|Through the Glass
Author: Amiigan PM
We live in a world of worlds - from class and race to gender and orientation, along with the physical and the spiritual. Often they exist right next to each other, right out the window, right on the other side of the glass. In spite of these barriers, a sister and brother will keep their bond of blood and spirit.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Supernatural - Chapters: 15 - Words: 73,744 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 02-14-13 - Published: 07-27-12 - id: 3045274
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Keeping in the spirit of Arlington High being a school of the coming 21st century – just opening its doors last fall for Gel's freshman year – the designers refused to use 'traditional' names for its facilities. For instance, what would normally be called a cafeteria, where she currently enjoyed her bland tofu bacon cheeseburger (which was one of the only things offered she could stomach), was officially dubbed the 'The Great Hall'. The school's reasoning was since the stark gray and white colored space possessed a stage, where school plays and other events could be put on, it was far more than just a 'cafeteria'. Like most of the students though, she called it just that; same as the Academic Resource Center was the library; and the Exploring Clay course, she was taking in the first quarter of her sophomore year, was ceramics. And like the new names failed to catch on, so did the whole electronic education thing, since the school's server routinely crashed, leaving its students to study and write papers the old fashioned way. This failure also extended to improving the test scores and graduation rates of St. Paul's urban youth, since Arlington was so new they had to fill their class rooms by dumping in the expelled and those recently released from juvy, giving it one of the worst reputations in the city. Her mom greatly regretted allowing her to attend, but for Gel, she was finally going to the same school with the majority of her friends. Such are the concerns of youth.
Gel stared at her meal, her appetite not up for even a single bite listening to everyone talk about what occurred at last night's volleyball game. Unlike anyone else who shared her end of the table, she'd been there. As usual, the Lors, including their 'Native daughter', went to go see Sheng play. She was always a phenomenal player, and as team captain she looked to be leading Arlington's Phoenix in crushing Como High's Cougars. Sheng proved her skill by springing straight up, as if wings of polyester sprouted from her blue and white jersey, spiking the ball right back over the net; but the feat of athleticism was forgotten by the shouting and fighting that erupted just outside the doors of the school's huge gym. Gel saw some of the Crips battling a group of black guys, instantly knowing another round was going off between the Asian gang and the Gangster Disciples. Chewy also noticed and leaped his way down the plastic blue bleachers to join his brothers, ignoring the protests of his parents. That skirmish was the reason he wasn't at the table that day, out for a week on suspension.
"So what's gonna happen now?" Will asked in his deep voice. The broad shouldered white freshman, with his blonde hair slicked back, lived across the street from Gel, and the alley from Sheng and Chewy; all part the same crew growing up on the edge of 35E.
"We're gonna fuck them up, that's what!" Tara said fiercely. The still petite thing that she was had grown into her own under Gel and her friends, largely adopting the ghettoish attire and attitude they all wore (including her exchange of glasses for contacts); but the Hawaiian girl retained her alt-rock edge and other eccentricities, earning her the Hmong nickname of Txawv, or Strange.
"You mean they are gonna fuck them up." Will snidely smiled. "You're a chick Tara."
She fumed, "Oh fuck you, it's not like I haven't boxed with some White Tiger bitches."
He continued to demean her, "Yeah, key word there, bitches. This is between the guys, where the real shit goes down."
Gel spoke up in defense of her gender, "Ugh, just shut up Will."
"Nah, you know it's true. I mean where the hell were you last night when your man was fighting? Sitting in the bleachers, that's where!" Will declared, leaning back to smugly eat a fry.
"That ain't true, nigga! I told you what happened." Gel didn't know why she'd charged down after him, even sitting there, she wasn't sure if she was going to try and stop him or join in. Either way, Chewy woulda pushed me off. There was no backing him down from a fight, especially for his boys; and of course he didn't want to be seen having his girl 'fight for him'. But he sure didn't give a shit when I had his back when we were kids, or Will, or any of the guys…Ugh! Fate had stepped in however, and she tripped running down the bleachers, granting her the two stitches on her chin. Her jaw still throbbed, further killing any desire to eat. I wanna know whose spreading the rumor I got this from a knife though. Making shit bigger than it has to be, rolling her eyes on the thought.
