I love being with Blake right now. The vibe is set to calm, as if we’re just two kids cruising through the night, stargazing and breathing and feeling the breeze through the window. But that’s not what’s going on at the moment. He’s driving and keeping his eyes pasted on the road, hands tinted with veins and jaw hardened for some reason. I want to hold his hand and relax his muscles. I want to ask why he’s so tense at times and wonder if he could let loose for awhile. But that would probably be inappropriate. What we’re about to face is most likely serious and heavy-handed, and I want to be attentive through it all.
I kind of don’t have a choice anyway.
“Hey Ron,” Blake speaks, immediately perking me up. “ya mom said to have you back before 11 so I’m kind of gone make this meeting go by prompt and fast.”
“When did she say that?”
“Damn Ron, you were right there.”
“I swear I wasn’t listening.”
“And why was that?”
He eyes me, a playful smile resting on his lips.
He knows why I wasn’t listening. He definitely knows.
“Because I just tend to tune her out a lot.”
“That ain’t nice. You need to pay attention to your mom sometimes. She may have something important to say.”
This strikes me in the heart a little, but not in a serious way. Of course I listen to my mother on average. I’m not some inconsiderate jerk who regards their mother’s feelings. What strikes me is how quiet Blake goes after his statement.
This makes me ponder...
“Did, did you listen to your mother?”
I’m scared now. Blake has not answered me and his grip on the steering wheel gets tighter. I gulp, putting up with his uncomfortable silence. The car turns down a dark street. The trees look extra bent and crooked and a little eerie in the darkness, adding to the uncomfortable factor of our dead-end conversation. I have the overwhelming urge to take the question back, but before I can, Blake stops the car and says, “We’re here.”
The hideout house is literally what I pictured it to be: old, run down, and a little shabby on the outside. At first glance you can’t even see the house. It’s positioned far back on the property and the front line of things are shaded with trees and a fence. Blake turns his engine off in the driveway and looks over to me, eyes dark and widening.
“Welcome to The Laboratory Dexter,”
We exit his Chevrolet and start towards the house. I cannot even lie and say anxiety isn’t crawling up my throat right now. The house looks small and abandoned. It looks haunted and filled with creepy spiders and it’s probably fragile with split wood and cracked floors. I know my imagination is taking a toll on me, and I can’t help it. The feel of this place is just so...
“You shaking in your boots over there dog. Calm down, this place don’t bite.”
He pats me on the back and I almost shiver against his touch. Blake pulls me closer and whispers in my ear, “It’s alright. Ain’t nobody gone grab you or anything,”
“I hope not,” I blush.
I stop dead in my tracks when the front door flies open and crashes against the wall, setting off an echoing bang. Antonio stands on the porch with a big smile on his face. He puts out what seems to be a cigarette and holds the door open for Blake.
“Everyone’s here líder,” Antonio says, then he see’s my presence and his face morphs more serious.
“You okay chico?” he asks, his face softening and tone lighter.
All I can do is nod. When Antonio gestures for me to enter, I hesitant for a moment. My nerves are skyrocketing on edge and I feel my heart pumping faster and faster with anticipation.
Blake must sense my uneasiness because he grabs me by the hand and says, “It’s okay Ron. I’m right here dude you’re okay now.”
“I feel like I’m having a panic attack,”
And I am. It’s hard for me to breath and I feel like crying and holding on to somebody.
Being in a foreign zone with all of these foreign things happening to me is not good for my overall health. Everything feels terrible. I hate having to be a burden all the time and it sucks ass that I feel so crappy in the worst situations. I wish I could hold it in and I wish I could just go inside this abandoned house with this gang and discuss whatever issues at hand but I’m terrified. I am truly, fully, honestly terrified.
Out of nowhere, before I can even think straight, Blake grabs my face and makes me look up at him. Tears are rolling down in quiet streams and I feel my hands shaking against my sides.
“Ron. Ron, I need you to look at me,”
“Yes, you can. Look man, I know it’s scary, and I know it’s unfamiliar, but you can do this. Just get mad dog. I need you to get mad.”
