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His helmet was heavy. The sand hot on his back. He picked up a handful and let the wind carry it. As his eyes followed the tiny grains he saw a palm tree. There was a coconut on the ground below it which had been cracked open and emptied. He felt something wet on his face and he realized he was crying. As consciousness began to fade, he remembered the last time he had cried.
Brett Michaels was never the good kid, always causing trouble. He was raised by a single mother in Dallas. Since his mother was always working, there was never anybody to look after Brett. This was when Brett became self-reliant and needed nobody to help him with anything. Every day on his way to school Brett would stop by Jamal’s fruit stand to grab an apple. Jamal was a middle-aged Brazilian man who had always liked Brett. When Brett’s mother was working, he used to go and help Jamal wash the fruit and close the stand. For this help, Jamal would let Brett come by and choose his favorite apple every morning. On Brett’s last day of middle school he came to the fruit stand. “Jamal. I won’t be able to see you every morning anymore. I’m going to high school.” “Well den, I’ll just have to move my stand den won’t I?” Jamal smiled at the look of surprise on Brett’s face. “Thanks Jamal.”
That summer Brett and his mother went on vacation to Corpus Christi. It was blazing hot in those late June days. The first night Brett saw a guy from his school back in Dallas. He said there was a party on the beach that night. Brett decided he would go considering he would be stuck with his mom if he didn’t. Brett got to the party and realized the only person he knew was Zack Carter, the guy from his school. “Hey Zack.” “Brett! Wassup my man?” He was so drunk, Brett had probably talked to Zack three times and now he’s ‘Zack’s man’. As Brett looked around he saw the back of a girl. “Zack...Zack...Zack!” “What?” “Who’s that?” As Brett pointed in the direction of the blonde. “Dude, that’s Hope Weathers.” After that Zack yelled, “Hey Hope!” She got up off the sand and turned around. Brett felt like he was hit in the face with a brick. She was beautiful. As she approached, Brett’s heartbeat increased with every step she took. “This is Brett Michaels.” Then she spoke in a voice that made Brett’s knees quaver, “Hi, I’m Hope Weathers.” “Nice to meet you, Hope.” Zack left them alone, it was clear Brett had a thing for her. They walked down the beach for awhile, talking. Turns out she’s moving to Dallas after the summer. Brett couldn’t wait; he knew high school was going to be great. As they got back a guy named Quentin Stone yelled, “Got a new boyfriend Hope?” Quentin was Hope’s ex-boyfriend. “Yeah he is, why?” She grabbed Brett’s hand which made him blush. “Why can’t ya just stick to one guy you ****?!” The party fell silent. “I-I...” She began to cry. Brett became filled with anger; nothing could stop him from doing what he intended. Jamal had taught him Brazilian Ninjitsu in some of their free time. Brett knew exactly what to do, stay calm and strike when the opponent least expects it. He walked to Quentin, “Hey man, that was just mean, please apologize.” “No, I don’t know what you’re--” Punch to stomach, knock wind out. Chop to throat, keep from screaming. Hook kick to left jaw, knock-out. As Quentin’s eyes rolled back into his head the silent crowd caught his fall. Brett went over to Hope who was still crying. He put his arm around her and said, “Come on let’s go home.” He brought her home and she kissed his cheek and said, “Thank you, Brett.”
The next day the two were walking on the beach together. They came to a palm tree and Hope said, “Coconuts are my favorite, they always have been.” “Why’s that?” “They hide who they really are. They’re like you Brett. A hard tough shell on the outside but soft on the inside.”
That vacation was one of the best Brett ever had. Hope and Brett were together every day that week. They would go to the beach and talk for hours on end. On Brett’s last night, he took Hope to Jillian’s. “Brett you really didn’t need to take me here, it’s too nice.” “No, don’t worry about it, it’s fine.” They talked over their meal and they hit a stand-still. “So where is your dad? What’s he like?” This was a pretty sensitive subject for Brett. His dad moved away when Brett was only five. Brett didn’t even know if he was still alive. So, deciding he didn’t want to get into it, he lied. “He’s at home, he doesn’t like the beach.” “Well that’s weird, who doesn’t like the beach?” “Yeah I know. Hey, let’s get out of here, looks like it’s getting near closing time.” He looked at his phone, it was 10 o’clock. They walked outside to a dark parking lot. They started walking across and a dark figure came flying across the asphalt, straight at Brett. The masked man tackled him to the ground and both began exchanging blows. Brett shoved him off and now they were even. The man was stronger though, and he got Brett on the ground again. As Brett stumbled to his feet, Hope saw a glint of light in the man’s hand. She saw him move closer to Brett. Brett turned around and felt the blade sink into his shoulder. Brett collapsed. The man casually moved towards Hope. Brett’s eyes began to close as he heard Hope screaming his name. He heard a belt buckle unfasten. He felt a hand grab his, but nobody was there. He heard a voice in his head. It sounded like his dad’s, “Brett, get up.” He slowly stood up. He cringed as gripped the knife handle in his shoulder. He pulled. The blood began pouring out. He looked and saw the man hit Hope. Brett could hear his own pulse in his ears. All of his surroundings went away, all except the man. He ran, all he could hear was Hope’s voice, screaming his name. He tackled the man into the trees and they disappeared into the darkness. Hope heard blows and two bodies breathing heavily. She heard a grunt, then all fell silent. She heard leaves rustle, then footsteps and heavy breathing. A figure appeared at the edge of the tree line. Brett walked forward and passed out on the asphalt.
