“I just don’t get why it’s so difficult, Faith. You’re a smart girl. We’ve gone over this so many times.”
Faith looked up at her aunt. “I know, Auntie.”
“Oh, I know you know. I just need you to know how to do,” Paulette lectured. “Or you can bet this will be our last time eating out like this. I’m talking Cup-O-Noodles until all those grades are B’s and better. Got it?”
“Yes ma’am.” Faith turned her sullen face from the plate of pizza to the enormous walkway of the Santa Monica Promenade where hundreds of shoppers on their way to the surrounding trendy and boutique stores passed by the outdoor café she and her aunt were having dinner at.
The evening was young enough that its stars hadn’t blossomed, but it was usually better that way considering the beach was less than half a mile away, and the later it was, the colder it got. Faith had tuned out some of her aunt’s post lecture small talk, and zeroed in on a group of Caucasian girls that looked to be her age. They were having a good time as they walked and laughed, chaperone free, with bags from the Apple Store and Forever 21 in their hands. She wondered where their mother’s were. Probably shopping at another store or waiting for them in one of those mini-vans.
One of the girls happened to glance in Faith’s direction as they passed the café tables, and Faith smiled at her. The young girl returned a genuine smile before redirecting her attention back to her friends. Faith wished she could join them. She wanted to get in the mini-van and talk about cute boys and bad teachers too. As she watched them continue on, another sight sprung up so unexpectedly it caused her to fall back out of her chair.
“Faith, are you okay, sweetie? What happened?”
Faith could hear her aunt’s voice and feel the soft touch on her shoulder. She could even picture the stares from patrons startled by the commotion of her falling, but her vision was fixated on the image that seemed to paralyze her limbs and heart the closer it came into view. Her aunt knelt down next to her to check for injuries.
“ Faith? I thought that was you!” His voice triggered distant memories that straddled the fence of happiness and dysfunction.
“Joe?” Aunt Paulette stole the name from Faith’s mouth.
Faith scrambled to her feet so furiously she nearly fell again. Paulette had also stood and Faith didn’t hesitate to grab her for balance.
“Wow, you’ve gotten so big, Faith. You look great too, Paulette.” Joe lifted his leg as if he was going to step over the waist high rail that separated the tables from the wide walkway.
Faith started trembling and Paulette instinctively stepped in front of her niece. “Ah, ah, Joe, I think you’re better off on the other side.”
“C’mon, Paulette. It’s been like ten years. The court didn’t find me guilty of anything. Let’s lose the judgment and let bygones be bygones!” Joe smiled widely and Faith was instantly transported to the night her mother died.
“Glad to see you’re doing okay, Joe. Yes, let’s let bygones be bygones, and please be gone.”
“Faith,” Joe tried peaking around to catch a better glimpse. “Wow, you look just like your mom. Spitting image!”
“I said that’s enough, Joe!” Paulette quieted herself to avoid making a public scene.
Faith kept an eye on him from behind her aunt. Joe looked offended by her comments. He leaned over and put both hands on the rail and shook his head. “I didn’t pull the gun that night. I didn’t pull the trigger that night. I grabbed her arm to defend myself, not aim the barrel at her. I have to live with the scream and gunshot every day.”
“Well, you know how I have to live, Joe? Without a sister. You know how she has to live? Without a mom!” Paulette had lost the bearing she worked hard to find. “Now, if you don’t let us enjoy the rest of our dinner in peace−”
“What? It’s a free country and I’m a free citizen. The justice system made that possible!”
Faith was unnerved how easy it was for adults to argue. The tone of their voices was as heated as the last time she had seen Joe prior to the courtroom. The outcome of that night quickly came back to life. Faith could still feel the warm blood of her mother soaking through her nightgown and coating her skin. She could see her mother’s big black eyes staring lifelessly back at her. And for the first time that night, there was no return embrace when she placed her hands inside the palms of the woman who had given her life. Her head started spinning.
“Well, they say there’s no justice like street justice!” Paulette took a step closer, oblivious to all of the interest those nearby were paying to the dispute. Faith wondered if she should follow her aunt, or step further back.
“Get outa here.” Joe smirked. “You’re as illogical as your loony sister. Pullin’ stuff out your ass must run in your DNA.”
Paulette closed her eyes as she smiled. She reached back from under her shirt and produced a police issued nine millimeter Smith and Wesson. Her hand didn’t shake, it was as steady as a surgeons. “How about I pull this out my ass, Joe? Huh, how do you like that illogic?”
A few shouts preceded the panic of feet running, plates and glasses dropping, and the entire area clearing quickly. Faith was surprised that Joe hadn’t flinched. He stood looking at the gun as if it were a mirror. Faith stood with her arms at her side. She wanted to move, she wanted to speak, but nothing happened.
“Be careful. I don’t want to be the one responsible for sending both of y’all to heaven. How pissed would your mom would be at me!” Joe cracked.
“Wouldn’t want mama mad,” Paulette stated callously. “How about proud?”
POW! Faith jumped as the blast of the gun pushed Joe to the ground, screaming obscenities as he held his bleeding crotch. Paulette set her gun on a table and moved in closer to speak to her niece.
“I’m sorry, Faith, but she was my big sister. We may have fought like bloods and crips, but nobody, especially that low life, had the right to violate our circle. It took everything in me not to do that at the trial. I even had buddies on the force who offered to vouch for me if I wanted to execute my own justice.
I always thought when I finally saw him again, I could be a bigger person, leave it in God’s hands like a good Christian. Well, I guess even the best Christian’s need Christ’s blood more than they know.”
Nearby police didn’t waste time responding. “FREEZE! PUT YOUR HANDS UP SLOWLY! NO SUDDEN MOVES!”
To read previous Chapters click on the links below:
Rickey Teems II is an acclaimed author, but that probably wasn’t too difficult to figure out since this is, well, a publishing website for books. What you may not have known is that his creativity spans all age groups and he has won awards and received recognition for both his children’s books and fiction novels. Teems obtained both his Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy with honors, and actively works with adolescents in mentoring and counseling programs in South Central Los Angeles. Teems is an Air Force veteran, active church member, and father to two beautiful daughters.
His award winning and faith filled works for adults include: Regression, The Healing of Love and Laughter, Fighting for Glory, Unshakeable Faith and Can I be Frank. His young adult and children’s books are: Keep it 100: Real Talk on being a Real Man, You Can’t Eat Toes for Breakfast and Why Can’t We See God (book 1 in the Harry and Sherry Discovery Series). To contact Rickey, be sure to visit: www.noguilebooks.com or find him on FaceBook and Twitter and say 'what's up.'