Feisty Francesca

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#7 Force of nature

Finally, after what feels like hours, Shaughna walks out of the police station with Caroline and Nathan right behind her. I hurry out of Pinky to check on Nathan, but I can tell within a few seconds that his hand isn’t broken, just bruised. And he’s got a bandage on the part that got bit, wrapped and taped perfectly. Whoever took care of him did a great job. My help isn’t needed.

Caroline gives me a grateful smile when I assure both of them that he’ll be just fine. Nathan doesn’t need the reassurance, but his wife sure does. They both slide into the backseat of Pinky and Shaughna walks around to ride shotgun. I get back in behind the wheel and start the motor.

“Where to?” I ask my friend.

“Joshua?” she asks before replying.

I assure that he’s just fine, happy that I at least managed to take that burden off her shoulders. She’s relieved to hear that Joshua is alright and orders me to drive, instructing me to take a left once we’re out of the parking lot.

Caroline asks where we’re going, which is what’s I’m wondering as well.

“Asia Davis. Dshawn’s mother,” Shaughna answers. That makes sense. I know she’s important to Shaughna, and she needs to know what happened to her son. We need to regroup somewhere anyway, talk about what to do next.

“Oh fuck,” Nathan says suddenly. “Did anyone call Annabel?”

Annabel. The name cuts me like a knife in the heart, but I ignore the sharp shooting pain and just take a right when Shaughna tells me to.

“I called her almost three hours ago,” Shaughna tells Nathan. “I didn’t think to do it sooner. I should have. I’m messing up left and right, I’m sorry. She should be here in a bit. I’ll text her the address.”

“You’re not messing up,” I tell her, hating that she’s beating herself up over this. Why the hell would it be her job to call some girl that Aston has been fucking lately? “If anyone has a reason to be sobbing on the floor right now, unable to move, it’s you. Yet here you are, still thinking straight. You called your father to get the guys decent lawyers, you thought of calling Annabel when no one is even sure what the hell she is to Aston, and now you’re choosing Aston and Dshawn over waiting for Melchior to get revenge. You’re a fucking hero, Shaughna.”

“Yeah she is,” Caroline agrees immediately, sounded way more grounded now that she’s got Nathan’s hand in hers.

“Not a hero,” Shaughna disagrees.

“You’re doing so-”

Shaughna won’t even let Caroline finish. “I’ve been in panic mode for far too long now, letting that asshole dictate my life for years. No more. I’ll figure a way for all of us to get out of this if it’s the last thing I do.”

Caroline and Nathan say sweet things to her, supporting their friend, while I round another corner and take a left on the next intersection. Shaughna doesn’t reply to them, pulling her phone out of her bra instead, cursing when she’s done reading the message.

“It’s even worse than I thought,” she breathes.

“What is it?” I ask just as quietly.

“Melchior is reminding me just how powerful he is,” she bites out, sounding like she’s finally on the verge of losing her shit, but then she takes a deep breath and reels her anger and fear back in. “We need to figure out a way to stop him, or Dshawn and Aston are fucked.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” I promise her, knowing that she and I won’t rest until those two guys are no longer in danger of ending up in jail. I still have a hard time believing a fist fight is truly going to end with two perfectly normal guys behind bars.

I pull up to Asia Davis’ home, and we get welcomed in by her and her husband Terryl. I pace up and down their living room while Shaughna, Caroline and Nathan fill in Dshawn’s parents on what happened tonight. Or well, last night, I guess, since it’s morning already. I’ve been awake for an entire day already, way more than 24 hours. No wonder I’m feeling like I might crumble any moment now. Walking helps, so I just keep pacing even when Caroline shoots me an annoyed look. I get that I must be making everyone more nervous, but I can’t sit still.

I hardly follow anything that’s being said, and I let out a little startled cry when the doorbell sounds. Terryl gets up to open it, and I stop pacing for a moment, pulling my fingers through my damp hair to calm myself. I look like shit, but I at least look better than the others, who are still in the same clothes they were in when the night started.

When Terryl walks back in, a skinny dark-haired woman is right behind him, looking agitated. She’s got big breasts that jiggle underneath the big man’s shirt she’s wearing. Her eyes search the room, taking in every single person. Her gaze lingers on me for a moment, recognition flashing in her eyes, even though we’ve never met before. Who is she? Why does she looks at me like she knows me? Her attention settles on Dshawn’s mother Asia after a moment, who is frowning up at the unfamiliar woman from the couch.

