess again. Except, instead of that, he seemed to understand almost immediately.

"Keith." An incredulous tone that almost made Keith laugh. "Seriously." Lloyd chuckled out in a stated tone. "I'm a foodie, sweetheart; I think I can accommodate to different food types."

"Oh, wow, using such a big word as 'accommodate'. I'm so impressed."

"I'll take that sarcastic comment as flattery."


Whoever said you couldn't be too plain had never seen the extent Xear went through. Plain black suit (contrasting with his usual bright, neon colors), slicked back hair (contrasting with the usual mess that it was), and brown eye contacts (you know the drill). When Keith saw him, he almost didn't recognize him. For a moment, Lloyd thought he was the valet and almost apologized for not bringing the car around. Xear, of course, looked drastically displeased.

"The next time your parents decide to invite me to a fancy restaurant, tell them that Chipotle's almost four-star rating is good enough for me." He practically spat his words (was that mint?), leaving Keith unsure of what to say. "Their first email was all nice, telling me how they knew I was your best friend and shit and how I'd be invited along with you guys, cause I'm 'practically family'." Xear used his hands frequently in the discussion, catching the eyes of a few people enjoying dinner through the windows. "And then they send another one, and, oh..." His eyes widened in anger. "This one was riddled with half the shit my mom says, about how I have to 'dress to impress'. A total dress code! Ugh, you'd think that I'd be able to eat without worrying about what I'm wearing."

A few moments passed, and the couple stood shocked before their mutual friend. Xear rubbed his eye a little and cursed at the discomfort brought by a moving contact, while Keith suddenly started snorting. His best friend didn't expect it, and neither did his boyfriend. In seconds, Keith was practically rolling on the floor, freely letting the laughter consume him and not giving a care in the world over who may be looking at him. It was as though he needed it so bad his body forced him to do it, and he couldn't be more grateful for it as his sides began to hurt. After a few moments, Keith composed himself and wiped away the amused tears.

"Sorry, oh, gosh..." He chuckled, gripping his abdomen. "Fuck, Xear, that was hilarious. Holy shit..."

"Keith, watch your mouth, sweetie," Lloyd whispered, warning him with love. A few people walk around the lively conversation so that all Keith could do was bite his lip and nod.

"As much as I'd just love to tease you guys about your relationship positions," Xear shuddered, "we have other things to discuss. Such as the young girl who came along with your parents." He pointed inside, through one of the windows, and Keith realized his parents were sitting along with a female figure who was facing away from them. "She looked-"

Keith's eyes lit up at the news. "Sketchy? Odd? Evil?"

"I was gonna say hot, but, well...yeah, she seems kinda sketchy."

Keith's face scrunched up. Lloyd thought that was cute.

"Ew, Xear, ew." It was his turn to shudder. "That would be Cierra. The accusing snob I told you about earlier?"

"Oh, right..." Xear held onto that syllable as though he were holding onto his life. In a way, he was, seeing how Keith's eyes were radiating anger. "Well, I mean, you can't blame me for liking what I see. Freckles are cute as fuck, man."

Keith turned to Lloyd. "How come he can curse?"

"I'm not dating him."

The blonde pouts. "And you won't be with that attitude."

"Xear, stop flirting with my boyfriend."


Ramon and Darlene are a power couple. Keith hated to admit it, but there was some good that came out of being abandoned for worldly riches. His parents were firmly devoted to each other and seemed to have no end to their love. They were opposites: Ramon being incredibly serious and stern, while Darlene could give you cavities with how sweet she was. Ramon had life-long enemies, while Darlene baked a cake for those enemies. The only truly bad thing that connected both of them was Keith. To think that abandoning their son could bring two people together so strongly.

Lloyd leans over and whispers to his boyfriend, "They seem nice."

Keith scoffs, "They are."

It was the truth. His parents were nice people. At least, from what Keith could tell through the sparse phone calls his mother gave him.

Xear scratches at his suit jacket, "Do you think I'm allergic to cotton?"

"Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised." Keith chuckles, gripping Lloyd's hand harder. "Remember when you drank, like, a whole carton of milk and then found out you were lactose intolerant?"

"Hey, to be fair, you didn't know you were allergic to eggs until, like, last year." The blonde retaliates.

Lloyd laughs, "Wait, really?"

Keith feels himself blush, stuttering to explain himself until all three of them hear a bittersweet voice call for them. "Keith! Xear! Over here!"

A record scratches in Keith's mind and he yanks the hand that had once been in Lloyd's hand into the pocket of his pants. Panic rushes down him, pushing him towards the table where his parents had been sitting this entire time. Cierra is there as well, and Keith hates the sight of her. Curly hair, tan skin, and a red maxi-dress that screamed wicked seduction. For some reason, Keith felt one-uped.

"Keith, sweetie, it's been so long!" Darlene exclaims as if he didn't know that already. She rushes over to him, hugging him. Keith only half-hugs back, noticing the smile that Cierra gives from behind his mother's back. He doesn't know if it's welcoming or deceitful.

What is she even doing here? He wants to ask, but that wouldn't be very formal, and the last thing he wants is to get corrected by his father in front of his friends.

And boyfriend. Right. Boyfriend. The guy you left behind back there but was so worried he would do the same to you. God damn it, Keith, you hypocrite.

Keith turns to wait for Lloyd before sitting down, but his mother grips his hand and brings him to the seat next to her. If he didn't know any better, Keith would say she was trying to make sure he wouldn't run away. She starts chatting away, almost as if Keith is a childhood friend's son and not her own.

"Oh, sweetie, look how much you've grown! And your hair! I love it! Where are you getting it styled now? I remember when Clarita used to do it. My, aren't you just the most handsome young man!"

