Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Amaz and Grace....Chapter One....any feedback is appreciated

Amaz and Grace Copyright 2007
By Annemarie Bogart

Chapter 1: The Deal (revised)

“Good morning, Chica” says the large Hispanic driver. There is no verbal response as Grace drops her coins in the receptacle and tentatively walks to the back of the bus. Her stomach is in knots thinking about her first day at her new school and meeting him again face to face. She hangs onto the overhead bar as she searches for a seat, stumbling awkwardly as the bus takes off again. A couple of Hispanic girls whisper to each other and giggle. A young mocha skinned teenage boy looks her up and down provocatively making Grace’s cheeks redden slightly. Finally, finding a seat, she sits down heavily. She looks out the window avoiding the stares she can feel on her. She opens her backpack trying to bide time. She pulls the picture from the protection of her notebook. Losing herself in his eyes, Grace barely notices the bus has stopped. She glances casually out the window. There it is, in all its deteriorated glory; William Harrison High School. Grace hurriedly tucks the photo safely in her notebook and rushes off the bus.
The large two story faded stucco building is set back ominously off the main street. The bus drives off leaving Grace on the curb surveying the grounds around her. She spots a few kids hanging out on the front tattered lawn. Some are laughing, others practicing new dance moves.. She spots a few boys throwing a football. The distinct smell of marijuana drifts through the air. There is rap music blaring from car speakers, different songs seemingly battling each other in volume. Most of the students are Hispanic, a fact she knew already. Gang members are well represented by their colors and blatant tattoos. This is a rough school, ranked one of the worst in the city, another fact she had been privy to months before when she did her research. Graffiti covers certain sections of the building, testament that the school board has simply given up on washing it away. A security guard casually passes students through a metal detector at the front entrance; somehow this does little to ease her mind. She spots two girls getting into a hair-pulling punching brawl in the front of the school. “Nice,” she thinks to herself, shaking her head. To her far left a group of boys are shouting sexual slang to a couple of scantily clad girls that are walking by them. The girls smile in appreciation that they are noticed. “Just keeps getting better and better,” she says softly to herself. “Maybe this was a mistake. I could just turn around and get back on the bus…pretend none of this ever happened.”
She shields the sun from her eyes and looks toward the northwest corner of the front courtyard. That is where she sees him, exactly where she knew he would be… the boy from the picture. All thoughts of turning back immediately fade. The boy is wearing a black well worn leather jacket. He is surrounded by a group of equally rough looking boys, the kind you cross the street to avoid. Grace takes a deep breath. “This is it,” she says to herself and walks defiantly in his direction. She ignores the taunts she receives as she walks slowly and with determination directly to him. She notices he is looking away from her and doesn’t notice her approach. She’s close enough now that two of his friends protectively block her path.“Hey, look what we got here, Miguel,” says the shorter boy as he eyes Grace and walks completely around her absorbing every angle of her.“New meat, hey Ricky,” replies Miguel, as he touches her blond hair as she tries to pass. Grace forcefully slaps his hand away from her avoiding eye contact. Her eyes remain focused only on the boy she has waited so long to see, never wavering. “Hey, this one is feisty, Miguel,” Ricky laughs. “Maybe she thinks she is out of our league.” He turns to Grace, “Hey, Snow White, you think you’re too good for us? Is that it?” She notices two more boys walking towards them. She sighs heavily. This male attention, it is not new to her. Long blond hair, toned proportioned body, flawless pale complexion: the perfect media standard package. It’s been a curse as well as a blessing. Right now, curse being the appropriate choice. “Who’s this, Miguel? Friend of yours?” says the