Decree of Hope

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Abrahem

I got home just in time to pick Ommy up. She came out of her room in her scrubs and stopped in front of the kitchen to smile at Mirram, who stirred something that smelled like couscous. Ommy walked into the kitchen and hugged her. “You are going to make such a good wife one day.” Ommy let go of her and patted her cheek.

Mirriam grinned too big for it to be a real smile. “Good thing that’s my goal in life. Maybe, I can spend my day scrubbing floors, too.”

I laughed. If Baba were here, this would be where he stepped in to tell Ommy to shut up. She was my mom so I couldn’t do that, but I was glad Mirriam said something.

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll marry well enough to have a servant.”

Mirriam shook her head and removed the pot from the stove. “Do you two need me to pack it?
“You’re such a good girl, but I’ve got dinner. Thanks.” Ommy looked to me. “Where have you been?” she asked.

As hard as it is to believe, aside from taking care of you and Mirriam, I have a life. “Out, Ommy.”

“You got a friend here?”

You could call it that. “Yes, Ommy.”

She grabbed her purse off the couch, and we started for the car. “That is so good. I was worried about coming to this place, but both you and Mirriam seem to be adjusting so well. Mirriam has a friend, too.”

Other than that punk across the street, the only person she’d ever mentioned being remotely nice to her was some girl, Morgan, and that was one time. “Oh? She does?”

“Of course. That boy across the street.”

“How close were they at the hospital that night?” This white boy might die.

Ommy laughed. “You don’t worry. They are only friends. Your sister is a good girl.”

Because we still had arranged marriages, old people back home like Ommy had no clue how dating worked. I’m not so naïve and it’s not Mirriam I’m worried about. “Okay. Didn’t you and Baba know each other before your marriage was arranged?” Her marriage was not arranged.

Her eyebrows drew up, making the crease in her forehead more pronounced, and she pursed her lips. “Hmm. I see. Maybe, you are right.”

I dropped Ommy off and realized I didn’t have my phone, so I went back to my house before going to Kailee’s. Mirriam sat on the couch with a tub of ice cream tucked under her arm like a sick preschooler.

“Mirriam—”

“What?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Mirri—”

Zmal! Leave me alone!”

“You’ve got to quit saying that.”

“Zmal. Zmal. Zmal.”

“Why are you moping around the house?”

“I’m eating ice cream. Until I get obese, you don’t need to worry about it.”

“You’re not a vampire. You’re going to have to sleep sometime. Be in bed when I get home.”

“Can’t sleep.”

I was tempted to tell her that punk across the street was in no way involved with the garage door, but then I’d have another problem to worry about, so I’d put up with the PMSing seventeen year old and all of her zmal instead.

“Should I bring you home a sleeping pill?”

Ommy will freak if I take it.”

“Don’t tell her.” I picked up my phone from the end table in the hallway and headed out again.

Before I made it off the street, Kailee called.

“You shouldn’t come here, but I want to see you.”

“Okay?” Did what happened at the pool hall change her mind about me? What is she not telling me?

Her sigh filled my ear. “Jackson is home. He knows about the pool hall, and he’s pissed.”

I didn’t know what to say about this. I’d already given her an out. “So?”

“Taco Cabana on me?”

No way in hell was I letting a girl pay for my taco. “Can I pick you up?”

“Sure, I’ll wait outside for you.”

Ten minutes later, Kailee slid into the passenger side of the Toyota. She’d changed clothes since the last time I saw her. Two hours ago. She smiled at me. “Hey.”

I wanted to kiss her. Focus Abrahem. “Hey, sweetheart.”

“I missed you,” she said.

I chuckled. “I was only gone for two hours.”

Kailee’s face turned crimson, and I regretted saying that.

She leaned forward in her seat and gripped the chair. “What did you want to talk about?”

“Kailee, I don’t know how to ask you this without making you angry, but I need to know why people say the things about you that they do.”

A tear slipped down her cheek, and I felt like shit. Then she took me by surprise. “Because it’s true.”

I scanned my eyes over the girl sitting across from me before redirecting them to the road. Was it true? Did it even matter? My mind said it should, but all I wanted to do was take her in my arms and tell her she was an angel. Then again, she did shove her tongue down my throat the night we met. You kissed back. But she kissed first.

She turned her face away from me and let it hit the window the way she did that first night. “Because I’ve done things with guys.”

“Other than Caleb?” I took my eyes off the road long enough to glance at Kailee again. Tears streamed down both sides of her face.

“Yes.”

I could have just been hit in the gut with a flying soccer ball. “How many?”

She buried her face in her hands. “Caleb is the only guy I’ve gone all the way with, but that’s not what people think. And I’ve done other stuff with too many guys. Why is this important?”

I tried to think like a white guy for a minute. If I were from here, would it bother me that she had had other boyfriends? No. But it might bother me that she was so physical with them—but that punk across the street was the only guy she’d slept with and she wanted to marry him.

“We’re—I—I think I need to know everything. Even things I might not like.”

She leaned forward placing her palms on the dashboard. She sucked in a slow breath and pushed it out. “Are you done with me? Because I’m a whore?”

“Don’t say that.”

“Why not? It’s true. And everyone else does.”

We weren’t at Cabana yet, but I didn’t care. I pulled into the driveway of a gas station and killed the car. I unbuckled Kailee’s seat belt and tossed it over her shoulder. Her face scrunched up like she was about to cry. “Are you kicking me out?”

Instead of answering, I pulled her into my lap. She was sandwiched between me and the steering wheel.

“Kailee Hill, I’m very angry with you.”

“If I had met you—”

I moved a hand over her mouth to silence her. “The girl you called a whore happens to be very important to me, and I won’t listen to that. Not from anyone. Not even you.”

She shifted around in my lap until she was able to bury her head in my chest. “You need to know the truth.”

“I think there is probably more to the story than what you’re telling me. You can tell me anything you want to, but you don’t have to tell me anything.”

“Then why did you ask?”

“Because I’m a jackass.”

“Abe? Can I go back to my seat now?”

I stroked her face. “If you quit trashing people I care about.”

She bit her lip but gave me a smile, and I helped her back to the passenger seat.

“When I was a freshman, I dated a senior—one of my brother’s friends. He broke up me after a few weeks, because I wouldn’t let him take my shirt off. Gade—from the pool hall—was a senior that year, too. He asked me out the very next day, because the first jackass told him we had sex. We didn’t. Not even close. We kissed. But I didn’t know what the guys were saying, so I dated Gade. He was a senior and on the football team, and I was cool. Except he spread the same rumors. People have been calling me a whore since two months after high school started.”

“Why do they touch you?”

She gave me a smile that showed all of her teeth but glared when she said, “Because I’m the whore. And the too many guys I’ve done stuff with… I just wanted someone to like me.” She looked me straight in the eye. “So now you know I’m not a good girl.”

“You were spray painting my garage the night I met you. I already knew that.”

“Okay, so now you know I’m a whore, but I’m sure Mirriam has already told you that.”

“Has Mirriam called you a whore?”

Kailee went quiet before saying, “No.” It made me think she was lying.

“I’ll take care of it.”

“She hasn’t.”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded, but I wasn’t convinced. I made a mental note to tell Mirriam to be nice to Kailee. I couldn’t be more specific, because if my family found out about my white girlfriend, World War III would erupt.

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