"What was that?" Tip Toe asks.
Tip Toe is the type of guy that got excited about anything so I really didn't take him any mind. We get off the stage. We feel like we did OK, but honestly, I can't even remember.
"I dunno, we kind of---freestyled," I state.
"You didn't use the choreography you made...at all?" Rosa asks.
I notice the dance team gathering around us. Ana is standing in the background. She just stares at me. She crosses her arms. It makes me nervous as hell. No one in the audience clapped. Not a single sound came from the audience when we got off stage. Then there was Cornelius. The dance coach is sitting in his chair with his eyes squinting looking at Desta and me.
"Was it that bad?" Desta asks.
"Bad?" Tip Toe asks, "I pronounce ballet with a T. I'm bad. You guys were...you were..."
He stops. He just stops talking mid-sentence and just stares off. The others look around not quite sure how to finish off what Tip Toe is trying to say. The weird moment in between Desta and I look at each other. It probably wasn't best that we freestyled but we got out there and we just did it. We just were like ---fuck it. It wasn't planned. It just happened.
"There are no words for what happened out there," Cornelius states.
"It was beautiful. You two were more in sync than anything I'd ever seen," Rosa explains, "Two souls but one body...moving effortlessly."
Rosa's face is really serious when she says that. It's almost...worried. No. It couldn't be. She wasn't worried about anything. I quickly leave Desta's side and stand by Rosa. I put my arm over her. I pull her close a little bit.
"Why's everybody so serious? I thought we bombed out there..."
"No," Cornelius stated, "No you didn't."
Everyone is acting so weird. I look over at Desta. He seems confused as well. Tip Toe starts starting asking random questions about how we did this move or that move, but the truth is I didn't have any answers for him and neither did Desta. We were standing there and the only one that speaks is Prince who seems to run backstage. Tip Toe is still trying to ask me this question or that question. I watch in the distance as Prince is talking to Desta. I'm not sure what they are talking about but for some reason, it has all my attention to the point that I'm ignoring Tip Toe.
"Did you hear me?"
"Not now Tip Toe."
"I'm not Tip Toe. I'm your girlfriend," Rosa states.
I turn at that moment and see Rosa standing there. I feel like shit when I realize Tip Toe isn't the one talking at the moment, but it's her. Rosa crosses her arms.
"Babe...I'm sorry I didn't hear you."
"Too busy vibing with your dance partner," Rosa asks.
She says it kind of loud and it sounds kind of awkward. I walk over to Rosa and lean in, "What's the problem? You wanted me to vibe with him. I thought it was a good idea. I thought it was good for us to get on the same page so the dance was better."
"I thought you were going to..." she starts and leans in because Tip Toe is still close by, "Kiss him at some point of this..."
I laugh at the thought, "Nu-uh..."
"Holy shit. It looked like that in front of everyone?"
She turns away. It's clear why Rosa was acting so funny right now. I'm so confused on what we did out there. It was almost like I blacked out during the dance. It's almost like I completely forgot what I was doing out there.
After a few awkward seconds, I lean over and I kiss Rosa.
"You tripping girl. It's just dance. We wanted to play off that emotion. You know?"
Rosa breathes and a little bit, "You're right. Damn, I'm tripping. I should get ready for my solo. You guys killed it. I definitely won't be able to follow up with that."
"You'll do great."
I give Rosa a kiss again. This time when I kiss her I notice Desta looking over at us through the corner of my eye. Desta is done talking to Prince. I watch as Prince walks away. I don't expect Prince to say a word to me or anyone else on the team. He's too cool for that I guess. I'm surprised Desta doesn't leave with him. I'm surprised that as soon as Rosa goes on stage Desta comes and stands next to me.
It's completely silent with the two of us backstage. I should be watching Rosa's performance. I'm sure it's good but the truth is I'm listening to him breathing next to me. I'm watching the hairs on his arms when he rubs them probably because it's a little cold.
"Here..." I state.
I hand him my sweater out of my bookbag. I don't only hand it to him. I put it on. I don't know why I do it. I'm glad no one's around to see it...including my girlfriend. It looks kind of suspect but for some reason, it's worth it when I see him smile again.
"So that dance..." he starts.
"That dance..." I respond.
Silence again. Awkward silence. Not the bad type though. The type where I'm digging through my mind trying to remember what happened. I remember lifting him into the air a few times when we switched to ballet. I remember switching to hip-hop and somehow being able to coordinate a synchronized pop lock without ever planning it.
