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Getting inside a black Land Rover with a virtual stranger.
That is my tragic mistake.
Almost immediately I regret accepting this ride, and want out.
I reach in my purse, feel around, and realize a bad situation has just gotten worse.
"Can we turn around?" I ask. "I left my cell phone somewhere."
He looks over at me, smiles. His teeth are too perfect. Dentures, falsies, I guess. "Don't even sweat that phone, Kenya," he says.
My skin crawls at the sound of my name on his lips. He's creepy to the nth degree. I start to feel a tightness growing around my neck, cutting off my breathing. I'm close to hyperventilating. Anxious, nervous, scared. My heartbeat is a runaway locomotive. I try to calm myself. "We meeting up with Fiasco?" I ask.
Fiasco's my brother's friend, one of the hottest rappers in the game. Mr. Alonzo, the near stranger at the wheel of this black Land Rover, is part of Fiasco's security detail. Someone I could trust, I thought. Hopefully, I wasn't wrong. He freaks me out, but hopefully my mind is just playing tricks on me, and he's really quite harmless.
I'm about to get some time with Fiasco, that's what matters.
My brother Eric's been everyone's favorite nerd since he began the friendship with Fiasco.
I've been Public Enemy Number One, or at least it feels that way, with my popularity paling in comparison to my brother's.
Imagine that, Eric more popular than me.
Mr. Alonzo turns on the stereo. I'm not mad at that until a song comes on. Good music, just not for me. Mama's type of music. Marvin Gaye.
I wish Mama was here with me.
Other than just me and him.
"We meeting up with Fiasco?" I repeat nervously. Maybe he didn't hear me the first time.
He ignores me, turns up the volume on the stereo.
He doesn't answer, doesn't even look in my direction.
I'm beyond scared.
"Mr. Alonzo " I wait a beat and then repeat his name. Over and over. "Mr. Alonzo Mr. Alonzo Mr. Alonzo "
My breathing thickens. My pulse is scattershot.
Why won't he answer me?
I close my eyes, try to steady my heartbeat. The ride is smooth, like floating on a cloud. The music is crystal clear; Marvin's voice seems like it's coming from the backseat, no static whatsoever. The interior smells fresh, pine and something else I can't finger. But I don't want to be here.
I bite my lip.
Try to fight off the tears forming in my eyes.
Megan's Law. I think of that.
Megan Kanka, seven years old, raped and killed by a child molester in New Jersey. The law was enacted in her memoryto protect innocent children. It made known sex offenders keep their names in a registry so the average citizen would know who lived in their neighborhoods.
A good law.
But too late.
For Megan Kanka, that is.
Enacted after she was already gone.
My mouth goes dry.
The Green Mile, The Green Mile. That's all I can think of.
I want to think of that moment before I slid inside this black Land Rover. That split second before my bad judgment. Outside of my school, my brother Eric running for me and calling out my name.
Me turning and waving at him.
Then getting inside the Land Rover, feeling so special.
More special than Eric.
Riding off with Eric stuck at the curb. Stuck on stupid.
A little smile of victory on my face.
Eric was cool suddenly, only because of Fiasco.
I was always cool, on my own merit. Kenya, the girl the boys all wanted to date and the girls all wanted to be.
If I got in good with Fiasco, I couldn't be stopped. I'd be everything everybody wanted to be.
So I left Eric at the curb, slid in beside Mr. Alonzo.
I want to think about that split second before I got in the Land Rover. Change that decision.
But The Green Mile, The Green Mile is all my brain will really wrap itself around.
Mr. Alonzo is as big as Michael Clarke Duncan.
Nowhere near as gentle, though.
Not gentle at all, in fact. Evil is represented in all its forms on his face.
"Get out," he barks.
We've come to a stop.
I look out the window. It's completely dark out. We've driven for I don't know how long. My mind has been on a continuous loop the entire ride. Don't know how far I am from home. When I'll be returning. Mama will be worried.
"Get out, Kenya." Mr. Alonzo's voice is covered in rust. Needs WD-40, I think.
"Do I have to?" I ask. A stupid question. He didn't bring me this far not to Not to do whatever it is he wants to do.
He flashes a knowing smile. "I'm not gonna hurt you. It's gonna be fine. We'll have some fun, and then I'll get you home to your nerd brother."
Eric, standing on the curb, looking so sad as Mr. Alonzo drives away in a black Land Rover, a foolish girl in his passenger seat.
I'd give anything to touch Eric's hand now, hug his neck, tell him I do love him. I'm sorry for all of the hateful things I've said and done to him. He's corny, for sure. But he's my brother. And he loves me even when I don't deserve his love.
