52: Man on Fire
I wasn’t synced.
Nothing worth anything was clicking because I wasn’t flowing the way I needed to.
I’d had constraints before, specific time frames to work off of. I did jobs. Local magazines, blogs, logos, a couple book covers and commissioned pieces all of which I could pull together without much difficulty. With a concentrated effort to sort the contents of my mind, I could accomplish what I needed to but now that wasn’t happening. It wasn’t so much the pressure to perform. My show was coming up, in a matter of days and another had been tentatively scheduled for two weeks from then. The owner of the gallery I was showing at had taken a special interest in me after she got wind of all the hype surrounding my show. Anybody invited had confirmed and even more were contacting her about securing invites and she was falling all over me because of it. The gallery I was presenting at was prestigious. In a stuffy, sell-one-painting-a-month way but she wanted new life breathed into the place and more importantly, new income.
I represented that.
Auctions online for a group of my paintings had already grossed thousands. This time I knew I was on the cusp of something great. My big break was right there but to me, still not there. I couldn’t focus and if I couldn’t channel something, I would be next month’s old news. That’s how it went in a city like this. The notion of being a starving artist might seem authentic, bohemian to some but that ideal lost its appeal when you had responsibilities. I had a talent and only an idiot wouldn’t attempt to profit off that. I couldn’t afford to squander any opportunities I was given. Gallery lady, in between sexual innuendos and eyeing my crotch, told me to relax and to hone in on the subjects that came to me natural.
And that was the female form.
I had a catalog of paintings and sketches of various women. Ones I saw on the subway, ones I passed as I walked, even a few I recalled from memory. I was doing just that now, only it wasn’t working out the way I had expected. Scissors down, I stared at her, disturbed by what my brain had come up with. I had put her back together but not all the parts matched.
“I’m sorry,” I said dazed. “I know you’re not supposed to look like that but I’m doing my best.”
I really had but the cut lines, my uncooperating coordination and extreme fatigue had made her disfigured. I think if she were still alive and whole she’d ask why I had done this to her. I’d have no real answer. Things just were now. For the last two hours I’d been imagining that actual body parts lay in front of me but only paper did. I had painted that girl, the nameless one I had fucked twice. She was sitting, back turned, hair pinned up. I’d captured her the best I could remember but I had hacked away at my hard work and in frustration tried to put her back together again. It was a failed mission but I wasn’t giving up. I never gave up when I got like this. Label it plain stubbornness or madness but something in my being refused to let go even when I knew I should. I stood up changing my viewpoint.
The girl was fragmented, indicative of how I was coming to view the opposite sex. I saw them in parts sometimes. The curve of their lips, the round of an ass, the shape of breasts. I tried to sew all of the pieces together, see them as a man should: whole but it wasn’t working all the time and even when it did, I didn’t see any woman for who she was. I did a bait and switch, supplementing them for one person.
The only person affecting my mind and heart completely.
I wondered what she was doing, how she was doing. I had no way of knowing. Her number was off the grid, even her new Twitter account had barred me. Those that knew anything wouldn’t dare tell me anything. I had made myself into the enemy. That was proved when I went back to Brooklyn to pick up the rest of my belongings. I thought I had strategized a time when I was least likely to run into anybody but low and behold there were two of my former roommates exiting. Liam’s disapproval was obvious but Leah’s anger reached out to strangled me. I think she wanted to do just that as she stood there, regarding me like I was a stranger. No, it was worse than that. You gave a stranger indifference, Leah gave me hatred.
She asked me one very simple question: why?
That was what I had asked myself over and over, what ate at me while I sat up night after night. I could’ve given her a thesis on the topic but it all came down to one inevitable face.
I looked a once friend in the eye, ashamed but unable to steer myself from the truth. “Because,” I said remorsefully “She’s her.”
Her glare intensified because that wasn’t what she wanted to hear. If I were her, I’d have the same reaction to some half-life standing in my face with that bullshit of a response too but that was the only way to explain what I felt. I became inhumane, I used my bare hands and maimed the one person I loved more than anyone for that very reason. She meant too much to me.
Ayanna was everything.
My drug of choice, my religion, my very reason for getting up in the morning.
There was no way I could ever let her go. There was no way that I could allow her to take one step away from me because my greatest fear was that if she did, she would never come back. I loved her enough to want to destroy her. That was sick. It was condescending, narcissistic but that’s how it all added up in my brain. Don’t ask me why but every instinct told me to hold her that tight. Leah saw that. I was so disillusioned, such a poor excuse of my previous self that she pitied me.
