With eight months left of our senior year, the countdown to graduation ticking in everyone’s ears, Dallas and I collided in the only way two people like us could.
Some of the kids I went to school with knew my dad, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes they came looking for me when he stiffed them a half-gram or flaked out on orders. None of them seemed to understand that it wasn’t a family-run operation.
One particular buyer, a guy by the name of Brady, caught up to me on my way home from school one day, wanting to score.
Probably in more than one way.
Brady was rude in the way that only misogynistic jocks can be. He was an ass-pincher and tit-grabber extraordinaire. And God, was he annoying.
Because I didn’t hear him come up behind me, he went so far as to literally pluck the iPod buds out of my ears to get my attention. Silly me, I guess, for being caught unaware.
Already pissed off, I turned to find him in his letterman jacket, spitting a stream of tobacco dangerously close to my foot. He smoothed back his too-long hair and replaced his hat. "Hey, Colt. Your padre ain’t answerin’ his phone. I need some coke for this thing tonight. How much for an eightball?"
I yanked my headphones out of his fingers. "Brady. For the thousandth fucking time, I don’t mess with that shit. And if you had any brain cells left they’d be telling you to find something better to do with your time."
My elbow caught him in the ribs as I tried to shove past him, barely hard enough for him to notice, but apparently hard enough to send him from zero to dickhead in under two seconds.
He shoved my shoulder with one of his huge hands, spinning me back into the fence behind me. "Listen, don’t bullshit me—I know all you ghetto kids are hooked up." He grinned a sharky, Kevorkian grin. "So hook me up."
My father’s temper flared up as the fence-wire scraped the back of my legs. That overpowering urge to teach Brady a lesson written in his own blood. I forced it down, at least for the moment. I took my time tucking my iPod into my backpack, Brady’s eyes following my every move. I brushed my hair back from my shoulders and gave him my nicest, sweetest smile.
"Alright, Brady, here’s what I’m gonna do for you. I’m gonna walk away, before you make me late for work, instead of smacking that smile off your face." I pointed left with my whole arm. "And I’ll even send you in the right direction to score, unless you’re too much of a pansy-ass white boy to step foot in my neighborhood."
Brady’s face darkened and his linebacker’s shoulders pulled back. "You calling me a bitch, Alvarez?" The way his voice got higher with his pride wounded struck me as hilariously ironic, and I laughed, not bothering to try and contain it. I laughed right in his face.
"No, Brady. I’m calling you a fucking spoiled, entitled mama’s boy who’s such a pussy he’d order coke off Amazon if he could, just to avoid rubbing shoulders with the tough motherfuckers who deal it." I shot him another overly sweet smile and turned to go, hoping I’d manage to make it to the garage on time, wondering if my boss would give me a hard time for being late.
Brady, however, wasn’t ready to let it go. He grabbed my arm at the wrist, twisting and pulling me backward hard. When I yanked away from him, the momentum sent me stumbling forward. As I dropped my bag and got my arms up to defend myself, I caught sight of Dallas at the end of the street, already running in our direction.
Brady was nearly purple in the face, babbling a mix of swear words and racial slurs, already reaching for me again. I slapped his hand away.
"Drop it, Brady. I’m not joking."
He closed the space between us with one step, grabbing the front of my shirt and curling it into his fist. "You fuckin’ spic," he breathed at me, a vein in his forehead poking out. "You think you can talk to me like that?" The tobacco in his lip was dribbling out, a thin stream of juicy brown spit trickling from the corner of his mouth.
Past the nonsense Brady was spewing, I could vaguely make out Dallas’s voice, yelling Brady’s name. When Brady’s eyes flicked off of mine to find Dallas, I wound up as best I could and socked him in the jaw. Tobacco-spit went flying; my knuckles exploded with pain, and Brady’s hand unclenched, releasing my shirt.
I stepped back from him just as Dallas closed the last few feet and skidded to a stop next to me. "Dude!" he barked at Brady. "What the hell are you doing?"
Now fully purple, Brady pointed at me with fingers tipped with blood from his mouth. "Fuckin’ spic bitch was tryin’ to sell me blow. Didn’t wanna take no for an answer."
That Latina temper flared again, and I lunged at Brady, intending to slap him across the face, in the same spot that was already turning red from my right hook. But Dallas caught me around the waist, holding me just shy of arm’s distance from Brady.
"Whoa, whoa, let’s all calm down a sec." Dallas, always the voice of reason. The rock. He leveled a stare at Brady over my shoulder. "Dude, you’re not foolin’ anyone. Whole dang school knows how you party, so let’s cut the bullshit, okay?" His hands loosened from my waist, leaving just the trace of a tingle where his fingerprints had stamped my skin.
Brady narrowed his watering eyes. "Dallas, come on, man." He gestured to me, his tone more disbelieving with each word. "You’re really gonna side with her instead of me? You don’t even know her. I do. She’s a dirty spic, just like her old man."
If Brady had anything else to say, it was cut off when Dallas’s hard right landed in the corner of his mouth. He fell back against the fence, the metal links clanging in protest. I made out a few choice swearwords in between his moans of pain.
And Dallas turned, meeting my eyes for the first time. "How about I walk you home?"
About Nikki Archer: Nikki Archer lives in New England, where she teaches high school English and spends her free time pursuing as many degrees as humanly possible. She divides her life into hockey season and baseball season, and she really really hates socks. She spends all of her extra money (and some that’s not exactly extra) on concert tickets and trips to interesting places. Her first novel, “Whatever’s Left,” is a YA romance, but “Exit Wounds” is her first venture into the world of crime writing.
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