"It was like we could read each other's minds," he explains to me, biting down on his lip.
I watch how he bites down on his lip. Fuck. The SHIT was SEXY! I mean I couldn't even front. I just look away again. Why the fuck was I letting this shit happen to me over and over with this particular person. I was fighting it but damn it was getting harder. Come on, Santana. Get it together. He's just a boy like the rest of them.
I quickly change the subject, "So you leaving with Prince?"
"Did you want me to leave with Prince?"
I shrug, "Not my thing."
"They were about to throw down," he explains, "You know that? They were about to throw down and they stopped. They all stopped to watch us. Supposedly we were that good. And that's coming from Prince...reluctantly, of course."
"Wish I could remember."
"I'll explain it one day," he tells me, "Because those are moments I'll never forget."
I smile at him. He smiles at me. Fuck that smile. Rosa is done now. I take a few steps pretending as though I'm looking for someone. Completely forget the fact that Desta has on my coat. Rosa sees Desta with my coat on.
"Girl come here...you did great," I state.
I want to kiss her but right now all she sees is the coat. So she turns and shakes her head, "I think I heard my parents calling me. I'll talk to you later."
I fucked up. Big time.
I think about chasing after her. I want to. I think that's what she wants me to do. Right when I'm about to though I am pulled. The person pulls at my pants. I look down and realize that it's Cornelius.
"I'd like you to come to dinner with me to celebrate," he explains, "Celebrate your performance."
He laughs, "Yes on me."
"Shit cool," I shrug, "Free food? OK, I'll go."
"Good. I'll go ask Desta as well."
Fuck. I watch in horror as he goes over to his nephew next. What the fuck was going on? I realized he wasn't asking the rest of the team. Just Desta. What the fuck was Cornelius doing?
We are in a nice restaurant. I mean it might not be nice to rich folk as far as the restaurants in the Bottom, this shit was nice. It had table cloths and shit. It had glasses not plastic cups, no restroom signs and a shirtless bum getting screamed at by the Koreans to put his shirt on.
"There's someone I'd like the two of you to meet," Cornelius states, "This is Kendrick."
I'm confused when the guy offers to shake my hand. Desta and I look at one another. Who is this guy and why are we getting introduced to him. Then all of a sudden as we're sitting down I see the guy HOLDING Cornelius's hand. It's the most awkward thing. We are in a public restaurant. The waitress comes over and takes our drinks. All the while they are holding hands like it's nothing.
"This is your---"
"My husband," Cornelius states.
Desta grabs at the nearest water. I cough a little bit. Neither of us is expecting this. I mean I assumed Cornelius was gay. He wasn't super flamboyant but he just had that `thing' that made you think he was. He was too soft. Too sweet. The guy sitting next to him seems the complete opposite. He was handsome. I mean that was another surprising thing. Cornelius wasn't ugly by any means but I figured if he did end up with a guy it'd be some nerd somewhere. This guy wasn't a nerd. He was a Spanish guy, tall buff and extremely handsome looking. He's so handsome to the point that I swear I am checking him out for a minute. The guy is sexy. You didn't have to be gay or even bi to realize that.
As soon as I realize how attractive he is to me I see Desta smiling a little bit and nodding, "Ok, Uncle. I see you."
He laughs. I'm surprised he comes out and says something like this. I'm surprised because he lets it slip but also surprised that I feel some type of way about it. What the fuck did this guy have that I didn't have? I was a sexy Papi my damn self.
"After your performance, I had to call up Kendrick and let him know that he had to meet you guys," Cornelius states.
"I knew about you Desta, it's nice to meet you in person though. You and your...friend," Kendrick states.
"Homie," I state.
"Isn't that the same thing?" he asks.
It was the same thing but I had to make that clear. This whole set up just seemed weird. Me and Desta on one end with Cornelius sitting next to his husband. What the fuck was this all about? It seemed sort of like some sort of double date or weird fucking CW sitcom bullshit. Shit that didn't happen in the bottom.
"My dad made it seem like Uncle Cornelius was alone," Desta explains.
"Your dad wasn't telling the truth. I'm not dying. I'm not broke. I'm not alone. I'm not a sad faggot who never made anything out of himself like your father would want you to believe. I'm happy. I've always been. And he knows I'm not alone."
