Where I come from, nothing is easy. Money doesn't just appear like magic in front of you like it does to the rich kids on the north side of town. We south kids have it a lot harder than them. We do drug deals and robberies to put dinner on the table. We do whatever we can to take care of ourselves and our families.
My parents met in the gang I grew up in. My mother tried to keep me away from the danger as much as possible, but she wasn't successful. My father took me with him on drug deals to "toughen me up." That's what he told my mom when she would yell at him for puttingtheir five year old daughter in harm's way. I'm glad he took me on those trips, though. I learned a lot during our time together. I've almost worked my way up to the top of the gang now. I'll be able to go on drug deals by myself soon. In the Miedo gang world, that's a humungous accomplishment, especially for girls. I've always had to go with my best friend, Enrique Vargas. Enrique's already allowed to goby himself, but the boss of the Miedos, Antonio, makes him go along with me.
Enrique's parents and mine are very close friends. Our families look out for each other. I love Enrique's parents like my own and vice versa. Enrique is 18 years old and I'm 17, so he's only a year older than me. We grew up together. He was my very first kiss, he took my virginity, but we just stayed close friends. Friends always seemed so much better than anything more. More than friends seemed complicated and just seemed like a chore. I wasn't ready for love anytime soon. It's not just that I wasn't ready, I didn't have the time.
My little sister, Isabel, has always wanted to follow in my footsteps, but I don't let her. I can't let her. She's only 12 years old and I do the best I can to keep her away from the gang. Enrique says that I need to stop babying her. He says that she needs grow up and start learning from me so she can protect herself. I just don't understand that, though. I'm here, so why does she need to learn? I can protect her.
My parents left a few weeks ago without any indication to me and Isabel or anyone in the gang of where they were headed. I'm really worried about them, but Enrique's father and Antonio have assured me multiple times that they're absolutely fine. I don't believe them for one second, though. I keep having this idea that Antonio sent them somewhere for something he wants. You do what Antonio says. If you don't...well...let's just say that he gets rid of you. No one disobeys the boss. That would be the biggest regret of your life...if you even lived to regret it.
I looked across the abandoned church yard at Enrique playing football with some of the other guys from the gang. I ripped some grass out of the ground in frustration with my absent parents. Marisol Diaz, a girl I was close with in the gang, was sitting beside me. "You really think my parents are okay?" I asked her for the thousandth time in two minutes.
"Adrianna, I think your parents are fine! IF Antonio sent them somewhere, I don't think he would send them anywhere to put them in danger. They've been reliable, trustworthy, and loyal to the Miedos for a long time," Marisol said. She was lying on her back, soaking up the Saturday afternoon sun. Her long, wavy, chocolate brown hair blew in the light spring breeze and the sunshine made her beautiful green eyes sparkle. Marisol's parents were killed when she was only 11 years old from a couple members of the Unido gang, our sworn enemy. She's wanted revenge since they were murdered, but I don't think she has it in her to kill another human being. Doesn't matter if they're from the Unido or not. I don't even think I have it in me, even though I want to think I do.
Enrique jogged over to us with his shirt off. His perfectly sculpted abs glittered with sweatin the sunlight. His medium-length, dark brown hair stuck to his forehead as beads of sweat dripped down the sides of his face. Sure, he was hot. I figured that out a long time ago. Everyone I know thinks he's hot. I kind of got over that, though. I mean, I've spent almost every waking moment with him since the day I was born. "Ready to get going?" Enrique asked me, grabbing his white t-shirt off the grass and pulling it over his head.
"Yea," I replied. I stood up and waved goodbye to Marisol. We walked silently to Enrique's car as he pulled his blue bandana out of his back pocket and slipped it on his head. Blue was the Miedo color. As I watched him do it, I remembered that mine was off as well, and Islipped it back on mynaturally straight, dark brown hair. North siders were scared of us, as they should be. I learned how to handle a gun when I was eight years old. My dad only taught me how because I begged him and also because he wanted me to know how for self defense. He had told me to never use it unless I was being threatened by someone.
I got in the passenger seat of his car as he got in the driver's seat and started the car. My parents being gone without a trace was really making me look weak. I was a perfect targetto Unidos toeliminate some Miedos. Even though I told Enrique not to, he was always looking out for me. I could take care of myself just fine, but I secretly always felt better when I knew he was right beside me doing a drug deal or in a fight.