“I don’t know how to get mad...”
“Yes you do,”
“What are you talking about?”
“Get in this muthafucking house and be with us as a family member. Stop all this sissy ass crying because I know you mad deep down inside.”
“I’m not mad,”
“Yes you are,”
“I’m not mad,”
“I’m not mad!”
“Admit it! You’re mad because you’ve been pushed around your whole sorry life and need a way out. If you can’t handle this shit I can easily drop you back off at home.”
“Hey, what’s going on out he-”
Then Blake yells at me.
“You’re slowing us down Ron! I need you to stop fucking crying and come in the damn house. We’re not gonna hurt you. Nothing, outside of these walls, is going to hurt you. You’re with us now, and part of knowing that is knowing you gone be alright if shit ever goes down. You need to know that. I need you, to be the mad man I know you are because god dammit Ron I know you have it in you. I would’ve never helped you out in that locker room if I didn’t see it in you.”
The cool air graces across my face and I inhale a deep, cold breath. Blake is staring at me and I’ve somehow made eye contact with a worried Antonio and a puzzled Valerie. I disconnect contact from them and focus on Blake.
The only person I really care about.
The tears stopped long ago. I just feel frozen and numb. I know Antonio and Valerie are staring at me, probably thinking oh how embarrassing I am as a human.
But Blake’s eyes make my body relax. His eyes make me want to agree with everything he says. I can trust him. I can trust this situation, and I can trust this house.
So without further or do, I walk past Blake and make my way up to the porch. This time, when I lock eyes with Antonio and Valerie, I don’t show weakness. I hold their gazes; especially Valerie’s. Her eyes tell me she doesn’t want me here. My eyes show that I really don’t care.
The inside of the hideout house is actually nicer than I intended it to be. It’s not spectacular or anything, but the furniture looks clean and a little new and there are actually modern appliances in here, like a microwave in the kitchen and a flat-screen TV implanted on the wall in the living space. The only thing that actually sets this house apart from a regular looking home is the fact that the walls have one too many holes in it and that they’re peeling and yellowing from age. The aroma of the house smells really old too. I don’t even know how to describe something that smells “old,” but it definitely doesn’t smell too fresh. Also, the atmosphere of the place feels really worn, as if liveliness was just lifted a long time ago and now all that’s left is exhaustion and a bunch of outcast kids having gang meetings in it.
I wonder how the gang was capable of getting a place like this. Was the house really abandoned and they just stumbled upon it and decided to deck it out? Trying to figure out how the place came into captivity is utterly pointless, especially when Blake immediately comes out with protocol about current situations happening.
“Antonio, you did a safe check on the house?”
“Alright,” Blake takes a deep breath, and then looks to me. I’m sitting on the couch next to Barbara, who is less intimidating than Valerie and Antonio combined.
Blake looks to all of us now. It is so quiet that it feels like something is going to happen any minute. That’s when Blake takes his shot and addresses everything that’s been going on.
At least, he attempts to.
“Before we get started with the major news, I just want to everyone to know that Ron is our official new family member and we will-”
“To hell about Ron this and Ron that,” Valerie spats, standing up and crossing the living room to get to Blake. “tell us why the hell our inventory is low and why you fucked around and got suspended from school. You know our clients are gonna be bombarding us for supply that we barely fucking have because you’ve been snooping behind our backs doing God knows what with it.”
“How about you back the hell up off of me and go sit your ass back down.”
“Not until you come clean about what you’ve been up to,”
“Valerie what the hell are you talking ab-”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Shit, everyone in this room except Ron knows what I’m talking about because you’re in charge of our inventory and supply, which has been substantially low for us to have sold over three pounds over the past few months.”
“Valerie I suggest you calm your tone with me,”
“Calm my tone? You’re stressing us out! How are we even gonna maintain this house in a few more weeks? Huh? We know you’re the leader and you constantly claim you’re “in control” but what good are you as a leader if you’re snooping behind our backs paying more attention to some sorry ass bully victim than to your own business flopping right in front of your face?”
