Maliyah snuck into the house, hoping that her step-father, Jerome, wasn’t home. But as soon as she stepped into her room and smelled the stale cigarettes and sweaty socks, she knew he was. Ever since Maliyah had turned eleven last week, and whenever her mom wasn’t home, he would sneak into her room. Tonight he was already there. Maliyah stuck out her bottom lip, and pretended to pout. Maybe, this time, if she begged hard enough, he would just get annoyed and beat her.
“Maliyah...baby. Please don’t lie. I know you don’t like Jerome… I know that. You’re probably thinking he’s gonna replace your daddy… I promise he won’t, Maliyah. But, can you let me be happy for once? CAN YOU NOT RUIN MY HAPPINESS FOR ONCE??” Maliyah’s mom, Adrianne, screamed, shaking Maliyah by her shoulders.
“No mom, I’m not lying! We’ve been living here for six years, why would I lie now?? Jerome raped me, mom, he raped me!” Maliyah cried, into her hands.
MALIYAH ABRIANNE CARDOSO-GRAY
“I bet you’ll never put your hands on me again” 17 year old Maliyah Cardoso-Gray said to herself, sharpening her knife against her headboard. She gently tucked it under her mattress, that way, when Jerome put her on her back tonight, she could slit his throat in one quick move. It had been five years since Jerome had started touching her, and since her mom didn’t believe her, she would handle the problem herself. She would get away from Jerome and this “family”, if it was the last thing she did. Things had changed though. Now, instead of her stepfather being a lazy mechanic, he was one of the most solid kingpins of New Orleans. She also didn’t have her father just around the corner any more. Kendall Gray, Jr. had moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, which was approximately 10 hours. Word around the street was he had moved his “business” there, along with his stripper wife, some young female named Diamond.
“Girl, are you okay?” Maliyah’s best friend, Shanice said, reaching over to unlock the door. Shanice knew she could never compare her life experiences to Maliyah’s. After all, Shanice’s mother was an attorney, and Shanice never had to want for anything in her life. Meanwhile, Maliyah and her two siblings lived off food stamps and things they stole from the local mini-mart. But, their different lifestyles didn’t affect their friendship. Maliyah knew what boundary not to cross with Shanice, and Shanice knew the same.
Suddenly, as Shanice studied Maliyah, her best friend broke down. Maliyah had a tough soul, so when she finally cried, there was something seriously wrong in her life. “Liyah, what in the world is wrong with you?” Shanice asked, taking off her seatbelt and turning her undivided attention towards Maliyah.
“I can’t do it anymore Shanice… I just can’t… I’ve dealt with this long enough. I’m tired of him creeping in my room at night. I’m tired of my mom calling me a liar and trying to come up with some flaws in my story…then gets mad because I have an attitude on the daily. Shanice, I’m just tired of that house. The only reasons that I’m staying is because of Angelino, Leilani, and Monet. I would rather be his target than my little sister” Maliyah said, tearfully sobbing. Shanice looked away in disgust.
“Do you think that he’d really do that...like…to his own kids?” She said, finally putting her seatbelt on and driving out of Maliyah’s driveway.
“I mean I don’t see why he wouldn’t…he doesn’t have a problem doing it to me, and he’s been with my mom since I was two”.
As soon as Maliyah got home from school, and as soon as she walked through the door, she was greeted with a belt…around her neck.
“I told YOU to keep your mouth shut. You keep telling that little friend of yours, OUR business. You’re gonna have to learn how to keep a secret baby girl” Jerome said as he dragged gasping Maliyah to her room, where he was going to receive some pleasure…before he killed her. “You know what I’m thinking Maliyah… I’m thinking after I kill you… I might have to kill that little friend of yours…what’s her name again? Shanice Miles? She’s a pretty little thing too. Maybe I’ll break her in and then kill her. Hmmm…” Jerome whispered as he threw Maliyah onto her bed. Maliyah already knew what he wanted, so if she just acted nice, he would let the belt loose. She bent her legs on both sides of her stepfather’s body, and stroked up and down his arm. She knew that if she did that, she could get him to relax.
“I’m sorry, J… Please just let me loose. I can’t breathe... I’ll make it up to you…Just loosen up the belt… Please…” Maliyah begged. Having dominant Maliyah frightened and begging empowered Jerome, so he subconsciously released the grip of the belt a little bit.
“Oh…you’re sweet… So sweet Maliyah… I might have to wrap a belt around your neck more often, you know that? Just to get you to open your pretty little self up. It’s about time you learned to stop fighting me. It just makes everything ten times worse for you. Although I must admit, I like your feistiness” Jerome said, so sick that Maliyah had to ball up her fists just to keep from stabbing him right now. She had to get him preoccupied, that way he couldn’t grab her arms or anything. Finally, as he saw the submissiveness in her eyes, he completely released the belt and threw it to the ground. Maliyah put her hands around the headboard. Jerome took that as a sign of what was to come, so he started taking off her clothes, starting from the bottom and working his way up. When he got to the button on Maliyah’s skin-tight jeans, she took that as her cue. She swiftly grabbed the knife and lunged up. However, somehow the knife slipped in her sweaty hand, and instead of stabbing him in his temple like she planned, she got him, deep, in the eye.
“OWWWWW!” Jerome squealed, jumping up from his place. Maliyah jumped off the bed and grabbed the bag she had strategically placed right by the door. As she headed towards the stairs, she thought of something. She went into the laundry room and removed three boxes that were plunged under the dryer, and then went to the empty cereal box and stuffed that into her bag as well. She didn’t even bother to look in them, because she knew that Jerome’s “team” hadn’t come to pick them up yet. They were packed with money. As she stuffed them into her duffle bag and ran out of the laundry room, she saw Jerome fall down the stairs. She walked up to him and kissed his forehead.
“I’m sorry” she said softly, eventually bursting into hysterical laughter. As she turned to walk away, she turned back towards him, placed both his hands in handcuffs and cuffed him to the stair railing. “I’m sorry that you’re a no-good, sweaty, nasty PUNK that likes to have sex with little kids… Lemme find out you touched Leilani or Monet…and owe, you’ll be lucky if you get out with half of your body intact” she said, winking to him as she walked out of the door.
