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Growing up in the foster care system has never been labeled easy. When Inaya and her younger brother, Amir, are reunited after being separated for years, they make a vow to never lose one another again. Until a sudden tragedy causes them to be separated for a second time. 

Rashad and his twin brother, Rafiq, relocate from Chicago all the way to Elizabeth, New Jersey— miles away from what they know as home with one thing on their mind: MONEY!

When Inaya and Rashad cross paths, it’s like love at first sight. His warm demeanor mixed with his Gangsta ways have Inaya head over heels. Who would’ve ever thought that the snap of a camera could spark up such an unforgettable love story? 

Inaya

 

 

“Ouch”, I yelped out as I quickly removed my hand from underneath the faucet water because I had the temperature a tad bit too hot. My hand was stinging from the scorching hot water so, with my free hand, I just turned the knob over to the blue side.

 “Uh ,that shit was too hot,” I complained in a volume just above a whisper. 

 

“Language!”

 I quickly turned my head toward the kitchen entry way as I poured the dish detergent on the sponge. Miss Nancy held her phone in one hand and car keys in the other. Her long black hair with streaks of gray was placed to one side of her gorgeous face, showcasing her full brown tone and high cheekbones. She didn’t have those cheeks because of her weight because Miss Nancy wasn’t a big lady at all, but she did have a chubby face with full lips. She would remind of one of those Facebook/Instagram cougar women that got posted for looking so young. She was so beautiful. 

 

“Those dishes should have already been cleaned, Inaya, and where is Amir? His teacher called me about him not doing so well in math, so I told her I didn’t understand that because Amir loves math!” she ranted on as she took her coat off and sat down at the kitchen island to remove her hunter boots. It was mid-December, so the weather was chilly; honestly, my favorite season. I was a sucker for hot chocolate, s’mores, and furry blankets.

 

“No, he left a few hours ago & it won’t happen again. I’ll have my chores done by the time you return home, and I put the chicken in the oven like you asked of me,” I replied back as I dried my hands on my light blue jeans, causing streaks of darker blue lines on them. I slid from behind the sink and my hands were looking wrinkly from being in water for so long. 

 

“It’s okay, Inaya, and he should be home soon. He knows what time dinner is around here.”

 I smiled at her as I exited the kitchen to go sit in the livingroom, then I grabbed the Roku remote from the wooden coffee table as I sat Indian style on the gray sectional. As soon as I turned on the television, I clicked on Netflix so that I could finish the series Black Lightning. I was a fiend for that show and had been binge watching it for the last two days to be exact. 

 

Miss Nancy, her husband, Michael, and I all sat at the dining room table holding hands while saying grace at dinner time, and the only one that wasn’t present was my little brother, Amir. He was at a rebellious stage in his life where he didn’t like following the rules, coming inside on time, nor being told what to do. If you told Amir to do something, he would do the opposite just to show you that he had full control over his life. What he didn’t understand or just didn’t want to understand was that there were people who genuinely cared for him. He became so good at pushing people away that it was like a coping mechanism for him or something. I toyed with my vegetables and dwelled on that until I realized that it was almost ten minutes until 7:00 PM and he still hadn’t arrived, so I stood up from the table with my mind already made up. I threw my remains inside of the trash can, jogged up the stairs to my room to grab my coat and Canon camera, then flew back down the steps as I looked at Miss Nancy with desperation and pleaded with my eyes for her to let me go. 

 

“Go ahead, Inaya, and come right back,” she stated firmly, knowing what I was already going to ask because this wasn’t the first occasion of me having to go find Amir. I would search high and low for my little brother, no matter what, and Miss Nancy knew that. She also knew there was no stopping me when it came down to this because my brother and I were always thick as thieves. 

 

I zipped my coat up to my chin as I turned around to catch my breath from the wind blowing so hard in my face.

 “Whew!”

 I walked backward, heading in the one direction that I always knew my brother to be in. The area that we lived in wasn’t bad but anywhere you went, there was always a good section and a bad section. It was just up to you on how you adjusted to your environment. Me, I stayed to myself so I didn’t really mind where I lived because I stayed inside most of the time, in my own bubble, living inside of my own world. 

 

“Ay little head, you cold?” I asked Amir. I stood in front of him when I found him; he was rubbing his hands together to make heat as he stood in front of the Papi store. His diamond earrings shined bright enough to blind you and, as always, he was dressed in new gear from head to toe. This way, I knew Amir was doing things he wasn’t supposed to be doing because he was able to afford things that no fourteen-year-old boy should be able to afford. Amir carried himself like a grown man aside from his youthful appearance, but once you saw that face, it took the cake. His skin was the color of cocoa powder and his teeth sparkled when he smiled; if he smiled wide enough, you’d catch his dimples. Amir’s slim frame towered over me; I was only 4’9 and he stood 5’11, a few centimeters shy of six feet. 

 

“What are you doing out here, light bright?” I smiled at the nickname that I had since I was a child. 

 

“Miss Nancy and I were worried, so I came to check on you.”

 

“What I tell you, Inaya, it’s dangerous out here, & stop mentioning that bitch to me!”