very dark skinned boy with a visible jagged scar across his left cheek. “I’m Toco. Welcome to Harrison,” he states evenly checking her out from head to toe. Grace tries to avoid his eyes, not out of fear, but rather her own personal way of keeping control of what little she can. Her eyes stay with her target sitting on the graffiti scrawled picnic bench. He seems to be in the process of giving a slight pat on the backside of a very voluptuous Hispanic girl. The girl laughs a bit too loudly, a bit too fake and takes a seat at the bench next to the picnic table. Toco follows Grace’s stare over his shoulder. He shakes his head adamantly. “Amaz, looks like you got company.” Toco says and makes an exaggerated step sideways making way for her to get to Amaz, the reason Grace is here. Amaz looks over when he hears his friend call his name. His vision is partly blinded from just looking toward the sun, so he can’t quite make her out yet, but he’s pretty sure it’s a female. His eyes start to focus on the incredibly beautiful girl standing there- she looks almost like an angel. Almost too beautiful to be real…especially in this place. The girl who was sitting on the bench, the one that Grace saw flirting with him earlier stands up and starts approaching her fast.“I think you’re lost Cinderella,” the girl starts, waving her well manicured hands wildly, “you better get your white ass…”Amaz interrupts the girl abruptly. “Rosa, shut it. Go get me my cigarettes from the car.” Amaz says evenly pointing towards the parking lot. The girl looks at him incredulously.“Amaz, who does this greenga…,” she begins to plead, pointing a red dagger-like fingernail at Grace, but Amaz holds up his hand to silence her.“Rosa, now,” Amaz states calmly. Rosa gives Grace the finger and walks slowly towards the parking lot to retrieve the cigarettes, her annoyance amplified with every step.Amaz stands from the bench. He is about six foot one, and strikingly handsome with chiseled good looks yet with a toughness that makes him seem almost untouchable. His hair is jet black and wavy; he wears it longer than the rest of his gang. As he moves closer she sees his eyes are a more piecing hazelnut brown than she has thought. Those eyes rest solely on her. Amaz stares at the girl for an uncomfortable amount of time, in Grace’s estimation anyhow. He is still trying to grasp the fact that she is real. Regaining composure, he finally speaks. “Please come,” he states, beckoning her closer. As she gets closer, he realizes the closer she gets the more beautiful she becomes. She walks gracefully towards him with steady even steps. There isn’t a trace of fear in her eyes. Only determination. When she is about five feet away she stops and looks up at him. He looks into her surreal sea green eyes as she speaks. “My name is Grace. I would like to offer you a proposition, but I would like to be able to speak with you in private,” she looks around at the surrounding group. “That is if you are sure you’ll be safe.” Amaz grins at her bravado, and gives a nod to Toco who abruptly comes from behind to frisk her. He takes his time caressing certain parts of her, making her extremely uncomfortable. She is shocked and slightly taken aback, but takes it in stride. There is no place for intimidation here.“You never can be too careful,” Toco says as he steps away from his completed job. “Shit I enjoyed that,” he mutters softly as he backs away. Amaz’s smile fades and he waves for Toco to back off.“Now, what is this about?” Amaz asks intrigued to find out why she is here and what she could possibly want from him. Drugs probably, he figures.“I said I needed to talk to you alone, remember?” she reminds him looking around at the small crowd that is intently listening.“Fine,” replies Amaz shrugging in compliance. “Come into my office,” he says as he walks over to the janitor’s outdoor shed that is a few feet away from them. The old shed appears to have been white at one time, now it is grey and is partly overgrown with shrubs that camouflage it from the street. He shoves his hand in his pocket and retrieves the key from a small key ring. He unlocks the door and holds it open for her. “ Vamonos, mas bonita nina, I’m a very busy guy,” he smiles chivalrously.“Hey, Maz, don’t wear her out. Save some for the rest of us,” one of the boys yells as they enter the shed.