SHANICE JACQUELYNNE MILES
Shanice was frantic. She had gotten a call from Maliyah, asking her to meet her at the bus station. She knew that Maliyah had finally made her decision, but Jerome wasn’t just going to let her go like that. As she got out of her car, she spotted a nervous Maliyah, swirling a straw around in a blue cup. As soon as Maliyah spotted Shanice, she jumped up and ran over to her, burying her face into Shanice’s plus-sized bosom.
“I didn’t know who else to call. Shanice, I’m so sorry. He knows I talked to you about what he does to me. I don’t know how he knows, but he does. You have to be careful. He’ll be looking for you. If he’s not dead-“
“What do you mean DEAD? Maliyah, what did you do??” Shanice cried, actually quite loudly. They looked around playfully, as soon as they realized people were watching them.
“Shh... Shanice... Don’t talk so loud! Look, he put a belt around my neck, so I stabbed him. I tried to stab him in his temple, like you showed me. But my balance was off. I got him, GOOD, in the eye. But I don’t know if he’s dead. Please Shanice… just be careful” Maliyah said, brushing one of Shanice’s wild bronze curls out of her face.
“Girl, please. I got me and my mines. Plus, you know my dad don’t play that. He’ll have five bullets in Jerome before he can get on the first step” Shanice said, trying to lighten up the situation. But, after observing Maliyah’s face, she knew it wasn’t going to work. “Speaking of dads…you’re going to his house aren’t you?” Shanice said, grabbing Maliyah’s bus ticket out of her hand.
“I have no choice. I don’t have anybody here. Jerome will EXPECT me to be at your house, and I won’t put you guys in danger like that. My mom’s parents live in Ohio, and there’s NO WAY I’m moving to that place. My mom only has one sister, Mariana, but I don’t know where she’s at. That leaves one place to go, my dad’s. I have my birth certificate and a picture of him with me when I was a baby. Plus, I’m sure when he finds out my situation, he won’t be too happy” Maliyah said, smiling at the imaginary father that she had made up a long time ago. She imagined a father that devoted all his time to her, a father that would lose his life trying to protect her. Shanice strongly doubted that her father would care that much, but for Maliyah’s sake, she kept her mouth shut. “Look Shanice, do me a favor. There’s a river by the school right?” Maliyah asked, continuously checking the time. Every moment she spent still here in New Orleans, was one more minute that Jerome was probably trying to find her. Shanice just nodded, she was just as much in a rush as Maliyah was, to get her out of there. “Throw my phone in there, that way he won’t be able to track me. The moment I get my new phone with my dad, I’ll text you. I love you Shanice” Maliyah said, hugging Shanice tightly. As Maliyah’s bus drove away, Shanice sat in her car and cried.
GABRIELA ADRIANA CARDOSO
The moment Ms. Cardoso drove into her complex, she knew something was wrong. The ambulance was parked outside her brand new house, and they were surrounded by police. She got out of her car and rushed to the front door, before the police could stop her.
“JEROME!! JEROME!!!” Gabriela cried, she hadn’t even bothered to ask about her children, because honestly, her husband was her biggest priority. As soon as she saw him being rolled out the house in a gurney, she sat on the curb and cried.
When Ms. Cardoso was fifteen years old, her and her mother, along with her older sister and two younger brothers moved to The United States from Rio de Janeiro, where Gabriela was born. Soon afterwards, Gabriela’s mother met a man who was 12 years younger than her, and only eight years older than Gabriela. Needless to say, the last thing that Mr. David wanted was one step-child, let alone four. So after Mr. David got Gabriela’s mother pregnant and she gave birth to a little girl, he left. Along with her heart, her common sense also left. She kicked her two young daughters, Mariana and Gabriela out of the house during the day, in hopes that they would get a job, or bring home a rich man. Besides that, she sent her two six year old sons to an orphanage, because they had no use for her. Of course, once Mariana, Gabi’s older sister, found out, she was hysterical. Mariana had raised her younger sister and her younger brothers.
MALIYAH ABRIANNE CARDOSO-GRAY
As soon as Maliyah hopped on the bus, she pulled her bag onto her lap. Even though she had fought with the bus people about taking her bag on with her, eventually they gave in. When she unzipped the bag and took the top off the shoeboxes. She knew that Jerome was now big pimpin’, but she had no idea that one shoebox would equal to $20,000. After she also looked in the cereal box, she realized that she had about $45,000 on her. With this sense of power, anxiety also hit her.
“I know he’s looking for his money. He’s going to kill me” Maliyah said, her heart rate speeding up. It was then that she realized that she would have to start looking out for herself. Nobody was going to do it for her. As soon as her bus touched down in St. Louis, Maliyah grabbed her bag and jetted off the bus. She had no idea where she was going, so she got bold. She walked into the closest diner and caught the attention of the nearest waitress.
“Hi, I’m new to this area, and I’m trying to surprise my uncle. His name is Kendall Gray. You wouldn’t happen to know where he stays would you?” Maliyah said, faking the funk. She had a way about her, where she could lie about anything. It wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but it had gotten her a long way in life. The waitress instantly got weak in the knees. Of course she knew where the Gray Family stayed. All the good-looking women that Kendall Gray “recruited” knew where he stayed.
“Of course! Kendall is your uncle? I would think he was your brother or something. You guys look just alike. But go down to Pilgrim Way and make a left, go all the way down ‘til you’re almost on the next main street. You’ll see your uncle’s house. It’s the only three story house on that block. And it’s a light peach color” The plump woman said. After standing there for about two minutes, the customer demanded the waitress’ attention and she was forced to walk off. As soon as she did, Maliyah spun around, right into a man that looked like an exact replica of the man holding her in the picture!
