Breath of Fresh Air

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Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight -

Before we parted ways at the coffee shop, the other day, Penny gave me more sound advice. According to her, the only way to get close to Brooke, to convince her that I was incredibly sorry about the past, was to convince Tameka. Tameka Mitchel had been Brooke’s best friend since they met freshman year a couple months before the prank. Despite how eccentric Tameka could be sometimes, she was fiercely protective of Brooke. Penny used Justin as example. Apparently when Tameka found out, not from Brooke of course, but rumors around school, Justin had the case of blue balls for at least a week. Plus, she broke her thumb breaking his nose when they bumped into each other outside of school, when she happened to be with Brooke.

The only problem was the same as Brooke, Tameka held me responsible, same as Brooke, for the prank. Though, according to Penny, Tameka wasn’t as stubborn as Brooke. Plus Tameka being an only child meant that I had to find a way to get to her between her parents. I sit at the kitchen table, flicking the ashes off as mom comes from the bathroom. Her feet are sliding over the tile floor and I wince, a bit disgusted, with her darkening feet.

When was the last time she took a bath?

“Are you sure you ain’t up to something?” mom suddenly asks as she enters the kitchen instead of the living room. I watch as she moves toward the cabinets.

“What?” I ask her, trying to understand what she means. She’s the one that asked not to know what I was in town for. Mom isn’t stupid, I think she knows I’m running from something. She knew when I left that I was running from something here, that I needed to find myself.

“I’ve been getting calls. Hang ups actually. It’s just unusual. Should I expect someone to show up at the house?” She lifts an eyebrow when I look at her. It takes everything in me now to gulp at the sight of her expression. The hang up calls are unusual for the area, certainly when they just started up as I got into town. It’s been almost a week that I’ve been in town. I would suspect that at least the courts and bail bondsman know that I’ve skipped bail. My employers know I’ve skipped down ignoring their message on the wall.

“Not that I know of.” If the cops start showing up at the house, I’ll have to leave. If the cops can catch me, that means my employers can. The hang ups can only mean one thing, however. They’re looking for me and when I don’t answer the phone, they immediately hang up. I recognize that tactic with Julio, a middle man I happened to work with for a short time. Suddenly I stand to my feet as the phone rings, echoing through the house. Mom answers before I can make it, closer than I am to the phone. She’s barely on there two seconds before handing over the phone.

“Don’t say anything," The voice is feminine, I know it’s not Clyde or Nate, but not Alisha either. ”My mother is in the garden, who knows for how long, but my father is out of this. If you’re serious about talking, come now.” When I called Clyde two days ago, told him about my plans with Tameka, he still didn’t give me her number. Instead, it has taken two days for her to decide to want to talk.

“I’m on my way.” I hang up the phone and mom rolls her eyes.

“Guess you’re going to be leaving again. Get some food while you’re out.” Mom suddenly reaches up for the top of the fridge pulling out the empty coffee can. I watch as she pulls out a wad of crinkled bills before turning to me. Picking up my hand, she slaps the money in my hand. “Try not to get lost on the way to the store.” Her lips curve into a tiny smirk before she grabs her glass of water heading into the living room. I still can’t believe she remembers that. I shake my head, grab my pack of smokes and lighter from the table, along with my keys before heading out.

I stare up at the house before I leave trying to commit everything to memory. I leave a few seconds later as pop music drifts in from the radio. Immediately, I change the station stopping when an old classic rock song, comes on. My lips lift up as I head out of the driveway toward the Mitchel house.

~*~

The Mitchel house is grand compared to my mothers. My car pulls up to the curb and I cut the engine. I spot the familiar aged dark blue sedan at the side of the house. One of the reasons I feared meeting Tameka at home, her father hates me. After a group of my friends and I keyed his car while high, he hasn’t really let something like that go. He even spoke against me when I was sent to the detention center outside of town. It’s a wonder Tameka’s mother doesn’t hate me as well, then again I’ve never actually spoken to any of them.

I leave my cigarettes and lighter in the truck. If I remember anything about the Mitchel’s, Tameka’s mother is a big environmentalist, highly nature focused. She’s always at the head of the picket lines in around town hall boycotting the chicken place two towns over, who’s pins are so crowded most of the chicken are dead just by getting food. I can still remember the PTA meetings and the days before when Mrs. Mitchel would bring vegetarian style meal plans for the school. Tameka is completely different from her mother in her nature focused attribute. Stuffing my hands into my jeans, I head up the steps toward the front door. Swallowing down the nerves, I use the door knock thankful they don’t have a doorbell.

When the door opens, I’m not actually surprised to see Tameka. Though I am surprised to see her blow her breath over her nails. Tameka looks up at me, her dark hair matching her dark skin, which is actually up in a tight pony tail. She’s in what appears to be lounge clothes, tight pants, light red and turquoise shirt which covers her almost to her thighs.

“Are you going to stand there or come on in?” She looks at me, head tilted to the side. More than that, however, I see the curiosity in her eyes. She doesn’t have any idea why I’m here but she’s willing to hear me out. The next time I see Clyde, I’m going to owe the man more than words can comprehend.

“Nice house,” I comment as I step inside. I immediately take a deep breath of the vanilla and almond smell.

