The room was dull, but she was becoming used to it. Ever since her mom caught her downloading rap music and demanded to see her music library, she had no computer in her room. Then, after she was caught talking to a boy on her cell phone, her parents took that, too. So, there she sat on the floor in the only place that she was allowed to use the computer – in the middle of the huge brown and white bearskin rug that was in the middle of the huge white living room that was in the middle of the huge, three story home that was in the middle of the small gated community, quite appropriately titled Cielo Privado. She always thought it was interesting that in Mississippi, there was an exclusive community with a Spanish name. Cielo Privado – A private heaven. She guessed that it was just another way they came up with to keep the “riff-raff” out. People don’t normally live in places it even sounds like they can’t afford.
With all the bigness that surrounded her, she still felt quite small as J. Cole bumped through the Bose headphones she wore while she mindlessly surfed the net and tweeted on a Saturday night. As usual, her parents were gone to some political function, so she was left home alone. This time, it was some kind of fundraiser or the other where a plate of something disgusting was being sold for a price that was even more disgusting. But, if her Dad was going to keep his seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court, these events were a necessary evil. She considered herself lucky that tonight she didn’t have to go because there was alcohol being served, even though she was left at a house with a bar that rivaled those in most restaurants. Go figure.
She got up to look in the mirror. A piece of her long brown hair was in her face and she couldn’t see it. It had been bothering her for a while, and she needed to take care of it. While she stood in front of the mirror that was almost twice her height, she noticed that she looked slimmer in the black leggings than the red ones. She finally located the loose hair and pulled it back into her ponytail. The drop of the ponytail caused a little breeze as it hit the back of her favorite t-shirt. The back of the shirt read “St. Francis Cheerleading: Frantastic!” On the front was a megaphone with her name embroidered on it: Sloane T. The “T” stood for Tolliver, but it didn’t need to be there. It wasn’t like she was going to get confused with any other girl on the squad named Sloane.
She loved her name and thought it sounded sexy. She put on her best sexy face and said “Sloane” out loud in the sexiest voice she could muster, while she hugged herself. Then laughed at herself and thought “Who does that?” Then, just for kicks, she did it again. This time she laughed out loud. She walked over to the baby grand piano and played chopsticks. After her years of formal training, she could certainly play more than that, but she wasn’t in the mood. She had written some lyrics that needed music, but she didn’t feel like figuring that out right now, even though she was bored to death. It was a great time to work on her songs, though, since her parents hated that all the years of piano that they’d paid for hadn’t resulted in a classical pianist, but an aspiring songwriter. She could get in all the practice she wanted while they weren’t there to shake their heads at her and wish to themselves that she had turned out the way they wanted.
The doorbell rang and startled her and she looked at the clock. Oh. It wasn’t as late as she thought it was, it was only six. She thought she’d been sitting there for hours. As she opened the door, she was surprised at how warm it was. Maybe she’d go take a swim in the lake.
“Hey, Geneva! Girl, what are you doing here!? I thought you guys were going to the Coast this weekend!”
“No, that’s next weekend,” Geneva said as she leaned in. “Are you going to let me in or what?”
“Oh, yeah, come on in.”
Geneva came in, kicked off her shoes, and took her favorite seat right in front of the TV. She crossed her long brown legs at the ankles and leaned back in the chair, as graceful as a gazelle. She moved the long, wavy, side-swept bang from her eyes and then examined her fingernails. Geneva was what some would call a Southern Belle, as prim and proper as they came, and she was gorgeous. To top it all off, she was smart. Geneva scrunched her face and looked around, like something was missing. “Where’s your Mom and Dad?”
“They’re gone to some fundraiser or the other to try to convince people to re-elect Dad. They left a couple hours ago, no telling when they’ll be back. I’ve just been sitting here playing around on the computer. I was about to figure out some music to go with these lyrics I wrote, but I didn’t feel like it. Want to go swimming in the backyard?”
“Duh! Why do you think I came over here?” Geneva said and they both laughed. “Let’s go after you let me hear the new song.”
“It’s not ready yet, but I promise you’ll be the first one that I play it for.” Sloane said. She was happy that Geneva was interested in her music. Her support meant a lot, plus she always had good suggestions.
Since a promise had been made, Geneva was okay with moving on. “Come on. Let’s walk over to my house so I can change.” With that, Sloane slipped on her bedazzled flip flops and they walked across the street.
As they passed one of the two matching 700 series BMWs and walked into the garage door of Geneva’s house, they were greeted by the smell of chocolate chip cookies. Her mom always seemed to be cooking something. She loved being over there.
“Hi, Mrs. Gambrelle!”
“Hey, Sloane! How’ve you been? You’re looking cute, as always. I heard you made the cheerleader squad. Congrats!”
“Thanks, Mrs. Gambrelle, I’ve been good. But not as good as those cookies smell!” Sloane smiled and took a seat on the barstool in front of Geneva’s mom. Geneva shouted a quick “Hey, Mama!” as she ran up the back stairs to her room. Her mom looked up and smiled at her as she disappeared up the stairs.
“Well, you’re welcome to a couple when they’re done. You know that! What are you two girls about to get into? I know you aren’t trying to go swimming. It’s almost dark.”
“Ummm, well, that’s what we were thinking.”
“Ummm, well, think again” said Mrs. Gambrelle. And, with that she motioned that Sloane should head upstairs to tell Geneva that their plans were canceled.
“Yes, Ma’am”, Sloane sighed as she eased off the barstool to go upstairs. When she was halfway there, Mrs. Gambrelle shouted “Cookies in ten minutes. Then, I’ll go get you guys a movie from the Redbox.”
