Gertrude gave him a blank stare. Her daughter died a long time ago somewhere on the streets. She didn't know the creature bleeding beneath her. The blast from her shotgun jerked her shoulder back but didn't stop from her unloading her .22 in the direction of the young men shooting at her granddaughter.
Big D grabbed his leg as he fired five rounds into NaTonya whose body jerked in every direction as bullets riddled it. Blood leaked from the corner of her mouth. Screams, yells, and shrieks filled the air as the sound of sirens blasted in the distance. Holes full of lava burned in Gertrude's arms and one in her side. Warm liquid soaked the back of her night coat.
An arm fell over her shoulder. She ignored the pain searing in her lungs and side to look at her grandbabies. All of them lay bleeding on the stairs behind her. Amy moaned and looked into her grandmother's eyes.
"This ain't y'all fault. You were good girls, you hear me, Amy. Tell your sisters everybody knows Y'all was good girls." Gertrude coughed up blood. "God have mercy on your souls, you paid someone else's debt, but you ain't die in vain."
Amy gave a small nod and tried to smile, but her eyes rolled into the back of her head.
Big D. stood up.
Gertrude grabbed for her .22.
Blue and red lights flashed against the walls.
Big D. grabbed his leg as he pulled himself from the floor. "Now we even. You killed what I loved, and I killed everything special to you."
"All you did was unleash the fury of heaven on your soul. My babies are in heaven and God ain't gone let their death be in vain. You better hope he has mercy on your soul." Gertrude coughed more blood up.
Big D. raised his gun to shoot her when the sound of footsteps approaching caused him to pause. He limped into the kitchen. Gertrude laid her head back as she heard the screen door in the back bang closed.
The front door crashed in, and a glint of black steel hit the corner of her eye. Gertrude unloaded her gun into the chest of a boy who looked no more than sixteen years old. He fell to the floor. She crossed herself and reloaded her gun faster than a woman of years would be expected to move. Jasmine, Erin, and Amy joined Keisha and Dana behind Gertrude. "God have mercy on your souls, I'll kill every last one of you before I let you hurt these babies, again."
"That was Big D's brother. Ma, I wish you hadn't done that--" a large hand grabbed the back of NaTonya's hair and pulled her to the ground like a dog. She winced from the pain. "Ma, please just let me have the girls."
Another man entered through the front door. Gertrude emptied her gun into his chest. A voice told them to go through the back. Keshia whimpered in Gertrude's ear.
Mama, how could you? Why did you bring them here?" Amy whined.
"Shut up! Y'all all I've got. If I didn't give you to him, he'd kill me. Do you want your mother to die? Ahh." NaTonya pulled at the spot where Big D pulled her head.
"Enough." Big D. pulled NaTonya to her feet by her hair. His eyes averted to the blood pouring from the hole in his brother's chest on the floor. He pushed NaTonya to the bottom of the stairs in front of Gertrude. "You killed the only thing I cared about in this life, so I'm gonna take away everything you love."
Gertrude reloaded her shotgun and aimed it at Big D as three other men lined up behind him. They all stepped toward the stairs and she leaned back to protect Keisha. Two more men lined up next to them. "Soldiers assume the position."
The five young men pulled nine millimeters from their jackets. Each of them pointed toward the stairs. NaTonya's eyes widened as she screamed and lunged toward Big D. Big D shot her in the shoulder slamming her back into the stairs.
"Mama, please, let him have the girls. I don't wanna die." NaTonya grabbed her shoulder and writhed in pain.
"Shut up child, I'm trying to think." Gertrude positioned the shotgun on one shoulder and took the .22 from Dana and aimed it at Big D. "Sir, me and my girls don't have no business with you. I'm sorry about your little brother but I'll do whatever I have to do to protect my family, including that fool bleeding on my steps. Call your men off, take her with you until your business is settled."
NaTonya sobbed. "You love them more than me, I knew it."
Gertrude grunted. "Shut up, child."
"This is bigger than a debt. NaTonya's debt is nothing compared to what you owe me now." Big D. nodded, and the young men cocked their guns.
"You don't have to do this, please, I'll do all their tricks please." NaTonya sobbed.