"Not as long as I'm alive," Kendrick states, "This is my heart man. He's never too far."
We watch at that moment as Kendrick literally reaches across the table and starts kissing him. Of course, Cornelius is acting bashful saying things like "not in front of the kids" while Kendrick just whispers back "they've seen worst shit on tv". It looks like Kendrick is inches away from pulling Cornelius in the bathroom and fucking his lights out.
It's awkward. AS FUCK!
I look over at Desta. He's already done drinking one glass of water.
"You can have mine," I tell him.
I don't blame him. How awkward is this? It takes a minute for Desta
"My dad probably had a reason for thinking that," Desta explains.
"He did. He wants you to believe there's no way out," Cornelius states.
"Which is why we gave your mother the 200k to get you out of this place and pursue your dream when she reached out to us," Kendrick states.
Cornelius hits his husband, "WE weren't supposed to bring that up?"
I'm shocked, "Wait you guys financed his inheritance?"
It's Kendrick who shakes his head, "It's nothing to be embarrassed about. I have the money. I've been working for NASA for the past few years. Thinking about finding something local so I can be in town more and help Nelly with his project."
I look over at Desta, "Man, I told you your Uncle was dope."
I expect Desta to be happy. I expect Desta to be glad that his Uncle had done this for him. This meant that his Uncle hadn't abandoned him the way that he thought he did. Right? I expect all of those things but Desta's face just sours. It's so weird.
"Is that what I am to you?" Desta asks Cornelius, "Some sort of project?"
"You're upset I wasn't there," Cornelius states, "I'm here now. And I'm going to help you get out of here one way or the other. I promise."
"The money's gone," Desta states.
"I'm hiring a lawyer to look into it."
"You want me to sue my dad," Desta asks.
The talk is getting deep. Real deep. It's getting personal. Maybe that's what Kendrick nods over at me, "How about we go get a drink at the bar, let these guys talk about the logistics?"
A part of me doesn't want to leave Desta alone but I know that he's in good hands with Cornelius. I'm just worried about Desta's emotional side. His relationship with his father was so bad and I felt like he was blaming Cornelius for a lot of that. Seeing Desta struggle with this is something that I hate. I want to be there for him in some way. But right now Kendrick was right. I needed to give him his space.
I get up off the table and follow Kendrick to the bar.
"So..." Kendrick states.
I'm not allowed to drink beer but I watch as he takes some whiskey he's ordered and pours it in an empty cup. He flashes the bartender a smile, probably charming her not to say anything while he hands it to me. He works. He looks very charming.
"Never met a Spanish nigga that works for NASA."
"Didn't know there was a rule?"
"Oh, there's rules, laws, ordinances, all that," I explain to him with a laugh.
"You can do whatever you want," he explains, "Me and Cornelius are proof of that. That's why he's here. To show people like you that you can have whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. You can love whoever you want."
He looks back over at the table. Weird. I shake my head.
"My girl would love if you told her something like that."
"Yeah, got a girl."
He smiles, "Oh true. True. You and Desta's are really good homies huh?"
"Yeah, bro. What's it to you?"
"No need to get defensive man," Kendrick tells me and flashes me one of those Rico suave smiles that he just gave the bartender to get her to back off, "It's good. Be his homie. He needs one. Care for him. Cater to him. Listen to him. Be gentle. If he's related to Cornelius that means he may be a little on the sensitive side."
I laugh, "I could probably never get his stubborn ass to admit that."
"He will. He hasn't let you in yet. I can tell, but he will. I know it. I can see it."
I think about it. There was still this wall up with Desta. Still, this awkwardness when we spoke. Still this resistance.
"I want him to," I admit staring over at him, "I really want him to."
"He will. Give him time. He's been through a lot. Trust me. Especially if he dealt with Trayvon that long."
"You know Trayvon?"
"Not a fan."
"I assume you wouldn't be after what he did to your husband."
"You know...when he disabled your husband..." I state.
That's when I see something in Kendrick. The charming handsome, wealthy, successful guy who made it out the hood and married the love of his life has disappeared. He's something else now. Those eyes are dark. They look all of a sudden like so many people here. He's reverted back to something else.
All of a sudden I feel like I've said something wrong.
"My husband said he fell while dancing," Kendrick states.
