Chapter 5 ~ Paroxysm
“I can’t believe my uncle canceled on me! He never has a date," Max complained to Nelson as they drove towards Zack’s house party.
“Hey, maybe it’s fate; you never know man,” Nelson replied, too excited to care. He was just happy that everything had worked out in his favor. “Hey, pull over here to the gas station. I need to get something,” Nelson requested.
“All right.” Max pulled into the gas station and parked next to a gas pump.
“Max, isn’t that Mei…your girl?” Nelson teased, pointing over to Mei. She was standing in front the gas station’s entrance drinking a bottle of water. “She is hot!” Nelson exclaimed.
Mei stood by the entrance of the convenience store. The soft, Florida, night air gently glided through her long wavy hair, creating the perfect frame around her face. She glanced in their direction. Her face looked how an angel’s would. She wore dark, skinny jeans and a tight tank top. Mei had a beautiful hourglass shape and a vibrant golden complexion. Little did she know that her beauty left many men breathless.
Max observed the men walking past her, staring and making vulgar gestures behind her back, as they walked into the convenience store. He unexpectedly became jealous but reminded himself that she was not his girl. “I want her to be,” he whispered.
“Go talk to her man! You can’t just stare at her for the rest of your life!” Nelson pushed, overhearing his words.
“I want to, but man, she makes me nervous! Something about her…”
“I'm behind you! Do it! Come on! Let’s go!” Nelson urged, jumping out of the SUV.
Max reluctantly followed. His heart loudly pounded in his chest as the distance between them shortened.
Mei didn’t notice him; her gaze was fixed on an approaching car.
Is she waiting for someone? Max thought. She is beautiful. She has to have a boyfriend. What am I thinking? She’ll never go for me, Max silently complained to himself.
Mei suddenly switched her gaze to Max as he approached. He realized she was upset, Her eyes appeared puffy; however, he could still see those beautiful, emerald green eyes. She looked sad, more than usual. His nervousness turned to concern, not realizing how much her well-being meant to him. He opened his mouth to ask if she was okay when her name was shouted out. Everyone in the vicinity turned towards the voice of Cora Pennington.
“Mei!” Cora called once more as she walked towards her friend, embracing her.
“Are you okay…did he hurt you?” Cora asked as Max and Nelson continued to walk past.
What did she mean by did he hurt you? Max questioned himself. Did some boyfriend hurt her? Max pondered under his breath. If I ever had the chance to be with her, I would treasure every minute. Why would anyone want to hurt someone that beautiful, he thought.
Max became overburdened with all of his thoughts. “I am getting tore up tonight!” he suddenly blurted out loud.
Everyone turned in the direction of the unexpected outburst. A mixture of disapproving stares were followed by an eruption of foolish laughter. The gas station attendant was among the less amused, shaking his head in disgust.
Nelson picked up a pack of condoms and spearmint gum before heading to the cash register. “What happened out there? I thought you were going to stop,” Nelson teased.
“It looked like a bad time,” Max mumbled under his breath. “I thought you had my back?” Max returned as he waited for Nelson to finish paying.
“Well, I can’t talk to her for you,” Nelson chuckled after collecting his change from the cashier.
They make their way back out of the convenience store, all while Max’s mind was consumed over mysterious thoughts surrounding Mei.
“Well, onto the next!” Nelson exclaimed, jumping into the passenger’s side of the Suburban.
Max said nothing as he entered into the driver’s seat and drove off.
“Okay, girl! What happened?” Cora questioned. “You look pissed!”
Mei had sat quietly for the past five minutes, staring out the car window. “I just can’t deal with this anymore,” Mei sighed. “He was trying to break into my room tonight. Thank God I heard him and could get out before he got in. Cora…I just don’t know what to do…! I'm tired! I can only fight him off for so long,” Mei explained.
“Mei, please tell me you didn’t cut yourself again?” Cora heatedly questioned.
“I can’t handle him anymore!” Mei snapped.
“Honeybee, I know…! But, I love you, and I know your mom would not be able to go on if something happened to you. What if you cut an artery and bleed to death or the doctors couldn’t stitch you back up?” Cora drilled.
“Would it be so bad?” Mei mumbled.
Cora’s mouth dropped, shocked at her friend’s reply. “Yes, Mei!” Cora sternly expressed while holding back her tears.
“I just want to drink,” Mei replied. “Then, I won’t care,” she stated.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Mei…hey why don’t you just sleep at my house tonight? We can buy some junk food and watch some girly movies,” Cora suggested shoving her wants aside for her friend’s needs.
“No, I’ll be fine. Besides, my Mom doesn’t know that I'm out. She thinks I’m locked in my room sleeping. That Chinese woman might be short and tiny, but she will beat my ass anytime,” Mei joked, trying to lighten the air. “Cora you’re a great friend. I wouldn't be here today without you,” Mei smiled, looking over at her.
“Sweet, but I can’t take all the credit,” Cora stated pointing up towards the roof of the car.
Mei just smiled and nodded in agreement. Cora was not your perfect Christian teen, but she loved God and was not afraid to show it. Cora's faith always inspired and intrigued Mei to have a relationship with God, but the anger and contempt she felt in her heart still held her back from thoroughly enjoying that kind of relationship.