Will let out a laugh. "And look what happen." He poked at her wound, which she jumped back from, telling him off.
Then Toua and few other Crips came walking up. The group included the temporary leader Lue Yang; the shaven headed junior was a brawny guy, working out constantly. Earning his position over the school's Crips since the actual senior ranking member, his cousin Danny, had his locker broken into by a pair of GDs. The black gangsters were after the weed he hid there, but happen to do it just as he came by – flaring up the current feud. They greeted the trio, taking seats around them, except for Tanya Lee.
The voluptuous female Crip rested a hand - possessing long, expertly manicured and painted nails – on Tara's shoulder. "C'mon Txawv, let's leave the boys to talk their bullshit."
Will gave her a 'I told you so' look and chuckled. Tara scowled at him, grabbing her tray to stand. Seeing Gel didn't join her, she asked, "Ain't you coming?"
Before she could reply, Tanya spoke, looking Gel directly in the eye. "She ain't one of us."
Gel grinded her teeth, ignoring the pain of her jaw. It was true she wasn't an Asian Crip, not being formally inducted, otherwise that was only ingredient missing. It wasn't for lack of want either, with both Kelly and Tara always trying to entice her. In the end though, Chewy made her promise not to. He all but begged, and back when they were still in Jr. high, the fights over her joining almost caused their relationship to go stillborn. Tanya's words carried a little more meaning than that, knowing the girl just pored shit talk behind her back, vowing to "take that wannabe khab's scalp." Chewy was the fuel for this attitude, and Gel couldn't help but wonder if her man had given the girl a taste, making her hunger for all of him. Not the first time I had to chase some skanks off.
Toua jumped in the middle, "You chill here Gel. You know you really one of the guys, not some silly niam ntiav." Essentially saying 'hoe', as he coldly eyed Tanya.
"Ntsej muag nigga!" Tanya cursed at him, walking off.
Gel watched her go, wearing a victorious grin. Tara shook her head, giving her friend that big, full-cheeked smile of hers that squished her squinty eyes into little more than slits. The expression was dispelled when Tanya rudely called her over to the end of the table where the other female Crips ate.
She thanked Toua, which he simply replied with a wink. Will however added, "You know that's just gonna cause more drama."
"Fuck that hoe", was all Gel had to say.
Lue then interrupted, speaking to Will. "So meeka" he called him their term for white people, "what you think about all this shit with the blacks?"
"All I know is they just fucked up my business when they robbed Danny. So I hope y'all whoop their asses", Will said back calmly. Like Gel, he never joined up either. His criminal involvement only extended to buying weed from them, feeding his own habit and those of his customers.
The head Crip smirked. "No doubt nigga, no doubt." And he stood up, loudly yelling across the space, "That why we gon' fuck them bitches up!"
Lue's cry drew plenty of attention, especially from the other side of the cafeteria, where most of the black students sat. It was how Arlington's two dominate ethnic groups divided the eating space, each claiming a half – the Hmong and other Asians sat at the long tables near the wall of exits, while the black folks took up the seating lying against the windows opening up to the faculty parking lot. The small round tables, squished in between, were the abode of everyone else, creating a neutral borderland.
Several GDs stood, including their main man, Stroke, a tall long limbed guy with his lengthy hair divided into four braids. He threw his arms up, stepping into the middle ground. Lue accepted the challenge, rushing in as he pulled off his shirt to reveal the gang tats beneath his wife beater. The rest of the Crips were at his back, just as the more numerous GDs did the same – being the largest gang in Arlington, period. Agh, shit, Gel scanned around, seeing the rest of the student body notice the coming battle, along with the patrolling teachers and hall monitors. Punches flew before the school's authorities could intercede, and their efforts were only complicated when the other Asian gangs joined in, from the White Tigers to the Purple Brothers, rushing to aid their fellow Hmong, seeming as if it was always part of the plan. The maelstrom of violence surrounded and sucked in the Disciples, pounded by fists, kicks, chairs, and even lunch trays. Stroke went down in possibly the worst way, despite landing a few good blows into Lue's face; another Crip swung the claw of a hammer into his forearm, badly ripping open his flesh and sending the gangster screaming to the floor, spilling blood all about. His pain only continued as Lue, Toua, and a White Tiger began a stomping. Gel wasn't surprised by the team-up, not being the first time the Asian gangs set their beef aside to take on outsiders. It was the main reason the smaller gangs survived against the more established black and Latino bangers, and the Skinheads that plagued the East in the years before.
