The First Last Boy

By: Sonya Weiss

“No one’s denying that you’ve had a rough start, but don’t let your past trap you. Don’t let those people who should have cared for you and didn’t be part of your present. Ryan, you deserve a good life, a better one than working at the garage.” She reached over and took my hand. “I believe you were meant for more.”

“Like flipping burgers.” Destiny snickered.

“Destiny, shut off the television. I want to talk to Ryan alone.”

Destiny knew better than to argue. She glared at me when she left and seconds later, music wafted loudly from the direction of her room.

Mama Leena squeezed my hand and held it. “I know what it’s like to grow up hard and not have anyone rooting for you.”

I knew that while she’d been raised in a well-to-do doctor’s home, she’d experienced some tough things, but she kept the details to herself.

“Ryan, son, look at me.”

When I did, she said, “Out of all my boys, I worry about you the most. You have a fire in you that can be used for good, but when you let it burn unchecked, it has the potential to destroy you. I’m afraid if you don’t get out of this city, away from your former life, you’re going to end up right back where you came from. I know the streets don’t like to let anyone go. I know you have to fight every day to keep from being who you used to be.” Her lip quivered. “If that happened to you, it would break my heart.”

The old familiar ache curled in the center of my chest whenever I thought about the fallout from my past. “I don’t run with the crew any more. Not since Donny was killed.”

“There’s more to leaving that life behind than just not running with that old crowd. You’re still holding onto that part of you in case you need it.”

I clenched my teeth together. The guy I’d once been was quiet, trying to be a better person but that didn’t mean he was gone for good. I knew it, she knew it, there wasn’t any use denying it.

She heaved a sigh and moved to stand in front of me. Dropping the applications in my lap, she said, “I’ve told you I’ll pay for your first year of college. But you have to take the initial step.”

“I’ll make my own way in the world.”

“It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up because we’re family and that’s what families do. When you get where you want to be in life, you can pay it forward and be a blessing to someone else.”

When I didn’t say anything, she sighed again. “You’re as stubborn as my Sam was.” A smile crossed her lips at the memory before sadness chased it away. “Tell Juvante to get in here and eat something.”

I walked outside, thankful to be away from all the hope she had in me that I didn’t have. Every time she talked about family and believing in me, it stung because I knew my track record. I knew what lingered in me. It was only a matter of time before I did something that would destroy her hope.

Juvante wasn’t in sight so I went to the end of the driveway. As soon I could see both ends of the street, headlights went on and a car took off at a fast speed, narrowly missing a truck parked next door.

Juvante jogged up to me with a sheepish look on his face.

“Tell me that wasn’t Chanos.” That was a devil from my past I’d rather forget.

He scoffed at me, rolling his eyes. “You know I don’t fuck around with dealers. ‘Specially one as crazy as his ass.”

I suspected he was working something, but trying to pry it out of him wouldn’t do any good. He’d talk when he was ready. “Have you seen the others?”

He shook his head. “Destiny said Clarke and Roman were working late.”

That didn’t make sense. I looked at my watch. “The warehouse is letting them pull doubles? They told me they were working this morning.”

“I am not my brothers’ keeper, brother.” He looped his arm across my shoulder. “Coop okay?”

“No, but he will be.”

“He should’ve learned. I keep telling y’all not to mess with rich pussy. Poor pussy’s grateful for the attention. Rich pussy can afford to be choosy.”

I pushed against him. “You’re so fucked up, you know that, right?”

“That’s beside the point.” Juvante laughed. “You keep hanging with Tana, you’re gonna see what I mean about rich pussy.”

I hit his shoulder and he stumbled away, rubbing his arm and looking at me in surprise.

“Don’t talk like that. Not Tana.”

He whistled, then shook his head. “You and I have been through some shit and we’ve never let a girl come between us before. You’re going get all twisted up over a girl? I like Tana, you know I do, but you better leave that alone. You don’t want to be a rich pussy’s bitch.”

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