His words held a force I couldn’t bear and I collapsed to my knees, releasing a gut-wrenching sob that could be heard for miles. I was hysterical. Tears flowed down my cheeks like an endless river and my skull throbbed painfully. Memories of that night were a freshly cut wound in my injured soul. Sirens blared hauntingly in the distance, gradually getting louder as reality sunk in.
You didn’t kill him
You didn’t kill him…
The mantra was useless - the damage was done. The sound of my bedroom door opening wasn’t unheard but I was too weak to see my visitor. Hands touched my shoulder, hands I recognised. Mama? Her touch dragged my spirit from the darkest depths of hell but the pain was too severe to end my grief.
“What’s wrong?” She asked but I didn’t say anything. She was afraid, I knew it. Rarely did I ever break down in the presence of others. “Oh my god, John! John!”
The door banged open, again, and my step father’s heavy footsteps vibrated through the wooden floor. He cursed under his breath. He lifted me into the air bridal style, rushing down the stairs before entering the living area. I refused to open my lids, losing myself in a dark abyss where salvation couldn’t be found.
“McKenna, please talk to me!” Alexis’ voice echoed around the room. She was worried as any mother would.
“Did she take her meds?” John asked frantically.
“They don’t always work and she doesn’t take them often.”
“McKenna, look at me!” He snapped, compelling me to meet his gaze. His dark brown eyes flickered from left to right, searching for an explanation he will never find. He never understood. That was one lifeline gone. “Calm down,”
Yusuf walked into my line of sight. He didn’t appear in their eyes as he was my personal tormentor. There wasn’t an ounce of strength in me to get angry at his disgusting smirk so I just closed my eyes and willed his presence away. I blamed him for everything. My resentment was so great, I couldn’t see past anything but him. His influence was inevitable. I was aggressive growing up, involved in more fights than I could count. My changing mood swings ranged from extreme elation to severe temporal depression. At first, ma thought I was imitating his actions. From a visual aspect, one may assume I had bad parenting but they weren’t aware of my genetic makeup making me the person I was today. The low buzz of voices and my exhaustion coaxed me to sleep. I willingly surrendered, wanting to forget the world I was living in.
My hell on earth.
“She needs to talk to someone. You saw what happened?”
I roused, sitting up on the couch, staring into the darkness of the night. The kitchen lights caught my attention and I followed the voices. I stood by the threshold, the door covering half of my body as I watched John and Alexis speak.
“We can’t force her to talk to anybody, she has to do it at her own will,” She said, not meeting her husband’s gaze.
“This is ridiculous,” John shook his head in exasperation. I frowned, irritated.
“It’s not ridiculous,” I spat more harshly than I anticipated and pushed the door aside. They regarded at me in surprise, obviously not expecting my appearance. “My condition is not ridiculous. Your ignorance is,”
His eyes softened with regret. “I didn’t mean it like that.-“
“Good because you don’t understand half of it,”
“Enough,” Alexis barked, glowering at me. Silence fell upon us but it was so still, I could hear crickets from outside. John looked uncomfortable as he shifted from foot to foot, his eyes glancing from me to my mother. She turned her stern eyes to her husband.
“John, can we have a minute, please?” He scurried away without hesitation, his footsteps echoing how alone I was with her. She gave me that look only reserved for a child and I groaned inwardly, preparing for her unnecessary scolding.
“What is this about?” She asked a little hostile. “Why bring up the past?”
“John understands what happened before. He accepts it and we moved on. He sees you as a daughter and genuinely cares while you snap at him so rudely,”
“Ma, he understands you and your past, not mine,”
She paused and furrowed her brows. She blinked a couple times but I didn’t elaborate. Yusuf’s death affected me much more than it did for her. In some ways, it was a relief but in others, it was the death of my spirit. I didn’t want to appear as the selfish daughter because she was happy with her new life. I didn’t want to drag her down into my own grief and misery. She stared at me expectantly but I kept my mouth shut.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Taking a deep breath, I prepared to reveal the truth… my truth.
“I see him sometimes…” I whispered, licking my bottom lip nervously.
“You see Yusuf?” She looked horrified. “How?”
“Whenever my mood is very low, I see him and he taunts me and-” I rubbed my sleepy eyes, cleansing away the lasting essence of his appearance.
“Is he here now?”
