“You know what we should do?” I ask with a big smile as I cuddle Amaya close to my chest and she holds onto me as if I’m the only thing she could’ve ever wanted. I feel that same way.
“What?” she asks before switching around in my arms so we’re facing each other. I tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.
“We should go on that date that you agreed to a few months ago that we never ended up going on because things just kept getting in the way. Then after that date, we can come home and I’ll tell you all about the name I thought of for our baby girl.” That beautiful smile spreads across her face, she brings me a bit closer.
I feel my heart start to speed up in my chest when I think about how I’m the one that makes her this happy. I got that smile there. The one that’s reserved for me and me alone.
“I think I’d like that, but how do you know there’s a girl in there, it could easily be another two boys.”
“Any child with you is enough for me, Wonder Woman.” A light tint shows up on her caramel features. “If there isn’t a baby girl this time around I’ll just keep getting you pregnant until one makes an appearance.” That earns me a swift slap on the chest. That was worth it. “I’m just saying, that way she’d have at least three older brothers keeping her away from the monstrous creatures that are men. It’d also be fun to make her.”
“Putting aside that pervy comment you made, you do realize that you are one of those creatures, as is the first-born.” I shake my head before she gives me a side glance.
“I mean, I am a guy, so is Aaron, but I was raised the right way. I very much so respect women and my sexual jokes are only towards you and when I’m around you. I make sure you know that I love you and it’s more than physical with us. We’re raising Aaron and other boys we have that same way.
“Some boys were just raised terrible and turn out to be such pieces of shit for no damn reason. I swear it’s disgusting.”
I get flashes of the day Cody ran to me down the hallway as fast as he could manage, yelling that Dylan was badly hurt. The second I saw Dylan’s face all busted, his body slightly twitching with the pain, and those damned bloodstains on his shirt, I wanted to find the two boys that did it and do the same to them.
I wanted to break them, but nowhere near as much as Cody had. I remember seeing him crying his eyes out. That was the day Aaron got sick too, so I left Dylan’s house to come back here, get the soup, and drive to Amaya’s place.
“You’re too good of a father to let any of our boys turn out like that. You don’t have to worry.”
“It’s kind of a scary thought. What if I fail them?” I ask in a small voice.
“Shawn, you’ve helped me raise Aaron perfectly well. You always do your best and that’s the most we really can do. We can’t allow our fears to hold us back from putting ourselves out there. I didn’t exactly have the best role models in my life, my only real ones being your mom and dad.
“I’m not even on speaking terms with my mom right now.” A flash of anger covers those grey eyes as they slightly narrow.
“My mom-” Her phone starts to ring before she goes to grab it.
“Don’t answer it.”
I want to know what happened between her and her mom that made her not speak to her mom. She’s always kept her bitter feelings toward Rachael hidden for some strange ass reason that I never understood.
Amaya shakes her head before answering the phone.
“Yeah,” she speaks into the phone; she looks over to me. “That’s the name that was given to me.” My ears perk up with sudden interest as to who she’s on the phone with along with what they’re talking about. I know it concerns me. “Holy shit,” she gasps out before jumping out of my arms to throw on some clothes and her Converse that sit right next to the bed.
“Amaya, what’s-” She holds up a hand to silence me.
“I’ll be there as fast as I can.” Where is she going? Amaya hangs up the phone, a string of swears coming out.
“Can I borrow your car?” she speedily asks, her eyes staring me down. Then I see it, the blatant fear that breaks me.
“Of course, but can you tell me what’s wrong?” I grab my car keys, placing them in the palm of her outstretched hand.
“I don’t have time to explain this Shawn, please, I’ll tell you everything you want and need to know when I get back.” That makes me even more on edge, Amaya isn’t the type of person to plead. Whatever is going on right now must be serious.
She chastely pecks my lips before running out of the room and down the stairs to the front door. I wait a solid minute to throw on some clothes, my Tims, and a jacket so there isn’t a chance of her coming back to catch me getting ready to chase her. I already knew the chances of that before were incredibly low since she looked so damn spooked, but I couldn’t risk that.
