Live To Remember - Chapter 1
by E. Person
Leaves lined the grass like a blanket around Akilee’s feet. She took a deep, long pull from her cigarette and stomped out the butt with her heel. "I guess I‘ll be leaning on you guys for awhile." Her thoughts swirled around in the smoke coming from the crushed filter. She wondered what details will be told and if the defense lawyers were going to be fair and not wear her down like the lead tip on a pencil. She gathered up her strength, her purse and headed toward the huge, white pillars of the courthouse. She could only think of getting it over with and moving on to what ever was left of her life. Now that Julion was gone, her world had grown empty. Now, here she was, testifying against her best friend and the man that had turned everyone’s life upside down.
The legal assistant for the district attorney’s office was waiting in the doorway as Akilee topped the stairs. "There you are. They’ve already called for you to take the stand. Are you okay, Ms. Horton?" The sweat across her brow was a dead give away and she gladly accepted the paper towel she was offered. The halls were filled with attorneys and repeat offenders discussing tactics and protocol on not pissing off the judge. "Now remember, his title is your Honor, not your Majesty," as one explained to his client. She was led into a huge gallery filled with mahogany-stained walls and piercing stares from the defendants’ section. She felt so much tension from the left side of the room that it made her hands clammy. She measured her steps, trying to reach her seat next to the bench.
"Snitch," she heard someone whisper, but her attention was centered on not fainting or throwing up before she had stripped Dre of that stupid, smug smirk he had stretched across his face. Restitution was going to be paid for how he made her watch Julion suffer and slowly slip away from her grasp. She was forced to lie helpless and wounded in the mind and body, praying for the shooting to stop or the bullets to run out so Julion could at least have a decent funeral. What Dre had done was hateful, brutal and unnecessary and she didn’t care about what being labeled a snitch. To retaliate would mean her own trial and she wasn’t built that way. Maybe she could have hired someone from the old neighborhood that knew how to handle a cokehead like Dre. Everybody hated him and the line was already filled with angry associates and jilted baby mommas. She didn’t have the heart to carry out any plans of revenge. Besides, what better revenge than to be the final nail in their coffins. Now her main purpose in life was for Kym to lose her freedom and Dre to lose his life.
They were both staring down the barrel of the death penalty from the premeditation of Julion’s murder. Kym’s charge sounded like she was just in on the dirty deed. Akilee couldn’t change the charge, but the sentence would be worst than death for her friend. She was the only one that knew Kym’s only fear—lack of freedom. Just the pain of being behind bars without any options was like the death penalty. Now the only person she knew that cared for was going to send her to jail for the rest of her natural life. Now everyone was going to know how she waited until Julion’s body was riddled with bullets to add another one to his face. Her actions were purely out of jealousy and spite. She couldn’t get over that she was able to sleep with just about every guy Akilee had ever known, but Julion was unbreakable.
The cruelness of the torture alone had Dre’s record marked with two counts of kidnapping. Akilee had hesitated to respond to the subpoena she was served. Even when she gave her statement at the police station, she couldn’t wait to hop on the next thing moving from Marion and there would be nothing to stop her. She could finally get a good night’s rest away from the living hell she had just been through. Thank God for surgeons and all those acting classes back at the neighborhood recreational center. If it wasn’t for Mrs. Flint’s monthly plays and poetry recitals, she would not have been able to pull of a fake sense of unconsciousness. She had regulated her breathing so that it looked like she was taking her final breath instead of gasping for air.
A new life was waiting out there for her taking and all she had to do was make it through the testimony. She just had to tell what she saw them do to him and how she was to blame. The phone call did come from her cell that night, but it was out of sheer coincidence that Kym used her phone instead of a phone at the bar. Kym had it all planned out, how to tear a twenty-year friendship into confetti with one single, selfish act. The jury was very attentive and seemed to lean into her every word Akilee was saying.
"Can you tell me how you know the defendant, Ms. McMillian?"
"Well, we lived next door to each other here in Marion for at least twenty years."
"So, Ms. McMillian can be considered a close friend, maybe even a best friend of the witness." The prosecutor rose to his feet to object at the relevance of this question to the matter at hand. Akilee felt light-headed as she was battered with questions and accusations. She wanted to yell out her own objection when the she was asked about the night that changed her life.
"Did you in fact call and invite Julion Perkins to the Lucky Star that night?" She sputtered out that Kym had been the culprit in the caper and she just lent a friend a phone, but the words melted into her tongue like butter. The judge banged his gavel against the bench in the direction of the defense attorney like a cocked rifle and hastily called a side bar.
"Tell the court exactly what you were doing while Mr. Peters was meeting with Ms. McMillian and Mr. Briton on the night in question."
"We were at a local bar. Actually, she called me and asked me to meet her there."
"Did you know of her plans that night with Mr. Briton?"
"No, I didn’t know who she was talking to until she told me she had called him." Akilee’s brain was trying to outthink the attorney’s, carefully weighing her words.
Akilee Horton was a freshman in junior high school when she first met Kym McMillian. They were like sisters, sharing everything down to the socks they washed together at the local Fluff and Fold. Her parents were always concerned about Kym and didn’t mind disciplining her when her grandmother came knocking and crying about her. With her mother being away for so long, she craved attention and she received it in the form of smoking weed, drinking and staying in the streets until all hours with the guys she would pick up from hanging at Fred’s Sandwich Stand. She had an attraction for guys with a record and there were a variety of all kinds of convictions on that corner.
She had once climbed into Akilee’s window and slept in a recliner so she didn’t have to go home and tell her grandmother that she was raped. Akilee’s parents helped her pull through it. Akilee helped her get through it. She even stood by Kym when she went back to someone nicknamed Chance "Beat Down" Brown and lost the baby at his hands. Now, once again, she had been pulled into one of Kym’s "get the cash and bounce" schemes. This time it ended up being deadly. This time Akilee didn’t owe her a pass. She owed her an ass whooping.
She was praying the question would over soon. "Isn’t it true that Kym McMillian introduced you to Mr. Perkins before you called him from the bar?"
"First of all, I didn’t call him, Kym did. Yes, he was my fiancé until Mr. Briton killed him."
"Objection, your honor and I ask that the witness’s personal assumptions be stricken from the record."
Akilee’s focus was on getting the truth heard before they attempted to shade over it with her actions. She made that promise to herself as she lay on the cold cement watching her life pour past her from the wound in her stomach. Her mother had always told her that a hard head would leave her with a soft behind. She knew the meaning of this statement now.
The defense attorney asked her so many things, she felt like her autobiography was being penned. She was reliving all the pain, blow for blow. It felt as though each answer was ripping into her gut like the staples that held it together. She felt her face go flush and finally relief came.
"Bailiff, please assist the witness off the stand and give her some water." Her world was black for about twenty minutes the paramedics told her, but it seemed like a whole day had passed. She was done for today and it was off to her lonely apartment to try and drink the memories away or at least pass out before she saw his face.