Wednesday, January 25, 2006

...Ain't Gold (Part Twenty-One)

Nicole opened her eyes and blinked the fog away. There was a soft light, and two unrecognizable shapes over her. Blinking again the faces became clear. Toots and Mookie. The events of the evening began to swirl in her mind. She sat up. “Rich! Richard! Where is he?” she shouted.
“Calm down, Nicole. He’s not here. Calm down.”
But Nicole wouldn’t calm down. When she heard Toots say that, she assumed he was dead. She climbed out of the bed, her sleeping legs giving out, and crashed to the floor. Mookie reached out hsi arms and helped her to a chair. Having had been so frantic when they arrived at the hospital, the doctors thought it best to give her a sedative. “Where is he?” she asked, tears flowing from her eyes.
“He’s across the hall.”
Nicole wrenched herself from Mookie’s grip and flew across the hall. Rich was in a bed under a white blanket, tubes running out of his body. She ran her hands over his cheeks, then grabbed his hand. He didn't respond and the tears only fell harder. What had they done to him? And who had done it? And why? She squeezed his hand again and cried out his name.

Rich blinked, then opened his eyes and focused on her. A smile formed on his tired face. “Hey Nik,” he whispered around the tube in his throat.
Tears of relief replaced tears of fear as she sank into the chair next to his bed. “Are you okay? Does it-Where does it hurt? Baby, I’m so sorry.”
He swallowed painfully. “It’s not your fault, Nik. I'm fine. Could use some haze though.”
She managed to laugh through her tears. “I love you so much, Rich.”
He squeezed her hand back. “Don’t leave me alone, Nik.”

It tuned out that Rich would recover just fine. The doctors removed the two bullets that hit him and reset the rib that had been broken. The doctors called him Lucky. Any higher and he woul have been dead for sure. The events changed Rich’s mind about the game. He knew he had to get out and he knew he had to do it soon. He had almost lost his life and put his future wife in danger. Someone had to pay.
Shortly after Rich had been released from the hospital and Nicole had handled her pertinent business matters, she went to visit her mother, hoping to draw some comfort from her. She was wrong.
“When you are you goinge to quit? When you get shot too?”
“I didn’t get shot, ma. My man got shot.”
Cora put both hands on her hips. “What makes you think it couldn't have been you?”
“He could’ve died and all you can do is shout at me?”
“Oh don't give me that. It just as easily could have been you. When are you going get it, Nicole? When will you realize these men don’t give a shit about you?”
Nicole never shouted at her mother, so this fight as new to her. “Rich loves me, mama!”
Cora turned her back and walked into the living room. “Please, Nicole. If he loved you, he wouldn’t have put your life in danger. He’d be a real man and make sure you were nowhere near that kind of life.” Nicole followed her.
“He asked me to marry him, mama.”
“I said Richard asked me to marry him.”
Her mother folded her arms and leaned back on the sofa. “I see. And what did you say?”
“I said yes.”
“So you're content to live that life? Ducking and dodging bullets?”
“If he knew that was gong to happen, he would never have brought me out!”
Cora got in her child's face. She never liked to scream at her children but she would not stand by and watch her daughter kill her life. She had taken too long to get herslef together and she was ripping it down brick by brick. “That boy doesn’t care about you Nicole. He cares about what he can get from you. And that’s all.” That stabbed Nicole in her heart because she knew it wasn’t true.
“He loves me, ma. Which is more than I can say for you right now.” Cora felt the door slam deep in her bones, down to her soul. She was very afraid for her daughter.

Nicole's tears had not dried in the hour it took her to get home. When she unlcoked their door, Rich was alseep, on the couch, stretched out on his back. She made his bed, took out the trash and started dinner. She was chopping onions, still pissed when he woke up.
Rich came over to the peek hole in the kitchen. He could see tears on her face, but they couldn’t possibly have been from the onions. “What’s the matter?”
She jumped. “Hey, what are you doing up?”
He came around and leaned against the counter, kissing her forehead. “I felt like walkin around. When you got here?”
“Bout an hour ago.” She stopped chopping and ran a paper towel under the sink, wiping her face.
“What’s the matter?”
She picked up the knife again. “Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“Nikki,” he said softly. He took her face on his index finger and tilted it towards him.
Nicole sighed and scraped the onions into a pan, pulling out a red pepper and slicing it into thick pieces. “I went to see my mother.”
“And instead of her giving me a hug and telling me she's glad I'm alive, she goes off on this tangent about how I could have been killed. Then she says men don’t care about me but for what they can get from me.”
He knew she was talking about him, but didn't say anything.
She slid the peppers into the pot, seasoned some beef strips and dropped them in as well. She leaned against the counter with her palms flat. “I know she was worried, but you think she’d be a little sweeter to me. This was a scary thing to have happen to us. And all she can say is you don’t love me.”
“She said that?”
Nicole nodded. “She said you can’t possibly love me. Just like that.”

Rich didn’t even know her mother, but her words hurt him. He did so love Nicole. He pulled her into his arms and hugged her close. “Forget it, Nik. Don’t worry about it.” He didn't want to talk about it anymore. When someone doubted true love your only defense was to show and prove.

"He's not dead. He's not dead." Maxell's mad laughter rang out in the parlor. He looked at the face standing before him. "I paid you to do a job and it was not done. How fucking furious do you think I am right now?"
"Look it will be taken care of, alright? Just give me another shot."
"Another sh-" Maxell lowered his voice. "Another shot?"
"That's what I said."
Maxell was tempted to do the job himself but he would bide his time and wait. Everything was against him at the moment. He could wait a little while longer for the job to be done. How much longer, he didn't know. But he would wait.

2006 (c) Jacki Simmons
All rights reserved.


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