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Authors: Mary Elizabeth

Posey (Low #1.5) (7 page)

BOOK: Posey (Low #1.5)
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As if she doesn’t comprehend what I’ve said, my mother turns to her husband and then back to me, eyes wide and her mouth slightly open. Dad’s dark stare hasn’t swung from the hired help. The man I share a last name with stands before us with his chest puffed out and veins bulging from his neck.

“You need to leave my house,” he seethes.

Low inhales through his nose and turns toward me. What I find in his eyes is not defeat; it’s a promise as deep as the ocean and as infinite as the universe.

It’s worship.

He places his hand on the back of my neck and kisses my forehead. “It’s his house, Poe. I have to go.”

“What exactly is this about?” I demand with the echo of my boy’s kiss still warm on my skin. “Since when do you give a shit about what I’m doing?”

My dad’s nostrils flare. “Don’t question me, Poesy.”

“I’m eighteen fucking years old!” I shout.

Mom laughs menacingly, occupying every inch of space with distaste. “Trust me. I know exactly how old you are, little girl.”

Powerlessness floods my lungs, choking me with searing anger until my throat and tongue blister with resentment. My teeth bleed bitterness, and it takes everything in me not to spit a mouthful at my mother’s feet. As I stare into her eyes, callous and distant, aggression flushes black blood through my veins, fueling muscle with hate-like strength and slugging oil-thick sustenance through my heart. 

I don’t bother sharing with her how much Lowen means to me or threatening,
accept him or lose me
. They don’t deserve to hear about the kind of happiness this boy from the hood gives me … They don’t get to choose.

It’s my choice.

I pick him.

Even the unlovable love.

 

 

LOWEN IS FIRE
D
the next day.

That night I max-out my dad’s American Express card, buying Lowen’s family groceries and paying their past due electric bill.

My card-carrying rights are soon revoked.

Within a month, the fridge runs low on food, the Buick’s tank is empty, and the rent is due. My boy looks for work while Patricia begs the state for more food stamps, but her kids are grown and she’s reached her limit, and no one is hiring. I pawn my mom’s jewelry and slip twenty dollars at a time from my dad’s wallet, but the struggle is real, and it’s never enough.

“I could have sworn I had a pound of hamburger meat in here,” my mom whispers to herself, searching the freezer for the food I took to Lowen’s the day before.

“You’re a little young to go senile,” I say, erasing on a blank sheet of paper just to brush the crumbs to the floor. “Or not.”

My parents agreed to help me financially as long as I’m under their roof. I wanted to take off after Low lost his job, but Inglewood is too far to commute every day to school without a car, and I can’t afford to live on my own.

Swallowing my pride is easy when the person I love strains to keep his intact. He hustles, working odd jobs here and there for a few bucks, but Lowen is unable to secure full-time employment. The guilt he suffers with from being unable to support his family only gets worse when the holidays arrive.

On Thanksgiving, we eat a turkey dinner donated from a local church, doing our best to be grateful for small graces, drinking cheap champagne. I take small portions, hoping the food will last for the rest of the week, but with an empty stomach, cut-rate alcohol turns me into a mad person.

“This is all my fucking fault,” I cry, covering my face with unthankful hands.

Lowen pulls me outside to the front porch, covering my small shivering body with his large warm jacket. The stars are out, but everything is blurry, and I can’t see through despair.

“None of you would be going through this if you never met me,” I say. My breath turns white in the cool night air. 

“If I never met you, Poesy,” Lowen whispers, taking me in his arms. He kisses the top of my head. “There would be nothing for me to fight for. My mom and Gillian would be good without me. It’s you. It’s only you.”

He’s arrested two days before Christmas.

After breaking someone’s nose in a bar fight, he can’t see a judge until after the first of the year because of the holiday.

I spend Christmas Eve in Inglewood, eating another charity turkey and instant mashed potatoes, and suffer through Christmas with my parents, staring at the gluttonous meal my mother put together in disgust while my heart is locked in a cell with my criminal.

The next day, I box up the leftovers, gather the gifts I didn’t bother to unwrap, and pack enough clothes to last for a while. With no word from Low since the day he was locked up, I can’t stomach the thought of not being there when he gets out.

“Any word?” I ask Patricia when I arrive, passing the food to her and the presents to Gillian.

Low won’t have his day in court for another week, but he hasn’t called because they can’t afford collect calls.

“No, baby, I’m sorry,” Mrs. Seely says regretfully with an armful of ham and cranberry sauce.

Gillian opens sweaters meant for me and shoes one size too big for her still-growing feet with the reckless abandon of a girl who’s been gifted the world. I’m enveloped in her brother’s blankets, inhaling slow lungfuls of his lingering scent, watching with anxiety pricking my heart. The youngest Seely runs to the bathroom mirror, holding a turquoise blouse against her body to see how it looks, and tears finally fall down my cheeks. 

They’re my unwelcome companions for the next six days. I salute a new year with red-rimmed, swollen eyes, overwhelmed by the force of my sorrow, and share tearful midnight kisses with Lowen’s mother and sister.