“I’m Annabel, Aston’s… Well, fuck if I know. His girlfriend, I guess.”

Fuck. So this is her. I let my eyes move over her again, realizing that even though she looks just as exhausted as the rest of us, she is beautiful. And old. Way older than Aston for sure. She has a pretty face and a great figure, but she’s obviously around 40 years old. What the hell is Aston doing with a woman ten years older than him? He chose her over me?

What. The. Fuck.

“Although he’d probably want to stay in jail if he heard me use that word,” she goes on, growing a little uncomfortable under my intense stare. The others are all looking at her too. “So, what’s the plan?”

So she’s not really his girlfriend. She obviously wants to be, judging by the way she’s grimacing right now. Hah. She’s just like me. She wants him, but she can’t have him. Although maybe… maybe she can have him. After all, he spent last night hardly drinking, not flirting back when girls came up to him, and talking about Annabel. Maybe he does want her. Maybe… maybe he loves her.

The others are filling Annabel in on everything that has happened so far, so I can tune out safely. I was there, after all.

“Melchior – the abusive stalker ex – showed up last night,” Nathaniel is saying when I tune back in. “And there was a fight. It was Aston, Dshawn, Joshua and me against Hollister and Melchior.”

“Who’s Joshua? And who the fuck is Hollister?” Annabel looks like she’s ready to start yelling at us if we don’t hurry up with the story. I get how she feels. It’s annoying to not be in the loop. It’s nice not to feel like the only one who’s on the outside looking in, even if the other person in the dark is Aston’s girlfriend. God, it feels weird to think of someone like that.

“Joshua is the guy I was sleeping with before I committed to Dshawn,” Shaughna explains to her. “He’s a friend of mine, I guess. And Hollister is an asshole who worked at the restaurant I manage. He used me to cheat on his girlfriend. I fired him a little while ago and he’s not too happy with me.”

Annabel mutters something that I don’t quite catch, shaking her head. “Okay, so Hollister and Melchior attacked you, threatened you, whatever. The other guys came to your defense. Right?”

Shaughna affirms that. “The girls too. It was one huge confusing fight and then the cops showed up and they-”

“-arrested the two black men before asking questions,” Annabel cuts in, growing angrier by the second. “Of course they did. And they released Nathan and not the other two because Nathan is white and they’re not. Fucking hell, you gotta love America, right?”

That doesn’t seem fair. Officer James Tyson isn’t like that. I hardly know the guy, but he is still texting me to let me know Aston and Dshawn are okay. I should say something, right? Tell them that at least one of the cops isn’t a corrupt, racist piece of shit. And I bet that many of the others aren’t either. I’m not naïve, I know that there are rotten apples, but they are everywhere. One of the doctors who used to work in the ER was a racist prick. Just because people like that exist, doesn’t mean that they’re all like that.

Before I can decide if I should speak up or not, Annabel starts talking again, pacing up and down the room while she does. “Who is this Melchior guy? And Hollister, who’s he, really? Are they going to press charges?”

Shaughna looks at Annabel with a sad expression on her face. “Melchior Havemayer. He’s-”

“I know who he is,” she says, looking like her whole world is crumbling around her before she pulls herself back together. You gotta admire how strong she is. She just drove here in the middle of the night, and from what I gather, she lives close to Caroline and Nathan, which is three hours way. And now she’s trying to figure out a way to save a guy who may or may not be her boyfriend, even though she looks like she needs to be in bed right now, judging by the dark bags underneath her eyes. “Fuck,” she curses softly. “Okay. You were all taken in for questioning as well, right? Please tell me you didn’t talk to the cops.”

“Erm… Were we not supposed to?” Caroline asks surprised.

“You never talk to the cops! Never!” Annabel all but yells at us. “Not without a lawyer present. Not even if you think you did nothing wrong. What did you tell them?” She points at Nathan. “You start. Tell me exactly what you told the cops.”

One by one, we repeat our statements. They’re all the same. The only person who’s got the full story is Shaughna, since our stories all begin somewhere after the fight was already in full swing. Turns out that Hollister was the first to show up, yelling at Shaughna and threatening her. Joshua couldn’t get him off her, but then Melchior showed up and he pulled Hollister off her. Then Dshawn showed up and he threw the first punch, angry when he realized that the guy in front of him was the guy who abused Shaughna for months when she was barely an adult, fresh out of high school.