 

“She’s the closest thing that we have to a mothe—”

 

“That bitch ain’t my mother I keep telling you…. Ay, stay right here, then we gone slide.” 

 

Amir strolled over to a group of guys. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but I was able to see him make hand contact with all of them before he stepped off. He wrapped his long arms around me as we walked down the block. I knew Amir like the back of my hand so I knew once he showed his face, he would be sneaking back out the house later. I didn’t understand how he stood out there all day in the cold, but he did. 

 

“Say cheese.” I ran ahead a little so that I could get a good angle as I lifted my Canon camera up to my eyes to get a good view of Amir. He threw up his middle finger as the flash went off and I just laughed it off. 

 

“I can’t with you.” I smiled at him as we walked inside of the house. 

 

 

Inaya 

 

As soon as I stepped foot inside of the house, the house phone rang three times before I grabbed it off the charging dock,

“Hello?” My voice echoed through the cordless phone as I attempted to catch my breath.

 

“Wassuppppp bitchhhh, I ain’t heard from you all damn day,” my best friend. AsZariah’s, voice blared through the phone, causing me to giggle. She was always cursing up a storm. Just like Trey Songz said in the song Unusual, “I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t get a little nasty.” It really wouldn’t have been AsZariah if she didn’t say at least one curse word in each sentence. Hey, maybe I was dragging it, but she was always using foul language; it was just her and I loved her for that. 

 

“What are you doing, Yae? You all out of breath. Damn, it sound like you having an asthma attack!”

 

“Shut up, I just got in from going to get Amir. Hold on, let me take my coat off, I’m hot as hell!”

 

I sat the phone down on the end table as I unzipped my bubble coat and pulled my arms out. Suddenly, my body jumped from the loud boom that came from the direction of the kitchen, and that was followed by loud commotion. I already knew it was Amir and Mr. Mike going at it. This was the norm for them, but I had never heard Mr. Mike scream that loud since we lived here and I’d been dealing with this for the last three and a half years. 

 

“I’m gonna call you back, AsZariah, I’ll call you right back!” I repeated as I hurriedly hung up the phone so that I could go and try to defuse the argument. I hated when people yelled; it bothered me and caused me to have anxiety, meaning my hands got clammy and as I got closer and closer, it felt like my feet were nailed down to the hardwood floors. That was how bad my nervous system was. When I rounded the corner, I could finally make out the words that were being said. 

 

“Nigga fuck you, we ain’t ask to be here or for y’all to take us in, and it damn sure ain’t my sister and I fault your wife can’t bear kids, nigga.”

 

“Lil nigga, you gone meet a side of me your fake wanna be gangsta ass ain’t never seen before.”

 Spit was flying from Mr. Mike’s mouth with every word he uttered. His thick southern accent came completely out and he was a quiet man, for the most part, so this was new to me. Plus, he always allowed Miss Nancy to be in control of the discipline when it came down to Amir and I, but from the looks of things, he was fed up with it. 

 

“Let me meet him then, Nigga, I ain’t scared!”

Amir grabbed on his waistline, causing Miss Nancy to rush to grab the house phone and in one quick motion, I grabbed her, knowing she was about to call our case worker or better yet, the police. I shocked myself when I grabbed her so I quickly released her while pleading with my eyes since that was something that I had always done. It always helped me when words failed. Miss Nancy’s hands traveled up to her mouth and slid down to her chin while shaking her head, and I could tell she was in disbelief of what was happening and at what was being said, and so was I. 

 

“Can I please try and calm him down before you call anyone? “

I grabbed Amir as he huffed and puffed while standing in my arms. My small frame held him tightly as tears welled up in his eyes. 

 

“Let me go, light bright. I’m tired of this shit, Yae, man I can’t take it no more.” 

 

“I know, Amir, but you’re making this hard. I’m tired of going from house-to-house, Amir, I finally feel accepted here.” 

I cried, finally letting out my emotions. Mr. Mike and Nancy allowed us to have our moment as this was long overdue and the tension in the room was causing too much havoc. Logically thinking, though, this argument had to happen. 

 

“I ain’t never been accepted, Yae, look at me. Who gone accept a nigga like me!” He pointed at himself as he talked.

 

“You know who I see when I look inside of the mirror, Yae? Ion see Mommy, Ion see this nigga.” He pointed at Mr. Mike this time as he spoke. 

 

“I see my mother fucking father. Yup, the same nigga who abandoned me and left me for dead, Yae, I see that nigga,” he cried, causing Miss Nancy to grab him in her arms. His cries were loud and painful as he laid on her shoulder like the baby he was. He was Miss Nancy’s baby from the moment he stepped foot inside of this house. 

 

“I’m sorr... I’m sorry,” he cried and finally got out as she rocked him back and forth. 

 

“It’s okay, baby, I understand,” her gentle words flowed through the room, causing the tension to boil down. 

 

“Ima be up in my room, if that’s okay.” 

 

“I apologize, Mr. Mike.”

I knew it took a lot for Amir to apologize, but I was glad he did because they didn’t deserve the disrespect Amir was dishing out when he was angry with the wrong people, including himself. 

SNEAK PEEK

*unedited*