The Light Within: Part II
by E. Person
The night air was thick and chilled enough for breath to form smoke. The car windows were crystallized from the discussion of whether Akilee was going with Jaquan or live to regret rotting to death in Appleton.
"Thereís nothing holding you here and you mean to tell me that youíre having a change of heart now."
His voice was distant. She wanted him to cave in like he always did, but tonight was more intense, more serious than the others.
"All Iím saying is that this last year of school is more important to me than running off on luck. You know heíll find us or even worse, do something to my mom. I wonít have that on my conscience for the rest of my life. Thatís just too much," her sentence shook at the end like a quivering leaf.
"Well, I want you to do whatís best for you and I got myself into this, I guess Iíll have to get myself out." Akilee could remember the conversation as if it happened just seconds ago. She should have found a book bag large enough to hold meaningful things and caught that ride out of town. Now, there was no where for her to hide and no turning back for her, either.
She woke that morning feeling sluggish from the mixed drinks from the night before. Her intentions were to get up at eight oíclock and be the first person let into the main lobby of the library. Her research would have to take a backseat to her hangover, so it was off to the porcelain and then off to the coffee shop. As Akilee got dressed, she decided to wear her "#1" charm that Jaquan had given her last semester. She felt the need to be close to him or at least show him that she wasnít bei ng as inconsiderate as she had seemed. The phone stepped into her daydream and she searched for the caller ID.
"Yeah, Kym. Whatís up?"
"Are you going to the coffee house or do I have to be stuck with information detail today?"
"Yeah, Iím coming. Have you seen Jay." Her question almost stuck in her throat like a unsaturated aspirin. The answer to it spooked her before it was even revealed.
"I saw him talking to DeAndreí earlier, so he hasnít dipped like you thought."
"Okay, well, Iíll see you in a minute." Her closet was filled with new items but none of them seemed to say how she felt today; baggy jeans, an oversized Wu-Tang T-shirt and a baseball cap.
The sun fought its way out of the clouds and Akileeís stomach was starting to settle. She spotted Kym sitting in a dim corner in the back of "Nikkiís". Her shadow wasnít far behind her, scanning the scene like Olí Yeller, looking for anyone eyeing her. Akilee attempted to check up on Kym and DeAndreíís relationship, but was only met by opposition and one-word answers to questions that needed explanations. Why was she starting to go on the out-of-town trips they were never informed about bef ore? What was causing DeAndreí to poison her best friendís mind against her by saying that I had tried to visit him when I knew she was home visiting her parents. There was a lot of deception going on and it was all for Akileeís best interest. Jaquan had even started shutting her out of their cryptic conversations. Everything was making her feel as though she were on the outside looking in. She wiped the uncertainty from her mind and sipped the mocha latte she had purchased, trying to gain strength to make it to Kymís table. "Damn, you scared the crap outta me. What took you so long? Letís walk I need to talk to you."
Akilee was not given a chance to object, but with the concern lacing Kymís tone, she followed her to an empty bench on the opposite side of the room.
"I had to get out of ear shot so I could give you the scoop. Girl, I think I might be in this thing over my head."
"What do you mean?" Finally some clarification on all the secrecy and she would no longer be left wondering.
"Last night, DeAndreí gave Jaquan a package to deliver to some dude over on Dublin Avenue. It took Jaquan all night to come back with the money and it came back short. Then the guy called DeAndreí this morning and told him that to of the bags had been swapped out."
Akilee was no stranger to that term. Jaquan had taught her well. Basically, Kym was telling her that DeAndreí and his drop think Jaquan licked them for 2 pounds last night and some cash. "Thereís got to be a mistake. You know Jaquan knows what time it is with DeAndreí and heís not about to do his boy like that anyway."
Kymís eyes got misty and her speech was shaky, "Girl, tell Jay itís best he left before tomorrow. I overhead DeAndreí on the phone with Tracy and they are planning to get the stuff back out of Jayís pocket or out of his ass." Kymís words stuck to her brain and rotated her stomach. She had to leave with Jay now or DeAndreí would retaliate against him by putting her in harmís way. Tracy Winston was notorious for being anybodyís set up man. Anyone with enough loot to pay him so he could lay l ow long enough to get away with whatever. She first got wind of him when he and her cousin Daimon went to Florida. Tracy came back alone from that trip and Tracy swore that Daimon left before he did coming back home. She knew what happened to him and what he was into, but that would have broken his motherís heart and possibly tied her into things she had no part in.
"What are you going to do? Are you going to stick by his side now or are you awake now. See I told you he was up to no good and now heís going to kill someone I love."
"Look, I didnít give you the 411 for you to push me into a corner, I care about you and Jay and I donít want to see you two get hurt." Tears were now falling from Kymís light brown eyes. Akilee could tell that Kym was scared, but she wanted her to wise up before she ended up like Daimon. They both went into the bathroom to straighten their faces. As they exited the ladiesí room, DeAndreí stepped out from behind the giant elephant ear in the corner. "You ladies sure had me worried. I thought you had left me here all alone, Boo. What up, KeeKee?"
Her flesh crawled. How dare he call her Jayís pet name for her!
"My name is Akilee and Iím chilliní." She tried to keep her composure without lashing out at him and tearing his eyes out. She felt compelled to leave, but for Kymís safety she was going to stick around. She had this feeling he had peeped the whole scene and she didnít want anything to happen to her because of her love for her sister.
"Whereís my boy? I havenít seen him since last night."
"I guess heís around. I havenít talked to him, either." Why was he lying? She didnít want to have this conversation with him, but if she didnít play the shell of her former self, he would definitely catch on. She felt sick on her stomach and it definitely wasnít from the Remy Martin.
"Hey, Boo. How about another Pepsi for me and get whatever you and KeeKee drink."
Kym slowly rose from the table and it seemed as though her legs were frozen to the floor. As she walked away from the table, DeAndreí immediately turned his attention to Akilee.
"Check this out. I just want you to know that Iím a little upset with your man and you might want to help him out on this one. This the first time someone close to me has tried to play me soft and I donít want to make an example out of him, but if he donít have my stuff by ten oíclock tonight...well, letís just say if Iím not happy, no oneís happy."
"I donít know what youíre talking about but I donít get involved in Jayís business. If he needs my help, heíll ask for it and I donít want to talk to you about this again."
She stood her ground and the harder she stared at him, the stronger his jaws tightened. "Okay, have it your way, but donít say I didnít give you fair warning, girl."
By this time, Kym had made it back to the table and could cut the tension with a knife. She played it cool and gave DeAndreí back his change. She had learned to read Akileeís facial expressions and body language a long time ago and she knew that there had been a conversation not to her best friendís liking. They sat there gazing in spurts at each other, with DeAndreí acting as if nothing was wrong. Akilee debated on whether she should run to the nearest phone and call Jay with the update or if she sh ould not say anything and let him show up to see DeAndreí face-to-face. She knew the latter was not going to happen because of the events that took place the night before. Jay was smart and he wasnít about to let anyone set him up. She calmly finished her drink, told Kym she was still achy from last night and headed out to her apartment.