Writers Wednesday – Chapter 18 – The Women with Blue Eyes

I am only sharing two more chapters of The Women with Blue Eyes as I’ve decided to publish it as a full-length novel. As promised, I am sharing freely the first 20 chapters. Today, we return with Chapter 18. New to this blog? Start at the beginning. 


Chapter 18: “1500”


The women boarded the elevator for the 15th floor. The old buildings didn’t have elevators. There was no need since they were not high risers, but the renovations added several floors, elevators, laundry rooms, and two-bathroom apartments. Altgeld had fresh green paint, new windows, and more cameras. But none of that mattered in the end. Drug dealers and addicts still ran the buildings and poverty prevailed. It was like covering shit with chocolate and hoping it would turn into candy. Many of the more political residents complained about how the city wasted money on glitter and gold but didn’t address the real issues.

Janiyah sighed.

“Come on now, J, don’t start that,” Tabitha scratched at her wig. “We got a new shipment today, and I don’t need you acting all brand new. You know we get paid by the number of bags.”

“You know I hate this stuff, Tab.”

“I know, baby, but you can make that lil bread you owe tonight and be done if you play your cards right. Take that money and never look back.”

“I’ll do half tonight and come back tomorrow. Make that my last night.”

“See you being lazy. Twenty of them lil bags, ain’t nothing. I do that in a couple of hours.”

Janiyah laughed. She couldn’t spend that much time here. She had to relieve Miss Bernice soon. Janiyah had a strict curfew.

“Dang, we gonna miss you J.”

“What about you Tab? Don’t you wanna get outta here?”

Tabitha brushed it off. “And leave all this?” She twirled around and posed, smiling.

“I’m serious. You ever think about something else?”

Tabitha rolled her eyes. “Come on now J. I ain’t for the preaching tonight, aiight?”

Janiyah waved her hand. “Aiight.”

There was silence between them as the elevator climbed and stopped on the thirteenth floor. A mother and her daughter got on.

“Of course, I think about it,” Tab lowered her voice. “But I ain’t got a big house in the suburbs and a fancy-ass detective mama to spoil me to death.”

“She’s not my mother…”

“Okay, whatever. You know what I mean. A detective auntie then who make sure ya’ll don’t want for anything. What do I have? Of course, I think about leaving, but for what J? What’s waiting out there for me?”

Janiyah let the silence fill the air. After getting custody over her and her siblings, Tina moved them into that big house in the suburbs, while people like Tabitha had to stay here. It wasn’t fair, and Janiyah hated having to leave her. She also didn’t want people thinking she’d forgotten where she came from. It was part of why she made frequent visits to Altgeld. Janiyah was angry with Tina for taking them away. She thought about her history class, where Professor Grier referred to them as “The Talented Tenth.”

According to Dubois, the talented tenth was the ten percent of blacks who were skilled and intelligent enough to guide the ninety percent. Grier said they were the leaders of the race. Some bullshit, Janiyah shook her head. If every successful black person moved out of the hood, who would help the hood? Janiyah thought black people abandoned their own when they made it, leaving people like Tabitha feeling like there was no way out. And what did “made it” look like anyway? What did it feel like? They were doing well, but here she was on the same elevator, getting ready to do the same thing as Tab.

The elevator opened to floor fifteen, and the women stepped out, leaving the woman and her daughter. They must live on the sixteenth floor, Janiyah thought. The building only had sixteen floors, and everyone knew what the fifteenth floor was all about. The woman gave a side-eye to Janiyah and Tabitha as they exited.

“What?” Tabitha smacked her lips and rolled her eyes as the elevator doors closed. “Judgmental ass.”

The young women walked toward apartment 1502, stopping at apartment 1500, where many people stood, some of them workers waiting on the door to 1502 to open, and some of them leechers just there for weed and drinks. They could hear the music booming, the conversation roaring, and the drunken laughter as they got closer. Men and women surrounded the doorway. It was like a party every night at 1500.

“What it looking like in there today?” asked Tabitha as they walked up, speaking to one of the women.

“Same shit.”

“I thought we were getting a new shipment tonight?”

Tabitha wondered why the door to 1502 was still closed. It was time to get down to business. She was all about making extra money. It’s how she paid her bills.

“Nah,” said a man standing by, “It ain’t come yet.”

