She’d never really had a crush before she met him. Growing up she’d always been a hardcore tomboy. At the age of five she was convinced that she could be a boy any time that she wanted to as long as she wasn’t wearing her shirt, which was often. As she grew older she realized that it was a silly notion, still she refused to cut her hair or do anything with it that wasn’t a ponytail. She refused to wear dresses, skirts, or jewelry, and would take the heads off of her barbies to scare her friends. She preferred to play sports outside with the neighborhood boys: Street hockey, skateboarding, soccer…it didn’t matter.
Then she met Lexi. He was beautiful: tan skin, dark wavy hair, tall, but it was his dark worried eyes that she was most drawn to. She was only eleven, and he was fifteen, but their age difference never even crossed her mind.
“Ok Nina, let’s go for a walk, I wanna go see my boyfriend,” her friend Maya announced one day as she arrived at the girl’s house. Maya never ceased to amaze her. The girl’s parents both worked three jobs and were never home, so they were always doing things that they weren’t supposed to be. Sometimes they would tan by the pool naked, sometimes they would drink, and most times they would hang out with Maya’s boyfriend of the week.
“Don’t worry, he has a friend for you. Just do me a favor and come rescue me if I’m in his bedroom for more than ten minutes. Making out is so boring. I fell asleep last time we did it for too long.”
“Maya, I don’t LIKE boys,” she sighed, “I hope his friend doesn’t think I’m gonna kiss him. Ew. No thanks.”
Maya rolled her eyes and grabbed her by the hand, dragging her out the front door. They walked the trail through the park to the next street of houses and Maya marched up to a small run down house with a broken screen door. This house was so different from Maya’s, it was more like something that you’d find in her own neighborhood. Maya knocked out a code on the door and there was a moment of silence followed by the sound of several locks unlatching.
She sucked in her breath when she saw him in the doorway, and as Maya lept onto him she felt her heart drop. She instantly wanted to run back to Maya’s house and sit on the doorstep until it was time for her parents to come get her, but her friend turned to her and dragged her into the house.
“Alexi, this is Nina. Nina we’ll be back in a minute. Sit with Santos,” she instructed pointing to the boy sitting on the livingroom couch. Before she left she turned to Nina and mouthed ten minutes.
Santos was taller and darker than Lexi. He was heavier as well, with a big nose and long sideburns. Hesitantly, Nina sat on the end of the couch, as far away from the boy as possible.
“You two are young,” he stated in a cold and factual tone.
“E-e-eleven” she responded softly.
“Good job Lexi,” she heard him say under his breath before scooting a bit closer. She tried to scoot away, but was already pressed against the arm of the couch, “you’re pretty you know that? Not like your friend. she’s pretty because she has curves and wears makeup and small clothes. You’re actually pretty,” He scooted a bit closer and her throat began to close. She wanted to run, but she knew she couldn’t. For one thing she had to rescue Maya soon, and for another Santos was terrifying. He had a cold look in his eyes. She’d never seen a murderer before besides on the news, but he reminded her of one. Suddenly, he brushed her hair back behind her ear. She flinched and looked away.
“Um. Thanks” she muttered. He scooted right up next to her and grabbed her forcefully by the chin. She stared into his deadly eyes in horror. Every nerve in her body was tensed to run. Then he kissed her. She squeaked, shoving his chest and leaping off of the couch in an ungraceful movement that sent her tumbling onto the floor, “sorry. I have to pee,” she practically screamed, getting up and power walking down the hallway toward where she thought the bathroom would be.
Once she found it, she locked herself in and sunk to the floor. She wanted to cry and scream at Maya at the same time. Why would she ever think that it was ok to leave her with scary Santos? Deep breaths. She told herself as she sat, shivering on the cold bathroom floor.
After what she thought was ten minutes she opened the bathroom door. She could tell which room was Alexi’s because she heard Maya giggling wildly from within. She knocked softly on the door, and after a few minutes Alexi opened the door. She stared at him with her mouth slightly agape. If it was possible, he looked even more handsome than she remembered. His hair was mussed and his worried look was replaced with a softer look of something she didn’t recognize. He was staring at her, and she couldn’t remember what she was supposed to say.
“Maya I don’t like him, he scares me,” she blurted instead, bursting into tears. Maya groaned aloud in frustration, but Alexi reprimanded her quickly and yanked Nina into the room, swiftly closing the door with one hand and pulling her into a hug with the other. He rubbed her back and made shushing noises as she cried into his white wifebeater.
“I’m sorry Nina,” he whispered into her hair, “I know Santos is a bit rough. Maya should’ve known better than to think that you would be a good girl for him.”
Slowly, she stopped crying and breathed in his scent. He smelt like axe body spray and something earthy that she couldn’t quite place. She pulled away quickly when she heard Maya whinily mention that Aexi had errands to run. As she walked over to his bed and sat next to her friend, he stripped off his tear soaked wife beater and replaced it with a bright red tee shirt. She’d seen tons of boys without shirts before and never really cared, but with him it was different. The sight of his chest made her throat close, her mouth salivate, and her stomach hurt.
After he changed, he nodded for Maya to get up and he opened the door signaling the girls to follow him. As they entered the living room, she felt her body tensing to run again. Santos was calmly watching TV with the same cold look in his eyes. Without even turning to look at any of them he said, “I don’t think your friend is a fan, Maya,” his voice was absolutely void of emotion and it chilled Nina to the core.
“Aw Santino give the girl a break. She goes to Catholic school with me,” Maya joked in the flirty way that Nina secretly envied about her. Santino laughed, but it was more of a sort than a laugh.
“Right. Catholic school girl. Like you?”
“Santino watch what you say to my girl and her friends,” Alexi warned in a tone as cold as his friend’s eyes, “Nina’s a good girl and you have no place in forcing her to be anything else,” he continued. She watched in horror as Santino twitched, then went rigid.
After what seemed like an eternity, he relaxed and got up off the couch, “Let’s go, we gotta finish these deliveries” he said, the familiar lack of emotion returning to his voice. Alexi relaxed his body and followed after him, she hadn’t even noticed him tense up because she’d been so afraid herself. With a raised eyebrow, Maya motioned for them to follow the boys.
They walked along the trail that went through the adjoining neighborhoods, girls in front of boys. Every so often a random person would high five Alexi. It was one of those double high fives. One up top and one underneath. Once she turned back to watch, and noticed that on the bottom high five Alexi would suddenly have money in his palm, which he would quickly pocket. It gave her an uneasy feeling even though she had no idea what in the world was going on. She tried to mention it to Maya, but got shrugged off.
“Let the boys do what they haveta do. Don’t ask questions, Nina, it’ll get you in trouble.”
As they finished the loop and started heading back toward Alexi’s house, Nina and Maya were holding hands and skipping. Alexi ran up on them and slapped them both on the butt. Hard. Both girls groaned in pain and rubbed their butts. She felt something in her back pocket, but something told her to wait until she was home to see what it was. At Alexi’s house, he and Maya kissed goodbye. Santino nodded a goodbye to both girls, and Alexi smiled at her.
“See ya Nina” he said, the worried look from earlier in the day returning to his face. The boys went into the house, and Maya grabbed her hand once again.
“Let’s go, Nina. Your parents will be at my house soon to pick you up.”
Back at her house, she finally got the courage to see what was in her back pocket. It was a dollar, but on the dollar written in sharpie was:
I just had to tell you. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. You should run far away from me and never look back. –Lexi