“My bad, ma. I didn’t mean to bump into you” The clone said, grabbing both of Maliyah’s hands to steady her. He backed up as soon as he saw the confused look on Maliyah’s face. “Are you alright?” he said, checking the time on his watch. He didn’t have time for the usual drama queen and he didn’t have time for her to start throwing herself all over him. Maliyah didn’t know how to respond. The usual, quick-tongued girl was stuck.
“What if I ask him and he’s not my dad…but what if he knows him?” Maliyah thought to herself. Finally, she just sucked it up and the words came out.
“Y..y…you wouldn’t happen to be Kendall Gray would you?” she said, almost bursting into tears. The dark-skinned younger version of Maliyah’s father had ALWAYS been taught not to tell ANYBODY he didn’t know about ANYTHING. The lifestyle he had grown up in meant constant danger for him and his family. He wasn’t willing to give up any information unnecessarily. As soon as she mentioned his father’s name, he looked around to see if anyone had heard them. Once he was sure they hadn’t, he pulled her by her arm outside of the café.
“I’m Brandon, Kendall Gray is my dad. Look, I don’t know what you want. But whatever it is, my dad isn’t interested. I’ll be happy to give you some money. But please, just leave us all alone” Brandon asked, quietly. He made sure that as soon as anybody walked past him, his voice would go down an octave. When Maliyah didn’t say anything, he started to walk away.
“Wait…Brandon…wait a minute. I have something I need to show you” Maliyah said, as she dug through her bag. She had folded up her birth certificate and stuffed it into her bag, but right now, when she needed it the most, she couldn’t find it. Finally, her fingers wrapped around the worn, old paper, and she pulled it out.
“Look. I don’t want any money. You see? This is my birth certificate. Kendall Jordan Gray is listed as my father, and he EVEN signed it. I need to see him” Maliyah said, crying. All the times when she was younger and asked to see her dad, her mother would tell her Jerome was her new father. Now, that she was so close to meeting the father that was her real father, it was surreal. Brandon looked at the birth certificate astounded. The only sisters he ever knew were his big sisters Jaslyn, London, and Trinity. Now, a YOUNGER sister was being added to the brood and Brandon didn’t know how to take it.
“Damn man. Alright, I’ll take you to the house. Get in the car” Brandon muttered under his breath as he grabbed Maliyah’s bag and lunged it into the trunk.
As soon as Maliyah stepped into the house, all she noticed was a real family. Three girls were sitting on the living room couch, and there was a young woman in the kitchen cooking. “AYE! EVERYBODY! Living room NOW!” Brandon shouted. The girls on the living room couch suddenly jumped up and headed to the door and she heard a rumbling of footsteps upstairs.
“BJ, what’s the problem? I already told you about yelling in my damn house” 50 year-old Kendall Gray said calmly as he walked down the stairs. He stopped walking as soon as he saw Maliyah. “Do I know you?” Kendall asked, but as he looked at her light gray eyes and her deep-set dimples, he put his hands over his face.
“Girl, come here and give your daddy a hug!” Kendall said, rushing towards Maliyah. “Oh my lord, I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. Your momma had a new man, and she was so dead-set on pleasing him she told me if I ever came close to you again, she would call the DEA as a confidential informant and I would lose everything I had ever worked for. So instead of seeing you, I sent money every month. Did you ever get my letters?” Kendall said, lifting Maliyah’s sunken head up. He noticed she was crying, and as he lifted her head higher, he noticed the marks on her neck. “London, Trinity, Jaslyn, go and take the babies upstairs. Denisha, babe, go upstairs now. But tell Kingston, Kevin and Jordan to come here. NOW” Kendall said, using his daddy voice. The girls looked at each other, but when their father cleared his throat, they did what he asked. They put the infants in their arms and ushered the toddlers upstairs.
KENDALL JORDAN GRAY
Kendall was infuriated. Sure, he hadn’t been around Maliyah, but if there was anything that he couldn’t stand, it was a no-good “specimen” who liked to take advantage of little kids. It bothered him even more that he hadn’t been around to protect Maliyah, his baby girl. He had vowed to her when she was a little girl, that no matter the relationship between Adrianne and himself, he would always be the person that Maliyah could look to. He had failed her.
TRINITY BRIANNA GRAY
Trinity couldn’t help but envy the new Gray Daughter that had just come into the house. After all, she had been the “baby girl” for twenty two years. NOBODY was allowed to just come in there and take her spot. But that was exactly what Maliyah was doing.
Trinity just looked at Maliyah as she walked into the kitchen. In the family, Trinity was known as always being the first person up and the last person asleep. This morning was no different. But, she had to give the girl some props. Maliyah was gutsy. Many people were scared of Trinity Gray and her sister London, but Maliyah wasn’t one of those people. Instead of looking away, Maliyah would stare Miss Trinity right in her eyes.
“You can sit down, you know. I won’t bite” Trinity said, with a smirk. Maliyah looked at Trinity out of the corner of her eyes and nodded sarcastically.
“No thanks. I like to stand” Maliyah said, softly. She wasn’t in the mood for Trinity’s crazy antics.
“No forreal. I gotta holla about you on some real stuff. So PLEASE sit down” Trinity said, through clenched teeth. Kendall, her father, had told her to try and be nice. But, this was about as close to “nice” as she was going to get. As much as Maliyah’s mind was going off on her, she sat down, but she did prepare for a battle. Under the table, her hands were clenched. Growing up with the kind of mother she had, she was always ready to fight. Today was no different. Trinity, being the same type of way, just laughed. “You can unclench your fists. I’m not about to swing on you girl” Trinity said, shifting her gaze between her coffee cup and the young “Mini-Trini” in front of her. Maliyah, realizing her “front” had been brought down, quickly placed her hands on the table. “So what happened to you that was sooooo bad that it took you seventeen years to try to find your “father”?” Trinity asked, so sinister, that Maliyah’s tears instantly jumped into her eyes.
“Look, Trinity, I understand where you’re coming from. I do. You were the youngest and now all of a sudden you lose your spot to a girl you’ve never even met… I get it. But this, NONE of this is my fault. I didn’t have anywhere else to go and trust me when I say, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you” Maliyah said, staring her big sister defiantly in her eyes.