Strangely, her compliments do nothing to him. They don't make him feel prideful, nor give him a feeling of entitlement. No, they rush past him at a speed that distracts him from the whirlwind of everyone getting seated and ordering food. Keith doesn't remember what he asked for, but, at this point, he isn't hungry. His father hasn't said a single thing to him, and neither has Cierra (except for the smile). His mother is filling the empty conversation space, trying to stay on top of the jazz music in the background. Being eighteen, Keith can't legally drink in public yet, so he grabs the non-alcoholic beverage they provided only to realize it tastes like salted sprite. Ew. How is this French?

"So, Lloyd, what are your plans for after school?" Ramon cuts into his duck breast, looking over at the man sitting across from him. They had all ended up in the worst seats Keith could imagine. Two tables had been pushed together, giving them a total of six seats. Across from Keith is Xear, who is sitting next to Cierra. Across from Cierra is Darlene who is sitting next to Keith. That left two seats that were at the ends of this make-shift table. Lloyd takes the one next to Keith and Xear, while Ramon takes the one next to his wife and Cierra. Everyone seems very uncomfortable, chatting about small subjects until the food arrives, in which Ramon starts to talk strictly about career and aspirations.

"Well, I've always wanted to play Lacrosse professionally," Lloyd says truthfully, "but I wouldn't mind going into advertising. I think I'd make an excellent spokesperson or sponsor."

To Keith, it wasn't a wrong answer. It was something he had never asked Lloyd, yes, but he was glad he knew about it now. However, Ramon's raised eyebrow and slow chewing told of disappointment, something Keith was very familiar with.

"Well," Ramon says. "Good luck, I suppose."

Luck? LUCK? You don't even believe in luck! What the-

"Thank you," Lloyd responds, cutting into Keith's thoughts. "Keith has told me some about what you work for. Care to inform me some more?"

Ramon looks shocked, almost as if he expected a less mature response to what he had said. Hesitantly, he starts talking about his job, which starts up a pleasant conversation between them. Keith is pleasantly surprised himself. The dinner continues this way, and Keith is happy. Xear is talking with Darlene, Lloyd with Ramon, and Keith just feels at peace with this. He doesn't think about the last few years he's been alone, he doesn't think about what he's hiding from his parents, he doesn't even think about Cierra being here and what his parents might be hiding from him, Keith just listens to the soft chatter of people he loves getting along. It's soothing, and he wishes he could fall asleep to that and never wake up, having this moment be his last.

...Well, that's morbid.


After everyone had eaten the main course, dessert was ordered. Keith wasn't full, but he didn't want any. The only two people that ordered it was Darlene and Cierra. They were chatting politely now, so the males were left by themselves. Xear had gotten extremely full on food and was practically dozing off in his seat. This is why we can't invite you to nice things, Xear. Lloyd was politely discussing some things about his cooking interests with Ramon, wondering about how something like that would work as a business. Keith got up and excused himself to the bathroom. Everything was going great. Lloyd was getting along with his parents, exclusively his father which he had worried about so much. Xear hadn't done anything too crazy, and even Cierra seemed to be enjoying herself.

Once out of the bathroom, Keith decided to stop by the bar and check out what other drinks they would let him have. He asked the bartender a few questions before ordering something that wasn't even on the menu. The bartender was helpful and gave him something that didn't have alcohol but didn't taste like a very poorly edited version of soda. It didn't have a name, but Keith really wanted to name it La Crosse. Wow, how creative, Keith. You're such a lovesick idiot.

Around the second sip he took, Keith was getting ready to go back to the table when someone sat down next to him. He didn't pay much attention before the person spoke up.

"Parisian Cocktail, please." A polite, yet stern voice commanded. It was Cierra. Keith almost spits out his 'La Crosse'. He realizes that the drink she has ordered is alcoholic.

"Hey, wait, you can't-"

The bartender passes the drink without another word. He winks at her and goes to the next customer. Cierra takes a sip of her cocktail, turning to Keith.

"You'd be surprised with what you can get away with if you just act like you know what you're doing." She informs him. "People don't need to know everything. They only need to know enough."

Keith was confused by what she meant by that. Then he realized that the dress she wore was shallow cut around the cleavage, making her appear older.

"So, you deceive people?"

"Oh, no, darling." Cierra takes another sip. "I just don't tell them what they don't ask."

She eyes him.

"Besides, I don't think you have any right telling me not to deceive anyone."

Keith is confused again. His face shows it, so Cierra is blunt with him.

"How long have you and Lloyd been dating?"

Again, Keith almost spits out his drink.

"What- We're not-" He chokes for a moment.

"Could have fooled me. Oh, wait, you didn't though." She crosses her legs gracefully. "You guys are cute together." She smiles. "I would kill to have a relationship like that." She doesn't look like she's joking.

Keith swallows harshly. "Well, it's none of your business," he says bravely, feeling like a coward.

Her smile disappears. "Careful." She warns. "You don't know who you're talking to."

Keith gets angry now. Who does this person think she is? She doesn't even have to be here. My father is the one paying for her expenses. What gives her the right to act this way?

"Yes, I do," Keith growls out. "You're the brat that almost cost my father his job."

"He shouldn't have messed with me."

Keith grits his teeth at the stoic expression of pride Cierra has. He slams his drink onto the bar.

"What did he even do? Why would you even accuse him of something so dumb as stealing from his own company-"

She cuts him off.

"What? Stealing from the company?" Cierra looks so smug; Keith wants to punch her. "Oh, sweetie, you've got it all wrong." She shakes her head, and he grows impatient.

"What are you talking about?"

"God, and you say I'm the liar." Cierra takes one last sip of her drink, finishing it with a deep sigh. "Darling, I accused your dad of raping me."