"Ade, what's the matter?" Enrique asked, driving down the road towards McDonald's for lunch.
"Nothing. I'm just worried."
"How many times have we gone over this?" he sighed, irritated. "They. Are. Fine. Trust me."
"Shut up! You don't know that! Everyone keeps saying that they're fine, but no ones knows that for sure! There are Unidos all over this fucking country! One blue bandana is enough of an excuse to kill. They could be anywhere! Plus, they wouldn't just leave without telling me and Isabel anything unless they were forced to. At the very least, they would've called by now. Trust ME!"
"Maybe they can't contact you until they are done with their errand."
"Whatever errand Antonio has them on, it can't be anything remotely good," I said.
"IF it's Antonio," he interrupted. Why did everyone doubt that it was Antonio? I knew for a fact it was him.
"They wouldn't just not tell us anything if they weren't forced to, Enrique."
"Whatever you say, chica!" He pulled into the parking lot of McDonald's and we got out, adjusting our blue bandanas. We were on the northern side of town, where the rich, preppy kids lived. We had to look tough and scary to them. We had a reputation to live up to.
I opened the restaurant door and two Unidos strolled out in front of us. Enrique glared at them, as did I. We couldn't start a fight or anything here, in public, which was too bad. The two male Unidos eyed meup and down longer thanthey did Enrique.Enrique noticed and pulled myupper arm, pushing me behindhim. He backed us up slowly, watching them asthey retreated out into the parking lot, as they watched us as well.
As soon as they were out of sight, I pulled my arm out of Enrique's hard grasp and said annoyed, "What the hell? I totally had them if they wanted to start a fight! You don't need to be the hero all the time, you know. I can take care of myself."
"You didn't have them. Anyways, you couldn't fight them even if you wanted to. It's a public place. You have so much to still learn," he tsked.
"I'm not stupid!" I retaliated back. "I know that I couldn't have started it here. You really do underestimate me, Enrique." I crossed my arms and stepped up to order my food.
Everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. They were trying to make it so it didn't look like they were, but I know when people are. It's become a normal thing for me eversince I started wearing a Miedo bandana.
After we ordered our food and found a table in the back corner of the restaurant Enrique stared at me. I could tell he was cotemplating whether to tell me something or not. Before Icould ask him about it he spoke. "So, I wasn't going to tell you this, but I figure you'd be pissed if I didn't." He took a big bite of his burger.
"What?" I queried.
"There's a Miedo and Unido fight tonight down at the old park. Miguel told me. He wantsus to come. You in?"
I nodded. "Definitely." These fights never ended good, but I was always lucky and have gotten out of them without so much as a bruise. I've had a lot of friends die in the Miedos. Most of those deaths were caused by Unidos. If anything ever happened to Enrique, I don't know what I would do. I wouldn't be able to deal with it. That's why I keep Isabel away. Enrique can take care of himself, but Isabel can't.
When we finished eating, we got up and left, watching the preps as we walked by. "What do you want to do tonight? I think we should just relax, you know? We need a Saturday just to ourselves. Can we hang at your house?" Enrique asked, turning on the car.
"Yea, that's fine. Whatever," I said nonchalantly.
"Seriously, Ade, you've been like this for a while now. You're not yourself. I know you're worried. I get it, so am I, but this kind of thing happens all the time. We should be used to it."
"Shut up, Enrique! Your parents are still here! You don't know how I feel!" Then, I let a few tears escape my eyelids. I hadn't cried since Iwas little. My dad always told me that I should never cry because it showed weakness. But, Enrique knew me better than anyone and I didn't care what he thought about me.
I leaned my head against the window until we pulled into my driveway. Enrique didn't say anything. I really hoped he would just leave. Then, I could finally have a break down of my parents being gone. That's something that I've wanted to do for some time. I got out slowly and he followed.
We walked up to my front door silently and he turned towards me, pulling me to his chest. "I'm sorry," he murmered into my hair. "You're right. I don't know what you're feeling. I just miss you. My best friend. I want the old you back, Ade."
"Sorry," I whispered into his chest. "Still want to hang out?"
He nodded and smiled a 100 watt smile. He opened my front door, linking his hand with mine to pull me inside.