Amaz shuts the door, closing out the follow-up rants that will no doubt accompany the first. The janitor’s closet reveals a very small office space equipped with card table and four aluminum chairs, cards left over from the last game still there. In the far corner is a twin-sized bed covered with an old Mexican blanket. There is an old wooden mirror above the bed. A small refrigerator is seen in the other corner. There’s an old bucket with a mop in the far corner, almost as a prop, because its obvious no one has used it in some time.“You are much smarter than them,” she states solemnly nodding towards the door. “Which makes what I am going to ask of you much easier.”“Now, you have my attention,” he replies leaning casually against the wall. “What is it I can do for you?”“Well, I guess the best way to say this is just to come right out with it,” she says evenly, and she takes a deep breath. “I need for you be my boyfriend, well, more like my protector,” Grace blurts out quickly and holds out her hands instictively to nonverbally silence a stunned Amaz. He shakes his head almost immediately. “I know this sounds stupid, but if you think about it, it really isn’t. It, this plan of mine, is essential for my survival here.” He tries to keep his initial shock to himself, unaware if he has succeeded, and fully much doubting that if that would be even possible.“Well, I gotta say, I never saw that coming. It’s usually kinda hard to surprise me. I can’t say I’m not a bit interested in what you have to say, but…” he begins trying to play this as cool as he can, but is curtly interrupted by her.“Please, let me explain this better,” she says approaching him slowly, then stops. “Without sounding completely conceited, it is obvious the attention I am going to get at this school. It is no big secret the way I look and I feel that it is a hindrance to me being accepted at here. The guys will be all over me, but not for the right reasons. The girls will just hate, period. I want to avoid all that.” She looks over at him and he nods for her to continue. “My skin color, on top of the way I look may become a problem- especially for the girls. The attention I get, well, I am not new to it- I have been getting male attention for years. With that comes the hatred of women. It is nobody’s fault, I guess- It is programmed into us. People don’t know how to react to people without seeing first how others react to them- it’s like everyone acts as their friends do,” she pauses and looks into his eyes. She has his full attention. “This brings me to why I need you. I feel safe saying that you are the leader of this place- what you do is what others look to- but what you do is not to be questioned by others. Am I right?”“So far so good,” he says looking down at his hands, intertwines them and gives them a stretch. “But I still don’t get what you want me to do for you, and what in turn you will do for me.”“So, my proposition is to vow to be your girl, and only your girl, until we graduate. I will not interact with any other man in this school. I will be yours and yours alone within this place. That I can promise you, “she looks at him, her eyes unable to keep the pleading from them. She leans against the table for support awaiting his response. “Okay, I think I understand this a little. You want me to be with you? But, I don’t even know who you are, anything about you. I am intrigued to say the least. Please continue,” he tells her as he walks slowly around the room trying to take all this in.“Well, not to sound full of myself, which is how it will come across, but I swear it is not the way I view myself, but as others do- I would be, I guess, a trophy for you. Almost a prized possession that only you have access to, but everyone else wishes they had,” she stops and looks at him.“Full of yourself does seem to hit it on the head, I’d call it gallona, but I can’t say that you don’t have a point,” he says and looks at her seriously. “I don’t understand why you need me for this, any cholo would do- looking the way you do, you should be okay- hell, I’ll take you out if you want…but a boyfriend, I am not.”“No, no- maybe I haven’t explained it all that well. Any cholo won’t do. I don’t want to be part of the gang life. I know what those guys do. I know you are different from them, your crew. That is what I need, “she says solemnly. “And, I don’t wish for you to be only with me. Hell, you can do anything you want with anyone you want,” she says throwing her hands up in the air. “It will not affect me- all I need is for you to protect me and let this place know that I am yours and only yours.”“So, let me get this straight…I get to be with anyone I want… and it doesn’t affect anything?” he glances at her and she nods. “This is starting to get very interesting,” Amaz walks over towards the bed and sits down, “So, when do I get to test the merchandise?” He pats the bed and grins.Grace leans against the table and puts her head down. He sees her shoulders slump slightly but ever so quickly she recovers. She straightens herself up and looks up and meets his gaze defiantly. “That is another part of the plan I haven’t told you- I will not have sex with you, or anyone else for that matter. My reputation is to remain intact and clean. I am to remain a virgin. That is a big part of why I am doing this, to keep what is mine, mine,” she finishes and he starts to laugh. He puts his hand on his head in disbelief.“Okay, let me get this- you want me to pretend to be your boyfriend, and in return I get no play from you at all? Come on…Something doesn’t sound right.” He looks at her searching for something. “Why would I agree to that? I’m not getting anything in return. And what makes you think I wouldn’t just take what I wanted in the first place?” he says seductively. He stands up and approaches her slowly. Her stomach leaps not quite sure in fear or passion. He grabs her firmly around the waist. He looks down at her and she boldly meets his gaze.“Because, I think deep down you agree with what I have to say,” she answers him in a slow steady voice. “That deep down you believe in untouched beauty and preserving what should be preserved. That deep down you are chivalrous…that you are truly a man.” Her eyes remain locked on his, almost challenging him. “Well, seems you don’t know shit about me, except that I definitely am a man, and having you around me is going to bring that out,” he says pushing her back away from him softly, shaking his head as if trying to rid it of unwanted thoughts. He turns and walks back to the bed. He opens the small makeshift nightstand drawer and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. He draws one out of the pack and lights it, deeply inhaling the nicotine as this proposition swirls in his brain. He looks over at her and he sees that she is still staring at him.“But, you know about the kept word and honor…If you accept my proposition than I know that I will have your word,” she says dramatically, hints of desperation starting to filter into her voice.“I haven’t agreed to anything yet,” he says blowing out a cloud of smoke and starts to approach her again. She notices a bit of impatience in his eyes. She instinctively backs up into the table. “I still don’t get anything in return here. I’m giving you protection, and I’m not getting anything. I don’t see how this helps me.”
