Domenic was true to his word; he left the parking lot only seconds after we did, then stayed on our tail into the city. That is until about halfway home, when Bea decided to pull a stunt.
She started slowing for a yellow light, only to stomp the gas and blow through right after it turned red.
“Beatrice!” Behind us, Domenic and at least one other vehicle honked at her. “What the hell!?”
Bea’s cell phone started beeping. “Hold on, gotta take this.” She flipped the phone up and held it to her ear. “Hey, Dom. Yeah, everything’s cool, I just decided to kidnap your girlfriend for a shopping trip… What part of ‘kidnapping’ don’t you understand? We’ll be fine… ~Love you, too, big brother.~” She managed to sound like the smuggest little angel before closing the phone.
Somehow I doubted anything Domenic was saying on the phone could have been mistaken for ‘I love you’. “Bea, can we just go home? It’s a school night. We should be doing homework, not going shopping.”
Bea twisted the wheel, taking us down a side street into a small subdivision. “I ain’t got any homework, do you?”
Not unless you count my costume design. “I need to study for some tests.” A weak excuse at best. “They’re really important.”
“So’s having fun and relaxing after a long day at school.” Bea slowed down enough to afford looking at me. She gave me a pouting look that could have made a statue give in. “Please trust me.”
I already know I’m going to regret this so hard. “Fine, if it’s that important I’ll go, but under protest. Which means we’re not touching my charge card and when I say we’re going home, it means we go home right that second, got it?”
I expected her to deflate upon learning I wasn’t funding this party of hers, but she smiled like she won a victory. “Can do, sis.” She turned down another twisting suburban street.
I answered reflexively when my phone beeped. “Chloe? Bea turned off her phone. Where are you?”
Dom’s tone bordered on panic. I glanced over at Bea, then the scenery around us. “As far as kidnappings go, it’s rather nice.” Great, now I sound like Beatrice. “Sorry, that was awful. Your sister has some weird plot that seems to involve getting me alone and keeping me in suspense.”
“Give me a street address and I’ll catch up, talk some sense into her.”
Dom being protective was nice, but now he was being overprotective, which reminded me of my parents. “There’s no need. I kinda want to see how this plays out.” I gave one more glance at Bea, who seemed all too pleased with herself. Do I tolerate her behavior for any reason other than how damn hot she is? “Besides, you know she’ll just find some other chance to pull her scheme. Might as well get it out of the way now.”
I started to I wonder if the call dropped. “Well, I guess you’re not in any danger. I’ll let Nanna you’ll be a little late. Have some excuse prepared, okay?”
“Alright, I don’t think it’ll take too long.” I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings. “Thanks for understanding.”
“Just, well, stay safe and keep my sister out of trouble.”
“Right, I’ll see you when we get back.” Maybe I should give him something else to think about. “Hey, there’s a notebook in your room that has some of my school projects in it. Maybe you could look them over and give some advice?”
“Sure, I can do that.”
“Thanks, bye.” I closed my phone and slipped it back into my purse.
“And the Nobel Prize goes to you, for rescuing the stick from its prison in my brother’s ass.”
“Hey, that’s not fair.” Coming to Domenic’s defense felt more natural than coming to Jen’s earlier. “Just because he’s got a sense of responsibility and wants to protect you, that doesn’t mean he has a stick up his ass.”
“Still gets old as fuck after a while. Like, doesn’t he know we girls can take care of ourselves?” She had a point; Dom knew hands down that if it came down to it, I’d be protecting him, not the other way around, but he still did his best to shield me. “But, enough about that, let’s talk outfits. Are all your clothes like that?”
I looked down at my shirt and pants. “Uh, mostly, why?”
“Then we gotta work on your wardrobe. Get you into something nice.”
I looked over at her. “First, didn’t I just say I’m not buying anything today? That rule still stands.” Same with never spending my parents’ money on myself. “Second, this shirt is designer. It costs like a hundred bucks.”
“Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s good.” We pulled back out on the main roads while Bea was talking. “I thought you just wore that stuff at school, but it’s your whole wardrobe. Plus, it sticks out, y’know?”
What’s wrong with standing out? “I like my wardrobe.”
“It looks like something you’d wear when meeting the CEO of a bank.”
I just blinked at her. “That is the desired effect, yes. Is there a law against looking classy, now?”
