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The Way It Is
“Jade! Get up! You need to get to school!” Beck shoved his sister off the couch, tumbling her to the scratched floor and adding to the bruises she would have to smear with makeup before school. Jade jumped up and threw a punch at him, tugging up her blood-red tank top with her other hand. She connected and Beck’s lip split.
“You don’t treat me like that!” Jade screamed. He twisted her arm and stepped closer, breathing into her face.
“I treat you how I want, B**ch. Get ready for school. I can’t have you in my hair today.” Jade threw her pillow at him and stormed to her room to change. She slipped into her jeans and long-sleeved shirt, covered her bruises with layers of makeup, and rushed out of the house. As soon as she was gone, Beck grabbed his old leather coat and shut the door behind him. He didn’t bother to lock it. It was a rough part of town. You never knew when a buddy would need a place to lay low for a while. And anyone who stole something was either a friend of Beck’s or dead meat. That’s just the way it is.
Jade walked through the halls, people staring cruelly, as usual. She felt like a bug under a magnifying glass, and she was burning. She hurried to her locker before the glares scorched her skin. Aimee was already leaning against Jade’s locker, her auburn hair perfect and her makeup not too heavy. Her tall thin frame was flattered by not-too-skinny jeans and a not-too-low rocker t-shirt. She was the picture of innocence and confidence. Everything Jade wanted to be. Everything that was missing in the world Jade knew. Leaning next to Aimee, completely at ease, not noticing how beautiful his locker neighbor was, James shoved a textbook into his backpack. He didn’t look like the type to go to a school of hoods. He was thin but athletic, and didn’t have the rough look of most of the guys on this side of the town.
“Sup guys.” Jade’s hands shook as she tried to twist out the combination on her locker. James pushed her hand away and dialed the code for her.
“You know, you’re pretty stupid to let him treat you like this.” James grumbled, overly pessimistic and close-minded as usual. As usual Aimee grabbed Jade’s wrist to stop the shaking.
“Oh come on James, leave her be. What happened this time Jade?” Jade swallowed the bitter taste in her mouth. James pushes all her buttons.
“Ha! Only shoved me off the couch. I hate him.” If Jade could have cried, she might of. But you grow up like she did, wrong side of town, no parents, in and out of jail, you can’t cry. That’s just the way it is.
Beck strode into the police station, like he had a thousand times. Twelve times he had made it his home. He hardened himself to the memories as he leaned his bulk against the nearest desk, as usual.
“Beck Malone. Number one three seven seven five. Officer Brook called me in.” The young cop behind the desk paled and punched out numbers on his phone with nervous fingers. Relief showed clearly on his pale features after a moment – Officer Brook must have picked up.
“Beck’s here.” Beck smiled to himself, proud of the fact he had a hard enough rep that the police station knew him by his first name. He brushed back his dark hair. It didn’t bother Beck that he was here to be interrogated and maybe jailed. That’s just the way it is.
“Any new dirt?” Jade, Aimee, and James were sitting in the back of class, only James listening to what the teacher was saying, as usual. Aimee turned to face Jade.
“Hmm, oh yeah, my cousin was drunk driving.” Jade pretended to act shocked, because that’s what you do. Act like it is something new, something appalling to hear that so-and-so did blank. If Jade was flappable, she may have been surprised, seeing as though Aimee’s cousin had a perfect record. She might have felt bad about the prison time, if she had allowed herself to care enough. It may have even occurred to her that Megan didn’t have a choice, that her boyfriend was trying to go too far. But Jade didn’t. Sh*t happens around here, and you get used to it. That’s just the way it is.
Beck was sitting in a mirrored room, in a strait-backed wood chair, a cop in front of him fiddling with a lie detector. As if Beck couldn’t foil those. He lived a life of lies, that’s how he survived, and they didn’t feel any different than the truth for him. Lie detectors don’t work on the Rough Side. The cops would learn that soon enough.
“A civilian tipped us off about a drunk driver in your neighborhood. Couldn’t give a description. What do you know about it?” The cop, like all the others, assumed Beck knew something, at the very least, about every shady happening. Maybe it was a way to get a reaction, or maybe they just knew Beck. Without spiking the detector, Beck shot back.
“I know a lot about it. So?” The cop glared.
“So it’s illegal and dangerous. Maybe that doesn’t make a difference to you, Beck, but whoever was behind that wheel gets jail time and their license suspended. Of course, it’s worse if it has happened before.” The cop looked Beck in the eye, knowing Beck had three DUIs on his record. Beck returned his stare, but his mind was far away, with Megan Grenhald. He had asked her to marry him once. She had said yes, then broken it off because she couldn’t stand to be in love with a monster like him. He thought about that fancy college she had been accepted to, knowing she wouldn’t go without a clean record.
“What do you want me to do?” The cop resisted the urge to hide his face in his hands. Beck will melt anybody’s self confidence with the nonchalant way he deals with trouble.
“Who was behind the wheel, Beck?” Beck sighed.
Around here, you don’t take a hit for anyone. Jungle law applies, it’s survival of the fittest. That’s just the way it is. But, maybe, it doesn’t have to be.