“Thanks,” she closes the door behind me, turning the lock and dragging the chain across. “Blame my mother for the viny scent.” She rolls her eyes as she walks in front of me down the hall, past the stairs. When she turns the corner, she enters a sitting room that overlooks the backyard. I see her mother’s back from the window even though the curtains are drawn. The dark coffee table is a contrast to the white sofa Tameka falls into. I notice the blue sandals next to the couch as she drops her toes on the edge of the coffee table. Then I notice the collection of polish next a sunset case iPhone. “Have a seat,” Tameka points toward the opposite couch across from her.

I nod, suddenly nervous to be in her house. “Where’s your father?”

Tameka shrugs. “Work. Mom stays at home most of the time. She works from home on the computer. Though, just like every week day at this time, she spends almost two hours in the garden. Calls it her time of peace.”

I nod, but I get her hint. I have two hours to impress her with what I need. “So,” Tameka sighs, grabbing her phone as she stretches out on the couch. “Clyde called, told me wanted to speak with me about Brooke?”

I nod, biting my bottom lip. “Okay, go ahead.” She stares at me waiting for my response. She’s curious and surprise that I’m taking so long to speak.

“I know it’s my fault for what happened to Brooke almost four years ago. I’ve had a chat with Penelope about a few things that I’ve missed.”

Tameka rolls her eyes, looking out the large windows. “I’m sure she painted herself in a nice light.”

“Actually quite the opposite.”

Tameka’s head snaps in my direction too fast. She stares at me in shock. “Excuse me? What exactly did she say?”

“That the reason she targeted Brooke was because of Alisha. Think about it, Tameka. If you wanted to be popular, known for something in high school, you have listened to the girl who came before you. I was pleasantly surprised to hear regret from Penny.” I look down at my hands. “She also gave me a bit of advice. A way to convince Brooke that I really am sorry for what I’ve done. Her advice was you. If I could convince you, I have a chance at convincing Brooke.”

Tameka shakes her head, looking down, before sliding her phone on the table. “Wow,” she whispers, trailing her dry nails through her hair. “Didn’t think she had much of a brain to begin with. She’s proves me wrong.” Tameka looks up at me, meeting my gaze. “So, guess you’re here to convince me of your innocence in the entire prank?”

I shake my head. “I’m completely responsible. It’s my fault that I didn’t call it off. I had plenty of opportunities. My only excuse is that I was young, stupid and cared more about what people thought of me than I should have. I ruined her life with one stupid mistake. I’ve regretted it even before it happened. The day that we did the prank, the entire time I was repeating in my head how sorry I was. That I was too much of a coward to tell her, a beautiful innocent girl how I felt. I’ll never deserve her as long as I live. I’m not trying to win her heart, I’m probably being selfish, but I need her to know how sorry I am.”

“You’re looking for forgiveness.” Her eyes are wide. The silence that drags on between us is enough of an answer for her. She remains staring at me for a long moment before she breaks it. “Brooke will never believe this. I can’t believe I didn’t see it back then, yet my only concern was for her.” She sighs, her lips breaking into a smile. “You love her.”

My head snaps up and I move to shake my head, but she narrows her gaze at me. “Don’t try to deny it. You loved back then, didn’t you? Alisha got jealous, that’s why she’s had this vendetta against Brooke. Right?”

I turn my head away, staring at my hands.

“Wow.” She chuckles for a moment before falling silent. I watch her sigh as she holds her chin in her hand. “The question that begs my curiosity, why did you come here?”

I sigh, staring down at my hands before looking up. “You’re Brooke’s best friend. Your protective of her. You would never let someone with bad intentions get close to her. First of all, I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for her. Been there when I was too much of an ass to be there for her. Second, you know better than anyone in the world. You know how I can get past her walls, get through to her. She’ll never believe I’m serious about this. Not without your help.”

Tameka grins, taps her finger to the edge of her chin. “I have to say, all the rumors about you, are wrong, Ashford.”

I raise an eyebrow. She laughs, folding her legs into an indian style position. “You’re not stupid after all.”

I chuckle along with her, feeling my entire stomach give way. “So, are you going to help me?”

Tameka claps her hands. “You’ll never get through to her without my help. Plus, I just so happen to know where she’s going to be this evening. The only way through to Brooke is to show her you care. She’s gone all this time thinking that she meant nothing to you. Absolutely nothing. I could see it at the party and the mall the other day, that seeing you was getting to her. The fact that you were actively seeking her out, I think it surprised her. If you’re really serious about this, I will help you. But,” the smile immediately turned into a scowl as she narrowed her gaze at me into a glare. “If you think you’re going to hurt her again, you can leave and we’ll never have this conversation. I can just toss this regret for high school and a one off, Brooke will never know. You can’t go in half way, you have to go all the way. Because I’ve seen Brooke these past few years. I know how she feels about you, what she thinks for you even after all these years. You have to be all in or nothing at all. So what will it be?”

“I just want her to forgive me. I don’t need anymore than that.”

Tameka laughed, smile forming into a smirk. “If that’s all it was, you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t go through all this trouble. You wouldn’t have come back for her graduation.” I move to speak, but Tameka holds up her dark hand. “You can’t deny it, can’t lie to me. Not when it’s staring me in the face from your eyes. Beacons to the soul. Guess my horoscope was right, after all.” I lift an eyebrow as she stands. “You will get information that will surprise you, pertaining to a friend. It will be your choice whether to help or not. The outcome depends on you. Or something like that. Now, we need to go over a few things if you want to meet Brooke tonight. Drink?”

I nod a little stunned as Tameka laughs heading out of the room.

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