“TRY ME” Trinity said, taking a long hard sip of her coffee before she sat the cup back down.
By the end of Maliyah’s story, Trinity’s tears had soaked through her lavender purple shirt.
MALIYAH ABRIANNE CARDOSO-GRAY
It had been almost two weeks since Maliyah had shown up at the Gray house, and she was beginning to love her family. Although her father Kendall hadn’t really been around very much, most of Maliyah’s brothers hadn’t left her side. However, the girls, minus Jaslyn, still weren’t very fond of the new “baby girl”.
“Hey Liyah” Kendall said, coming in the kitchen and kissing his daughter on the cheek.
“Hi dad” Maliyah said, secretly smiling on the inside.
“What are you doing? Raiding my kitchen?” Kendall said, grabbing a piece of freshly cut up cilantro and popped into his mouth, thinking it was mint. As Maliyah observed him, his burnt-caramel turned red and he started choking. She burst out laughing as she stirred her secret sauce that she was going to pour over the chicken. Right then, London came into the kitchen and stood at the doorway. Cooking for her “men” was her job.
“Trying to kill dad already I see” London said, smirking. She had no problem with Maliyah, as a matter of fact, she was beginning to like the girl.
“Hey, ain’t nobody tell that man to eat cilantro. That stuff is strong” Maliyah said loudly, chuckling to herself.
DREONTAE “KASHES” WILLIAMS
“Yo bro, are you trying to go on this job with me?” Kashes asked his younger brother, Jayelon, as he hopped in the car. This is what the two brothers, along with Jayelon’s best friend, did. They robbed people as a past-time, because that’s what they had to grow up doing, in order to survive. Jayelon ate the last piece of his pizza and leaned into the driver’s side window.
“Depends... how much is it paying?” J asked, remembering back on what his baby mama had said earlier that day. In so many words, Bree had told him that he was a horrible father and she had another man raising their 14 month-old son, DJ. But in his own defense, it was hard out here trying to survive. Sure, Jayelon worked small-end jobs here and there, but it wasn’t much money. Whatever he had to do for his little man, he would do. But, where Jayelon was, wasn’t where Jayelon wanted to be.
“Are you listening to me? Are you coming or not??” Kashes yelled, hitting the steering wheel. Everybody and their mama knew about Dreontae Cordell Williams and his tantrums, and nobody had time for that.
“My bad bro. I just got a lot of stuff on my mind” Jayelon muttered, staring at the driveway. “But how much did The Boss say we were getting paid?” Jayelon asked, re-circling his way back around to the original question. Dreontae sighed, he couldn’t stand when Jayelon was like this, because he hated repeating himself.
“Bro, like I was saying, this is MAD money. All we gotta do is get this chick to trust us and hit a lick on her. Word around is that she got bundles. I’m talking $45,000. The Boss says we’re getting half of that, so $22,500 and then that split into two is $11,250.”
“Whoa. Dreontae. A FEMALE? I don’t rob females!” Jayelon said, shaking his head.
“J, you’re not getting what I’m saying. We don’t have to hurt her! With $11,250, do you know you could buy A THOUSAND Bree’s??” Dreontae yelled, getting so excited that his foot slipped and made the car jerk. But just mentioning his brother’s baby’s mama’s name totally ruined J’s mood. “My bad bro. I know that’s a soft spot for you, especially cause of Deyanté” Kashes said softly, sympathizing with his only other brother, even though he had no children. He knew that one of Jayelon’s issues was Breoni, Deyanté’s mom. The other one was money. After this move, he wouldn’t have to worry about either.
“You ready bro?” Dreontae asked, turning the car off. Jayelon noticed that, once again, when it involved money, Dre’s hands were twitching. The younger brother sighed. Nothing had changed. Maybe this time, neither one of them would be in danger. As they stepped inside the abandoned night club, Jayelon didn’t notice anything strange, but Dre did.
“Sit down” They heard a new voice order. Then came total and complete darkness.
MALIYAH ABRIANNE CARDOSO-GRAY
“Are you sure you’re ready to babysit my kids Liyah? I mean you know…they’re not used to you. If you’re nervous, I can stay home” London cried, grabbing Maliyah by her shoulders. Her boyfriend, her son’s father, was taking her out on a date for the first time since Nassir was born.
“Dang London! Paris is ready for bath time and Nassir is drinking his bed-time bottle. Sis! They’re 18 months old and 4 months old. They’re not used to ANYBODY. I got this. Now, if you don’t leave in 14.6 seconds, I’ll be forced to drag you by your hair. You don’t want that” Maliyah said, laughing. She pushed London out the door and as soon as she saw her big sister slightly pivot, she shut the door. “This is too peaceful. It’s weird” Maliyah said to herself. As soon as she sat down, there was a knock on the door. “LONDON! I’m fine!” She screamed before she opened the door. Once the door was open, she quickly realized that it wasn’t her sister. The unwelcome guests pushed her aside and walked past her. Maliyah threw her body over Baby Nassir and pulled 18 month old Paris-Anaya closer to her, in order to protect her as well. The next thing Maliyah heard was a gun cock.
“Naw! Don’t shoot her! Leave her alone. We’re just trying to send a message this time. This isn’t what we came here for! Remember?” One of the invaders said to the young teenage boy. “Little Trigga” wasn’t called that for no reason. Besides the fact that he was only 15, Jerome’s youngest soldier, he had a very happy trigger-finger. He believed that in order to get a job done, it was necessary to shoot first and ask questions later. Little Trigga sighed. He knew that The Boss should’ve just let him come alone, but he didn’t ask questions, and he wasn’t about to argue. Arguing would get a minor-placed solder, like himself, killed. As soon as he looked at the baby and she started crying, he lost his nerve. If he would’ve been by himself, everybody would’ve been dead already. He didn’t know how to do his job if there were living, breathing “targets” around.
“Yo shut that thing up!” the aggravated teenager yelled, waving his gun around. Maliyah flinched slightly, but brought the quivering Baby Paris closer to her.