I shut up at that moment. Fuck. I wasn't even there. I only knew what I was told about the situation. The fact that Kendrick had no idea blew my mind. I feel immediately bad for telling him. We sit there silently and I can tell Kendrick doesn't want to say anything else. He looks heated. He looks beyond heated.
I had just opened something and I had no idea how to close it.
"You guys want to come back to the table?" Desta asks, "We talked about the lawsuit already. Uncle Cornelius sent me over."
"Actually you two go on home. I have to have a serious conversation with your Uncle," Kendrick states.
Desta looks over at me.
I watch as Kendrick walks back to the table. That was when I realize the look in Kendrick's eyes. They were the look of a gangster. They were the look of a killer...
"I can't believe you told him."
We live on different sides of town but for some reason, he takes the same bus with me to the East Side. We get off the bus and he's following me. I'm not complaining. I like the company. Truth is though I'm pretty sure he just wants someone to talk to about everything that happened today. I'm glad I'm the person he's chosen.
"I didn't know he didn't know. I feel like shit."
"Why would Uncle C hide that from him?" I ask.
"I looked at Kendrick. He can front with all that NASA shit but I know M83. He has that swag to him. He's a gangster. At least he was one. Cornelius was probably trying to make sure he didn't go crazy. I know what I would do to someone who hurt someone I cared about."
We're walking. The streetlights are getting dimmer and dimmer.
"Rosa is a lucky girl," I state.
I don't know why I say it. The truth is she was. She deserved it too. She was a sweet girl. They looked nice together. They looked perfect. They were the kind of people that you knew would probably go a long way even after high school. They'd get in love. They'd have children. He'd treat her right because he was a good guy. I could see all that shit for them.
"Yeah, Rosa or you or..." he starts off.
"You know what I mean, any of my homies," he explains.
"Oh so not me specifically?" I ask.
At this point, I just enjoy watching him squirm trying to fix his little mistake. I don't know what it means. It's so hard to read him sometime. I can see the actions though even if I can't understand the motivation. Nervousness. Looking up at the streetlights. Looking back as though catching something and then shrugging off the nervousness altogether.
"Your sensitive ass will probably NEED the most help so maybe you specifically."
I laugh, "I'm not sensitive."
"It's OK you gonna grow some balls one day."
I fake punch him, "Why do people say grow some balls? An asshole is way tougher. All the functions you can do from there. Excretion, sex. You should be telling people to grow assholes."
I think my little tangent is stupid but he laughs at it. By now we're not walking. We're just laughing. We talk for hours more. My house is just a block up the way but I don't even care. I just want to spend as much time with him as possible. It's then that I realize why he took the bus to the Eastside even though Suwoo gang members were trolling around and there was clearly some tension over at Barber High.
"I like being around you," he admits before catching how weird that sounds and quickly adding, "For you being a sensitive ass bitch and all---"
"You can't beat me though."
"Get out of here. I'll whoop you."
"Ugh first time we fought you got the wind knocked out of you."
"First off I was fighting your pretty ass friend, cousin, crush Prince and you jumped in," he reminds me with a raised eyebrow, "You snuck up on me."
"Did you just call him my crush?"
"Come on I see you guys," he states, "Have you done to him what you...did to me..."
"You mean kissed?" I ask.
He looks around. Got to make sure no one is listening, not even when it seems like it's just him and me.
I nod, "Yeah. I have."
"I knew it! I fuckin' knew it!"
"Why the fuck you so excited. Calm your ass down."
"He hates me because he knows that we have a connection and his ass is jealous. That's why he's so bitter all the time. This is validation, yo. Real shit. Prince is bothered by me. I fuckin knew it. Man, dust my shoulders off. I'm the man."
I stop listening from the beginning because I'm stuck on something he said.
"We have a connection?"
He licks his lips, slow. Steady. I don't know if he does it on purpose. Honestly, I'm not sure he does. Maybe he thinks I'm going to try to kiss him again. Maybe he's getting his lips ready. I want to kiss him again. I think about it.
I am about to do it until he shrugs and says, "Man...you're a homie."
"Why the fuck you keep saying that?"
"Isn't it the truth?"