Almost but not quit.
Her indignation and loyalty wouldn’t make room for that.
She came closer to me, stood toe to toe to me while her finger jabbed me in the chest. “You stay away from her,” she said eyes narrowed. “I’m pretty sure you have zero credibility after all of your stunts but she loves you so there’s always a chance. She’s forgiven you before, she could do it again but you can’t give her that opportunity. If you actually love her, you won’t show yourself, you won’t attempt to contact her, you won’t make yourself a part of her life. If you actually love her, you’ll go away and you won’t back.”
Liam gently took her arm, pulling her away. He was as put off by her tone the same way I was. He gave me a warning look as they left but Leah made me want to shrink into myself. It was the scariest I had ever seen her. She had tapped into that part of herself for Ayanna. I was almost seeing Ayanna through her eyes. For Leah to pull off a mafia vibe, Ayanna had to be in bad shape and of course she was. She was like this butterfly and I had done my best to break off her wings.
I nodded at Leah’s advice. I agreed with it but that didn’t mean I could follow it. This was a reprieve but no amount of separation would be permanent. It just couldn’t be so I was laying and I was waiting. At first I managed to keep myself occupied but then I found myself sitting on the block. The brownstone five doors down was unoccupied, there was no one to take issue with someone squatting on their stoop. I just needed to see her. I ended up hearing her first.
“I bet you’ll be hanging onto me next time,” she joked.
I peered from my hiding spot and saw her climb off of a motorcycle, a helmet in hand. She fluffed out her hair and winked.
“You know I can do that now.” Mosai the Motherfucker picked her up, held her ass as he carried her up the stairs. Ayanna laughed as they kissed.
If I wasn’t intimately involved, if I had no connection, if my stomach wasn’t in knots at the sight of them, I’d take them as inspiration. They were the couple I’d want to emulate. It occurred to me that I could’ve had that. If it weren’t for the abuse and the humiliation and my ego. I should’ve gotten angry. I expected myself to but when rage didn’t come, despair did. This all-encompassing loss. It hit me with such force that I had to check my chest to see if I was bleeding out. It felt like I’d been shot clean through. I don’t know how I did it before, I had to have put on those red glasses because there was no way to ignore how they looked. It was past attraction now, past infatuation and curiosity. What was happening between them was real and it was crushing every part of me. I looked away, cleared my throat but I didn’t wipe the tear that ran down my face.
Crying, secluded and going out of my fucking mind, I watched my life slip out of my hands.
Ayanna was happy, content with this dude and why wouldn’t she be? He’d never placed a hand on her. He’d never verbally attacked her or disrespected her in the ways I had. He was safety, I was danger. He was peace, I was dysfunction. I represented wrong and he was all things right. He’d been a threat before but now he wasn’t even that. He was winning. He was taking what was mine. I’d lost, any sane man could see that, would let go but my resolve refused to falter. Until we reached some type of understanding, I was bidding. Everyday I sat on her or the motherfucker’s place. It was the only way to have time with her. Not today though.
Hearing footsteps in the hall, I put away my sliced painting, pulled my hair up and got back to what I should’ve been doing all this time.
“How’s it coming along?”
Joelle stood there, a satin robe tied around the tiny bump where her stomach was. A normal person might not be able to tell that she was showing but I had noticed it immediately. The evidence of our baby was the only thing keeping my head screwed on semi-straight. I motioned for her to come closer. When she did, I peeled back her robe and kissed her stomach. She allowed that and only that. After my confession, things had changed between us. for one, we weren’t having any sexual contact. She didn’t treat me to anything special, her housewife special was off the table. We didn’t even sleep in the same room, hince me camping out in her spare bedroom, or the future nursery. I retreated away and traced my finger against the longest wall, the design just in pencil now. A child-friendly jungle landscape was going to be here in a rainbow of colors. When she had turned in last night, I’d been here working and eight hours later I was still awake and considering what a mess I had become.
“It’s going,” I said stretching my arms out.
“You stayed up all night again, didn’t you?”
“It’s what I do now,” I replied stripping off my shirt. “It’s not like I can rest anyway.”
