Books

Here is a preview of my novel Tears of Clowns.

Chapter One

Present Day

A multitude of passengers lounged patiently around the waiting area of the Austin-Bergstrom Airport, and more gathered close to the entrance gate for Southwest Flight 1247 to Phoenix, Arizona. One of the passengers sat slumped in a semi-cushioned seat near a window overlooking the plane docking area. She maneuvered her body just so to look out at the workers moving quickly to unload the plane that landed a short time ago. She did so not out of interest, but more out of trepidation. Once all was completed and the plane cleaned, it would be time to board; and once that happened, there would be no going back.

Trying to curb her mounting anxiety, Adriana Martinez ran a trembling hand through the thick black strands of her long tangled hair. As she did so, her eyes fell on an older couple sitting across from her. They sat contentedly with their hands entwined. The simple gesture and relaxed smiles on their faces sparked the tension in her stomach, making the pain almost unbearable. Adrian squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath to ease the tension for what felt like the thousandth time; however, the image of the couple remained even though she shut her eyes to block them out. When she reopened them, the couple moved closer and whispered to each other. The man smiled at something the woman said and lifted his hand lovingly to move a lock of hair that fell over her eyes as she talked. Adrian tried not to lose her breakfast at the display of disgusting affection. This was definitely not what she needed to see right now. Determined to get away, the distraught woman grabbed the leather tote back that contained her iPad Pro, headphones, wallet, and a few magazines for the flight to keep her occupied. She walked quickly toward the nearest bathroom, and as she did so, a loud beep disturbed the conversations taking place amongst the waiting passengers. She cringed as a Southwest Employee announced in that artificial happy airline voice, “Hello, everyone. I would like to welcome you to Southwest Airlines. We will now begin boarding flight 1247 from Austin to Phoenix—“

Yeah. Yeah. Just get on with it,” Adrian mumbled, trying to block out the rest of the woman’s spiel and rushing faster towards the restroom. She finally reached her destination, rushed into an empty stall, shut and locked the door, and leaned back up against it. You really need to get it together, Adri! she chided herself. However, that was easier said than done since she had been on the verge of a breakdown for the last few weeks. Trying to regroup, Adrian decided to take care of her business before boarding the plan. After relieving herself, she washed her hands, ran her brush through her long thick hair to untangle it the right way, and reapplied powder and lipstick on her face to try and hide the physical signs of stress. Her mom’s words, “Always look your best because you never know when opportunity is standing in front of you,” came to mind as she looked at her pale face and the dark bags under large dark brown eyes.

Sorry, Mom. Nothing can save me right now.

With that last thought, Adrian grabbed her bag and rushed back out into the waiting area. Although the attendant had barely called the “Business Premier,” or whatever they liked to term first class these days, people around her began to flock toward the gate entrance. She noticed a few tickets with a large C in the middle and rolled her eyes. She was part of the same group and knew it would take some time before they got a chance to board so she sat down instead. She was definitely in no rush to get on that plane. If anything, she wished she could somehow develop magic powers or be like the characters in her books who could time travel out of the present and somehow alter the past.

Too bad reality always destroys the fantasy, she reflected. 

Right now, Adrian’s reality was in her hand. That one-way ticket back to Phoenix. Back to hell. But what other choice did she have? As much as she loved Austin, there was no way she could go about life as if nothing happened. Trying not to overthink things again, Adrian put her head back and waited for her group to be called. To some impatient flyers, that couldn’t come soon enough, but when that announcement finally came, Adrian thought she would lose the little breakfast she ate.

“At this time, I’d like to call Group C to the boarding gate,” the airline announcer called, solidifying Adrian’s reality. As she gathered her things, she thought of Christian and cursed the tears that gathered in her eyes. She cried enough and didn’t need to start again. Wiping at her eyes angrily, she made her way to the gate. As she did so, she could no longer push Christian from her mind. Was he thinking of her? Were his perfectly shaped eyebrows over stunning blue eyes crinkled as he did so? Was his chiseled jaw full of stubble from not shaving? Were those full lips she loved kissing pursed together in anger? The same lips that trembled when he said, “How can you do this to me? I love you!” Oh she would do anything to erase the pain she had inflicted on him and take back what she did, but it was too late. She made her choice and now had to live with it. Even if she had changed her mind, which she didn’t, she knew things couldn’t be the same between them. Things hadn’t been the same these past few months as the wedding date approached. Christian’s parents, particularly his mother, saw to that. She could still hear the hateful woman’s words the day the wedding was to take place.

