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Chapter 16

6 years ago

It was a hot summer night. I’m talkin’ burning your feet on the asphalt if you didn’t have shoes on your feet.

Everyone had their cars pulled up to the house, Tyler had a fire going in the backyard with people from all over. Some were from our gang; others were some allies from the southside and then there were random people who I had no fuckin’ clue who they were. Lots of them were girls.

The smell of campfire and weed filled the air. I had a cold beer in my one hand and a fat joint in the other. It was perfect.

Well, as perfect as being in the ghetto could be.

I was sitting on the front step with Scar, to get away from everyone for a bit. That, and to do a line of coke. I didn’t want to take it out in front of everyone because they’d turn into vultures and I’d end up getting nothing. Girls were the worst for that. They’d flirt with you until you offered them a line and then they’d leave.

“You did good at collections today.” Scar said, nodding his approval of me.

“Thanks man. I’m getting the hang of it.”

He was at least ten years older than me and was my older brother’s main connection to drugs. When I was fifteen, Tyler appointed me the main drug dealer and after I brutally murdered the guy who tried to put a hit on him, Tyler also declared me the hitman.

Pretty big title for a fifteen-year-old kid.

Hell, I’d lost my childhood innocence and had to grow up way before my time so I wasn’t missing anything. I felt like I was a hundred years old some days. I loved drugs, I loved running the streets and the sense of power that came with it. I was untouchable. Mix that with my psychotic temper and rage and no remorse for anything, I was the perfect deadly combination. And a perfect right hand man for my older brother, Tyler.

“Look at these two.” Mark came stumbling towards us. He was my best friend and also a member of the bloods as you could tell by the red bandanna hanging out of the back pocket of his jeans. “You’re missin’ the fuckin’ party.”

He was holding a forty of vodka, taking a swig and then frowning in disgust, slightly swaying side to side. I scooted over from my spot away from him because after years of partying with him, I knew he always ended up puking sooner or later.

“When are you gonna stop being a pussy and take a shot like a man?” Scar asked him.

“Shut up, Scar.” Mark slurred, “Not all of us are almost thirty years old.”

Scar let out a laugh. “Can’t argue with you on that one.”

“He’s right you know. It’s only vodka. Should go down by water at this point. We’ve been drinkin’ since we were twelve.”

“Nobody asked you, shithead.” Mark laughed, “You’re the one who passed out on the hill from having a forty of whiskey to himself. There’s girls sayin’ they’re gonna take their tits out in the back. Let’s go.”

I shrugged. “Once you’ve seen one pair, you’ve seen them all.”

Across the street, I saw figures moving around in the window. I couldn’t really make out anything because it was dark and they were darting around quickly. I frowned, taking a drag of my smoke.

“Wow Shane, never knew you didn’t like girls.” Mark said, elbowing me.

“Just ’cause I don’t wanna see some cheap sluts chest doesn’t mean-”

The front door slamming open across the street stopped me in my tracks as I saw a head of black hair flying down the stairs like she was running for her life.

She had her kid brother in her arms, who couldn’t have been older than three. Behind her, an older man stumbled out the door, trying to grab her hair to pull her back, but stopped in his tracks when he saw us across the street. Her mom stuck her head out of the door, screaming at her to never come back.

Scar and I both jumped off the step as she came running onto the front lawn.

“Holy shit,” Mark said, reaching out a hand to help steady her but she flinched from his touch. “Are you okay?”

She shook her head. “I’m looking for Kristen.”

I looked over at Mark. “Go get Michelle.”

He nodded and took off around the corner.


She was Kristen’s best friend since they were kids. Kristen always said she had a shitty home life, but I never realized how bad until I heard her parents screaming at each other until all hours of the night.

She wouldn’t lift her head up to look at me and that’s when I noticed the red welted bruises starting to form on her arms. Her brother’s eyes were wide and his lower lip trembled like he was on the verge of tears.

“Kristen’s sleeping right now. She’s got school tomorrow.” I said softly.

I reached out my arms to take her brother from her, but she just clutched him closer to her chest.

“What’s going on?” Michelle’s feminine voice interrupted the commotion that was going on. She looked at Nikki and her eyes went wide.

She mouthed to me, “What the fuck?” and I shrugged. I’d tell her later.