“Xavier, come here!” I yell out for him without a single care of someone else hearing how my voice quivers in the slightest. Seeing that look on her face makes me terrified because she’s rarely scared, and if she is, she never makes it known. Not in the way she just did.
“What’s up, and where’s Amaya headed off to?” Xavier doesn’t waste time asking questions as he steps into my room.
“Something’s wrong and we’re going to find out where she’s going, get your car keys and some warmer clothes. Be ready in five minutes.” Xavier doesn’t argue with the fact that I’m bossing him around but instead follows my orders, most likely starting to realize that it’s something I’m dead serious about. Amaya is my priority right now.
I grab my phone to call the only person I know that can track someone down in five minutes.
“What’s up?” Jonah’s voice sounds so damn tired and for a second I feel guilty. I hope he wasn’t sleeping.
“Things were going good, I started to remember a lot of things, almost everything is back now,” I rushedly get out, “but that’s not why I’m calling. It’s Amaya-”
“Did something happen?!” he gets this panicky quality in his voice.
“We were in bed talking to each other before she got this phone call that made her look almost like she was seeing some ghost or something. That’s when she ran out of the house after I gave her my car keys,” I give him all the information he needs to know to get him on board with the request I’m about to make. “Can you track where she’s going?”
“Of course I can do that, but the question is, are you sure you want me to? She’s gonna be highly pissed off if she finds out that you tracked her down, she’ll probably say something like that’s a breach of privacy and shows you don’t trust her or some shit along the lines. She’ll also kill me because she knows that I’d be your first call to do some shit like this.” I run my hand through my hair in deep thought.
I could just be overreacting. Amaya could be perfectly safe and I’m reading too far into all of this. A breach in trust like this… fuck, I know it’s wrong… but I’d hate myself if I wasn’t there for there when she needed me.
“Do it, I can handle the consequences if I have to, I can’t risk something happening to her.” It doesn’t take me long to reach that decision either.
“You’re a good boyfriend.” I try. “She’s at the Rockwin warehouse.” Well, that doesn’t sound like some shady ass shit at all. “I think you should bring Eli with you.”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
I look over to my bedroom door, seeing Aaron standing there holding Xavier’s hand in his own, those big green eyes watching me closely. He’s enough to make me fall apart, but I can’t. I’ve got to figure out what the hell is going on. That face fills with worry for him and I decide not to be stubborn.
“If you think I need him, call him.” I hang up to walk a bit closer to Aaron, his hand drops Xavier’s so he can throw his arms around my leg. “We have to go out for a bit, but when we come back, I’ll make it up to you, alright?”
“Okay, be careful.” He doesn’t bother to ask where we’re going and I’m glad. I wouldn’t know how to explain to him that I’m running off of a feeling that’s telling me something is up with Amaya, not to mention that she might be in danger.
“I always try to be.” I pat him on the top of his head.
“Are you getting Mommy?” Aaron makes sure to look right into my eyes when he asks.
“Yeah. We are,” Xavier answers for me before creeping up behind Aaron to toss him up in his arms. A smile spreads across his face, making the worry disappear. “And when we come back, you might just be asleep, but in the morning I’ll get you a donut if you want.”
“Smoothie too?” Aaron’s voice gets so damn hopeful. I wish the thought of a donut and smoothie could do that for me.
“Yes, I’ll get you a smoothie too.”
“Okay!” He jumps down from Xavier’s arms to run out of the room. We go behind him, but go our separate ways once we’re down the stairs.
“Mom! Grandma! Grandpa! We’re going out for a bit and will explain things when we get back, please keep an eye on Aaron!” I yell out without stopping any of my steps.
I can’t take the risk of being late. Not with a feeling like I’m being eaten from the inside out with dread, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t want to find Amaya in a terrible situation, or the fact that I wish I told her to bring me with earlier.
“Toss me the keys.” Xavier does before I unlock the car, both of us getting in at the same time.
“You want to tell me what’s going on now?” he asks while pulling on his seatbelt; I do the same before pulling onto the road quicker than I should. Legally, that could cause me, or rather Xavier since this is his car, to get a ticket, but fuck the law, at least for now. I can handle all repercussions later when my future wife and unborn children are concerned.