“He’s okay, Poe,” Patricia says, wiping my salty sadness from her lips. Her cheeks brighten under her pink blush. “This … this isn’t the first time my son’s been in trouble. His dad—”

“I know about his father,” I say.

He’s a career convict. A deadbeat. A killer.

Lowen is not like him.

Ten nights after he was arrested, Low walks through the front door at three in the morning, dressed in clothes blood-stained from the fight and with another offense on his record. He’s a shadow in the doorway, and I can’t bring myself to sit up or speak in case he disappears.

“What are you doing here, girl?” careful and quiet whispers as he approaches the couch. Cool fingertips sweep across my forehead, moving my hair away.

“Where else would I be?” I say. 

“Anywhere but here.” He sits at the end of the sofa and tilts his head back. “This isn’t your life, Poesy. It’s mine.”

“That’s what you have to say to me?” I pause. Tears burn my sore eyes. “I’ve sat here for the last week scared out of my mind, and you come to me with this bullshit?”

“I only want to look out for you,” he says in a low tone. The silence afterward is deafening, and the night is still.

“I can look out for myself. I’ve done it my entire life.”

“Not like this.” Lowen lifts his head and runs his hands through his hair. “My family is starving, and it’s not some fucking phase.”

“I can feed you!” I sit up and kick the blankets off. “I did while you were gone, and I can keep helping.”

“Keep your voice down,” he says. His blue eyes are brilliant, even in the dark.

My knees sink into the couch cushions as I kneel beside brilliance, and tremble. He falls into my embrace, pressing his face against my erratic heartbeat. His hands come around me, slipping under my sleep shirt and clutch on to my lower back until his frigid fingers warm.

“Didn’t you miss me?” I ask, kissing the top of his head.

“I’m a criminal, Poesy,” he replies. His grip tightens.

“You’re my criminal, inmate.”

Slipping my bare leg over his waist, I straddle his thighs and pull my shirt over my head, dropping it to the floor. My nipples harden as they touch the cool air, and chills run up my arms. Lowen licks his lips, staring at my naked chest under hooded eyes. He touches me, palming my breasts with his rough hands and squeezing until a low hum escapes with my breath.

I drop my head back, and Low leans forward to kiss my exposed throat. His tongue is warm, flat against my erratic pulse point before his mouth moves up the expanse of my neck. I drape my arms over his shoulders, pulling him closer until our chests touch. Anticipation crushes any lingering notion of sadness and anger, leaving me breathless and tingling.

“Don’t make me wait,” I whisper.

“This is what you want?” he asks, skating his hands down the curve of my hips. Lowen scoots me up his lap until hard collides with soft.

“Yes.”

I unbutton his jeans with shaky fingers and pull all of him out, gripping his length in the palm of my hand. His blue irises vanish behind thin eyelids, and long blonde eyelashes settle across his cheekbones. Nothing—not the sound of sirens passing outside, sleeping Seelys in the bedrooms, or our questionable future—matters.

It’s he and I. 

The boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the girl from the right side.

Villain and hero.

Worthless and worthy.

Not bothering to remove my underwear, I move them over and guide Lowen inside me. He’s patient and soothing, gripping my bottom and whispering
I love you
and
be easy
and
go slow
into my ear. I circle my hips with my face buried in Low’s neck to keep from crying out too loudly, slipping down his cock little by agonizing little.

Reaching between us, I touch where we’re together, and he’s only halfway in.

“Help me,” I whisper through the pain.

Lowen guides me to the couch, pushing my knee back to open me wider. He’s heavy on top of me, drowning and lifesaving all at once. Tender kisses take the edge off, and I whisper to him
I love you
and
don’t be easy
and
don’t go slow
.

My convict groans when he’s broken the part of me to allow him to fit. The pain is swift, piercing and slicing and easy to forget when he starts to stroke slowly. He takes my hand and laces his fingers between mine, pushing our hands into the old cushions.

I’m burning, cold, panicked, and thriving.

“This is it,” Lowen says, looking down at me under his thick lashes and furrowed eyebrows. “There’s no going back, girl. This is you getting fucked lawless.”

 

 

 

JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH
,
and April pass without improvement, but come early May, Flaco takes pity on Lowen and offers him part-time work back on the crew after he lands a large business account he doesn’t have men to spare for. Three times a week, Low cuts the grass and rakes the leaves around a chain of real estate offices, making just enough each month to pay the rent and keep the lights on when the balance can’t be extended again.

“Did you take money from my wallet?” Dad asks, as I’m about to walk out the front door. “I had forty dollars in here.”

“Nope.” I lift my backpack over my shoulder and leave with a twenty and four five-dollar bills in my pocket.

I grab a tea from a coffee shop down the street from school after I get off the city bus and toss the change into a homeless woman’s cup. With only a month and a half left before my first year of college is over and summer arrives, getting to class every day while the sun is out and the air is crisp becomes a chore.