“I knew you were bad news from the moment we met. I didn’t doubt you would hurt him in some way; your kind always does. You’re nothing and don’t deserve him. He deserves a woman with class.”

By class, Adrian knew Christian’s mother meant someone white and with money. Adrian never doubted her fiance’s love for her, and she knew he didn’t care about race or money, but his family did. To him, his family would adjust in time, and he said he had patience. He begged her to have patience as well; she had tried, but as their wedding day approached, Christian’s parents said and did whatever they could out of desperation to break the couple up; sad to say, they won. At first, Adrian felt strong enough to fend them off, but when Christian refused to recognize their actions and failed to defend her, she knew she couldn’t go any further. It’s too bad she realized it too late.

Adrian and Christian met in college. They were close friends at first, but a year after graduation, they decided to take things further. They shared seven amazing years together as friends and then lovers, but this engagement, Christian’s family and their scorn, and his inability to see how wrong that hate was, helped her realize they didn’t have a future together. After everything happened, Adrian realized not only did she not want to deal with Christian’s family, but she also didn’t want to alienate him from them for her benefit. Although she was hurt with him, and probably would be for some time, she knew deep down she didn’t want to be responsible for causing a rift between the family he loved so much. And the Good Lord knew she had her own family rifts to deal with.

So here she was, taking the easy way out. Granted, that’s an exaggeration by far because nothing she did these past few days felt easy. Instead of standing Christian up at the altar, which she originally considered, she went to him the day before the wedding. She cried when he begged and pleaded with her not to walk away, and she almost faltered, but she knew if she went through with it, the marriage would have dissipated sooner rather than later. He didn’t agree when she told him that, but she knew better.

“Adrian, don’t do this! Don’t you realize that we belong together? You’ll regret this! Please, Adrian!” It took every ounce of willpower Adrian had at that moment to pull away from the man she had spent the majority of her adult life with.

“I’m sorry, Christian. I never meant to hurt you. I know it’s hard for you to believe, but I do love you and know this is the best thing. Right now you may not think it, but one day you will thank me—“

“No! How can you say that? You’re the best thing, Adri!”

At that point, Christian wrapped his thick, muscular arms around her waist and fell to his knees. He held her so tightly, and Adrian had to turn her head away to keep him from seeing the doubt in her eyes. They stayed that way for a few moments, both of them crying. For a moment, Adrian believed Christian wouldn’t let her go. But he pulled himself together and released her. He then pushed himself up, wiped his tears, and went back to being the handsome, stoic man he could be when the time called for it.

“Fine. I’m no going to beg you, Adrian,” Christian said, his tone flat and guarded. “But just so you know as you walk out that door. It was me who was there for you when you fought to find yourself. It was me who helped you overcome your insecurities and showed you there was more to life than the piece of shit hovel you grew up in. So just remember that as you walk away from me, from us. I won’t take you back either. I will move on, and while I’m doing so, you won’t because there is no one who will love you as I do.”

With those words, Christian moved away from her, and Adrian, fresh tears streaming down her face, turned and walked away from the man who had loved her like no other. But in this case, love wasn’t enough. Adrian knew first hand where love could take a person; she only had to think of her mother to remind herself. Despite that though, Christian’s words plagued her non-stop. Maybe he was right. In fact, it was those words and his actions that prompted her to do the unthinkable: return to Phoenix. There was no way she could be in the same place as him. She wasn’t strong enough. Sadly, that was the story of her life.

At the age of 18, Adrian had walked away from everything she knew and hated, and promised never to return except for brief visits to see her family. She stayed true to that promise all these years and only visited the city of her nightmares a few times; her family visited her instead. It wasn’t so much that she hated the city, but rather the people in it. In fact, every time she heard the word “Phoenix,” she saw those green eyes. The eyes that everyone sighed and obsessed over. Apparently, she did too since, even now, at 29, she still conjured up those eyes—-the eyes of the fucking devil. During her last visit, Adrian’s mother said she had seen the owner of those eyes, Sergio Garcia, at the store. He said he remembered her and talked to Maria as if they had been best buds. Yeah, he should remember her, she thought.