“We were in bed talking and then she gets a phone call and her entire mood shifts. You didn’t see that terrified look that showed up in her eyes. It unnerved me. I’ve only seen two things that make her react that way.” I keep my gaze on the night before us, hating how none of the stars are visible. All it is is plain darkness and solitude. Even the roads are empty.
“Derrick and watching something happen to someone she loves,” he mumbles out before I hum in response. “Well, you’re with me, Aaron’s at home, Jonah is safe at Ace’s house, you just spoke to him… do you think Derrick might’ve called her?”
“I don’t know, I’m not a detective. That’s more Jonah and Amaya’s route. I’m the ride or die that gets into some pretty shitty situation in the name of love. But this morning she did say something about not being able to be with me until she knows that I’m safe… that’s not it though. I can feel it, plus, we’re very much together now, I confirmed it by asking.” The question is what the hell else could’ve had her so spooked? It’s someone she loves.
“We can find out when we get to the warehouse.” That doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation.
“I don’t feel so good about this.”
“Of course you don’t, we’re heading towards some abandoned warehouse to find your baby mama/best friend/girlfriend. Warehouses are where all the shady shit goes down in movies and comic books. What if we walk into some drug deal with big town mobsters?!” I stop at the red light in front of me and turn in my seat to glare at the dumbass that is my brother, Xavier Logan Harper.
“Really? That’s what you’re scared of?”
“Actually, no, that’s on the list of things I want to see before I die.” I reach over to slap the back of his head, my hand slightly stinging at the contact. “Ow! Don’t be a piece of shit when I’m doing a favor for you!”
“Fine, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear jokes when I’m having a mental breakdown.” It takes every fiber of my being not to start hyperventilating right now because it’s not going to help a single person. It also will rush along the process of me having a panic attack. “What if something were to happen to Amaya and the twins because I wasn’t quick enough getting there?”
“You don’t have to say sorry, I get it.” I’m not sure you actually do and I don’t want you to. “I’m so sorry for acting like that, but you looked like you genuinely needed a laugh.” I appreciate him trying to lighten the mood. It’s one of the things he tries often, but honestly, I don’t think I’m going to be happy until she is back in the safety of my arms.
We drive the rest of the way in silence, both of us now on edge when my Cherokee comes into sight, parked around the back of the Rockwin warehouse which doesn’t surprise me. If there was some shady shit going on, it’d be stupid to be in the front, especially when this place has been shut down for years.
The building itself is engulfed in the darkness of the night with vines growing up the sides from the neglect they’ve faced. This place is too much for me, not just the unforgiving shadows but at least a hundred trees are behind this damn thing. Someone might be lurking in there or something.
“You can stay here if you want,” I tell him once I park the car and stay to take the keys out of the ignition.
“No way in hell am I letting you go in there without backup, we watch out for each other.” I smile before we unbuckle our seatbelts to free ourselves from the car. I hug my flannel jacket a bit closer to him, loving the insulation on the inside. I jump back when a sleek black Challenger rolls up on us.
“You didn’t want to call?” the owner of the car asks as he gets out to lean against the car with a blank face. Eyes the same color as my own watch me with curiosity.
“Did Jonah tell you that?” I ask while making my way towards the raggedy looking warehouse that reminds me of the dreaded day when Jonah was almost taken from us. The preschool was oddly enough, capable of making me uncomfortable for many reasons actually, but it could’ve been worse had it been at night like it is right now.
“No, Jonah didn’t say something, and he didn’t have to. The fact that you weren’t the one to call me did,” Eli answers with his voice on the lower side. I can’t decide if it’s because he’s got the sense to not be loud when it’s obvious we don’t want to alert people of our presence, or if he’s hurt by the fact that I didn’t make that call.
“Don’t take it personally,” I start while glancing over my shoulder to him, “you’re still a stranger to me and yeah, we might be brothers, but it doesn’t feel that way yet.”
