A week ago, war became inevitable…
Makynzee wasn’t answering her phone. I’d spoken to her an hour earlier to tell her we’d meet her at the restaurant, but of course when dealing with women and a child, things change. KJ started asking for her about ten minutes after I hung up with her. He refused to do anything or go anywhere until we picked her up. My mom and sister were visiting for the week and meeting Makynzee in person for the first time. When KJ started crying they decided they wanted to “see Makynzee’s studio anyway.” I told them they could see it tomorrow, but they told me I shouldn’t let KJ get so upset, it’s bad for his development. I’m sure they made that up to fit the situation. I’d argued with them until I called Makynzee a third time. I started to worry when Donte’ didn’t answer his phone either.
“Try Jaida, one of them bound to answer sooner or later,” Kaeden had said.
“Daddy I want my mommy right now!” KJ screamed, pounding his little fists against his car seat.
While my sister, Karmen, tried to calm him down I connected the Bluetooth and tried Makynzee again. It didn’t even ring; straight to her voicemail. Kaeden asked why she would turn it off as I sped up. Makynzee wouldn’t just turn her phone off and Donte’ always answered his. Something was definitely wrong.
I saw the flashing lights before we reached the studio. Police tape, ambulances, cops, and reporters were everywhere…the makings of a crime scene. Hindsight tells me that the “wind knocked out of me” feeling was me knowing that my baby was gone. KJ’s cries had escalated to screams and him telling me to go get Makynzee, a full-blown tantrum. My mom had asked me what was going on as though I hadn’t been with her the whole time. In less than ten seconds my eyes had scanned the parking lot at least a dozen times. I needed to see her. I willed myself to just catch a brief glimpse of her. Her hand, her jacket, her backpack…anything, just her. If I could see her, I could stop the tremors building inside me. Instead I saw Donte holding Jaida’s hand as they loaded her into an ambulance. Jaida…Makynzee’s best friend, they’re like sisters. Another sign that my baby was gone. If she were there she would have been holding Jaida’s hand too. I can’t remember if I put the truck in park before I’d jumped out and made my way to Donte shouting his name. He’d looked away and shook his head when he saw me. I’d pushed Kaeden and an EMT away to keep them from closing the ambulance doors.
“Where is she?” I’d asked. I needed him to tell me what I already knew. My mind wouldn’t process it, wouldn’t accept it. His reply was pathetic enough to make me hit him.
“I tried to stop him, but I would have shot her if I did.”
“What the hell does that mean? Where’s Makynzee?” I’d asked as I dragged him from the ambulance. Three cops with their guns trained on me, Kaeden trying to pull me away and Karmen and the EMT yelling for me to let him go did nothing but irritate me more. He had one job, one responsibility. The one thing I’ll never forgive him for failing. KJ’s cries were his saving grace. I let Kaeden pull me away. I tried to block Donte’s voice out as he finally said what I thought I needed to hear.
“He took her, Kalil. I tried to stop him, he shot Jaida and took her.”
His final words that I’d heard before my own roar of rage tried to escape in a scream as I’d stumbled away from all of them. Everything stopped. Donte didn’t need to say a name. My chest tightened to a pain that I’d never felt before and I’d dropped to my knees. Nyeem, the only “he” that Donte’ could have meant. He’d been stalking Makynzee for months and I’d obviously underestimated his threats to make her his own. My stomach had tried to force its contents out, but it was empty. We hadn’t made it to dinner yet, so all I could do was dry heave. I’m not sure how long I stayed that way, but the next thing I remember was tiny arms wrapped around me; a tiny voice telling me everything would be okay. My three-year-old son was trying to comfort me when it should have been the other way around.
A shrill cry of pain brings me back to my current reality. Some distant relative of Nyeem’s is in the next room with Santiago. I block out her cries and focus on Justin, Nyeem’s favorite cousin. He’s told me everything except what I want to know, where to find Nyeem.
“Justin you’re running out of time,” I say.
“I told you everything, I don’t know where he is,” he mumbles.
Too bad I actually believe him. I quickly toss the baseball I’m holding into the air and swing at it. The bat connects with a loud crack sending the ball flying through the air and into the right side of his chest. He’s too tired to try and dodge it. We’ve been doing this for hours now. I’m tired and I’ve been switching out with others, so I know Justin’s probably exhausted. I grab another ball and toss it up.
I’m not sure what to think about what I’m seeing right now. Usually when I wake up there’s someone I don’t want to see sitting next to me; Donte, one of our parents, sometimes even a doctor, but never Kaeden…at least not until now. He’s holding one of my hands and staring at me. For once I actually fight the effects of my pain meds. “What are you doing here?” I ask as my eyes sweep the room. It’s just the two of us. He only stares, no response. My eyes close, but I squeeze his hand to let him know I’m still awake.
“I thought you died,” he says as he squeezes my hand back.
Talking hurts, but I want him here. I shake my head from left to right.
“What are we doing?” he asks.
He sounds funny. I open my eyes and look at him. He looks sad.
“Where would we be if you weren’t in here? When you leave here where will you go, Donte’s house?” he asks.
He makes it seem as though it’s all on me. As though he has no other ties. “Elise,” I say. I want to say more. I want to remind him that she’s pregnant by him. I want to remind him that before our last encounter we were both on different paths. His eyes tell me he wouldn’t listen to any of that.
“You know how I feel about that,” he says.
I know they slept together and she’s pregnant. I know he never claimed the baby. Other than that, I know nothing. I close my eyes ad shake my head.
“She’s going to have an abortion,” he says.
My heart drops. The night Nyeem took Makynzee he shot me in my stomach and I was pregnant. When I woke up in the hospital I wasn’t. There’s no way I’m going to let him do that. “You can’t let her,” I struggle to say. He doesn’t respond. I wish I could read his mind. “Don’t let her…if you want me to be with you, don’t let her,” I say. Pain takes over and I can’t say anymore, so I squeeze his hand again. We both know the reality of this situation. The likelihood of the baby being his is extremely high. Him denying that changes nothing.
“If she has the baby where does that leave us?” he asks.
I wish I could talk more. I wish we could sit here and discuss the possibilities between us, but we can’t. Instead I reach for his other hand, forcing him to stand and move closer. I pull him closer and when he figures out I want a hug, he gently embraces me. “Together,” I whisper just before the room door opens. If it were anyone other than Donte they would have spoken, but there’s only silence. Kaeden exhales a frustrated sigh before letting me go. Donte’s face is blank, but his twitching jaw line gives away his anger.
“What’s he doing here?” he asks.
“Ask me, not her,” Kaeden says.
I’m surprised that he’s still holding one of my hands, but I squeeze and tell him “no” as I close my eyes. He doesn’t respond at first, so I squeeze tighter and look at him again. His eyes tell me he won’t leave unless I tell him to. I’m tired of fighting my pain meds so I tell him “I’m ok.” This time I don’t try to open my eyes after they close. I feel Kaeden squeeze my hand before letting go. A few seconds later I hear the door close.
“I asked you a question,” Donte says.
I’m tempted to ignore him, but I don’t. Somehow I manage to tell him “not now,” before I drift off to sleep.