One breath in. One breath out.
My body and mind are on a mission, one set on getting the hell away from Esperanza. I fucked up, and if I don’t leave, he’ll come for me.
They’ll come for me.
I’ve been stripped of my brotherhood. They sliced my skin open, taking my tattoo with a bunch of my flesh too. It’ll always be scarred, a message, proof of what I’ve done.
I’ll never be able to come back here.
I’ll never be safe to visit my sisters.
After they cut me loose—albeit, I didn’t think he would let them—I ran to the bunker they don’t know exist, the one I’d been staying at before everything went down. I’d betrayed his trust… being with the twins again—after promising him I wouldn’t.
Now, looking at the nearly barren room, I wish I could say goodbye, but they’ll look for me there. They’ll take me in. They’ll kill me.
No goodbye to Zaely.
No goodbye to Silv.
No goodbye to my sisters who will feel abandoned.
You don’t abandon those you love. You only give into defeat.
Packing my stuff from the bunker, I get to my money stash, my weapons, and my documents. I have several IDs. When you’re a drug and gun runner, you have to change identities often to avoid being caught. Not that I’ll need them any longer.
Fresh start. A new life. Far the hell away from here.
My fingers trace the lettering on my birth certificate. They’re gone. My papa died a long time ago, and now, I’m leaving my sisters to fend for themselves. My mama hasn’t worked a day in her life. Los Desolados has always taken care of her. Now, they won’t. They won’t pay for the house, the bills, and my sisters’ schooling.
I’ll fix it somehow.
I’ll make it work.
I always sent them money monthly whether I was on a run for Danté or in the same house, so they could focus on school. I could make the money needed.
Now, that’s all gone.
I’ll never be able to get back to where I was. I’m lucky to still be breathing.
One breath in. One very long one out. My stomach feels like it’s concaving.
These walls are empty. This place is a shell of a home. No love exists in these rooms, no hope or salvation either. It’s almost as if a ghost lived here. These four walls housed the dead and not the living.
There are no pictures adorning the walls, no paintings to put the entire space together. It’s white all around, not a spice of color or abstract thing about it. Just a bed on the floor, a closet full of contraband, and a dresser filled with sparse clothing.
I’ll disappear, and no one will know what happened to me.
To the world, I’ll be dead.
My burner in my pocket chimes, and when I flip it open, I see Xo’s name. Call me, it says.
We haven’t spoken since I took her to Cape Hill all those years ago. Danté never found out it was me until five days ago. He believed she escaped because of her parents. He had been so very wrong.
I’m not sure how it got out, but now, he knows, and now, he wants me dead. I’ve spent the last thirteen years avoiding getting Xo caught. He’s been there many times, and I have too, but he thinks she got there on her own.
He only spared me out of a lifelong loyalty to Los Desolados. That was the only time I ever truly betrayed him, by helping her escape the life. Their life.
Hunching my duffel over my shoulder, I head to the taxi waiting for me.
“¿Adónde?” he asks, turning his head to me. Where to?
“Al aeropuerto,” I respond with a nod. The airport.
When the car heads out, I pull out my cell again, dialing Xiomara’s number in the next moment. After several rings she answers. “Are you alone?” she rushes, her voice full of fear.
“In a taxi. I doubt he speaks English,” I reply despondently.
“It’ll have to do. I need you here.”
I shift my weight in attempt to peek at the driver. He appears oblivious, listening to loud music. My eyes stay on his mirror, watching his face.
“Where?” I don’t say Cape Hill just in case he’s listening. Just in case he’s one of Danté’s or, worse, one of theirs.
“Cape Hill, Silas. I was safe…” She pauses, her voice shaken.
I grip the phone harder. She hasn’t been this terrified since the day he found her the first time.
“But Absinthe has gone missing. They came here, Sy. The Vipers came here, and they asked me questions about Danté. I don’t know how they found out. I’m fucking terrified.”
Her muffled tears have my stomach lurching. They were protecting her, but now… if Danté really did take Absinthe, they’re as good as dead.
They have been their own personal guardians for years. Danté must’ve taken their Prez. Absinthe and I have never met, but Xo adores him and the Vipers. She talks about them as her family. She seems prone to being involved with bad men, though. They’re no better than Los Desolados. If anything, they’re worse.
The driver’s eyes haven’t deviated towards me once. He must not be one of them.
“I-I need your help one last time, Sy. If they know who Danté is to me… if they know Leia is his daughter… we’re both dead.”
“I’ll book a flight. I’ll be there.”
He gets me to the airport within an hour, and I’m booking my flight soon after. Since the next flight isn’t for hours, I sit around and watch for Danté or the crew to show up somehow, to know I’m leaving to save his girl once more.
Leia. I’ve never seen or met the girl. She’s what, thirteen now? Man. Danté won’t approve of me seeing them. He hasn’t seen Leia in a while, not since his last stint in prison. His expansion to Cape Hill was bound to set off the Vipers. He should’ve seen it coming.
We all should have.
Now, it’s too late.
They’ll come for us all.