Home > The Hate U Give(11)

The Hate U Give(11)
Author: Angie Thomas

I make myself nod. “I . . . just can’t believe it, you know? It had been a while since I saw him, but . . .”

“It hurts.” Kenya says what I can’t.

“Yeah.”

Fuck, I feel the tears coming. I’m not gonna cry, I’m not gonna cry, I’m not gonna cry. . . .

“I kinda hoped he’d be in here when I walked in,” she says softly. “Like he used to be. Bagging groceries in that ugly apron.”

“The green one,” I mutter.

“Yeah. Talking about how women love a man in uniform.”

I stare at the floor. If I cry now, I may never stop.

Kenya pops her Hot Cheetos open and holds the bag toward me. Comfort food.

I reach in and get a couple. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

We munch on Cheetos. Khalil’s supposed to be here with us.

“So, um,” I say, and my voice is all rough. “You and Denasia got into it last night?”

“Girl.” She sounds like she’s been waiting to drop this story for hours. “DeVante came over to me, right before it got crazy. He asked for my number.”

“I thought he was Denasia’s boyfriend?”

“DeVante not the type to be tied down. Anyway, Denasia walked over to start something, but the shots went off. We ended up running down the same street, and I clocked her ass. It was so funny! You should’ve seen it!”

I would’ve rather seen that instead of Officer One-Fifteen. Or Khalil staring at the sky. Or all that blood. My stomach twists again.

Kenya waves her hand in front of me. “Hey. You okay?”

I blink Khalil and that cop away. “Yeah. I’m good.”

“You sure? You real quiet.”

“Yeah.”

She lets it drop, and I let her tell me about the second round she has planned for Denasia.

Daddy calls me up front. When I get there, he hands me a twenty. “Get me some beef ribs from Reuben’s. And I want—”

“Potato salad and fried okra,” I say. That’s what he always has on Saturdays.

He kisses my cheek. “You know your daddy. Get whatever you want, baby.”

Kenya follows me out the store. We wait for a car to pass, the music blasting and the driver reclined so far back that only the tip of his nose seems to nod to the song. We cross the street to Reuben’s.

The smoky aroma hits us on the sidewalk, and a blues song pours outside. Inside, the walls are covered with photographs of civil rights leaders, politicians, and celebrities who have eaten here, like James Brown and pre-heart-bypass Bill Clinton. There’s a picture of Dr. King and a much younger Mr. Reuben.

A bulletproof partition separates the customers from the cashier. I fan myself after a few minutes in line. The air conditioner in the window stopped working months ago, and the smoker heats up the whole building.

When we get to the front of the line, Mr. Reuben greets us with a gap-toothed smile from behind the partition. “Hey, Starr and Kenya. How y’all doing?”

Mr. Reuben is one of the only people around here who actually calls me by my name. He remembers everybody’s names somehow. “Hey, Mr. Reuben,” I say. “My daddy wants his usual.”

He writes it on a pad. “All right. Beefs, tater salad, okra. Y’all want fried BBQ wings and fries? And extra sauce for you, Starr baby?”

He remembers everybody’s usual orders too somehow. “Yes, sir,” we say.

“All right. Y’all been staying out of trouble?”

“Yes, sir,” Kenya lies with ease.

“How ’bout some pound cake on the house then? Reward for good behavior.”

We say yeah and thank him. But see, Mr. Reuben could know about Kenya’s fight and would offer her pound cake regardless. He’s nice like that. He gives kids free meals if they bring in their report cards. If it’s a good one, he’ll make a copy and put it on the “All-Star Wall.” If it’s bad, as long as they own up to it and promise to do better, he’ll still give them a meal.

“It’s gon’ take ’bout fifteen minutes,” he says.

That means sit and wait till your number is called. We find a table next to some white guys. You rarely see white people in Garden Heights, but when you do they’re usually at Reuben’s. The men watch the news on the box TV in a corner of the ceiling.

I munch on some of Kenya’s Hot Cheetos. They would taste much better with cheese sauce on them. “Has there been anything on the news about Khalil?”

She pays more attention to her phone. “Yeah, like I watch the news. I think I saw something on Twitter, though.”

I wait. Between a story about a bad car accident on the freeway and a garbage bag of live puppies that was found in a park, there’s a short story about an officer-involved shooting that is being investigated. They don’t even say Khalil’s name. Some bullshit.

We get our food and head back to the store. Right as we cross the street, a gray BMW pulls up beside us, bass thumping inside like the car has a heartbeat. The driver’s side window rolls down, smoke drifts out, and the male, three-hundred-pound version of Kenya smiles at us. “What up, queens?”

Kenya leans in through the window and kisses his cheek. “Hey, Daddy.”

“Hey, Starr-Starr,” he says. “Not gon’ say hey to your uncle?”

You ain’t my uncle, I wanna say. You ain’t shit to me. And if you touch my brother again, I’ll— “Hey, King,” I finally mumble.

   
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