“State.” I push open the door hanging on its hinges to his room. “State, are you in here.”
“Baylor?” His voice comes out shaky.
“Yes, where are you?” Fear grips me and I hate it, but it happens.
It happens every single time there’s chaos around us, which is happening more and more every night. The warm liquid runs down my legs and I begin to shake even harder.
He appears from his closet and holds a hand out to me ignoring the mess between my legs. “Come on.”
Our two trembling hands connect and he pulls me back into his closet sliding the doors shut. He digs through some things until he pulls a pair of his shorts from the mess.
“Thank you,” I whisper still trembling.
I edge to the furthest corner of the closet and slide off my wet clothes and glide his gym shorts on. Pulling the drawstrings as tight as possible so they won’t slip down, I toss my disgusting clothes out into his room and carefully slide his closet doors shut.
I scramble on hands and knees back to him and snuggle into his side. Stayton Blake is my best friend and has been since we were toddlers. Our mothers were the same way until mine was killed in a drive by shooting on the streets of Kings. His mom took me, well, I should say State took me in. She’s too strung out on Meth, and having sex with men to pay for it, to worry about us kids.
His dad is one of the biggest dealers on the street and my own dad runs for him. We know way too much at the young age of eight, but it’s the life that we are forced to exist in.
“You okay?” He whispers wrapping his pinky in mine.
I nod in the dark space, but know he can feel it on his shoulder. My silent tears roll down my face. State never cries or shows fear. He’s my protector and best friend. And even though we’re the same age, he towers over me. His hands are twice as big as mine, along with his shoulders. You’d never know we were only born a few days apart. State always brags how he’s so much older than me.
“What happened?” he asks.
I brush off the tears with the back of my hand and rub them on my shorts.
“I was coming to get you to go to the park and then shots went off,” I sniffle again. “I ran, State, ran fast as I could. The shots got closer and I even think one hit my house.”
He squeezes my pinky until it hurts. “I told you that I’d come get you.”
The tears of fear and panic are back. “I know, but some women and a weird man showed up at the house to talk to my dad.”
“Did they hurt you?” He turns to face me.
All I can make out are the whites of his eyes. I shake my head no.
“The guy made me feel weird like that one…” I trail off, fighting to not let that night take over me. “That did hurt me really bad.”
“The one that made you bleed?”
“Yes,” I whisper.
I’ve never told anyone the full story. Not even my momma when she was alive and definitely not State. I’ve seen how everyone looks at the girls in Kings who get raped. I’m not sure I even know what rape is, but what that man did to me was bad, really bad. Late at night, when I’m not with State, I feel the ripping.
“Okay, I forgive you for not coming here first.” He lets up on my pinky.
“Should we call the cops?”
I hate my dad, but I’m scared and don’t want to lose him. If I do, I’ll go to the state like some of our other friends already have. I’ll be torn from State and that can’t happen.
Before State finishes, the front door of his house slams open. I bury my face in his chest and feel his face fall to the back of my head. It hurts knowing he’s always protecting me. Shielding me from the ugly facts of our world on the streets and even in school.
It’s me gripping his pinky this time. The shots come closer and then the sound of his bedroom door being ripped off the hinges fills the air. I sob out loud and feel the wetness between my legs flow again. State covers my mouth making it hard to breathe, but I know what he’s doing.
I have no idea how long we stay in that closet, but we do, huddled together.
“I have a twenty.”
“State.” I shove his shoulder.
“Dad was passed out around a bunch of strangers and I just grabbed it.”
“You’ll get beat.”
My body begins trembling because State gets beat a lot, until he bleeds and can’t see out of either of his eyes.
“They won’t know. There was wads of hundreds.”
“Are you sure?”
He takes my pinky in his and continues down to our ice cream shop.
“I love ice cream.”
“Me too,” he smiles at me. “I’m getting a triple scoop waffle cone.”
“You’re a pig.”
We push open the door to the ice cream shop and I inhale the glorious scent of sweets. It’s a rare treat for both of us. We’re use to hoarding the bag of canned foods our teacher sends home with us on the weekends. We’ve become professionals at hiding it and rationing it out through the week. I hate packaged noodles, but when it’s your only choice you learn to love them.
State orders his ice cream with confidence. He’s always doing the talking and taking care of us. Our older siblings don’t care much about us anymore; they’re wrapped up in the business that Kings has to offer.
When it’s my turn, he looks down to me and I shake my head then whisper to him.
“It’s okay. I don’t want any.”
I don’t like to talk to anyone but State. Miss Tami at school has been trying to work with me to talk to the teachers and other students, but I can’t, it’s too scary. Every time I attempt to open my mouth my voice never comes out. The streets of Kings have stolen it from me.
She even told me the teachers were threatening to separate State and I next year when we go into fourth grade. She explained all the reasons why and that it’s important for me to make an effort. I only peed myself and cried.
“She wants one scoop of bubblegum in a cup please.” State has turned back to the pretty woman behind the counter, and I have to hide my smile because that’s exactly what I wanted.