“I’m glad to see that you came to your senses,” Sergeant Godmen says with a nod. “It still doesn’t explain how you ended up here. You wouldn’t be here if the story ended there, would you?”
“I wish it had ended there,” Langston murmurs sorrowfully.
“So you started seeing her again?”
“No. I’d told Sonrisa to call me if she needed me. Told her that if she called, I would do anything to help her.”
“So she called you?”
“She tells you her stepfather is raping her again?”
Langston’s jaw clenches. “Yes.”
“And this is when she let you in on her plan?”
“Sergeant, I told you...there was never any plan. Neither I or Sonrisa intended for any of this to happen.”
“So she never asked you to kill her stepfather?”
“Yet you sit here in handcuffs as her stepfather cools down at the city morgue with a broken orbital bone and a dislodged eye. Not to mention the fatal blows that crushed the back of his skull causing his death.”
Langston winces. “It was in self-defense. All I wanted to do was get her out of there. Get her some place safe.”
“And that required deadly force?”
“Once it started…once I hit him? I blacked out. I lost control.”
“I can see that. Is this something that has happened to you before?”
Langston shakes his head. “Not since my father. I try to keep it contained. But certain things trigger it and once that rage gets out I can’t rein it in.”
Philadelphia was hip deep in a typical northeast winter before Langston heard from Sonrisa again.
“Langston…” she breathed into the line and his heart stopped.
Langston had done everything could to expedite his heart’s healing. He took down all her pictures, but eventually put them all up again. He changed his schedule so that he wouldn’t run into her on the train. He didn’t frequent any of the places that they normally met. He even abandoned his favorite coffee shop for fear of running into her there. He worked out. He ran. He did sit ups and push-ups until he was too exhausted to do anything other than fall into bed and immediately fall asleep. He developed habits that bordered on reclusive, but he thought it was best, if not easier, to live that way.
The New Year had come and gone and finally he was beginning to feel somewhat close to the man he used to be. Admittedly, his existence seemed pale and colorless without her, but he was at least able to think of her without feeling that heart wrenching pain in his chest. But the moment he heard her voice on the other end of the line, the pain came back. Sharp and swift, robbing him of his breath.
“Langston? Are you there?”
“I’m here, Sonrisa,” he managed to answer.
“Oh, Langston,” she moaned and didn’t say anything for a long while. Langston could hear that she was crying and waited patiently for her tears to subside.
“Sonrisa…talk to me. Are you alright? What’s going on?”
“He’s doing it again!” she whispered desperately.
It was not what he wanted to hear. He had hoped that her stepfather would be scared off by her pregnancy and subsequent abortion, but in his heart of hearts he knew it would begin again.
Sonrisa began to sob again the sound muffled behind her hand. “At first he was just, you know, making me go down on him. Which was awful but…I was almost okay with it. But last night he came in he started to touch me and I knew it was going to start again.”
“I tried pretending it was you, but it didn’t work! It made me feel even worse—”
“Please, Sonrisa. Don’t say anymore. I know it was awful. You don’t have to relive it.”
“He said he was going to be more careful but he wasn’t. He wasn’t Langston. He’s going to get me pregnant and I’m gonna have to get another abortion. I can’t do it again. I can’t live like this.”
“Sonrisa, what do you want me to do?”
She sniffled and tried to get a hold of herself. “Remember when you said I didn’t have to come back here? Did you mean it?”
“Is that what you want?”
“Did you mean it?”
“Be clear about what you’re asking of me, Sonrisa. I could get in a lot of trouble for this. You realize if they found out about me, I could go to jail—”
“Okay, okay, I understand.”
“Maybe it’s time you went to the police—”
“I can’t do that! My mother would be disgraced and so would I! Everyone would know! Everyone!” She sighed hopelessly. “I’m sorry I called you. This isn’t your problem.”
“Sonrisa, that’s not what I meant—”
“Thank you for listening. I’ll figure it out on my own.”