Grace tries again,” Okay, lets say you have sex with me, right now, against my will. What good will it have done you? Now, you are back to what you were a few minutes ago, before I arrived.” She looks over at him and sees him smile and shrug. She continues, “No new opportunities would have been presented to you- I would be tainted meat now- nothing special- nothing to give you- nothing to make your position greater. And what did you get – sex? Something you’ve had, I’m sure plenty of times before- and will have plenty of times after. Something meaningless, that could be something great. I can feel it…” Grace puts her hand over her heart emphasizing her point, “that you believe in honor, in chivalry, in tradition, and in preserving what is pure…You have to…it is my only chance. You are my only chance,” Grace ends finally, her voice strained with emotion. She sits down heavily at the table. He watches her closely as she sits down. She looks defeated. She puts her head down ever so slightly as if a big weight has just been released off of her chest. Amaz takes in the scene- she does look so innocent, yet so remarkably beautiful- but so defenseless.
“Let’s just say, for arguments sake that I agree to this,” he starts to say and she looks up at him with a slight glint in her eye- almost a tear. “Now, I can promise you that if you are with me that no guy in this place will look at you sideways- you were right about that- but I can’t control what the ladies, to use the term loosely, may do to you. In fact, I can probably think of one or two off hand that won’t be happy with this arrangement at all. Now, I can’t do anything to help you there, that’s chick shit.” Amaz shrugs, then folds his arms awaiting her response.“Well, I’ve thought of that- but, I will still need your help,” Grace starts, but pauses as she notices him laugh slightly and shake his head. “How did I know that I would somehow be involved in this angle, too?” he smiles as Grace eagerly tells him her plan. He can’t help but like her. She’s so different than the girls he knows. “Well, I realize you can’t be there all the time to help me against the girls… I will be in bathrooms, in gym class- plenty of vulnerable spots. You can’t help me there…but Maria can,” she says finally and immediately his smile fades. Maria was his first cousin, and he loved her like a sister. He protected her like a treasure. They were very close- lived in the same two family house since they were born. Maria was probably the female equivalent of Amaz in the school- tough as nails, a fighter, and a leader. “See, if you can get Maria to help me- try to introduce us, put some words in for me, then I think this may work,” Grace pleads with him seeing that his interest has almost instantly dropped.“Hold on,” he says firmly shaking his head.. “Fine, you want to deal with me, no problem- I can decide for myself- but why should I pull Maria into this shit? Hell, why put her in the fire? For you?” The anger rises evidently in his voice; she can hear it straight away. “How do you know all this shit about me… about my family? Are you a fucking cop?” He looks at her hard, making her feel a little uneasy.“I did my research,” she replies simply, not wanting to give him anything else to go on, hoping he will accept it. “And no, I’m not a cop.”“Please, girl, I don’t even know you. Can’t help you with the chicks, sorry,” he shakes his head firmly. “I won’t talk to Maria- although if you had her on your side- you’d be safe as a kitten.”“There’s got to be a way- let me talk to her myself. Let me explain this to her,” she frantically says standing up grabbing a tight hold of his arms. “This has to happen or I will not be safe here.”“What can I tell you? Sink or swim,” he says matter-of-factly. Amaz watches the hope fade in her eyes as she drops her hands from his arms.“Well, I guess that’s it then,” Grace states, “I will see you around. Thanks for nothing.” She turns abruptly away from him. As she starts to leave, he grabs her gently by the arm. She stops and tenderly touches the top of his hand. “Hold it. You will leave when I tell you it is time. Until then, sit down,” he commands her with the authority in his voice. Grace sits down and folds her arms across her chest. She stares at him hard doing her best not to let any tears fall. “Now, for someone who came in here all prepared for the rest of the year with this grand plan, you certainly give up easy enough. Shit, girl, you didn’t even beg or nothing,” he says trying to make light of the situation. Amaz looks over at her, one lone tear falls down her cheek. She would do anything to pull back that tear, but realizes now the impossibility of it.”Don’t start this shit now,” he says grabbing a paper towel and hands it to Grace. She takes it gingerly and wipes her eyes