“You’re up early.” Tyler said as he came up the stairs, closing the door to the basement behind him.
“I couldn’t sleep. Nikki was up at the crack of dawn with her kid brother.” I shrugged, taking a sip of my coffee. “Since when did you become fucking Mother Theresa, taking in strays?”
“I don’t know, since they needed a place to go. Hell, it was just me, Kristen and Michelle in this house. Your room was free so she took it. Carson’s in my old room upstairs. Are you alright?” He raised an eyebrow at me.
“Just fucking fantastic.”
“It’s Nikki, isn’t it?”
I rolled my eyes.
“What did you do to her?” Tyler demanded, turning to look at me. “I know she ain’t all warm and cuddly. Shit, her glare could freeze hell over. But why does she hate you so much? Childhood crush?” He laughed. “She doesn’t do well with feelings.”
I shrugged. “I think you know damn well why she hates me.”
“Because you got arrested and went to jail?”
“She doesn’t have any kids does she?” I asked, suddenly.
Tyler looked at me as if I’d lost my damn mind. But there was something he wasn’t saying, I could tell.
I didn’t answer and pretended I was more interesting in lighting my cigarette than my older brother trying to get answers out of me.
He didn’t say no.
“And is there a specific reason you of all people would be wondering if she did have a baby? What the fuck would it matter to you anyway?”
“No, I was just wondering.”
Something clicked inside of Tyler’s brain as his sharp grey eyes stared at me. “You slept with her.”
“So that’s why she hates you.” Tyler laughed once, which turned into a snort. “I had some theories and you guys had crazy sexual tension but I didn’t actually think you hooked up.”
“I ruined her, man.”
“What the hell does that mean? What did you do to her?”
I had completely forgotten Nikki was like a little sister to Tyler as he clenched his fists like he was going to swing at me.
“I took her virginity. She lied to you when she said she fucked Seth to get jumped in. It was me.”
“And she’s with Mark now!” I raged, running a hand through my black hair. “Of all fuckin’ people. Did you know?”
“Yeah, I mean it’s no secret.”
I grunted in response, but Tyler was still trying to process everything that I had told him.
“So let me get this straight...you slept with her when she was just a kid, went to jail and thought you got her pregnant only to come back to be jealous of Mark?”
“Well it sounds stupid when you say it like that.” I muttered, taking a drag of my cigarette.
Tyler shook his head.
“How old was she?”
“I don’t know, thirteen. We fucked for a year though before I went to jail.”
Suddenly, Tyler threw a punch; landing on my jaw.
Okay, maybe I deserved that one.
“What!” I said, jumping back.
“I paid for her abortion when she was little! She was only fucking fourteen years old, Shane!”
“What the fuck are you talking about? She was serious? She never told me!”
But I did remember before I had gotten put away. How I had broken her heart. Before I left to go to prison, she had told me she needed to talk. I took that as her immature way of trying to get me to change my mind about leaving her so I just ignored her.
Hell. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so good.
“Christ.” Tyler put a hand to his head. “She wouldn’t tell me who the father was. Came cryin’ to me, I gave her money and drove her there and back.”
There was bile in the back of my throat as my stomach lurched.
“You’re telling me. If you weren’t my brother and the hitman, I’d have your balls right now. You damn well better make it up to her. You owe her. You took her innocence away.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “How the hell am I supposed to even start to make it up to her? I can’t- I left her by herself! I abandoned her.”
“You’ll figure it out. Did Nikki fill you in on how the drug dealings were being split up and what’s been going on with the gang?”
“No. She took off to Mark’s last night. Is it still being split between me, her and Mark?”
Tyler nodded. “Yup. Still the same. Mark and Nikki sell weed, pills and the hardest thing they push is coke. Everything else is yours and you’re on night shift.”
“I can do that.”
Slanging the hard shit was my job. I sold the heroin and meth; the stuff that brought in the real money. That’s why the night shift was my job because it was the most dangerous. Scar was my right hand man when it came to that. The kids went out in the day and had to be home by a certain time.
Tyler stopped talking as the front door opened.
“Hey!” Mark said, collapsing on the couch, Seth trailing behind him.
Normally, I didn’t give a shit about the guys just sitting in my house doing drugs all day, but knowing Mark and Nikki had been close in certain ways made me want to crack Mark’s head against concrete.
Mark was supposed to be my best friend.
“What’s good, Shane?” Seth asked, as usual; completely oblivious to any tension in the room.
“Where’s Nikki?” I asked, surprised she hadn’t come back to the house yet from taking her brother to school earlier this morning.
Mark shrugged. “Haven’t seen her. I think she’s still at the high school. She’s probably selling the dope Scar gave her.”
I felt my blood freeze as a deadly chill went up my spine.
“Central High? Like where Kristen goes?”
“Who’s looking after Kristen?”
“Landon was there, it’s fine.” Mark muttered.
“Why is something wrong?” Seth asked me.
“Oh I don’t know, the fact that it’s the most dangerous school for shootings and gang related deaths in the city or maybe the fact that you left Nikki there without even seeing if she was alright!” I yelled, throwing the ashtray so that it shattered on the floor into a million different pieces, ashes everywhere.
Seth sat, looking completely dumbfounded.
I didn’t have time to freak on them, though.
If the guys in jail were right about their talk; the Crips were going to try to take down as many bloods as they could. They got money if it was someone important; and Nikki was a very fucking important part to the gang.
Without thinking, I grabbed Tyler’s keys to his truck and took off to go find her to see if she was okay.
Of course the minute I walked into the high school, I knew something was off. It was eerily quiet in the halls except for the noise coming from the girl’s bathroom.
Without even thinking, I slammed the door open, sending four Crip bitches into complete shock as they stood over Nikki, her blood puddling on the floor; making me think of all the murders I had committed- they all looked something like this. They all ended like this.
All I saw was the crimson staining the tile floor and her head of black hair sprawled around her as she lay there, motionless.
She was never that still, even if she was taking a beating; which usually never happened. So that meant they had used some kind of weapons and fought dirty. I had never seen her down and on the ground in my life.
“Holy fuck...“One of them said, before taking off.
The others stared at me wide eyed before following suit, and I could hear their shoes squeaking down the halls, probably to call their boys for backup, but I needed to get her out of here.
“Nikki?” I whispered, brushing a strand of hair out of her face only to cringe when I saw the damage they had done.
Her skin was close to being raw and she had a deep gash down her lip. There was blood gathering on her back, so I pulled her shirt back to see someone had stabbed her and she was bleeding heavily; her skin tore open.
Effortlessly, I scooped her up into my arms, dialing Tyler’s cell number as I booked it to the truck, ignoring the stares from kids who just happened to be walking down the same hall. Just as I made it in into the truck, I noticed some of the Crips coming to the door to stare at me before I took off.
Nikki was splayed across the passenger’s seat, still bleeding and unconscious. She was breathing lightly, but I wasn’t sure if she could keep herself with me. I didn’t know if she was slipping away and that thought scared the shit out of me.
“What?” He snapped on the other end.
“You gotta get down here or meet me at the hospital.” I weaved in and out of traffic, ignoring someone flipping me off as I cut into their lane.
“What the fuck-”