Monday, November 17, 2008

Amaz and Grace...Chapter 2: Maria

CHAPTER 2 : Maria

A few minutes later a beautiful Hispanic girl with a black bandana used as a pony tail holder emerges from the school with three girls with her. The look on her face is not a happy one. She stomps ahead of her friends straight for Amaz. Their faces although beautiful have a certain hardness that only comes with living near the street. They are chola, no doubt about it. There is a definite sense of strength when Grace sees Maria, a visible confidence that exudes with every movement she makes. Maria is focused on Grace the whole time she walks to Amaz, looking very suspicious of the new white girl seated with her blood brother. Maria can sense trouble and something tells her that this girl was trouble.

“So now I’m too fat? First I’m too bossy, then I’m a bitch…Now , I can afford to miss a few meals?” Maria glares at Amaz who calmly arises from the bench.
“If I waited for you, I’d be waiting here much longer than I wanted is all. You in there, talking all your shit, I’d be here for like a half hour. And look, you’re alive…see you can miss a meal,” he shoots one of his sparkling grins at her and she laughs.
“So what is so important that you drag me out my lunch, mijo?” Maria says eyeing Grace suspiciously. Maria’s three friends approach them, as well. They purr a greeting to Amaz. They try their best to flirt with him as best they can without making it too obvious. They fail miserably. They, also, focus their attention on the beautiful girl on the picnic bench next to Amaz. They look at her with disdain while talking quietly amongst themselves.

“We need privacy,” Amaz tells Maria officially. He turns graciously to the other girls, “Would you beautiful ladies mind excusing us for just a few minutes?” Amaz says in a voice that oozes seduction. They look to Maria for affirmation. She gives them a nod and they start to walk back towards the school. They giggle and Grace hears one comment on how “she would do anything Amaz wants”.
“So, what’s up?” Maria asks Amaz, “and who’s your new friend? She’s a little light for these parts. Ain’t she Amaz?... She is a little too light for you.” Maria points her finger into her cousin’s chest hard.
“Maria, I expected more from my educated sista. I need you to open your mind and listen to what this girl’s got to say. Then let me know what you think, okay?” Amaz says gently patting Maria’s hair gently.
“Fine, fine- what’s going on, Amaz?” Maria asks impatiently not even bothering to look at Grace, and swatting his hand away with annoyance.
“You’re on, blanca angel,” Amaz tells Grace and backs away from Maria mockingly putting his hands up. Grace looks very uneasy but determined She gets up from the bench with all the confidence she can muster.
“Firstly, my name is Grace. I am new to this place, to this school, ” Grace looks around the courtyard and over at the graffiti covered building, over emphasizing her point.
“No kidding,” replies Maria matter-of-factly placing her hands on her hips.

“Well, I have assessed that to be able to attend this school in peace and be able to complete my education without having to defend myself, I will need help, “ Grace glances at Maria seeing if this is sinking in. From the look on Maria’s face, Grace realizes that it is beginning to slowly. “I need you to help me- to help me be safe, to help me get through the days in peace. I need you to protect me when Amaz cannot,” Grace tells her, as she does Maria shoots a quick look of disapproval to her cousin and shakes her head. “And, I am willing to pay you- very well.”

“First of all, you have lost your fucking mind, guera?” says placing a finger on Grace’s forehead, pushing her head back. She turns away from a surprised Grace to Amaz. “And, you, I am very surprised at you? What the fuck is going on here?” Maria yells, completely ignoring Grace now, focusing all her attention on Amaz. “I want to know what is going on and I want to know now,” she demands stamping her foot noticeably.
“Cool down, why you getting so hot? Amaz replies calmly unable to hide the laughter in his eyes. “Okay, hold on.” He turns to Grace, “I just want to talk to her alone for a minute. You sit there.”

Grace walks slowly back to the bench while Amaz puts his arm around his cousin’s shoulder and walks her away from the bench.
“Why am I getting…” Maria says as they start to walk away. She stops and takes a breath, then continues, “What is going on here, Amaz? What is this peduha got to do with you?” she asks pointing at Grace. “I want to know. This just doesn’t seem right. I smell trouble here, Amaz. Trouble for you, trouble for everything we got here.”