“With a bod like yours, there should be.” I felt my skin warm a little. I knew she wasn’t flirting with me, but that didn’t stop me from responding to the compliment. “You should try something new, instead of what mommy and daddy say you should wear.”
I almost continued the argument, but that point stopped me cold. My whole ensemble was selected by my mother, and now for the first time I could decide for myself what I wanted. “Maybe I could afford to be a little more showy.” I still wasn’t going to be caught dead wearing what Beatrice wore. Although. “But I stand by my earlier rule, I’m not buying a thing.”
“That’s cool,” Beatrice said. “Besides, this is a different sort of shopping trip.”
I just sighed and settled in for a long car ride. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Don’t matter, we’re already here.” Beatrice turned into a parking lot.
My first impression was that it was good Bea wasn’t planning to shop, because this wasn’t the neighborhood for it. Two liquor stores, a shoe place, a fast food joint, and one of those title-loan stores were all there was to choose from here. A gang was standing in the corner where the building formed an ‘L’.
I mentally berated myself for calling them a ‘gang’. Just because it was four black guys and one black girl in a poor neighborhood, that didn’t mean they were members of a gang. That was the sort of thinking my parents instilled in me, and I was going to break from it.
I followed Bea out of the car, wondering just what she was up to. Her style of walk changed, adding a bit of sway to her step that she didn’t normally have. “Haaay, hustla, how’s it goin’?”
The sudden change of Bea’s behavior shocked me to the core. She’d gone from acting like a normal, if uninhibited, to acting black. Right down to the accent.
Part of me noted that, if she took this skill to the stage, she’d be the best actress in our school’s history. Another part felt almost betrayed by this revelation, and I no longer felt any attraction to her at all. A part of me noted that pair of details left me feeling guilty.
Bea was right about one thing, however; being in these clothes had me feeling uncomfortable. The guys all wore baggy clothes, and a couple of them were wearing hankerchiefs on their heads. The girl’s outfit was downright trashy; if she wore that in a better part of town she’d be arrested on prostitution charges.
“Who’s the new chick?” I looked at the guy who made the comment. He wasn’t much taller than me, more than a bit overweight, and I did not like the way he was looking at me. “You switchin’ teams on us?”
“Nah, it ain’t like that.” Bea kept her new persona like it was as natural as breathing. She moved up to one of the other guys, the tall one of the group that was wearing the most jewelry. I assumed that made him the one in charge. “I ain’t givin’ up a good thang.”
Beatrice turned around, leaning on the guy she’d chosen like a piece of furniture. His arm went around her stomach, high enough that he was rubbing her breasts from beneath. “But hands off, Romeo, she’s my brother’s boo.”
The guy essentially fondling Beatrice took his eyes off her cleavage to look at me. “How’d he get a piece like that? We gonna have to upgrade him from ‘Oreo’ to ‘Tiger’.” The others, including Beatrice, joined in on the laughter. I didn’t get the joke, but I expected I wouldn’t have found it funny.
A third guy, this one somewhere in the middle of the intimidation factor of the other, stepped closer to me. He wasn’t as big, or well muscled, as the one Beatrice was playing decoration for, but he wasn’t small or weak looking. “What you doin’ runnin’ with that loser?” I had no idea what sort of cologne he was wearing, but he had way too much of it on.
I glanced over at Beatrice, but she said nothing to defend Domenic from this guy. “He’s not a loser.” By any possible sane metric. “And, he’s not my boyfriend.”
“Oh, well you heard the lady.” That earned a few chuckles, though Bea just stood there and watched. I couldn’t help but note that the fat guy was moving around, out of my field of vision. “I guess that means yer in the market, baby.”
I stepped away. “Back off.”
The guy who badmouthed Dom reached his hand out to me while speaking. “Relax, I ain’t-”
I hesitated only long enough to decide exactly my angle and strategy of attack. Instead of stepping away, more likely than not into the fat one, I followed my self defense training and stepped forward into the attack. I closed my eyes right before bringing my fist up into his gut, so I didn’t risk the telltale signs of my power in action.
There is a wisdom in fighting, that when you strike an opponent you don’t aim at them, but behind them. Attributed to Bruce Lee, but I wasn’t certain that was the origin. What was certain; if I combined that mentality with my power, it would be lethal.
The thing is, my power doesn’t care about resistance. Hitting a human stomach feels the same to me as anything else. Be it the ground, a concrete floor, a two ton solid steel block, or a sheet of styrofoam.