I knew how I looked. My hair was a tangled mess and I had an caveman beard growing. My eyes displayed exhaustion and I’d been in the same sweats since two days ago. I didn’t look great and most of me didn’t care. Joelle did.
“How long are you going to do this? You look like you’re about to fall over, you walk around like a zombie mumbling to yourself. You go missing for days and you stare at things for no apparent reason. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen you put anything in your mouth. How long do you think you’re going to be a vegetable because I need a timeline?”
“Joe, I’m trying to—”
“A week, a month, are you going to be like this when the baby comes or are you going to be dead by then?” Joelle folded her arms and gave me a pitied look. “Look, I get that you miss her and you might not know how to handle all of this but I think you know your current methods aren’t helping. Sorry if I’m being blunt but this needs to be said before you just blow away. You did this Max. You pushed Ayanna away. You’re the reason why she shut you out and it’s not a huge chance that she’ll forgive you. Deal with that, don’t fall apart because of it. Be better. You do have someone else to be concerned about.”
Her words came from a tough love place but I wasn’t in the mood to receive it. I was trying to keep easy, be calm around her for the sake of her stress level and what that could mean for our baby but at this point, I didn’t need her mentioning Ayanna’s name.
“Is it okay if I ask you not to address her? At all. I know what I did, you reminding me of everything doesn’t improve that. I know you’re still going over what I told you. It shows in how you act around me, or don’t for that matter. I don’t want to knock heads with you. I can find some place else to stay.”
Joelle looked away. “You don’t have to do that unless you want to. I’m puking all the time, I’m irritable and I maybe I’m jealous.” That was a comment I decided not to respond to. “That’s fucked up right, that I have envy for someone who you hurt? Well I do and I’m not proud of that, I just get the feeling that you’re never going to get past this.”
She voiced what I already know. “I’m trying,” I said. “I’ll clean myself up…” That pause there was meant to be “eventually” but I thought better of it. She didn’t respect me already, lying to her would only contribute to that. I touched her arms, cautiously sweeping hair away from her face. “I’ll try to clean myself up. Not even for me but for the baby.” She stared at me, not believing a word I said. I didn’t blame her. I wasn’t very convincing. “I need to get ready. I have that thing today.”
That thing was the Spin Thrift Alley at “one of the most diverse and dynamic festivals in the country.” That was some quote I read somewhere but it was true. AfroPunk had everything from mosh pits, bike shows, food trucks and a varied list of performers. Rock bands, trip-hop, R & B—there was something for every music taste and eye. People watching was a major sport there. You could find colorful hair, creatively place piercings and fashion that was something for another world. The women also seemed to be a pull for the male attendants.
Rodney was one of them.
He’d volunteered there for that reason only.
During the summer he’d gone through yet another girlfriend and was looking to “climb back on the horse.” I didn’t bother to say anything to that as we loaded several of my paintings and boxes of merchandise later that morning. I had everything from t-shirts to iPhone cases and printed tote bags. Since he was the only person I knew with access to a van, he was my assistant by default. I was putting in the last box when I noticed Joelle at the window. She put her hand up and I nodded back. I didn’t know what our relationship was now and the general awkwardness wasn’t lost on Rodney.
He blew Joelle a kiss and she immediately left the window. “Those are those infamous pregnancy hormones I’m witnessing right? Because you and I both know that women love them some of this.”
I got in the passenger seat, continuing my sullen silence. I wasn’t in the mood for conversation, not that I would catch a break from him.
“So,” Rodney said, “what’s up with you fam? Mrs. Robinson is with child and I’m picking you up at her place, there anything you want to tell me about?”
“We’re living together. Was that what you were looking for?”
“That shit is apparent. What I’m trying to figure out is how that’s playing out with Ayanna. Two times now I haven’t seen you with her and I heard from my source aka the girl Gia, that she isn’t registered for fall semester. She dropped your emo ass didn’t she?”
I turned my face to the window, attempting to keep from breaking the glass. When I didn’t speak he carried on.
“Oh shit, she really did? Yo, check outside real quick and make sure the sky isn’t falling. She found out about your illegitimate baby, didn’t she? I told you that wasn’t going to fly man. Ayanna knows what she’s working with. Ain’t no way in hell she trying to stick around for your drama.”
As usual he had it wrong. “We have another issue,” I said tersely. “One I’m not going to discuss with you now or any other time so drop the fucking subject.”
