Episode 19

Episode 19 Realisation

Sirens, car alarms, footsteps, yelling all filled the dawn as a young man pounded toward a street he knew well. Instead of turning onto it he kept running straight. Perspiration poured down his dark face as his heart pounded in his chest. Every breath he took felt like it was scorching his lungs. Jumping as high as he could, he cleared a fence and pounded across a yard. A dog barked but he jumped the next fence, feeling the burn in his calves as he continued. The sky was tinged with pink now and he knew if he didn’t get to where he needed before the sun was up, people would see him and probably tell the cops where he was. As he cleared the tenth fence and ran headlong toward an iron gate, he heard two pit-bulls burst into fitting barks. Pushing open the gate and leaning there for a minute, catching his breath, he looked up into the sky and satisfied that there was not a single chopper in sight, walked steadily to the iron door.

“Rogue!” he called. “It’s me, JC!” the door creaked an inch and a husky voice said. “Password?” “Crip killer,” he mumbled and a chain was loosened as Rogue permitted JC to enter. The door slammed behind him and JC leaned on it, feeling his back pour with moisture and his heart beginning to calm.

“What da fuck happened to you, niga?” A shorter man with round almond eyes and a goatee asked in shock. JC looked like he was on the run and he was right. “Just gave someone a warning to stay the fuck away from my girl,” JC hissed. “Who?” Rogue asked with curiosity as he lit a joint and passed it to JC who took it gratefully. “Some nigga named battle,” JC took a deep drag from the joint, held the smoke in his lungs for a few seconds and released the smoke with a small cough. “Woa, Battle? What you do?” Rogue’s eyes grew like saucers as JC told him how he smashed up Battle’s car just now because he knew that Battle wanted to get into Caitlin. It was obvious. And if she did anything, he swore he’d kill her too. JC was a man who demanded respect and prided himself on it so if anyone, including the girl he was coming to care for deeply, fucked him over, he’d be sure to teach them a lesson they’d never forget.

“Your girl?” Rogue asked scowling at the younger man he was forced to show ultimate respect for despite his seniority to him in regards to age. Standing there, watching the torment on the younger man’s face, he knew that JC was not thinking as clearly as he should be. Warning someone off of a girl was normal behaviour but doing it while the person you were warning was laying in a hospital bed after being shot, in a suspected gang attack was not a wise decision. Rogue’s thick, black eyebrows knitted together with anxiety as he watched the younger man smoke steadily on the joint. JC had status in their neighbourhood and no matter what, Rogue had to respect him or face the consequences and ending up on a mortuary slab was not his idea of how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. So he decided to approach the subject as gently as possible.

“JC,” He said in a rasping tone as the sounds of choppers ensued now. “Why the fuck are police out and about?” “Because,” JC exhaled a long plume of smoke from his lungs that left behind both a satisfied burning glow in his lungs and a light headed whirl of relief in his head. A relief from the chaos that was beginning to lie there. “They’re looking for someone who shot Battle. He’s a rapper. He was shot at the festival my girl was heading this weekend. I just know that nigga is after getting into her and that shit ain’t going down, you get me?” JC’s voice was harsh and the glare emitting from his soft brown eyes turned their gentle glow to a rusty coloured glower. The hint of red in them that didn’t just come from the wed he was smoking but the anger and rage that filled him now gave his eyes an almost demonic appearance. “That’s all well and good, but JC, with all given respect, don’t you think that smashing up the nigga’s car while he’s lay up in bed with a suspected gang related shot wound while you’re in the position you are, opposite gang and as high as status as you have, don’t you maybe think that the cops are definitely gonna come looking for you now? They’ll surely make the connection between you and the girl and the festival.” Rogue panicked now as he looked at JC who seemed to glitter with perspiration and looked even more dangerous in the dawning light. “JC, please tell me you weren’t there!” His voice rose in agonising panic now as he watched the boy slowly nod. “Jesus Christ, JC, the popo are just looking for a fucking excuse to shop you and you know it! What the fuck?” “I had to do something. I know that nigga was planning on moving in on my girl, homie!” “How?” Rogue tried to balance his frustration and anger out so his voice didn’t attract outside attention. “how da fuck do you know that, for sure?” “Saturday night,” JC said handing him the joint. “Someone text me and told me Battle had been talking about my girl. Saying how beautiful and smart she was. How amazing she was despite the disability. Someone asked him if he’d hit it and he was all, fuck yeah I’d hit that shit!” “JC!” Rogue gave into his despair and covered his face with his hands. “So now you looking more and more like a guilty man!” “I didn’t do it, nigga!” JC said sternly. “They can prove that shit if they test my gun, homie!” “And as I said,” Rogue lowered his hands and looked directly into the younger man’s eyes who was looking almost arrogantly at him now. His defiance often got him into trouble but Rogue had never expected it to be trouble to this extent. “The popo are just looking for an excuse to lock your ass away. One little chat with your informant, one chat with your girl, it all falls back on you! Nigga, how the fuck could you be so…?” But Rogue didn’t finish as JC turned, opened the door and stalked out into the early morning’s light.

