I couldn’t believe I did that.
I allowed that psycho place a mark on my skin!
Hit, hit, hit
... It stung like a bitch.
Hit, hit, hit
I rested my hands on my knees as I caught my breath. I had been pounding a bean bag for the last hour and now my hands were aching.
Reason? I was angry and I needed to let off steam... I know right great stress reliever.
Luckily for me I was alone down here and that meant I had the room and its machines to myself. The reason why was that everyone was in the backyard enjoying their day off. Today was Sunday - a holy day according to Giovanni’s belief- so we had no drills or training, just pure relaxation.
The kids usually made good use of this day, they would play various types of games or find a cool shade under a tree and kicked back giving their bodies a rest. After all they are just children, they needed a pain free day.
I sighed as my mind wondered back to what occurred a few hours ago. Last night - well, technically this morning was unforgettable in a bad way. One, the feeling of needles piercing my skin because of that damn tattoo - like how the hell do people stand it or even return for more? Two, the amused look in Giovanni’s eyes as I cried in pain and three the fact that I gave away my life to the devil - Giovanni.
Was I mad to hand him my life on a silver platter or was I just so desperate to escape the sense of loneliness within me that I played along, in the end trapping myself?
“Maybe I’m both,” I groaned as I stood up straight, stretched my arms and walked over to the weights area of the gym. “Mad and Desperate.”
I was in the basement of the building which was our gym, it was grey with different workout machines adorning the place, and it had a black mat to the side used for fights and abdominal workouts. It had blood stains on the floor - sometimes the fights got out of hand and it reeked of sweat.
I was in a blue sports bra, black track pants and I was dripping in sweat.
I grabbed two twenty pounds, placed my hand in front of my body at a 90° angle and brought it up to my shoulder, then brought it down.
I loved to work out in the mornings it usually woke up my brain and body to the obstacles in my day. I was what you called a gym freak, I would spend nights, even days in the gym just letting off steam.
That was one of the reasons Giovanni favoured me, I was a hard worker and would do extra work if necessary. He would always pet my head and praise me- in his twisted ways.
You’re like the devil’s pet... You’re doing good Shaneil next you might just end up being his mistress. I shivered as at that thought.
Never in a million years.
I continued this workout for a while - increasing the weight as I went - until I was worn out. I grabbed my towel and emptied my water bottle. I ascended the stairs, climbing two at a time and made my way to the elevator.
Perks of being a gang member... No stairs! I cheered.
Remember that what sweets you now will end up souring you in the end. A voice in my head retorted as I stepped into the elevator.
I shook my head pushing away that thought. I needed to shower and get out to the backyard.
I wouldn’t want to miss the game. Whatever they planned to play today should be fun and also would totally take my mind of my deal with the devil...
If not it should raise my spirit a bit. So it would be a win, win...
I walked through the metal door entering the backyard. I was now changed into a grey tank top, black leggings and Nike sneakers. My hair was corn-rowed back in two and the braids rested on my shoulder.
The rays of the sun hit my skin as I walked across the yard, the grass being trampled under my feet. The day was bright, warm and felt happy. I looked up into the sky watching a flock of birds fly by and sighed.
“Today is gonna be fun!” I said trying to talk things into being.
The sounds of children playing filled my ears and I smiled. I looked out at the little kids running up and down on the grass for a ball and it made my heart swell so, cute.
I smiled even more as I watched Artemis and Orion under a tree playing rock paper scissors. After Orion won the game I saw Artemis roll her eyes and lean in, giving him a peck on the lips. A blush crept on his face and they relaxed under the tree wrapped in each other’s arm.
Young love... The cutest and easiest thing to find but the hardest to keep.
They reminded me of me and Vanni, how we were before. Happy, carefree and in love but it didn’t last long... Young love rarely does.
I whipped my head around just in time to see a ball coming towards me. I ran back keeping my eyes on the ball as I attempted to catch it. Out of the corner of my eyes, I see Gavin running towards me, trying to catch the same ball.
I jumped into the air as he did and used my hip to push him away, catching the ball in my hands.
I landed with the ball and threw it back to the kids. I looked down at Gavin and chuckled. “Honey you can’t handle these hips.”
He laughed and pushed himself up off the ground, brushing of his hands. “Oh honey you can’t tackle this di-”
“I get it,” I said holding up my hands. “Virgin ears here.”
He chuckled again, showing off his pearly white teeth. He was cute like most of the boys here.
Gavin was eighteen with caramel skin adorned with tattoos that he hid behind a white marina and grey sweatpants. His most beloved tattoo was angel wings that covered his back. All the girls loved to trace with their fingers on the design and I was guilty as charged for that...
I mean he had killer muscles, an awesome personality and tattoos, like totally hot! I couldn’t resist... but we were just friends, the flirty kind but nothing serious.
He ran a hand through his black messy hair as his green eyes ran over my body. I rolled my eyes.
“Um... Manners much,” he stared at me, confused as I said that.