Tabitha laughed when she looked into the man’s glossy eyes. “Yo, you on that trip, huh?”

“Yea,” said a woman, “he tripping hard. The woman turned her attention to Janiyah, “how you doing, lil mama, you good?”

Janiyah forced a smile, “Yea, I’m straight.”

Irritation consumed her as she avoided eye contact with the woman. She couldn’t stand being around these people, especially the women. Most everybody had heard stories of her first job and what she used to do. She had to fight off the women just as well as the men.

They stood around and talked some more, idle conversation to pass the time. The apartment door was wide open, and Janiyah and Tabitha walked into a large living room area where people slumped on the couch, already high. Others argued over a game of dominoes at the card table in the middle of the room. Weed smoke and musk filled the air, and drinks were abundant. A short woman with short blonde hair approached them smoking a cigarette.

“They ain’t ready yet. Said give them ten minutes to finish the last round. Ya’ll eat? Got some wings in the kitchen.”

“Hey Mika, girl,” said Tabitha hugging her. “We just tryna handle this and be out.”

Janiyah and Tabitha had rules too. They never ate at 1500 and never drank unless it was bottled water or made it themselves. Most of the time, they brought their own drinks. Mama ain’t raise no fool.

“I feel you.”

Tabitha and Mika talked and laughed, and Janiyah frowned. Dang, can they hurry up? She turned to look at the door, the group of people still standing around. That meant they weren’t open yet.

“How long they say they gonna be?”

Mika looked Janiyah up and down. “What, you got somewhere else you need to be?” The woman stepped back, her eyes roaming Janiyah’s body.

“Yea, I heard about you,” she smiled wickedly, and Tabitha grabbed Mika’s arm.

“Chil with that lame shit aiight?”

Mika snatched her arm away. “I’m cool. I just think people with histories shouldn’t act, so uppidity is all I’m saying.” Mika laughed and walked off.

Janiyah shook her head. “I can’t stand that bitch.”

The women mingled for a few more minutes until a man called Big Boi, the head watchman made the call. Whenever Big Boi yelled, “we up!” into the apartment and people scattered, they knew apartment 1502 was open, and it was time.


UP NEXT

CHAPTER 19: “TRIP”

Are you new to this series?  

Click Here to Read Chapter One!

My Soul is a Witness is LIVE

Good Day Freedom Readers!

My Soul is a Witness is LIVE.

Amazon

Signed Paperback

Goodreads

About.

My Soul is a Witness, a collection of poems that reminds us that there is still hope in our darkest moments. Nothing we go through is without a purpose. No pain we suffer, and no trial we experience happens without reason. It all ministers to our education and the development of ourselves into the people we are ordained to become. It helps to cultivate in us a spirit of patience, faith, humility, and self-control.

Be safe and enjoy your week!!

Welcome

Wherever you are in the world, welcome. I have been MIA a minute, and I’ve noticed an uptick of Freedom Readers to this blog. You guys are fantastic.

If you have not already done so, be sure to visit the About Page to learn more about me and this blog.

My name is Yecheilyah, pronounced e-SEE-li-yah, aka EC. It is a Hebrew name meaning Yah Lives. In case you are wondering, I was not born with this name. I follow in the footsteps of Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Kwame Ture, and others who are not widely known by their birth names.

At some point, I imagine these people, like I, have awakened to a truth that demanded a better version of themselves and a better way of living. Not only did they strive to change their perspective on life, but they changed their names to fit the newly developed person, they became. (I am drafting an article called “The Power of Your Name,” about the vital role our name plays in author branding. I should have it ready for you sometime next week).

Speaking of growing, this blog is so much more than what it was. It is the primary platform from which I share my work and the work of others. From our home office, living room, or bedroom, we can reach people worldwide. Isn’t that amazing? While I don’t intend to blog forever, I hope what I share here serves a purpose. With so many people home now because of this global pandemic, I take my role as writer/author/blogger even more seriously than ever. I know now more than any other time the power of the written word and its capability to change lives.

This blog runs mainly by a few weekly posts you might want to know about.

Wednesdays

The Women with Blue Eyes – I usually author poetry and black historical fiction, but I have a secret love affair with Fantasy and Sci-Fi. My first published novel (The Aftermath, 2012) was Sci-Fi. I got interested in writing in this genre after reading George Orwell’s 1984 in 2008.

