DRABBLE: One-upmanship


Sylvia & Nala

Always so nice to see you up in my neighborhood.” Sylvia extended a dainty hand as if she were the Princess of Portland. “Anytime friends come up from the Pearl, it’s a lovely day.”

Who the fuck does she think she is? Nala kept that thought to herself as she shook her friend’s hand. Well, friend was putting it loosely. They became acquainted through Nala’s undercover stint in Xavier Crow’s swingin’ club. Sylvia hadn’t been undercover like half the women there – just in a shitty relationship with some asshole who used her until she turned into a more spiteful version of herself.

Sylvia’s life was much better now. She had shacked up with one of the other men (an undercover one, no less) from the club and now lived in a renovated Victorian house on the outskirts of Nob Hill, one of the nicest yet homiest neighborhoods in Portland (let alone downtown.) Nala wasn’t doing too much worse either. She was still with Vincent in his converted loft down in the Pearl. The two neighborhoods were, well, neighbors, so it was rich hearing Sylvia make it sound like Nala had made some great trip up to Northwest 23rd. In reality, it was a fifteen minute walk. Big deal.

“It really has been a while, hasn’t it?” They began their walk to the local teahouse that was always a healthy mix of awestruck tourists and busy locals. “Not since your Labor Day cookout last month.”
Neither Sylvia nor Nala were the wholesome housewife types, yet they somehow ended up with men who loved a good excuse to get together and talk about… soccer. No wonder Nala ended up half drunk every time she visited Sylvia and Joseph’s house. While the men blathered on about the Portland Timbers and the latest jogging trails, Nala clawed her face off and got drunk enough to tolerate Sylvia. The feeling was apparently mutual.

Come on. We’re friends. I think. Problem was, neither of them were very good at the whole friendship thing. They weren’t the types to giggle over girlish thoughts or reminisce on relationships past. Neither of them had old relationships worth talking about, anyway. Nala had the one guy she dated years ago who was as exciting as lint, and Sylvia was a retired sex worker… her relationships were… okay, so they were entertaining as hell to hear about, but she wasn’t usually in the mood to bring up the assholes she once dated.

Instead, when Sylvia and Nala decided to get together, it usually culminated in a rousing game of one-upmanship.

It started the moment they stumbled up the stairs to the teahouse, each step creaking beneath their heeled and sneakered feet. Sylvia went first, of course, since this was her neighborhood. Nala had a great view of her cheeky black undies beneath her skirt. This is why we wear pants during the winter, Ms. Rogers.

“I can see your damned knickers.”

Sylvia turned around in front of the teahouse door. “And I can see your face. We’re even.”
The heavy scent of tea slapped Nala across the cheek when they entered the old abode. She didn’t hate tea, and she had to admit that this location had some of the best in town. Their bubble tea was especially great, but they were always out of tapioca.

Oh, look. They were out of tapioca.

“Let’s share a pot.” Sylvia slapped the menu against Nala’s chest so she could start sniffing the sample jars of tea leaves on the shelf. “My treat! You get the macarons.”

“Sure. Whatever.” Nala leaned against the nearest table and flipped through the flavors. She picked the first thing that looked interesting and ordered it at the counter.

Sylvia was quick to shove Nala out of the way and pull out her wallet. A silvery card glittered as it was swiped through the machine.

“Oh, you got a platinum card now?” That’s why Sylvia made such a grand show of pulling out her card, right? “Congrats. Those are hard to acquire.”

The smugness would choke Nala before the tea fumes. “My shares in the bed and breakfast started coming in, finally. Not doing too bad for myself. It’s so nice for a girl to make her own money independent of her boyfriend.”

I bet. Nala ordered a hearty helping of snacks and pulled out her own wallet. Sylvia turned up her nose to see the black AmEx with Vincent’s name on it. Nala didn’t have her own source of income. Her focus was on her studies at PCC. Soon, she would transfer to PSU and pick a proper field of study. With her rich billionaire boyfriend to support her, Nala didn’t need even a part time job. Good for Sylvia for having her bed and breakfast project to keep her occupied, though!                                                                                                                                                           
They sat out on the balcony. Nala, who grew up in the deserts of Nevada, was always shocked to find the local Oregonians embracing the rainy, windy, cold weather even in the depths of autumn. She had expected the balcony to be devoid of people. Instead, she found Portlanders and rural Oregonians in town for the weekend huddled up in their rain jackets, guzzling tea and shooting the breeze that was just as quick to smack them in the face with every gust.

Nala tightened the strings of her sweatshirt. New England girl Sylvia was not bothered by the chill in the air. She would wear that strapless dress with her sweater and look comfortable doing it. Bitch.
“So! Tell me all about your schooling. Don’t you graduate this term?”

“Yup. I start at PSU next spring.”

“Fascinating! What are you going to major in?
“Right now I’m mostly taking business and computer classes.”

“Oh. Thought you might strike out on your own instead of joining your boyfriend’s company.”
“We joke that I’m going to overthrow him one day.” It was just a joke, though. So far Nala proved to not be a natural in the coding and networking worlds. It helped to have the best tutor in town, but there was only so much Vincent could teach her when it came so naturally to him. “I figure they’re good skills to have. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make my own app for bored housewives looking for adventure.”

“Mmhmm. Then you’ll send them to my bed and breakfast, because we always have hot businessmen coming through town.”

“You’re starting up a brothel, huh?”

“Reverse harem, yes.”

