One Murder For Another

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Chapter 22

Noah and Beau. Beau and Noah. Both of those names were merely just a synonym for Khalil’s life going to shit. Noah was the only person who seemed to hate him more than Chris had and if she and Beau were hanging out Khalil had no doubt that they were gossiping about him. Thoughts of their conversations plagued his thoughts until Beau and Noah’s laughing figures were the only two things he could focus on, it was like a nightmare that he couldn’t seem to wake up from no matter how hard he tried to shake himself awake and his anger only seemed to curdle throughout the school day, finally coming to a steaming boil as he threw open the front door of the foster home in a vicious rage. He threw his backpack onto the grisly patched couch, not bothering to pick it up when it fell to the floor.

“Beau!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, slapping his hand down hard against the makeshift coffee table next to the stairs. “Beau!” His hand was red from the impact and he could feel a strong tingling sensation creeping up his arm, but he ignored it, continuing to slam his hand against the shiny wood. “Beau!”

“What the hell are you yelling for?” Beau exclaimed, his feet stomping down the stairs just as loudly, but Khalil didn’t give him much time to wonder aloud before he was shoving him against the nearest wall his hands holding firm against his chest and his breath hot with indignation. “Ow!” Beau yelled out as his body hit the paneled walls, his head banging first. “Are we really doing this again?”

Khalil ignored him. “What are you doing with Noah?” he spat into his face and the look of confusion that had once characterized Beau’s face was wiped clean off, instead replaced with sly smirk and an innocent stare.

“Same thing that you’re doing with MJ”

“That night I came home from the fall festival-” Khalil suddenly remembered. “Were you talking to her on the phone? Was that Noah?”

“Are you jealous?” he cocked his head to the side with another wide smirk that Khalil was yearning to smack off of his face. “Is that what this is? Because I’m sure if she didn’t know that you were a pathological lying piece of shit, she would want to hang out with you to!”

The punch came before Khalil could control himself, but as soon as his clenched fist had connected with the side of Beau’s face, the sound of a loud banging coming from the front door. Beau took the opportunity of Khalil’s distraction to push him off of his body, shoving him with a loud humph.

“Who’s that?” Khalil nodded his head toward the wooden door, where the knocking continued.

“How the hell am I supposed to know?” Beau wiped his mouth on his arm, revealing red when he pulled it away and Khalil heard him mutter what sounded like a curse underneath his breath.

“Is that her?” he was still seething as he made his way closer to the door a glint of malice evident in his eyes. He knew he was being dramatic, but in the moment he couldn’t care less, his anger controlling every part of him like it always did.

“Is that Noah!” he asked again, yelling louder this time but Beau only shrugged his shoulders in response, still babying the cut lip Khalil had gifted him with. Khalil stormed the rest of the way to the door, taking care to slam his beaten trainers hard against the cracked wooden floors, shooting lasers at Beau as he went, but his frustration quickly dissipated, replaced with utter confusion and shock as he opened the door to reveal the small girl on the other side.

He was surprised to find that she looked just as confused as him.

“M-Mina?” He stuttered, his eyes as wide as the cracked door behind him as he took in her bright appearance against the dark and dank background of the makeshift neighborhood he lived. She stood out distinctly against the dangerous background in her black Nike shorts and tank top, her colorful brand name shoes only a figment of imaginations in this beaten neighborhood and Khalil couldn’t bring his eyes to stop roaming her body in disbelief, worried that if he looked away for even a moment she might disappear.

“W-Wha-” he broke off, gathering his spewed emotions; he had gone from seething with anger to shy and reserved in a span of only a moment. Only Mina had the power to do that.

“What are you- doing here?” he finally pushed the words from his lips, but her eyes weren’t fixed on him, instead roaming the parts of the house behind him that she could see through the crack of the door and Khalil suddenly became extremely self-conscious of the different lifestyles that they lived. He became conscious of the cracks in the hollow wooden floor, he became conscious of the rips and exposed nails that characterized their two living room couches, he became conscious of everything that his faux home behind him contained and he became conscious that this was the place he called home.