The Women with Blue Eyes is a free fantasy story I have been sharing freely here on the blog. When Tina’s nephew Ronnie died, it traumatized her. It wasn’t just that he died. It was the way he died. After taking custody of Ronnie’s sisters and brother, Tina experienced supernatural phenomenons that eventually led to therapy and hallucinogenic suppressants. This didn’t help.

She meets Azbuga, an Archangel sent to tie the missing pieces together, still connecting her to Ronnie’s death.

Paschar (pu-shar), is the angel of vision, once tasked with guarding the veil between the physical world and the heavens, between consciousness and unconsciousness, between awareness and illusion. She once saw the beauty of visions from the Almighty and projected these into human consciousness. Now, she is limited, capable only of seeing physical beauty, extracting energy from mortal man, and projecting illusions. Paschar has fallen, and in a jealous rage, she attacks black men for their energy. How dare he choose them over her?

Can Tina, Jason, and Az defeat Paschar and her Legion once and for all? More black men are dying, and you can’t fight spiritual warfare with physical weapons.

This series is divided into two parts, and I am sharing freely part one, chapters 1-20. Click here to read chapters 1-17. Chapter 18 publishes next week. (Note: The Women with Blue Eyes is a Rated-R Fantasy series. You should know there is some profanity for those sensitive to cursing, and adult language).

My intent is to use this platform as a motivation for completing the series and one day turning it into a full-length novel.

Thursdays

Throwback Thursday Jams – If I was on the edge of a cliff, music would be one force pulling me back from jumping.

Okay, well, that’s a lil dramatic but, yea. I love music. Tee Hee.

So while I’m a serious person, I am also a silly and musical person. I love R&B and old school soul, and Thursdays are all about introducing you to some of my favorite throwback jams. Now, when I say throwback, I don’t mean that they are all technically throwbacks. I post music ranging from Old School (60-80s), the 90s (my fav), and the early 2000s. And sometimes I might post something new-ish because I just like it. Check out the Throwback Thursday category to jam out.

Fridays

Black History Fun Fact Friday -Black History Fun Fact Friday is a weekly blog series of articles focused on Israelite/Black/African American history. While the title of the series includes the words “Fun Facts,” not all pieces are “fun,” in the sense that is is all positive. My intention with this series is to present black history as it is without adding to or taking away from the truth, despite how brutal or uncomfortable it may be to read.

Take Sun-Down Towns, for example. The unfortunate truth is that some all-white communities today are all-white neighborhoods because they were once sun-down towns or cities where blacks were driven out and not allowed to enter after sun-down. Read more about that here. 

 

And while this is a weekly series, we have had no new articles in a few weeks. There’s a good reason for that, and I will let you all know about that exciting bit of news later!! In the meantime, if you would like to participate, I am still accepting black history guest blog posts for this feature. Please click here to learn how to apply.

These are some top weekly posts you can get used to. In between them, I share poetry, quotes, blog, and writing tips I call Indie Author Basics with EC based on my experience as an Independent Author.

 

It’s almost time for me to change my Avatar’s outfit. It’s getting cooler out! Who’s ready for the fall??

Do Not Write a Poem

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Do not set out to write a poem. Strip yourself of all the education you think will make you a good writer, and undress all the fluff you believe constitutes a good poem. Write only what is in your heart at this exact moment—every thread of thought and every emotion you have not the courage to feel out loud. Write this. That thing you are afraid to say. Write that. Approach the page vulnerable. Come open. Come raw. Come wounded or come healed, but come bared of what you think poetry is and become the poem instead. Write accurately and precisely every sentiment you have bottled up inside. In writing what is in the most sacred part of your being, and the most intense sections of your soul, you may unintentionally stumble on something beautifully authentic.

You may even call it a poem.

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 17 – The Women with Blue Eyes


Chapter 17: “Altgeld Projects”


Janiyah sat up on the couch, took out her flip phone, and scrolled through her MySpace page.

“Tab girl, come on.”