The sun’s warm glow rested all around as the cool air that had been nightfall slowly evaporated as the Californian sun beamed overhead. The streets dusty from the summer’s extensive heat and the grass a yellowing brown colour on patches where the sprinklers hadn’t quite hit. Palm trees bloomed overhead and the sap dripped gently into the warming day. smells of flowers, laundry and a new day filled the air as Caitlin and Callie walked toward the bus stop. she hadn’t felt much like travelling into the city to get some things by car and so had opted to walk to the bus and get into the city the long way. Emily had offered her a ride but Caitlin needed time to contemplate what to do. Her eyes were red from lack of sleep and she was still wondering why JC hadn’t returned her calls. Why had he just left like he had the day before? Didn’t he care? didn’t he worry about her safety with a gun man on the lose? She was so caught up in her own thoughts, it took her a while to hear her phone bleeping. as she pulled it from her purse, she heard the speech inform her it was JC.

“Hello?” She sounded panicked as she answered. A few seconds passed before he spoke but the emotion was evident as soon as he said her name. “Caitlin, can I come and see you?” His voice was thick with something she couldn’t quite place. “Yeah, sure,” She picked up callie’s lead as the bus approached and as she boarded, paying her fair, he asked her where she was. “Heading into LA to get some things,” And think she wanted to add but didn’t. She knew from the tone of his voice, something serious was going down and she had a sinking feeling that it was not going to be good. “Aight,” he said gently. “I’ll come and meet you. Where you heading?” “Meet me at starbucks at the mall,” She said calmly although the tears pricking her eyes threatened to storm up her emotions. “Coo,” He said and hung up. Her hands clenched with anxiety as her stomach ached with worry.

The mall was buzzing with early morning shoppers as Caitlin entered the air conditioned entrance hall. callie wagged her tail with the adventure that lay ahead but kept glancing at her mistress with worry. The golden dog always seemed to relay her mistress’s mood but Caitlin was so preoccupied that she barely noticed.

Walking along the long, wide walk way, Caitlin felt the sun streaming through the windows overhead and made her way successfully to the starbucks she often resided in to take time for herself.

“Morning,” The young girl called who often fussed callie and gave her water as Caitlin walked in. “Hi,” Caitlin mumbled in an unusually unfriendly tone. “can I get a cafe Latte please?” She paid in silence already knowing the amount and took her seat in the usual spot. Stirring the coffee absent mindedly as she waited, Caitlin went through every emotion possible as the time ticked by and she waited for JC. Something had happened to her in the past few weeks that now made it hard for her to foresee her life without him in it. What was it that he had that no one else seemed to possess that she desired so greatly? It wasn’t like he had a ton of money and could provide her with security. He didn’t live in a nice house where she could run too and pretend all of her worries were gone. He didn’t have a job that promised a success of them both. He was good looking yes, not that that mattered to Caitlin. He did have a warm personality but he also could lose his temper at the drop of a hat. He was in a gang and Caitlin had no idea what kind of trouble that may cause and yet she still wanted him in her life. Why? She questioned herself as she stirred the coffee and half listened to the girl fussing Callie at her side.

“Sup?” His voice was raspy and velvety as he spoke. One minute he wasn’t there and then, he stood beside her, glowering at the young assistant who hurried off to get back to work at the intimidating look from him. “Hey, JC,” her voice cracked unexpectedly as she realised he was there, he had come. “I’ll be back,” He wandered to the counter and ordered a coffee, returning with a blueberry muffin for her. “Thanks,” she mumbled as he pulled the chair out and sat his tall frame into it. Taking her hand that lay on the table lazily, he said in a low whisper. “I need to talk to you but we can’t talk openly here, is anyone at your place?” She shook her head and felt tears brimming. “If you wanna break up with me, just do it here, I will survive,” her hand lay limp in his huge one as she spoke. “break up with you?” his eyes narrowed with an instant moment of paranoia. “Is that what you want?” “No!” her voice rose a few octaves with shock. “Of course not, JC! Why would you think that?” “Thought you and Battle might have had something going on,” He mumbled incoherently but she heard him. Her eyes widened with shock and then sudden dawning crossed her face. She leaned in and grabbed his other hand, almost knocking the coffee over. “Please, tell me you had nothing to do with it!” She hissed in a whisper. “Fuck no! How the fuck could you think I did?” He hissed back in a menacing tone. “Why would you think I’d do something like that?” “Then why ask if I was interested in battle, JC?” She knew he hadn’t shot him, he had been with her but was he capable of having someone shot? She had no idea. “Because, you spent so much fucking time with him at the hospital yesterday,” He said sourly lowering his eyes from her face and staring at the table. “I saw him for like two minutes. I was waiting to see if he was OK. Out of a professional interest, JC. Nothing more! He didn’t deserve what happened to him!” “How the fuck do you know that?” he spat now as he raised his face that contorted with anger at her naivety. “You don’t know him! You don’t know shit about who he really is! So how da fuck can you say that he didn’t deserve it, girl?” “You seem to know a lot about it!” She said in a wooden tone as she sipped at her coffee. Her head swam with thoughts that she didn’t dare let form completely in her mind. “JC, talk to me!” “I will!” He growled. “Just not here!” Caitlin had seen his aggression before when he had attacked Lexie but she had never suspected an ounce of it would be used on her. Being with a gangster never seemed a big deal to her but slowly, Caitlin was realising there was way more to it than she could have ever possibly suspected before.

