Chapter Two

Chapter Two


“And that was how our courtship began.”

“Courtship?” Sergeant Godmen’s mouth twists into a derisive smile. “Isn’t that a little presumptive of you? You weren’t courting Sonrisa. We’ve seen your apartment. The walls are covered with pictures of her like some sort of shrine. You stalked the girl. Her mother said she has never met you.”

“That was Sonrisa’s doing.”

Sgt. Godmen’s mouth pulls into a doubtful frown. “Why? Was she ashamed of you?”

“No…she was ashamed of her family.”

“And you can understand that, right? Being ashamed of family?” She opens the file in front of her. “Says here that your mother was a drug addict and you were first sent to juvenile detention at the age of nine?”

“If it’s in the file it must be true.”

“You had a pretty rough childhood, didn’t you?”

“I don’t see how that relates to this—”

“Everything relates to this, Langston. Everything. Your childhood is what brought you to this moment. All those feelings—the hurt and abandonment—all that pent up anger at your father for the beatings that you didn’t deserve. You have a big hole inside of you, don’t you, Langston? Then this little Sonrisa comes into your life and makes everything all better. And you would do anything to hold onto her, right?”

“Of course, I love her.”

“You love her enough to go to jail for her? I don’t think I love anyone that much, Langston.”

“Then you’ve never known love, Sergeant.”

“Humph,” Sergeant Godmen grunts. “You may be right about that, but tell me something. How could you trust her when she was keeping so much from you? Didn’t you ever think that she was hiding something from you?”

“No. I had no reason to.”

“Really? Didn’t you think that maybe she was hiding you from another boyfriend? Or that maybe she wasn’t who she said she was?”

“No, never.  I had no reason to distrust her.”

“And what did she know about you?”


“Everything? Even your violent past?” Sergeant Godmen opens the file to a mug shot of Langston.

He shifts in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. “Yes, she knew that, too.”

“Convenient, don’t you think?


Chapter Two

Sonrisa seemed to be everywhere after their awkward introduction on the train. When they saw each other in the street they would exchange hellos, but she kept her distance as did Langston. Sonrisa watched him cautiously while Langston did his best to make her aware of him—to let her know he was there and that she was desired without being pushy or pawing all over her like every other guy she met. There was no denying that he wanted to kiss her. Hold her so close that he forgot where his skin ended and hers began. A mixing and meddling of brown and black that erased all his feelings of inadequacy.

“Peligrosa,” warned Langston’s friend Raimundo.

They were at a house party somewhere in Queen Village. He was watching Sonrisa dance when Raimundo’s voice pulled him out of the waking dream of her swaying hips and undulating waist.

“What?” Langston asked as he turned to him. 

Raimundo smiled at Langston and took a drink of his beer. “That girl you’re staring at…she’s dangerous,” Raimundo repeated as he pointed at Sonrisa.

“You know her?” 

Raimundo shook his head. “Don’t need to. I’ve known women like that all my life. And a woman like that will put a hurting on a man like you.”

Langston laughed as he met eyes with Sonrisa again. “What makes her so dangerous?” he asked in a daze.

“Look,” Raimundo said as he hooked his arm around Langston’s neck. “Let me explain something to you. I know you have never been with a Latin woman..."

“Wait, what about—“

“Michelle whose grandmother was half Dominican doesn’t count. I’m talking about a real Latina. With their hot blood and their passion…they could drive a man like you insane.” 

Langston rolled his eyes. “I don’t see you slitting your wrists or blowing your brains out.”

“Not applicable. I’m Puerto Rican. We cancel each other out.”

Langston shook his head laughing. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Listen, all I’m saying is…cuidado, eh?” Raimundo cautioned as he clapped Langston on the back. 

Langston looked at Sonrisa and she gave him a shy smile.

“Peligrosa,” Langston whispered to himself. He liked the sound and feel of the word on his tongue. Even more so when paired with her name. Langston was never one to heed warnings. He liked to make his own mistakes. So when he met Sonrisa in a dark hallway later on that night, he didn’t resist.

“You wanna smoke up?” she asked.

“Okay,” he agreed and followed Sonrisa to the end of the hallway.

They climbed through the window and joined a group of people gathered on the fire escape. Sonrisa introduced him around and one of her friends that he recognized from the train smiled knowingly and said, “Oh, yeah, I remember you”, as if the group of them had talked about him since that meeting. Langston found small delight in that.

Sonrisa slid in next to her friends and turned to Langston with the blunt pinched between her fingers. “This isn’t like that shit we smoked on the train. It’s pharmaceutical grade. Can you handle it?”

Langston smiled. “I can handle it,” he said with a nod.

Sonrisa smiled back at him and took a deep pull on blunt. “Come here,” she coaxed, grabbing him by the front of his shirt.

He let her pull him into her soft embrace. Sighed when she stood on tip toe, bringing her lips to his. She exhaled a thick plume of the velvety smoke and he breathed her in deep--sweet breath mingling with the pungent, acrid scent of the bright green herb. A dragon’s kiss. Her soft lips met his for a brief moment. Body arching ever so slightly until her ribs brushed against him. He held his breath. Held the thick smoke in until his lungs burned and his eyes began to water.

Our first kiss, he thought belatedly as she pulled away and he exhaled. He felt light-headed. Intoxicated.


* * * *

A few nights later, Langston found himself on the train with her and her friends again. But on this night, Sonrisa seemed sad.

“¡Sonrisa, Sonrisa!” they urged as they left the train.

“Bye,” she said softly with a little wave.

But she didn’t smile.

She sat with her back to him. Her head bowed low and tilted to the side.  The tender nape of her neck exposed to the lens of his camera.

“You know, I could sue you for invasion of privacy…or something,” she said without turning around.

 Langston smiled, secretly satisfied that she had made the first move. “And you would be well within your rights,” he said as he stood and walked slowly toward where she sat.

“It’s sort of creepy,”

Langston laughed and then nodded his head in agreement. “I guess it probably is pretty creepy.”

He stood beside her now. She looked up at him, her brown eyes brimmed over with tears. He sat down and swept away a tear that quivered on her lash before it could reach her cheek.

“I don’t want to go home,” she said softly.

“So don’t,” Langston whispered back.

Langston wasn’t the irresponsible type, but when he saw Sonrisa teary eyed and afraid, he ditched work without a second thought. They got off at the Transportation center and wandered around the heart of Camden. It was not something Langston would normally do on his own, but she navigated the streets with such familiarity that it set him at ease.

“Why don’t you want to go home?” he asked after they had walked for some time.

“I’ll show you.” 

He followed her through the dimly lit streets until they came to a desolate row of homes. All of which were condemned except one. 

“That’s where I live,” she said softly. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. She looked at Langston. “I’ve never brought anybody here before. I’ve always been…I don’t know…ashamed.”

“You don’t have to go back there,” Langston said impetuously.

Sonrisa smiled and as usual it slipped away more quickly than Langston would have liked.

“What do you mean? Are you saying I could live with you?” 

Langston felt foolish for having let that to slip, but that was exactly what he meant. He meant it wholeheartedly.

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