“He was so different, mija,” her mom said. “He’s not that young boy anymore who tormented you. I hear he experienced some terrible things, and it’s obvious those things changed him. You are too old to hold onto the past. People change. You’ve changed, too. You need to forgive him, baby girl, so you can move on with your life and come home.”

Adrian smiled. For years her mother had tried to get her to move back home and couldn’t understand why her youngest daughter hated it so. How could she? Maria never experienced someone like Sergio Garcia, and no matter how hard Adrian tried, she couldn’t get over the past and the things that asshole and his friends did to her. Because of them, she still looked over her shoulder more than once, and always criticized herself in the mirror. Christian did play a big part in helping her overcome many of her issues. With him, she got to know and like herself, and if it hadn’t been for him and her best friend, Millie, Adrian probably never would have. But some things just never went away.

Oh Christian, I’m so sorry. I never deserved you.

Adrian sniffed and wiped her eyes. She leaned over and placed her iPad in its carrying case and grabbed her things when the attendant finally called her group. She walked with weighted feet toward the gate and felt an overwhelming urge to turn around and run like hell. Hold it together, Adrian. There’s no going back now. When she made it finally to the gate, Adrian handed the attendant her ticket and walked with more ease down the stuffy walkway toward the plane. As she neared the door, she noticed a few people waiting to board. Please hurry before I change my mind! Luckily, the line started to move as she got closer, and, in no time, she found herself inside. A friendly stewardess greeted her with a bright “Hello!” The woman was a little too cheerful for Adrian’s taste. As she made her way toward her seat, the tortured woman felt eyes glaring at her, judging her. The accusing eyes of strangers tightened the knots in her stomach and left her wanting to yell, “Quit fucking looking at me!” A few seconds later, she came to an abrupt stop while a young woman with a happy, chubby infant in her arms struggled to situate herself and the child in the aisle across from where she would be sitting. The child looked at Adrian and cooed; the pain in her stomach intensified. That could have been me. Adrian remembered the conversations she and Christian had about their three imaginary children. They would have had her black hair and medium-toned complexion, but his blue eyes and quirky personality.

“Are you going to sit there?” A voice asked from behind her. Startled out of her vision of beautiful Christian babies, Adrian turned around to stare at the speaker.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“That’s okay,” the man responded. He stared at her with a wide grin on his face. “It’s a full flight, and I figured you might be happier sitting next to me instead of that guy.” He winked at her and  nudged his chin towards the aisle where a rather large man with a balding head, tight suit, stained collar, and a big frown looked around impatiently for a spot. Adrian couldn’t help but grin at the man, but stopped immediately when she realized she had done so. The last thing she needed right now was a flirt session with a handsome stranger, so she maneuvered her way into the aisle to her right, and plopped into the window seat. After situating her bag, she buckled her seatbelt and turned to look outside. Taking her cue, the handsome stranger sat next to her, buckled his seatbelt, and relaxed back against the seat with his eyes closed. Both stayed quiet as passengers continued to pile into the plane and the flight stewardesses prepared for take-off. Twenty minutes later, after the flight attendant gave the okay, the passengers around Adrian pulled out their computers and electronic devices. She almost did the same, but pulled out a book instead. She determined to avoid her neighbor at all costs; however, she couldn’t help but notice his soft chestnut hair curling around his neck. His green eyes were brilliant with thick lashes and flecks of gold. For some reason, he reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t figure out whom. She felt him glancing at her occasionally, and she sensed he wanted to say something but thought better of it.

You don’t want to talk to me, she thought. I’m the bitch of all bitches. La Malinche. The goddess of chaos and discord, Eris. And you are a walking Adonis. Trouble. Just like the rest of them, including Christian. 

“Excuse me,” Mr. Hottie-Adonis interrupted. “Would you like some gum?”

“No. Thank you.”

“What are you reading?”

“Cormac McCarthy.”

“Nice. I like his work.”

The man noticed Adrian’s frown and lack of response, and she felt bad for being so rude. So she smiled and briefly chatted with him about Blood Meridian and why she read McCarthy’s books, despite the absence of women. Although she was a social sciences major in college, she fell in love with the author’s work in one of her English lit classes. About 10 minutes into the discussion, the man extended out his hand. “By the way, I’m Brian,” he said.

