My heart is racing. April keeps the gun pointed at me. She is looking at me. I can see how crazy she is. I don’t understand how I was ever attracted to this woman. The look of desperation is definitely something that is beginning to throw me off.
“You have no idea how much I loved you,” she says.
She has gotten up from the chair. She still has the gun in her hand. I don’t dare move. I’m sitting there scared as shit as April is pacing back and forth at that moment.
How did she know? How did she know I came to set her up?
“Please. You don’t have to do this shit yo,” I’m telling her.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
She hits me with her open hand. The slap rings across my face. It stings like shit. I can feel my cheek getting numb but the adrenaline doesn’t let the pain last too long. I’m worried more about the gun in her hand than any fucking slap.
“Listen. April. It’s over. I have a recording device on me. Right now my friend is listening on the other end. And he’s going to take this recording straight to the police.”
“Where is he?” she asks.
I shake my head. Hopefully Zion was calling the cops right now. Hopefully Zion let them listen to her confession and they were coming to get this crazy bitch. I could only hope.
I don’t give her any details, “It’s over. Any minute now the cops will be here April. Any minute now it’ll be over. Just give it up.”
“Give this up? Give you up?” she explains, “I could have had anyone else. You know that? I could have had others. But I chose you, regardless of who loved me. I chose you. And this is how you treat me? You set me up?”
“You’ve lost it,” I explain to her, “You killed Ashley? You tried to kill me?”
“I knew you were cheating on me before the accident,” April explains at that moment, “I just lost it. You know? Ashley, Tanya, Sydney and god knows who else. You had sex with all of those little girls. I’m a grown woman. Wasn’t I enough for you?”
She is looking at me with tears in her eyes now. The tears come almost immediately. They are streaming down her face. She’s lost me. I don’t know how to respond.
She seems upset that I’m not responding because all of a sudden she hits me again. This time her hit is so much harder. This time it fucking burns and blood is drawn all of a sudden.
“What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to feel regret. I want you to love me.”
She was still looking for me to love her? After she tried to kill me? After she tried to kill Sydney and Ashley. She was still looking for me to be with her.
I know now that I could fake it. I know now that I could try to lie to her just to get out of here but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to be myself at that moment. I wanted to be the person that I knew I was now…not the person who used females for his own personal gain.
So I told her the truth.
“I’m not even straight,” I tell April.
“I’m gay. I’m gay as a fucking rainbow. Maybe it was always in me. Maybe I had it hidden before the accident. It doesn’t matter now though. Right now all that matters is I’m not even slightly attracted to you. And I don’t think that attraction is ever going to come back.”
She looks shocked. It’s not everyday someone comes out of the closet. The way she glares at me makes me think that it must be all over. If the glare isn’t enough I watch as April raises her gun to my dome at that moment. She has her finger on the trigger.
“You don’t play with people’s hearts,” she tells me, “You don’t play with people…”
It’s a strange thing to hear before you die. I close my eyes at that moment. I’m prepared to take this bullet. I wouldn’t take back what I said to her. I wouldn’t fake being someone that I wasn’t just to beg for mercy. I had to be honest. I didn’t know who I was before the accident but I knew who I was now. Now I had self-respect.
Now I had decency.
I see her breathing heavy at that moment and then I hear it.
The world stops for a minute.
Everything seems to slow down.
“Are you ok?” a voice says.
I turn to see Zion standing there. He’s standing over April. He’s hit April over the head with a brick that he must have taken out of the garden. April is on the ground now. She is cold knocked out.
Zion is standing there looking at me. He saved me…
“Oh my god!”
It must be the surprise that I almost lost my life that is making me react like this. Maybe it’s just pure shock. I don’t know what it is but I’m sitting there shaking. It’s not until Zion comes close to me and holds me for a second that I realize I’m safe.
“Thanks to you, April will be behind bars for a long time,” Detective Logan tells me.
We are at the police precinct. April was arrested within the hour and multiple charges were filed against her in the death of April and other chargers. My family is gathered around the police station just meeting with everyone.
“We’re just glad this is over,” Sydney explains.
“Beyond glad,” my father responds.
