Xavier Cold

Page 16


I run my hand along the dashboard as Carl gets behind the wheel. “This car is in great shape. What year is it?”
“Nineteen eighty-eight. It’s a classic, like me.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
I laugh as he pulls out of the parking lot and onto the main road. The song playing on the radio reminds me of those old R&B songs that Father used to play before he turned his life over to Jesus. I haven’t heard this kind of music since then. When Father decided to give his life over to the Lord, he banished all music in our house, except for secular songs, so my exposure to anything other than that is limited.
I tap my finger along to the beat as Carl hums the tune.
Eventually, he clears his throat and asks, “Where are you from exactly, Anna?”
“Portland,” I answer easily. “Born and raised.”
He nods with a thoughtful expression on his face. “How’d you end up here in Detroit with X?”
“Oh, um . . . I have family who live here, and I met Xavier on the plane ride from home to here when I moved.”
“So, you don’t know much about the neighborhood you’re staying in?”
I pick at the chipping nail polish on my fingernails. “Not really—only that my cousin says it’s not the best area.”
“She’s right. At one time, it was a decent street to live on, but it’s overrun with thugs now, so be careful when you are there alone. People will come right up to your front door and beg you for money, so they can get high. Drugs are bad over there, thanks to Bishop and his crew down on the Block.”
The name catches my attention. “Nettie mentioned that name before and told Xavier he’d better stay away from him.”
“X would do good to heed her warning. Bishop was a small-time dealer who had kids working for him, but now, he runs things. Nothing goes on in that neighborhood that Bishop doesn’t know about, so it won’t be long before he comes sniffing around X, trying to get him mixed up in some crazy deal.”
Since Xavier doesn’t give me much information about himself, the only way I’ve learned about him is through Nettie and Carl, and Carl doesn’t seem to mind spilling all kinds of details about Xavier’s past. This might be a good time to poke around a little more.
“I know Xavier lived on the streets for a while, and Nettie said he ran with a gang for a bit. Was it Bishop’s?”
Carl nods. “Yeah, it was, but X was only involved with him for a couple of years. When he tried to go straight, Bishop kicked him back on the streets with no money. That’s when he robbed us.” He chuckles, like remembering the time he took Xavier down greatly amuses him. “Nettie took him in and gave him a bed in the stockroom, and the boy actually turned himself around. Studied and got his GED. Then, he started working out at Tough’s Gym with his buddy, Cole. It’s a wrestling gym, and Xavier took a shine to it. As you know, the boy went legit and entered the wrestling circuit, and the rest is history.”
I sit in silence and ingest all the information Carl just laid on me. That’s the most knowledge about Xavier’s past I’ve ever been given in one sitting. “Wow. I didn’t know all that.”
Carl adjusts his body in the seat. “I’m not surprised. X never was one to flap his gums too much. That kid has always kept to himself. It took Nettie years to really get to know him.”
“They seem close.”
“They are,” he confirms as he turns the corner. He drives down the street to Xavier’s house.
The lights are on, and when Carl parks in front of the house, I spot Xavier sitting on the front porch steps, like he’s waiting on me.
I cradle the boxes of food in my hands. “Thanks for the ride.”
Xavier’s outside my door, opening it, before I even have a chance to make a move for the door handle.
“Anytime,” Carl replies as I step out of the car.
Xavier leans down, so he can see inside. “Thanks for bringing her back.”
Carl pokes his head out, so he can see Xavier’s face. “No problem, brother. You need anything else, you be sure to let us know.”
“Will do,” he says before shutting the door. He shoves his hands deep into his front pockets while the Cutlass drives off.
We stand alone on the dark sidewalk, neither of us saying a word.
“Look, Anna. I, um . . . shit. I’ve been sitting here on this porch, thinking of ways to tell you how sorry I am, but none of the apologies I came up with in my head sounded good enough for how I left you. What I did . . . it was beyond fucked up. I left you stranded because I couldn’t control my temper. There are times, like tonight, when I almost convince myself that I should let you go because I’ll never be a good enough man for you. You deserve so much better than me.”
I hate it when he does this—bashes himself. It’s like he doesn’t understand how I see him through my eyes.
I reach up and place the palm of my hand on his cheek. “Don’t ever doubt that you’re a good man. Since I’ve known you, all you’ve wanted to do is protect me, even in the messed up ways when you take things overboard with all the fighting. How could I ever fault you for that?”
He closes his eyes, like my touch causes him physical pain. “I’m trying so hard, Anna. I really am, but I don’t think I’ll ever get things right.”
I chew the inside of my lower lip. “Do you love me?”
“With every inch of my soul,” he answers without hesitation.
I smile up at him. “Then, you’re doing it right. Everything else is fixable. You just have to stop lashing out all the time.”
His face is a mixture of relief and sadness. “That’s the hardest part. I don’t know if I can control this rage inside me. There has to be a man who’s more deserving of you, and I’m afraid that, someday, he’s going to swoop in and steal you away from me.”
I train my gaze firmly on his. “That’s never going to happen, which is why you need to trust me. Have faith in me that I’m going to do right by you.”
Xavier presses his forehead against mine. “I’ll try.”
I shake my head. “There’s no trying on this one, Xavier. Without trust, a relationship has nothing. I don’t want us to fall apart because we keep having the same damn fight all the time.”
“You’re right. I will work on that. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you in my life.”