“Sonrisa—” All that answered Langston was the dial tone.
* * * *
Langston told himself over and over that he’d done the right thing by encouraging Sonrisa to go to the police. He even considered calling the police himself though he knew an anonymous tip wouldn’t do much good. Sonrisa would just deny it and the abuse would continue. Maybe even increase its frequency and brutality. In the end, he decided to stay out of it. Even she had said it wasn’t his problem. He tried to convince himself that it was better that he didn’t get involved. But he lay awake for nights on end thinking about her. Worried that the things he told himself were lies. He had nightmares of her stepfather violating her. A dark shadow that lurked in the corners of her bedroom in a home that should be a safe place. A monster who did unspeakable things that she hid from her mother and everyone else in an effort to protect her family. She shouldn’t have to be alone in that. Sonrisa needed him and he was the only person she could trust.
After several sleepless nights, he finally he decided to just pick up the phone and call her. Whatever she wanted—whatever she needed, he would do. He couldn’t knowingly let her suffer. Her suffering was his suffering.
“Tell me when and where…I will come get you,” he told her.
She didn’t say a word, but he could hear the relief washing over her.
“Maybe we can head somewhere down south. Atlanta or maybe Miami. Somewhere far away—”
“Where we can just disappear.”
“And it’ll be just the two of us and no one has to know anything about our pasts and we can be together.”
Langston smiled at the thought of that though he felt wary about the whole situation. He only had a short term plan—get her out of the city. Once they were a good distance away, he figured he could come up with something more concrete. It wasn’t well thought out and anyone with half a mind to look for them wouldn’t have a hard time finding them. But at least she would be away from her stepfather. At least he would be able to protect her.
Sonrisa arranged a time for Langston to pick her up. It was during the day when both of her parents were at work. This way, they could pack up her things and be gone before anyone knew she was missing.
The address she gave him was in Cherry Hill—a picture perfect suburban neighborhood. As Langston drove past the houses with their red doors and well manicured lawns, he wondered how many of them kept secrets just as horrible as Sonrisa’s.
He parked the car that he’d borrowed from Raimundo at the end of the block. He approached the door apprehensively with a perfectly concocted lie waiting on his tongue should it be answered by anyone other than Sonrisa. His fears were unfounded, she opened the door and when he saw her, he had to resist the desire to hold her. Her face was flushed and she looked more excited than scared and not to mention beautiful, but to Langston she was always beautiful. She ushered him in hurriedly and handed him some bags.
“I just want to grab a few things out of my room.”
Langston nodded. He deposited the bags she gave him in the trunk of the car. When he came back to the house he found her in her bedroom. It was a typical teenage girl’s room with flowers and frills and pink polka dots. A pair of worn ballet slippers dangled from her canopy bed. A poster of the latest teen idol hung on the wall. Langston felt surreal sense of déjà vu for a moment he’d never experienced. He saw himself as a teenager in high school, sweating and nervous as he stood in the bedroom of his crush.
“Langston…” Sonrisa turned and looked up at him.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said softly. “Let’s just get your stuff so we can get out of here.”
She nodded and handed him a box filled with shoes, photos and what not. “I think that’s everything.”
“You do one last sweep while I take this to the car.”
“Okay…I’ll meet you out there.”
Langston started down the hallway heading for the stairs. But when he reached the first step he heard the sound of keys and then the front door creaking open.
Langston stopped short, freezing in place.
“Sonrisa!” a man’s voice called out.
Sonrisa appeared in the hallway at the top of the stairs, her eyes wide with fright. She motioned for Langston to come back to her bedroom.
“What’s he doing here?” Langston whispered frantically.
“I don’t know!” Sonrisa looked around. “Get in the closet,” she said and pushed him toward it.
“Sonrisa! I know you’re here! The school called,” her stepfather’s voice echoed in the foyer. He was climbing the stairs.