She didn’t like spending too much time at Tabitha’s house. She just wanted to get her money and go home. Tab lived in the Altgeld Gardens, one of the last remaining housing projects in Chicago, located on the city’s far south side bordering Riverdale. The complex had undergone renovations but had continued to perpetuate the same gun violence and poverty associated with any Chicago housing complex. But that’s not why Janiyah hated it. Before Tina moved them out, she had grown up in the projects, and she was pretty enough to be protected by the gang members who still lusted for her. She knew that it was arrogant to think, but it was true. If the gangbangers thought you were fine, “a dime,” they showed you favor. “Redbones,” were in, and everyone wanted that pretty light-skinned girl named Janiyah. Word on the street was she was a virgin, and they all wanted to be the one to boast they had popped that cherry.

Word on the street was also that her auntie was a detective and ruled with an iron fist. While they wanted Janiyah, they also wanted to stay out of jail. They watched her with lustful eyes, flirted, and hoped to navigate Tina’s iron steel fence with the two pit bulls in front of it. Terms like, “You ready yet?” You eighteen yet?” were common when Janiyah sashayed down the halls. Her footsteps hit the concrete with confidence, kissing the ground like she poured the cement herself or knew who did. Her laughter was a flirtatious innocence, and her hips danced, and her booty bounced made them swear she knew what she was doing, even if she didn’t. She was a Goddess no one had the authority to touch, and she knew it. Janiyah walked the patio like she lived there and never had a problem if she needed to spend the night. Though, she would never let goodie-too-shoes Tina know this is where she kicked it. Janiyah wasn’t ashamed of the projects. Here, she was home. But Tabitha’s apartment also reminded her of Big Sam’s apartment in the building across the street and too much of Ronnie. He was alive then.

“Let me put my wig on,” shouted Tabitha from the back. Janiyah smiled and shook her head.

“You got something to drink in here?”

“I think it’s some Kool-Aid left.”

A phone sang in the back room. Tab always had a busy line. “Hey stranger,” she could be heard saying from the back. “Yea, I’m here, what’s up?”

Janiyah, smiled, shaking her head at her crazy friend.

Tabitha was half Asian and half black, and it drove the men crazy. She was a different kind of beautiful to them and not just because of her looks. Tab was straight hood and didn’t give two shits about her Asian heritage. Her mother tried to convince her to widen her perspective and learn more about her history, but Tab was a wild card with Asian eyes, brown skin, and street in her veins. All of this and she was still a “pretty girl.” Tabitha liked everything cute and yellow, lipstick, foundation, and heels. It didn’t matter what she was doing, Tabitha always dressed up. Janiyah teased her about looking like she was going to the club when she knew they were going to be sitting in the house.

***

Freddy leaned back into the sofa and sighed. It was refreshing to sit back and enjoy the moment: no investigations, no phone calls, and no Juan.

“Ouch.”

He jerked back, pulling his hand away from Tabitha, who was laughing.

“You are such a big baby. Are you gonna let me clip those claws or not?”

“Not,” laughed Freddy.

Tabitha laughed and put her manicure kit on the table in front of them. “Fine.”

The two laughed some more before settling into silence.

“You called,” said Tabitha, smiling.

Freddy smiled back. “I told you I would.”

“Took you long enough. What’s going on?”

Frederick was a cool friend, but he wasn’t Tabitha’s type. The nature of their relationship was platonic, but they still kept it on the low. Tabitha was young, and they both knew no one would understand why such an older man was visiting such a young woman. The two met during an investigation into a drug deal gone wrong at the buildings where Freddy and Tina were both assigned. Tina turned down the job, not wanting to have anyone make the connection that she knew anyone in the buildings where the crime took place. Tabitha struck up a conversation with Freddy about the dirt under his fingernails, and since then, the two have been tight. Freddy made her promise not to tell Janiyah or Tina about their relationship.

“They wouldn’t understand,” he had said.

Tabitha didn’t force it. It wasn’t like he came around a lot anyway, and she always wanted a big brother, which is what Freddy was to her. What she provided for him was an ear.

“I don’t know, man, some crazy shit.”

“Like…”

Like Tina acting weird. Talking to herself.”

“Talking to herself?”

Fred nodded, and Tabitha frowned. “Niyah ain’t said nothing about that. Guess she still grieving.”

“Juan is acting weird too. Damn near cursed me out the other day. Now I gotta chase down this Jason cat.”

“Jason?”

“Yea, some dude Tina had me look into.”

