“Mama, what's going on?” I asked with tears in my eyes.
No matter how many times I'd seen my mama frightened, I'd never seen the total look of terror and panic in her eyes. Her skin was fire-red, and her eyes watered to the point where I was sure her vision was blurry.
“Shut up, Ray-Ray. Just cut them open and dump them, baby. Please.”
She was working frantically as we dumped ounces of pure white coke into the toilet. I was going so fast, the sharp knife in my hand had cut me. I didn't understand why we were dumping the goods when the Feds weren't at the door. Yeah, somebody was banging on the door, but I knew it wasn't the Feds, judging by the way my father was pleading for the people on the other side of the door to give him some time.
“We fucked up, Ray. We did, baby. We fuckedâ”
She couldn't even get the words out before the front door of our house came flying off its hinges. My mama jumped up, her chest heaving up and down like she was having an asthma attack. Her mouth was moving but nothing would come out.
“Come on, Dame. Man, look, man . . . let meâ”
My daddy's words got cut short when the sound of gunshots rent the air, and he was silent for a brief moment. I jumped up, ready to run out to see if he was dead, but my mama stopped me, snatched me back into the bathroom, and silently closed the door.
“Shhhh!” she ordered me as she moved me back. “Get in the shower and lay down. Don't move, Ray-Ray. Don't say shit, baby. Understand?”
My mama looked at me, I mean, really looked at me for the first time in my sixteen years. I saw all of the things that she feared, all of her worries, all of her anxiety. For the first time, she looked older than thirty-one.
“Mama, please, don't leave me,” I cried.
“No, Ray-Ray. No. No fuckin' tears,” she aggressively whispered. “You never shed one gotdamned tear, you hear me? Never let these niggas see your fear. They feed on that shit. Understand? Dry those fuckin' tears now.” She then reached to cup the back of my neck and lay her forehead on mine.
My eyes widened, and we listened on in horror as my father's agony rent the apartment.
“Aw, man. Fuck! Come on, Dame, just give me time,” Daddy pleaded. “I'll get yo' shit back to you, nigga. Just give me time.”
Then I heard his voice. He sounded like he could be your savior, but in reality, he was your executioner.
“Fuck, nigga! You gone steal my shit then try to sell me my own work back?”
I assumed that was Dame.
“Look, man, I fucked up, a'ight. I fucked up. We been boys, Dame. I looked out for you when your pops caught it back in the day. Come on, man.”
“Where's your bitch?” Dame asked.
My mother held me tighter and stared into my eyes. She'd told me not to cry, but her tears were flowing freely.
“I'm so sorry, baby,” she said to me. “Please forgive me and Raymond. We fucked up, baby.”
“Sh-she ain't here,” my daddy lied. “I sent her to get the product.”
“See? You see this shit, my niggas? Even on his death bed, this nigga lying. Go find her.”
My mother stood quickly, kissed my lips, and then forced me to lie down in the tub. She then quickly unscrewed the lightbulb in the bathroom.
“Stay there,” she told me then grabbed the knife she had been using to cut the coke bricks open.
Both of us still had the powder on our hands, fear in our breaths, and death in our eyes. We listened on as they ransacked our house. Silently, I was wishing, hoping, and praying that they didn't find me or my mama. I was praying, as bad as it may sound, that they would just kill my daddy and be gone. But the look on my mama's face said the end was near. She knew what was coming.
Suddenly, the door to the bathroom swung open. Mama didn't even have time to swing the knife. Somebody yanked her by her long black hair and slung her out of the bathroom into the hall. I almost screamed when he kicked her in her stomach then punched her, but I slapped my hand over my mouth and inched down into the tub. I tried to lay flat like a plank. I was grateful then that the bathroom was dark.
“Aye, yo, Dame, we found the bitch and some of your shit,” the guy said, his voice deep and raspy as if he had smoked too many cigarettes.
I couldn't see his face, but I would remember that voice.
He dragged my mama kicking and screaming from the bathroom, taunting her. “Shut up, bitch.”
There was a loud smack, and then my mother screamed. Items crashed to the floor. I could only assume she had fallen over something. What I heard next made my heart stop.
My daddy's yells when they shot my mama chilled me to the bone.