Gel, finding herself on her feet alongside Will, spotted little Eric Vue get a chair to the face as a GD fought his way out. Instead of fleeing, the chubby, lighter skinned kid, clothes all ripped up and splattered with blood from his wounded nose, kept slamming the chair into the prone Crip. Seeing the unconscious Eric, his face painted with his own blood, Gel charged. Crip or not, girl or not, no one would say she sat out on the sidelines that time. The GD had enough warning to look up and see Gel's fist fly at his already broken nose; clenching his face in utter agony, he was defenseless when she snapped a kick into his weakened knee, collapsing him just like her great-uncle taught her; finishing the thug by bringing the opposite foot down on his crotch, leaving him thrashing and moaning about. Gel in turn was taken out of the fight when one of the hall monitors, massive men who were no idle threat to call upon, painfully yanked her arm behind her back, sending her to floor.
Through her pain, she saw the cavalry of more teachers and even police from the nearby station burst into the cafeteria. The battle was ended, the combatants rounded up or scattered. Being of the former, Gel was dragged down to the office with the rest.
Gel sucked down the last noodles of the pho, soaked in the spicy beef broth of the Southeast Asian soup. Then Chewy leaned in for a kiss, his tongue tasting of the same dish. The affection ended when Kelly and Toua began teasing them, joined by the mocking cheers and cat calls from the other Crips, doling out poker chips for the game assembled around the kitchen table. They were mostly the OGs of the house on Burr, having a night of drinking, eating, and gambling. The only player who remained silent was Tanya, all dolled up and wearing a very low cut top, which she always shifted Chewy's way when she could. I'm so glad I came now.
Earlier that evening, Gel sat on her bed, Jack curled up around her bare feet, trying to let the anime of 'Armitage III' distract her once again, playing off the old TV and VCR she inherited from her grandpa (not that it was in a will, just collecting dust in her uncle's storage). Of course she'd been grounded for her two weeks of suspension, not setting foot outside in three days, barely leaving her room even. Her mom had to yell at her to bring the dishes out, which Gel snidely proclaimed, "Why? Jack licked 'em clean." Her threat to take the TV away motivated her to comply however.
Jack's ears then perked up, growling and half barking when someone knocked on her window. Out in the cool November night was Chewy. "Whatta you doing here?" She whispered to him after opening her window.
"I saw your mom left," he answered. Indeed she had, getting called into work since the yard needed more hands with a big shipment coming through.
"But Rick's still here."
"So. Ain't he sleeping still?"
With a groan, she snuck out to let her boyfriend in, together creeping back to her room. After few more seconds of small talk they were making out on the bed. When his hand started to slide her sweats down, she halted him. "Down boy, Rick's still here."
He hmphed and rolled off her. Just to add to his disappointment, she quickly grabbed his crotch and giggled, which he responded by digging his fingers into her sides. Gel loudly yelped, causing both teens to cringe, listening to see if they woke her mother's man up. Hearing nothing but the movie, they exhaled their tension.
"You know the OGs are having a party", Chewy informed her.
She mockingly raised her eyebrows. "Sooo, you inviting me? Wow, and here I thought you were all mad and embarrassed of me for getting in that fight."
He glowered at her. "Gel…it was real stupid. One, you not AC, so it ain't your fight to begin with, and it was with the dudes." He finished with touching her stitches. "Being stupid, like when you got this."
Recoiling, "Koj tsis paub xuas", she told him again not to touch her cut; falling back into English for, "So what if I fought. I'm not some little snow flake."