“Wow. Sounds like it would be quite profitable.”

“There really is something to be said for having your own business and being independent of your partners’ income.” Sylvia sniffed. Nala had a feeling the weather wasn’t what made her so sniffy. 

“Isn’t your business partner your boyfriend’s stepdad?”

“Beside the point.”

Nala steepled her fingers. “So when’s the wedding? Didn’t you have a pregnancy scare last month?”
Sylvia spat out her water. “I did not tell you that.”

“Please. It was obvious. You were carrying on at the cookout about avoiding alcohol and raw fish. I might go to community college, but I’m pretty sharp.” Nala had yet to receive the memo that old stereotypes about community college were dead.

“I’m not pregnant.”

“So when’s the wedding?”

“Before yours, that’s for sure.”

“Vincent and I are really taking our time. What’s wrong with that? I want my degrees before I settle into something like that.”

“Like I said, mine will be before yours. I have it on good authority that Joseph will propose to me this Christmas. His sister won’t shut up about it.”

Nala rolled her eyes. “Too bad you don’t have that baby to lock it down, huh?”

“I’ve got everything else I need for the a family. I have one of the cutest houses in Portland with plenty of spare rooms and a more than decent school district with plenty of private options. Joseph’s stepmother told me she could easily get our kids into the best Catholic school in the region.”

“Wow, Catholic school.” Nala’s kids would go to public school and deal. Probably. “What else you got for that baby you’re not even having yet?”

“Have you seen Joseph? We’re talking Grade A genetics, thank you. Our kids will be the most beautiful on the west coast.”

“Vincent’s family is quite good looking. His mother used to be a beauty queen, and his father… well, he was one of the most respected bachelors at his alma mater. I may not be the most beautiful in my family, but my sister was a knockout.” Nala definitely took more after her mother. “Did you forget the part where I’m Russian? My people are the world’s supermodels.”

“Yes, the budget Scandinavians. I know a lot about Russian and Eastern European beauties, dear. I used to be one of the most expensive sex workers in the country.”

Nala’s lip twitched. She didn’t care that the barista brought them their large pot of tea and two cups. As soon as she was gone, Nala continued, “Who cares? It’s the genes that matter. Once Vincent and I start having kids - lots and lots of kids – they’ll be the most handsome boys you’ve ever seen.”
“Boys, huh? You’re full of yourself.”

“Can you imagine me with a daughter?”

“God, no. You’d dress her up in dirty sweatshirts and sneakers. A daughter of a billionaire deserves better.”

“I don’t see my future kids as dolls.” Nala chose that moment to curse Sylvia with nothing but sons. Jesus, our boyfriends would love that. Look at all those little soccer fans in training. Of course, Nala would 100% support her daughters being super soccer fans, but some stereotypes held fast in the brain. “I’m more concerned about their education and their upbringing. I don’t like this nanny business. Another reason I’m waiting to have kids is so I can dedicate myself to them.”

“You? A housewife?” Sylvia cackled into her teacup. “What you need is extended family. That’s the one nice thing about Joseph’s family. They’re a pain in the fucking ass, but they’ll come in handy once the babies start popping out. Even better if I can get the first grandchild out of the bunch. I don’t think Joseph’s little brothers are going for it anytime soon.”

“I bet they’d appreciate you getting married first, though. You know how they feel about bastards.”
Sylvia’s face paled as if Nala had brought up Joseph’s history with incomplete pregnancies instead. Yeah, good luck with that. “Low blow, even for you.”

“Yeah, well, half my family is dead, so that’s why I don’t have extended family members to rely on. I’d rather eat my own shit than deal with Vincent’s mother.”

“Suddenly the Mexican Catholic relatives on my side don’t sound so bad, huh?”

“I must admit, I’ll take that level of guilt tripping over a upper-middle-class Californian housewife.”
“Of course you would!” Sylvia scoffed. “So… how many kids do you think you’ll have?”

“It’s not like we’re planning them down to the year and gender, you know.” Nala knew shit didn’t work that way. And if they did at their income level, she didn’t want to know about it. She’d prefer any future pregnancies to be as natural as possible. Wasn’t like she was married to the idea of being a mother, anyway. It sounded like an adventure, though, and that’s what she wanted most in life. A hot husband and some good adventures. “But I wouldn’t mind a little family. A modest three would do the trick.”

“Three! That’s more than most people have these days!”

“So you’re not having three kids anytime soon?”

“Try four.” Sylvia leaned back in her chair and barely shivered when a cold chill overcame the balcony. “I’ll have the boy first to get that out of the way. Then I think I’ll have three little girls to round things out.”

“Let’s make our lives easier and arrange marriages between them all right now.”

“Hmm.” Sylvia tapped her chin. “On one hand, the thought of being legally related to you is appalling, but on the other, that would be easy. And Vincent arguably has more money than Joseph, so that would be good for my kids.”

She knew that Nala wasn’t serious, right? “I’ll have three boys, so they can marry your three girls. Your oldest son can fuck off for all I care.”

“It’s the 21st century, darling, one of your sons is bound to be gay.”

“You think?”

“Trust me. I’ve seen the odds plenty of times in my old job.”

Nala held up her teacup. “Let’s shake on it. With our beverages.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon hoping the other one would soon forget about this agreement. They sure as hell were not telling their future husbands what transpired there today. They would change the subject to soccer, anyway. 


Vincent and Nala
Joseph & Sylvia