At the light Rodney looked over and found me fuming. I scowled at him. It was the kind of look that told you to keep quiet before something unfortunate happened. He took the hint and put his hands up in defense.
“Consider it dropped my man but I have a suggestion. Get rid of the serial killer vibes before we get there. I’m trying to bag a bad one and you looking like the one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest is guaranteed to scare the honies away.”
“That would be a good thing. I’m not trying to attract anything but business.”
“Yeah until you get your eyes on Baby Momma: Part II.” I fixed him with another look. “Sorry. That was too soon.”
We made it to Commodore Barry Park and to my designated vendor table. I began to set up while all Rodney did was try his luck with every mildly-attractive female that strolled around. By noon, THEESatisfaction the DJ pair were performing, droves of people near the green stage. Things picked up in the market, several people stopping by my area. Girls flirted with me, asking about my artwork, the inspiration behind it all that other bullshit women brought up to start conversation. I did my best to be cordial and not snap on anyone handing me cash. I was doing alright until I started scanning the crowd. I was holding onto this small hope that I might see Ayanna. We’d gone to AfroPunk every year. I know things were infinitely different this time but that slim chance was all I was holding near.
I had false starts all over the place.
One girl with a turban and oversized earrings had the same silhouette, another had similar hair and I could’ve sworn I heard her voice in the mix. It was like I was projecting her on every chick but there was no confusion when I saw a familiar face approach. I cursed under my breath, feeling the urge to walk in the opposite direction but I couldn’t hide. That would just show how much of a coward I really was. She was with that white girl again, the Lana Del Rey impersonator who’d been way too close to Ayanna that night. Yoshi, with her tiny waist and side-show ass drew every male eye but her focus was squarely on me. And not in a good way. She strolled over to the booth and looked me up and down before scoffing.
“Look at this Kristina,” she said, “the motherfucker actually has the audacity to show his face in public.” Yoshi flashed me a sardonic look, filled with hatred. “Shouldn’t you be under a rock or better yet, dead?” Smiling darkly, she inspected one of my t-shirts. “You know Max that last one can always be arranged.”
It was then that I noticed a guy standing behind them. He was close enough to let me know he was with them but far enough not to cramp her space. Her statement caused him to nod at me, acknowledging her threat. I knew what Yoshi did, a lot of people did but she was careful enough to keep herself clean of any involvement. I was guessing that with a snap of the fingers Queenpin here would have her help make something happen to me. Rodney stood, the energy here causing him to be serious for once. I was hoping it was that but it was probably the ex-video vixen standing here in the flesh.
“Hey, Max you want to introduce me?” he asked.
I wasn’t allowed to. “I’m Yoshi,” she said, “and my girl’s name is Kristina. You are?”
“Rodney Jenkins. I’m a big fan of your work. How is it you know my buddy?”
“We have a common factor. Ayanna’s an old friend,” she said staring at me like the piece of shit I was. “One your boy left a mark on. Several really.”
My face began to burn with shame. Of course she knew about what happened. Before I’d been blocked, I’d seen the picture of Ayanna. She’d done some modeling for Yoshi’s clothing brand. They were friends reunited and now co-workers. It didn’t matter how much she was aware of, she knew enough.
She shook her head. “You don’t have anything to say to me because you have no excuse. After everything my girl’s been through, you do that to her? I always thought that shy, innocent shtick of yours was cute but you had everyone fooled didn’t you? It’s always like that. The quiet motherfuckers, the ones who have the nice boy routine down are usually the foul ones. The ones that sneak up on you and have you in cooling in a body bag. You better count your stars and thank whoever you pray to that Ayanna wised up and dumped your triflin ass because if you had put her on a slab, you’d be the next one to go. Now maybe we haven’t been attached at the hip in the last years but mamí is forever and always my ace and I’ll ride out for her any day. You probably got this PSA from Leah but let me reiterate: fuck off.”
She came up to me closer. “You’re a bitch. A pathetic one at that. Next time, try to pick on someone your own size. I could set that up for you but with the folks I know, you wouldn’t last five minutes.” Yoshi linked hands with the white girl, who gave me the same glare. “Rodney, you might want to watch the company you keep. People have been known to get got together.”
Yoshi walked away while I found a chair, covering my face with my hands. This day just kept getting better and better.
“What does that mean?” Rodney asked. “Watch the company I keep.”
“Nothing,” I grumbled.
