The warning sign is splashed on the wall, sharp yellow against the concrete. My steps falter. I have a choice. Yet there is nothing left behind me.
The second symbol looms, red like blood. Red, like the future before me.
I pass on and the graffiti becomes stronger. It surrounds me, telling stories of the territory I walk upon. I cannot plead ignorance. I know what I have chosen.
I try to feel confident, swinging my hips and raising my chin like a movie star. I feel only weak. Vulnerable.
Jordan materializes before me. I am expecting him, and still I jump. He laughs, resting his arm on my shoulders. Strong. Protective.
“You ready for this, Mia?” He guides me toward the hood. “Ready to be part of something?”
I feel safe. “I’m ready.”
A few hours later finds me again on the street, prepared for my initiation. My lips are so bright I catch their gleam from the corner of my eye. High heels clip against the asphalt. I tug at my shirt, if such a bit of material can be called that.
I step out of our territory, out of safety. One step and I am in Skull territory. A wolf whistle precedes a teen from his hiding place. His watching place. I push down the fear.
“You know where you are, babe?”
I feign confidence. Indifference. “I can see all I need to know.”
He chuckles low and cocks his bald head. “Well then.”
Another man steps into the street, eyeing me. He is the shot caller, I can tell. The boss smirks. “Hey homies! Come check out what just wondered in.”
We are surrounded by mocking guys. Jordan will be pleased.
I distract the men with my charm. They don’t notice the Tigers until they are almost on top of us. The world is filled with knives and shouting. The two gangs clash, blades flashing and words that boil the innards pouring from their mouths as freely as the blood.
It will never end. Men fall. Boys slash. I cower, twisted grimaces ever before me.
I do not know what finally stops them. They scatter, dragging the wounded with them. Jordan does not look for me.
I am alone. Alone in my new life.
I cannot stay in Skull territory or I will join those whose blood flows. As I step from hiding, my knees nearly buckle. I hear a groan. A man lays in a shadow, missed by those who fled. His hair proves he is not a Skull. He is one of mine.
Kneeling beside him, the quiver of my hands grows, shaking violently. I press on his side. His blood is warm and sticky.
He is alert. “I thought everyone had gone. Left me.”
I hear my voice, strangely articulate. “We’ll stop the flow and then get you somewhere safe.”
“Thank you.” Brilliant blue eyes watch me.
The blood does not stop. “This isn’t working.” I try to keep panic from my voice.
“Use my shirt.” Already his voice is weakening. He fumbles to pull at his T.
Together we get it off while he bites through his pain. As I tug at the yellow cloth, I feel something hard beneath him. I pull it out, my hand already giving me clues. I stare, my suspicions confirmed.
It is a police radio.
“You’re a buster.” I can hardly speak. “Why didn’t you use this, you idiot? You could have been out of here long ago.”
“You would have run. You would have gone back to them.” His breath comes ragged.
The hatred I feel is all the stronger because of my fear. “You lay out here, bleeding to death, just so you could throw me in the carcel. For revenge. Is that it?” I spit a word at him. He flinches but does not look away.
It is that steady gaze which throws me. No one has looked at me like that--with a caring, a compassion that goes deep.
“You could have died.” I look at the red that seeps ever wider. “You could die.”
“I stayed because someone bled for me once.” His voice is faint. “I want to give you the same chance I was given. That’s all. A chance to get away from this.” He points a pale hand toward the symbols on the walls. “A chance for new life.”
Perhaps I am naïve to believe him. And yet somehow, I do.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.