Michelle’s motherly instinct kicked in as she walked over to Nikki. “You okay?”

Nikki nodded her head but I knew she was far from okay judging by how hard she was shaking.

“Why don’t you let me take your little brother, huh? I can lay him down in my room, okay?”

Nikki handed him over, careful to make sure that her hair was in front of her face.

“Hi baby,” Michelle cooed as she rocked Nikki’s brother back and forth.

As she was walking back into the house, she whispered to me, “You make sure she’s okay. Don’t let her go back over there.”

“Yeah, yeah. Of course.”

Mark seemed to sense that his presence wasn’t needed right now so he muttered something about going back to the party.

Once Mark had gone, Scar knelt down so he was on Nikki’s level. “Are you okay, little one?”

She shook her head, and I could see her lip was trembling. When she turned her head up to look at us and let her hair fall behind her, Scar and I gasped. And then my blood boiled.

Not only did she have bruises starting to form all over her arms, which indicated she was fighting someone off, the one side of her lip was split wide open, dribbling blood down onto her shirt. Her shirt was ripped at the front, leaving the one side of her tiny bra exposed and I could see clear as day- someone’s hand print bruising the skin around her breast.

Scar put a hand to the small of her back and led her towards the stairs to sit down. Now that she had stopped running and her adrenaline rush was over, she was walking with a limp to her right leg. There was a bruise starting to form under her eye, on her cheekbone. When she saw the way we were looking at her, she started to burst into tears.

“Oh, sweetheart. You’re okay.” Scar put a hand on her shoulder as she trembled.

I had to control my anger.

“Should I go get Tyler?” Scar asked me and I nodded. “Let him know.”

It was me and Nikki by ourselves once Scar left.

I put girls into three boxes.

The first box, I considered women who were untouchable to go in here. Not fuckable, these women were untouchable in every way, which meant they either belonged to someone I knew or they meant something to me.

Michelle was the first in that box. Not only was she Tyler’s, but she was also like a sister to me. She was one of my best friends and I held her of such high value I would never take her out of that box.

The next box was categorized as the fuckable box. The girls in this box were Janice and even Raven from the southside bloods. I’d do them if I was drunk enough. But I wasn’t interested in falling in love or being in a relationship.

And lastly, there was the little girl box. This applied to Nikki. She was Kristen’s best friend and she was four years younger than me. I was seventeen, she was just turning thirteen. I could catch a felony from messing with her and once I put girls in this box, I rarely looked at them as anything else but a little girl. They were strictly off limits.

But now, as she sat in front of me, looking up at me with those eyes; I had never gotten close enough to see what she looked like. Her eyes were the brightest shade of blue I had ever seen in my life. They were otherworldly. I had never seen eyes like that before and I was so intrigued by them as they welled up with tears, I put an arm around her before I could stop myself.

“It’s okay girl, I got you.” I whispered into her hair. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

I knew Michelle was going to come barging out of the house demanding that I get her bandaged and cleaned up, but I wanted to just sit here with her and hold her and I couldn’t figure out my urge to stay here with her.

I’d wonder why some other time.

Her sobs started to slow. When my fingers brushed against her hair, I was surprised at how soft it was. Her hair was black as night and smelt faintly of coconut and strawberries. Her porcelain skin was coloured with bruises and it made me flinch to think of how much pain she must have been in.

She reminded me of snow white.

“Was that your dad that chased you out of the house?”

Nikki shook her head.

“Mom’s boyfriend.”

“Is your mom the one with the blonde hair?”

“Yeah. They like to drink and do drugs. It always ends up in them fighting. He likes to come and take his anger out on us.”

“Did you try to fight back?”

Nikki nodded. “He tried to go after my brother, I shielded myself on top of him.”

“Did he....did he try anything else on you?” I looked at the hand print bruise on her breast.

She twisted her hair around her finger, which I assumed was a nervous habit, “Yeah. He tried to touch me, but I wouldn’t let him. Nothing happened.”

Thank god.

I sighed in relief. If that piece of shit would have ever touched her in that way I would have fucking kill him.

Nikki nuzzled her head against my chest and I felt my arms tighten around her.

“Thank you.” She whispered.

It was in that moment that my realization hit me like a goddamn train wreck.

Nikki was starting to shift out of the little girl box I put her in.

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