The only difference in any of those is how much energy drains from my battery in the collision. If I punch something, my fist will keep going until I stop it or reach full extension. Anything in the way either gets knocked out of the way, or gets a new hole.
Even the light tap I used, only going about three inches into his stomach, would have shattered bone if I hit any. He could only gasp in shock and pain as his solar plexus took a blow that would have dented steel.
I grappled his arm, careful to not have my power active, then twisted it and forced him face first into the sidewalk. I put myself in a position where he was between me and the rest of the gang. Except for fat boy, he was to my right and safely in visual range.
I eyed the rest of them, taking up a relaxed, but combat ready stance in case the four of them tried anything. The question wasn’t that I could beat them, in fact the hardest part would be not accidentally killing anyone in the process. I just wasn’t sure I could do it without revealing my powers. If any of them had a knife, I’d have to run. If any of them had a firearm, I had no choice but to reveal my identity.
The big guy holding onto Beatrice broke the silence. “Dayum, that bitch just wrecked yo shit!” He started laughing like it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen in his life, and the others joined in, though not as enthusiastically. I took that as a sign they weren’t going to start a brawl, and allowed myself to relax.
The only ones not laughing were myself, the guy struggling to regain his breath on the ground, and Beatrice. He wasn’t a concern, so I locked my eyes on her. “Remember when I said we go the moment I said so? I’m saying so.”
Beatrice looked at the guy, then back at me. “But we just got here!”
I turned and walked toward her car. “Then I’m calling Domenic.”
“Shit!” Beatrice swore behind me. “Sorry, Ty. Promise I’ll make it up to you.” The sultry tone of voice were a good indication of the methods she’d be using.
I listened to her footsteps chasing me, and slowed to allow her to catch up before speaking. “We’ll talk on the way home.”
“Fuck, okay.” We were in the car and driving off before she tried to say anything else. “You weren’t in any danger. Ty wouldn’t have let them do anything.”
“He tried to grab me!” I kept my eyes closed for fear I couldn’t keep my power hidden.
“He was just goofing off, that’s all. He wouldn’t do anything.”
“Except feel me up!” I focused on controlling my breathing. “That… that’s how animals behave.” Not even a full week and I’m starting to wonder if my mother was right about these people.
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” I couldn’t believe Beatrice was defending that sort of behavior. “If you’d just gone along when I said you were with Dom, he would have made a few jokes and left it at that. Maybe tried to talk you into fooling around, that’s all. It’s how guys give compliments.”
“Not Domenic.” Not any of the men I was raised around. They know how to act like actual people. I looked out the window, watching the streets go by. Other clusters of men, and the occasional woman. None of them dressed well, none of them white.
“Okay, all guys except Domenic.” Beatrice sounded annoyed now. “So if you want a man who’s gonna act like Domenic, you’d better go after him, because you ain’t findin’ another any time soon.”
That’s it, I’m sick of this. “I’m gay.”
“Oh.” The conversation died, and stayed dead until Bea swerved into another parking lot. “Does Dom-”
“He knows.” I didn’t see the point in saying that he had to figure it out on his own, rather than me telling him.
“So, umm, when I changed in front of you?”
It was both awkward and hot and I would have kissed you if I thought I could get away with it. “No big deal. Pretty much no different than gym class. I mean, just because I like boobs doesn’t mean I think like a guy.”
“Okay, cool.” Beatrice stared out the window for a few seconds of awkward silence. “I’m cool with you being gay, but it’s not something I’m into, so I don’t want you getting any ideas like, well, that.”
“Don’t worry, that won’t be a problem.” Not a single lie in those words. After today, I could still acknowledge that Beatrice was downright unfairly beautiful, but I was no longer attracted to her in the slightest. If anything, I felt disgusted with her.
I looked back out the window. Maybe I should give Domenic a chance. Every girl I’d ever so much as fantasized about turned out to be horrible. At least I know Dom won’t suddenly turn out to be a Nazi, or my mother.
The car shifted into motion. “So, how did you take down Lou like that?”
“My parents decided their kids would know martial arts.” True, and now I knew why. “So, I know a mix of Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, some Krav Maga, and ballet.”
“Ballet,” I confirmed with absolute seriousness. “It’s the most grueling form of torture imaginable. So unless you can jump around using nothing but your tippy-toes, you don’t get to talk shit.”