Blake does something I have never seen him do before.
He cocks his eyebrow. Stares Valerie straight in the eye. She doesn’t falter though, and this scares the living daylights out of me. The tension is so thick that if anyone were to say a word right now, I’m pretty sure it would be deemed as unsuitable. Hell, me being here right now is probably unsuitable.
What’s even more unsuitable is the hard, sharp expression pressed into Blake’s features. I haven’t seen him look mean in a really long time it seems. Not this type of mean. Not as if he could sucker punch someone on the spot and probably stab them to death if he could. This is not the Blake I like seeing.
But Valerie has pushed him over the limit.
“First of all...Valerie,”
Blake slowly gets in her face, posture unflinching and voice deep and low. Barbara shifts uncomfortably next to me and tries to hide her face in her hand. Antonio looks at them worriedly, hands fiddling on the crouch of his pants.
I hold my breath out of fear. I have no idea where this meeting is going right now.
Blake continues, voice surprisingly calm but piercing as he steps even closer to her face. They are mere inches apart and this makes me nervous.
“If I don’t properly recall, weren’t you that same, sorry ass bully victim that got teased over her greasy hair and bad body odor because your house didn’t have running water and so that meant you couldn’t shower? Weren’t you that same sorry ass bully victim that cried everyday in the girl’s bathroom for hours because you felt as if no one loved you, and no one ever would?”
Valerie looks default. Her whole body is unreadable. I’m not sure whether or not Blake is making some good points here, but it shows Valerie as an exposed and flawed human. She’s in the spotlight to be vulnerable and possibly shunned, but I find that unlikely as I’m pretty sure the rest of the gang already know her backstory.
They know everyone’s story except mine.
“Oh. And that one day, when you came to me filled with courage and a broken tooth, pleading for me to take you up under my wing because you had had enough of your abusive ass father? You don’t remember none of that, you sorry ass bully victim?”
No one says anything for the passing moments. Valerie backs away from Blake and takes her seat back on the recliner adjacent from the sofa. Everyone except me has their eyes plastered to the floor. Blake makes eye contact with me, but it’s not warm and caring at all. I gulp, and look down at the floor too. A stressed out bull growls in front of us, and then kicks over a table stand, startling our nerves worse than they were before. I slightly flinch, feeling as if someone is going to hit me. It’s just Blake’s rage taking over.
“Isn’t that why all you sorry muthafucka’s are here right now?! Because ya’ll were treated like shit at one point? You got a lot of fucking nerve Valerie, getting in my fucking face like that over some bullshit. All you sorry bitches need me in your lives, or you’d be no one! Ya’ll would be somewhere right now, lost or dead without me. Don’t one of ya’ll ever think about approaching me like that. Ever. You better be lucky I didn’t punch your fucking lights out Valerie, you angry ass bitch.”
It’s crazy how fast Blake’s temper flares. One minute he’s cool and collected, and the next he’s shouting at us, making us feel like shit.
Blake has full validity to claim us as the lives he’s taken in. He sure did take me under his wing. I’m not afraid to admit that. What I am afraid of, though, is the dangerous gleam reflecting off of Blake’s eyes. He looks as if he really wants to hurt one of us. I don’t know why Valerie had to go and get him all upset, considering she was in the same predicament as all of us at some point. This makes me wonder if Valerie’s problem with Blake goes deeper than just “him-being-secretive-about-some-drugs-and-money.” Something else is there, but I’m not sure what it is.
Why else would she immediately assume that Blake cares more about me than his responsibilities?
Speaking of responsibilities, that’s when Blake shifts gears of the mood. He calms down, shoulders slumping and neck cracking. He turns to face all of us, tone still rigid and fierce but words smooth and comprehensible.
“Now, back to business, and not little girl bullshit.”
Everyone’s eyes are on him. It’s finally time to hear about what’s been going on.