Detective Logan shakes his head, “I can’t apologize enough for my suspicion with Rami.”
“You were just doing your job,” my father responds, “Hopefully everything is rectified?”
The detective nods at that moment, “All charges against Rami have been dropped.”
A smile spreads across my face. I realize a hand come up against mine. It’s Zion’s. He is the only one in the room that isn’t family. My father isn’t looking at us weird anymore. I don’t know if it’s acceptance but I think it’s the a close form of it. If the rest of the family does feel offended by Zion being so close to me they aren’t showing it. Hell…if it wasn’t for Zion I’d probably be dead now. The least they can do is respect him.
Zion leans over and whispers in my ear, “I know you’re happy about that.”
I’m beyond happy. I know he may still feel some type of way about how close I am with Rami but he needs to understand that Rami and I have history. What that entails…I’m not sure yet. But I know that I care about Rami…deeply.
I can see the lock of fatigue on everyone’s face. This was definitely an ordeal that not too many families went through. The shit that April put us through was something that just wasn’t reasonable.
Suddenly there is a knock on the door.
Detective Logan shakes his head, “I do have a surprise for you all.”
Detective Logan walks to his office door and when he opens it we see Rami sitting there. My heart damn near stops seeing Rami walk in. Rami takes a look around the room and damn near ignores everyone else. He runs straight into my arms at that moment. He smells. He stinks a little bit but I could care less.
I’m just hugging Rami at that moment and while I hug him all these memories are flooding into my head. Memories about how close we were come in. Memories about how much Rami means to me come in as well. Yuri may have been my confidant but Rami was the person that I cared the most about.
Rami was the person that I was in love with…
“I’ve missed you most man,” Rami tells me.
He’s still hugging me. With the memories flowing into my head I’m more confused than ever. Why do I remember being in love with Rami? Why are these feelings coming into my mind right now?
“I should get going,” I hear Zion say.
He leaves the room before I can stop him. Maybe he feels uncomfortable with the fact that Rami and I are reunited. I have Zion to thank for it though. I want to thank him too…properly but right now Rami’s clutch is so tight around my waist that I know he isn’t going to let me go anywhere.
“You always believed me man,” Rami says.
“Of course. I always will too. You look so different. What happened to pretty boy Rami?”
“He’s under all this prison stench,” Rami laughs, “Screaming for a nice razor and a hot shower.”
I halfway want to share this moment with Rami. The other half of me wants to chase Zion down the hall. I’m torn. I don’t know what to do.
“You guys gonna let the rest of us get some love?” Houston asks, “Gheesh.”
I watch as Rami goes over and hugs everyone else. My eyes are still looking at him focused on him. Yuri is standing up against the wall. It’s clear he doesn’t know how to react to Rami. He was suspicious of Rami this entire time. It all comes to a head when they stare at each other.
Yuri looks embarrassed. He has every right to be.
I’m surprised when Rami grabs him though and pulls him close, “I forgive you punk…”
And at that moment I feel like everything is back to normal in the Payne household.
The first day back to school after April’s arrest should feel great. It should feel like there is vindication. I don’t have someone out there with malice in my world anymore. She is safely behind bars. Everything is as it should be. I don’t know why I still feel…uncomfortable…
I’m walking to basketball practice with Yuri when I’m interrupted by Tanya.
“You want me to get rid of her?” Yuri asks.
I laugh a little bit, “Naw…I’ll talk to her.”
I wait up for Tanya at that moment. I can see the look on her face. She looks annoying to me honestly. I can’t help but to be a little disgusted by her as we stare in each other’s eyes. This is the same girl that lied on Rami and made up some bullshit about him fighting Ashley just to get back at me for breaking up with her.
“Can I talk?”
“Make it quick…”
She looks shy, “Look. I know a lot of people have been treating your family really funny. We all just thought that Rami was really guilty. You know. Ashley dying and everything.”
“Maybe because you lied. That must be the reason why people think that huh?” I state.
Tanya nods at that moment, “You know what. I deserve that shit. That was foul. It’s just. I care about you so much. You really hurt me. You know.”
“You played with someone’s life over some boyfriend/girlfriend bullshit. You think that shit is cool?”
