One Murder For Another

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Chapter 24

A/N :

Are you guys sad about Beau ;)

tehehehehe......Enjoy Chapter 24

It had been raining all morning, puddles forming along the edges of the roads and on the front steps of Palm Valley Prep and Mina watched from afar as playful student after student was pushed down into the muddy pools of water, roaring with laughter. But even the freezing rain and the biting fall wind couldn’t put a damper on her cheerful demeanor and her giddy smile never faltered. She couldn’t stop thinking about Khalil.

She should have been worried of how her parents would react to her skipping cheer, she should have been worried about the prospect of Khalil getting kicked out of his foster home, but the only thing she could force her brain to focus on was the tingling sensation that ravaged through her body every time she thought about Khalil’s tongue brushing against her bottom lip and his fingers digging into her sides.

She shouldn’t have compared, but Asher hadn’t come close to ever making her feel the way Khalil did, like she had the ability to lose all control and yet still be in control. That didn’t make sense, but neither did her feelings around Khalil and yesterday hadn’t been enough. She wanted to feel his hands digging into her skin as he pulled her closer again, she wanted to feel the soft touch of his lips brushing over hers again, she wanted so much more.

But her wants and needs seemed to have taken a seat on the back burner for the day, her ears immediately filled with the loud sounds of yelling and fists pounding on lockers as soon as her feet crossed the double door threshold of Palm Valley Prep. She couldn’t catch a break.

The crowd was impossible to miss and it seemed as if all the students had gathered into one gigantic horde. More students rushed past her as she tiptoed through the door and she followed after them without hesitation, her thoughts immediately rushing to Khalil. She prayed it wasn’t him. She prayed he was just another onlooker in the dense crowd, but her hopes were crushed as the sound of his name boomed through the open space and she cursed under her breath anxiously. She wondered what kind of trouble he could have gotten himself into now.

“Where is he you psycho!”

No.

Mina’s heart dropped down to the bottom of her stomach and she felt her chest tighten at the sound of Noah’s voice booming through the halls of Palm Valley Prep. It was Noah in the middle of the crowd with Khalil, and she looked more pissed than Mina had ever seen her best friend.

“Where is he?” she was screaming at the top of her lungs, her hands firm on Khalil’s chest as she pushed him backwards with each word she spoke and she could visibly see the steam blowing out of his ears as he tried to yield whatever restraint he had left. “What the hell did you do to him! Where is he!”

No. No. No. This wasn’t happening.

“Noah!” She couldn’t stand there and watch her best friend beat up her-

She didn’t know what Khalil was to her, but she knew she could’t stand by and let Noah abuse him.

“Noah! Stop!” A hundred different pairs of eyes were now trained on her, including Noah’s, and the ferocity in her figure only seemed to grow at the interruption.

“Of course.” Noah threw her hands up into the air with a laugh, though there was no hint of any amusement in her eyes, only stone cold fury and Mina hoped no one had heard her gulp down the bile that was threatening to rise up the back of her throat.

“You don’t go anywhere without her do you?” her words were directed at Khalil now, though her eyes never dared aware from Mina’s trembling figure in front of her. She hated confrontation.

“Noah, you’ve got to stop this.” Mina shook her head, ignoring Noah’s mocking words.

“I need to stop?” her eyebrows were furrowed in amusement, and Mina could see her attempting to suppress a chuckle. “Me? What about you Mina, hm? When are you going to stop letting your emotions control you, letting your emotions trick you into believing this lier?”

“Khalil has never lied to me. He’s told me nothing but the truth.”

She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “What?” she crossed her arms over her chest with a humph. “So...because you’re in love with him, you can ignore all the overwhelming evidence that he’s a criminal. A literal criminal MJ!” she screamed the last part with vigor and Mina jumped at the change in her tone.

“You left Asher.....for a criminal.”

She bit the inside of her cheek hard at Noah’s harsh words, praying that Asher wasn’t somewhere in the crowd of student’s behind her, but with her luck she was sure he had heard every word. So much for ‘finding herself.’

“Noah” Mina sighed, quickly attempting to move on from Noah’s last statement. “I get it ok.” She didn’t. “I get that you’re clearly upset about something right now-”

“Upset?” That clearly wasn’t the right thing to say because now Noah’s voice had grown ten times louder and ten times so violent. “Upset?” she looked as if she wanted to break out into hysterical laughter and Noah was scaring her best friend once more, trying to calm herself she spoke again. “Have you seen Beau this morning?”

Beau? Mina wondered what Beau had to do with any of this?

“B-Beau?” Mina stuttered and Noah nodded aggressively in response.