Adrian looked down at his hand. Great. Even his hands are beautiful like Christian’s, she thought. Adrian’s frown returned, and after a few awkward moments, Brian pulled his back.

“I’m so sorry, Brian,” Adrian said, cheeks flushed in embarrassment at her response. “You have to excuse me. I’m not quite myself these days.” With that, she reached out her hand in hopes of alleviating the awkwardness caused by her rudeness.

“Are you going to tell me your name?”

“Yes, sorry,” Adrian blushed. “I’m Adriana, but everyone calls me Adrian.”

“Hello, Adrian. Although I will say I like Adriana much more,” Mr. Hottie responded. That smile, dripping with charm, changed everything. Adrian had no stomach for charm at the moment.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Brian. But if you’ll excuse me, I need to get up and use the bathroom.”

“Of course,” he said and stood up so she could get out of her seat. She made her way to the restroom. Luckily, it wasn’t occupied because she knew for sure that she was finally going to lose her breakfast. After doing so, Adrian washed her face and rinsed out her mouth as best she could. Luckily, she had mints.

Feeling miserable, Adrian made her way back to her seat. As she reclaimed it, she could feel Brian staring at her. Adrian felt like the world’s biggest douchebag, and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. She thought about resuming their discussion, but instead she sat back in her seat and shut her eyes, trying to evolve into a blissful state of nothingness. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shake the knots of tension in her neck or the burning pain that flowed from stomach to chest. Throwing up had only helped her so much.

This is what I deserve.

“Why?” Brian asked softly.

“Excuse me?” Adrian asked confused opening her eyes.

“You just said, ‘This is what I deserve.’”

“No I didn’t.” Shit.

Brian didn’t respond. He continued to study her. Those damn eyes were so intense, and she couldn’t stop trying to place whose eyes they reminded her of.

“It might help if you talk about it,” he stated. “You’ll never see me again. You can say whatever you want and no one will ever know.”

Don’t do it girl. You’ll only make a fool of yourself.

“I hurt the most wonderful man I’ve ever known.”

Brian’s face didn’t reflect any emotion. “How?”

“I ditched him at the altar; well, almost at the altar. I dumped him the day before our wedding.”

“Wow. Why?”

“We just come from two different worlds,” Adrian whispered. “I won’t bore you with the details.”

“I’m not bored at all.”

“You’re just being nice.”

“No, I’m not. Marriage is a big step. You really have to be sure that’s the right choice. If you’re here now, he wasn’t the one.”

For a moment, Adrian glared at him. “How old are you? Sorry to say this, but you don’t look old enough to be such an expert on love and marriage.”

“No, I’m not old. I’m 27, but I have my share of experience.”

They both remained silent for several moments. Adrian felt like an idiot. Who was she to ask this man what he knew about love and marriage when she obviously didn’t know shit? Who was she to judge him?

“So what are you going to do now?” Brian asked, interrupting her thoughts.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Adrian replied.  “I’m going back home, at least for now.”

“You sound as if you’re going to your funeral.”

Adrian breathed a deep sigh. For a brief moment, those green eyes appeared before her, taunting and laughing. Compelling eyes like Brian’s. The knots in her stomach, her constant companions, once more tightened. Her heart beat faster, and she felt like puking again. Now she knew who he reminded her of.

The young man watched her closely, enthralled with the sudden paleness of her face. He frowned and his eyes darkened.

“I’m sorry if I said something wrong.”

“No. No, it’s not you. Just some bad memories that never seem to go away.”

“I know the feeling. That’s why I’m leaving Texas. To get away from the memories.”

Adrian looked into Brian’s compelling green eyes filled with golden flecks of sorrow. She couldn’t help but ask, “What memories?”

The brief glimpse of sorrow and suffering in the young man’s eyes overwhelmed her, but the look only lasted a second. She wondered if she might have confused her own sorrow with his, but then he said, “The memories of my dead son.”

Adrian couldn’t say anything other than “I’m so sorry,” and the two remained quiet after that, both consumed by their unwanted memories.