"Whatever", and he stood up, petting the dog who'd been exiled to the floor. "I like you to come still."
She nodded, and they waited until Rick departed. Gel decided to dress up by her standards, throwing on a tight top and jean jacket, along with leaving her hair down, only tying it out of her face save for a few layered strands. She also added silver hoop earrings, and even applied some eyeliner and lip-gloss; something she only did for Chewy, occasionally.
Looking her over, Chewy approached, wrapping his arms around her waist. "Koj zoo nkauj", telling her she was beautiful.
The remark almost allowed his kiss, but she held him back. "You'll mess up my lip-gloss."
Shaking his head, they left, ending up leaning together on the OGs' crooked and worn counter, eating and drinking. Kou stood up from the game; the main mind behind the gang was a broad shouldered, solidly built twenty-two year old, with a thick jaw sprouting a thin goatee, and had his long hair gelled back into a hair binder. "Leave them alone", he chided the other players, poring three shots of vodka. "This girl here's our warrior-chick", handing the couple the drinks, "Gel here kicked that kadu's ass like he was a cowboy, straight up. Shoulda scalped him like one too!"
She tried to refuse the shot, already having three, but Kou insisted, so they all downed them together. The alcohol was like a slap, and Gel was glad to be in the arms of her man, thoroughly in the tipsy zone. Chewy remained silent for the praise, he could have been a statue for all the emotion he showed. Which means he's not happy about this, one bit.
The rigidness of his jaw only increased when Kou proclaimed. "She a Crip as far as I'm concerned, most down female we got, and you not even Hmong. But hey, you Indians just some Asians that got lost on that land bridge and ended up here." Chewy faked a smirk for the last comment, especially when the boss Crip added, "Just don't go fucking in my bed again, had to buy new sheets, nigga." It sent everyone but the couple into laughter, who turned red with embarrassment; and of course Tanya just faked her's.
From the living room, where the other guests played Playstation in-between bong hits, another Crip announced there was some black guy at the door, and turning to Gel, "He says he your uncle."
What the fuck, rang through her mind when she hurried to the entrance. The rest of the partiers stood on the periphery, weary eyed, the guys ready to pounce. "Vince, what are you doing here?" Gel's heart pounded with panic given his affiliation, despite him backing off from 'The Life' since Sydney was born. They'll kill him!
He grabbed her arm, looking quite upset. "I'm here to get your little ass home!"
She tried shaking him off. "You can't be here, and how the fuck did you even know I was here?"
"Your friend, your boy's sister told me. Now who give's a shit, come on!" He lowered his voice. "This place is about to get shot up."
Gel froze, shooting her eyes to Chewy. His alcohol-drenched judgment mistook the look as a cry for help, running out to push the grown man back. "Let her go!"
Vincent's bulk kept him firmly planted, but on his turn to shove, it knocked Chewy's skinny ass to the floor. The rest of his boys converged, Gel caught glimpses of a few blades and pistols being drawn.
The squeal of tires and the roar of an engine made Gel forget the onrush of Crips, not resisting her uncle when he pulled her down with him, landing in the unraked yard. The air thundered with gunfire, followed by shattered glass and screams. When the car sped off, she ignored Vincent's questions of her well being, peering into the house. Inside, riddled with bullet holes, the TV included, she saw stunned faces reflected back at her, but her own expression melted with the relief of seeing Chewy was okay. He crawled with all the speed he could muster to her, asking if she was all right.
The cry of another OG brought their attention to Kou. The Crip was still standing, but he'd fallen against the wall, covering the growing blood spot soaking into his hooded sweatshirt. Everyone piled around him, with Tanya yelling to call 911. They convinced Kou to lay back, giving her a peek at the gaping wound in his stomach. While her uncle pulled on her shoulder to go, encouraged by Chewy, she saw the period between the rise and fall of his chest grow longer, the life slowly fade from his eyes. It was the first time Gel saw another human being die.
The bloodshed of that autumn had been wiped away by the winter snows, only to be renewed with the coming of spring. Its first victim was lowered into the ground, her body sealed in the casket, never to give off that joyful smile of hers again. Gel could just see it, twirling her necklace, tears falling down her cheeks. Goodbye Tara, but it wasn't the first time she'd said that to her remains.
