Page 37 of Pride

“No! I wouldn’t let him do that!”

I exhale.

Carrie crosses her arms and cocks her head to the side. “I know what happened to Georgia. I wouldn’t let that happen to your sister.”

“Thank you,” I manage to say.

I put my arm around my sister and pull her to standing, just as some shouting and yelling make Carrie run out of the bathroom. “Oh god, what now?” she mumbles.

A white boy pokes his head in and shouts, “Fight!”

Layla stumbles up the stairs, and I’m right behind her. People are making their way outside the brownstone and onto the street. I spot two boys on the sidewalk; everyone is trying to move out of their way.

Darius and Warren.

As I get closer to the fight, I see that Darius is lost in a rage. He’s got Warren by the collar. Warren pulls away and gets ready to throw a punch, but Darius ducks and hits him with an uppercut. They both step back and dance around each other. Darius gets hit in the face and stomach, but Warren manages to dodge all of Darius’s empty punches. No one stops them.

“Hey, hey, hey!” I yell out, and just about jump on Darius’s back, trying to pull him away from Warren. I hold him with all my might, and only then does some other black guy pull Warren away.

A few kids help me get Darius back inside the house, because he’s still seething. Carrie brings him a glass of water and a pack of frozen peas for his jaw. She goes back and returns with glasses for me and Layla too.

I touch her hand and say, “Seriously. Thank you.”

She smiles and nods.

All Is Fair in Love and Warren

I don’t need no knights in shining armor

Ain’t no horses in the hood

I killed chivalry myself with a pocketknife

A mean mug and a bad mood.

I don’t need you to fight my battles

’Cause I’ve already won this war

Got brothas hollering at me from the corner

Then curse me out when they get ignored.

But if you step to that brotha

Who disrespected me with his eyes

Pull out your fists and throw an uppercut

Like you’re some superhero in disguise.

I’ll look at you twice, maybe three times or four

Secretly cheer you from the sidelines

As you throw another brotha down on the floor.

You’ve got this whole white audience

Watching this fight like some sport

So to whom do I pledge allegiance

To my heart or to this war?

Twenty-Six

MY STOMACH SINKS when I hear sirens coming down the block. It’s not the same as hearing sirens in my hood. In this part of Brooklyn, with its giant oak trees and multimillion-dollar brownstones, police and ambulance sirens mean that something really did go down. A police car pulls up to the curb outside Carrie’s house.

I just hope no one tells the police that two black boys at this party started all this mess and it ended in a fight.

Carrie is pacing up and down the living room. She’s on the phone with her mother, who’s on the other side of the world in Paris. Soon two cops are at the door, and I tell Darius to go hide in the bathroom.

“Why?” he asks as he holds the pack of frozen peas to his jaw.

“Because . . .” is all I say.

But Carrie doesn’t let them in. She insists that everything’s okay and the party’s over. The cops mumble something, and in seconds, they’re gone.

“Wow. That’s it?” I say as Carrie walks back into the living room.

“What do you mean, that’s it?” Darius says.

I sigh and shake my head at Darius. “You don’t get it,” I whisper.

“Yes, I do,” he says. “That’s it. And that’s all that should happen.”

I shake my head. “Different planet,” I say. “What you think should happen is what actually happens.”

He just narrows his eyes at me. There’s a small scratch across his forehead, and his lip is busted. His face is all wound up, and he winces as he gets up from the couch. I stare at him with almost-new eyes, because he’s not as cocky when he’s in pain.

Layla is sprawled out on another leather couch, and she looks a hot mess too. “I gotta get her home,” I say.

“Try to make her eat,” Carrie says. “And, wait. Lemme give you something.” She rushes back to the kitchen and comes back with a plastic bag and hands it to me. “She’s probably gonna throw up again, so you should be prepared.”

Darius sits in the front seat to give Layla space to stretch out her legs in the back of the cab. She cracks stupid jokes during the whole ride. And she almost throws up on me and all over the back seat, so Carrie’s plastic bag comes in handy.

“She is so wasted. How am I going to get her past my parents?” I ask Darius.

“How ’bout if the cab lets us off around the corner or down the block?” Darius asks while massaging his sore hand. “She can walk it off.”

“You kidding me? My whole neighborhood has eyes.”

I get a text from Janae, letting me know that everybody’s home except for me and Layla. I text her back that Layla’s in trouble, so Marisol came up with some lie about Layla being at some friend’s party and me promising to pick her up. For whatever reason, my parents always believe Marisol.

“She needs water, food, and sleep,” Darius says. “She’ll just have to deal with the consequences later.”

My stomach twists even tighter at the thought of having to explain all this to my parents. They won’t get mad; they’ll be disappointed. They’ll blame themselves. They’ll think back on all the things they’ve done wrong as young parents. Papi will get even stricter with all of us, and he’ll probably cut back on his work hours even more, just so he can keep an eye out on us girls.

“Oh my god,” I mumble, holding my head in my hand.

“It’ll be that bad, huh?” Darius asks. “Okay. How about we bring her to my house?”

“No way! Your parents and my parents will definitely catch us!”

“They’re asleep. No one will notice, promise.” He shrugs. “Look, Layla can chill there for a while until she can at least stand straight. You can sneak back home with her before dawn.”

I shake my head, knowing that at this point, we’ll still get in trouble. It’s just a matter of how much trouble. I text Janae, letting her know that Layla is okay, and beg her not to say a word to our parents. I call Mama and she doesn’t answer, thank goodness.

I lean back against the seat and exhale as the cab drives up to our block.

We reach the side door to the Darcy house. My heart pounds as I look all up and down the block for any of Papi’s friends, or Mama’s friends too. If Mama and Papi come knocking on the Darcys’ door and find Layla drunk, so be it. But if I can save them a heart attack or two, I will.

Darius helps Layla out of the car and walks her to the side door while I cover Layla’s mouth, because now she’s singing some random song. Soon we’re in a lit foyer with hooks along the walls and a metal rack filled with shoes that I notice are Darius’s. He fumbles with his keys again, opening a second door that leads down into the basement.

There’s a black leather couch in the center with a giant flat-screen TV along the wall. Layla quickly plops her body down, groans, and mumbles something.

“This is my room. Please make yourself at home.” Darius leaves and walks up a flight of stairs at the other end of the basement, and I kneel down in front of Layla to rub her forehead. “You’re stupid, you know that?” I say.

She moans. “I’m sorry, Zuri.”

“Warren kept giving you drinks, huh?”

“No. I kept asking for them. And I only had two!”

“Stay away from Warren, please.”

“Why? He likes me. And I like him.”

“I don’t care. Stay away from him.”

“You can’t tell me what to . . . ow!” She rubs her head and squints her eyes.

“See? That’s what you get. If Mama and Papi find out about this, it won’t matter who likes who. The only boyfriends you’ll have are the four walls in our bedroom,” I say, while rubbing her back. “And please don’t throw up on this couch and give Darius a reason to hate me more.”

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