(This is one of 10 preview chapters for Boys & Girls: Part I. You can see the rest of the chapters on the official page)
September 14th, 2016
Kinsky, California, USA
In a shabby home in the middle of South Kinsky, a young and slightly overweight black man cooked on an old gas stove. The smell of chorizo and eggs filled the air, and when the man felt satisfied with his work, he took the pan off the heat and wiped his hands on a nearby hand towel.
The man took a trip down the hallway, where in between two doors he loudly banged his hand against the wall, followed by an impassioned “Good mooooorning!”. He opened both of the doors before walking back to the kitchen to set up the plates.
Russell groggily got out of bed, groaning and massaging his temples. He put on a quick pair of gym shorts and an old North California University shirt which had its sleeves cut off. Walking out of his room, he saw his younger brother Mahalo run out in front of him, taking his seat in the kitchen.
Russell and Mahalo immediately started eating their food. The other man looked at the two in delight. “As you can see, I cooked my special to congratulate Rus on his big win last night.”
Russell scooped up a big helping, putting it in his mouth. “I appreciate your post-game blessing, Billy.”
“And let’s not forget his contributions to the team: one deflected pass!”
Mahalo laughed at the comment. Russell looked up at his older brother, smiling. “You like to keep my ego in check, don’t you?”
“Can’t hurt to.” Billy replied, smiling back.
Sometime passed, and Russell finished his meal. He got some more suitable clothes on, – including his pair of shades – then walked to the door, passing by Mahalo and rubbing the top of his head. “Alright, I’m headed off.” He said, grabbing a light jacket and his keys off from the rack by the front entrance.
“Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, aight?” Billy said, pointing his fork at him.
Russell looked back. “I did what you do, I’d be in prison.”
Billy laughed. “Have fun!”
Russell walked out to the street, where his Hellcat waited for him. He unlocked the car, got in, and drove off.
Russell had gone through most of the day catching up on various errands for that weekend. That night, however, he made one last stop to a house. The house was much larger than his own, and on the other side of the neighborhood. As he got out, he saw two guys near the entrance, around his age and of athletic build.
“Yo, Rus.” One of them spoke as he approached. Russell fistbumped the two.
“Isaac’s inside. Says he was waiting for you.” The other boy said.
Russell waved behind him, as he walked up to the door. “Word.”
The inside of the house was lively, filled with fellow members of the Kinsky High team. Loud music played from some speakers around the first floor, whittled into merely bass over the loud discussions of those inside. Russell walked over into the kitchen, where he saw Isaac pouring himself a drink from a keg in the corner of the room. He turned, and saw Russell standing in front of him.
“Rus, my man!” Isaac leaned over, and the two patted each other on the back.
“Nick was outside, told me you were waitin’ for me.”
Isaac looked up at the taller boy, and smiled. “Oh, I was. Come on upstairs — I got something I wanna show you.”
Isaac’s room, in comparison to Russell’s, was massive. Near a king-sized bed was a dresser, with a single locked drawer near its bottom right. “You know, couple of days ago I got somethin’ nice, just for the two of us.” He took a keyring out of his pocket, and used it to unlock the drawer. His hand traced over an unopened whiskey bottle, a pack of condoms, and a cigar, before he finally found it.
“I call it… the Captain’s Special.”
He turned back towards Russell, dangling the plastic bag in front of him. Russell looked at the bag in surprise — it was marijuana, and a high quality breed no doubt.
“Where the hell’d you get that?” Russell inquired.
“Okay, so you know Carmichael’s guy? The one who sold that black tar heroin to those sorority girls?”
“You… you didn’t get it from him, did you?”
“Nah, nah. But he recommended me a guy. Dude gave me this whole bag for eighty bucks, said it was the friend’s discount.”
Russell looked at him skeptically, pointing towards the bag. “I’ma let you try it first.”
Isaac got to work, taking out a paper and filling the weed inside. He was just about done rolling the first joint when he stopped, and turned back to Russell.
“Actually, I wanna invite Maurice to smoke, too.”
“Thought you said it was the ‘Captain’s Special’.”
“I mean, you see him last night? He’s gonna steal my fuckin’ job at this rate.”
Russell shrugged. “I don’t got a problem with it.”
“Alright, gimme a sec. Be right back!” Isaac walked quickly by him, going out the door and down the stairs. In the living room Maurice sat at a couch with a red cup in his hand, surrounded by a couple of informally-invited girls. Isaac announced his presence.