“I just want to see if you can possibly forgive me,” she says, “Leave things in the past.”
Leave things in the past.
It’s an ironic thing to say and it sparks something in me. I lost my memory and all this time I’ve been trying so hard to remember the past. Now all of a sudden my memories are slowly starting to come back to me.
I cross my arms and stare at Tanya, “I forgive you.”
She smiles all of a sudden.
“Wait…so does that mean we can start over? Does that mean we can work on us again? Maybe we can be how we used to be.”
I shake my head at that moment, “I didn’t say all that. I’m actually gay.”
Tanya raises an eyebrow. The confession paralyzes her. She doesn’t move. Her mouth is just open. Speechless.
I smile and walk away at that moment. I realize I just came out of the closet but it feels good. The closet door had been kicked wide open now. I have nothing to hide.
I followed her advice. I left things in the past. Including the straight James who was followed by drama.
We are in the locker room after practice. My basketball skills are coming back to me. I’m eager to really get into a real game. As the memories come back to me I realize that basketball is my life. It’s the reason that I live. It’s my energy source.
“How about Tanya’s going around the school telling everyone that you’re gay,” Yuri stated.
I’m surrounded by friends of mine. Houston is to my right. A few of the other basketball players are around as well. In the distance I can see Zion. He is staying to himself as usual. The guys are a lot nicer to him but I think he is just a loner by nature.
“That bitch is a liar from hell,” Houston acknowledges, “No one is going to believe a word she says after she lied on Rami. No one likes her anymore.”
“She isn’t lying this time,” I tell them.
“What?” one of the other basketball player states.
Yuri grabs my hand and pulls me close, “Shh…”
I can tell he’s trying to protect me. He’s trying to save me from announcing to everyone. The truth is I don’t care anymore. After all the shit I been through it doesn’t matter what they think about me.
“I’m gay,” I announce.
People are looking at me at that moment. They are staring at me acknowledging everything that I’m saying. Here I am, the captain of the Wagner Falcons telling my team that I’m gay in the locker room. Half of them are in boxers. Some of them are even walking around naked. At that moment there is an awkward vibe that spreads across the locker room.
The person that I’m looking at the most though is Zion. Zion is just as shocked as everyone else that I came out. He’s staring from a distance. He’s studying me. But I’m not even doing this for Zion. I’m doing this for me…
“And that’s fine,” a voice says.
Someone has walked into the locker room. It’s Rami. He didn’t come to school today. I was under the assumption that he was taking some time off. For some reason he comes right in time though. He comes right in time and he walks across the room.
That is when he does something that I don’t expect.
He pats me on the butt.
At that moment others join in. They start chanting. It’s the Wagner chant. One by one they slap me on the butt like we do out on the court. And I’m moved. I’m moved almost to tears at that moment because I realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m gay to them. To them I’m still their captain. I’m still their leader and I’ll always be responsible for them.
“We got the game against Stockton later this week,” Rami explains, “I say we should all wear rainbow socks for our captain.”
“Ok now you’re pushing it,” Houston laughs, “Instead of focusing on your political points Rami, you need to focus on getting to practice.”
“I was hooping in jail. Don’t worry about me,” Rami responds.
“Whatever…we’ll be outside waiting for you guys. We still headed to the diner?” Yuri states.
“You guys can go on ahead. I’m going to spend some time with James,” Rami says.
A majority of the teammates walk out of the locker room at that moment. I guess they are all headed towards the diner. I don’t know honestly.
Rami is looking around in the locker room.
“I want to take you somewhere,” Rami states.
“Rami what are you talking about? You just got back. You should be chilling. We don’t need to do anything special.”
“Yes we do,” Rami states, “I owe you. Everyone is telling me about how you risked your life to clear my name. That shit isn’t easy. I owe you forever. And I want to take you out. Just us. A surprise…”
Rami is so handsome again. He cleaned up nicely from prison. He must have spent hours scrubbing and trimming. He looks like that perfect ken doll again. He looks like that Arabian prince. He stares at me and smiles. His brown eyes look deep into mine. And the memories are coming back. The memories are so fucking strong and they are beginning to scare me.