“It’s not nothing if she went through all of that in the name of Ayanna. What’s going on?” I was too disgusted with myself to reply. “She said something about you leaving a mark but that couldn’t mean…no, you wouldn’t do that, not to Ayanna, not to any woman. That’s not your calling card.”
He was trying to give me the benefit of the doubt but was still making my anger grow exponentially. “Is that what you want to hear? That I’m perfect, that I’ve never lost my temper with her? Well I did. I fucked up because that’s me now: Max equals Fuck-up. I hurt her, okay. I’m the bad guy.”
He shook his head at me in disbelief, all of his usual playfulness gone. “Yeah, you are the bad guy, the fucking twisted one. We both grew up the same way, with some no-count nigga slapping our moms around just because they felt like it and you go repeat that? I always knew you were off but now I know you’ve really lost your mind. I ain’t never seen anyone fall over a girl like you did. Years you been running after her like a damn puppy and when you finally get her, you lay hands? I’m not cool with that and I can’t be down with anybody who is. Big Booty was right. I do need to watch who I associate with. We not boys no more. You need help. Serious, strapped-to-a-table help and I’m not the one to give it to you.”
Rodney backed away from me, giving me the same look of disappointment everyone was granting me these days. “You need to clean your stuff up and until you do, we dead. Enjoy your show because I sure as hell won’t be attending.”
I stood there.
Wanting to be out of my skin.
Wanting to climb out of my body and disappear.
But there I remained, wearing every one of my wrongs.
This was me now, drenched in my sins. Every mistake, every act was draping me and I couldn’t throw it off. The gasoline was already there but now everything had triggered the match. I was being engulfed with the flames of my own personalized hell.
I was the man on fire.
And nobody was going to put me out.
This shit felt permanent because my pain had always been. Our snap altercation had attracted curious stares. I didn’t meet anybody’s eyes except for one. An emerald green set stared at me unflinchingly, the owner of them a masterpiece. She was beautiful but not in a customary way. Her looks were almost cruel, hardened in a way. She had on regular festival attire, thrifted denim shorts, crop top and boots. Athletic but still shapely and ethnically ambiguous. She had enough melanin to qualify for any race. Her hair was red. Not orange but deep scarlet like an anime character but for whatever reason it suited her. I realized I was staring but she didn’t take offence. She watched me like she was seeing through me. I didn’t like it and since she could tell that, I got a cynical smile.
I looked away, trying not to seem affected. I looked back over and she was gone. Not moved to a different position in the crowed but gone. I thought I had imagined her for a moment but I wrote the strangeness off. I had more things to worry about than some girl pulling disappearing acts. I worked the rest of the day, turning up the charm to sell out my stock. I really had no choice since my ride was gone. By evening, I was down to my last three t-shirts. I gave them away to a group of girls and packed it up, turning in my vendor number. I left AfroPunk, my mind swimming from everything.
Naturally, I wanted a drink to toast my misery.
Coming across a small bar, I went in. I downed a shot of tequila and one bourbon before I settled with a beer. I wasn’t even a drinker like that but I needed something to bring me down. I knew I wasn’t muddled enough when I saw who had entered the bar. I stood, moved before I even thought about what I was doing. I tapped on her shoulder, held my breath and felt my heart end up on the floor.
“Hi, can I help you with something?”
I blinked repeatedly, removing my hand. “No, I-I thought you were someone else,” I said stammering.
“That’s too bad,” the girl that wasn’t Ayanna said.
She returned to her drink while I stood there dumbfounded. Sure I’d been having sights all day but I thought…it was her. I was so sure. I knew but apparently my instincts had gone to complete shit. I made it back to my seat, feeling as low as ever. I’d said it before and I’d say it again, I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t be out here like this, jonesin and mistaking anyone five foot two for her. I had to talk to Ayanna. I had to see her, if only to fall on my knees and beg for her forgiveness. Something had to give. Only one person could help me and I had just enough gumption to ask her. Five very tense minutes later, I had put my phone down, accomplishing my task but there were no guarantees.
I sat back, rubbing my forehead in frustration. “Fuck me,” I groaned.
“I would but we just met.”
I sat up straight and frowned. It was better to do that instead of cringe. She was even more startling up close. It was her, the girl from the festival. I thought she was a mirage but she was real and she was standing right in front of me.
I swallowed, not sure of why I was instantly scrambled because of her. “Was there something you needed?” I asked lowering my voice in an attempt to bolster my confidence. I didn’t fool her. She was staring at me like I was prey and it was feeding time.