Sloane smiled and let out an excited “Yes, Ma’am!” She loved it here.
Thirty minutes later, Sloane and Geneva were in front of what must be the biggest flat-screen TV ever eating cookies and milk and choosing between a drama, or a chick flick. They settled on the chick flick, got two blankets, turned down the lights and got on opposite ends of the couch. The dog, Chief, climbed on top of Geneva’s feet, and the movie started.
In the middle of the movie the phone rang, and the next thing Sloane knew, Mrs. Gambrelle was standing in front of the TV telling them that she and Geneva needed to go somewhere. Sloane thought she looked a bit nervous or something. Mrs. Gambrell turned the lights on and threw the blanket off of Geneva in a way that indicated that they were leaving now, so Sloane took the hint. She slipped on her flip flops and headed to the door. Geneva got up and started towards the door, looking confused. She looked at Sloane and shrugged. As Sloane opened the door, she heard Mrs. Gambrelle say “I’m sorry, Sloane. Come back tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay, no problem,” Sloane yelled back. “Hope everything is okay!” But by that time, she heard Mrs. Gambrelle on the phone telling Mr. Gambrelle that she would pick him up on the way there. Wherever there was.
As Sloane walked under the garage, someone closed it behind her. She looked back as she walked across the street to her house and saw Geneva and Mrs. Gambrelle leaving in Mr. Gambrelle’s old, beat up Camry that he used when he wanted to save gas. People in the neighborhood were always complaining that he needed to park it in the garage behind the house, but he never did. She thought he liked the controversy. He had to, because Mr. Gambrelle was a brain surgeon. He could certainly afford to buy gas, even the premium kind needed for his BMW.
She waved goodbye as they passed her, then opened the door and said hi to the bearskin rug.
The Camry pulled into the emergency room entrance at The Methodist Hospital, affectionally called “The Med.” Will Gambrelle was walking out of the door when he saw them pull up. “What happened?” he asked as he slid into the driver’s seat of the Camry. “And why did she call you?”
“I don’t know! She was crying, and all I could make out was come now, police, and something about a pizza. I just told her we would be there as soon as we could.”
“Well, I guess we’ll see,” Will said as they hurriedly made their way across town to see what it was that Evelyn Gambrelle’s sister Julia had called about.
As they rounded the corner to the run-down apartment building, all Geneva could see were red and blue lights flashing as the police set up that yellow tape they used for a crime scene. There were crowds of people huddled together, some crying, some excitedly discussing what had happened. There was also an ambulance, and a big blue van that read Hinds County Coroner was pulling away.
Hinds County Coroner. Geneva’s heart started beating triple time. Somebody was dead? Why were they here and somebody was dead? The car came to an abrupt stop and her mom and dad jumped out, looking frantically around the crowd for somebody they might now. Then, Geneva spotted her cousin, who looked like he was wandering around all alone. “Hey! Julius! Come here!” she yelled. He looked around and saw her and immediately ran to her arms. “What is the matter? Are you okay?” she asked him? He was only 6, and he looked terrified. But he said the words “Terry made my brother shoot the pizza man in his head.”
Complete silence is all Geneva heard after that. It was as if she had stepped into that place that people say you go when you die. All she could see was a white light, and she could hear nothing. She fell back into the backseat of the Camry and said “Who? You saw this?” “Yeah,” he muttered, he made him do it. Everybody saw it!”
Geneva grabbed him and picked him up, placing him on her back, and told him “Hold on tight to Nene’s neck, okay? And don’t let go.” He did, and off they went into the crowd.
“Mom!! Mama!!!” she screamed when she saw Evelyn Gambrelle talking to a police officer. “Mama! Come here!” Evelyn turned and saw Geneva headed in her direction with little Julius hanging on to her neck for dear life. She walked toward them, and when she was close enough, Geneva blurted out “Julius said Isaac shot the pizza man in the head, Mom!! That’s what he said! Oh my gosh, Mom!” and she began to cry. With the stern lawyer face that Geneva had learned to take very seriously, Evelyn looked at Geneva and said “Geneva, you and Julius go get in the car and stay there. And neither one of you should speak another word until either I or your father speak to you. Got it?” “Yes, ma’am. Got it.” With that, Evelyn Gambrelle walked away, turning only to be sure that Geneva was following her direction.
While Geneva walked back to the car, she heard the whispers of “He threatened him!” “They were just out here shootin’ hoops!” “He was watchin’ his lil brother.” Her world was spinning. Was it true? Did her cousin Isaac just kill someone?
Meanwhile, Will began to look for Julia. Evelyn was in lawyer mode, so he had to be in family mode. He found Julia sitting in the open door of a police car, and his nephew Isaac was in the backseat, shell shocked. He raced over to them, and Julia immediately hugged him. “This is a nightmare, Will!” As she talked, she became frantic. “I just sent him out here to watch his little brother, now they’re saying he killed somebody. With a gun! Will, he didn’t have no gun!! My baby boy didn’t have no gun, Will!” Now sobbing, Julia could no longer speak. He stretched his hand out toward Isaac and said “Son, you’re going to be fine, okay? You just listen and do everything your Aunt Evelyn tells you, and you’ll be fine.” Isaac shook his head yes, but it was apparent that he didn’t believe him. Or maybe he didn’t even hear him. Right then, the police car started and an officer came to close the door. Julia broke down into an even bigger pile of tears as the car pulled away with her son in the backseat.
He was only thirteen. This could not be happening.