She thought back on the day they became friends. It was at Mounds Park, the day after she bounced Terry's head off the floor, outside for recess when Gel and Kelly approached the friendless girl. "C'mon, who cares what people think, they're assholes." Gel declared to Kelly.
Tara sat alone, at her usual spot under the tree in the small field outside of their school, doodling in a notebook, even with snow still half covering the ground. She was quite surprised when they asked if they could join her. "Sure", she agreed with distrust.
"Hey, we just thought we'd chill with you today", Gel explained. "So what you drawing?"
"Oh…" She looked down at her notebook, hiding it by pressing it against her chest. "Just something…it's dumb."
"Oh come on show us", Gel tried to put her at ease. "I like to draw too. You can see when we get back to class."
"Ok." Tara complied, exposing her artwork of super heroines wearing Japanese styled school uniforms. "Yeah, I see you draw too."
Looking it over, she didn't recognize where it was from, but it was familiar. Kelly did though, "Oh, this Sailor Moon?"
Tara smiled, the one that seemingly squished her eyes. "Yep, I love that show."
Gel knew the anime, too weird for her tastes, but Kelly and Sheng were into it. It still planted the seeds for conversation, blossoming into friendship over the rest of their eighth grade year. By summer it was like Tara had grown up with them, even though she was born in Las Vegas, but moved to some town in northern California before puberty's onset; Gel loved to hear her stories about the red woods and mountains. "When we get done with school, we can all go out there. My dad still lives there." She would say dreamily, fondly recalling the time before her parents' divorce, before her mom followed her new husband off to Minnesota – an Ojibway originally from the Red Lake rez. It was something else both girls had in common, their mothers seeing 'Shinabs'.
Gel returned to the cemetery grounds where her own mother embraced Tara's. The sobbing woman, getting plump with age, was small like her daughter, and where the teen got her grin from. And they became best friends too. She taught Gel's mom how to make the Spam Musubi – a sort of Spam sushi Tara's mom would make for them when they came over to her little blue house.
It brought her back to her friend's minuscule room, sliced from a single bedroom to give the adolescent a refuge from her two younger brothers. Tara's step-dad was not the craftsman he fancied himself to be, the wall being poorly done and paper-thin; only a nailed piece of plywood, on each side of the hole, was done to repair the damage caused by a fight between her siblings. There, Tara introduced them to the reasonings behind her nickname. First it was the rock music she was into, from the Grunge and Metal bands she enjoyed, to the Hardcore Punk that became more and more of her preference.
Her other 'strangeness' was of a spiritual nature, remembering the first time they 'Casted a Circle'. Tara had her, Sheng, and Kelly sit barefooted around an altar of cloth, containing a ceramic bowl of salt water, surrounded by different colored candles – representing the directions and their corresponding elements of air, fire, water, and earth. Meanwhile Tara spoke a chant, calling on each of these directions, spinning with a butterfly knife she called her athame, her ritual blade. I can't believe we're doing this, Gel thought, looking to her friends, whose eyes shinned with the same feelings. When Tara finished, she evoked each the Goddess and God she worshipped in another memorized prayer. Then she raised the bowl, "Now we anoint our forehead, our throat, the heart, and our hands and feet. That's how we cleanse ourselves."
Tara explained her Wiccan faith, "It's like witch stuff, but not that Halloween crap, or like in the Craft", naming that horror movie about teen witches that Tara said was of a similar philosophy to what she did, "but the magic stuff was all bullshit, like what Hollywood says about Native and Asian stuff. It's our faith, not fucking super powers. But like the flick said, we honor nature, not the Devil." She told them about how her friends in Cali formed their own coven, worshipping under the branches of the mammoth trees around her town. Gel, like most of them, just said, "That's Txawv", but they didn't mind. Gel was one of the few Christians out of her crew anyway, and it wasn't as if she was that devout to begin with, ironically partaking in the rituals the most.
