At first when I saw the police cars, I didn’t think anything of it. I’d parked the car a few blocks down from Tyga’s usual stomping grounds, and I was sure I’d find him soon, probably kicking Breezy’s ass at that very moment.
It was when I ran into an old friend of mine outside of a barber shop several minutes after I’d passed the crime scene that I realized something was very wrong.
“Hey man, what’s going on?” I asked, walking up to him as he abruptly ended a phone call. He had just gotten a fresh hair cut and his forehead gleamed as he frowned.
“It’s Tyga. He’s dead.”
The moving men came, tried knocking on the door for several minutes, and left when they got no reply. It nearly drove me insane; knowing that help was mere footsteps away from us, and we couldn’t even make a sound.
Sissy had gotten bored of the gun and decided to grab one of the kitchen knives to press to my mother’s throat, daring any of us to speak.
“Shame,” She sighed when the moving men finally left. “Thirty minutes earlier and they could have joined the fun.”
“You’re psychotic,” Siah spat.
Sissy grinned at him, not at all angry. “So I’ve been told.”
“Look, I’ve had about enough of this.” My mother’s wavering voice broke through the tension and caught the attention of all of us. I watched in horror as she continued, the thin blade of the kitchen knife still pressing against her neck. “If you need to take out your anger on this family so damn badly, take me. Take me away from my children, my husband, and my grandbaby. You want to ruin a life? Fine. But let the rest of them go.”
Sissy’s mouth fell open just the slightest, but the shock on her face was quickly replaced with determination. Her grip tightened on the knife, and we watched as blood began to roll down my mother’s neck.
While the rest of us were still frozen, dread sealing off our veins, blocking all thought, Charles had stood up, was facing Sissy with a look on his face I couldn’t quite read.
“Sadie, let her go.” He said, his voice oddly calm as he reached out his hand to her in a steadying motion.
Sissy paused. Loosened her grip and let my mother gasp in breaths, touching her wounded skin. “How do you know that name?” She walked over to him, the knife aimed at him, still dripping with blood.
Charles chuckled a little. “You actually don’t remember me?”
Sissy’s eyes darkened and focused in furious bewilderment on the elderly man in front of her. “Dad?”
“Shit, he’s following us.” Mijo cursed, glancing into the rearview mirror. He tossed his phone into the console and secured both his hands on the wheel.
“What?” Gui cocked his head over his shoulder, an alarmed expression on his face. I followed his gaze, and felt a sharp surge of dread shoot through my stomach as I noticed the black SUV following two cars behind us, Pharaoh’s face barely visible through the windshield.
“Let’s see how fast this piece of shit can go,” Mijo grumbled, the car’s engine protesting as he slowly began to accelerate.
“Dad?” Damon asked, looking up at me, eyes wide and damp. He understood that something else was wrong. That we still might not make it.
“He’s catching up!” Meagan shouted, peering through the back windshield. “We need to do something!”
“There’s a .35 under the seat.” Mijo’s voice was calm as he said it; final.
Meagan didn’t waste any time. She dropped to the floor of the car and hastily felt around until she found the gun. It was heavy and silver; looked completely wrong in her hands.
“Give it to me,” I reached out and took it from her. Sat Damon in the seat next to me and buckled him in. She looked up at me, an apology still bright in her eyes, but I ignored it.
“Okay, he’s coming up on our right side,” Gui announced.
It had been a long time since I’d shot a gun at anything or anybody. It felt unfamiliar in my grasp, and my hands shook just the slightest as the window rolled down and I aimed at our target. Problem was, the target was already aiming back at us.
“Son of a bitch!” Mijo hollered, ducking at the wheel, swerving the car nearly into the next lane as bullets flew through the interior of the vehicle. Damon screamed, and I grabbed for him, wrapped myself around him like a shield. In that moment, I was more furious than I had ever been in my entire life. The force inside of me felt tremendous. I was an earthquake. An explosion. I couldn’t see a damn thing, but I started shooting, aiming in the direction that the bullets were coming from. Even when I got nicked in the shoulder, I kept shooting until my rounds were up. And by that time, I realized that the shots had ceased from Pharaoh. The car was quiet.
“Did we get him?” Meagan asked frantically.
“I think so,” Gui sighed. “There’s our exit, get off, get off!”
Mijo quickly jerked the wheel and sped across two lanes of traffic to the exit. By then, Pharaoh was nowhere in sight.
Clutching her neck, my mother’s jaw dropped just like everyone else’s. “Charles?” She breathed.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Sissy growled.
“Wait,” Mercedes stood—and my heart squeezed itself, panicking, cutting off my breath. “It’s you? The whole time, it was you?” She didn’t look relieved. As she continued pressing the button on the remote that may or may not have been a bomb, she looked furious. Wildly confused.
