What Might Kill Us(2)

By: M.N. Forgy

My father’s brother, my Uncle Benito, came in acting like the concerned caregiver, and took us into his home.

“When do you think the lights will come back on?” I whispered. The blanket Alvaro threw over us making the air stuffy and hard to breathe.

“Until the storm passes probably,” he replied, lying on the pillow next to me. It’s been storming all day, and it’s becoming more severe by each passing hour. “How are you holding up about your father?”

I fidget where I lay, averting my eyes. My heart is heavy with the loss of my father, but I can’t say I miss a man I never saw.

A cough sounds in the room, and Alvaro and I tense, throwing the blankets off us.

“Hello kids, I need you to gather your things and come with me,” Benito said, standing before us with two strong looking men behind him. Lightning strikes, shadowing his figure and a chill runs down my spine.

“Why?” Alvaro asks, raising a brow.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it, son, because you look like a man who doesn’t have time for gimmicks. Your mother has sold this house, and everything you own.”

“What?” My eyes widen with surprise.

“You’re lying,” Alvaro sneers.

“Afraid not, and she ain’t coming back for either of you.”

“How do you know?” I question softly.

He sighs, rubbing his forehead. “She told me.”

I glance at Alvaro, and his face is hard, and eyebrows narrowed inward.

“Are you okay?” I reach for Alvaro’s hand and he tears it from my grip with a force I don’t recognize nor can I ignore it. My heart stings from his sudden rejection and I curl in on myself.

“Look, I wish I could tell you kids that this abandonment is justified, but it isn’t. That is why I am here—”

“Why are you here?” Alvaro cuts him off standing up from the bed, his hands curl into fists.

“To take you in. To do the right thing,” Benito continues.

“We don’t need your charity,” Alvaro hisses.

“I can assure you, I am not one for charity. I am here because we are family, and looking at you I can tell you are a man I can use,” he chuckles, impressed by Alvaro’s hard demeanor. And like that, Alvaro was sold. I followed along because where else could I go?

I should have run into that storm and never looked back.

He took us into a room and before we knew what was happening, we were locked in. Trapped in here when we were only eighteen years old.

I look at the wall, at the tally marks I carved into it from day one. We’ve been at Benito’s mercy for three years now.

This life he’s thrown us into has become our norm. It’s like one of those prison shows you watch, you eventually just give in and go with it. Alvaro seems to have adapted a lot better than I have. Last time I was let out of here I was brought to a basement and ended up clawing the shit out of the man who had escorted me. The smell of toxins was heavy, almost smothering down there. Women and men stood around tables with gas masks on, lining and weighing drugs.

I went nuts kicking and screaming. Throwing scales off the table causing a vortex of white powder on the floor. I wouldn’t succumb to their illicit acts. I wouldn’t fall so far for nothing in return. I refused and was brought back here.

I haven’t left since. To be honest leaving this room is a scary thought. I’ve been in here so long I’m not sure what I’d do on the outside. It’s crazy to think I was riding purebred horses, and learning tennis from one of the best professionals… to being a hermit afraid to leave the shell that has become its security. In here I’m safe. Out there… reality and darkness waits.

The door to our room clicks open, first Alvaro’s head snaps up and then mine to watch who enters.

Shiny black shoes meet my eyes, followed by creased black slacks and a crisp white dress shirt lined with buttons. The man known to me as Uncle Benito steps through the threshold of the door with a menacing look on his face, that ridiculous fedora placed perfectly on his head being the final touch to his cliché drug lord appearance.

“My dear niece and nephew,” he greets, his arms out wide, as if we’re the extended family he’s searched for all his life. I curl into myself on the bed and eye him warily. The sound of endearment laced in his voice misplaced. Family wouldn’t take you in and put you in a room like a prisoner. I haven’t seen him since the day we became his.

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