“No,” I shook my head rapidly. “It’s… complicated,”
She dragged her fingers through her blonde hair, shock radiating from her delicate features. Her face was incredibly pale, dread seeping through her pores and the hairs on my skin stood at the change in atmosphere. This was another reason why I didn’t confess earlier; she was the main victim of this whole disaster.
“You can see his ghost. Is he haunting the house?”
“I think he’s haunting me,”
She laughed nervously, shaking her head in disbelief. He was a figment of my imagination, roping me back to the past. We were so alike, it was uncanny. Not only appearance wise but through our personality. Hearing his accusations broke me completely.
He was the reason why I hadn’t returned over the last seven years.
“What are we going to do?” She asked more to herself than to me.
“I’m going out for a walk,” I murmured, retreating back into the darkness, grabbing my jacket and walked out the door.
She needs time to think everything through. I thought. The cool crisp air sliced through my skin before I wore my jacket and I jogged down the steps, walking into the night, inhaling the breeze to clear my mind. Later on, Alexis and I would talk more about it and I’d explain more in depth why I was always so… so closed off. I loved her but over the years, there was a disconnect between us. I cared enough to come back but I wasn't ready to stay. Instantly, my mind went to Bruce and I smacked my skull in irritation. It was nothing more than physical attraction. End of.
Maybe I might go back to New Orleans. I liked the vibe there. It was a cultural melting pot mixed with music that could lift your soul from your body. I could live in the French quarters with Aunt Betty and get lost in a sea of people where nobody would recognise me. It was the perfect escape.
Hands grabbing my upper arm dragged me down to earth and my reflexes kicked in as I swirled around, pushing the stranger with all my might.
“Whoa!” A low chuckle travelled through the air. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just want to talk,”
He stepped into view under the street light, his hazel eyes appearing bright with recognition and interest.
“I knew I’ve seen you before.”
He flashed a grin, revealing all of his straight white teeth contrasting his dark skin. I stepped back hesitantly as he stepped forward, scratching the little hairs on his chin with a curious look.
“McKenna Said, right?”
I searched his face warily, unable to place him in my memories. “Who are you?”
“You worked at McGregor’s Mechanics didn’t you?”
I nodded. “You saw me there?”
“Yes and I’m sure you know that Kane McGregor didn’t own a legitimate organisation,” He closed the distance between us. If his grin got any wider, I was afraid it would split his face into two. “You used to boost cars for him,”
“I gotta pay way through life somehow. I’m not flexible enough to be a stripper,”
He snorted. “I don’t get that vibe from you. You’re not the typical girl I see on these streets, ”
I shrugged unapologetically. First, it was Bruce with the wine and dine comment, now this? I didn’t start out with a regular life and it didn’t allow me to be your typical girl. “That’s not my life anymore,”
“Why don’t I believe you?” He asked, his right shoulder leaning against the brick wall. “You see, McKenna, you and I are a lot alike,”
I gave him a once over and met his gaze. He wore a light grey sweater which fought off the evening chill, matching grey Nikes and dark jeans. For some reason, he didn’t rub me off the wrong way like most people in town. Subconsciously, I relaxed my shoulders and folded my arms across my chest.
“We move around, you know, we don’t stay in one place for too long which means we need to make some cash somehow,”
“Don’t beat around the bush,” I sighed in exasperation.
“I want you to steal a couple of cars for me,”
“Are you deaf?” I laughed sardonically. “I don’t do that shit no more,”
He scowled at me and I tried to stifle another round of laughter. “Oh, I know but I’m ignoring what you said,”
“I’m working at Alice’s bar to get some money, so I’m covered.”
He was annoyed and I couldn’t blame him. I was good at what I did. I made enough money from Kane to travel from New York back to Louisiana. I did what was necessary or at least what I thought was at the time. It was a very long time ago.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Tony rocked back and forth, his lips twisting with displeasure. “Yeah, I’m not taking no for an answer,”
He took another step forward but I held my ground, watching him attentively with caution. Balling my fists, I prepared myself in case things turned for the worse. He took note of this and held up his hands in a placating manner.
“I’ll be off but my offer still stands. I’m not gonna harm you… for now,”
“You’re threatening me?”
“I’m giving you an ultimatum,” His sly smirk was back “You’ve got a week and a half to give me your correct answer. I’m sure that’s enough time, right?”
I stared at him, dumbfounded as he walked back before spinning on his heels. I had a week and a half for what? I thought to leave it as an empty threat but something in my gut wouldn’t allow me to do so.
I guess shit did turn for the worse.