“Staring at someone like that is bad manners,” I continued, my hands on my hip.
“Well I’m sorry but when the piece you’re observing is so curvy you tend to get lost in it,” he said as he held my hand and brought it to his lips. ”Buenos dias, mi luz."
"Buenos dias señor," I replied with a teasing smile.
Gavin was cute and totally attracted to me but I wasn’t interested, thankfully he knew and respected that. Gavin was more of a one night stand kind of guy and I was in no rush to lose my v- cord but it didn’t hurt to flirt, did it?
We loved to flirt and I knew who would get ticked off this...
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him close. His hands wrapped around my waist and a charming smile crept on my lips.
“I have a feeling that someone was watching us,” he whispered as he leaned towards my ear, nibbling it.
I giggled at his actions but quickly ignored it. I looked around trying to spot who he was talking about and my eyes landed on Vanni. He was in a hammock which was tied to two trees, which provided shade for him.
He was in a white T-shirt, black shorts and his hair was wild and waiting for someone to just tuck the loose strands out of his face. His eyes were locked on me and Gav.
If looks could kill, I believed Gav would be at the bottom of a river drowning right now.
I smirked as his eyes held mine. I turned my head and kissed Gav on his neck earning a chuckle from him and look of anger from Vanni. He held my eyes in a deadly glare. Somebody’s jealous.
“I believe you’re right.” I responded as I looked away from Vanni’s glare.
“How about we tease him?” he asked with a mischievous look.
Gav knew about what happened between us a longtime ago, he thought Vanni was an ass to do that and I agreed. Gav also loved to tease people about foolish choices and now he wanted to tease Vanni. Bad move.
Before I could reply, Gavin released me, spun around and called out to Vanni. “Hey Ferrez you up for a friendly game?”
I looked at Gav like he was crazy and then turned to Vanni.
Vanni sat up in the hammock staring at Gavin with a sadistic smile on his lips. “Sure why not?”
I looked at Vanni and gulped. The look in his eyes told me that this was going to be a far from friendly game.
This was war.
“Okay so this is the wicket,” Gavin said as he hammered in three sticks- each an inch apart. “If the ball hits these you’re out.”
I nodded as I held the bat in my hand, it was flat, a bit wide and had a slim, thick handle. Today we were going to play cricket. Most of the players were clueless to this sport so Gavin was teaching them.
“So to sum it up, there are two wickets parallel to each other. If you are batting you stand in front of the wicket but behind the marked line. When the ball is thrown you bat, if you don’t hit a 4 or 6 points you run, any number of time you want to as long as your opposing team does not have the ball in their clutches. You run towards the wicket, hit your bat on the area behind the marked line and if you can run again you sprint afterwards. Is that clear?” asked Gavin.
The teams nodded and a boy rose his hand. I believed his name was Harry.
“How do you know if we hit a 4 or 6?” He asked.
“We estimate it... Like beyond the tree that Vanni was under is 4. Okay, so the team that gets the most points wins. Let’s play!” he said as he clapped his hands.
The group - consisting of sixteen persons - broke apart and took their positions, Vanni was at one of the wickets he was going to bold/ throw. He juggled the small, padded, rubber ball - not the appropriate ball but it was all we had- in his hands expertly. He looked up and then winked at me.
I shook my head and walked to the wicket.
“Can I get a test run?” I asked.
Gavin laughed and nodded. Vanni stepped back, running up to the wicket and threw the ball. I swung the bat and it slipped out of my hand, the ball flying behind me.
The children watching the game laughed and pointed at me.
The children were now watching the games like they did every week. Even Giovanni and the bitcheteers were watching and they rarely did that.
Giovanni was leaning over his balcony railing, the bitcheteers on either side of him.
I walked over to the bat, picking it up and came back to the wicket. “Again?”
Vanni hid his smile and stepped back.
“Wait,” said Gavin and Vanni halted.
Gavin came up behind me and placed his hands on my hips. He turned me sideways, the wicket on my right. He guides the bat to the ground, causing me to bend my back and then he used his knees to pressure the back of my knees, bending them.
“This is how you position yourself,” he said as he placed his hands over mine, his body on mine.
He swung the bat back and then forward. “That’s how you bat a ball. There are more ways but we’ll stick to that for now, okay?”
I nodded and he smiled. He pulled away his body and slapped my ass, walking off. “Hey!”
“What? You were asking for it positioning like that,” he grinned.
I rolled my eyes turned around, positioned myself and looked forward. Vanni looked like he was ready to blow a fuse. If we were in a cartoon his scalp would lift and steam would puff out. Yeah that mad.
He gazed at me with a clenched jaw and I gulped. I had a feeling that my flirting was going to come back and bite me in my ass... and I believed this was one moment.
“You can do it SJ, babe,” yelled PJ from under a tree, she was staring at Vanni but cheering for me.
Typical PJ, gawking at Vanni.
“Let’s get ready!” yelled Gavin.
Each player took their posts and the game commenced.
