Thunderous voices splintered my cozy sleep into a million pieces. What the fuck time was it? I jolted upright in bed and let my eyes adjust to the pitch-black room. I turned to my left and jammed my thumb against the home button on my phone.
Four in the morning?
Why was Papa yelling at four in the morning?
I pulled my slumber-laden body from the warmth of my bed and crept into the hallway. The thunder grew louder. There were two voices. One I recognized as my father and the other one, the low and grumbly one with far too much attitude to be shouting back at Papa, that was Santana.
He was the only explanation for why my father was shouting at that hour. I rolled my lips between my teeth and moved to the top step. Smooth wood beneath my feet granted me silent passage, thank god. I didn’t want to make a single noise.
I tugged locks of wild sandy hair behind my ear so I could hear. The thunder grew more intense. My belly clenched as I listened.
“All I asked you to do was go to school, Santana! You can’t do one thing I ask? You always fuck up everything righteous I set in front of you.” I caught a glimpse of Papa as he paced near the front door.
If I could see him then he damn sure would be able to see me. I pulled my feet into the shadows and studied my blood red toenails. They shone like sinful candies even in the dark.
“Pop, I tried to do what you wanted and it didn’t work out. I’m tired of you forcing me on a path that I never wanted. I didn’t want to go away to school. That’s what you wanted for me. I don’t fit into the box you’re trying to put me in.” Santana came into view next.
He was broader than I remembered. I hadn’t seen him since he left for college. Thick wedges of muscle and hard lines moved beneath his white t-shirt every time he gestured wildly. Seeing him over Facetime calls and pictures was far different than seeing him twenty feet away from me.
Even though Papa was chewing him out, I was happy he was back. I still needed to know why he was back though, so I listened on.
Papa rested an elbow on the banister and it fussed beneath his weight. He looked at Santana with pinched brows and narrowed green eyes, examining him like a shrink. His lips were tight as if he had to struggle to keep words inside himself instead of launching them at Santana’s head like projectiles. Papa’s neck was tight as he tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling.
Tension settled into the silence, coating it thickly. I prayed neither of them could hear my thumping heart. I flared my nostrils to suck in more air so I didn’t make a noise through my mouth.
“Come with me. I want to show you something in the restaurant,” Papa finally spoke after a long beat of silence. Santana regarded him, his eyebrow raised and his bulky arms folded, guarding his chest. He knew Papa liked to hit when he was angry and most of those jabs landed square in the middle of Santana’s chest. It didn’t matter if he was twice Papa’s size.
Santana uttered a confused, “Now?”
“Now.” Papa’s words were gravel between gritted teeth as he stalked off. Santana hesitated a moment, pushing a hand through his hair before following Papa.
Once they were both out of earshot, I trembled with an exhale.
What the entire fuck was that?
I wanted a climactic ending. I wanted to know why my brother was home from school so early. It was only April and he wasn’t supposed to come home for the summer until the end of May.
I wanted the dramatic details that always came with Santana and Papa’s arguments. I fully expected him to storm up the stairs in a tornado of fury and fall to my bed, threatening to snap it in half with his bulk as he vented. I expected to calm him with silent nods while I fingered his smooth midnight-colored hair. None of that happened though.
I stood to my feet, passing by Papa’s room and catching hints of his familiar scent. He always smelled like food and cologne. It wasn’t a bad mixture. It was one I came to know and love. It signaled security and warmth. It made me think about our family restaurant, Papa’s.
My mind spun backward into golden-coated nostalgia. I saw myself with tawny hair in long bouncy ponytails adorned with colorful baubles running around the tables in the sitting area of the restaurant while Santana chased me. I could still hear the way he growled, pretending to be a scary monster.
I was never scared though.
If anything, the thought of a monster chasing me was exciting. The thought of the monster catching me made me burn. I was never a normal kid though. At least not normal by everyone else’s standards.
I always wondered what it would be like to actually meet the monsters under my bed instead of chasing them away. I wanted to know why they were monsters and if I could be one too. My thoughts were dark enough to qualify.
Nobody saw the vein of black icy granite running through my otherwise sterling shell. That’s all I really was. A shell.
I went to school and got straight A’s. I made the honor roll every semester. I volunteered. I was captain of the fucking cheer squad for god’s sake. I even applied to Dartmouth as Papa instructed. I got accepted and I was ready to start in the fall after graduating high school as valedictorian.
There was something hungry and unstated inside of me. Something growling and needy. It raced through the shadows in my mind until I fell asleep, tangled in my sheets.
I woke to fractured rays of sunlight filtering through the blinds. Slices of memory flashed in my brain as I recalled waking up to Papa and Santana yelling at four in the damn morning.
Santana was home.
My throat tensed as joy buzzed through me like espresso. It was warm and sharp and it propelled me down the hall to my brother’s room. His door didn’t seem as big as it did when I was little but it still held the same lure.
