Once the plane landed at Hartsfield-Jackson, he picked up the rental car he’d reserved and drove up I-75 following the directions saved on his phone. Familiar landmarks brought a smile to his face. It had been years since he’d seen the Turner Field stadium or the Olympic torch Muhammad Ali lit to open the ’96 games. As Marc rounded the Grady Curve and headed toward Midtown, he took in the downtown skyline and noted the buildings he didn’t recognize. The directions said to take the 17th Street exit, and he chuckled recalling that the bridge hadn’t even existed when he left Georgia and moved to Las Vegas eight years ago.
He crossed the bridge, turned into Atlantic Station, maneuvered the streets of the urban village and nodded in approval when he saw Dillard’s and other upscale stores. He and his brothers had inherited their good taste from their mother, a lover of style and quality. Even though he lived in athletic wear and sport shoes most of his waking moments, he knew how to dress when it was important. And tomorrow night was important. The one thing he wouldn’t change for the event was his hair. Once he’d left Atlanta, the decision he’d made to let his natural hair grow out was more than a fashion statement. It represented a declaration of independence, and this was the first time since his early teens that he was making the statement to his family.
A few minutes later, the planned community’s signature building, The Atlantic, loomed forty-seven stories above him. He parked the car and found his way to the front entrance of the Art Deco-style building and told the doorman whom he was there to see.
A few minutes later, the door to a thirtieth floor apartment opened and Marc had the familiar sensation that he was looking into a mirror when a clear green gaze met his.
“Hey, man! It’s great to see you.” His twin brother, Charles welcomed him with an enthusiastic masculine hug.
“You too.” Marc stepped inside the apartment when Charles released him and glanced around at décor that testified of the DNA they shared. The clean, modern lines of the furniture in shades of white, brown and black were exactly what he would have chosen. “Nice place. How long have you been here?”
“About six months now. Sit down, man.” Charles waved a hand toward a taupe-colored leather sectional positioned in front of a wall of windows. “I moved in not long after Mama and I stayed with you. Your house inspired me. This place is great. It has a doorman, a twenty-four-hour concierge, state-of-the-art fitness center, movie theater, club room and a pool down on the fifth floor. After we eat dinner, we can come back and sit by the pool fireplace.”
At least twice a year, one or more of his brothers occupied his guest rooms while they unwound and enjoyed the pleasures of Sin City. Marc smiled remembering his twin’s last visit. Charles had been so impressed with his sprawling desert home, he’d raved about it the entire week. He was the only one in the family that knew the house had been a foreclosure Marc had been able to buy for a ridiculously low amount at a real estate auction. There wasn’t any need for the rest of them to know this detail. With the exception of Charles and Greg, who’d just graduated from college, the rest of his brothers were successful doctors who lived in the requisite suburban Atlanta mega house.
“I’m proud of you,” Marc said, admiring the view of Buckhead in the distance. “At least you didn’t go the traditional Stafford route.”
“Everybody always talks about how different we are, but we’re more alike than they know. I don’t have a wife. What do I need with a five-bedroom, six-bath mini-mansion? This is more my style. I love the view, and I’ve met some interesting neighbors since I’ve been here,” Charles said with a grin.
“By interesting I take it you mean female.”
“You know it.” Charles grinned.
“Are Mama and Dad still trying to hook me up with one of their friend’s daughters who has the right pedigree?” Marc rolled his eyes.
“Always. It’s amazing how many friends they have with daughters.” The brothers shared a laugh, knowing their parents’ penchant for matchmaking. “You ready to eat? There are a few nice restaurants in the area.”
Marc grimaced. “I wanted to check out this place I looked up online. You know I don’t like to eat at most regular restaurants. It’s called Tassili’s, and it’s over on Abernathy.”
“Italian sounds good to me. It’ll only take about fifteen minutes to get there. I’ll drive.”
Marc bit his bottom lip, unsure of whether or not to explain to his brother what kind of eatery they were headed to. “It’s not Italian. Tassili is the owner’s first name, but you just might like it anyway.”
A short time later, when Charles pulled up in front of what appeared to be a converted two-story house, he frowned. “Are you sure this is the right address?”