“Ladies, ladies! Mind if I take the man real quick?”
Maurice looked up. A girl leaning on his shoulder got off of it, and smiled. “No problem, Isaac baby.”
Isaac smiled, then went to put his arm around Maurice’s shoulder, bringing him upstairs. Isaac closed the door behind him, and turned to the other two. “Alright, now we can really get the fun started.”
Some time passed. Isaac, Maurice, and Russell had been smoking for awhile, sitting down and looking out the large window in Isaac’s room.
“You know,” Isaac started, taking another puff. “I’m surprised we’ve done so good so far. Maybe we really got a team together.”
Russell blew the smoke out of his mouth. “Listen, as long as Coach Haa ain’t bustin’ my balls, I’m happy.”
“Oh really? Aren’t you the Haa whisperer? You’re my senior, after all.”
Russell shook his head. “Nah, man. Two years defense cap and I still don’t know what his fuckin’ problem is.” The other two boys laughed at this.
There was a moment of silence that passed afterwards. The smell lingered in the room, but at this point the boys felt relaxed. Russell broke the quiet.
“Hey Isaac, you invite Kat to this party?”
Isaac was thrown offguard. “Oh, n-no, I… just, you know, I didn’t… I didn’t think it’d be her thing.”
Russell appeared indifferent to the answer, looking back out the window. Isaac tried switching the topic.
“Speaking of which, when you guys gonna get yourself a girl?”
Russell shook his head. “I ain’t lookin’ right now, boss.”
“Ah, yeah. You’re one of those good Christian men.” Isaac then turned towards Maurice on the other end of the chairs. “What about you, Maurice? I saw you downstairs. Any of those bitches catch your eye?”
Maurice, who had stayed in relative silence up to this point, became embarrassed. “Oh, uh, no, man… I don’t really wanna just, date some random girl I don’t know like that.”
Isaac smiled. “Smart! Good thinking. Okay, okay, but what about girls you do know? Like… that one friend of your sister’s, Ash or whoever?”
Maurice shook his head, clearly flushed. “No, not her.”
Isaac leaned back in his chair. “Got it, not into blue-haired chicks. Reasonable. How about Natalie? I hear she recently broke up with her old guy, the theater dude. I’m sure we can get Kat or Sadja to talk to her for you.”
“Isaac, listen man… I don’t really want to talk about this.”
Isaac shut his mouth. He moved back into his chair. “Yeah, yeah. Of course man, it’s a touchy subject.” He took another puff from the joint. “Don’t worry about it too much. You’ll find somebody. We all find somebody, you just gotta look is all.”
The three boys watched as the sky began to pinken, its sun setting into the other side of the world.
It was still night. Cole was in his room, doing some of his homework. His earbuds blared music into his ears, when suddenly it was cut off by the sound of an incoming caller. Cole gave an annoyed sigh and looked over at his phone. When he checked the ID, however, he sprang to attention.
There was a crackling of silence on the other end. Cole began to feel himself getting nervous. Finally, a voice answered him.
“W-what’s wrong? Did you learn something?” Cole got up from his desk, and began to pace back and forth in the room.
He heard a deep breathing on the other end. “I got back the autopsy report.”
Cole stopped. “The autopsy report?”
“Mendocino County does an autopsy on every perceived suicide that comes in.” There was another break in speaking. Cole began to feel himself tense up. His legs began to wobble. “Cole, we were way off. It wasn’t bullying, or the fact she felt unloved, o-or a-a-anything like that…” Maria’s voice began to break at the end, and Cole could hear her tearing up on the other end. Cole himself began to sweat down his temples and his vision became blurry. He grabbed the side of his dresser and held it tightly.
“Maria… what was it?”
“I… I’m not going to use the exact words they told me, but…” Maria cried as she sputtered out the words. “T-they… there was… evidence of repeated sexual abuse, over the past six months.”
Cole’s body turned numb. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. For a few moments, he became blind and deaf. At some point, which he did not realize, he began to push off his dresser, and look back towards his desk.
“C-Cole… do you… do you think…”
With weak legs he took steps, small steps, to the desk. A place that felt an eternity away. On that desk, he picked up a framed photograph. It shook in his hands. He eyed it closely. It was a picture they had taken that July, at Maria’s birthday party. The entire group had gathered outside, with Maria in the center. Everyone was smiling, looking into the camera.
“Do you think… it was one of us?”