Sad and lonely.
Sad and alone.
Except for Mr. Alonzo.
"I'm not playing, Kenya. Get out," his voice booms.
"This some kind of warehouse?" I ask, stalling.
"This is a playground, Kenya. This is a place for Daddy and his little girl to play." He laughs a horror-movie laugh. My stomach plummets as if I'm on a roller coaster.
"And what about Fiasco?" I ask.
The promise of hanging with the rapper appears now to have been no more than a handful of Skittles. Mr. Alonzo lured me into the Land Rover with that candy.
Mr. Alonzo shrugs. "Two's company, Kenya." He pauses, flashes that evil, dental-enhanced smile. "And three's a crowd."
Just Mr. Alonzo.
And me. Alone.
My tears start to flow.
Not like a river. No, like a wild, thrashing river.
Mr. Alonzo reaches over, wipes my eyes with his fat fingers, his thumb pressing a little too roughly against my eyelid. Not a gentle man by any means.
I hold my breath, sit rigid.
Mr. Alonzo brushes against me, grabs my door handle, pushes the door open.
Sticky and humid. Dark out.
I'd rather stay where I am.
"Last time, Kenya. Get your ass out. Now."
It's not that I'm being defiant. Not that I won't listen. I can't. My legs don't work. Won't work.
Pfff. The sound of Mr. Alonzo's growing frustration.
His rough hand is on my shoulder. Largest hand I've ever seen.
He pushes me out of the Land Rover.
I land clumsily, on my knee. Skin it.
For such a huge man, Mr. Alonzo is swift. He's out of the Land Rover and over on my side of the SUV before I take a breath to try and chase away the sting of my skinned knee. No more words spoken from him. Angry. All about action. He grabs my arm, rough hands digging into my armpits. Has me up on my feet. Drags me.
Just inside the warehouse, my legs come to life. His hand engulfs my arm still. But I walk with my own power for the first time. Legs are like water, but I walk.
Past a check-in counter.
Gun range. I've seen 'em on CSI, my homegirl Lark's favorite show.
Wish I wasn't here alone. Wish I was kicking it with my girl.
We come to a stop.
Door marked Private.
"I don't want to go in there," I say.
Mr. Alonzo doesn't care. He shoves me inside. All pretense is gone. He's no longer the big man with a faux smile on his face to try and set me at ease. The smile is gone. He's rough. Evil. That alone: evil.
The room is like an entertainer's dressing room. Everyone at school is big on my singing voice. Say I got Keyshia Cole beat by a country mile.
My mind is a mess.
Dressing room, yeah. I've made the big time.
A plush purple couch with a royal vibe is in one corner. A flat-screen plasma television in another corner. Large speakers hanging from the ceiling. Candlelight the only reprieve from pure darkness.
My dressing room.
But wait, Mr. Alonzo's face in the glow of the lights.
Like the Devil himself.
I'm not a star in my dressing room.
I'm a seventeen-year-old girlabout to be violated, my innocence stolen.
I close my eyes. Pray. Mama would be happy that in this desperate moment I prayed.
"You like the place, baby girl?"
I don't answer.
Mr. Alonzo's hand is on my wrist. I open my eyes and force a smile. I have to play along. Hope he has a change of heart, hope for something.
"It is beautiful," I say. "I didn't get to see much out there. Why don't you show me around?"
"Later. After we've had our fun in here, I'll show you the entire place. Now, why don't you get comfortable? Take off that hot dress."
Straight to the point.
I'm wearing a baby-doll dress the color of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Made of soft and sheer material. Not hot at all.
"I could use a drink," I say. "That would make me comfortable."
Mr. Alonzo doesn't answer, but I notice a punch bowl in the corner of the room. I move over there. Legs are still water.
I pause as I come to the bowl, horrified. The punch bowl is filled with condoms.
Behind me I hear Mr. Alonzo's booming horror-movie laugh.
I close my eyes again.
Tears won't flow. I'm all dried up.
"Please," I whisper.
"Yeah, baby girl," Mr. Alonzo says. "Beg for it. I like that."
"Please, no" is all I can get out.
"Hmm, baby girl. Keep begging. Keep begging."
Mr. Alonzo's behind me, pressed up close, has me pinned in the corner. Smells like he bathed in Old Spice. His hot breath is on my neck. "Tell me how you want it," he says.
"I d-don't want it any way," I say in a stutter. It's difficult to get the words out.
He presses closer. "You're getting it, Kenya. And I'm giving it to you. Tell me how you want it."
Mr. Alonzo turns away from me, slowly.
I turn, too.
