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“Two for dinner please. Something by the windows would be nice.”
The hostess looked up from her podium and around the restaurant. She spotted a table near the back wall that was completely lined with windows right along the lake front. It was right around six so the sun wasn’t totally set. You could see about a quarter of the sun going down over Lake Michigan. The pink sky reflected on the calm water in the distance with orange and red rippling around it over the waves. July was always hot but it was the nights where cooled down to the seventies that I loved so much about summers.
The hostess brought us through the restaurant to the back where she gave Carlos and I a table against the windows. She handed both of us menus and headed back to her position.
“Carlos, this is beautiful.”
He smiled, “Well I figured we had to celebrate.”
I looked over my gorgeous boyfriend. Carlos Martinez was like a god; one of the Mexican gods that the Mayans would sacrifice people for. Even girls who wouldn’t go near a gang member wanted him. Carlos was good at what he did. He wasn’t really a violent part of La Furia but he definitely had enough against him to make people scared. He had never killed anyone, or been arrested. Maybe the worst he did was steal a car. Sure I disagreed with some of this stuff, but I got how hard it was to get out of doing these things. It was either do the job or suffer the consequences.
I was able to see through his tough exterior pretty quickly. He really was a softie deep down. We had met during History last year in school when we got partnered up together for a project in the first week of school. Something about him was so irresistible that I couldn’t stay away. My parents weren’t too thrilled about the idea of he and I being together but we worked around that just fine for the past ten months. They didn’t even know about the gang thing which was a relief.
Carlos’ curly brown hair hung in front of his face as his piercing brown eyes shifted from me to the menu. His exceptionally large biceps were almost bulging out of his gray button down shirt with the Furia symbol tattoo showing from the top of his chest. He stopped reading the menu for a second and looked at me.
“What are you staring at?”
I simply smiled, “You.”
He shook his head and smiled, “Shouldn’t you be looking for something to eat?”
I shrugged, “I guess so. You’re much better looking than this plastic covered paper.”
A waitress came over to the table to take our drink orders. Carlos ordered Sprite while I got a Coke. We waited for the drinks to arrive at the table before toasting. He raised his glass.
“Riley Amanda Parker, this is a new start for us. No more violence. No more fighting. Just us…from now on.”
I smiled, “Carlos Luis Martinez, I’m really proud of you. I know that wasn’t easy.”
Carlos and I had agreed that he had to get out of the gang before starting school again. I was tired of worrying about him and stressing over him being in some kind of trouble. I was sick of seeing him get beat up and abused by rival gangs who wanted to take his smaller ones out. I didn’t want him to be in that kind of danger all the time. So he took to the extremes and got himself out. I never knew the full details of how he did it, but he was free now. He would never have to get hurt again.
We clinked our glasses and continued through dinner. There was always a lot to talk about between us. We were completely different people but we clicked so well. I was very shy most of the time, unless I knew you. Getting to know someone was kind of like pulling teeth. You could only imagine how I felt when I found out the head of a high school gang was interested in me. At first it was a little bit weird and I didn’t get it. But since we had to work together for school, it required talking. This talking led to talking about other subjects and actually enjoying each other’s presence.
I never quite knew what it was that Carlos saw in me. I wasn’t afraid to admit I was scared of him at first. He was a quite intimidating guy. I wasn’t going to deny that I was kind of cute. I had dark brown hair hanging to about my shoulders that was kind of wavy. It was nice when I took the time to manage it. It suited me by now. If I were to change that now, it just wouldn’t seem much like me anymore. I had blue eyes that were sometimes closer to green or light brown. I definitely wasn’t ugly but I had never really had a boyfriend before Carlos. I wasn’t intending on finding another one for a long time, if ever. I was happy with how things were. I was kind of a nerd which confused people even more when Carlos and I started dating. No one quite got what he saw in me. I didn’t know either but I wasn’t going to object to how things were. Sure he was my polar opposite but I loved him so much.
He had never disclosed how exactly he got out of the gang but from what a few of his friends told me, getting out was the hardest thing you could do.
“So what happened when you told the boss you wanted out?”
He paused and looked like he had to filter some stuff, “Well he told me I had to do a task or a challenge.”
“Oh. What was it?”
Yet again, he paused, “I kind of had to endure a bit of a beating. It was rough but I just kept thinking about how much better everything would be for us when this was over.”
He knew I never wanted to hear many of the details, “I’m so sorry. You know I don’t like hearing about these things but Andres said it was hell. Is that true?”
He shook his head, “Nah. The guys probably made you think that getting out was impossible.”
I nodded, “Yeah they made it sound worse than you’re telling me.”
“That’s Andres for you. He will make everything sound so much worse than it really is. He’s a drama queen.”