“I need that seat. It’s the only one left in the place.” I tried not to shift away as she sat down beside me. “So,” she said, “I saw you out there today. You didn’t look too happy to be around, which only means one thing. What’s her name?”
Her inflection was Caribbean. It gave a tinge to her voice, making her sound throaty. She sounded like sex. Unfortunately, it drew me in. I was so preoccupied that I didn’t catch what she’d said. “Huh?”
She grinned. “Her name? The woman you’re sitting alone pinning about, the one who is holding your heart in the palm of your hand. I used to have one of those you know, a heart but it bled out for this guy. He was working for me at one point, made me massive amounts of money. He was calloused, ruthless and god, it turned me on. If he only knew how much I wanted to…” She touched her chest like she was in the middle of an explicit moment. “I would’ve screamed whatever name he wanted me to use.” She nodded, her eyes glazed over as she remembered what I couldn’t fathom. “He had this list of aliases but in the end he was just Cassius, a lost little boy too caught up in his childish emotions. He had everything, he could’ve had the world but he couldn’t stop his obsessions over her. He was counterproductive in the end and I have no use for that.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. She had ventured off and I wasn’t following.
“That’s enough about me. Her name,” she said again, “what is it?”
“Ayanna. She’s my rock. I love her. It’s more than that really but I did the unimaginable. I screwed everything up. She didn’t like what was going on and she left. I don’t blame her for that.”
I wasn’t clear on why I answered her, I guess I just needed to unload on someone who didn’t think the worst of me already. Who else would be willing to listen to me? I told the scary/intriguing girl more, used her like the therapy I was no longer seeking. She listened intently, hanging onto my every word but her interest meant something else entirely.
Summarizing my thoughts, I sighed and said, “I don’t really like my life right now.”
She bit her lip as if she understood. “You know what I don’t like Max? Wife beaters. You’ve avoided labeling yourself that this whole time and I get that you don’t want to believe who you are, denial is usually the first reaction but it’s time for you to accept what you are and in my book, that’s lower than scourge. You’re not even in the league of maggots, you’re more comparable to bacteria. My research tells me that you’re an artist, a good one at that so instead of my usual special, I’ll let you off easy.”
There was no room, no time to react before a shock of pain shot up through my right hand. The decorative statue on the table was heavier than it looked, or maybe it was just the amount of force she put behind it but my hand was now defective. I wasn’t a doctor but you didn’t need a medical background to know that your knuckles were broken. I couldn’t move my hand but right now I was more concerned with the venom in my assaulter’s eyes. She fingered the end of her braid casually, a smile painted on her lips as she leaned closer. She looked like my girl or at least someone trying to take the role. In reality, she was the person capable of ending my life in more than a hundred ways.
I gritted my teeth, breathed in short spurts as she playfully stroked my arm. “You’re lucky this is only a warning and not a final notice. If it were up to me, I’d take my time and snap everyone of your fingers in half. I kind of like the sound it makes.” She took my chin in her fingers, kissing me with tongue. “Stay away from Ayanna. For you she doesn’t exist. Remember that the next time you go moaning on and on about her. I don’t want to get a call about you again. If I do, you and me are going to have a little fun. I’ll lay you down, ride you and when you’re right there, just about to come inside, I’ll split you ear to ear. I like to feel the blood splatter and it’s warmth.”
She stood and I felt the urge to piss on myself. “This message was brought to you by Mosai. A little incentive for you to fade into the background. And me, I’m Fiona but if we meet ever again, just call me Finney.”
She disappeared and I was left with the cold feeling in my gutt. There was nothing comical about losing mobility in one hand and getting a death threat all in one sitting but suddenly I was laughing uncontrollably. So Mosai was this serious. No guy would go through hiring a real-life assassin to teach me a lesson if they weren’t. I applauded that he was this adamant about Ayanna being protected but it wasn’t going to change how I felt.
If anything, my determination was that much stronger.
A ripped apart chest, a crushed hand and the heaviest heart in the city. Ayanna had inadvertently and inadvertently left an impact on me.
Now all you have to do is return the favor.
That familiar voice came out of nowhere, freezing me in place. Eventually, I got up holding my hand and swallowing back my unrelenting fear. I shook my head in denial. Just like last time, I convinced myself that I hadn’t heard anything at all ♥