Even though I had just met him, Aaron has genuinely begun to care about me. I don’t understand how or why…but he does. It’s like he doesn’t see me for my past…just who I am today, and who I could be tomorrow. I took a closer look at him and really though it over, what’s the catch here? What does the James family want from me? Is there some cash bonus for raising ex-gangsters?
“You’re a piece of work you know that?” Aaron sighed, snapping me free of my thoughts. I shrugged my shoulders, and we started to walk back towards Carter and Noah.
“Awww I love seeing family work it out.” Carter teased as we approached earshot.
“You’re such a fuckin fa…” I caught myself before I could finish the sentence remembering that Carter was actually gay.
“A what?” he taunted, daring me to finish the sentence.
“A pain in the ass.” I mumbled trying to avoid the drama.
Noah who was still using Carter as a barrier from me giggled “Good save, you almost made Carter cry.”
“Shut up” Carter turned “You’re the one who’s still afraid of him. You don’t get to talk.”
“I’m not afraid.” He let out, looking from Carter to me.
“Then go shake his hand.” Carter antagonized, pulling Noah forward.
With a shaky hand he reached out, and I shook making sure to give him a hard squeeze. I slowly closed my right eye, and entered my own world. Although all I saw was darkness I could tell I had scared him.
“Cy! He jumped back in fear “See! He wants me to be scared!”
“No I don’t.” I laughed “it’s just funny to toy with you rich kids.”
“Well I’m not scared of you.” Carter exclaimed sticking out his hand. I reached out to shake, but hesitated and wound up pulling my hand back. “What?” he lightly laughed, not understanding.
“Nothin” I muttered, as he held his hand there.
“Really Cy?” Aaron uttered giving me a disapproving look “It’s 2016, get with the time.”
“Gang law.” I mused, not daring to even look at Carter.
“Wait. You won’t shake my hand because I’m gay?” Carter squeaked out “Are you serious?”
“If I did and someone found out…it could get real bad for me real fast.” I groaned “Sorry man, it’s nothin personal, I just gotta look out for myself.”
Carter shook his head in denial “We just played basketball for close to an hour! You ran into me multiple times but you can’t shake my hand? How the hell would anyone find out anyway?”
“They always find out.” I murmured “and yeah man hand shakes means we’re cool…it means we don’t have any beef…where I grew up if you’re cool with a fa…a gay guy, you’re probably gay.”
“So we’re cool?” Noah excitedly yelped, not really paying much attention to anything else that was happening.
“Shut up Noah.” Carter barked “I thought we were friends Cy.”
I nodded towards Noah, doing my best to ignore a fuming Carter “I mean you’re cool, you’ve got a good shot..but I…look I can’t…fuck it.” I reached out and quickly shook his hand, giving him the same force I gave Noah.
Aaron gave me a heavy shove from behind “There you go! That wasn’t so bad now was it?”
Carter nodded his head, but I could tell he still wasn’t happy “So you’re seriously homophobic?”
I threw up my hands “I shook your hand, what more do you want?”
“My sexuality to stop being a problem with you.” He snapped.
“It’s not a problem with me.” I excused “But fuck man, like I’ve already said I gotta look out for myself, I don’t know where I’ll be in a week…I don’t even know where I’ll be tomorrow. I can’t go back bein all accepting and modern. You’re gonna get me gunned down.” Carter rolled his eyes but I could tell he was starting to see my side of things “I wish it could be different, but for now this is the best I can do.”
“It can be.” He mumbled.
“It will be.” Aaron interjected “Once he gets adopted, and he knows for sure that he won’t be going back.”
Carter nodded, and I bit my tongue allowing whatever needed to be said to calm him down take its course. Am I seriously considering adoption? I guess…but overall I don’t know…how many times do I have to tell them it’s still just my 2nd day…I’m still adjusting…still learning if this is what I want.