“Trouble, maybe,” Amaz starts, “but trouble that was brewing underground anyhow. This little blanca angel is what it will take to bring the rats to the surface. She already helped me out with some shit. Trust me on this- there will be trouble- but trouble that was a long time coming. She is the way of the future, she is going to help me clean house.”
Maria pauses and tried to take this all in glancing over at Grace on the bench. She shakes her head unable to let this sink in. She leans against a tree. She pulls a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket and lights one. “Okay, Amaz- do I want to know what this about?” Maria begins blowing out the smoke.
“Probably not,” he replies honestly. “I just have a feeling here. You need to trust me on this.”
“This feeling is more than just between your legs, right? Maria asks seriously taking a long drag on her cigarette.
“Well, I can’t deny that it is there, too,” he laughs, and Maria shoots him a nasty look. Amaz puts his hands up in mock defense then continues more seriously, “I feel that this is a way to a new beginning, like a new phase in our lives, in our business.”
“And your banking all that shit in this little punta here, “ she says and points to Grace who straightens herself up and stares at the cousins intently now. She is dying to know what they are saying.
“No, I am banking all this on myself- and on you,” Amaz replies walking slowly over to his cousin and takes the cigarette from her, taking a drag. He hands it back to her. “You say no, and I’m not in. Simple as that.”

Maria closes her eyes and tries to take this in. She takes a long drag of her cigarette. She slides down the tree into a semi sitting postion. She rests her elbows on her knees focusing on the frayed threads on her jeans. She looks over at Grace, then at Amaz. She looks down again, pulling the thread loose. He waits patiently as his cousin thinks things over. “Are you asking me this as your cousin or as my boss?” She looks up at Amaz. “This isn’t an order.” She gets up quickly, unexpectedly. She flicks her cigarette into the grass. She walks swiftly back to the bench. “So, what is this about?” she asks Grace, Amaz smiles as he hears her words.

“Okay, my name is Grace, “ Grace extends her hand out to Maria, who tentatively shakes it. “Pleased to meet you, Maria. I am here to employ you to help me get through this year at school- to let me under your wing of protection so that I may be safe. Without you, I don’t see me being able to survive here.”
“You got that right, greenga.” Maria grins at Grace. “But why here? Why even bother at this place- if you that intimidated to go here, then why not go to some white school?” Maria asks her straight out. Amaz looks at her, too, also very interested in her answer.

“Well, I have my reasons. One being, this is my home now. I have to go to school here. I really don’t have a choice about that. This is where we moved, so my options are not that great. I just want an education, safely. Am I not entitled to that simply because of the way I look?” Grace asks Maria honestly. Maria looks at Amaz shaking her head clicking her tongue audibly. He has heard that sound many times before; Maria is not happy.
“Trouble, Amaz, I see trouble,” Maria says emphatically. Amaz laughs heartily.
“Refreshing, isn’t it? But I see change, and with change comes what some may view as trouble.” he smiles and Maria shakes her head with annoyance putting her hand up to silence him..
“Fine. Me and my girls protect you from whatever may bother you- but what does this have to do with Amaz?” Maria asks Grace suspiciously. Grace is silent for a moment then looks at Amaz who shrugs his shoulders then nods for her to answer.
“You didn’t think she wasn’t gonna ask questions?” he grins at her already knowing
that Maria will not rest until all is revealed.
“Amaz has decided to date me,” Grace says looking at Maria. Maria’s jaw visibly drops. She darts her eyes at Amaz, then back to Grace. She turns away from her abruptly and gets in Amaz’s face.
“Jesus, Amaz, what do you got cooked up here? Have you lost your damn mind? You are seriously gonna pass this white chica off as your girl?” Maria asks in a angry whisper. Amaz takes her arm and leads her away from the bench gaining some privacy. Grace looks on anxiously, wishing she knew what was going on.
“Why not?” he asks her in a hushed tone, suddenly serious, as if he has to defend the relationship already. “I feel it would to be of a great advantage to me. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is the right thing to do. It’s like a door has opened and I have to go through it- I don’t know why, don’t know where it will go- but, for some reason I feel something pulling me through it. Something good. The winds of change are blowing. I am simply going with the flow, instead of against it.”
“That was beautiful, Amaz, but I think you both lost your fucking minds,” Maria says looking from him over to Grace. “This won‘t sit well. You in La Familia can‘t be passing a white girl off as your own. There are rules, Maz,“ she says seriously.
“No one is telling me who I can and can’t fuck,” Amaz says steadily folding his arms stubbornly, Maria smiles as she notices the childish gesture.
“No one is saying that, but you are passing her off as your girl…it ain’t the same. That shit you pulled with Freddie wasn’t fair. There was no way for him to even think that was your girl…It just doesn’t happen,” she gives Amaz a knowing look as he looks at her incredulously that she is so well of such recent events.
“How the fuck would you know about that already?” he asks her stunned.
“Toco called me right before you,” she says smiling too proud of her knowledge.
“You two gotta stop talking behind my back,” he says shaking his head.
“You gotta stop thinking with your dick,” she says challenging him.
“That ain’t even it, Maria. I swear. It’s just something that I feel I need to do. I don’t know why…It’s just a feeling. The change would be good for us,” he says solemnly looking over to Grace on the bench.
“Who am I to stand in the middle of all this change and shit?” Maria smiles and gives her cousin a hug, he returns it gratefully. She loweres her voice slightly speaking directly to Amaz, “If you feel this is the right thing to do, strictly for business reasons, and not no physical guy shit- then I will consider this,” Maria waits for his response.
“This is business, Maria. Strictly business,” Amaz replies putting his hand up in the traditional scouts honor pose.
“Okay, Amaz, if this is what you feel is right, then you got it, “ Maria replies and starts to walk towards Grace again. Maria points to Grace, “Now, I will be watching you like a fucking hawk. I see anything happen to him at all, and you go down. I will bring everything down on you. I will make sure of that. You got me?” Maria gets right in Grace’s face. Grace nods wordlessly.
“I would never want anything to happen to Amaz. I would not be able to live with myself if something happened to him because of me,” she answers her simply. Amaz looks over at Grace, his eyes widen at her statement, but he says nothing. Maria, however, cannot hold back as well as her cousin. She never could. She walks back towards Amaz.
“See, Amaz, This is what I am worried about. Just let me put this out there again, okay? So, maybe I can figure this out” Maria says aloud but it‘s almost like a thought to herself that slipped out. Amaz who nods numbly. Maria turns back to Grace, “Now, what exactly do you think is gonna happen here?”
“I am willing to pay you to keep me safe. That is all. I want to be part of your group. To fit in, you can make that happen,” Grace tells her putting it as simply as she can.
“There’s no way you’re gonna fit in. I ain’t fucking God, greenga. Neither is he,” she says pointing to Amaz. “Not that he don’t think it.” Maria grins at her cousin, and he laughs. “ I can’t control these people and how they feel about you being here.”

