A cop escorted Kailee away, and my heart sunk. The prosecutor headed for the door, and I followed after her.
“What are you doing? We came in that way,” Jackson said, veering his head in the opposite direction.
“Hang on. I need to talk to her.”
“The attorney? Why?”
“She’s got it wrong. Kailee didn’t post that picture. She’s confused.”
Jackson sighed. “You should probably talk to my dad before you talk to her. He’s always sayin’ prosecutors like to flip things.”
“There is no way to spin this.”
“Okay. I’ll wait in the hallway.”
Jackson headed out the double doors on the right, and I dashed for the set of doors on the left.
I caught Abbott going down the stairs.
“Excuse me.” She kept walking like she didn’t hear me. I ran up beside her. “Hi.”
“Uhh… hi.” She scooted closer to the banister at her other side. For a second I wondered what I had done wrong. Then I realized I was a big Iraqi guy. She was afraid of me, but Kailee was the racist.
“The Facebook picture, it’s not what you think.”
“Oh really? Because it looked like a picture of a hate crime to me.”
“That was my garage, and it was more of a jealousy crime than a hate crime.”
“You have another girlfriend?”
I laughed. “No, that’s the night I met Kailee. She tagged my garage because my sister stole her boyfriend.”
“And now you’re kissing her in court?”
“She’s a sweetheart. She had a bad day.”
She turned to face me full on. “Look, you seem like a nice guy, so I’m going to give it to you straight. That girl’s guilty. As guilty as they come. She didn’t expect to get caught because she’s a little princess. If you caught her vandalizing your house and now you’re dating I can guarantee you being with you repulses her, but it kept you from pressing charges.”
My hands balled into fists, and my jaw clenched. “You can accuse Kailee of whatever makes you happy, but you’re a racist bitch. What are you going to accuse me of for telling you that?” She looked like she was about to speak, but I kept going. “Her dad’s right. If you thought you had any evidence, you wouldn’t have stalled back there. She didn’t do it, and I’ll prove it.”
She narrowed her eyes and leaned closer to me. “How?”
“I don’t know, but I will.”
“If she didn’t do it, do you know who did?”
“No, but if I have to find out to clear Kailee, I will—although, it’s ridiculous that your cops are too stupid to do their jobs.”
“Oh, you think you’re so smart.”
“Awesome come back.” I turned and climbed back up the stairs.
I found Jackson leaning against the wall outside of the courtroom.
“How’d it go?”
“As well as talking to a bloodsucking leach can.”
Jackson laughed. “Try living with one.”
“No thanks. We should go. My sister ran off and got married last night. I have to go break the news to my mom.”
Jackson moved away from the wall. “I thought I had problems. Come on,” he started for the opposite door closer to where we parked. “Dad texted me. He needs to talk to Kailee about the Facebook picture, so we’re going to have to wait a while. We’ll grab lunch. You like barbecue?” He asked as we walked to the car.
I shrugged. “I guess.”
“You’ve eaten it in Texas?”
He smiled. “You’ll like it.” He swiped his card through the meter, and we hopped in the car. “I thought you’d bail on her when you heard she burned down a mosque.”
“She didn’t do it.” I sighed.
“I know,” he murmured. But there was something in his voice that I couldn’t place. He hung his head and bit his lip for a fraction of a second before returning to his swaggering overly confident persona.
“How do you know?”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, but I’m one hundred percent sure she did not start that fire.”
“What do you know?”
He knew something. “You can’t let her take the fall if you know what happened.”
He sighed. “I don’t know what happened. I only know she didn’t do it.”
There was more to this story than he let on, and I had to find out what it was.
Three hours later, Jackson dropped me off at home.
Ommy met me at the door as I walked in. “Finally.” She glared at me. “Where is my daughter? When were you planning on telling me she called? Why did you keep that from me? How could you? Didn’t you think I needed to know, Abrahem?” She shook her head. “I made a horrible mistake moving our family here. It would have been better to risk the terrorists in Iraq. Both of my children have lost their minds.” She threw her hands up in the air and sighed dramatically.
I began to realize there were things about my culture I didn’t like. In the East, it wasn’t only acceptable but normal for your parents to control every aspect of your life. Caleb’s mom was right. I shouldn’t have tried to help Ommy marry Mirriam off. It was her life. “Ommy, sit down. We need to talk.”
She gasped. “Young man, you start answering my questions. I am your mother.”
“Ommy, sit down, and we’ll talk.”
She sighed and followed me into the living room. She sat on the couch, and I took a seat in the loveseat across from it. I twisted my hands together a few times, not knowing where to start. Finally I just blurted it out. “Mirriam married Caleb last night. She’s fine. She’s in Mexico right now, but she thinks we’re angry. She doesn’t plan to come back to Killeen for any reason until she’s eighteen.”
She froze like a statue. Her skin paled for a moment then returned to its natural golden color. The next time she breathed, her whole body moved. “Find her. We’re leaving.”
For where? “Ommy, you know there is nothing in Iraq to go back to.”
She shook her head. “We’ll go to the UAE or Qatar. I have cousins in both.”
A month ago this would have been the best idea I had ever heard, but I wasn’t leaving now. “Ommy, I’m not leaving, and I won’t force Mirriam to.”
She gasped. “Why not?”
“I’m not leaving Kailee, and I can’t force Mirriam to do anything because it’s not my life. Let her make her own mistakes. When she regrets them, she’ll have no one but herself to blame.” But I thought back to the night I met Kailee, how broken she was. Parents making decisions for her would have solved that. Maybe, there was no right way, but I wasn’t leaving Kailee, so I’d be a hypocrite if I forced Mirriam to leave.
Ommy burst into sobs. “My children have betrayed me, and my husband is dead. I wish I was dead!” She stormed to her room, and the guilt pricked at my conscience. I wanted to go after her. A good son would have, but I wouldn’t. Not because I didn’t care. She was wrong, and the longer she talked about it, the more convinced she would be that she was right. But if we had family in the UAE and Qatar, why did she bring us here to begin with?
I walked across the street and knocked on the door. Mrs. Miller answered. She looked better than the last time I saw her, but she was still obviously upset. She held the door out and sighed. “I’m sorry for what I said to you earlier. I’m an adult, and I shouldn’t have talked to you like that.”
I didn’t expect that. Something else that wouldn’t have happened back home. “You were right. I shouldn’t have tried to force Mirriam into something she didn’t want. I was only trying to protect her.”
Her brows furrowed. “From what?”
Something told me she wouldn’t like my answer. “A white girl—”
She nodded too. “He broke that girl’s heart. I know. I’ve known her since she was seven, so it’s hard for me to have to see her now. I know what happened. He was wrong.”
White people are crazy. “He told you that?”
She laughed. “He didn’t have to. I was seventeen once. But everybody does stupid stuff when they’re seventeen, and he loves Mirriam. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” She sighed. “I don’t think they should have gotten married though.”
I shrugged. “Well, it’s too late now. If you talk to her, can you tell her I’m not mad? She can call my cell, but she’s probably right not to call Ommy.”
“For the record, when your parents are allowed to make all of your decisions, no one does stupid stuff when they’re seventeen.”