“Let’s go inside.” Carter sighed, wanting a change of pace. We nodded, and followed him into the giant mansion. Signed pictures of athletes covered large portions of his walls, as jerseys decorated the gaps between. I let out an involuntary woh and the 3 of them couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh so now you like me?” Carter teased, trying to lighten up.
“No…it’s just…woh” I forced out, still amazed by everything.
“Carter is that you?” a strong male voice called out, disrupted by our presence.
“Yup, it’s me Aaron, Noah, and Aaron’s new foster brother.” He proudly yelled back.
“Good to hear!” he proclaimed as we turned the corner “It’s always nice to hav….” He paused as we came into his vision. I saw his eyes scan me from top to bottom…from Aaron’s jordans’, to the tattered clothing that didn’t match, and the shaggy mop on the top of my head…all of it. “To have you guys over.” He finished, trying to straighten himself up.
“Dad, this is Cy.” Carter introduced, pulling me forward by my arm “The James family is fostering him now, but it looks like they might adopt him.” He smiled, flashing me a quick raise of the eyebrows.
“Oh that’s nice.” He let out, clearly still taken back by my appearance. As he reached out to shake, I quickly met his hand with mine, doing my best to show no fear. “So Cy, where are you from?”
“Southside” I let out taking a step back into my new friends.
“We don’t meet many people from the Southside around here.” He observed “Where in the Southside are you from? A few nice places are beginning to flourish down th…”
“Southside.” I interrupted, giving him the same resistance I had given the guys last night.
He angrily glared at me, and made a quick face before recomposing himself “Well, judging by your tattoo you’re from New City…what is the nickname for that area, from the yard?”
“Back of the yards.” I corrected with a sneer.
“Oh yes, yes, that makes more sense.” He patronized “But that area is slowly being nurtured, pretty soon it will be a rather nice place to live. I’m sure you’re very excited for that day.”
Our eyes locked in a stare down and I could tell he was beginning to toy with me “Tickled pink.” I shot back, mocking the way he spoke.
“Then again progress is being halted.” He raised his eyebrows challenging me once more.
Carter slowly began to walk forward in an attempt to force separation between us “Hey Cy, you should come check out the basement! You know my dad actually collects tons of bull’s merchandise? He’s actually a huge bulls…”
“I’m fine.” I shot down, maintaining the stare down with his father.
His dad smugly laughed and leaned back against the counter. As our stare down continued I slowly folded my arms and began to sway towards my left, a warning that could say much more than my blind eye did. “Ah the sign of the people’s nation.” He mocked unafraid by the display in front of him “So you’re a member, not a marked up victim?”
“Peoples nation?” Aaron let out, confused by the showdown.
“Well I would explain it.” Carter’s father began “but since we have someone brave enough to represent it…well, why don’t we have him explain it?”
I shot him a look of anger as his pressure pushed down further on me “It’s an affiliation, a collection of gangs to protect one another.”
He smugly laughed as he began to corner me “It’s funny, you wear a Saints logo, but in reality don’t they answer to the kings?”
“The saints answer to no one.” I lashed back, beginning to feel my true self take over.
“The almighty saints.” He correct with a smirk “I mean wasn’t it the kings that forced you to add almighty after you needed protection?”
Who is this guy? How does he know so much about gangs…why does he know so much about gangs? “Alright!” Carter interrupted “That’s enough of a history lesson for one day, let’s just…”
“The saints don’t need protection from no one.” I bit in anger.
“So then why did they join the people’s nation again?” he provoked as his trap came to fruition “Because they started to lose turf, correct?”
“We never lost any turf…only gang in Chicago to do so.” I snarled, showing pride.
“So then that war with La Raza?” he led, once more planting a trap.
Aaron grasped onto my arm but I shrugged him off “La Raza aint shit, maybe they could be, I mean once immigration gets off their backs.” The more I showed my pride, the more I imprisoned myself in his game “How could you call it a war? We hit them from the left and I.C.E. hits them from the right! Fuck! We’ve got them near extinction!”