 

Chapter Two

The whimpering and screaming sounded all around him. Terror gripped his body as he tried to shield his ears with his hands. He failed. He shut his eyes and clenched his teeth, but his eyes burned from the incessant pulsating. He opened them once more and looked around frantically. Red everywhere. Blood seeped through the soles of his shoes, soaked his head, and streamed down his face and body. He looked at his hands. Raw.  Red. A movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He snapped his head to the right. This can’t be! He tried to move, but couldn’t feel his legs. That’s when he saw her.

The distraught man tried not to stare, but she was so beautiful, like an ancient enchantress surrounded by the ethereal glory of death. And the blood wouldn’t stop flowing. It rushed towards her, surrounding her bare pale feet and soaking the edges of her tattered white dress. Her long, shiny black hair lost its magnificent luster, for the blood thickened it into a matted mess. Her narrow nose sniffed in disdain, and her loving eyes transformed into black fathomless pits. Staring. Accusing. Something was in her hand, and he stepped closer, squinting. He couldn’t identify it, but he heard a strong pulse. Terror choked him as the realization hit him. In her tiny hand, a heart beat furiously, the blood gushing from it. She put it close to the empty hole in her chest. This isn’t real!

“Porque mijo?” the bloody, contorted vision asked.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to! Perdóname!” The man sobbed. Blood flowed everywhere.

“Why? Why? Why?” More voices echoed around the room.

Everywhere he turned, he saw them: Joseph, Michael, and his little hermano, Lalo.

“I’m sorry! Please forgive me? I’ll fix it! I promise! I’ll fix it!”

I’ll fix it! Sergio Garcia awoke with a start. Sweat drenched his body. He gasped, trying to catch his breath. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He yanked his pillow from underneath him and covered his face. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” he screamed— the pillow barely muffling his torment. For a few moments, Sergio struggled to gain his composure, but finally managed to pull the pillow down. He ran a shaky hand over his face and glanced at the clock on his nightstand. Three-thirty a.m. Thirty minutes later than last night! Damn.

Sergio kicked his legs over the side of his bed. He rushed out of the bedroom door and rushed down the hall toward the bathroom. He flipped on the switch, shut the door, and made his way to the sink. With his hands still shaking, he turned the water on and splashed several handfuls against his face. He looked up and tried to ignore the pale face and haunted eyes staring back at him in the mirror hanging over the small porcelain sink by grabbing a folded towel hanging close by and burying his face in it. A light knocking sound came from the bathroom door.

“Hey, Serg? You all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“Bullshit. I heard your fucking screaming. Damn man! What’s the use of vacation if you don’t rest?”

Ricardo (Rico to his closest friends) O’ Hara, Sergio’s partner and best friend, waited impatiently for a response as he leaned back against the hallway wall. He knocked again, but got no answer. A few moments later the bathroom door slowly opened. Rico wasn’t surprised to see disheveled, rich black hair, the sweat-drenched body, and large dilated Irish green pupils contrasted to golden brown skin. He noted fear and something else in those usual unreadable and pessimistic eyes that failed to reveal the soul. He sighed in frustration. It was the same fucking thing every night! No matter how hard he tried, Rico couldn’t help his friend after all these years. The dreams were getting worse, and even though Sergio had finally taken his advice and took a two-week vacation, the man’s demons failed to let him rest.

“Hey man. I’m serious. You okay?”

“Yeah,” Sergio responded. He turned away from Rico’s knowing eyes and made his way down the hallway back to his room. Rico trailed after him.

“This shit has to stop Serg. The yelling and screaming is out of control. How’s a man to get any sleep around here? You should have listened to me. Mexico, Jamaica, or some other exotic place with hot babes and lots of alcohol would have helped get your mind off this shit.”

“Not now, Rico.”

“You could have afforded it. That dumb bitch may have taken everything, but you’ve recovered enough to take a well-deserved vacation.

Sergio slammed into his room and walked to his nightstand, which held a tall glass of water, reading glasses, and a withered hardback copy of Angels and Demons. He lifted the glass of water and gulped the contents down as Rico continued rambling on about vacation and his bitch of an ex-wife.

“Basta Rico! Ya!”

Rico smiled at Sergio in that annoying smart-ass way of his. Damn! I knew I shouldn’t have moved in with him, Sergio thought. But what choice did he have? His now ex-wife Lorena had taken everything: the house, the savings, and his two pits, Molly and Tiny. Ah the wonderful memories of Lorena!