I loved hearing him talk because the faintest bits of his Mexican accent slipped through on certain words. I loved hearing him speak Spanish. It was really hot to me. He was from Mexico originally but his parents moved him and his brother, Rio, and sister, Izzy, to the states so they would be safer. They were kind of wrong in thinking that was the case since Carlos joined La Furia once he hit high school. It was good for them to have someone protecting the family though. His dad was on the older side and he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight if something happened.
Both his parents were really nice people. They were very welcoming and always made sure I felt at home. His mom was always ready to stuff me up with amazing food whenever I came over. I always knew that I’d never go hungry as long as I was with them. But more than anything, you could tell that they loved their kids a ton.
They were a pretty tight knit family. Rio was the youngest, going into his sophomore year of high school. He was pretty much a smaller clone of Carlos except more on the quiet side. Izzy on the other hand was totally the opposite. She was always going or talking about something. She was twenty six and working at a hospital in the city as a nurse. She was smart as hell and could come up with a witty comeback like it was her day job. Carlos fell somewhere in the middle. He was talkative but he always had his moments of silence. He was just really chill. He let a lot of things blow over that probably would have been a big deal for someone like his sister.
Dinner finished up a little while later and we headed outside to get on Carlos’ bike and go home. We took a detour along the way, heading down closer to the lake front. Even in the dark, it was gorgeous out here. I took a seat on one of the benches.
“So now that you’re out, what do we do?”
He sighed, “We can relax for the first time in forever. I won’t have to leave you anymore.”
I put my arms around his chiseled midsection, “Good. I don’t want to have to worry about you anymore.”
He kissed the top of my head, “Baby, you shouldn’t have been worrying in the first place. You know that I’m always fine. What’s the worst that’s happened?”
He made it sound like it was nothing, “A few knife wounds I guess.”
He nodded, “Si, scratches. You’ve got nothing to worry about. We can just enjoy the rest of the summer and the rest of our lives. Oh except for those two weeks when you leave me at the start of August.”
I laughed, “Stop making me feel bad! You know I would stay if I had the choice. I’m not excited about going camping in the boonies. You know I hate nature. That’s why we live in the city.”
He made a frowny face, “It still makes me sad. What the hell am I going to do to keep myself entertained?”
“How about your summer reading? I know you haven’t even started those libros.”
He smiled, “Good Spanish. See you’re learning.”
I smiled back, “Thank you. But you really do have work to do. Sleeping until noon isn’t really helping you.”
“Hey! I work late nights!”
I laughed again, “The shop closes at eight and you go home right after that.”
Carlos worked at his uncle’s auto-body every other day to save money for college. He was unlike most other gang members. He wanted to get out and go somewhere. He didn’t want to be stuck in that life forever.
“Eh es la verdad.”
I didn’t understand half the stuff he said in Spanish. I took Italian in school, “Huh?”
“Oh. Sorry. I meant to say that’s the truth. I need to work on my filter.”
I smiled, “No. It’s cute. Don’t worry about it.”
“You make me kind of nervous sometimes so I slip up and forget which language I’m speaking.”
“Me? Make you nervous? You’re the one who carries a gun on you most places.”
He smirked, “It’s just because you’re so gorgeous. You make my heart skip a few beats.”
I blushed, “You’re so sweet.”
He nodded, “I know.”
I hit his shoulder, “Way to be cocky.”
“I’m just kidding. I think we might want to go if we’re going to get you home before your curfew.”
I checked the time on my phone. It was around eight thirty and my curfew was in an hour and a half. Carlos was always especially careful when it came to my parents rules. He did everything he could to make sure he was on their good side. My parents were really scared about what I was thinking when I brought a tattooed, muscular, Mexican boy home for them to meet. My parents were definitely nice people but it was normal for most parents to be afraid when their daughter brought home someone like Carlos. They were quick to realize how sweet he really was.
“Fine. Let’s go.”
He took my hand again and brought me down the pier and inland to where we were parked a few blocks away from the restaurant. Parking in the city was never the easiest thing. Carlos had a bike so he was able to fit in places a little better than a car would. I had never ridden a motorcycle before I met him. It was the scariest thing when I first started riding with him, but now, the rush felt pretty nice.
Once we got to the street, we noticed that his bike was nowhere to be found. He checked the road a few times before starting to panic, blurting out what I knew were curse words in Spanish. His bike was extremely important to him. He didn’t have the money to buy a new one if this one was gone. I needed to calm him down a little bit, even though I knew he wouldn’t ever flip out on me.
“Are you sure this was where you left it?”
He nodded, “Si. I don’t know who would want to-.”