quickly, and with too much force, embarrassed that she has shown him any vulnerability. “Now, what else can you offer besides your looks and my exclusive rights to you- Jesus, I can’t believe I am even considering this shit.” “Well, I guess my brains. I am an honor student, always have been. I speak four languages. I am very well read in matters of business and psychology. I can be someone for you to talk to- I can help you,” she states matter-of-factly the hope and confidence quickly regaining in her voice. “I can be your eyes when you are not watching, your ears for the things no one else will tell you. I will help you to get through this year and graduate.” She smiles at her own words, very pleased with herself and amazed that her mood could elevate so quickly.“What are you talking about? Now, you want me to study with you? Look, maybe you have me confused with someone else. I am mainly here to do business, not to sit my ass in a fucking classroom. This ain’t no TV show, Grace. I’m not a nice guy,” he looks at her trying to make her understand. “I hope you know that- I thought seeing you knew everything else that maybe you realized that. Maybe you don’t… but I am telling you now.”“I know who you are. I know what you are. I also know that you are smarter than these people…That you are meant for greater things then they have to offer. That you can become what they cannot- and to do that you need to be educated- I will help you, that is all I meant.” She pauses and takes a deep breath. “Please, don’t think I am naïve to the life you lead. I am not. I understand it perfectly- I just feel that you can become great, instead of dying over a ridiculous burst of bravado when you are eighteen years old.”“So, you offer me, what? A study partner? Tell me, when does biology 3 come into play in my life? In my death? It doesn’t… like all these other fucking stupid ass classes. I told you, Grace…I am here for business.” He grabs a chair and sits down at the table blatantly upset at where the conversation has turned. He glares at her.“And what? Do you expect your business to end when you get out of this school? That’s a pretty short-lived business. Don’t you want to learn how to expand, how to make things better?” Grace replies back forcefully; meeting his stare, not daring to look away.“Listen, I’m in a gang that’s connected to bigger people, Grace,” he explains. That’s the breaks here- that is my life. I’m not going to be a lawyer, or a doctor. I have faced that fact. And I can live with it,” he says with a slight hint of regret in his voice that she doesn’t pick up on. But he hears it, and he wonders why he is opening up too much emotion to someone he doesn’t know. “I never said that you should be a doctor or a lawyer. I said to get yourself educated. Listen to me, just for a minute. Now, just tell me this, all these cholos? Even the ones you would have thought did good- where are they today? Dead? In prison?” she asks challenging him. “If that is the way it has to go down, then I am ready for that,” Amaz replies, almost a bit too rehearsed. “But, my point is, that you shouldn’t have to settle for that- that you should want to be smart enough to run things right. You should be involved in all aspects of your business- be very weary of everything,” she tells him carefully. “Sure school has some subjects we don’t think we need, but in actuality any knowledge is better than no knowledge. Right?” she asks him.“I put my time in, Grace. Listen, I can’t sit in a fuckin classroom no more. I wish life was so simple, but I got things to do now. Can’t be wasting my time in there when my customers are out there,” he tells her pointing at the shed door.“I don’t believe you feel that way. You weren’t be in the position you are in if you weren’t smart…” she says almost in a whisper. “Enough,” he says, the anger starting to trickle into his voice. He gets up from his chair. “I never said that, and you would be wise not to either.”“If you would have let me finish, you would have heard what I had to say,” she says quietly but firmly.“As you wish, please continue,” he says sitting back down taking another drag off his cigarette.“I was saying that you are a leader,” Grace continues. “To hold that position usually requires you to be smart, smarter than the rest. I am just saying that you should never stop learning is all- keeps you informed on a world that keeps changing.”“On the contrary, I don’t intend to stop learning, guapa. But, where I study has changed.” Amaz gets up and walks over to her. He places his hand on the back of her chair. “You have definitely intrigued me, my Grace. I have to say that if nothing else, you could definitely make me laugh, or at least stroke my ego for me. ”“Does that mean you say yes?” she asks with a hint of excitement in her voice.