“She’s not a thing, you dummy. She’s a baby and she’s going to cry, because you’re umm… I don’t know, screaming. Can’t you just take what you came for and leave?” Maliyah said, strongly, forcing her voice not to crack. Even at gunpoint, she was going to say what was on her mind. If he was going to kill her, he was going to kill her. But he wouldn’t touch her niece and nephew. Then she got hit with an idea. If she could just get to the couch, all of this would be over in a flash. “Can I get the pacifier at least? She’ll be quiet then, I promise” Maliyah added. As soon as Little Trigga turned his back towards her, which gave her an opportunity to grab the gun that Mr. Gray had taped under the couch pad. As soon as Trigga heard the safety being pulled back, he turned around, ready to shoot. The neighbors heard two shots.
Kendall Jordan Gray
“What is going on?” Kendall muttered under his breath as he and his wife, Denisha arrived from their date, to a yard full of police cars. As soon as he saw his phone light up, he answered it.
“What’s up Drell?”
“Why are the police in front of my house??” Kendall yelled, cutting his eldest son off mid-sentence. He was thinking that the police had finally seized the large amount of money in his house. That would mean that there was a snitch in the midst of the Gray Household. But as soon as he saw his children huddled up by a near-by SWAT van, he knew that his money wasn’t the issue. He counted the heads he saw, and besides the grandchildren, there were only seven. Kingston, knowing his father would have an abundance of questions, took the liberty of answering the ones that he knew he could.
“It’s Maliyah in the house dad. TiTi already called London. She’s on a date with Xavier and left Maliyah home with Reesy and Nas. From what I’ve heard the officers saying to each other, neighbors called 911 when they heard two gunshots go off in the house. So far, there’s one person down, and I’m not sure if that person is dead or what” Kingston explained softly. He wasn’t going to get super emotional. If Maliyah was hurt, or even dead, somebody was going to have to pay. All the Gray Children had agreed on that. But, lucky for them, all their questions would be answered. Five minutes after Kendall Gray arrived on the scene, Maliyah was wheeled out on a gurney. She was disoriented, bloody and barely conscious, but she was alive.
GABRIELA ADRIANA CARDOSO
“My baby! I need to see my baby!” Gabriela yelled, trying to squeeze past both of the security guards, to no avail. As soon as she saw that her small figure was doing her no good, she put her fists to her eyes, in order to try to make herself cry. She switched her hips as she walked away. On her way out of the hospital, she saw Kendall walking in. As she followed him, she realized that once again, her ex-boyfriend liked to be the star of the show. With just a flick of his wrists, the security guards stepped aside and let him through. But just as soon as they had stepped aside, they soon got back to their side-to-side “No Man Passes” position. “KENDALL!!KENDALL!!” Gabriela screamed, waving her hands to catch Kendall’s attention. She thought that he had ignored her until she heard a booming voice.
“Let her through” Kendall said, deeply. Gabriela knew Kendall, and she could tell that he wasn’t excited to see her. As soon as they let her through, she adjusted her jacket and walked up to Kendall.
“Kendall” Gabriela said, acknowledging the man, who she once considered to be the love of her life. She was shocked to see that, in return, all she got was a brief head-nod. “Now Mr. Gray, is that any way to greet the woman that you were once going to marry?” Gabriela said, mockingly. She had a way of MAKING SURE she got what she wanted. But it never worked with Kendall. He was a different kind of guy.
“No Gabriela. It’s not, but it is the way to talk to a poor excuse of a mother” Kendall said, trying to squeeze his way past Gabriela.
At one point in time, Kendall believed that Gabriela Adriana Cardoso would be the one that he spent the rest of his life. When she told him she was pregnant, Kendall was ecstatic. He thought that maybe, this time, he hadn’t messed up picking the mother of his child. However, after a series of lies and “misunderstandings”, Kendall realized that Gabriela wasn’t, and would never be, the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. Once he told her that he didn’t think they should be together, Gabriela acted a fool. She claimed that if they weren’t together, he would never see his daughter. As much as he didn’t want to accept that, Gabriela threatened that if he ever came around, she would call her favorite “Uncle Ryan”, who worked for the DEA, and give him some information. Kendall knew that his “kingdom”, the kingdom left to him and his brother by his father, would never be at its full capacity if he and his older brother, Kaden, were to have to start over. Besides that, he had eight other children who depended on him. So instead of visiting his “angel” Maliyah, he simply opted to send her money, $250 every two weeks. Money Kendall strongly doubted that she got.
Denisha Diane Gray
Denisha sped up to meet her husband, but when she saw him having a heated discussion with another woman, she walked even faster.
“AHEMM!” Denisha mocked, attempting to “clear her throat”. She could tell by the look on the other woman’s face that she hated being interrupted, and she obviously didn’t know who she was.
“May I help you?” the burnt-caramel toned woman said, in a thick accent, rolling her neck. Denisha, with her hot-tempered attitude, quickly had to check herself. This Latina woman obviously didn’t know that Denisha grew up hood, and would fight guys. But, by the look on her husband’s face, she sensed that this was neither the time nor the place. Out of respect for her baby, Kendall, she shut her mouth and gritted her teeth, in order to keep nasty, mean words from coming out. “Hi, I’m Denisha Gray. I’m Kendall’s w-“
“Wife, Gabriela, this is Denisha, MY WIFE” Kendall said, interlocking her fingers with his. Kendall could be a lot of things, but when he was in a relationship with you, he could be the sweetest, most protective “thug” that you’d ever meet. Denisha, on the inside, smiled, and just by instinct, she sashayed closer to her man.
“Oh, this must be Diamond…THE STRIPPER” Gabriela said, savagely. Denisha seriously wanted to laugh, she had grown up with a mother that never wanted her, and two older sisters that thought that she wanted their men. Gabriela’s words meant nothing to her.