"Its kinda like traditional Native stuff or your religion", Gel shrugged when Chewy gave her crap, calling her a witch.
As for Tara's parents, they figured it was a phase their daughter was going through, not caring since any religion was no more then after thought for them. Still, they didn't honor Tara's, giving her a Christian burial, which Father Mike was glad to oversee at the behest of Gel's mother. This really bothered Gel for some reason, but kept her mouth shut.
For all these oddities, Tara wanted to fit in too. Once she became part of the crew, she never wanted any them to doubt her, enthusiastically becoming a Crip. Gel thought back on how it was her idea in the first place to befriend her, putting Tara on the path to her death. It added more water to the well of guilt she was drowning in. We shoulda never left you…
It was the first week of April, the Saturday's sky a fading smear of sunset colors, replaced by the stars and full moon. Mesmerized by the heavens until Kelly tugged on Gel's jeans, and handed her the bottle of homemade rice wine she swiped from her parents'. She took a swig and leaned back in her perch, up in the branches of a tree. They were hanging out in the alley between Lawson and Cook, a block up from her own home, where the backstreet came to a dead end at the rear of some row houses. Living in one of those dwellings was Tara's boyfriend, Rio, a short kid who was like Gel in having an absent Latino father, just Mexican in his case. He sat sucking face with Tara, under the neighboring pine. Those two are made for each other, thinking of their shared musical tastes.
Rio's mom popped her head out of the door, "Rio, get your ass in here if you wanna eat." The overweight white woman, with her dark wavy hair pulled back, was still in scrubs for her job at a nursing home. Gel was about to take another sip when the parent appeared, attempting to hide the bottle. Kelly yanked it down and openly drank the liquor. The adult scowled at the teenage girls, berating her son as he came running in.
Gel gave Kelly a disapproving eye, which she responded, "Oh fuck that meeka bitch", and gulped down more. "I heard her rant about yagas", letting out a muffled burp.
"I know." Tara stepped over to them, taking the bottle from Kelly, giving it a chug. "So whatta we do now?"
Gel dropped down. "Let's get the fuck outta here."
Kelly laughed, "Oh, you scared Gel?"
She glared, "Go fuck yourself. Don't try to play like you aren't."
Tara was confused, "Whatta you two talking about? What, you think Rio's mom's gonna call the cops."
"Actually there's another good reason", Gel declared. "Let's bounce."
Kelly went on, "Look how scared you are."
"Hey, both our mans' grandpa said it was haunted, so kiss my mixed ass." Gel defended herself, remembering the Txiv Neeb's warning to not even look at the lot.
"Haunted…" Tara was taken back, until her eyes fell upon the vacant property, a house down from them, thankfully cleared of any evidence of prior habitation. "For reals?"
Everyone knew the story, it was a tragedy that united the East in outrage. For her though, it was more than a sad tale, but personal. She remembered, back when she was twelve, walking to her bus stop with Kelly, seeing the smoke and sirens and finally the smoldering ruins that had once been a home. Gel would never forget the five body bags removed, one by one in a row. The Molotov tossed into their porch had left the children trapped inside, including little one year old Isis, choking on the smoke with no one to save them. The oldest, eleven year old Lavel, a stubby limbed black kid with his constantly messy fro, was just old enough to hang with Gel and her crew – painfully reminiscing of all the street ball games on grassy fields or ice, steeling hubcaps and candy bars, and smoking weed for the first time together. It all ended when his older brother, who repped GD, was fingered for a snitch; however he wasn't there, and neither was their mother, working the third shift at a gas station. The crime was one of the reasons her Uncle Vincent began cutting his ties with the gang.
"Yeah Txawv." Then Gel went on to scold Kelly, "And even if it wasn't haunted, we knew them. Lavel was one of us. You shouldn't joke about that shit."
Kelly, clearly shamed, nodded.
Taking another swig, Tara exclaimed, "I wanna see a ghost", and hurriedly walked toward the lot. Her friends yelled for her to stop, but she wouldn't heed, halting in the center of the field, covered in three years worth of untended growth.