“I-I thought you had cheer practice?” he cracked the door a bit behind him, limiting her curious gaze and her eyes finally fell to his with a soft smile that seemed to make him melt from the inside out.

“I did-” she paused. “Well I do!” she chuckled, rolling her eyes as she smiled to herself. “I just came from cheer. I skipped!” That explained her less than adequate clothing that left her shivering in her shoes on Khalil’s concrete doorstep. “I just kept thinking and thinking about what you said at lunch today-” she continued on a rant before Khalil could get out another word. “And, though I don’t think I’m ready to leave this entire world behind, I do think I need to start making more decisions for myself. So...baby steps.”

“Why didn’t you call?” he hadn’t meant to, but his voice had come out aggressive as he spoke and he watched Mina falter as she studied his movements in front of her.

“I-” It was clear that she had been taken aback by his tone, and Khalil wished he could have taken the words back. “Honestly” she sung “I didn’t- I didn’t think you would care that much.” she shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “But I can leave if you want me too-”

“No!” he shook his head. “No. No, I don’t care.” That was only half of the truth. Of course he wanted her to say, but he was also aware that Beau was merely on the other side of the door, most likely listening to every single word of their conversation, ready to spill his guts to her.

“You need to go...now!” is what he wanted to say, but the words that came out of his mouth instead were, “I want you.”

Mina’s eyebrows furrowed at his statement, and suddenly the realization of what he had said punched him in the gut.

“Here” he clarified nervously. “I want you here.” That was no better, but he was glad for the small laugh that whispered from between Mina’s lips, her eyes darting down to her feet shyly.

“Um” she hummed breaking the awkward silence that threatened to envelope them. “So are you going to invite me in, or are you going to make me stand out here in the cold in my cheer shorts?” The latter seemed like the safest option, but he had a feeling she wouldn’t be to eager to be left standing outside, so instead he mustered up all the courage he had left and slowly pushed the door open behind him.

He could hear her suck in a breath as she crossed over the threshold, pushing the door back closed as he followed closely behind her. She was turning in a ll different directions as she took the small space in, never lingering on one thing for much longer than a few seconds and all Khalil could think about was turning into a puddle and melting into the broken wooden slats below him.

“It’s not much but-”

“Beau.” Her voice came out in a whisper, but Khalil still found himself halting in his tracks at her soft spoken words, his hands immediately flying to tangle themselves into his hair as he met Beau’s amused look, but he wasn’t even paying any attention to Khalil, Mina’s frozen figure the center of his attention. He watched Mina suck her bottom lip into her mouth, her jaw clenched tight as her teeth began to burrow themselves into her cheeks.

“Hi” Beau began to pad his way across the room, closing the distance between the three of them and Khalil couldn’t stop himself from inching closer to Mina beside him. Beau caught his movement shaking his head discreetly as he stopped right in front of Mina’s figure.

“I don’t think we’ve officially met.” he quipped, extending his hand out in front of him. Mina looked up at Khalil with inquiring eyes only taking the tall ash brown haired boy’s hand when he had given her a short nod and he was sure he had heard a snort from Beau.

“I know who you are.”

“Yeah” he nodded. “Well Khalil talks about you all the time too.” Khalil hoped Mina hadn’t noticed him cringing beside her, but the longer the two of them interacted the more anxious he became. It was only a matter of time before Beau let something “slip” and he wasn’t prepared to come up with more lies on the spot.

“You’re bleeding.” she noticed, nodding to Beau’s bruised lip.

“Yeah” he hummed to himself, looking down at his bleeding lip as if he had just noticed it for the first time. “You’re boyfriend punched me in the face.”

Khalil opened his mouth, the gears in his head immediately trying to come up with a believable lie that would cut this awkward conversation short. “Um-maybe-”

“What did you do to deserve it?” Mina quipped, cutting him off and leaving both the boys standing speechless and Khalil did his best to hide a humor filled smile.

“Really got this one wrapped around your finger huh?” Beau shook his head, breaking the tension filled silence that hung in the air, and though his words were directed towards Khalil his eyes never left Mina’s.