“Thank God you didn’t have any children,” his Jefecito had said after the divorce finalized. “You would have had to deal with that maldita for the rest of your life. You’re paid in full now.”

He and Lorena had made a deal: he would pay no alimony as long as he gave her what she wanted. Sergio winced. Had he known that would pretty much entailed everything, he would have stuck with the alimony. As Rico continued, Sergio thought about his biggest loss: his house. He really missed it right now and wished he could escape Rico’s damn nagging! Lord knows, he had worked his ass off to buy the newly built home that sat in a quiet Gilbert cul-de-sac. Growing up, Sergio never even imagined owning property. His parents never did, so when he bought it, he painfully imagined his mother and little brother running through the four large bedrooms, debating over which one was theirs. Of course, he would have given his mom the master bedroom with its high vaulted ceilings and light blue walls that made him feel like he was back near the ocean instead of in the desert.

Also, when he saw the game room, he visualized his little Lalito on a black game chair with a remote control in his hand, his brows furrowed in concentration as he attempted to beat whatever enemy came his way on the big screen. He also fantasized his best friends, Joseph and Michael, kicking back in one of the two family rooms, watching ESPN on the flat screen and arguing over which team was better, the Lakers or Phoenix Suns. Every room held a sweet unattainable vision for him. He never once thought about Lorena’s reaction, nor did he care. Maybe he should have.

Hell, he had just set up his garage the way he wanted when that stupid bitch did what she did. She had no problem stripping him of everything, even his fantasies. Even the fucking dogs were his before he met her, but the puta always had to prove the victor in their fights. After the divorce finalized and he had time to cool off, he no longer felt anger or surprise. Deep down he knew this would happen. Lorena wasn’t the “let’s grow old together” type. Hell, he wasn’t either! But where he lived to make up for his past, she was more worried about breast implants, designer shoes, trips to the salon once a week, and the latest diet fads.

“What the hell did I see in her?” He had asked his Jefecito, Mario, on more than one occasion.

“It’s not what you saw, but what you didn’t see. You don’t want someone you truly love because of your fear of losing them.”

Don’t be ridiculous, Jefe.”

“Say what you like, but es la verdad.”

“No, it isn’t!”

Sergio tried arguing his point further but ended up leaving in a rage as usual after his Jefe continued on about his fear of commitment. Man, but he really hated hearing the same old shit from the man he called “Jefe” since the age of 17. How dare he call me a coward! Sergio had ranted at the time. I’m no coward! I fear nothing! But once reality set in, Sergio knew the viejo was right. Only Mario had the balls to tell him anything. Even Rico knew when to back off, but never his Jefe. Sergio smiled thinking of the old man’s audacity. Mario never knew when to quit, which is why he ended up in Sergio’s life to begin with. No matter how hard Sergio had tried to push him away, Mario kept coming back. He kept telling him what he didn’t want to hear, but what he needed to hear. Where most people would have given up, and did, Mario took Sergio’s shit to the point of heroics.

When Sergio had time to calm down, he realized once more that his Jefe was right. He had simply loved the idea of Lorena. She was beautiful, tall, intelligent, and unemotional. He never liked the clingy girls, and Lord knew there had been many. “Oh Sergio, you’re so beautiful. Your body is so amazing.” Or better yet, “Look at those eyes! So dreamy and unusual!” Sergio rolled those eyes thinking about those silly girls with their ridiculous fantasies about him. He may have the looks, but he should be no one’s fantasy. Lorena, on the other hand, was different. She had accepted his looks as a compliment to her own. Her vanity kept her from following in other women’s shoes. She liked dressing him up and taking him out to show off to all of her fancy friends. Lorena also had shared his view on kids. He didn’t want any. His Jefe told him he would change his mind, but even now at the age of 30, he had no wish to be anyone’s father.

Beyond all that, Sergio loved how Lorena never asked about the dreams or the past. She just carried on as if all was perfect, and he liked it that way. Only two people in his life now knew the truth about him: Mario and Rico. Mario was there at this worst time in his life and saved him when he shouldn’t have. Rico had been his roommate at the police academy and was now his partner at the Phoenix Police Department. Both started in Patrol at the same time, worked hard, and were promoted to the Violent Crimes Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Unit three years ago. Both men also came from a similar background—life on the streets and bangin’. Unlike Sergio, however, Rico never killed anyone. But both had to deal with the backlash from choosing the “wrong side.”