“I know ya’ll are stressed out because I got into that fight Monday with that chump who had the nerve to get in my face over some petty shit. I wasn’t here for any of it. So he approached me in the cafeteria wanting his one-on-one and I gave it to him. I even cut him. Now, this fight ain’t the reason why the principal wants to expel me. Ya’ll know I’m a fucking delinquent. School and I don’t click and that’s been something I’ve accepted since I was a kid. The students are scared of me and constantly report me for harassment and bullying and shit, so I guess this fight was the last straw. I gotta have a conference with ol’ boy myself, see what he’s trying to do with me. That means, that starting next week, I need you guys to be on your A-game when it comes to dealing these last amount of drugs. I know ya’ll used to me taking the heavy end of the bargain, but I’m bout to be gone soon.”
“Have you gotten more supply from TJ yet?” Barbara asks, hand resting on my knee. I can tell she’s nervous, and she can’t keep her hands in one place.
“I’m going to; haven’t got in contact with him yet. I’m calling early tomorrow and driving up to get more supply, since I know we’re fairly low.”
“How much do you plan on spending for supply?” Antonio questions. “Val and I checked the inventory the other day, we’re down almost a whole grand.”
“I don’t put all the funds in our inventory, of course,” Blake explains, arms crossed while he paces around. “We still have loads of cash. And I mean loads.”
“How much is...loads?” I prompt, and Blake smirks at me, which makes me shy in return.
“Thousands on top of thousands. We’re well off.”
“Remember, none of us have guardians,” Barbara reminds me, eyes suddenly filled with sadness. “we live on our own. All we have is each other. Selling drugs is how we prosper.”
“Kind of crazy how you can still go home to a breakfast in bed while daddy reads you a bedtime story,” Valerie grumbles under her breath.
I am the only one in the room who has a real home to go to. My parents are still in my life, I have a younger sibling, but somehow, I still feel like one of them. I am miserable, despite having a family or not. The Mitchell’s may be saints to the outside world but they all fail to realize that they’ve left a family member behind.
A long time ago.
I even feel the need to let her know this.
“Sometimes the loneliest people are surrounded by the brightest faces. I should know this because my family are those bright faces and I’m the lonely one.”
Valerie glares at me with dark blue eyes. Finally deciding to ignore her, I turn my attention back to Blake. His face is still and he’s staring at all of us. Antonio then stands to his feet and stretches, a yawn escaping his lips.
“So in a nutshell, we’re gonna be alright? You’re calling TJ tomorrow, we’re gonna get these drugs sold, and maybe upgrade the house a bit more?”
“Well, everything isn’t rainbows and sunshine just yet,” Blake warns. “Barbara made a dumb ass decision without my input on Wednesday and now I have to deal with that, later on.”
Barbara’s face reads apologetic, and she lowers her head. Valerie perks up, dark hair falling over her shoulders.
“Well at least Barbara is making moves out here. It’s a great opportunity. Wealthy kid from The Pine Hills hits us up for a huge order of pot and coke for some birthday party of his. In a mansion.”
“I told ya’ll don’t ever make deals with people who aren’t usual clients. How do we know this kid from Pine Hills doesn’t have a father as a cop and that he’s secretly setting us up?”
“It’s not like that,” Barbara argues, voice stern and pointed. “kid just wants to get high and dazed and he knows we’re the right people to make him that deal. We’re bound to get at least five grand out of him, for the amounts he was pleading for.”
So this was why Blake had that angry phone call with Barbara while we were in Chicago. Things are making a little more sense to me now, and a wave of relief washes over me as I’m not completely in the dark as to what’s going on.
The only thing swimming in my mind is whether or not Blake will make me deal or not.
“So now I’m bout to be spending seven grand on supply from TJ just to sell to this stupid rich kid,”
“Well at least it’s next Friday,” Barbara says, trying to find light in the situation. “hopefully we’ll have made plenty of profit by then so that way we can afford the extra drugs from TJ,”
“Ya’ll gone make me a mad man,” Blake chuckles, and actually hearing him act human is what settles all of our nerves.