“No, you can’t, but I can. I just need a way in. You and Amaz are that way in. Once I am there, things will be better. But, I need two strong people to bring me to the party. Once I am there, I will be able to hang- I just need you to protect what I can’t see, ” Grace states emphatically.
“Okay, so how much money are we talking about?” Maria asks getting down to business.
“How much do you think is fair?” Grace asks her back quickly.
“How much do you think it’s worth to put myself through the trouble and the questions. Shit, I can’t even think of what that would be worth, “ Maria answers, then continues, “ Three hundred a week to start.” He smiles, shaking his head at the figure Maria has thrown out and looks at Grace intently. “I say to start because right now, I don’t know what I’m into- and how hard or easy this will be- so that is my starting figure- my price may go up, or it may go down. I’ll see,” Maria smiles knowing her price is way too high..
“I will pay you two hundred... It‘s all I can afford, ” Grace answers her quietly. “Who knows, in a three weeks you may decide not to charge me at all.”
“I knew you’d get a kick outta her,” Amaz laughs hoping that some kind of ice may start to chip away between these two women.
“You are funny, girl,” Maria says to Grace. “I got friends. What do you got? I don’t
need you, you need me- you keep that in mind.” Maria pauses. “Two hundred? Hmmmm…If you are able to pay me that, I still don’t get why you just don’t pay for a damned private school?“
“I have six hundred dollars…which will buy me three weeks of protection. I think that will be enough…I’m hoping that will be enough. It’s all I have. Six hundred doesn’t buy private school,” she tells Maria solemnly.
“Three weeks?” Maria laughs. “You think after three weeks you’ll just be able to fit right in?”

“I’m gonna try. That’s all I can really do,” Grace answers her honestly. Maria genuinely smiles this time. “Okay, I think we got ourselves a deal. I want my money Monday morning, then we will start. Hell, you might as well go home because I don’t do nothing without the cash up front.”