"Don't nobody want your stretched out snatch. The only reason you aren't already dead is because you knew how to get us here. I wanted to make sure you lived long enough to see this, but I'm tired of your mouth." Big D. aimed his piece at NaTonya's head and smiled at Gertrude.
A sound outside of the window convinced Gertrude pulling her twelve gauge shotgun from its resting place in her closet had not been a mistake. Her granddaughter's confessed their mother planned to take them back to her flesh pedaling dealer to pay off her debt. Gertrude would never understand how NaTonya, her sweet baby, her only child connected to such a hateful, evil man. The hair on the back of her arms stood as the sound of someone trying to pry open her back door tickled her ears.
The thought of killing someone seemed silly when her dear departed Willie showed her how to fire the monstrous weapon over forty years ago, but it didn't stop her from practicing the way she promised she would every week. Willie made her promise to take care of their baby girl on his deathbed. Fingers intertwined, eyes locked she swore to keep their princess safe. When that curly haired girl was replaced with a strong willed, rebellious teenage Gertrude never went back on her promise.
Over the years NaTonya changed. At the age of fifteen pregnant with twins and mother to five by the age of twenty-five. Gertrude tired of her sporadic behavior and took the children from her daughter only to have them kidnapped by their own mother and lost for three weeks in a world she couldn't imagine in her wildest dreams. A series of what could only be described as miracles brought her babies back, damaged, hurt, confused and angry, but safe with her.
NaTonya promised to stay away after Gertrude threatened her the last time with her .22. Tears streamed down her face as she loaded, cocked the shotgun and braced herself to shoot the fool trying to pry open the door in front of her. Her princess, her sweet girl, now her enemy had led those animals who sold her grand-babies innocence to the highest bidder to her home. The farmland and inheritance her father died securing for his wife and child. Gertrude planned to beat her daughter down like a stranger on the street, once she kicked these thugs off of her land.
Breath touched the back of her neck. Keisha. Her oldest granddaughter stood behind her with a baseball bat.
"Go back to bed, Keisha, Granny is taking care of everything." Gertrude raised the gun to her shoulder.
"I called 911, and the girls are coming. You'll need help, Granny. There are too many of them for you to fight off by yourself." Keisha steadied the baseball bat in her hands. "I wish you'd tell me where you put the .22 this bat can't deflect bullets."
Dana stood behind her twin with the small caliber pistol. "I told you where Granny hides all the guns, you need to learn how to listen."
The back door crashed in, and Gertrude recognized her daughter's voice.
"NaTonya, you get yourself in here and call these hoodlums off. You need to leave before the cops come to get you off my property." Gertrude pushed Dana and Keisha up the steps as she leaned back ready to fire toward the front door or the hallway leading in from the kitchen.
"We don't want any trouble Ma, I came for my girls. They've got a job to do so we can all come home. Big D promised he won't let them get hurt the way they did before, I just need them for one month and we'll all be able to come home." NaTonya bared her meth ravaged smile. In place of the once perfect white teeth were brown, yellow, broken brittle edges and sore infested gums.
"You must be high if you think I'm gonna let you have my girls. Your father is turning over in his grave, look at yourself. I'd never do this to you." Gertrude aimed the barrel at her daughter.
Y'von opened the email and read the order request for the third time. Ten years later? She howled with laughter. Her high school sweetheart's side chick wanted her to make his favorite cupcakes for their fifteen year anniversary. The average chick may have been hurt, she planned to invest the money from the best girlfriend she never had in her new Jeffrey Campbell shoe collection.
Y'van wanted her to tell the woman to go straight to hell. Offered to have her cable cut off, car towed, and the gas bill made ten thousand dollars too high with a "computer error." Seventeen years is too long to nurse a wound over a boy who still chased eighteen years old's with small waists, wide hips, and bubble butts.
Not once had she cried over her ex-boyfriend. His kisses were sloppy. Breath smelled like stale cough syrup mixed with ten-year-old toe fungus. The worst basketball player on the team. Take a thousand dollars from the woman who saved her half a million in embarrassment. Check, please!
"Von?" Y'van's voice cut the silence in the air.
Y'von closed the tab. "Yes."
"Just a little revenge never hurt anybody. Use salt instead of sugar." Y'van sneered.
A chuckle escaped. "Please, then they'll be calling me the Vanilla Bean Vixen who tried holding a twenty-year torch for someone else's man."