Bullets of Love and War

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Chapter 22

It’s getting ready to rain today. In the middle of the night, I had felt the temperature in my room drop and now it’s unattractively gray and foggy outside. Illinois corresponds with the conditions of each season, so since it’s autumn, it’s usual to be sunny one day and kind of rainy the next.

Or maybe life is just preparing me for this disastrous day?

Once I’m cleaned up and downstairs for breakfast, Emily walks in and randomly comes up to my lap. She climbs on it and sits down, bumping my chin with her head in the process. I feel the soft strands of her silky hair and it drives me crazy how pretty an eight year old can be.

She turns her head to look at me. Smiles. I smile back.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“I’m actually eating something, so I must be.”

“Good,”

She jumps down and gives me a kiss on the cheek. Not only does this make me feel incredibly awkward, it makes me feel weak. Why should my little sister be looking out for me instead of the other way around? She reminds me just how pathetic I am, and I can only pay her back by loosely smiling and standing up to walk away.

I stare out of the living room window with condensation dripping down in streaks of silver. The intensity of the environment makes me oddly comfortable. Gray sky instead of blue sky; wet air instead of dry air.

My dad joins me by the window out of nowhere. A group of teens make their way over to the bus stop. All in coats, umbrella’s clad in hands. My dad’s hands press on my shoulders, rattling me a little bit.

“How come you don’t talk to any of the neighborhood kids?” he ponders.

This makes me laugh my insane, trouble laugh. My dad laughs with me. Nothing is really funny.

I just know what to expect out of this day.

On the school bus, everyone is noisy and disruptive as I rest my head against the rain-stained window. Going to school won’t be normal as always. I’ll have to see Valerie, Antonio, and Barbara. They’ll have to beat my ass for submission into their familyhood. One part of me is so used to ass beatings that I almost endure this as a challenge rather than a test. How bad can they beat me? Sometimes I feel like I’ve already experienced the worst of the worst when it comes down to pain. My head aches and the tension in my heart just might be killing me.

We pull up to Lincoln High and the school looks entirely different in a rainy setting. It looks more safe; more humble and sturdy when the clouds are so angry. Stepping off of the bus with no umbrella, I pull my windbreaker hoodie over my head to prevent any water damage to my hair. Students - especially the girls - rush inside to get out of the rain whereas I am taking my time. I have zero interest in being boxed in this stupid school for seven hours and zero tolerance for anyone’s bullshit today.

As I’m about to make it through the main entrance, I see a hand from my peripheral vision waving me down from afar. I look up and see the distant figure of Antonio. He’s in a rain poncho, loud and banana colored. Raindrops skid against my eyelashes and I blink them away. I am unsure whether this is a good call or not. I walk over to him just in case.

“Antonio? Why aren’t you in the school?”

“Hey Ron,” Antonio smiles at me.

This catches me off guard, as I didn’t expect Antonio to be so nonchalantly smiling in a banana poncho.

“I’m actually surprised you saw me. I thought you were gonna keep it moving.”

“How can I when you’re in a bright yellow poncho?”

Antonio shakes his head and laughs it off. I can’t understand why his voice flows when he talks in his Latin-deprived accent. His body is relaxed. His smile is lazy. He must be smiling all the time.

I’m not sure whether to fear this smile or like it a little bit.

I huff out a mouth full of fog and I feel the rain seeping through the thin of my hoodie and soaking my scalp. The sensation of it feels nice along with Antonio’s reassuring smile.

“Anyway, I was waving you over here because I hope you understand the protocol of what’s gonna be happening from now on.”

I nod, although I feel sick about the answers soon to come.

Antonio stares at me with eyes that look high and lost. Lost in what exactly, I dont know. I would hate for it to be me, but I really doubt that so I’m finalizing he hit some bud before school or something.

For someone to be aimlessly smiling in the rain wearing a color so contradictory it’s ridiculous, I’d say my inference is in the right direction of accuracy.

Speaking of directions, we eventually make it out of the rain and head inside the school. It’s a sticky sort of warm in here, and it makes me break a mini sweat. I pull back my hood and am appalled once I see Adrienne charging toward me.

But she halts. Her face drops. She wants to say something but her mind is holding her back from whatever she wants to spew. She only stops and stares.

She sees me with Antonio.

She now believes I was serious.

Once Adrienne pivets on her heel and charges back down the hallway, a hard pang of guilt suddenly punches me in the stomach. How can I be so inconsiderate and careless towards the only girl who loves me? Adrienne has looked out for me during times I needed watching the most. She asked me questions. She learned to tolerant my scarred ways. She learned to believe in who I am and ended up loving me anyway.

But she still failed to see what was wrong. She still doesn’t see what’s wrong, which is why I only shake my head when I can’t see her flowing brown hair anymore.

I snap out of my heartbreaking trance when I hear a rolling laughter. I turn to see Antonio shamelessly pointing down the hall and cracking up at Adrienne.

“Man did you see her face?” he asks between chuckles. “She, she looked mad as hell.”

“Nothing is funny Antonio.”

He immediately stops laughing and this is the moment I realize I need to start closing my god damn mouth around these gang kids. They ignite out of nowhere at the worse times...just like Blake had.

Antonio only sniffles what I consider a passing moment of deep thought. I hope I haven’t pissed him off. He’ll definitely throw his punches strong later.

I don’t comprehend how long I’m standing in the crook of the hallway thinking about Adrienne until the homeroom bell sounds. Students start shuffling and filing everywhere and I’m still standing; mind fuzzy in areas I’m trying to understand.

When I finally look up to see the world shifting around me, that Brandon guy from the locker room passes by me with a death glare crafted by Satan himself. This makes my heart shutter.

I wonder why he bothers noticing me.

Antonio pats me on my back and juts his chin towards the entrance door.

“C’mon Ron. We gotta head out now.”

“Wait w-what?”

Antonio observes the sheets of rain for a moment too long because Barbara emerges from the cafeteria, cereal and milk still in her hands.

“We gotta go,” is all she states, tossing her breakfast in the trash.

I’m the only one sweating bullets here. I’m the only one shaking because they’re talking about skipping school and we just got here.

I’m the only one dreadful of whatever’s about to go down.

“Let’s hurry up and make it to Oak Grounds,” Antonio says, rushing to the front doors with Barbara.

I’ve stayed back to momentarily counsel myself on the tough decision I’m about to make.

You signed yourself up for this, you have to follow protocol now.

Although you hate this school and the students, you don’t want to risk getting in trouble. Then you’ll really be a laughing stock.

Ron, just take your ass to homeroom. You don’t want to do this. You can’t. You don’t have the heart for this shit.

“Yo!” Antonio has the front door propped open with his foot, rain pelting his body. “C’mon before security come.”

My heart can be heard in my ears. Blood is warming up my face. I bite down on my tongue to ease the pulses beating throughout my body. Antonio looks left and right and in slow, slow motion, I hear the words fall out of his mouth.

“Bring. Yo. Ass. On!”

And in slow, slow motion, I feel the rain pounding against the hot pulse of my body as I’m running deeper and deeper into this dark reality I’ve created for myself.

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