In the room with us now are Fiasco, my brother and some woman. Later, I'll find out her name is Mya. Sounds like the name of an angel to me, sent from Heaven.
Here to save me.
I smile. Only thing I can think to do. I smile at my brother.
"The whole family is here," Mr. Alonzo says. "Well, good."
Eric whispers something to Fiasco.
Mr. Alonzo balls his hand in a fist, takes a step forward. A rope of vein pops up in his neck. He's the largest man I've ever seen. He steps forward with bad intentions.
Fiasco, my brother, Mya, they move forward, too.
It happens quickly.
My brother makes a fast move for Mr. Alonzo's legs.
At the same time, Fiasco makes a move for Mr. Alonzo's body.
Mya sends me some signal with her eyes.
Mr. Alonzo crouches low, like a baseball catcher, prepares for the two-on-one assault.
Mya sends me that signal with her eyes again.
Oh! I receive the message. Grab the punch bowl just a few feet away from me, turn it over, watch the condoms rain to the floor. Then I make haste toward the scuffle between Mr. Alonzo and Fiasco and my brother.
In one motion, I bring the punch bowl down on Mr. Alonzo's head. Eric rams his shoulder into Mr. Alonzo's knees. Fiasco heads Mr. Alonzo in the gut. Mr. Alonzo's catching wreck from every direction, from every angle. Knees, gut, head.
The big man staggers but doesn't go down.
I crack him in the head with the punch bowl a second time.
The bowl cracks, splinters. My second whack was much harder than the first.
I drop the ruined punch bowl like a hot potato.
So many punches are thrown. Fiasco, Eric, Mya.
Mr. Alonzo slumps finally.
We've quieted the beast.
Eric runs to me, breathing heavily. Tears are in his eyes. Mine, too.
Fiasco comes over, also breathing heavily. His eyes look haunted. "You okay?" he asks.
I sob as an answer.
Fiasco pulls me into an embrace, offers words of comfort.
"Watch out. He's back up," says the woman, Mya.
We all turn.
The beast isn't dead.
The beast is angry. Ready for some get back.
Mr. Alonzo moves toward us.
His shadow covers everything in the room.
Fiasco looks worn. My brother, too. They have no fight left, and neither do I.
I scream. And scream. And scream.
Music is playing. Not Marvin Gaye, either.
Mr. Alonzo fades away like an Etch A Sketch drawing.
India.Arie implores me to get it together.
I blink my eyes, try to focus. Try to steady my heartbeat. Try to understand my surroundings. Feels like I'm stuck in The Matrix.
I was having a nightmare. All too vivid. It's hard to believe I survived that horrible situation with Mr. Alonzo. The nightmare will not let go of me for a while. The only sway from the nightmare and what really happened with Mr. Alonzo in that room is he didn't get back up after we knocked him out.
"Bad dream?" I hear.
That's Donnell, my boyfriend, standing over me, concern painted on his face.
"Where am I?" I ask.
"My rest," he says.
I look around.
Donnell's room. Furniture is cherrywood and black. Blinds closed. Dark as a pit, how he likes it. No pictures on the walls. Donnell's not really into music, sports, movies or video games. None of the stuff the other boys worship. The CD playing is one of mine. Playing in the drive of his computer. He doesn't have a stereo. I don't think he owns even one CD.
I remember. "You were studying?"
He nods. He's taking summer courses at the local community college, getting a leg up on his freshman year of college. Donnell's practical like that. Practical and ambitious. The type of man women dream of marrying after they've wrecked their lives chasing after bad boys. Polar opposite of my last boyfriend, Ricky Williams, a bad boy to the nth. Nothing like Donnell Tucker.
Donnell has thin-legged blue jeans on, a burgundy T-shirt he wears tucked in, a black belt with a rock-star buckle, black slip-on shoes, diamond studs in his ears the only concession to popular fashion around our way. He's built like a running back but never carried a football for our high school team. His smile is one of my favorite things in the world.
"You were dreaming about ?" he asks.
I sigh. Shiver.
It's the tail end of summer. His central air isn't set too low. The shiver isn't about temperature, and Donnell is engaged enough to know that. His brows knit. "Thought you'd stopped having dreams about that."
I sit up on the side of his bed. "I had."
He sits down next to me. Arm up over my shoulder. "Want to talk about it?"
I shake my head.
He clears his throat. "This is a good studying CD. Calming."
I don't have any words. So many thoughts running through my mind.
I had stopped dreaming about that near miss with Mr. Alonzo.
But my mind's been so troubled recently.
Ghosts are bound to rise when your mind is as troubled as mine is.
It makes me sad.
A lot of it has to do with Donnell.