I remember being a young boy secretly yearning to be closer to Rami. I remember praying he’d give me the attention that he was giving me now. I never acted on it though. I was always too shy. The most we did was play little touchy feely games as a kid. It never went past that in our childhood.
“Ok…” I agree.
It’s the old me talking. It’s the old me that yearns to be closer to Rami talking.
Rami reaches over and grabs my hand. He is holding my hand. He isn’t holding it in the way a friend would. He isn’t holding it the way a brother would. Rami is holding my hand in the way that a lover would.
“Sorry to interrupt,” a voice says, “Forgot my shoes.”
I turn to see Zion. He’s staring at Rami and I holding hands.
Zion turns to walk away. I realize that if he did come back for his shoes he still hasn’t gotten them. He seems in a haste to run away.
I try to run after him but Rami pulls me back.
“Let him go. I’m everything you need,” Rami tells me.
For years I remember wanting to hear those exact same words.
Rami takes me to dinner. We talk about everything and anything. We stay longer than we should deep into the night. I feel that comfort with him that I don’t feel around anyone else. I still feel bad about Zion. I still wonder if Zion felt some type of way about seeing Rami and I. Soon as the night goes on I even slowly forget about Zion as Rami and I spend time into the night.
“Do you remember me teaching you how to dribble?” Rami asks.
I laugh at that moment, “Oh shit. I do remember that. I was horrible…”
He laughs, “You used to dribble with two hands for the longest time. I had to get you together. The neighborhood boys were making fun of you all the time.”
“And now I can dribble circles around you,” I respond.
Rami laughs, “Boy please. That’ll never happen.”
“You think? Because I remember something else too. I remember after we turned 15 you never beat me in one on one again.”
Rami raises an eyebrow, “Whatever. I let you beat me. I didn’t want to hear you bitch.”
“Oh that’s the reason. You rather see me gloat?”
“You look so cute when you gloat. So I let you beat me…”
He smiles at that moment. He’s staring hard at me. He’s staring so hard.
“I used to…have a crush on you,” I explain to him.
It was more than a crush though. As the memories are coming back I’m realizing that I was in love with Rami. I was hopelessly in love with him. I don’t want to tell him that though. I don’t want to scare him off.
Rami nodded, “I assumed…”
“I mean you followed me everywhere,” Rami stated, “It was kind of obvious. I didn’t mind. Because anyway you felt about me…I felt about you too.”
Rami puts his hand under the table at that moment and we are holding hands. We are holding each other hand’s tight and everything in the world seems perfect.
Rami sleeps in my bed that night. We wrap each other up and we wake up in each other’s arms.
“I don’t want to go to school today,” Rami is saying.
There is a bang on the door though. A loud aggressive bang.
I realize I didn’t lock the door too late and watch as Yuri barges into the room. He sees Rami and me sleeping on my bed wrapped up together. Neither of us have shirts on. We both just have boxers on.
“I can explain,” Rami tells Yuri.
“I don’t care,” Yuri responds, “The two of you need to come downstairs! NOW!”
The sound in Yuri’s voice is desperation. We make our way down the stairs quickly to find out what Yuri is talking about. The cops are there. My father is outside in the driveway. He is crying at that moment. Tears are rolling down his eyes. I don’t understand what’s happening. I watch as Houston is there consoling him. Houston is keeping my father close.
What could make my father cry? I don’t get it.
Detective Logan is there. There are a bunch of police everywhere.
“She didn’t come home last night,” my father is telling Detective Logan.
I realize that Sydney’s car is parked out front. At first I don’t see her. I see cops pulling prints on her car. It’s parked in a place that it usually isn’t parked at. She’s parked halfway into the lawn. I know Sydney wouldn’t park like that. Sydney was the neatest person I knew.
Someone must have pulled her car up like this.
So I walk closer to the car.
“Oh my god…” I hear Rami say.
He sees it before I do but I have the same reaction when I see it. Sydney’s body is stuffed in the TRUNK OF THE CAR! She is dead. Cold.
A note is laying on her body. It reads: FREE APRIL.
It’s at that moment I realize that there is no way in hell that April was acting alone.
To read the next chapter go to www.crushedcrown.com