“Aww God. Oh fuck, Dame! Oh shit, baby. Shanna, baby, I'mâ”
“Shut up, nigga,” the raspy voice growled out behind another gunshot.
My daddy's agonizing shriek pierced the air again. I couldn't stand it anymore. I wanted to see my parents, needed to see them, even if they were dead. Before my common sense kicked in, I hopped from the tub, screaming and sobbing, then ran to the front room, falling over my mother's dead body. Her eyes were wide open with a bullet hole between them.
“No, mama! No!” I cried, trying to cradle her in my arms.
Her body was limp, heavy. The weight of death was suffocating me. Through hazy and burning eyes I looked at my daddy. He was still clinging to life. I'd never seen my father cry before. Had never seen him weak, but in that moment I knew he was at his weakest.
“Dun”âHe coughed, spat up blood as it bubbled in his throatâ“don't kill my baby,” he begged with his last breath.
“Pick that bitch up, Trigga,” Dame said.
I looked up at the man through blurry vision. I couldn't really make him out. There were about twelve other men in our home. It was overkill. Did he really need all of those men to kill my mama and daddy?
Trigga snatched me up by the back of my hair and then made me kneel in front of him. I couldn't see his face, just felt the aggressiveness in his hold on me. The tight grip on the back of my hair was already giving me a headache. I tried to snatch away to no avail. I almost fell face first into his steel-toe Timberlands. Trigga snatched me back up, and I tried to fight back. My mama would want me to fight back. My daddy always babied me, but my mama told me to fight. I had to fight for my mama.
I started to kick, scream, and yell, bucking my body, trying to get away. I arched my back and reached behind me to claw at his face. I got him too, just enough to try to dig his eyes out for my mama. “Get off of me!” I screamed out, kicking my legs and bucking like a horse.
I could make out some of the faces of the niggas in the room. Could hear them laughing at me clawing at the man's eyes. Half of them were supposed to be my daddy's boys, was supposed to be his friends, have his fuckin' back. Pookie, Slammer, Janky, all those niggas was just breaking bread with my mama and daddy, and laughing about how they had come up.
Rage took away my senses. I swung my hand in a backward motion at the nigga who had a hold on me, trying to hit him in his dick. He was quicker and stronger than me, and used his big foot to take my legs from under me, taking me down to the floor face first. His knee in my back made me scream out louder. I could feel the blood oozing from my nose. My daddy had always told me niggas in the street didn't care for you.
“They don't give a fuck. You hear me, Ray-Ray? Niggas ruthless as fuck, baby girl,” he'd said as he used his pinky nail to sniff coke up his nose.
He was right. The big muthafucka on me was sure to kill me.
See, real niggas didn't care about raping no chick when it came to their money being fucked up. They didn't waste time with pussy when there was bloodlust.
“Sit this nigga up so he can see Trigga cap his daughter,” Dame barked out then took a seat on our leather sofa.
All I could see was his expensive-clad feet. He had on Italian leather dress shoes that looked fresh from the shoemaker.
I could hear movement as Dame's henchmen moved to sit my father up.
Daddy breathed out, “Don . . . don't kill . . . my . . . baby, Dame.”
“Fuck you, nigga!” Dame responded. “You already know the move, Trigga.”
Oh God, my life was about to end. Somebody would walk in and find me, my mama, and my daddy dead on the floor.
“Dame, please . . .” My daddy choked as he tried to talk.
I heard the gun click back. I squeezed my eyes shut tight, hot tears rolling down my face.
Daddy's sobbing voice finally found its way out. “Waittttt. She's a virgin. Use her.” He coughed. “Don't kill her. Pussy . . . fresh money.”
“Yo, yo, Trigga, wait a minute, my nigga. I think Ray just sold me his daughter's virgin pussy.”
There was an awkward silence, and then Dame and his henchmen burst into a fit of laughter, all of them except the one with his knee in my back.
“You really bargaining your daughter's pussy for your life, nigga?” Dame asked.
“Don't kill her” was all my father could get out.
“Finish him,” Dame ordered.
My body jerked when the shot rang out. I didn't know who had shot my daddy, just like I didn't know who'd shot my mama. When I opened my eyes, my daddy was laying right in front of me, his lifeless eyes wide just like mama's. The last look in them begged my forgiveness.