Die For You - Amarie Avant

Chapter 1


At the constant, sharp sound of leveling up, one would’ve thought we were operating penny slots at a casino in Vegas. But I was only twelve years old; my fingers moved lightning fast across the PlayStation 2 controller. Sonic ripped around on the television. The thirteen-year-old beside me had a crummy cigarette, swiped from his father, between gorgeous, thick lips. Might I add Leith wasn’t a regular white boy attempting to be cool either. No, he had that shit down. Gawd, I was secretly in love with him. Or maybe the love was written all over my face.

I should also add that Leith had an accent. After watching him toss a haymaker at the nose of a bully, we all learned Leith hailed from Scotland. Just one hit had humbled everyone’s terrorizer and crushed his nasal bone. So, I kept my opinion of how dreamy Leith sounded, and my occasional difficulty with comprehending him, to myself.

“Turn this up,” Leith ordered, breathing out a puff of smoke.

“Remote’s broken. Sound button fell off the tv so. . . .” I shrugged since we were at the age where everything ended on a nonchalant note.

Leith dragged his fingers through his thick dirty blond, perfectly disheveled hair. Red gold streaks glinted in the light. Would it be creepy if I reached over and did the same? His hair smelled good. He smelled good. When he was in the zone, kicking ass on Resident Evil, I sniffed him.

Leith groaned. “Och! I dinna wanna hear yer mam being fecked ten ways—”

“She ain’t my mom.”

Eyes the color of a tropical ocean pinned me for an answer. I softly cleaved my tongue between my teeth. Spoke too soon.

Leith pointed the cigarette at me. “Who the feck is the lass to ye, Chevelle?”

That was the hardest question anyone would ever ask me. The lady had been my mother’s best friend since I could remember. When my parents took me on extravagant vacations, she was the house sitter or went island hopping in the Bahamas with us.

But when I was nine years old, I remember sitting, frozen on a grand staircase in the wealthiest neighborhood of Chi-Town. A cop crouched down and rubbed the tears away from my blurry eyes with the side of his hand. As he came into focus, so did the hardened look of regret on his dark brown face. He asked me a few questions and took my hand. While escorting me to the door, he stopped to look up at a painting of quintessential black love—my parents—looming high in the foyer.

Outside, my eyes swept over a coroner’s van near the tiled water fountain. The police officer’s voice struggled to seem excited while he mentioned the gadgets in his police cruiser. While I sat in the driver’s seat, the officer kneeled in the door. The speaker of his walkie-talkie blared. Someone ordered him to call Child Protective Services as he explained the various buttons to me with a warm smile. A second after I pressed the siren, Momma’s best friend arrived.

The bitch was supposed to be my second-chance family. She insisted I call her New Mom, and so I did.

For the next few years, we bounced around, lived nicely even. Later, I’d learn how we were blowing my trust fund. But that’s greedy people for you. The bigger they smile in your face, the harder you fall.

Once broke, Lady looked at twelve-year-old me in resignation and said she’d do me the favor she and my mother had not been granted. Instead of dropping me off at foster care, where she had met my mom, she dropped me off in public school in Long Beach. When the proverbial slumber party ended, I threatened to speak with the attorney who held my trust. It was a slap in the face to know the guy had been banging New Mom and doctored the family will, hence my dilemma. I threatened to call 911. New Mom mentioned the tragedy surrounding my parents, particularly my father. I wasn’t much for dwelling on the past—those were thoughts I already needed out of my head. Checkmate.

We forged a new relationship. A marriage of sorts, where we’d skipped over the “for better” and careened straight to the “for worse” part. Thus, I callously revoked New Mom’s suggested title, referring to the bitch as Lady.

“She’s not yer mam?” Leith mumbled, “I just guessed.”

The edge of my mouth tipped a little. Like hell was I gonna relive that look of pity the cop gave me. I