Blade - 12 years old
My father was the meanest person I knew. No one even came close. I’d always thought he hated my mother and me, but the things he was saying and doing today just proved it. As I huddled in the corner of the kitchen, I chanted a prayer over and over in my mind, madly hoping God would listen.
There was a God, right?
My mother had always told me there was, but I’d never seen any proof. The only things I’d ever seen were a bare pantry, clothes that either didn’t fit me anymore or had holes in them, a mother who was hardly home because she was working two jobs to keep a roof over our heads, and a mostly absent father. Further proof God probably didn’t exist was when my father did visit, he often left us with bruises to remember him by. I wasn’t sure, but I figured if there was a God, he wouldn’t have let all that happen.
I didn’t often call him Dad. He was Marcus to me. I knew he wasn’t like a real father; he never did anything for us I saw other fathers do. And while he always had a temper, today he was really angry. Fear painted my mother’s face, and dread filled my gut.
“Why the fuck is that asshole from the grocery store asking you out on a date?” he roared at my mother.
She cowered under his harsh words and furious glare. “I don’t know, Marcus. I never encouraged him.” Her eyes were pleading with him to believe her. I knew from experience he wouldn’t.
He lashed out and slapped her face. “Don’t fucking lie to me, Stella.”
Her hand flew to her face. “I’m not.” She tried to defend herself but he wasn’t buying any of it.
The crack of his fist landing on her cheek almost made me vomit. He’d never been this violent towards her before. When he arrived at the house half an hour ago, I knew straight away he wasn’t right. He was angrier than usual. And when he started going on about something he’d heard about the man at the grocery store, I knew nothing good would come of today.
He continued to rant at her and hit her. I covered my ears and started chanting prayers in my head again.
Please, God . . . if you’re there, please make him leave us alone. I’ll do anything, just make him stop.
I wanted to help my mother; I wanted to step up and rescue her from his violent fists. But I wasn’t stupid. I was too young, too little to take my father on. Watching him now, though, watching him do the things he did to my mother, I decided there would come a day when I would challenge him. Until that day, I would be patient. I would make my plan, and I would make sure there was no way I wouldn’t win when I finally gave him what he deserved for everything he’d ever done to us.
Eight Years Ago
The steady drip of a leaking tap somewhere in the warehouse was the only sound I heard as I watched the scene unfold in front of me. That and the roar of blood rushing to my head as anger took hold.
“You really wanna go there, Blade?” Leroy snarled, his lethal gaze focused solely on me.
I thought about what he’d asked even though I’d done nothing but think about that very question for the past few weeks. This was the man who’d taken me under his wing when I was a naive fifteen-year-old out dealing drugs for little more than pocket change; the man who’d taught me everything I knew today about how to survive in the dangerous underbelly we existed in. I’d lied, stolen and killed for this man. Fuck, the first time I’d taken my blade to someone had been to save Leroy’s life. Ten years in his gang and I’d risen to the top, but I’d lost my humanity along the way. I didn’t even question the shit I did for Leroy anymore. The darkness within had totally consumed me.
Until I met Ashley.
I took a step closer to Leroy, the adrenaline pumping through me. With a nod of my head, he’d easily be taken care of by my boys, but I wanted to be the one to do it. I needed that vengeance for what he’d tried to force upon Ashley, and for what he’d already forced upon countless other women. “Yeah, motherfucker, it seems I do.”
Leroy had his loyal gang members backing him up, but I had far more of our members behind me. Once we’d discovered how Leroy was filling his brothels, we’d decided we could no longer support a filthy pig like him; a pig that refused to treat women with the respect they deserved.
His eyes were wild, his body taut; he was just as ready for this showdown as I was. “You do remember who took your sorry ass off the street and showed you what you were capable of, don’t you?” He pushed his face towards mine. We were so close now that when he spat his next words out, I could smell his foul breath. “I fucking own you, Blade. You don’t get to fucking challenge what I do.”
The calmness that always took over whenever I was about to kill descended upon me. My breathing remained steady, sure. “That’s where you’re wrong, Leroy. You don’t own me, and I sure as hell don’t owe you a damn thing. Not anymore. That debt has been paid. But you and I have a huge fucking problem if you think it’s okay to force women into selling their bodies so you can make money off them”
“They fucking owed me for the drugs they’d been buying off me!” he thundered, as if that made it all right. His thinking was so fucking screwed up he didn’t know right from wrong anymore. Hell, in his world, there was no wrong. Only what he wanted, and that was always right.