“That’s the attitude of a saint!” he exclaimed “War, violence, anger.” He rattled off taking a few steps forward “In your gangs negligence and naivety you’ve gotten reckless…you’ve gotten stupid.” I clenched my fists as he began to get closer “It’s so obvious you guys were the ones calling immigration. I mean did you honestly think they wouldn’t call the authorities on you guys?”
“Who the hell are…”
“Alright!” Carter yelped, grabbing me by my shirt “You should really see this Pippen jersey we have downstairs! It’s amazing!”
“Hey Cy!” Carter’s dad called out as Carter pulled me away “I hope all is well between us.”
I went to lunge but carter threw me into the stair well and slammed the door behind us “What’s the hell is the matter with you?!” he exclaimed “You can’t bite your tongue for five seconds?!”
“Me?!” I shouted back “He grilled me from the second he saw me! He brought up the gang shit! Hell! He just used gang code!”
Carter rolled his eyes and shook his head “And why you can’t ignore it?”
“Why the fuck would I?” I growled not catching on. Carter reopened the door to let Aaron and Noah in and slowly began to head downstairs. “because you just proved all the stereotypes he holds about kids in gangs true.”
“I’m more than just a kid in a gang.” I muttered, trying to pull back my anger. “What the hell do I have to do to prove I wasn’t just a kid playing dress up? I ran a corner for a while! I led the heists! Those thugs you pass by covered in gang colors?! Yknow the ones that are always strapped? I was one of em.” As we reached the bottom of the stairs Aaron and Noah stayed quiet and backed off, but Carter took a step forward staying in my face. “So when a motherfucker gets in my face, talking shit about the saints you better believe Ima go off.”
“You may know how to play street games, but you were out of your league, my father is a politician. He’s going to use you as an example for why they need to crack down on gangs!” Carter reprimanded getting even closer “So go ahead keep “going off” but you’re only hurting yourself!”
“Guys, maybe we should all just…” Aaron began.
“No he needs to hear this!” Carter fumed, not breaking eye contact “We’ve all seen the posters! We all recognize you! Everyone around here is going to judge you before you even have a chance to say anything! It’s why we were all so shocked when we met you!” he bit down on his lip in frustration “Everyone at school is going to try and push your buttons like he just did! They’ll be looking for the reaction he just got! You need to be better than that; you need to be smarter than that! This isn’t the streets, people don’t stab and shoot one another! We attack one another’s reputation, and social status! That may all sound like bullshit to you, but around here it’s everything! You’ll be destroyed before the year even really starts!”
“Fuck you.” I spit starting to back up.
Carter reached out and gave me a friendly shove on the back “I’m trying you help you you stubborn asshole! That’s why you’ve got me so heated right now!” I turned and snarled my lip at him “Go ahead, go sulk because your ego is bruised, but if you have any hope of surviving around here you need the 3 of us. You may be able to survive in the southside, but you’ll be eaten alive here on the northside.”
“I’ll take my chances.” I muttered, backing up once more.
“Will you?” Aaron spoke up “Because Mr. Williams just made you look stupid, and Carter just tore you apart…You’re lucky Owen isn’t seeing how easy it is to push your buttons…you’d get destroyed.” I shook my head and let out a deep sigh “Remember what you said about giving this a real chance?”
“Yeah.” I muttered.
“Then let us help you.” He decided with a nod of his head “The 3 of us will look out for you at school…we’ll teach you our way of life.”
“I don’t want to learn your way.” I stubbornly let out.
“Well too bad.” Noah laughed “You’re in our world now.”
I looked at the 3 preppy teenagers in front of me and sighed. They’re right, if I have any hope of keeping to myself like I had planned I have to learn how to take myself out of the public eye…how to make myself seem normal. It’s not something I want to do…but fuck…it’s something I have to do.
“Fine.” I mumbled, pulling my hair down towards my eyes.
“Who knows.” Carter laughed, doing his best to show me he wasn’t actually mad “maybe one day you can teach us your way of life.”
“Maybe.” I smirked…maybe