“HAHAHA, no. I’m Deniisssshhha. The one with the diamond” Denisha said, smiling as she showed off her baby. The 13-karat, double banded blue diamond that Kendall had given her as a wedding present. As she witnessed Gabriela’s facial expressions change, Denisha triumphed. She could easily hurt someone’s feelings and she realized she had done so.
“Play nice babe. Denisha, this is Gabi…Gabriela, Maliyah’s mom” Kendall whispered into Denisha’s ear.
Kendall Jordan Gray
Denisha had actually behaved better than what Kendall expected of her. It was a big turn-on for him, that she knew what to say and when to say it. Although the looks Gabriela shot Denisha’s way were kind of funny, Kendall had to keep reminding himself why he was here. As soon as Kendall, Denisha and Gabriela stepped into Maliyah’s hospital room, his heart dropped. According to the nurses, Maliyah still hadn’t awoken, and seeing all those wires hooked up, in order for her to survive hurt Kendall’s heart. He hadn’t really made an effort to get close to Maliyah when she came to live with him, but that was just him. He made it a habit, not to get close to anybody. Most of his children were products of women that he was involved with sexually, but had no intentions of being in a relationship with. As a matter of fact, five of his children had different mothers, and he wasn’t with any of them longer than a year. The only women that he had been with longer than 18 months were Kasia and Ayesha. Kasia Rollins was Kendall’s first love. He was in a relationship with her for four and a half years and she gave him two beautiful children; Kendrell and Jaslyn. About seven months after Jaslyn was born, Kasia was killed in a head-on collision in Kendall’s hometown, Baton Rouge. Kendall was crushed, but he had to make something work. After all, now he was a single father. After that, the only one of his relationships that lasted longer than a year and a half was with Ayesha Beauvais, the mother of Kendall’s youngest sons, Brandon and Jordan. Ayesha would have been the mother AND the wife, except Kendall discovered that his beloved “Shay Shay” had acquired a crack habit. But before he could to anything to help her, she was killed by a product that was mixed with something lethal. The autopsy reported that Ayesha had enough in her system to kill three adult elephants. But this time, with Denisha, he was going to make it work. He had already married her, which was more than what he could say about ANY of his children’s mothers, but he hadn’t done anything to seal the deal; like giving Denisha a child of her own.
As soon as Kendall noticed Maliyah’s doctor walking out into the waiting room area, he grabbed Denisha’s arm for support. As she noticed what he was looking at, she also stood up.
“Tell me she’s alright, Please Doc. Tell me she’s alright” Kendall begged. He promised God as he rode to the hospital that if He made Maliyah all better, he would show her, and the rest of his children all the affection in the world. She couldn’t be dead, not now. Not when she was only eighteen, and had so much more to give. The doctor looked down at his clipboard, and after a quick second, he shot a cheesy smile at Mr. and Mrs. Gray.
“Her blood pressure is up, but she’s awake. She’s in a lot of pain, and she probably will be for a while. But your daughter is stable. She should be able to go home in three or four days” The doctor said, quickly turning around as he delivered the good news.
Jayelon was stuck as he tried to figure out how he got to this point. His older brother, Dre, had always vowed to protect him, but now, Dre was the main issue. After meeting with “The Boss”, Dre had decided that, with or without Jayelon, this was going to go down. But, the Boss had insisted that the two of them do it together just because “two heads were better than one”. As he turned around the corner to go to his son’s mother’s house, he realized that he needed this job. If he got this money, he could take Breoni to court and get his son, for good.
As he turned into Breoni’s apartment complex, he saw her and man, she was gorgeous. But he quickly pushed the fact that he hadn’t messed with anyone intimately, in over a year. He would NEVER go back to Breoni Bordeaux. She was manipulative and vicious, and deliberately held his son against him, just because she couldn’t get what she wanted.
Breoni sashayed her way over to Jayelon’s car and sat on the hood, trying her best to pretend that the hood of the car wasn’t hot as hell. He got out of the car and walked over towards Breoni’s apartment, going the opposite way from where Breoni was sitting.
As soon as he walked into the house, Jayelon was astounded. Breoni’s apartment was a mess! There were dirty diapers scattered around the floor, dirty dishes everywhere, the house smelled like Port-A-Potty, and his son was sitting in the middle of it crying. As soon as he sensed that Breoni was standing right behind him, he flashed.
“BREONI! What is this? This is disgusting! You got my son sitting in here, probably getting sick! You’re trifling! And you wonder why I didn’t wanna be with you! I should’ve figured out when I met you that if your house wasn’t clean, you weren’t either!” Jayelon yelled, stepping over pizza crusts and dirty drawers to get to his son. As soon as he picked Little DJ up, Jayelon knew what he had to do. “I’m taking him to my house. He’s coming to stay with me, until you can clean all this up” Jayelon said, glaring at Breoni, daring her to object. But she already knew what was up. Her son’s father had a mean temper, and she wasn’t in the mood to get beat like she was a dude today. But as soon as she saw him heading towards the back room, to grab DJ’s diaper bag she assumed, she knew his madness was about to hit an all-time high. Her new cuddle buddy, Angelo, was still in her bed. She was surprised when he came out of the room with the pipe in his hands. She could tell in his eyes that he was hot about it. “WHAT IS THIS? You’re doing crack now? Around my son?” Jayelon said, reminding himself that he was holding his son, so that he wouldn’t smooth off and knock Breoni out.
“Wait…so you’re not mad about the guy in my bed?” Breoni said, ignoring the comment. She didn’t want to believe that she was a crack-head. After all, in her eyes, she could stop whenever she wanted to.
“WHY WOULD I BE MAD BREONI? We’re not together! I don’t wanna be with you! You can have a dude in your bed all you want to. That has nothing to do with me. But you doing crack around my son, probably exposing him to this stuff. That has everything to do with me. You better believe, if I wasn’t afraid of a roach crawling on him and biting him if I sat him down, I would sit him down right now, and beat you like you stole something” Jayelon said, smoothly gliding over the door. He grabbed the car-seat on his way out, and slammed the door behind him. He was pissed off and right now, he didn’t care who knew it.