Although Blake’s change of heart is very transparent and conceivable, behind his subtle smile and upturned lips, there is fear in his eyes.
I don’t know what it is, but Blake looks terrified of something.
And I want to know why.
My phone reads 9:51 pm in electric blue font signaling me to ask Blake when I will be leaving. I don’t want my parents to worry about me nor do I want to give them an excuse to deem me “irresponsible” for staying out past my given curfew.
It sucks that I really have to say that.
Once the gang members clear out to their rooms for the night, Blake guides me down a stuffy, dim-lit basement to show me where the “inventory” and “supply” are.
“I’ve been thinking real hard about this,” Blake starts, walking extremely fast down every step of the staircase. “and I’ve decided that you will be dealing drugs along with the others.”
My heart pounds unhealthily and I even feel like stopping to catch my breath, but I’ve had my fair share of anxiety attacks and constantly having them around the gang will only deduce my worth and compatibility of fitting in here.
Once we reach the floor of the basement, my eyes widen at the massive, science-like laboratory filled with bags on top of bags and lab tools and a refrigerator and even a mini scale I presume is there to weigh the drugs.
“This is unreal,” I chuckle under my breath, causing Blake to look at me.
“Well believe it’s real, because this weekend, I’mma need you and the others in here doing a lot.”
I soak in everything around me. The walls are made of dark oak and it compliments the atmosphere extremely well. On top of that, the lights are very dim and somewhat gives the basement a chilling, eerie vibe, as if maybe someone is stashed down here or there’s a hoard of bodies just rotting beneath the floor.
I tell my mind to stop exaggerating and focus on breathing.
This is what you signed up for. This is apart of being in a gang now.
Blake looks over at me and there’s a soft look in his eyes, which is weird considering how livid he was just fifteen minutes ago.
I’m at a loss for words as my surroundings are truly unfamiliar and intimidating. I’m about to be sucked into a world that I know nothing about yet. Drugs, money, hideout houses, and respect.
But this is what I ultimately want.
“You ready to learn how to do this man?”
I step closer to him, my eyes locking on to his.
God, I want to focus but Blake’s eyes are so beautiful.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
1. Our “inventory,” is located in a false floor behind the staircase of the basement. Then there is a safe, with a portion of money earned from selling our “supply,” which is marijuana and cocaine. Blake promised me that I or the other members don’t have to worry about dealing the coke. That’s his job. We just focus on selling and managing the weed, which is “high end” stuff that we sell for a hefty price.
2. Not all of our funds go in the inventory, just a portion. Blake keeps the majority of funds stashed in a whole other location he won’t tell me about.
3. Blake buys our supply of drugs from a man named TJ. Apparently, he is a good friend/business partner of Blake’s. Blake buys thousands of dollars worth of supply to sell for a profit. He only buys the really good stuff.
4. For now, I need to be very observant and give minimal details. This is for safety purposes at all times.
5. Selling cannabis to consumers means knowing the lingo that comes with selling people the appropriate amount of supply along with the price that corresponds to it.
A “dime,” is usually a 1 gram bag that usually sells for ten dollars. The reason I say usually all depends on the seller and the quality of the supply. Since our supply is top notch, Blake prices our dime bags at a solid $15 instead of $10. Same goes for a dub ($20), eighth ($30), quarter ($50). These are just usual prices. Our supply cost much higher.
6. My new responsibility involves breaking the cannabis and weighing it appropriately. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the hideout house.
7. Also a new responsibility of mine; make connections with people. Drug connections more specifically. I can do this through Antonio, Barbara, and Valerie by associating myself with their clients and meeting mutual, like-minded people.
8. I must always wear some form of purple and denim. This is our affiliation with one another. Purple is a color that represents nobility, power, and ambition. Blake just likes wearing jean jackets and forces the rest of us to follow suit.
9. I have to vow to always have my gang member’s backs. If shit goes down, I have to be there to get involved too.
And last but not least...
10. I must always carry a gun.