He’s alone and I’ve been brushing him off of my shoulder, trying to convince myself that things are still the same as they were a few months ago. That’s the thing though, they aren’t the same as they were. I have a brother that has felt so damn isolated and has been rejected in some of the worst ways imaginable.
It’s Christmas Eve and this is where we are. Him alone for another Christmas without a mom around, an empty place.
“You’re not hurting me by feeling that way, Shawn. I understand that you’re not gonna love me right away. We can start slow, and right now I’m not here for you alone, I’m here for Amaya too. In a way, she’s become a friend which I don’t allow myself to have many of.”
I nod, feeling that last part more than I’d like to admit. I don’t do that well when it comes to new people coming into the picture, Ace being a fair example of that. A reason for that being that I’m scared of getting attached to them for them to just leave me in the dust.
“How about we talk when all of this is over?”
“I’d like that.”
Eli, Xavier, and I each squeeze our way through a hole in the fence that is meant to keep intruders out but has given us an entire access point.
“If you guys see someone, leave me,” Eli whispers out as we walk down the somewhat dark halls, the flickering lights on the ceiling being the only thing keeping us from being in the pitch black.
“You want us to what?” Xavier’s voice gets sharp. “I’m not leaving you behind in some sketchy ass fucking building where some shit might be going down. You’re my brother, no matter if I’m just meeting you or not.”
I bite down on the inside of my cheek, suddenly feeling a search of jealousy once again when it comes to Eli, but I don’t want to feel what they felt. I wouldn’t have wanted to be able to bond with Xavier over being abandoned when he was just three days old. Not like Eli could relate.
“I’m trying to keep you safe, Xavier. Let’s be realistic here. You’ve got people at home waiting for you, a nephew, a girl, a mom… I don’t have that. If something happens, I can assure that you, Shawn, and Amaya each get out of here safe. But for me. There’s not someone out there that will be missing me when I’m gone anyway,” Eli sighs out at the end before wrapping an arm around Xavier for a side hug.
“Please! I’m begging you! Leave her out of this!” Amaya pleads for the second time tonight and that’s enough to make us each start looking around frantically as we try to find out where it came from.
“You know, I’ve put aside that whole contract thing. I don’t care about what Derrick has to say, I want to watch you crash and burn,” an all too familiar voice snarls out before I’m frozen in my spot. That’s the guy that ordered for those guys to jump me. He’s the reason I forgot my son. My life. The reason my family had to cry over me.
I start to shake.
“I’m gonna really enjoy hurting you,” Derrick’s voice is weak but I can tell it’s him. What did Amaya get herself into?
“Shawn, we’ve got to start moving, come on,” Eli calls out for me and I want to move, but I can’t. I can’t fucking move.
“You can kill me if you want, Derrick, I’ll even let you, but I want to watch you watch the woman that you once were in love with bleed out. I want her daughter to see it too.” Amaya’s mom. He’s gonna kill her.
That gets me moving, pushing myself even when I’m scared and Eli points to a wooden door that he’s determined is the one they’re behind. For a second, it’s like time manages to freeze and I’m watching it all go by in slow motion. Seeing Eli’s hand on that door handle, Xavier close behind, but we’re not fast enough. Not to stop that damn gun from going off.
With a stiff heart, I feel that life-changing feeling, not the good type that comes with finding new love, but the type that leaves you broken. Wondering how you could’ve stopped the whole thing from happening. Up at night staring at the blank walls feeling like it’s all your fault.
Then it’s Amaya’s bloodcurdling scream. I throw that door open so fast, seeing as she falls to grasp her mom’s body, blood on her hands as she tries to get her mom to hold her back but she can’t. She’s too busy gasping for air to take in. Too busy trying to hold on to what’s left when she knows the thief known as Death is waiting for her.
“S-Sorry,” her mom croaks out before those blue eyes cloud over, losing their last grip on life.
“Mamá, por favor, no me dejes todavía. No estoy listo para despedirme. Por favor, no te vayas. No te mueras.” I fight to keep the bile down before I catch a small glimpse of her face, but she’s not seeing me. Her eyes are too trained on Rachael. But I notice a slash on her face; my eyes transitioning over to the man that did this. His eyes on me. Wide.
