“Beau.” Khalil was the first to break the electrically silent air, the corners of his mouth turned up in a strained smile, but his eyes still bore their darkened look, grilling into the new boy with vigor. “You’re back” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Don’t look so disappointed.” Beau quipped. “You did manage to give me a concussion after all.” Mina’s eyes traveled back and forth and back again from Khalil to Beau, but the more she stared the more confused she became. “But if you don’t want any witnesses, you should probably try and be more thorough in you work next time....kinda like how you were thorough with Asher.”
“Wait!” Mina threw her hands into the air, her thoughts somersaulting over one another. “Somebody tell me what’s going on. Now, please!”
“Noah was never lying to you MJ, Khalil was.” Beau explained and Mina could see Khalil visibly shifting from foot to foot out of her peripheral, he looked more anxious than she had ever seen him, and she silently prayed that it had nothing to do with the words falling from Beau’s mouth. One person spreading a few lies was easy to ignore, but three people telling the same story couldn’t have been pure coincidence. Still, she was reluctant to believe the boy she had seen beating Khalil to a pulp right in front of her.
“What- what are you talking about?
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught Khalil staring at you and your family’s photo in the newspaper over and over again. He’s obssesive and, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but he’s been lying to you this whole time MJ.”
“Mina-” Khalil let out a choked laugh, and Mina noticed his hand tightly wrapped around his dad’s pendant around his neck in discomfort. “You’re - you’re not actually like...buying his stories, or Noah’s, right? I mean they both hate me! They both hate us!”
Beau let out an audible scoff, his rolling to the back of his head at Khalil’s words, and Mina was struggling to follow the conversation now. “Khalil was there the night of your parent’s estate fire MJ. Those two bodies that the police found, those were his parents.”
“MJ he’s telling the truth.” Noah chimed in, and Mina had almost forgot she had been standing there, so caught up in the feud between the two boys towering over her.
Mina chewing on her bottom lip in frustration as her thoughts played tug-of-war in the back of her head. “Is he?” she wrapped her arms around her body, and now she was the one shifting from foot to foot. “Is he lying?”
“Tell her!” Beau was adamant and, after a split second of awkward and charged silence, Khalil parted his lips to speak.
“No.” He whispered, his eyes never daring away from hers as he spoke. “No, he’s not lying Mina. But you have to understand-” As if a light bulb had gone off in her brain, Mina opened her mouth with a gasp, her eyes the size of hubcaps.
“You were the little boy on the street.” she suddenly remembered her short conversation with the sad little boy crying in the middle of the street. That night had been a blur and the memory was vague, but she she could distinctly recall the boy’s face, how his cheeks how shone with tears, how his face had lit up with the red and blue flashing lights of the police cars and the ambulance. “I-I t-talked to you.” she stuttered out, her mind swirling in confusion as her thoughts began to betray her. “I talked to you!” she repeated again, much louder and this time as her emotions began to betray her for the second time that night. “D-did you recognize me the first day at school?” she wondered aloud.
“Mina-” Khalil’s voice was choked as he spoke and his eyes darted behind her to Beau’s momentarily before he found her face again. He was a mixture of emotions she couldn’t recognize.
“Did you recognize me?” she asked for a second time, cutting Khalil’s voice off before he could spout.
“Yes” he whispered out.
“So why-why would you even- why would you talk to me.” Mina thought aloud. “Why would you- why would you...kiss...me. Your parents died on my parent’s property. Don’t you hate me?”
“What!” Khalil exclaimed, the reservations in his voice completely dissipating at Mina’s word. “No! Neverr!” He continued. “I already told you Mina, I could never hate you. I couldn’t hate you even if I tried. I don’t think you understand how much I actually need you”
Mina couldn’t hide a small shy smile, threatening to creep from her lips to the corners of her eyes.
“Besides” he continued, his grasp on the metal pendant around his neck loosening as a similar smile threatened to break his lips. “You’re not the reason my parent’s are died....your parent’s are.” He stated matter-of-factly and, suddenly, Mina’s face had fallen to an unbelievable stare.
“What?” Mina exclaimed, taken aback by Khalil’s choice of words. “What do you mean my parents are the reason? What are you talking about?”
“Mina” he began. “That fire wasn’t an accident.”
“It-it was a gas leak. Everyone said it was a gas leak.” Mina shook her head at his assumptions, but the way he was suddenly staring at her was making her more and more nervous by the second. His eyes were still dark and clouded over, but now there was an undeniable anger and hunger in them that made a cold shiver run down her spine.
“No” he shook his head at her as if reprimanding a small child. “That’s just what you parents wanted everyone to think. That’s what they paid the media to say.”
“Khalil” she whispered his name as if it were a bomb. “You’re not making any sense right now.”
“Your parent’s started that fire at their estate, and they used it to kill my parents”
“No” she shook her head back and forth and back again in disbelief. “No my parents- my parents would never do something like that. M-my parents- my parents said it was a gas leak.”
“They’re lying to you Mina.” Khalil responded without falter, his voice growing more vicious as he spoke and Mina was starting to become scared by the timid boy towering over her and she swore she saw a glimpse of the angry and malicious boy she had seen that day in the cafeteria at school.