“Well, then it won’t be a problem to start right now,” Grace says and pulls an envelope out of her bag and hands it to Maria. “You’ll see it’s all there.” Maria peeks into the envelope, flips through the money without taking it out of the envelope then puts it in her purse.
“You always walk around with this much cash?” Maria asks shaking her head. “Shit, this is gonna be harder than I thought. Well, at least you come prepared. I like that,” Maria grins. “Now, I guess we better get you inside. If you want to get an education, you gotta go to school. I have the rest of the day free…”
“Well, I’m not applying today. Today was meant to hook up with you guys and have the weekend to socialize. I am not starting til Monday,” she says looking at them expectantly.
Maria looks at Amaz and shrugs, “So, I guess we better be going shopping, chica. No girl of mine will be dressing like that.” Maria eyes the sweatshirt wrapped around her waist…The ill fitting Capri pants. she shakes her head.
“Now that’s the spirit- go shopping. Be women,” he says as he ducks a slap from Maria.
“Fuck you, Amaz,” Maria grins, “Remember, dear brother, this is for you.”
“I know, I know…I thank you,” Amaz replies. “So, I guess I will meet you at The Dream later tonight. Keep your eyes open and that cell on at all times.”
“I will, take it easy” Maria tells him. She turns to Grace, “You stay here, I will be back with the car.” Maria starts to walk towards the parking lot taking her phone out of her purse. “ Shit, I gotta figure out what to tell my girls. Fucking running with a guera. What am I thinking y’all?” she mutters to herself as she walks away.
“Well, I guess I should thank you,” Grace says to Amaz as they watch Maria walk away.
“For what?” he says absently stretching his arms out.
“If you hadn’t convinced her, she never would’ve went for it. Why? Why did you change your mind?” she asks him her green eyes meeting his.
“I don’t know, I can’t explain it. I just feel it. Felt it since I saw you for the first time- you are an opportunity. I don’t know why or how- but you are going to change things, or I need you to change things. Hell, I don’t really know. I just know that I am willing to find out where this hand is going to lead me. Good enough?” he says and smiles a brilliant smile at her.
“Good enough, “ she answers and smiles back at him, feelings of warmth filling up inside her. It’s a good feeling. A red Camaro blazes up to the curb and beeps. Out of the driver’s side steps a gorgeous Latina in a body baring dress and heels. She walks over around the front of the car and halts leaning against the hood of the car’s hood like a one of those girls at a car show. Grace looks at her questioningly.
“Who is that?” Grace asks already thinking she knows the answer.
“That, my angel, is your competition. My bitch and Camaro,” Amaz says slyly. “You didn’t think I had no other ladies now, did you?”
“I never thought that. I guess I … well,” Garce stammers slightly. “Are you serious? I mean, you and the “bitch”?” Grace asks with an innocent grin.
Amaz laughs at this, “Well, I guess so- we do some serious shit.” He gets up from the bench wiping his hands on his jeans.
A pimped out pink Cadillac pulls behind the Camaro. Grace can see Maria in the driver’s seat. She exits the car and walks slowly by the Camaro and the girl. She gives the girl a disgusted look and shakes her head dramatically. Grace notices Maria doesn’t say anything to the girl as she passes her.
“Well, looks like I’m outta here, Amaz says steadily to Grace. “Maria will take care of you now. Adios mi blanca angel,” Amaz says and leans down placing a soft kiss on her cheek. He turns and slowly walks toward the street leaving her alone on the bench. She sees him stop to talk to Maria on the his way there. Grace watches them and the girl by the car as she waits. She feels the jealousy start to well up in her gut.
“You sure about this, Mejo?” Maria asks him as they stop in passing.
“I’m sure,” Amaz replies looking back at Grace. “Time to stir the pot.”
“You are crazy, but hell, nothing new about that. I see nothing changed with the chucha cuerera,” Maria says pointing over to the Camaro.
“Maria, is that anyway to talk about your cousin’s lady?” he grins mischievously, not
really caring about the crack.
“Lady? Please, don’t make me laugh, Amaz. She’s a slut. You just watch that tramp. She’ll wind up getting pregnant just to get her claws in you,” she shakes her head with contempt.
“So hard on everyone, my dear cousin,” he says shaking his head in mock disappointment.
“I have to be… someone’s gotta watch out for you” Maria says back.
“Thank you, but don’t waste your worries on me- I am fine, better than fine,“ he replies and gives her a hug. “Take care of her, Maria- and take care of yourself.” he says as he glances over at Grace.
“She’ll be okay. Once, I’m through with her that is, “ Maria smiles. “I’ll see you later.”
“Okay, adios, “ Amaz says putting his hand up as he saunters toward his car.
Maria walks over to Grace and sits next to her on the bench. They both watch as Amaz grabs the girl at the car. Amaz kisses her deeply on the hood on his car, his hands exploring every inch of her, it seems. He pulls away from her and leads her to the passenger side door. He opens it for her, and she steps into the car giving the girls a wave as she does. He closes her door, then gives a wave and walks to the driver’s side. The car speeds away.