“W-why don’t we go upstairs.” Khalil whispered, but Mina didn’t seem to be interested in anything but the boy in front of her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Mina-” he tried, but she was focused on Beau and Beau only.

“He’s feeding you lies and you’re just taking his word for all of it, believing every word that comes out of his mouth without a second thought.” he stated matter-of-factly, his arms crossed over his chest tightly as he ranted. He needed to get out of here.

“Mina” he tried again, but he still received no notion that she was even aware of his presence anymore.

“And all of this is coming from the same guy who threw his best friend under the bus!” she exclaimed, clearly becoming exasperated by Beau’s words. “The same guy who pressured his best friend into doing things he knew were wrong, things he knew he could get in serious trouble for, and then lying about everything when you got caught so that you could keep your nose clean. Lying about everything so someone else would go to juvie in your place!”

“Are you serious?” Beau scrunched his face in disbelief, but his words weren’t directed towards Mina this time. “Are you fucking serious?”

“You’re sick!” Mina spat, but Beau had lost interest. “You were supposed to be his friend!”

“You told her I’m the reason you’re were in juvie! You told her I sold you out! You-” his rage was palpable and Khalil could sense him about to snap. It seemed as if every conversation he had every attempted to have with Beau always ended up with one of them getting their faces caved in, and it seemed that this time would be no different and Khalil could barely move away from Mina before Beau was lunging at him with all of his weight.

That’s when the screaming started.

Khalil groaned as his head collided with the front door behind him, his entire body tingling from the impact. He wasn’t given much time to recover before Beau’s fist was connecting with the side of his face over and over again until stars began to dance on the edges of his vision and he could taste metal in his mouth. He could see Mina in his peripheral, her mouth hanging open but no sound coming out, he couldn’t hear anything at all. He couldn’t hear Beau’s grunts as he pummeled into him again and again, he couldn’t hear his own winces and cries as he took a beating, it was a if the entire world had gone silent.

Then it all became noisy again.

Connecting his palms with Beau’s chest, Khalil shoved his body away from him and sent him thudding to the broken hollow wooden floors. A newfound sense of anger boiling through him and taking over his body, Khalil hovered over Beau’s figure, the only thing at the edges of his vision was red. He didn’t breathe, he didn’t think, only acted, his curled fist connecting with the soft fleshy skin of Beau’s face over and over again. He hit his jaw, his eye, his temple, every part of his body that he could reach he made sure to leave bruise after bruise, but his hunger couldn’t be satiated. He needed more. He wanted to see him bleed, but apparently so did Beau.

Connecting his knee to Khalil’s stomach, Beau sent him tumbling to the side, blood spewing from his mouth as he went. They were both rolling around on the floor now, each of them taking turns pummeling one another trading places as they went, oblivious to the cries of Mina above them. Khalil couldn’t focus on anything at the moment but the bloodied mess of a boy beneath him and it was only when he felt a hand wrap tightly around his wrist that he paused to take in his surroundings.

Donna was standing above him, her hand wrapped tightly around his wrist, but she quickly yanked it back when she saw the devilish look on his face, a look that wouldn’t hesitate to throw her to the ground next, and he probably would have if he hadn’t caught the eye of Mina’s shaking figure in the corner. Her arms were wrapped around themselves tightly and tears were streaming down her face rapidly, her cries nothing more than a choked whisper in the air and suddenly Khalil became aware of what he had just done. He pushed himself off Beau’s figure in a rush, almost tripping over his body in his rush to comfort Mina, to convince her that he wasn’t the dangerous animal she had just seen.

“This is enough boys.” Donna’s small voice permeated the silent room as she, not so graciously, pulled Beau’s bloodied form from the floor for the second time, only the sounds of his heavy breathing giving any indication that he was still alive.

“This has gone on for to long” she gulped, shaking her head back and forth as she looked between the two of them, though her eyes never lingered on Khalil’s figure for to long. She was to afraid to look him in the eye. Khalil wondered if Mina was afraid. “One of you has to go.”

He knew what that meant.

“I’ll give Brigit a call in the morning.” Donna nodded, only confirming his fears. He would have to go.

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