“You said chase down.” Tabitha folded her arms. “What, Juan, got you on a leash again?”

Freddy frowned, “what? Hell no. Ain’t nobody got me hemmed up. Juan thinks they got something to do with the Steakhouse case.”

Tabitha’s body froze, and Freddy noticed.

“What’s up?”

Tabitha hesitated, picking the manicure case back up from the table. Freddy took it from her hands and put it back on the table.

“What’s going on Tab? What do you know?”

“First of all, don’t ever take nothing out my hand,” she said, picking the case back up.

“What you know, fam?”

“I don’t know shit. I heard about the Steakhouse Case is all. You know, people talk. You the detective, what you know?”

“I don’t know shit.”

“Okay, then. Don’t be coming for me. I ain’t Juan.”

Freddy laughed, “whatever, man. Since you ain’t gonna tell me what you know about the Steakhouse case, cause yo ass know something…”

Tabitha clipped her fingernails.

“…what you know about Jason and don’t say you don’t know who that is cause you and Janiyah real tight.”

“Yea, we tight, but I don’t know a Jason. Niyah ain’t mention nothing about Tina having a man.”

“Find out for me.”

Tabitha stopped picking at her nails, “oh, so you want me to spy for you now?”

Freddy laughed, patted Tabitha’s leg, and stood, “naw, ma. Nothing like that. Just see what Niyah knows. Who dude is and all that. I know Tina like an Auntie to you, and she like a sista to me, and I don’t know dude, feel me?”

Tabitha stood, “yea. I feel you. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Aiight friend,” Freddy leaned in for a hug.

“Aiight homie,” said Tabitha, hugging him back and then walking him to the door.

Tabitha locked the door and bit her lip. Something was up. If Fred asked her about the Steakhouse, that meant the Feds was getting close, and a friend or no friend Tab wasn’t saying anything about the operation. Wasn’t nothing or nobody gonna mess up her cash flow. The Feds called the deaths murders, but she knew it was Trip.


Are you new to this series?  Click here to start from chapter one!

*We are getting closer to finding out more about how Paschar and her legion operate in the physical realm. Be sure you are caught up on all the chapters!

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 16 – The Women with Blue Eyes


Chapter 16: “Something’s Not Right”


Tina plugged her phone into the charger and changed into her pajamas. As she changed, she thought about Janiyah. They had their worst fight earlier, and Janiyah’s words had pierced her to the core. It had not occurred to her that she was neglecting the children, something she promised never to do. There used to be a time when Miss Bernice was not allowed to cook for her family. Now it seemed she made dinner for them every night. Dinner was supposed to be their time together.

Tina’s heart sank as she climbed into bed. There was just too much going on, and she didn’t know if she could take much more. Silently, she gave her props to the mothers pulling double duty. She was struggling and had no idea how she would balance it all. Having children was one thing, and being married with children was another thing, but being a single mom to children that weren’t biologically hers was a Goliath, and she was no David. She wanted to call in help, a referee, to lighten the burden that had become her life. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. She was supposed to marry the love of her life and have her own children. Tina cringed. She hated to say it like that. Niyah, Mike, and KK were hers as if they had come from her womb. She had helped Keisha to raise them and became their Aunt. Since Tina and Keisha were besties, any children they had would be a niece and nephew.

But as much as she loved Keisha’s kids, Tina still yearned for seeds of her own flesh. Was this selfish? Tina was sure that it was, but she was also sure that she was human, and that societal, biological clock ingrained in her ticked, and every time it ticked, she hurt from loss. She hurt from a loss that could neither be explained nor understood by anyone, not in her situation. These were supposed to be the days her and Keisha dreamed about as teens. These were those grown-up years where they were supposed to be gazillionaires with huge families and took trips to Dubai just because they could afford it. While Keisha successfully had her dream four, Tina wished she hadn’t had any children. As Tina graduated High School and headed to College, Keisha dropped out of school to raise Janiyah and quickly got pregnant again. This time a boy, Tyrone who everybody called Ronnie. She had hoped to get her GED and attend community college, but then she had Micheal and then Kayla. Keisha gave up hope and started giving that hope to the streets. She was hooked before Tina could walk across the stage.

Tina’s phone pinged from an incoming text.

Freddy: Hey, can we talk? I’m sorry about my behavior lately. I know Ronnie’s death was hard on you. Can you meet me tomorrow?