“Yeah, it’s me.” Charles sighed, his hands falling to his thighs with a slap. My brain felt like it was ten steps behind. If Charles was Sissy’s father, and Sissy and Mercedes were sisters….then…
“Oh, my God.” I breathed, grasping the arm of my chair.
“And you never said a damn thing,” Mercedes stepped closer to him, seething, hot tears rolling down her cheeks. “Do you know how long I’ve waited for this? Do you understand what you put me through?”
“Charles, you better start explaining this right the hell now. What is going on?” My mother pointed her finger at him, her lips trembling under glassy eyes. Even in the partial gloominess of the living room, her new wedding ring glittered with a rainbow of colors.
“You all deserve an explanation—” Charles looked into the eyes of all three women, suddenly looking much wiser, much more troubled of a man. “Sadie, put the knife down, and let’s talk.”
“Continue,” Was all she said, the bloody blade still suspended in her skinny grip. Aimed at the man who claimed to be their father.
“I never said anything because I was a coward.” Charles began, casting one more cautious glance at the knife before settling his gaze on his new wife (my mother), who apparently had no clue the man had children. “I’ve lived several lives… and when I was younger, every time one of those lives started to get hard, I’d run off and start a new one. Even if that meant tearing up a family. Deserting my children. I’m not proud of it. And when I met this lovely woman right here—” He motioned to my mother, who didn’t flinch at the compliment. “I knew she was the love of my life and that I never wanted to be with anyone else. I didn’t tell her about the two of you because, once again, I was being a coward. I thought that if I told her, she’d never talk to me again.”
“That’s no excuse.” Mercedes replied simply. The tears were falling freely down her cheeks, and her voice was so small we could barely hear it.
“You know what, Dad?” Sissy walked closer to him, a gleam in her eyes as she waved the knife hazardously in her hand. “I think I’ll kill you first.” She lurched forward suddenly, and the blade disappeared into Charles’ gut.
The rest of us barely even had time to scream before the front door burst open and Chris walked over the threshold holding my son.
“What the fuck is going on in here?” I stepped into complete chaos. Boxes everywhere. People crowded into the living room with scared expressions on their faces.
There was blood everywhere. Trails of it all through the foyer and on the carpet, creating a dividing line through the living room where just about everyone we knew was huddled around a disturbing scene. The moment the five of us walked into the house, Charles fell to the ground. I didn’t know if the nigga was dead or not, but I knew one thing; the thin, crazy-looking woman behind him couldn’t be who I thought it was. It was impossible.
But when she saw me, her lips twisted into a deranged kind of smile and I knew.
“Looks like the guest of honor has arrived.” She announced, waving around a blood-stained kitchen knife. The rest of the room meanwhile huddled around Charles on the ground as he grimaced in pain. Mercedes was the only one who seemed to be indifferent to what had just happened. She only stared at me.
“Damon, baby!” Rumor opened her arms frantically and let Damon rush into her. It wasn’t until I saw her face at that moment that I realized I’d been holding my breath, praying that she was okay.
“Oh, Chris, he’s precious,” Sissy breathed, walking over to where the two of them were huddled. “He looks just like his father.”
“Drop the knife,” I drew the .35 from the waist of my jeans and aimed it at her. Damon screeched and covered his ears in anticipation of a shot.
Sissy hesitated, the grin never leaving her face even as she let the knife clamber to the hardwood floor.
“We need to get him to a hospital!” Drey hollered, checking the old guy’s pulse.
“Mijo,” I nodded to him over my shoulder, never letting my aim waver. A few moments later, he was on the phone, calling for help. I walked closer to Sissy.
“So you’re just going to shoot me now? Huh, Breezy?” She grinned wider at me, lifting her arms over her head in mock surrender. “I’d think back-stabbing would be more your style.”
“What are you talking about? What is any of this about?” I demanded furiously. We might have injured Pharaoh but I knew he’d be there in a matter of minutes. I needed to save my family; I didn’t have time for bullshit. Especially bullshit that had to do with that crazy bitch.
“Oh Chris,” Sissy sighed, dropping her arms to her sides. “You know damn well why I’m here.”
Frustrated, I shook the gun at her, pushing her to explain. “Fuck are you talking about? I haven’t seen you since…since…”
“You haven’t seen me since you left me for that bitch right over there,” She pointed directly to Rumor. Rumor looked back at her, exhaustion and fear in her eyes.
I couldn’t believe it. It was like someone sent me reeling back through the past. Six years knocked me upside the head as I rewound through my life to get to the place Sissy had never left.
“Oh my God, this bitch is really crazy,” I pressed my hand to my forehead, massaged my temples. “Why you still on that?”
The grin slowly disappeared from Sissy’s face. “I loved you, Chris. It’s not something you just forget.”
I laughed. “It is when the other person never loved you back.”
I was still laughing when she reached towards the waistline of her jeans and pulled out a gun of her own. I barely had time to blink before shots were fired and I hit the ground.