“You mean to tell me, I paid them fools two grand EACH to rob the house, or at least make it look like it was a robbery, and leave a message. They both got themselves SHOT. I need that girl” I muttered under my breath. I didn’t know exactly who I was talking to, or who was listening. But, I was PISSED. I hired one of Jerome’s greatest hit-men, Li’l Trigga…and well, just some other random guy that I heard good things about, and sent them away. Unfortunately, they went and got themselves shot. Li’l Trigga got a bullet to the head, and the news said it was looking like Malik wasn’t going to make it. I told those boys what was at stake. It was their fault that they didn’t take me seriously when I told them messing with a Gray Child and not getting away with it could be messy…and very fatal. “Oh well” I said to myself. I guess either I would have to pay a lot of money for somebody to bring her to me, or I’d have to kill her myself. Either way, Maliyah Gray was going to be dead by the end of the month. It was now the 15th of July. This was for Jerome. I looked up to the sky, blew a kiss to Jerome and prayed to God (for the first time in over twenty years) that he was actually up there. If my plan didn’t work out, I would be finding out real soon, cause if Mr. Gray didn’t kill me, one of his kids would.
GABRIELA ADRIANA CARDOSO
Gabriela missed Jerome. She missed having someone to pillow-fight with, and never having to sleep alone. But it hurt the most knowing that her daughter was responsible for the love of her life being erased from this world. Besides that, if she was too selfish to think of her mother, the mother who would sacrifice anything for her, she should’ve at least thought about her siblings. Gabriela was now forced to raise her thirteen year old son Angelino, ten year old daughter Leilani, and her four year old daughter, Monet. Things were about to change, and even if she had to kill Kendall herself, she was going to get Maliyah back home. When she did, Maliyah would have to pay.
Maliyah Abrianne Cardoso-Gray
Maliyah laughed at her older brothers as Kendrell, Kingston and Kevin read riddles, and called each other dumb. She was still in the hospital, and was so ready to go home. But her father sending at least three of her siblings over a day made her feel better. They made her feel safe.
“Hey guys, I have a riddle for you” Maliyah said, as she tried to sit up. Noticing her wincing, Kingston rushed to her side. “I’m good big bro. It’s just my back that hurts. Can you hand me that cup of water?” She asked, weakly. She reached for the pain pills that she was supposed to take three hours ago. She hated taking the medication; they made her feel miserable and groggy. But, as of now, she needed them. Once she noticed her brothers staring at her, she faked instant relief. “I’m good, I’m good. See? But anyways, back to the riddle. It is greater than God, and more evil than the devil. The poorer have it. The rich need it, and if you have it, you’ll die. What is it?” Maliyah said, trying to keep the soda down and not coming through her nose, as she observed her brothers’ confused faces.
“Aw…bro. Liyah is trying to kill me. Maliyah, you DO know I graduated high school umm...I don’t know. More than a decade ago, right?” Kendrell said, trying his hardest not to smile. But once Kendrell looked at her, and then shifted his gaze to Kingston and Kevin, the plan went awry. The Gray Children burst into laughter. But their first brothers-sister moment was disturbed when there was a knock on the door. Observing a man come through the door, who was obviously not a nurse, the boys immediately got defensive. Kingston stood up and reached into his pocket, preparing to draw out his weapon if a threat was posed to his sister.
“Who are you?” Kendrell said, doing his best to corner the unknown male. If anything was about to go down, he would get the first of it. As they had talked about, Kingston and Kevin took their positions next to Maliyah, who was extremely startled and ready for a show-down to take place.
“Look…I know this is going to sound bad. My name’s Jayelon. Li’l Trigga… I mean Damian, was my little brother” the man, whose identity was now known, lowered his head and muttered.
“So then what are YOU here for? Your little brother tried to kill our sister” Kingston said, walking in front of Maliyah’s hospital bed. This...intruder had something behind his hands, and Kingston would DIE before something happened to Maliyah, while he was there.
“Yes…I know. I realize that. But my brother is dead now. He can’t hurt you. I’m only here to apologize on my family’s behalf. My mom…she feels horrible. We didn’t know that Damian was capable of hurting anybody. I mean… I know that he was hanging with the wrong people. But he’s always been really sweet” Jayelon said, lowering his head.
“Yeah, he was really sweet. He was sweet when he waved his gun at my one-year old niece. He was really sweet when he shot me! The nurses had to pump my lungs because I was drowning in my own blood!” Maliyah cried. She was appalled that some person she had never even met had the audacity to come into her hospital room. Kingston placed his arm on Maliyah’s shoulder, trying to calm her down. As he tried to focus Maliyah’s attention on to himself and not to the inconsiderate, rude trespasser, Kevin took things into his own hands. But before he could get his hands onto Jayelon, the young man took the hint. He threw the flowers he had bought on to Maliyah’s bed, startling her.
“Yeah well, at least you’re alive. He’s not” he growled. He left the room before the Gray brothers could beat him down for the level of disrespect he had caused their baby sister.
“Are you alright Maliyah? You know we weren’t about to let him come near you” Kingston said, rubbing her hair in almost a fatherly, reassuring way. He felt bad that his little sister was going through all this, and if he had to kill Jayelon to make her feel better, that’s what he would do. He could see that their visitor had upset Maliyah, and now, it was time to call dad.
KENDALL JORDAN GRAY
“Wait, did you catch his name??” Kendall asked, storming into Maliyah’s hospital room. He saw Maliyah dressed and standing up, and was confused. Kendrell signaled to his dad to meet him outside. As he walked out, his oldest son joined him.
“What happened Kendrell?” Kendall growled. He had enlisted the help of all five of his sons and they had failed him.
“Dad, he just came in. I thought Maliyah knew him. Until…he started growling about how his brother was dead and Maliyah was alive. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the boy was threatening her” Kendrell said, checking his phone. Suddenly, he got an idea. “Dad, what if we send her to Arianne’s house?” he said. He was sure that his ride-or-die chick, his fiancée, and the mother of his two daughters, wouldn’t mind his younger sister staying at her house.