“That means I will think about it,” he purrs to her and a smile immediately forms onher full lips. “As for Maria, I will get you two together- whatever happens there is completely up to her.”
“So when will I get an answer, I mean about you- and me.” Grace asks enthusiastically.“When I know, you will know. How is that?” he replies giving her the grin that has melted many hearts while flicking his cigarette across the room onto the dirt encrusted ground.“I guess I will take that. But one more thing- no one can know about our arrangement- no one. Okay?” she asks him solemnly.“Whatever you say… Who would believe this anyhow? This is your thing. But, one more thing- I think I should get to at least inspect the merchandise, since I can’t actually test it. Hell, you could be a mess under those clothes. I have a reputation to uphold,” he smiles at her mischievously. Grace looks at him, objection in her eyes. “Listen, you need me, I really don’t need you for anything but to boost my self-confidence, remember?” he challenges her.Grace grins at his statement and lifts her sweatshirt over her head without bothering to answer him, revealing a perfectly toned body, more athletic than he had thought. She then unfastened her Capri pants and pulls them down to her ankles revealing her lace thong. Her body seems like it came out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog and this was without any airbrushing. Amaz tried not to reveal how impressed he was but his eyes revealed the truth. He was pleased and he finally let it out with a low whistle.“So, do you have any flaws?” he jokes, unable to tear his eyes from her.“I’m sure you will be the first to let me know,” she retorts as she starts to pull her capris back on.“Damn, girl. You are fine,” he steals a last glance at her before she pulls her white tank top over her head. She goes to put on her sweatshirt.“Leave that off,” he says more of a command than a request. “Makes you look stupid.” She looks at him questioningly. “You need to fit in, not separate yourself. On a ninety degree day, people don’t wear sweatshirts.”“And they wear leather jackets?” she smiles mischievously.“The jacket I have no control of, it’s a way people can spot me. But that sweatshirt, I can control. Leave it off,” he states calmly, giving her a once over. “Shit, I may not be able to control myself- you may need protection from me.”“I have your word, that is all the protection I need.” she says, as fact, not opinion.“You sound so sure of yourself,” he says shaking his head slightly and grinning. “Maybe you shouldn’t.”“I am,” she concludes, and looks at him intently. Their eyes lock suddenly, and for just a moment time seems to stand still. Amaz blinks first breaking the mood suddenly, feeling like he has awoken from some odd dream. She is so different but yet she seems so familiar.“Let’s go, Blanca angel. I have some people to see now, ” he says as he starts for the door trying to get himself back into the business-mode.“Um…about our arrangement? Is it a deal?” she asks as he begins to open the door.“I said I will let you know- got it?” he says holding the door open for her.“Okay,” she says, sounding more nervous than she would have liked. “You let me know.” As they exit the shed, Amaz’s group is standing near the bench. Nervously, Grace smoothes down her tank top. She looks around at all the eyes on her. There are a few other guys there now, who look more than a little impatient.“Hey man, what is this? We’ve been waiting, Esse,” a guy in the red bandanna shouts. “Let’s make a deal.”“That is why we are all here, Freddie. Let’s get to it,” Amaz says and turns to Grace. “Adios, guera. It was an eye opener,” he purrs as he softly cups her chin, giving her a wink. Grace starts to slowly walk past the guys towards the school. Suddenly, one of the new guys gets in front of her blocking her path.“Hey, Manny, check out this guera. I’d eat this white meat any day,” he laughs to his friend. The other guys start in on the banter. Whistling, the cat calls… She tries to block the noise out as she tries to pass them. The guy, the one she thinks he called Freddie starts to get uncomfortably close to Grace. He gets in her path and she stops dead in her tracks. Within seconds, Amaz steps in between them, putting his hand forcefully onto the boy’s chest.