Langston clenched his teeth and went into the closet reluctantly. This wasn’t going as smoothly as they had planned, but if he didn’t get in the closet, he might end up spending a longer stint in a room just as small.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered as she closed the door.
In the darkness, all he could hear was his heart and the sound of his own breath. Then he heard her stepfather come in the room.
“Sonrisa, why didn’t you go to school today?” he asked. Mock concern in his voice. Langston’s blood boiled. He knew why the man was here in the middle of a work day.
“I was tired and I didn’t feel good,” Sonrisa answered softly. Langston marveled at how much she sounded like a little girl. She never sounded that way when she is with him.
“Well, are you feeling better?”
Langston heard the sound of a mattress creaking under the weight of shifting bodies.
“Now we can spend some time together without worrying about your mother walking in on us.”
Sonrisa whimpered and Langston bunched his hands into fists.
“No, no we talked about this. I’m going to be more careful. I promise. And that last time you liked it. I could tell you did. I don’t want to hurt you, Sonrisa. Be a good girl.”
The subtle threat was more than apparent. Langston stood up and grabbed the doorknob. He only had a moment to decide what to do next. On the other side of the door, a girl he cared about, a girl he loved, was about to be raped again by her stepfather. If he went out there to stop him, there was no telling what might happen. He did know however, that if he stayed in the closet Sonrisa would be hurt by this man again. To Langston there was only one answer.
He opened the door slowly. On the bed he saw Sonrisa curled into a ball, doing all she could to keep her stepfather off of her.
“Come on, now. Be a good girl,” her stepfather cooed lasciviously. His hand creeping up the interior of Sonrisa’s thigh.
“Get off of her,” Langston growled.
Her step-father jumped to his feet. Anger and surprise contorting his face. “Who is this? Is this the real reason why you stayed home?”
Sonrisa jumped to her feet and slid in close to Langston. “I’m not going to let you do this to me anymore. I’m leaving, Hector.”
“You’re not going anywhere! He is going to get the fuck out of my house and you are going to explain to me why this man was hiding in your closet!” Hector made a grab for Sonrisa, but Langston pulled her behind him.
“What’s going to happen right now is me and Sonrisa are going to leave. You can do whatever you want once we’re gone, but you’re not going to hurt her anymore.”
Hector swelled with anger. “You aren’t going anywhere with my daughter, motherfucker.”
“Sonrisa, go to the car,” Langston ordered in a soft, even voice while glaring at Hector.
“Go, now!” Out of the corner of his eye Langston watched as Sonrisa made her escape. “You should just let us leave. With what I saw and overheard I could send you to jail.”
Hector sneered. “And who are you? Captain save a ‘ho? Because that’s what she is. A cock sucking, little whore. She’s been sucking my cock for years.”
“Years?” Langston questioned. “She’s seventeen, you sonofabitch. How long have you been raping her, you fucking pervert?”
“Pervert? And if I’m a pervert what does that make you?”
“I’m nothing like you. I love her.”
“Heh, and you think I don’t love her? Of course, I love Sonrisa. Love everything about her. I especially love it when she’s down on her knees with my cock in her mouth looking up at me with those pretty brown eyes—”
Langston doesn’t remember what happened next. He remembered leaping at Hector. Seizing him by the throat. He recalled the blazing pain he felt when Hector’s fist connected with his left cheekbone—a pain that fueled his already out of control anger. But other than that, all he remembered was coming to, like emerging from a dense black fog. He was straddling Hector’s chest at the foot of the stairs. Hector’s head was split open and bleeding all over the beige ceramic tile. The two story foyer was filled with the sound of Hector’s screams as he writhed and clutched at his empty eye socket. His dislodged eye quivered like gelatin a few inches away. A gruesome sight that nearly made him crack at the seams. And Sonrisa, standing over them, watching the whole thing unfold with an eerily calm look on her face.
READ CHAPTER SEVEN