“Have you seen him?” she repeated her words more slowly this time, enunciating each and every letter with force.

“No?”

“No.” she pursed her lips together in a nod. “You know, Beau is never late. He’s always here on time.”

“Noah, I don’t understand-”

“I’ve called him, he hasn’t answered. I’ve texted him, and I’ve gotten no response.”

“Maybe his phone is dead or something.” Mina shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe he’s running late. There are so many other explanations Noah, I just don’t think it’s fair for you to assume that Khalil is behind his absence. I mean it doesn’t even make sense, why would Khalil go after Beau?”

Noah scoffed. “Because Beau is the only one who knows the truth about your boyfriend, Beau is the only one who can prove how psychotic he is!”

“You’re insane.” Mina had had enough of her friend’s crazy theories and insinuations, and she wasn’t the only one feeling the strain. With Noah distracted by their conversation, Khalil had taken the opportunity to began slowly pushing his way through the crowd of students around him with vigor, anything to get away from the prying eyes of all the students of Palm Valley Prep and Mina didn’t waste time attempting to follow him, but not before she had the last word with her best friend.

“If you’re mad at me, fine” she threw her hands into the air. “But don’t take out your frustration on innocent people, people that haven’t done anything to you.”

For Khalil’s tall lanky figure he was fast, probably fueled by the adrenaline coursing through his veins, but after what seemed like a lifetime of staring at dark green rows of lockers, she found him in a dark empty classroom slid down against the wall beside the door with his knees curled up against his chest, his head resting on his crossed arms. Min threw her bag to the floor, mimicking his position as she slid down the wall beside him with a look of sorrow written across her face.

“Are you ok?” she asked quietly, but she realized how stupid the question had sounded as soon as the words had left her mouth.

He let out a short scoff and Mina couldn’t resist the urge to lay her head gently against Khalil’s shoulder. He mimicked the gesture, placing his head on top of hers in contempt. “I think this is the third time they’ve accused me of being a murderer.”

“They thrive off of drama” she whispered, and Khalil let out a dramatic scoff that shook both their bodies.

“First my inmate in juvie-” he began to name off “Then Chris, and now Beau.” There was a split moment of silence where nothing could be heard but their synchronized breaths, before Khalil’s voice began to boom throughout the empty classroom full of frustration and rage, echoing all around them.

“Beau started the fight at the foster home last night!” he exclaimed, emphasizing Beau’s name with vigor. “Beau came after me!”

“I know” she conceded, her voice mouse-like in contrast to his and she reached over the grasp her hand in his in an attempt at comfort. It worked, for the most part.

“I- I just- I’m just tired” he struggled to find the words, his voice calming a few octaves as he spoke and he heaved an exasperated sigh. Mina was tired too. “Tired of- of everything. I don’t have time for this bullshit.....not today.” He pushed his legs out in front of him now his eyes trained on the tops of his ragged shoes as he spoke.

“Especially not today.” his voice was a cracked whisper.

“Today?” she questioned.

“It’s the anniversary of my parent’s death.” She snatched her head from underneath his, in shock at his blatant words. She wanted to say something to comfort him, but her mouth wouldn’t let the words free and she kept getting choked on the realization of the information he had just gave her. How was she supposed to respond to information like that, she couldn’t very well come out and say “I’m sorry”, he claimed she apologized to much already as it is.

“I-I uh” she noticed his free hand reach out for dad’s pendant. “I haven’t been able to visit their graves in years, they kept a tight lease on me in Oklahoma. If they let one kid out, they would have to let the rest out and-” he paused, choking on his words. “You can guess how those conversations went.”

“They-they were buried here?” Khalil nodded silently. “Well, why don’t we go visit them now?” His gaze broke away from his beaten trainers and rose to meet Mina’s beside him, disbelief and confusion written across his face. His scrunched eyebrows were adorable.

“What?”

“We can skip the rest of school and go see them if you want.”

There was silence. “You would really do that?” He seemed surprised and Mina felt hre heart palpitating in her chest. She wondered if he had ever had anybody actually care for him like she did before. The answer was probably a resounding “No”, but she kept her thoughts to herself.

“What about your parents? Won’t they be mad?”

“They’re already going to be mad when they find out I’ve skipped cheer practice.....twice.” she chuckled and Khalil’s lips turned upwards for a split second, threatening to break into a small smile. “What Noah did to you today was unfair, and you shouldn’t have to deal with it.....any of it. Not ever and especially not today Khalil.”

His eyes searched hers, what he was looking for Mina had no idea, but she assumed he had found it when he returned her with a shy smile. “Have I ever told you how amazing you are.”