“Freddie, you better know whose property you are fucking with before you fuck with it,” Amaz growls menacingly at the guy, who Grace has figured by now that this is definitely Freddie. “Maybe your momma didn’t teach you no proper manners, hey? You don’t treat a lady like that, correction you don’t treat MY lady like that. You get it,” Amaz says, not asks, evenly. He then looks up at the stunned circle, “You all dig that?” he yells emphasizing his point. “Go sit over there,” Amaz quietly says to her. She nods and walks quickly over to the picnic table and sits down. She tries desperately to conceal a satisfied grin, as well, as attempting to quell her heart that feels like its beating a million miles an hour.“Freddie, it seems you disrespected me in my home- I must ask you to get the fuck outta here before I have to put a cap in your ass,” Amaz says as he pats the bulge apparent through his shirt on his right hip. “Yo man, I didn’t know that was your lady, man. Yo, I didn’t know,” Freddie says putting his hands up emphatically and backing away. “Amaz, I never woulda talked no shit to your girl, man… You know me, man,” Freddie pleads, not lowering his hands.“I’ll give you a minute to get off my block. After that, you are dead. Starting now,” Amaz says dramatically glancing at his Rolex. The other guys are looking at each other not quite believing what is going on.“Amaz, man, what gives with this?” Toco begins, but Amaz puts up his hand to silence him.
“Toco, don’t tell me my business,“ Amaz says sternly turns back to Freddie, “You got 50 seconds left.”Freddie looks around and signals to his friends to leave. “This took a long time to set up man. It wouldn’t be right to fuck this up because of some misunderstanding,” Manny offers as he backs away.
“The fuck up happened when this guy came into my house and try to fuck with my shit. I don’t go for that. Respect was not given here. Business deal is off,” Amaz sneers to Freddie. “40 seconds, you better get moving. You may be fast, but I don’t think you can outrun lead.”“Come on guys. Vamonos,” Freddie says to his posse. “Amaz, this is a mistake, but I have to respect your wishes. Adios.” With that Freddie and his crew turn and start walking towards the street, not turning back.“All shall come to pass. Adios muchachos,” Amaz says cordially, as he gives them a over exaggerated wave. “Ay te huatcho,” he sneers his warning at Freddie. He turns and starts walking slowly over to bench where Grace is sitting. Grace watches the whole thing go down. She eyes Freddie walking away with his crew. She sees Toco shake his head as Amaz walks away. Toco shake hands with Freddie as he passes him. She sees Toco and Freddie exchange quiet words between each other in a moment’s time. Then she watches Freddie continue off the school grounds. Amaz approaches the bench where she sits patiently. “So, how was that, my Grace? Convincing enough for you?” Amaz grins as he sits next to her on the bench and looks over to his group. Toco looks the most angry, as the rest of the guys just seem confused. Grace looks and sees Toco muttering to himself and shaking his head and bee lining it straight for them.“Amaz, what the fuck was that all about? You know how much we did for that? How much money we just lost on that shit? What the fuck are you thinking, man?” Toco yells unable to contain himself.Amaz sits back on the bench calmly, “It wasn’t right, Toco. He was not worth the effort.” He takes a cigarette out and lights it, his nonchalance really aggravating his friend.“What are you talking about? We had a deal here, and it falls apart because of that, some greenga” Toco yells and points to Grace. Grace looks down at her feet, not wanting to be in the middle of this. “I don’t even want to know what you are thinking, man. Shit, the day you are led around by your dick, shit, I thought it wouldn’t happen,” Toco says challenging him, unable to control his emotions.