“You’re not supposed to be alive.”
“I could say the same about you,” I answer while making my way over to him, ignoring the fact that he’s got a gun in his hand. My steps are quick as I get the urge to wrap my hands around his neck and do just that. “You touched my fucking girl.” I squeeze, only seeing blind rage. Those eyes pop a bit as his left-hand goes over to my hand around his neck.
I smack the gun out of his hand that not only took the life of Rachael but has taken part of her daughter along with it.
“You should’ve finished the goddamn job,” I ground out before throwing him down on the ground.
“Amaya, I’m so sorry,” the words roll off of Xavier’s tongue even though he knows they mean absolutely nothing. Nothing can change the fact that she just had to witness the death of her mother on Christmas Eve. What a terrible fucking thing that this man beneath me caused.
“I should fucking kill you as you killed her!”
“You could kill someone, hell, I could kill someone, anyone in this world is capable of that but it doesn’t mean we all end up doing it,” I said that to Amaya that same day Jonah got shot, and the truth is, back then I didn’t think I was capable of killing someone, I just said it to make her feel better, but now that I’m looking at this piece of shit… I want to kill him. I want to kill him like he intended on killing me. I want him to pay for making my family suffer.
“Shawn, don’t!” Eli screams at me, like really screams, but that doesn’t stop me from beating the hell out of this asswipe. “Going to jail for him isn’t worth it.”
My hits only get stronger, enough that this man’s head starts to bob with each hit but he’s already not moving. He’s taking what he deserves and I honestly wonder if killing him will make me feel even the slightest bit better. Or maybe it’d make Amaya feel better so she doesn’t have to worry about him coming back to hurt others she cares about.
“Yes, it is,” I find myself answering.
“No, it’s not.” Eli throws his arms over me, pulling me into a bear hug so he can rip me off of the man but I fight him. Not allowing myself to be taken from the man that has caused so much damn miserability for people that have already been through enough. “Stop fighting it, go hold your girl,” he whispers in my ear before I go lax.
“Okay,” I answer back, glancing over to Amaya who still holds her mom. “Okay.”
Eli lets go before I move over to Amaya, watching the way Xavier starts to stand from his spot to let me take it instead.
“We’re gonna take you home now, baby, okay?”
“N-No. I’ve got to stay here. I- I-”
“You can’t stay here, Honey. We’re going to call 9-1-1 to get them here and tell them of the situation, but we’re going home. You shouldn’t be here.” I force her to look at me before her head falls into my chest, those blood-covered hands falling on my shirt.
“Leave.” I hear Derrick from behind me before noticing that he’s free from his binding. “I’ll make the call. Just get her out of here so she doesn’t have to stare at this shit anymore.” Those usually brown eyes are now blue as he stares me down.
I don’t say anything but instead lift Amaya into my arms, holding her bridal style as she falls apart in my arms.
Eli and Xavier walk side by side out of the building while I trail behind them, making sure I don’t jostle Amaya too much as she’s managed to cry herself to sleep in my arms. She still sobs even through sleep.
“Where are you staying tonight?” I ask Eli with my eyes empty as we get right next to the cars.
“Trail us to the house. She’s gonna need as many people as she can manage in her corner.” Nothing else needs to be said between us before Xavier’s getting into his car all alone. Leaving himself to his thoughts alone.
I transfer Amaya into the car, placing a kiss on her cheek so I can head over to my side.
“Don’t go, please don’t go.” Those grey eyes open, looking tired and red.
“I’ve got to drive us home, Love, but once we get home I can hold you.” She slowly nods before we make the drive home, me driving a bit over the speed limit.
I carry her into the house, ignoring the prying eyes of Grandma, Grandpa, and Grandma each as I march up those stairs to get Amaya anything and everything she could need to get her through the night. That’s when it hits me.
How the hell are we supposed to tell Jonah?
Mamá, por favor, no me dejes todavía. No estoy listo para despedirme. Por favor, no te vayas. No te mueras.
Mom please, don't leave me yet. I'm not ready to say goodbye. Please don't leave. Don't die.