“You know, all this would be a lot easier to believe if Sonrisa was here to corroborate your story. But without her here, all we have is the word of a repeat offender.”
Langston’s jaw twitches.
“So where is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Believe what you want. I don’t know where she is,” Langston repeats.
“Well, you leave me no choice.” Detective Godmen stands and walks around the table. “Langston Black, you are under arrest for the murder of Hector Ocevedo and the kidnapping of one Sonrisa Ocevedo.”
Detective Soledad Godmen shakes her head as she watches the young black man being escorted to lock up by two uniformed police officers. Like so many, he is a victim of his environment. A victim of his rough upbringing. Her partner, Rashad Sinclair comes to stand beside her.
She shrugs. “Yeah,” she answers finally. “I just feel sorry for the kid, you know? He had a rough go of it. I know what that’s like, you know? All that fighting he did just to survive. Then, the one time he finds true love it turns out to be a lie.”
“So you think the girl did it? You think she sought him out and manipulated him into killing her stepfather?”
Detective Godmen shrugs again. “Who knows? What I do know is that a person will do whatever is necessary to survive. Even if it means someone else has to get hurt in the process.”
It has been nearly two years since Langston confessed to murdering Hector Ocevedo. There was no trial and his charges were ultimately reduced to manslaughter. He didn’t have to sit in a courtroom and listen to the cries of the family of the man he was accused of killing. He felt the man deserved his end and there was some relief in knowing that he’d helped Sonrisa find some peace, but he sincerely hated the thought of hurting so many people with his actions.
The charges for Sonrisa’s kidnapping were dropped when she gave her statement to the judge presiding over the case. She reported the sexual abuse and corroborated Langston’s story that she was trying to run away when Hector was killed. She did all of this with the stipulation that she would emancipated and allowed to relocate. She was safe and Langston counted that as a blessing. There was no question in his mind now that he had done the right thing. He would serve a minimum of 15 years for his part in what happened. A sentence he would gladly serve for Sonrisa’s freedom.
Langston rolled off his bunk to retrieve the envelope that his lawyer sent him. Inside were most of his pictures of Sonrisa which had finally been released from evidence. He wanted to sort through them and decide which he would keep. He was only permitted three pictures in his cell. He had to decide which three he wanted most.
Langston flipped through the pictures--lingering for a few moments on each one as he recalled the moments attached to the images. At the bottom of the pile he found a picture he never saw before. It was a snapshot of Sonrisa. The sort of snapshot a person takes of themselves. Her hair was longer. It framed her face with silky, brown curls. All the girlish softness was gone from her face and was replaced with lean, high cheekbones. Her eyes were different, too. She seemed wiser. Wise beyond her years. He flipped the picture over and on the back in a slanted beautiful penmanship she had wrote:
There are no words to explain how grateful I am to you for saving me. When you are free…come find me.
p.s. I’m dancing again (smile)
Langston lay back on his bunk, the photo covering the place over his heart. He closed his eyes and found himself back in those last moments he spent with Sonrisa…
The curtains are drawn in some shabby hotel room. The light from a lamp with a yellowed shade illuminates Sonrisa in a soft glow as she walks over to him.
“We could run away,” she whispers. “We could go anywhere.”
“I couldn’t live like that. And I wouldn't want you to. They would never stop looking for us. You saw the news. They think I kidnapped you. They think I murdered Hector so that I could steal you away.”
“But you didn’t murder Hector.”
“I know,” Langston says softly as he touches her face. “But I stood by and watched you murder him and that was just as bad.”
Sonrisa begins to cry. “So what are we going to do?”
“I’m going to turn myself in…and you…you are going to get as far away from here as you possibly can.”
“I can’t let you do that. Just thinking of you in prison—”
“You can and you will,” Langston insists.
“God, Langston! I never meant for any of this to happen,” she sobs into the folds of his shirt.
Langston hugs her tighter, kisses the top of her head. “I know.”
“When are you going to do this?”
“In the morning, I guess. I’ll empty out my bank accounts tonight so you’ll have some money. Then I want you to buy a ticket to some place far. Some place where no one can find you. Where no one can hurt you.”
“I don’t want to go without you!”
“You have to, Sonrisa. Something good has to come out of all this. So you have to go, okay?”
She nods but doesn’t look him in the eye. “Will you stay with me tonight at least?”
“Langston…” she begins hesitantly. “Why would you do this for me?”
Langston frowns as if he can’t believe she doesn’t know. “Because I love you, Sonrisa,” he whispers passionately.
All the events of the day condense into this one moment of bliss. Sonrisa in his arms. Sonrisa’s lips against his. He feels her go soft and limp under his hand. He sees her pretty eyes close slowly. He feels her give in.
“I love you, too, Langston Black,” she whispers.
And as she smiles he feels himself give in, too. He gives in to his undoing. He gives in to Sonrisa’s smile.
If you enjoyed The Undoing of Langston Black, you might enjoy The Truth Duet.