To the people in their hoods, they were cliches—sellouts to their kind. They joined the side of “The Man” by locking up their brothers and sisters. But as in all the favorite movies and stories about Chicano gangsters like American Me and in Blood in Blood Out, that happened all the time. It was in their DNA to be sellouts, at least according to the gavachos. Either way, he and Rico were completely unoriginal and stereotypical.

Rico was the stereotypical wedito. He was half Irish and never knew his father. His Mexican American mother raised him and inspired him to despise his blonde hair and hazel eyes. She worked hard to make him all brown on the inside, and Lord knows he did his best. For a long time, he had respect, but not any longer because he couldn’t resist giving into his white nature and becoming a pinche pig. As for Sergio, he was the true sinner. He had no white blood to justify selling out. To the vatos in his hood, he was worse than a child molester. He broke the code of brotherhood by joining the pigs. Admittedly, that view of him still irritated him a little, but Mario showed him a different way, and for that, he would always be grateful. When he started to feel guilty about locking up his so-called brothers, he simply had to ask himself, “Where were my so-called homies when I got shot and almost died at 17? Where were those motherfuckers when our rivals shot my family and snuffed out the life a boy who had his whole life ahead of him?”

Sergio closed his eyes at the thought of Lalo. His little brother’s image never diminished after all these years, and it was that image that kept him going. No matter the cost, he would do his damnedest to save even one boy’s life, one mother’s son. Even if that meant him being a sell out. To make himself feel better for being a sellout, Sergio volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club and coached football to underprivileged kids in Mesa. As much as he wished he could do that in Phoenix, he had to stay clear for fear of retaliation. To protect himself overall, he went by Serg Suarez, which was Mario’s last name. Nonetheless, some people still recognized him here and there when he volunteered, especially because of his damn so-called unique eyes. Despite the issues that came with that recognition, Sergio didn’t mind dealing with a little bullshit because no mother should have to lose a son to the streets, and no older brother should ever have to hold his young brother in his arms as he bleeds out onto those streets. And no son should have to see his mother’s life violently snuffed out too soon, and dream of her wandering the afterlife with her bloody heart in hand, trying to understand why her son had killed her.

“Hey asshole, I’m talking to you!” Rico admonished, bringing Sergio back to the present.

He turned and glared at Rico. “Don’t you ever shut up? As you can see, I’m not up for a damn conversation, asshole.”

“Well, I can see it’s back to acting like a puta! And maybe it’s time you fucking listened for a changed instead of withdrawing into that loco fucking mind of yours!”

“Whatever man.”

“If you’re going to live in this pad pendejo, I suggest you lighten up a bit.”

“Don’t worry; it won’t be for long.”

“Why do you always gotta be like that?”

“And why do you talk so fucking much?”

“Hey I’m just trying to help your sorry ass.”

“Don’t worry about me. Worry about that bitch in your bed. Go back to your room, fuck her, and leave me the hell alone!” Sergio sat on the edge of his bed, rubbing his temples.

“How can I? All your moaning and screaming shriveled my shit up! Hell, she’s probably gone by now, and I don’t blame her!” Rico laughed, not sounding put out one bit.

“Well, it won’t be the first time a woman runs from you as fast as she can,” Sergio noted with a small semblance of humor.

“I could say the same about the women in your life asshole,” Rico quipped.

“Yeah, well it’s better that they run as far and as fast as they can,” Sergio responded. “Or better yet, after Lorena, I’m the one who will do all the running from now on. Fuck it all. I’m better off alone anyway.”

“You’re not alone, Serg.” Rico said, his tone turning serious.

“I know, Rico. I know you mean well too, but I’m cool now. Seriously, go back to your room and let me try and get some damn sleep!”

“Well, quit the screaming and crying so I can too!” Rico said. “You may still be on vacation, but I’m not asshole!”

Sergio laughed as Rico made his way back to his room. He closed his door, shut the light back off, and tried to relax. As usual though, he remained wide awake as the sunlight made its way through his bedroom window. Once it did, he closed his eyes and fell asleep. This time, there were no bloody hearts and no crying, just blessed darkness and silence.

Copyright 2017 Brandy Rae Ramirez

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