“They’re lying to you and the rest of the world because they know- they know if they told the truth they would lose all their money. They would lose everything that they had worked for and would be thrown behind bars. They’re only looking out for themselves.” he finished with a sneer and Mina’s heart was palpating in her chest once more. This side of the her boyfriend shent chills down her spine. This side of her boyfriend scared her.
“If someone kills another person, don’t you think they should be held accountable Mina. Don’t you think that they deserve to be punished, that the victims deserve to be avenged?”
“Yeah?” Beau sneered. “Does that apply to Chris and Asher, and all the other people that you’ve hurt or only when it’s convenient for you?”
Khalil’s eyes flickered to Beau once more and Mina could practically see the flames rising from behind his eyes. “Hey” he yelled suddenly, his eyes trained back on Mina’s figure as he grasped her wrist, preventing her from backing up any further than she already had. She whimpered under his touch, wriggling underneath his grasp as his hand grew tighter and tighter around her.
“Khalil” she cried his name into the hospital air. “Stop!” she exclaimed. “Stop! You’re hurting me!” At her pleads his hand quickly grew limp around her, allowing her to slip out of his touch, falling backwards into Beau’s touch as she went, but she didn’t miss the clear look of guilt on his face as she slipped away from him. He looked like a child who had gotten caught in the cookie jar, ashamed and afraid all at the same time.
“I’m- I’m so-” he tried to speak, but his apologies were drowned out by the sound of Beau’s exclamations. “What the hell is your problem!”
“I’m sorry Mina” he tried again. “I didn’t mean to- I didn’t mean.” His voice was scratched like a broken record player and she could see his once dark and cold stone eyes turned almost into the boy she had grown to like again. Almost.
“Noah was telling the truth, wasn’t she?” Mina choked back the tears in the back of her throat. Beau’s hands gripped the sides of her arms tightly behind her, he was the only thing keeping her upright at the moment. “Did y-you-” she attempted to stutter out, choking on her own saliva and tears. She was sure she looked a mess. “Did you- k-kill Asher?” she whispered out, afraid of the answer she might receive in return, and she had every right to be because the words that Khalil spoke next changed everything.
“Oh my god!” Mina cried aloud, suffocating her face into her hands as if not looking at the pitiable lanky boy in front of her was going to make his confession hurt less and she immediately began to stumble backwards again, taking Beau with her as Khalil extended his hands towards her once more. With each word he spoke, he took a single step closer until all four of them were mere feet away from the automatic double doors of the hospital entrance.
“Baby” he called out to her again and Mina felt as if she were going to throw up. “You have to understand-”
“They were right about you.” Mina was talking to herself now, everything that everyone had ever said about Khalil coming rushing back to her all in this very moment. “They-they were all telling the-the t-truth. And-and Chris!” she moaned into the air. “Oh Chris! He knew the truth about you somehow, he knew the truth and you-” she choked.
“He didn’t want us to be together. He didn’t want you to be happy!” Khalil tried to rationalize his actions, but every word he uttered was going in one ear and out the other and Mina’s body was encompassed with a shivering fear that she had never felt before, a fear that sent a chill down her spine and back up again. “I was just protecting you! I was protecting you from them both. I will always protect you!” he exclaimed. “Chris, Khalil, your parents, they don’t deserve you, but they do deserve to pay for-”
“My parents?” Mina’s tears ceased long enough for her to look up at the skinny boy across from her through her long wet lashes, surprised by the pure look of guilt and remorse she found written across his face. “Where- where are my parents?”
“Mina” he whispered down to the ground. “You know I would never do anything to hurt you right? You know I would never betray-”
“Where are my parents Khalil?” she repeated once more, cutting Khalil off mid-sentence. She had surprised herself at the level of calmness she had managed to retain, though she felt as if she were about to lose it at any moment, her heart palpating beneath her chest.
“I need you to know that I love you Mina Joyce.”
“They needed to pay. They needed to pay for lying to everyone. They needed to pay for what they did to my parents.”
“Khali?” It was Beau who spoke behind her now, his voice hesitant and wavering which only caused Mina’s anxiousness to grow. It was too much, it was all to much. This entire night had been to much, and it seemed like it was only growing more and more worse by the second. “Khalil what the hell did you do?” Beau yelled, but Khalil only answered him with a purse of his lips, his hand grasped around his parent’s pendant once more.
“Mina I love you.”
“Shit” Mina could hear Beau let out a string of curses, his grasp around her growing tighter and tighter by the second until she could feel the deep groves of his fingernails marking her skin. “We need to get you home now!” he exclaimed, and Noah was by her side in seconds once again, her hand covering Mina’s shaking ones.
“I love you.” was the last sound Mina heard before she was pushed through the double doors of the local hospital a rush of cold night air whipping her face as she found herself being tugged through the parking lot, swaying back and forth between Beau and Noah. Her brain had stopped working and she felt weightlessly numb as she replayed the events in the hospital over and over again in her head, hoping that if she revised over it enough everything would make sense, but it didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense anymore.
Her boyfriend was a murderer.