Tina’s lip curled up. Fred had been her partner for five years now. He had been there for her when Ronnie died and had always been by her side. It was nice to see he had not completely lost his mind.

Tina: Sure.

Tina turned the phone off, turned over, and raised the covers over her head.

***

“Haven’t I always been there for you T?”

Tina sighed and sipped her coffee, closing her eyes and letting the coolness of the wind caress her face. A dog barked, and someone’s child screamed. Tina’s eyes popped open and scanned the park, and then back around to face Freddy. They had met here before heading to the office. It was not unusual, but hindsight is 20/20.

“Of course, Fred, c’mon.”

“You say that, but I’m worried about you T. Seriously. What’s going on?”

Tina sighed and shook her head. She could trust Fred. But, then again, she thought she could trust Jason too, and he snapped on her. Tina looked at him and smiled.

“I’m okay. Really, I am.”

Freddy shrugged, “I’ll never stop worrying about you T, but if you say you’re okay, I believe you.”

Tina smiled and leaned against Freddy’s shoulder, “aww, Fred!”

They both laughed as Fred’s phone rang. He held it up.

“Gotta take this. You good?”

“I’m aiight. Take your call.”

“You sure?”

Tina pushed him, “Go!”

Fred stood and walked off, laughing as he put the phone to his ear. Tina smiled. At least she still had one friend.

***

Fred winced as his phone rang. He knew it was Juan wanting details, but Tina was telling him nothing. He faked a smile and walked off, leaving Tina on the park bench, sipping her coffee.

“I don’t know, man, she ain’t budging.”

“Then make her budge,” said Juan’s voice on the other line.

“Look, I been knowing T a long time. She trusts me. I’d like to keep it that way.”

“What you’d like to keep is your job.”

“Juan? C’mon man. Why you tripping? I can’t make her tell me nothing.”

“You can, and you will.”

The line went dead, and Freddy pulled the phone back and looked at it, startled by the dial tone. Juan was tripping. Everybody was acting crazy. Tina, Juan, Erica. He didn’t know what to think. He was supposed to be spying on Tina, and so far, he was failing. Something ain’t right. He had to dig deeper, and if Tina were not going to talk to him, someone would.

Fred flipped his cell phone back open and dialed a number, raising the phone to his ear.

“What’s up, girl? You at Altgeld tonight? Stay up. I’m coming through.”


Coming Up:

Chapter 17: “Altgeld Projects”

Wed.  8/12/2020

Are you new to this series?

Click here to start from chapter one!

*We are getting closer to finding out more about how Paschar and her legion operate in the physical realm. Be sure you are caught up on all the chapters!

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 15 – The Women with Blue Eyes

Note: If you are new to this series and have not already read the first few chapters, please do so. For this part, you want to go back to chapter three and eight for context.


Chapter 15: “The Door”

One Year Ago

Not being able to move your arms and legs is one of the worst feelings in the world. 

Janiyah squirmed. She also could not speak. Big Sam had tied her arms and legs and put duct tape over her mouth. What’s worse than being tied up like an animal? Knowing your little brother and sister is in the other room, completely oblivious to what’s going on outside of cartoons. 

“What’s my little mama gonna do now?”

Her fat ass leaned against the wall, smoking a blunt. Big Sam was a woman, her name short for Samantha, and she was one of the biggest drug Queenpins in Chicago. Her name is what made her so good because everyone assumed she was a man. Sam had men under her, though, taking orders and moving weight. She didn’t have to do anything but give orders. When Janiyah met Tabitha, she had no idea she was Big Sam’s cousin. They became close friends, and both got trapped. Janiyah’s body trembled to think of the things they used to do, what people did for money, what people did for love.

She ignored Sam’s questions; her eyes were darting around the room. She looked at the driver—that piece of shit. Adam had a big crush on her, and maybe she could give him a chance, or so she thought. After finding out about Big Sam, she planned her escape with Mike and Kayla. He was supposed to take them to the bus station. Instead, he brought them here, right back to Big Sam. Of course, he was working for her. She should have known. 

“Come on Niyah,” Sam continued, “you had to know I knew you would try and escape me. The good thing though, is that Ronnie ain’t that smart.”