Brett heard a heart monitor beeping very fast. He opened his eyes and saw doctors rushing him down a hallway.
Next thing he knew, Brett woke up in a hospital bed. He looked to his left at his shoulder and saw a massive bandage. He began to peel it off as the nurse walked in, “No no no don’t touch that! You don’t want to ruin the stitches.” “Right, sorry.” Brett looked to his right and saw Hope, sleeping on the couch. She had smeared mascara on her cheeks. The nurse saw him looking. “She’s been in here the whole time, it’s a wonder she stopped crying.” Brett smiled, and watched her sleep peacefully.
He didn’t really know how long he watched her, but it went by quickly. She sleepily opened her eyes and her face lit up when she saw Brett with a warm smile on his face. She got up and hugged him. She kissed his forehead and asked, “How do you feel?” “Well the shoulder hurts, obviously, and my right eye is killing me.” He had a huge black eye. All of a sudden two men in sport coats walked in. They showed Brett their badges and said, “Mr. Michaels, we need to speak with you...alone.” “Hope, will you be okay for a few minutes?” “Yeah, I’m fine.” Brett could tell by her eyes she was lying. As soon as hope closed the door the two men began. The one on the right was a classic cop, tall, beefy, and dark-haired. The one on the left was short, bald, and really needed to shave. The bald on did most of the talking. “Mr. Michaels--” “Brett.” “Okay, Brett. We’re here to speak to you about last night.” “Frank, he’s not stupid.” Apparently baldy’s name is Frank. “The man that attacked you and miss Weathers has been raping and killing teenage girls for months. We came to thank you. If you ever need us in town give us a call. I’m Frank Connors.” Frank left and it was just Brett and the tall man. “Brett, thank you very much for protecting Hope. I’m Ryan Weathers.” He stuck his hand out. Brett shook it and said, “She’s worth it, sir.” “Worth what?” “The pain. I would go through all of this again for her.” “Oh. Yes, she is very worth it. Brett, I’ve seen how she is when she comes home every day. She’s always happy now. Promise me you won’t hurt Hope.” “I promise, sir.” Mr. Weathers walked outside to Hope. Brett saw them talking and saw Hope look at him and smile. Mr. Weathers left and Hope came back in. “Brett! My dad, he likes you! In fact, he said he even respects you. He said it takes a great deal of bravery to do what you did.” Brett cringed, he accidentally moved his shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay?” “Yeah, you’re worth it.” Hope blushed. She lay down on the bed next to him, under his right arm. He put it around her and they fell asleep.
The ride home to Dallas was hard. All Brett could think about was Hope, and the next month without her. Then he thought about Jamal and all the things he had to tell him. Brett’s shoulder was in a sling, and had to stay in it for two more weeks. Brett got home and told Jamal everything. “Would you like an apple?” “No, do you have any coconuts?” Jamal realized Brett returned a changed boy. “So when do I get to meet dis girl?” “One month Jamal, one month.”
Mr. Weathers was beginning to worry about Hope. She wasn’t happy anymore. He began to wonder if Brett has broken his promise.
In August, Brett woke up and went to the house that was being moved into. He hugged Hope and they were both happy again. They went in Brett’s pool later that day. After they swam, Brett lay out on a towel in the warm sun. Hope came and lay next to him. She saw the scar on his shoulder and traced it with her finger. “I love you.” Brett was surprised and a little bit caught off guard. He thought if he should say it back and then he realized he does love her. “I love you too.”
Years passed and the two were still boyfriend and girlfriend. It was Brett’s twenty-first birthday, September 10. He was surrounded by friends and family, including Jamal. Jamal had given him an apple for his birthday, as a memory. The next day Jamal was going to New York to visit his father.
September 11, Brett woke up and turned on the TV, only to see the twin towers burning. Jamal’s father worked in the twin towers. He drove to Hope’s and said he had to go. “Brett, if you go, I’m gone.” “What do you mean?” “I don’t want to be here, alone, and one day hear you died out there!” “Hope, I’m so sorry, I have to. I won’t let Jamal’s death go in silence. I love you!”
On his way to the airport Brett cried, he cried till he couldn’t breathe. He thought to himself, “What have I done?”
Brett laughed, the coconut had nothing left inside, it was cracked and broken, just like just like him. He looked down to his chest at the three holes. As the life was leaving Brett’s body he whispered a short prayer, “Tell Hope I’m sorry.”