Hmm. I guess that means the cops are right to keep Dshawn for a while. I hate to even think it, and I’m not going to say it, but if he threw the first punch… I get why he did it, and I totally agree with him that Melchior deserves to get beaten up, but from a strictly legal standpoint… Dshawn started the fight. That’s bad. Really bad. Were the cops racists pricks, or did they just have good intel when they arrested him? And since he and Aston look alike, maybe they just knew that one of the black guys was the first to hit another guy. They’re the same height, have the same haircut, and are both muscular, even though Aston is way broader than Dshawn. Based on a description alone, it’s impossible to distinguish who the person calling meant when they described the ‘big black guy with short black hair’ who started the fight.

Obviously, I can’t say any of that aloud right now. They’d hate me if I tried to defend the people who arrested Dshawn and Aston. And all of us, let’s not forget that I was in the back of a police car not that long ago. Everyone is mad at the cops, and I get that. I’m angry too. They arrested the wrong people. Still, they couldn’t know that, could they? Hopefully they will realize that soon and let Dshawn and Aston go.

It’s my turn to tell Annabel what I told the cops, so I repeat my story, leaving out the part where James asked for my number. The longer I wait to tell them about one of the cops texting me, the harder it gets to come clean. Besides, I hardly know the guy. He could turn out to be a corrupt, racist asshole after all. With my track record when it comes to guys, chances are he’s bad news.

“Okay,” Annabel sighs when I’m done. “I don’t know if Aston ever talks about me, but I’m a paralegal. And that may not be as kick-ass as a lawyer, but I do know a thing or two about the law. And I’m sorry to say… Dshawn, Aston and Nathan are all fucked, unless we find some dirt on Melchior that will make him or his dad decide to drop all charges and tell the chief to back the hell off.”

“Well shit,” I grunt, going back to pacing the living room. I truly thought they’d be okay, but if Annabel thinks they’re in trouble… Aston seems to trust her, and she is a paralegal, so I have no reason to doubt her. “How the hell are we going to do that?”

Shaughna suddenly jumps up and her whole face lights up with some kind of revelation. “Easy! I’ve got just the thing.” She unlocks her phone and scrolls through her gallery, tapping a short clip that starts playing right away. She mutes it and fast-forwards a bit. Then she hits pause, putting her phone on the coffee table. “This is a sex tape Melchior convinced me to make with him back when I was living with him. Eight years ago.”

“I don’t think the Havemayers are going to care about a sex tape,” Annabel snaps. She really needs to chill. I get that she’s stressed, but no one talks to Shaughna that way without me biting her head off.

“Just watch,” Shaughna tells us.

I hurry over to the coffee table with the others, watching in horror as the screen shows us a much younger Melchior Havemeyer throwing a scared 18-year-old Shaughna around his bedroom, hitting her in the stomach while she cries out in pain. They’re both naked, so they probably just had sex. What kind of sick bastard abused his girlfriend like that, especially after just being intimate? This is not just getting mad and snapping in the heat of the moment. This is way worse than that. It’s like he thinks it’s normal to treat a woman like that.

Caroline immediately moves to comfort Shaughna, but she doesn’t need it. Her expression shows an icy kind of resolve, and she nods at Annabel, coming to a mutual understanding. They’re going in for the kill, that much is clear. I still have no idea what they’re going to do with a clip from eight years ago, but I do know that Shaughna is a badass and she’s not to be messed with. Annabel looks like she’s cut from the same cloth, so maybe it’ll all be okay after all.

It’s strange, but seeing Annabel totally own the room and order all of us around makes me get why Aston called her different. Why he likes her. She’s a force of nature, and she has this fierce quality about her that Shaughna possesses as well. I wish I was like that. Maybe if I was more like them, Aston would be in love with me instead of Annabel.

Maybe I wouldn’t even need Aston if I was more like them. Maybe Mustafa would have stuck with me instead of getting himself a girlfriend and breaking off his fuckbuddy arrangement with me. Maybe Leonard would have dumped his girlfriend and chosen me instead of getting engaged. Maybe I would have found someone by now, instead of pining after Aston.

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