I’d seen Chris get shot before. The second and third times weren’t any easier.
“Chris!” I screamed, clutching Damon against me so tightly I could feel his spine.
“Daddy!” He tore from my grasp and ran to his father who had curled into the fetal position on the floor. Tears streamed down his face, and he shoved Chris’ body violently, screaming for him to get up.
Police sirens could be heard approaching from down the street. They were a saving grace, but as I knelt in the growing puddle of Chris’ blood—numb, too stunned to do anything but gasp in breaths—I wondered if they were already too late.
Yet another shot was fired, this time flying right through the skin of Sissy’s neck. She fell like dead weight to the floor beside us and began choking for air as she bled out onto the hardwood.
After that, several more shots rang through all at once. Doors were kicked down, screams could be heard all over the house, and unfamiliar faces surrounded me, leaking into my home like a dam had broken.
I’d never seen so much blood in my life.
One Year Later
“Just a water, please.” I said to the bartender, a handsome young guy who’d been eyeing me from the moment I walked into the restaurant.
He grinned as he reached for a glass behind the counter. “That all? It’s only seven; the night is young.”
“Oh no, I don’t really drink anymore,” I clarified, taking my water from him. I took a sip and set it down, gazing out into the crowd.
“Well you know a glass of wine a day is supposed to be really healthy for you, right?” He continued, leaning his elbows on the bar and lowering his voice like he was cluing me in on a big secret.
I nodded, and my lips betrayed me with a smile. “I’ve heard rumors.”
“I get off in an hour,” He offered, checking his watch. “How about I take you back to my place and let you taste some really amazing…wines.” He smirked, hardly keeping the suggestiveness out of his voice.
“The only place you’ll be taking my wife is—you know what, you won’t be taking her any fucking where because I’ll break your neck if you even so much as breathe in her direction again, motherfucker.”
I grinned, looping my arm through Chris’ as he walked up beside me. “And that would be my husband.”
The bartender nearly wet his pants trying to scramble away from us before Chris took him up on that threat.
“Hey baby,” I smiled up at him and let him kiss my forehead.
“Mhm,” He smirked. “You just like making me jealous.”
“I do,” I admitted, laughing. He looked amazing, as he had since the first day I met him. But even better, he looked relaxed. It had been just over a year since the shooting (one shot in his chest, another in his abdomen), and with all that behind us, I saw a huge difference in him. It was difficult for me to think that I almost lost him, almost lost us and the life we’d created for each other.
“Well come back to the table, everyone’s just arriving.” He nudged me to follow him back to the large table we’d reserved in the back of the restaurant.
“You mean they’re all actually on time for once?” I asked in disbelief. But sure enough, mom and Charles were already hovering over Déjà’s car seat, cooing and smiling at our newborn daughter. Damon stood beside them, a tall and skinny six year old that looked like he was at least ten. He was extremely protective as an older brother, not at all jealous like we’d expected him to be. I watched as Déjà spit up her pacifier and Damon dutifully put it back in her mouth.
“Hey Mom and Dad,” I greeted them warmly. Chris and I took turns hugging them before I reached into the car seat and picked up my baby, two weeks old that day.
“Hey sweetheart, don’t you look pretty today,” My mother complimented, gesturing to the purple sundress I was wearing.
“Pfft,” Chris nudged me out of the way playfully. “I look better.”
I hit his arm, and he laughed; a sound I loved hearing more every day.
“So what’s this performance we’re supposed to be treated to today, son?” Charles asked Chris.
“Ah, nothing, just singing a couple songs,” Chris muttered. He started blushing against his will and ducking his head.
“He’s amazing,” I added in, grinning.
“Finally, we get to find out firsthand,” Mercedes walked up and hugged us all, Mijo right behind her. Mijo’s right hand had to be completely reconstructed after the shooting when a bullet nearly blew off his thumb, but otherwise he was fine.
“Where’s my niece?” Mercedes demanded playfully, gently taking Déjà from me and melting at the sight of her. Months ago, Mercedes had accepted Charles once again as her father, forgiving him for his mistakes when she was a child. The best part about it, she told me, was that it made me and her stepsisters.
“Nephew!” Chris called enthusiastically, kneeling down to high-five with three year old Evan, the child Mijo and Mercedes decided to adopt together. The adoption was finalized just a couple months after their wedding. They were going to be great parents. Deserving parents.
Next came Gui and Joy. They were pretty much the same, but happier. It seems it was a pairing that was always meant to happen eventually. Still, we all kept Bow in our memories and prayed for his daughter Josalie every day. With Bow gone, her mother gained full custody of her, and we hadn’t seen her since.