“Be careful, Toco,” Amaz cautions his friend because no matter how close they may be, no one talks to Amaz that way, not in front of the crew. He pats Grace gently on the knee. He takes a drag on his cigarette then lets a slow cloud of smoke out before answering his friend. “This little angel actually helped us out. I found out last night that this guy,” Amaz points disgustedly towards the street where Freddie’s crew is simultaneously rolling off the block, “was double dealing and making back deals with Antoine. I had to come up with a way to cut him loose without tipping him off that I knew what was going down. Just so happens, this very lovely gringita gave me the excuse I needed to get rid of him- all tied up in a bow. End to that. Discussion over.” He looks defiantly at his friend, and smiles to himself very satisfied. Grace looks over at Amaz with genuine surprise as the explanation to what just transpired is revealed.“So that chivalry shit was bullshit?” Toco laughs as Amaz nods slightly, shrugging his shoulders with innocence. “Shit, Amaz, you are a piece of work. Fuck, and smart, too,” He pats Amaz on the shoulder. “So, how did you find out about Freddie?”“I have my eyes open all the time- I never sleep. You should know that, mi amigo,” Amaz tells Toco returning the pat with a sharp jab to the ribs.“Yeah, I know that, man,” Toco stammers through the stab of pain, too much bravado to admit it hurt at all. He looks around the courtyard. “Shit, it’s too fuckin hot to chill here, man.” He wipes the sweat from his brow.“I’m with you on that, esse. Get the guys and pick up some cervasas then head to the club. I’ll meet you there, “ Amaz said. “Oh, and get my bitchin’ Camaro over here now.”“Will do, man,” Toco says to Amaz, and smiles slyly at Grace. “Nice meeting you. “He extends his hand to which she shakes gently. “If he gets sick of you, I’ll be glad to take over.” Toco backs off slowly as Amaz shoots him a disapproving look. Toco yells to the others, “We’re outta here, partners. Vamonos.” The group disperses slowly amid blurts of cursing and horsing around while walking towards their cars on the street. They leave Amaz and Grace alone at the bench.“So, I guess you could say that I came at a good time,” Grace says to Amaz almost a touch of disappointment in her voice.“Impeccable timing. Couldn’t have asked for a better solution to my problem,” Amaz grins and takes a long drag on his Marlboro. “Hell, you may be more valuable than I thought. Shit, I can use you as a way of getting rid of a lot of shit. No questions asked. Amaz takes out his cell and dials a number, “Yo, Maria. I need to see you right now.” He pauses slightly listening to her slightly rolling his eyes. “I’m sure you and your friends could miss a meal,” he laughs holding the phone slightly away from his ear protecting it from the increasing volume on the other end. “I’m outside. Adios.” Amaz looks over at Grace as he puts the phone in his pocket.“She’s coming here… now?” Grace asks, a little surprised at the abruptness of the situation. “From where?”“Yeah, now. We might as well get this started, right? She’s in school. She’s smart…gonna be a lawyer and shit one day. Help keep my ass outta lockup.” He looks over at the entrance of the school as he speaks. “I told you, this is between her and you- so whatever happens here I have no control over. I ain’t telling her to do shit. She decides if you are worth the trouble,” Amaz sets her straight. “By the way, what she get outta this anyhow…your friendship?” Amaz laughs, “I don’t think that’ll fly with Maria.” He takes a drag on his cigarette shaking his head slightly.“No, I am prepared to pay her- and well. Plus, of course, my friendship,” she grins at him, her white teeth gleaming in the sunlight.“So, you gonna pay? Well, it could work- but, then again, might not,” Amaz says shrugging his shoulders not offering her any hints at all on how to woo his cousin.“So, what do you think I should offer,” she asks trying to get anything out of him.“Yo, I told you I was outta this shit,” he tells her and snuffs out his cigarette on the bench. “But, I’ll tell you this, the suspense is killing me.”

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