“The only good thing about this is that maybe he might be drawn away from that slut long enough to come to his senses,” Maria snarls watching the car pull down the block.
“So, I gather she is not a friend of yours,” Grace asks her eyes on the car, as well.
“Magdelena, named for the slut she is, and the saint she isn’t. Crazy bitch. She’d fuck anything with legs, but now she got Amaz so she don’t have to.” Maria explains bitterness lining her voice. “She is no good, she is trouble. Hell, maybe as much as you are- but right now I gotta get him away from her. And you may be able to do just that.”
“I could try,” Grace says to her smiling with a sudden determination.
“Hell, girl, you don’t gotta try. You doing something right. He’s got something for you- cause everything he has told me is pointing at you. I don’t get it yet, but I will,” Maria says scratching her head.
“So, how long has Amaz been with this Magdelena for? Are they serious?” Grace says as they start walking towards the car.
“Serious meaning what? She’s a slut, and he’s no better- but he is a man, and that is expected. Serious, like are they together, like a couple? Well, he goes with other women- yes, but just as flings. She seems to be the constant. Does he care about her? I don’t know. I think he likes her, he likes women in general. But, if you are asking about if he loves her- I say no,” Maria says plainly shaking the image of the girl out of her head. When they get to the car and Maria motions for Grace to get in.
“So where are we going?” Grace asks.
“We are going to get you some real clothes, show off that bod. Can’t be walking around with a fuckin bag over you like that,” Maria laughs. “Shit girl, how do you leave the house with something like that on?”
“I figured it was best not to draw attention to myself,” Grace replied looking down at her baggy sweatshirt, and laughed. “Pretty bad, heh?”
“Very bad. But, I guess you have a point there. Hey, but now that you are running with me. We gotta show you off,” Maria grinned. “Barrio chic- I think you can dig.”
“Well, I am willing,” Grace answers and looks out the window at the neighborhood around her.
“So, what brought you to this beautiful part of the world?” Maria asks as she starts the car. “Must be some hard times- people usually try to get outta here, not come in,” Maria says innocently, but deep down is hoping to delve up any info she can on the new kid in town and why she has seemed to have clung herself to her brother, and to her.
“I go where I have to,” Grace pauses and flips her hair back. “It’s not like I really have a choice in what my parents want. I do what I’m told. So I’m here,” Grace answers modestly.
Maria takes that in and nods, “I guess you go with your family. That makes sense. Don’t talk much about yourself, huh?” Maria asks her trying to dig a little deeper.
“Not much to say, really,” Grace replies looking out the window.
“Well, just being friendly,” Maria answers her back. “Fine, you don’t got to tell me anything. But I warn you that I will figure you out- I figure everyone out sooner or later,” Maria challenges her then honks and gives the finger to the car in front of her.
“Thank you for being friendly and trying to make this easier,” Grace says sincerely finally looking at Maria. “I guess I really don’t want to talk about my family. Oh, and I invite you to try and figure me out- I want to know what you find,” Grace challenges her back with a sweet smile.
“Shit, girl. If you weren’t paying me, I’d slap you. You are a mystery, I’ll give you that. You may be able to play this mystery shit with Amaz, but I ain’t all googley eyed over you. I will figure you out and you better hope I like what I find,” Maria says and looks right into Grace’s eyes. Grace looks defiantly back at her, neither girl looks away. Finally a honk from a car behind them stops the face-off in the car.
“But, I think we gonna have some fun. We needed a change around here. Things getting too boring ,” Maria says changing the subject. “Shit if you don’t seem familiar to me in some way,” Maria looks at Grace who looks down at her lap. “ I just can’t place where I would have seen you before- hell, I don’t know many white folks.”
“I don’t know, but let’s just focus on the fun part,” Grace says trying to change the subject. “I definitely need some of that,” Grace states dramatically as she looks out the window again.
“Okay, no more prying- let’s just go have some fun. Girl, when I am through with you, Amaz tongue is gonna be hanging to his feet. Shit, I can’t wait to see Magdelena when she sees you,” Maria giggles to herself.
“So what is our plan?” Grace asks turning to Maria, the excitement starting to form.
“Well, you are going to get done over by me, personally, which alone is worth the money you gave me before,” Maria says pushing a stray hair behind her ear. “Then we will hit The Dream later on after I introduce you to my girls.” Maria tells her as they pull into the mall parking lot.
“What is The Dream?” Grace asks a little nervous, but excited nonetheless.
“A dance club kinda rave party we hit on the weekends to blow off some steam. It’s cool. Slamming music, cool people. It’s our place. You’ll be safe.” Maria tells her as she pulls into the parking space.
“Will Amaz be there?” Grace asks her quietly.
“Yes, he will be there, “ Maria smiles. “Shit, this is gonna be fun. And to think I thought this was gonna be a boring night. Hell, girl, you ready to give it up?”
“I guess so. Let’s go, “ Grace answers and follows Maria tentatively into the mall.

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