“You’re not dropping out, Poesy,”
my boy has said to me countless times.

“But I can get a job. I can help around here,”
I argued.

“No.”

So, I sit in Math 101, learning the same shit I did last year, between a thirty-something single mother of three and a guy who’s fallen asleep during every lesson we’ve had all semester. I steal his pens from his desk when he snoozes, because fuck him.

After a full day of classes, I hop back on the bus, but this time I take the two-hour ride toward Inglewood. Today is one of Lowen’s days off. It’s impossible for him to sit around the house all day. He tries to find odd jobs when he can, day work and cash-only jobs, to supplement his income. If nothing comes up, he returns before nine, and I want to be there when he is.

“Honey, I’m home,” I say playfully, making it to his house after the sun has set. The neighborhood doesn’t startle me like it once did, and I’ve even come to know a few people on the block. 

Apprehension and shock greet me from the kitchen table, tearful with the phone between them. I drop my backpack to the floor with my stomach and slowly walk forward. The house is dark with the exception of the orange-yellow dining room light, and Patricia kicks out a chair for me to take a seat with her and Gillian.

“What’s the matter?” I ask, unable to join them. My heart beats in my throat.

Mrs. Seely wipes her nose with a tissue. Her heavy mascara and eye shadow are smeared. “We just got a call from Low.”

“And?” I cross my arms over my chest to keep my heart from breaking though my chest. “Where is he?”

She looks at me with blue-like-his eyes and blinks the tears away. A black stream of makeup and sadness falls down her cheeks. “He’s been arrested again.”

“For what?”

Patricia takes her inconsolable daughter’s hand and answers, “I’m not completely sure, but it’s serious this time, Poe.”

I take a step forward and stop, debilitated by terror and unsure what to do with myself. “You talked to him. What did he say? He had to have said what he did.”

“He was on the phone long enough to tell me where he was and that he won’t be home for a while.” She tucks her dry, bleach blonde hair behind her ear. “I couldn’t get a word in before he hung up, I swear.”

“Where’s the phone book?” I ask, snatching the cordless from the table. I open drawers in the kitchen and look on top of the fridge. “Do you remember what jail he called from? They have to tell us something. They can’t just hold him.”

“Under the sink,” Gillian says in a tear-soaked tone.

Searching water-damaged yellow pages, I find the number for the Inglewood Police Department and dial three times before my fingers steady enough to get it right. The first time I get through, I’m put on hold before the line disconnects, and the next two times Lowen hasn’t been booked yet so no information is available. After the third attempt, I wait on hold for an hour, and it’s after midnight before I get a clear answer.

“What did they say?” Patricia asks. She pours discount coffee into her mug from the pot and drinks it black.

I drop the phone to the table and bury my face in my hands. “Robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. His bail is set at two hundred thousand dollars.”

“Oh my God.” Dark liquid burns her fingers as the cup falls to the counter, spilling over. “Did they say what he took? Assault with a deadly weapon. That means someone was hurt. Lowen would never—”

“They didn’t have any more information,” I cut her off. “He’ll see a judge in a few days. We can call back after that.”

“Poesy, what am I supposed to do?” she cries, quivering and helpless in her pajamas and robe. “I can’t leave him in there … He’s my baby boy. My favorite boy. My favorite thing.”

The chair screeches against the floor as I scoot back and stand on my unsteady feet. With the youngest person in the house comforted by sleep in her bed, Patricia and I are left restless and powerless, weakened by the man we both love in two very different ways but just as deeply.

“We’ll figure it out.” I take her in my arms and kiss the side of her head. “You’re not alone this time.”

 

 

I’LL BE TWENT
Y
-
THRE
E
years old when Lowen serves the full four-year plea deal he negotiated to skip a jury trial and a possible ten-year sentence for breaking the store owner’s face with brass knuckles and attempting to steal a jar of peanut butter.

A fucking four-dollar jar of Jiffy.

“Mr. Seely, do you understand that by pleading guilty to these charges you will be a convicted felon?” the judge asks from the front of the courtroom behind his thick wire-rimmed glasses and black robe.

“Yes, sir,” Low replies, He’s handcuffed and chained to shackles around his ankles, despicable beside his public defender, a lanky man dressed in a cheap polyester suit.

From my seat at the back of the courtroom, I stare at the boy I fell in love with a year ago—the one who showed me I’m precious enough to love and gave up the little he had to stand up to my parents and keep me in his life. His complexion is pale under this harsh white light, and three days of stubble shadows his face. Our eyes meet and lock, unwavering, even as the judge calls for his attention.

I wink and blow a small kiss, draping my arm across Patricia’s shoulders and patting her arm as she quietly cries. The icy air blowing from the duct above me raises the hair on the back of my neck.

“How do you plea?” the judge asks for a second time.

Chadwick Mahan, Low’s representation, clears his throat. He elbows his client until my inmate turns and punishes us all to a four-year prison sentence by announcing, “Guilty, your honor.”

BOOK: Posey (Low #1.5)
11.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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