Gel was right on her trail, and the teen swore she could feel herself cross a boundary, leaving the living's domain behind. She grabbed Tara's shoulder, "C'mon girl, let the dead be."
Kelly, standing amongst the bushes and trees that marked the 'border', agreed with Gel. "Yeah Txawv, let's go…you know Rio's mom gonna call Po-po."
Tara ignored them, looking around as the night fully set in, "Don't get me wrong, I believe in ghosts…but why y'all so scared? There ain't nothing here."
A car turned the corner, slowing as it approached. Cops were the first thing that came to Gel's mind, grabbing Tara's shoulder, but it was in fact an old red Maxima, Agh shit.
"Oh hell nah, Txawv!", the voice revealed the passenger to be Chili, the short haired White Tiger that had whooped Tara's ass back in December, in a bathroom ambush. Once the fighting with the GDs died down the old feuds picked up right where they left off, especially with Kou's death weakening the overall leadership of the Crips. "Little fucking slut, I should kick your ass again, along with your tuam bitch too!" Calling Gel a 'beaner', she laughed with the driver.
Growling, Tara flung the bottle of rice wine at the car. It missed Chili, but shattered all over the door's frame, splattering her with alcohol. Cursing, Chili and the driver started climbing out, just as Tara was ready to follow her bottle, flipping out her butterfly knife. Gel pulled on her arm, her efforts doubling as she saw the glint of metal from a pistol in the White Tiger's hand.
"She's gotta piece, run!" Gel voiced her spotting, still tugging on her friend's denim blouse.
Tara agreed, turning with her friend to flee, but froze when the air exploded with screams, the cries of children pleading for someone to save them. Kelly, still amongst the trees, was stiff with terror as well. Whether it was ghosts or a delusion, it was silenced by the BANG of a discharged bullet and Tara's own scream. She fell into Gel's arms, both collapsing. Feeling something wet on her hands, she saw it was blood, and more spilled out of Tara's side.
Gel jumped up, trying to pull her friend to her feet. "C'mon Tara!" But all she did was cry out in pain, begging for help in between her agony.
A bullet whizzed by Gel's face. Fear knocked her to the dirt again, along with wrapping its fingers around her and yanking her away. So terrified, she hadn't noticed she'd pulled her friend's necklace off; pausing to catch her breath at the opposite end of the alley, she found the small silver pentacle dug into her palm so hard it drew blood. Oh God, Tara…I left her! Glancing up, she realized Kelly had fled with her, and was still running. Yelling to her friend they needed to go back, she returned to the sound of the Maxima roaring off…only to find herself saying goodbye for the first time to Tara's still body, kneeling in tears at her side, unable to bring herself to touch her.
It was at that moment she thought she saw Lavel – the boy whole, standing in the middle of the lot, his face disfigured by wrath, and the utter wrongness of his presence overwhelming. In a blink he was gone, replaced by Rio hurrying to the scene, his mother shouting for him to come back.
The conclusion of Father Mike's sermon brought Gel back to the gravesite, a few feet from a budding maple and half way down a slight slope of the Jackson Street Cemetery. Her fingers gripped Tara's pentacle, added to the chain her saint's medal hung from. She looked off into the branch-shaded graveyard, where the Asian Crips observed from a distance, chased off from the ceremony by Tara's mother. Kelly held hands with Toua, next to Chewy, Lue, Will, and a few others; even Tanya had come, being genuinely consoling toward Gel. Out of the crew, it was her, Sheng, and Rio who were allowed to remain. I'm glad they're not here though, I can't even look at them…what the fuck did she die for! Her feelings were only magnified thinking about where Tara died. If I actually saw Lavel…I know why he was there. He hates us, doing the same shit that killed him and brothers and sisters. Her own rage was made clear by the black eye Kelly was attempting to hide with her sunglasses. She'd given it to her when the Crip vowed to, "Kill all those White Tiger maum devs." And I can already see Tanya's no longer a 'hating hoe' to her. Fuck her and all the ACs.