“How’s that any different from her staying at our house? Arianne only lives a few blocks away” Kendall said, trying to compile all their options. He didn’t want Maliyah to be in danger, but he didn’t want to pawn her off on somebody who wasn’t family. Kendrell saw right through him.
“I know Arianne’s not family to you dad, but she is to me. You know your grand-daughters? Arianne is their mother, and I want to marry her. She’s never going to do anything to hurt me, or to hurt my family. I trust her with all my heart. Now, can you trust me?” Kendrell said, staring his father down. As soon as Kendall noticed that his son wasn’t giving in, he retreated.
“A’ight Drell. But you better be right about this, or your sister’s blood is on your head. Take her to Arianne’s after you’ve talked to her…cause I know you haven’t already discussed it with her” Mr. Gray said softly, patting his son’s shoulders before he left. But as he walked out of the hospital, he turned back around to face his eldest son. Kendrell nodded in understanding. It was Maliyah’s life or his own. That was his family.
Maliyah Abrianne Cardoso-Gray
Kendrell explained everything to Maliyah, on the way to his fiancée’s house. He knew how Arianne felt about being left in the dark, but he only did that because it didn’t involve her or their daughters. This was Maliyah’s life, and if he had too, he needed her to know that he would sacrifice his own life for hers. As Maliyah walked into the small peach colored house, she instantly felt at home. Something was cooking, and as if on cue, a petite golden-colored woman with long blonde hair came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands.
“Arianne, baby, this is my baby sister Maliyah-“ Kendall said, easing into the conversation, knowing that Arianne wasn’t into all that small-talk. He had already told her that Maliyah was shy, and not very interested. But knowing Arianne, her and Maliyah would have a lot in common.
“It’s nice to meet you Maliyah. Your brother has told me so much about you. Let me show you around the house” Arianne said, as she turned around and almost knocked over a young, hazel-eyed, mahogany-hair toddler. The little girl took one look at Kendrell and jumped into his arms.
“DADDY!” she squealed over and over again. Maliyah hadn’t realized that little scene touched her heart so much, until she looked down and noticed a trail of tears staining her shirt. Kendrell laughed, and kissed the young girl’s cheek.
“Hi daddy’s princess! How’s my little Khennedi doing today?” he asked, kissing her cheeks over and over again, causing his young daughter to laugh hysterically. “Khennedi, this is your auntie Maliyah. She’s going to be staying here with you and your mommy and your sister. She’s going to be helping your mommy with the new baby!” Kendrell said, winking at Maliyah. Being the smart person she was, she instantly figured out what was up. Arianne was pregnant. She lit up, understanding that she was going to be helping her family out by being here. As she tried to process her thoughts, a younger mini-Khennedi ran into the room and into Kendrell’s arms. “Hi, my precious baby” he whispered. Just the image of her brother being so tenderly and loving melted Maliyah’s heart.
Dreontae “Kashes” Williams
Dreontae smiled as his brother, Jayelon, walked out of the hospital room. They had decided, after a lot of debating, that the smoother brother, Jayelon would handle dealing with the girl. After all, if Dreontae could have his way, the girl would be killed and they would have everything they needed. But he knew his younger brother wouldn’t be down for that. So therefore, he wouldn’t know. Dre would let Jayelon do his thang, but in the end, Dre would be the last one laughing. Him and the boss had already talked, he got the “go ahead” to kill the girl once they got the money. He was about to let loose, and at the end, Dreontae Williams would be the only one laughing.
Maliyah Abrianne Cardoso-Gray
“Ari, can you do me a favor?” Maliyah asked, chopping up the green onions as she sat down. She had started her physical therapy earlier that morning, and it had exhausted her. Yet, before she fell asleep for the day, she needed some answers. Arianne looked up from her swollen feet. Arianne had been at work on a twelve-hour shift, and she was sore.
“What’s up Maliyah?” she asked, massaging her thighs. She didn’t know why, but this pregnancy, this third pregnancy, was really wearing her out. She hadn’t been able to go get an ultrasound because she had been pulling an eighty hour a week shift.
“Can you find out the boy…the one that came to visit me in the hospital…can you find out his name for me? I need to know his name” Maliyah said, softly. She took Arianne’s feet into her hands and began to knead them, rubbing gently on all of her pressure points. She wasn’t bribing Arianne, and she wasn’t making her feel good just so she could get something out of her. Arianne was working hard to support her two girls and her little one on the way. That was Maliyah’s next task. She was going to find a job, and help out so Arianne didn’t have to work so much. But then she remembered she had Jerome’s money. She ran from where she was upstairs and went into her duffle bag. She fished out the box and filled it to the top with money, right before she dumped it all into a plastic shopping bag. She walked slowly back down the stairs and in her head, tried to figure out how she would explain this amount of money to her brother’s fiancé. “Hey Arianne, I know you said you didn’t need any help. But I’m living with you, and I feel kinda bad that you’re not letting me help. I’m going to give you this money, it’s all I have, and whatever you choose to do with it, is fine by me. I really just want you to call in for a couple of days…You know? Like…take a break” Maliyah said, holding the shoebox out to her. Arianne froze as she sent her attention to Maliyah and the contents in her hand.
“Maliyah! Where did you get this kind of money from?” Arianne said. Things went from good to bad in a matter of seconds. Arianne didn’t even wait to hear her response. “Did you steal this Maliyah? I-“
“I can explain” Maliyah said, softly. She suddenly felt like a three year-old again, and she was getting in trouble.
“God Maliyah! I can’t believe you would be that stupid to STEAL! This has to be at least forty grand! Where did you get this from? I PRAY TO GOD you didn’t steal all this money from Mr. Gray and his wife! He and his family have been nothing but good to you!” Arianne ranted, not noticing the change in Maliyah’s composure.
“I would NEVER steal from my family. Ever. So don’t accuse me of something you know nothing about. But, I don’t understand why I’m explaining myself to you. I think it’s time for me to leave now” Maliyah said, grabbing her wads of cash and going upstairs.
KENDRELL JAYDEN GRAY
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