Janiyah cringed at the mention of her little brother’s name, gritting her teeth against the tape’s stickiness. He was so naïve about Sam.

“He is starting to ask questions, though,” she took a puff of the blunt and blew out the smoke, “I wonder why?”

Big Sam winked, and her brown eyes flashed a glacial blue and then went back to brown. Janiyah frowned. It had happened in a matter of seconds. If she were not looking directly at the woman, she would have missed it. What was that? Did her eyes change? Janiyah shook her head as a chill ran down her spine. She couldn’t have seen what she thought she saw. 

They were in an undisclosed location, but it looked to Janiyah to be a warehouse with a room in the back. Spacious and roomy, the cold-storage area was large and tin-roofed with concrete floors. Windowless, no one could see the inside of the building. In the middle of the space sat one table with several boxes on top. It was where they did their dirty work, she was sure.

Big Sam put the blunt out on the bottom of her shoe, and then extended her arms to receive a box from one of her men. She took out a knife and cut the package open, pausing to glance at Janiyah.

“I’m sure you will keep your mouth shut about what you see here.”

Janiyah raised a brow. That was a weird statement. Drugs. Of course it was drugs. What was so secret about that?

Sam nodded to a man in the distance. He had been standing next to the closed door that housed Mike and Kayla since they got there. Hands folded in front of him, the man had not said a word. He nodded back at Sam and knocked against the door with his knuckles. “Ey,” he shouted, “bring ’em out.”

The door creaked open, and Janiyah rocked the chair so furiously that it tipped over, causing her to crash onto the floor, her face hitting the concrete first, her nose and mouth bleeding underneath the tape and sliding down her chin. Janiyah screamed from the pain to her jaw, her eyes bulging out of her head at what she was seeing. It was her baby sister Kayla, blindfolded with a gun to her head. The man walked the girl closer to Janiyah. Big Sam smirked.

“As I said, I’m sure you’ll keep your mouth shut about what you see.”

Big Sam walked over to Janiyah and ripped the tape from her mouth, specks of blood flew off with it. Sam cringed and wiped the droplets that landed on her hand off on her jeans. Janiyah screamed from the pain.

“Please,” she cried, “please don’t hurt her.”

“It was just a matter of time before you told Ronnie about our little investment.”

At the mention of Ronnie’s name, a sound is heard near the door. 

Ronnie emerges from the shadows, points a gun at Big Sam, she smiles, and Janiyah screams.

“Ronnie, no!”

***

Present Day

That’s not really what happened next, but it always ended this way, missing all the other stuff that happened in-between. The same scene played itself on a loop in her mind.

It was the same nightmare and the same scene. Why couldn’t she remember anything else? It always skipped to the part when Ronnie pulls the trigger, but she never sees him fall. Should she be thankful? Hell no. Not seeing her brother die but replaying the moment just before he did was no favor.

Tina would always come to her rescue, rocking her back and forth. She thinks I’m a saint. Janiyah was thankful for her mother’s best friend taking them in, but there was so much she didn’t know. Janiyah blamed herself for Ronnie’s death. If it weren’t for her sneaking around with Tabitha to work for Big Sam, he would have never gotten involved. All she wanted to do was help her mom pay back her debt. All Ronnie wanted was for his sister to stop doing what it was she was doing.

Everyone had their secrets, she guessed. Somehow, hers seemed far worse than everyone else. Tina saw a therapist and took crazy pills, and Miss Bernice let the kids take turns sitting in the passenger’s seat of her car. None of that seemed as bad as her situation. Big Sam was dead, but everybody in the hood knows just because the leader dies, that doesn’t mean your debt is paid. It just passes on to the next person in charge. Her mama may have been strung out and unstable, but she was still her mother, and she still owed.

Emotion rose in Janiyah’s throat as she started the ignition of her car and headed in the direction of Tabitha’s house, convincing herself again to keep quiet. There was no way Tina could know that she still worked for Big Sam’s people. And there was no way she could tell anyone about what she saw that night. Not about Sam’s eyes, which Janiyah was still not sure happened, or what was in those boxes. She just wanted to get the rest of this money and finish paying her mother’s debt, and it would all be over. She had cash from Ronnie’s case, but there was no way she could explain why she took thousands of dollars out of the account.

She had to finish the job.


Are you new to this series? Click here to start from chapter one.