Vanni stepped back, running up to the other wicket and threw the ball, hard. I swung the bat with all my might and it made a clapping sound as they collided.
The ball flew over the fielder’s heads and landed in front of the ‘4’ tree. I had to run.
Wasting no time I ran forward, my partner doing the same. Richie, a red head grabbed the ball and flung it towards Vanni for him to ‘out’ me.
The adrenaline in my body pumped as I tried to out run the ball. I picked up speed and lengthened out the bat in front of me. I ran over the marked line/ safety zone as Vanni caught the ball and hit the wicket.
“Safe,” the umpire– a girl said, as she stands beside the wicket keeper– a boy.
I breathed heavily smiling and got ready to bat again.
Louis, the other bolder, threw the ball and I swung, hitting it hard. The ball flew over the marked tree and Tommy ran after it. I smiled in satisfaction, I made two successful hits already.
I was on a roll.
“Nice hits SJ but we are still going to win,” Vanni breathed down my neck.
Hearing him calling me SJ felt foreign and the sound of his voice had me worried, he sounded distant. I didn’t want to be with Vanni but I didn’t want him to hate me.
I wanted to have even a friendship if that was all it would go to... but my stubborn nature makes it hard for me to admit that.
Keep telling yourself that you want a friendship... When we all know you want him.
I shook my head, I didn’t want him, I just found him great company and a friend.
I lit up as a thought came into my head, I know the best way to get his spirits up. A challenge.
“Bring it Ferrez,” I challenged as I turned to face him.
“What do you have to lose?” he asked with a ‘this-should-be-fun’ smile.
“What do you want?” I retorted.
“A kiss... If we win you have to kiss me,” he smiles, his eyes glued on my lips.
Of course, a kiss... What did you think he would want?
I smiled, a blush tainting my cheeks. “Isn’t it a bit pathetic that you have to bet me to get a kiss?”
“It is but what fun would it be if I didn’t have to work for it?”
He winks at me and I bite my lip.
I thought about it for a while... should I? It looked like a trap but I was itching to say yes. Was it the thrill of beating his ass or the fact that if I lose I would get to kiss him and see if it felt the same way?
It’s because you wanna kiss him.
“What do you say? Yes or No... Plus I understand if you say no. It’s okay if you aren’t strong enough to bring your team through, cause let’s face it men are better than women at sports,” he said smugly.
Oh no he didn’t. Did he really just use that card? He really was going to regret that.
“You’re on and you’re gonna eat those words.”
“No, I’ll take pleasure in devouring your mouth instead.”
I scoffed and got ready to bat again.
The nerves of this guy. Men are so sexist... Women can’t do things, can’t do that, stay at home and cook.
This the twenty first century women are stepping up and doing the men’s jobs.
I was going to shove that comment so far down Vanni’s throat he’ll need to shit to get it out again.
I feel good about this... We are gonna win...
“Come on throw it!” I yelled as Alex caught the ball, that Richie just hit, after it rolled on the ground.
He flung the ball towards me and I ran back to catch it. My eyes were moving between the ball and Vanni who was running towards my wicket.
Come on ball fall faster!
I caught the ball just as Vanni was a few feet away from the wicket. I pulled my hand back then threw the ball towards the wicket.
The ball, Vanni... Who would reach first?
It was a close call. The ball, no Vanni, the ball, Vanni...
“Come on, come on,” I whispered, waiting for the outcome.
The ball hit the wicket just as Vanni’s bat crossed the line. The umpire yelled safe and I threw my hand up in disappointment.
I couldn’t believe it. After our team was out, Vanni’s went to bat, he was the first to bat and he was the last. He made sixes like it was nothing and the runs... If there was a slim chance he took it. He was a man on a damn mission.
A mission for your lips.
Not even Gavin could help our team, he and I made sixes but they weren’t enough to scrape through. The scores were 145 - 200.
Vanni went home with the win and now he was awaiting his prize, me. I shivered at the thought, this would not end well.
I walked towards the children, Vanni and his team celebrating their win behind me.
“SJ! You did great!” PJ cheered as she ran up and hugged me.
She retreated back after the moisture known as sweat came in contact with her skin. “Yuck you’re sweaty!”
I laughed at her girliness and shook my head. She smiled sheepishly and just then Arty ran this way.
“SJ that was wonderful!” said Artemis as she tugged Orion behind her. “That was some great batting!”
“Thanks Arty... Now, if you excuse me I need to shower. As PJ said I feel ‘yuck’,” she giggled and nodded.
“Great game!” yelled Orion as Artemis pulled him away.
“Meet us back here when you de-sweat,” said PJ as she ran over to the winning team.
I smiled as I walked away from the field towards the complex. I felt eyes on me and I didn’t have to turn to know who they belonged to but I felt some coming from above me.
I looked up to see Giovanni staring at me, intensively. I waved and he nodded, turning away abruptly.
I shrugged and continued walking, not daring to look behind me because I knew he was coming to get his prize I just didn’t know when.
...and that was what scared me the most.