Keke and Bry weren’t able to make it—Atlanta was a long drive on short notice, after all—but we knew they were doing well, too. They’d become best friends, actually, after the pictures of Cameron and Bry’s relationship went viral amongst Cameron’s close friends (with Bry’s approval, of course). Cam quit his job and moved out of the house he shared with Keke back into his parent’s home. His investigation of Chris’ past ended abruptly, and a few days later, he was served with the divorce papers. Keke had a reason to celebrate again.
As for Meagan and Siah, the two of them hadn’t found their happy endings yet. Apparently in the shooting, Meagan’s boyfriend and the love of her life was killed by men in her brother’s crew, a casualty of a decade-long beef between Pharaoh and Tyga’s late brother. Anyway, last I’d heard, she was still working on getting over that. I didn’t feel all that bad; I wasn’t stupid, and I knew what she and Chris had been doing behind my back. When we moved to Atlanta, I figured the further she stayed away from my husband, the better. Same with Siah; he still loved me, he told me. But he accepted that I needed to move on with my life that was with Chris, Damon, and the new baby. I was happy—euphoric, really—and I just had to hope that one day he would have that same feeling.
“I’m getting ready to go on, baby.” Chris leaned down to kiss me quickly before hurrying off to the stage where they’d just introduced him.
“Kill it, baby!” I called after him, so proud I could explode. And all of us watched in our seats as he proceeded to do just that.
I don’t really know where the nerves went, but I’m glad they weren’t there when I stepped up to the mic and began singing my first song. I guess once you’ve performed so many times, it becomes something natural, something you did without thinking or hesitating about. I just let the music course through me, let my voice run freely, rising and falling as it felt the need to. I did this until the applause became so loud that it hurt my ears, and the camera flashes blinded my eyes.
One lift of my hand in goodbye, and the crowd went even crazier.
“Encore!” Some of them shouted, but I had more important things to tend to. I walked down off the stage and met the family by the door. They wrapped me up in hugs immediately, Rumor kissing my lips so hard it turned me on.
“You did incredible,” They told me over and over again. “I never knew you could sing like that!”
Eventually, we all decided to meet back at our house to continue the evening, maybe with a drink or two. Rumor and I started walking out toward our car, which was parked awhile away, thanks to the restaurant’s too-small parking lot. She held the baby’s car seat and Damon walked behind me, kicking rocks as he walked. The air was warm, even in November, and the accompanying breeze was starting to make me sleepy.
I almost couldn’t believe I was living the same life as a year earlier. The media called the incident a shooting, but I called it a massacre. Seven people died in the place I used to call home—thank God it was none of my family. I knew all of their names by heart after hearing them so long, but the two that stood out to me the most were Sadie Elba and Pharaoh Good. One shot to the neck and Sissy went down, bleeding out from her neck before the paramedics could reach her. Pharaoh was killed with one clean shot to the head, delivered by me, I was proud to say. Neither of them would ever bother us again. We were free to finally, finally live our lives in peace.
Rumor, Damon, and I all turned our heads toward the voice at the same time. A light-skinned, well-built man was jogging up to us. Behind him, I saw an even larger man posted up at the door of the restaurant watching us closely. The hairs on the back of my neck perked up, and I slid in front of Rumor and the kids without hesitation.
“Can I help you?” I called, stopping the man in his tracks a few feet away. He had a snapback pulled down low over his eyes and a thick black mustache covering his top lip.
“I just saw your performance—that was incredible, man. You got real talent.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. Nodded once. “Thanks.” And when he didn’t leave, “Rumor, take the kids to the car, I’ll be there in a minute.”
She looked at me with an expression I knew all too well. Fear, anxiety, could this really be happening to us again? But she listened to me without protesting, and when she and my kids were well out of sight, I turned back to the man who seemed not to be taking any hints to fuck off.
“I really want to do a song with you. In the near future, if that’s alright with you.” He continued, completely serious.
“Do a song with me?” I laughed. “Alright, who exactly is offering?”
The guy frowned, as if he didn’t understand what I meant. But then he cursed, like he’d forgotten something, and next thing I knew, he was ripping off his moustache and removing the hat.
“Damn disguise. Sometimes I just wanna fucking go out to eat without getting mobbed, you know?”
“Recognize me now?” Drake smiled and held out his hand for me to shake, which I did.
“Hell yeah,” I said, still in complete disbelief. “You want to do a song? With me?”
“You know what, Chris? Why don’t you just come by the studio tomorrow morning, and we’ll see what we come up with. I’ll have my manager look you up and give you a call tonight, if that’s alright with you.”
I felt like I’d just won the lottery. Rumor would never believe this. At least not until I got that call.
“Yeah, yeah, sounds great, man. Thank you.”
“Alright.” Dap. Shake. Half hug. “Tomorrow then.”
“Tomorrow,” I repeated, already starting to walk off in the direction of the car. I looked back one more time, just to confirm that that actually happened, then I rounded the corner, unable to keep the smile off my face.