"What are you scared of?" I ask him, "You fucking like me bro. This shit is maddening. Step up and prove it. Step and be a fuckin man about---"
It was happening. I was in his arms. He kisses me hard! I melt in his arms. Holy shit. It was happening. He was finally taking charge. Not only is he kissing me the normal way but he's sticking his tongue down my throat. He makes love to my mouth. Before I know it we are pressed up against some bushes. His hands are feeling up against my ass. My hands are feeling up his ass. We pull each other in more until we are grinding each other. Dry humping in the middle of the hood, knowing we'd shit ourselves if someone saw us because we were both so fucking DL but unable to stop it.
And the only thing that stops us is when I pull back because I can't breathe. Even then he bites on my lower lip...he sucks on it.
"You don't know how long I've been wanting to do that," he states.
"Why didn't you?" I ask.
"What does that mean?"
I don't know what I expect. I don't know why I expect him to just say he was going to shoo her away. Tell her that he was gay and ready to come out to the fuckin world. I don't know why I expected he would want to leave a girl like Rosa. Sweet Rosa. Nice Rosa. Pretty Rosa. Why the fuck would I expect that.
"We're still homies," he tells me, "And these kisses are...damn. They are dope, but I don't want to ruin this friendship we have. I want to be with Rosa..."
It hurts. It's like listening to glass shatter.
"I should get going."
"Don't be like that," he explains, "You know the lifestyle we live. We couldn't be anything more than homies and you know that. C`mon now. Look around you."
"Cornelius and Kendrick did it."
"Do I look like I can get a job at NASA yo?"
I walk away. I'm pissed. He's trying to make excuses and I know that. I don't have time for them though. I make my way out of him and truthfully I'm beyond pissed.
I head to my house. Tone is sitting there. Prince waves me over.
"Where you been?" he asks.
"Minding my own business..."
"Watch your mouth lil nigga, I'm still older than you," Prince states playfully reaching out for me and trying to wrestle or something.
I push him away, "I'm not in the mood."
"I'll tell you what's wrong," we are interrupted, "He's suing his dad. That's what's wrong."
We both turn at that moment and see Aunt Priscilla. She is standing at the top of the stairs in one of her robes acting like she is some rich white supporting actress in an Old Hollywood rip off DVDs that Aunt Tonetta gave away free to all her white clients when they got some meth from her.
"How do you know about that?" I ask.
"Corny called me. Said you and your little boyfriend were out with him and his husband," Aunt Priscilla states.
"Boyfriend?" Prince asks.
Prince knows who she's talking about. I can see it in his eyes. He can tell that she's talking about Santana.
"Oh don't act like you don't know that this one was gay," Aunt Priscilla states, "I have a ton of gay friends. They live for me. I got gaydar. I kept your secret from your dad. Because you were my nephew. I shouldn't have thought. Seeing how you selling out the family this whole time."
"I'm not doing this to spite you," I tell Aunt Priscilla, "He took my money."
"He didn't steal your money," she states, "Stop saying that."
"He did steal it," I respond.
"That's the last time you trash my man."
"Your man? Your man? You couldn't wait til my momma was dead, could you? So you can claim that it was your man? How long have you been plotting against my mother? Mad that you were the pretty Harsh sister so you should have gotten the most respected gangster in the hood."
I don't mean to say the words but I'm sick and tired of her and her hypocrisy. She's here claiming I'm turning against family when she was sleeping with her dead sister's ex.
"Get the fuck out of my house."
"You kicking me out...over him?" I ask.
"Ma come on, calm down," Prince says trying to get her to calm down, "He has nowhere to go. You know that. Desta, apologize."
Aunt Priscilla looks me up and down. Mentioning my mother and how I really felt about her must have been pushing a line that she wasn't willing to cross. I guess you couldn't make her feel uncomfortable with the truth. That was just something she couldn't handle. I guess it gave her wrinkles and she was too used to being so goddamn pretty.
"He'll find somewhere," Aunt Priscilla states, "Get out of my house."
"You know what fine," I state.
I wasn't going to beg her. I didn't care if I had to sleep on the street. I wasn't going to beg this woman to care about me.
"Ma you can't fucking do this," Prince tries to back me up, "He'll be homeless."
"He should have thought about that before he mouthed off. I didn't have to take his ass in. I was being a good Aunt. That was what I was doing. All he wants to do is fucking lie."
"He's not lying," Prince states.
"Uncle Tray did leave. And you're so far up his ass that you haven't noticed that someone else is missing too. He didn't come to this house because of you. You were just a front. Uncle Tray left with Prissy, ma. He's fucking your daughter."
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