“Yeah, this is it. I saw photos online. Come on, open your mind and get ready to enjoy some food that’s not only good but good for you,” Marc said as his brother pulled into a vacant parking spot.
They entered the eatery, and Charles saw the menu posted on the wall. “Oh, hell,” Charles grumbled. “I should’ve known.”
“You’re a doctor. You should know better than most people how important a healthy diet is. You like tacos, right?” Marc glanced around. Burnt sienna walls, comfy sofas spaced between the high-top tables and stools faced a small stage where the web site said spoken word and musical artists often performed.
“Sure.” His brother’s face brightened. “The sign says it’s a raw café. They serve tacos?”
Marc chuckled. “I’m getting the Spicy Naked Tacos. Try it, man. I think you’ll be surprised. When I travel I always find restaurants online ahead of time. This joint had great reviews.”
The patronizing smile Charles sent him said he’d resigned himself to Marc’s selection. “All right, baby bro, I’m game.”
They ordered their meals, and Marc nodded toward a table next to a fireplace where the mantel was decorated with fresh fruit, fresh flowers and antique candlesticks. Everything about the room had an organic feel that he loved. He knew Charles was used to frequenting the more upscale eateries, and he welcomed the opportunity to expose his twin, or DR-3, as he teasingly called him, to something different. Charles was the third son to choose medicine as his career. Coming from a family of physicians wasn’t easy if you happened to be the one considered the renegade, and Marc found it easier to tease his brothers about their choice than to defend his own.
“So how is this thing supposed to go tomorrow night?” Marc asked, referring to Vic’s celebration.
“Beats me. Mama said it’s just a dinner,” Charles glanced around the room at the original artwork adorning the walls. “But you know Daddy will have to say a few words.” He snickered and Marc snorted at the thought.
“I talked to Mama before I left Vegas. You know she asked me to stay at the house, but I just wasn’t feeling it. They’ll probably have a house full.”
A server delivered their meals, and Marc saw the skeptical glance his brother gave the plate. “Aunt Velma and Uncle Rod came in last night. I know they’re staying at the house. Uncle Clifford and Aunt Betty were driving from Birmingham today. I’m sure they’re taking one of the guest rooms too.”
“All the more reason for me to be over in Atlantic Station with you.” Marc laughed. “That’ll give Cliff and Daddy less time to gang up on me.”
Charles studied the meal for another long moment then said, “I guess we’d better bless this stuff, even though I’m not sure it’ll make any difference.”
“So, what’s happening in your life?” Marc asked after they bowed their heads and each offered a short prayer, an enduring testament of their upbringing. “Are you still with that girl you mentioned when you came to Vegas?”
Charles shook his head then took a bite of the tacos filled with chili-infused sunflower pate and alfalfa sprouts wrapped in large cabbage leaf shells. His expression changed as he chewed, and the appreciative sounds he made let Marc know how much the flavors of the Green Goddess Guacamole and Fresh Five-Alarm Salsa surprised and pleased him.
“What happened with her?” Marc took a huge bite of his taco and waited for the answer.
“The usual,” Charles said after along sip of ginger pineapple juice. “It started out hot and heavy and gradually slipped into lukewarm and light. There aren’t too many women who want to play second fiddle to my career. I’ve inherited that workaholic gene from Daddy. This is the first day I’ve had off since I came back from Vegas. Damn, this is good. I really didn’t think I would like it.”
“We’re twins, remember? Same taste buds. So, you’re not taking a date tomorrow?”
“What for? It’ll be mostly family. I’m just want to support Vic and keep Mama from getting upset if I didn’t show up. You know she misses you a lot, and can’t wait to see you.”
Just as they all knew Vic was their father’s favorite, the brothers all knew Marc held that coveted spot in their mother’s heart. “We talk to each other every week, but it’s not the same as being able to drive over to the house and have a cup of tea with her,” Marc said. “She had a great time when you brought her out to Vegas.”
“And she’s still talking about it eight months later. You know everybody is going back to the house when the dinner is over. Mama’s expecting you to be there.”
“Let’s see how things go at the dinner first. I’m not promising anything.”
The last excerpt can be found here: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-womans-worth-sneak-peek-3.html