Santana’s name was fixed to the heavy wooden door with bold red letters. Thick and glossy. A big N.W.A. poster stared back at me and I regarded it contemplatively as I always did. Ice Cube’s infamous scowl rivaled Santana’s.
I pushed my way into his dark room and found him sleeping. His large frame swallowed most of the bed. I settled into the small sliver beside him and his arms found my middle, pulling me in close.
When he grumbled my name, his stubbly chin tickled my ear. “Sammie.” I gave his big hands a squeeze as they nestled against my flat stomach.
“Santana, what are you doing home? Why was Papa yelling at you at four in the morning when you both know I had to get up for school? Did you drive all the way here from school?” Questions grew wings and flew out of my mouth landing on his head.
He pushed out an annoyed groan and released me from his hold. I smirked a bit because only I could get under his skin in a matter of seconds. “Sammie, mind your business. I should have known your little nosey ass was lurking in the shadows last night.” His voice was heavy with sleep.
“Always,” I quipped.
“Yeah, well I can’t give you any details so don’t ask. Just be happy I’m home. Now we can hang.” He finally cracked open an ebony eye to look at me and I saw him blink a few times before he sat up straight in bed. “You grew up a little, Sammie. How long was I gone again?” He chuckled.
“Too long. You went away and got muscles and an attitude problem evidently.” I quirked an eyebrow up and fought off the smirk burning its way to my lips.
“Nah, I’ve always had the muscles and the attitude, sis.” He aimed a long finger toward his bedroom door and we both glanced at the NWA poster.
I gave a half-shrug. “Yeah, can’t really argue with that.” Santana was always the troublemaker between us. It drove Papa up the fucking wall. I glanced at the clock in his room and muttered curse words under my breath. I was going to be late if I didn’t get in the shower in the next two minutes. I hurried to the doorway, glancing at my brother.
“I’m the one with the attitude but you’re the one with the mouth like a sailor. Nobody would ever guess how much venom came in that pretty little package.” Santana stood to his feet shooting over my head.
I could see him better like this. Better than I could last night. He was still Santana. Still with perfect golden skin and an annoyingly symmetrical face with the bone structure of a Ford model. Something about his aura shifted and I felt an edge to his energy that wasn’t there before.
He was always mouthy and rebellious but now there was something…else. I blinked in the face of it, my eyes searching his. One side of his mouth lifted in a smirk. “Stop trying to figure me out, Sammie,” he said, shaking his head.
I rolled my eyes and headed into my room to take a shower. I didn’t have time to pluck Santana apart. That was a full-time job and I had other shit to do.
I breezed into Andrews High like a queen. The double doors opened for me with a whoosh and the intense noise quieted a decibel as I parted the sea of students with my girls behind me. Once the doors closed behind us, the noise resumed and we were swallowed into the folds.
Kids lining the lockers on the sides of the hall greeted me by calling out my name and I responded with a wave that would make Kate Middleton jealous. A smile pushed the apples of my cheeks up as I moved through the congested hall.
The rest of the cheer squad got snagged by their respective boyfriends but I headed to my locker. I didn’t have a boyfriend. I made it my duty to get through senior year without dating a single guy. Boys my age were obnoxious. So when Brady Thomas leaned his lanky self against my locker, blocking me from getting in, I sighed heavily and crossed my arms like a steel X across my breasts.
“What’s up, Sam?” He was tall and ropy with smooth and handsome features that most girls swooned over. He had these sleepy ice-blue eyes and thick, honey blonde hair that tumbled across his forehead in short curls.
I wasn’t interested.
I liked my men about ten years older with facial hair and an edge that couldn’t be figured out. Brady had all the edge of a bowl of pudding. Never stopped him from trying his hand though.
“Brady, unless you want me to open my locker through your chest cavity. Move.” I rolled my eyes so hard my head throbbed.
“Why are you so damn mean? I just want to talk. You know the Spring Social is coming up and…”
“No. Save your oxygen. Go ask Kylie or someone else on the squad. Not me.” I shoved him to the side and opened my locker. His thick brows fell with a frown.
“I’ve been asking you out since we were sophomores. We’re graduating next month and you can’t throw me a bone? I mean beyond…” He licked his lips and my mind flashed to his face between my thighs. Brady Thomas was only good for one thing but at least he did that one thing extremely well.
I leaned in and whispered to him so that nobody else could hear the foul language I was about to use. “Take what you can get, Brady. Plus, eating my pussy is way better than taking me to a stupid ass social and you know it.” I hung my pink book bag up in the slender metal space and grabbed a few notebooks before slamming the door with a metal creak and bam. Brady stood with his mouth slack and his eyebrows to his hairline.
I was composed of two different people, Samira the model student and perfect daughter and Samira the dark, bitchy, firecracker. The latter only existed in my head though. I couldn’t let her out. It could be dangerous.