Home > Wait for It(3)

Wait for It(3)
Author: Mariana Zapata


I couldn’t live with myself if something happened that I could have prevented. I didn’t think about the possibility of them having guns or someone coming after me in retaliation, and I sure as hell didn’t take into consideration how my parents, much less the boys, would handle me doing something so reckless. But what kind of person would I be if I just stood inside my house and did nothing to help someone who obviously needed it?

Before I could talk myself out of it, I ran out of the bedroom and toward the front, my feet bare. I didn’t want to waste time running back to my room for my phone or shoes, but I clearly remembered Josh leaving his baseball bag by the front door so he wouldn’t forget it when he left with his grandparents’ tomorrow. If I made it through tonight, I really needed to start calling around to find him a new baseball team, I reminded myself before shoving the plan away for a better time.

I needed to go help because it was the right thing to do and because I needed to be a role model for the boys. And running from obstacles wasn’t something they needed to learn from anyone.

The fact was, it was down to the Larsens, my parents, and me to mold them into who they’d become later in life. That was one of the first things I’d had to come to terms with when I became their guardian. It was up to me. If I messed up with them… I couldn’t let that happen. I wanted them to grow up to be good, honorable people even if it seemed like I had forever until they were something more than the little boys who could barely aim their pee into the toilet and not miss. I didn’t want Rodrigo’s kids to turn out differently just because he wasn’t around to raise them, because I knew exactly whose fault it would be if they grew into little shits: mine.

I didn’t need that on my conscience.

Right where he had left it, I grabbed the bat sticking out of Josh’s bag, testing the weight of the composite. It wasn’t until I eased the front door closed behind me that the urge to run back into the house really hit me. The part of my brain that realized how stupid of an idea doing this was wanted to be back in my room under the covers. It didn’t want to have to make this decision—risk my life or not risk my life? But just thinking Rodrigo’s name kept me going.

As I ran down the three steps leading from the deck to the walkway, I sent a silent prayer, hoping this wasn’t going to backfire on me. My feet had just hit the cement when I noticed the man all by himself was still surrounded, still getting his ass beat. Panic climbed all over my shoulders. How did no one else hear this? I wondered before figuring it didn’t matter. I had to do what I had to do, and that was help this guy out and get back in my house in one piece.

“The cops are on their way!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, raising the bat up high. “Leave him alone!”

In the greatest surprise of my life, the three men stopped instantly; one of their legs was suspended in the air midkick, and they looked at each other in obvious hesitation, giving me a blurry view of their bland, unremarkable faces. There was nothing special about them; they were tall-ish and had thin builds.

“Back up!” I screamed, my voice cracking, when they kept standing there. I really, really hoped it was my neighbor on the ground and not one of the other guys, or else getting in and out of my house was going to be real awkward for a long time.

Why wasn’t anyone out here helping? I wondered one more time, not understanding why no one else had come out. They weren’t exactly being quiet.

My heart was beating a mile a minute, and I was already sweating like a pig. I was on my own; terrified even as adrenaline pumped through me, but what the hell was I supposed to do? Stand there with my thumb up my butt?

“Back up!” I yelled again with more balls behind my tone, pissed beyond reason that this kind of shit would even be happening in my neighborhood.

There was a single harsh whisper, and then one of attackers took a step back toward the man on the ground and kicked him hard before pointing. “This isn’t over, motherfucker!” he hissed.

As cowardly as it was, I couldn’t help but feel more than a little thankful when two of the jerks jumped into a car together and the other got into the second vehicle without a second glance in my direction, tires peeling onto the street.

The man on the ground barely stirred as I stepped closer to him, my legs trying their best to imitate noodles. The guy was on his back, his heels dragging back and forth across the grass as he writhed in pain, silently. His arms, both covered in tattoos to the wrist, were around his head. I was crossing on to the yard when his head tipped up. He didn’t take much time rolling onto his side, then finally to his hands and knees, pausing in that position.

I dropped the bat on the lawn. “Whoa, buddy, you all right?” was the only thing I could think of to ask as I went to my knees right next to my more-than-likely neighbor. His attention was still focused on the ground. His breathing was choppy and uneven; a line of saliva and blood trailed from what I could only assume was his mouth to the grass. He coughed and more rose-colored fluids dribbled out.

Distracted and, honestly, pretty damn close to panicking, I noticed the hands holding him up were covered in tattoos too, but it was the splotches covering both sets of his knuckles that were a telltale sign he’d tried to fight back at least. Maybe he didn’t know how to fight, but he could get an E for effort.

“Hey, are you all right?” I asked again, slipping my gaze over him, searching for some sign that said he was okay even though chances were he probably wasn’t. I’d seen how much they had hurt him. How could he be fine?

His choppy breathing got even rougher before the man bowed his back and spit; his exhale afterward rattled and sounded painful.

I looked him over; the fluorescent street light made his hair look dark blond. The T-shirt he had on was spotted with blood. But it was his bare feet that said everything; he had to be my neighbor. Why else wouldn’t he have on shoes? Had he opened the door expecting everything to be okay and then gotten jumped?

“What can I help you with?” My voice was shaky and low as he started trying to get off his hands and solely onto his knees, either not realizing I was there or not caring. I moved closer and was caught off guard when an arm reached up toward me.

I only hesitated for a second before taking his wrist, sliding my shoulder under his arm as the blades of grass rubbed against my bare knees. His weight came down on me as his inner elbow settled around the back of my neck. A hint of some kind of liquor hit my nostrils as I slung my arm around his lower back. Anxiety prickled my belly at his closeness. I didn’t know this fool. I had no idea what he was capable of, or what kind of person he was. I mean, who got jumped outside their home? That wasn’t some random, being-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time crap. It was personal.

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