He checked the spot that he was convinced he parked in. Another car was there at the moment. He dropped to the ground in almost a push up position and inched towards the edge of the sidewalk more. He looked under the car that was there and instantly got back up.
“Riley, stay close to me and keep walking quickly.”
The tone of his voice was nothing like I was used to hearing, “Carlos, what’s going on?”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me up the street a little faster than he would normally walk. I was extremely nervous. I had never seen him this tense before. Not even when he had a job to do and he was worried. He was just freaking out right now. I kept a close proximity to him like he said.
“It’s one of our rivals. They’re the ones who got my bike.”
“What?! How do you know?”
He looked back at the parking spot, “Their symbol is spray painted on the spot. It means they’ve been there. They’re looking for something.”
I was starting to panic too the tension from his rock hard body was definitely transferring over to mine, “What are they looking for?! Is everything going to be okay?!”
“They want me.”
I couldn’t follow what was going on, “But you’re not even in the Furia anymore. Why would they come after you?”
“Maybe they don’t know yet. This is still fresh news that may have not gotten their way yet.”
I was really starting to freak out now. I felt like both of us were sitting ducks for an enemy we couldn’t see.
“Carlos, just bring us somewhere safe. Both of us. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
He nodded, “I know. I’m thinking. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.”
I gripped onto his shirt and continued to follow him down the road. There weren’t many people on the street but Carlos eyed over every last one of them to make sure none of them would hurt us. Each time a car would pass he would put me against a wall and use himself as a barrier, but hiding his face and any sign that he was a member. The only things he still had were tattoos that each had some relevance to the gang.
We got to a quiet street, two blocks from mine. It was lined with townhouses and apartments with plants hanging from windows and porches. This seemed like a safe enough place. We were both trying to catch our breath.
“Is it safe here?”
He looked around and nodded, “I think so. Let’s just get you home, novia.”
I smiled, “Alright.”
We started to walk down the road a little bit more when a small car with blinding headlights started speeding down the street. The noise and the lights were overpowering all my senses. Carlos pushed me away from him quickly. I shut my eyes and covered my ears for a few seconds. There were certain things that I couldn’t block out though. I heard a really loud pop, and then the car sped up and was gone around the corner. Carlos was on the ground right next to me, writhing in pain. I quickly got down on next to him. It was dark and I could barely see anything. Just one street light about ten feet away was helping me see what was wrong. He had his arms blocking most of his midsection.
“Baby, what’s wrong? What happened?”
He just gripped at the center of his stomach tighter, “Are you okay?”
He said this in between his groans and desperate attempts to breathe.
I nodded, “Yeah. I’m fine. What happened? What was that?”
“Drive by shooting. That was who we were running from.”
I looked down at where he was holding himself. There was a huge and growing blood stain across his shirt. It hadn’t occurred to me that he had been shot. It just seemed so surreal even considering what he had dealt with in the past few years. He promised that it was safe here and that he wouldn’t get hurt anymore. I started panicking again. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle something like this. Every other injury he had was pretty simple. I had seen almost everything from black eyes to even small stab wounds that just required a few stitches with minor bleeding. This was the first that I had seen that was actually fatal.
“Oh my god.”
He groaned again, “Riley, call for help.”
I pulled my phone out of my bag and dialed 911. The dispatcher picked up after about two rings, “911, what’s your emergency?”
“There’s been a drive by shooting right off of Chesnut.”
“How many victims?”
I looked down at Carlos, still holding himself tightly on the ground, “Just one.”
“Okay, we’ll send paramedics to the scene.”
I hung up and turned back to him. I pulled him up closer to me.
“You’re going to be okay.”
He shook his head, “I don’t think so. Those guys weren’t messing around. They wanted me dead.”
I felt myself ready to break down, “No. You’re not going to die. Help is on the way and you’re going to make it. I promise.”
His eyes started to close, “Baby, I’m sorry. I tried to make this work for us. I should have known it wasn’t going to be this easy.”
I pulled him closer and cradled his practically lifeless body, “Stop saying that. You’re going to be alright. I promise.”
He shook his head, “No. I won’t.”
He started to get weaker and weaker with each second that passed. I turned his head to face me.
“Look at me,” He could barely open his eyes, “Just look at me. I’m going to get you out of this okay. You’re going to make it.”
His body fell completely weak almost instantly. I started bawling instantly.
“No. Come back. You can’t do this. I love you.”
I heard sirens down the road as an ambulance pulled up next to us. The back doors opened and two paramedics hopped out of the truck. I gently rested his body down on the sidewalk again so they could maybe try to save him if they could. One of the paramedics checked the pulse on his neck for a few seconds. She shook her head and looked down at her watch.
“Time of death: 9:02 PM.”