Gel's violence over her friend's death hadn't ended there. After slugging Kelly, she ran from the murder site to rip apart her room, even smash her dresser's mirror. She hated everything - her home, the East Side, all of St. Paul, and herself for being born a poor brown-skinned hood rat, and a cowardly one at that. I left her to die!
Emerging from the CD player was the outraged Hardcore sounds of Tara's favorite band, 'Blood for Blood', one she made her friends fans of as well. Lyrics screaming about dead-end lives of poverty and violence were not only appropriate, given the subject of the fallen girl, but also fitting Gel's mood as she toked the joint. Holding it down with the skill of an experienced smoker, she handed it to Sheng, sitting across from her on the female twin's own bed. They had the house to themselves. Sheng's parents and younger siblings were out running errands, while Chewy was with the rest of the Crips. Probably plotting how to get back at the Tigers…not that I give a shit anymore.
Almost as if Sheng could read her mind, she brought up her brother before taking her turn, "So what you gonna do about Chewy? You can't keep avoiding him."
Blowing out the smoke, letting it carry away some of her tension, she replied, "I dunno…but I can't stand the sight of him, any of them. I mean I wanna see that cunt, Chili, die…but what's the fucking point, like for reals. Then they shoot one of us back, and then we repeat. It's like rinse and repeat," She laughed at her little weed influenced joke, but the soberness of the subject was stronger than the drug, "But it's our blood we're rinsing out…what's the point, girl? You know what I'm saying?"
She nodded in agreement, handing back the joint. "I feel you Gel, I do. But you're not even one of them, technically."
"And that's why I'm done with them. It's their fault she's dead…my fault too. I shoulda never left her…Shit I shoulda never been her friend, and Tara would be alive right now." She couldn't hold back her tears anymore, gripping the pentacle. "Seeing Kou die…was horrible…but Txawv…"
Sheng took the joint and smothered the tip, then put an arm around her friend. "You can't blame yourself, especially being Txawv's friend. That's like spitting on her memory. We were her girls. We made Tara so happy. She told me the day you and Kelly sat next to her was like the best day of her life…Um…She made the choice to be a Crip, and if you don't see her dying as how dumb that gang shit is…then it's your fault, same with my brother and all them." The drug was affecting the delivery of her point, but Gel got it. In the week since Tara died, she'd really been there for her, watering the friendship that had been allowed to whither for the past two years.
"I can't believe she's gone…I was there…and that other shit with Lavel…"
"Lavel? Koj hais li cas?"
Gel sighed and answered her friend's demand of an explanation, telling her about the screaming kids and Lavel. "I swear to God I saw him. I swear Sheng. He was right there, looking like he did just before he died, and he was pissed. He hated me, cause we were doing the same shit that killed him, right where they died, right there. That's why I can't do it anymore, he was our friend, and he hated me…and he should."
"I believe you." Sheng leaned her head against the wall, gazing up at the ceiling. "And you're right. I bet he hates y'all just for that." Refacing her, "He was warning you girl. All those gangs are dumb – Asian, black, or Native - they're all dumb. It's why I stopped hanging with y'all…And what my brother's doing is just killing our parents, and he don't care."
Gel wrapped her arms around her legs, silent for a moment. "I know…that's why I'm done. I love Chewy, you know that", quickly going through the memories of their relationship, from friends playing in the mud to the first drug distorted time they had sex. Gel didn't want to let him go, even recalling the childish fantasies of their wedding she allowed herself to have. "But I gotta leave him. I wanna get away from this, Sheng. People shouldn't have to live like this…I want outta this shithole. I don't wanna end up like my mom or grandma, raising some fuck-up's kids by myself. If he won't quit that shit, we're done."
Sheng nodded, "You know he won't, Gel."
She sadly agreed, but wouldn't let herself cry, struggling hard to keep her cracking heart together.
Seeing this, her friend tried to smile, relighting the joint and handing it over. "Screw him Gel, screw 'em all."
"Eww, I'm not screwing them all, you slut", taking a hit.
"Oh fuck you", and playfully shoved her, snatching the joint back for a long drag.
Falling into ceaseless giggles, the tragedy of it taking a drug to make them truly laugh for the first time in days was lost on the teens.