The car journey back to the apartment she shared with Emily and Lexie was silent. JC drove in complete concentration upon how he would approach the situation with her. He knew this would either make or break the deal between them. Caitlin on the other hand, was stroking Callie preparing herself for the break up that she was sure would come.

As they entered the apartment in silence, Caitlin felt her stomach ache with anxiety. Closing the door, JC took off his sneakers and wandered to sit on the couch. She poured them some water and returned to sit opposite him. Folding her hands in her lap she felt the tears awaiting the downpour.

“Aight, girl,” His voice was shallow and his own eyes brimmed with worry as he was about to unleash the information that would either scare her, make her hate him or give her the chance to understand him implicitly. He took a deep breath, and scratched his head with a moment contemplation of how to say it. “Caitlin,” He sighed. “You knew from the jump I was in a gang,” his voice continually broke with nerves as he wished with all of his heart she wouldn’t run from him now. It was all about to come crashing down on him and if she went to the cops with what she knew, he knew he couldn’t hate her for it. Resent her maybe but she had grown up a different life to him. “And it’s a pretty notorious gang at that. Battle is in a gang too. I saw the mark on Saturday and yesterday. He’s in the opposite gang to me. You know they’re saying it’s gang related right?” She nodded, bemused why he was telling her all of this. “Well,” he went on, feeling the sweat pour from his face. “I ran yesterday because I knew that gang affiliation would have come into it. I knew if I stuck around I’d end up being pulled in because of the red rag.” her eyes widened as sudden realisation dawned on her. He was a blood. “Battle’s a crip,” he confirmed the look in her eyes and she nodded. “So, that’s why I ditched and got out of there. I swear to you now girl, that everything I will tell you in the next few minutes does not mean I shot that nigga or had him shot. Until this weekend, I knew fuck all about him. But Saturday night, a text came through from a friend who told me Battle had been talking about you, saying he wants to hit it and all that shit. I was pissed but said nothing because you had never said shit about him, i didn’t even really know if you had met him. Then yesterday, when he got shot, you ran to his side, and I wanted to grab you and take you with me. I had no idea if the shooter was still there or anything but I couldn’t. in truth girl, I saved my own ass rather than come and ensure you were OK. But, then when I spoke to you and you were still at the hospital, I thought you’d been at his fucking bedside all day. It pissed me off and knowing what I’d known from the conversation he’d had in front of my homie, I had to do something. so this morning I smashed up his lovely car.” The word lovely was spat with so much acid, Caitlin jumped slightly. The new information that was flooding into her ears made her want to shake her head. “So now,” she spoke. “You’ve made yourself look like you have a vendetta against the guy! Nice going!” “Aight girl, no need for fucking sarcasm. I know I fucked up! But that nigga was talking shit I don’t wanna hear about you, baby! You are my girl, and that is fact. And that jumped up wannabee nigga better realise that shit!” “JC, I have no interest in battle! It was purely professional. Sure, he seems like a nice dude but I don’t know him. But now, you have gone and made yourself look like,” “i didn’t get caught,” He said quickly. “So no one knows shit. Except you and my nigga Rogue.” The next sentence he spoke sent shivers through Caitlin that she hoped she’d never feel again. “So if anyone finds out,” he was leaning across the table toward her. “I know where it came from, got me?” She nodded, unable to speak. Her hands shook and he saw the affect his words had had. Looking at this beautiful girl who he cared for seemingly fearful of him now, jC wished he could be anything but what he was at that moment. “Caitlin, if I could be anything but the gangsta I am, I would be,” and he stood and walked around the table, scooping her up in his arms as the tears of frustration, fear, anguish and confusion poured down her cheeks. He kissed her face and soothed her gently as he looked into the face he was beginning to love. “Baby, I’ll never hurt you unless you cross me. I promise!” He soothed as he kissed her cheeks, eyes, nose and finally lips. She didn’t resist him as the kissing became passionate and for the first time, Caitlin knew what was coming next.

As they lay in bed, panting and heated from the passion, Caitlin stroked his chest with her hand. “JC?” she questioned as she rested her blonde head on his muscular chest. “Hmm?” He responded, stroking her hair with a renewed affection. “I promise whatever you ever tell me, no one but Callie Cals will ever hear it!” he smiled with amusement and kissed her hand that he held in his own. “Girl, you a straight up bitch, you know that? And I mean that only in the best way possible.”

With one movement he pulled her into his arms and lay there cuddling the one thing he deemed more precious than his own life beside his grandmother. So many thoughts rolled through his head but for once, JC let them go and just enjoyed the moment with the girl that lay in his arms contentedly.

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