She wanted to kiss him badly in the moment, but she settled for an adorable smirk instead and she let him pull her to her feet, never letting go of her hand as they prepared for their jail break.

The Palm Valley cemetery was twenty five minutes away, surrounded by oblivious nothingness and lush Cedar Elm trees whose leaves crunched under the tires of Mina’s navy blue Lexus, but she plowed on nevertheless. The rain had turned into nothing more than a light drizzle and the wind was becoming unbearable, but she refused to turn the car around.

Her teeth chattered as Mina closed the driver’s side door of her car, her brown leather boots sinking into the soft wet grass as she stepped out. She immediately moved to wrap her arms around herself, desperately trying to stay warm against the cool fall Dallas air, but it was no use. the wind was not her friend.

“Mina?” Khalil called over the hood of the car as he watched her, quite literally, shake in her boots. “You know you really don’t have to be here right? We can go back if you want to.”

“W-why are you t-trying to get rid of me you w-weirdo” she shivered with each word she spoke and Khalil beamed, humor dancing in his eyes. “I want to be h-here for y-you.” She made her way to the very front of the car, Khalil following her every step until they were standing in front of the engine toe to toe.

“Ok” he conceded “But-” Mina watched as he slipped off his emerald green blazer and moved to wrap it around her shoulders, sliding her arm through each sleeve with ease. “I’ll feel bad if your parents kill you while you have pneumonia” he tightened the jacket around her as he spoke, only looking up when he had cocooned her safely inside and Mina felt her heart jump down to her stomach at his stare, her own eyes jumping down to his gaping lips. Great. They were surrounded by a bunch of dead people, Khalil’s parents among them, and all she could think about was jumping their son.

She quickly cleared her throat, turning away in an attempt to dissolve the tension, but it only worked for half a second before the butterflies returned once more at the sensation of Khalil’s warm hand wrapping around hers as they began to make their way from the car onto the concrete lain path through the maze of tombstones. It didn’t help that she couldn’t stop smelling his blazer, laced with his intoxicating scent.

No.

“I haven’t been back here in so long.” His eyes danced across the flat landscape. “Is it weird that I’m kind of nervous?” he asked. “I mean, I know that I won’t technically be able to see them, but-”

“You don’t have to explain Khalil. It’s ok.” Mina shook her head, grasping his hand tighter in hers as she moved to interlace her fingers through his and he beamed down at her at the gesture. She wondered how any one could associate Khalil’s shy smiles with those of a murderer, it was unfathomable that the anxiety-ridden boy beside her was capable of committing a felony.

“I think it’s just a little farther this way.” His voice was a whisper in the wind as his steps grew shorter and shorter until finally, he stopped and when Mina looked up she noticed a dark haze had clouded over his, once light, eyes, his hand growing limp in hers.

The slab of marble was identical to the others in the row, all lined up perfectly to hide the horrors that crept underneath, but this one held no thoughtful message, no inkling of hope, no indication that any one had ever come to visit this sole slab. There were no beads, no flowers, no one who seemed to care. Khalil dropped down to the ground beside her, pulling his knees to his chest and scooting as close to the marble slab as he could without sitting on top of it.

Mina mimicked his actions, sliding down beside him. She didn’t know what to do but stare and she swore she saw a single shining tear roll down his cheek before plopping onto the damp grass.

“You know” His voice was choked as he spoke and she could hear the sound of more tears threatening to plow down his face. “They’re not even buried under there. Their bodies were so disfigured by the fire that-” He couldn’t bring himself to finish his thought and now Mina found tears threatening at the edges of her own vision.

There was a moment of silence where all that could be heard was the soft pitter patter of the rain drops around them before he continued. “The owners of the building that they- t-they died in....they paid for the tombs.” he scoffed. “As if they would make up for the fact that they’re the reason my parents are dead!” Mina was aware that there was nothing she could do or say to calm Khalil down in the moment, this was something he had to deal with on his own, so instead she sat in silence, quietly listening to his rage.

“You know” he chuckled. “Sometimes - sometimes I want to take a hammer to this stupid slab and just smash it to pieces. I mean, it’s not like anyone would care anyway. I’m the only person that even comes to visit this place. I’m the only person that even cares.”

“That’s not true Khalil. I care.”

His eyes didn’t stray from his parent’s names, engraved on the tombstone in front of him, he didn’t even nod his head to acknowledge that Mina had even spoken at all, but his eyes did drop their hazy glaze and Mina let out a breath she hadn’t even realized she had been holding when she felt Khalil’s body push against hers, his head lain across her shoulder as he shook with pent up emotion. She tangled her fingers through his hair with a soft sigh, trying her best not to cave under his weight.

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