“Okay, ready?” Cora asked. She ecstatically pulled up to the curb and parked her car.
“Yep,” Mei whispered, as she nervously unbuckled her seat belt.
Cora was already jumping out of her car and closing the door behind her before Mei could open the passenger side door. Mei slowly stepped out, suddenly feeling a rush of butterflies in her stomach. She shyly looked around. She began to follow Cora up the driveway to the open garage door. It was as if the whole school had come out. Carefree teens ran around in a mania. Although just minutes after ten, many were already definitively drunk.
“Don’t worry; I'm not drinking, but I don’t want to see you passed out somewhere just because I’m not,” Cora warned to Mei as they entered the party.
Mei began to have second thoughts about drinking, but then recalled Thomas’ earlier attempt. I’d rather be drunk than stay with these thoughts in my head. She kept Cora’s words at the back of her mind. She knew that her friend was right, but maybe just one cup of the hard stuff would be enough to take the edge off.
Mei casually made her way to the makeshift bar next to the pool and poured herself a Patron and Coke. She hated hard liquor but needed to forget. She hoped that the Coke would hide the strong taste of the alcohol. It didn’t; yet, she quickly swallowed the large, red, plastic cup of alcohol and cola while walking by a large pool packed with out of control teens, who probably shouldn’t have been in the pool while intoxicated. She continued to push her way through the horde, trying to find a quiet place to escape the debauchery.
It was a lavishly decorated, beautiful home. Mei discovered a cement bench in a garden to rest. A heavy breath escaped her soft lips as her body eased onto the bench. It was dark, with only a few outdoor solar lights to highlight the captivating flowers planted in an artful design. She indeed began to relax as she felt the effects of the alcohol taking over her mind and body.
Her peace was soon interrupted by an energy she had felt earlier that day, those familiar eyes on her, engulfing her with a sensation unknown to her. It didn’t feel evil; just different, intriguing. Mei spun around to see who was there.
It was he. Again, she recognized his arousing masculine shape, his sculpted arms and that rippled stomach that she confidently knew was lying beneath his white shirt. The moonlight behind him didn’t help to suffocate the rising emotions she hid so well from him, so far. He stood at the entrance of the garden holding a red cup, swaying ever so gently.
Obviously, he’s already tipsy, Mei thought.
He stood in the shadow for a while longer finishing his concoction. Mei began to feel a little anxious as he stepped closer to her. Now she could see in the light what she already knew; it was Max. Somehow she found herself relieved that it was he and not someone else. She had heard her share of drunken stories and misidentification tales to make her second guess herself.
Feeling his familiar gaze, she was now convinced that it was he who was staring at her earlier today. Why? Mei thought.
“Can I help you?” she lightly questioned aloud, watching him slowly move towards her.
Max’s grey eyes seemed to shine in the darkness. If I didn’t already believe in God, I would now…Only God could make something that beautiful, Mei thought as a slow, seductive smile appeared on her face.
“Yes, you can tell me why it’s so hard to get your attention,” he finally answered.
“What are you talking about?” Mei asked, giggling while beginning to stand.
“No, don’t get up. I will come to you; relax,” he said putting his free hand up as he made it to the cement bench on which Mei was seated.
She smiled. There was something about Max, something deeply familiar.
“So what are you doing here? I didn’t know this was your scene, your thing,” Max questioned as he sat next to her.
“It’s not my thing,” Mei replied, looking down and over to some flowers across from them.
Max followed her gaze to the flowers. He searched his mind for what to say to her. He did not want to lose her attention. Having her eyes on him, even for a moment, felt serene.
“You know, not one of those flowers is as beautiful as you.”
“Wow, what a weak line...you’re drunk!” Mei laughed, abruptly standing to her feet and walking over to one of the rose bushes.
“Please, I am sorry; I know I sound cheesy,” Max apologized with an amused expression on his face. He quickly stood and walked over to her.
“Mei,” he gently called as he touched her elbow. Max quickly gulped down the last of his drink and then threw the cup in the rose bush.
“Oh, charming, Max! Real gentlemen like,” Mei sarcastically responded, turning to face him.
Max peered into her eyes. Mei felt as if he could see straight through to her soul. She swiftly looked away. She didn't want him to see her and everything she was trying so desperately to shove down.
“Who would want to hurt you?” he mumbled.
“What…! What?” Mei questioned, sternly stepping away from him, startled by his words.
“Nothing,” Max quickly replied as he turned his back. I’m so stupid! he thought.
She started to take a step forward, needing to get away from him, but stumbled. Max heard her feet shuffle and quickly turned in time to catch her.
“Are you all right?” Max asked, guiding her to the bench.
“Too, much Patron,” Mei slurred. Her body instantly felt like a brick. Her mouth became heavy, and she could feel her mind drifting out of consciousness.
“Wow…what’s bothering you?” Max questioned.
She held her head. “Oh man, what am I thinking?” she mumbled, just before passing out.
Unexpectedly, Nelson came running into the rose garden. “Max, we got to go! A fight broke out, and the police showed up!” Nelson yelled, out of breath. “Okay, what did you do?” Nelson looked at his friend who appeared bewildered as he tried to hold onto Mei.
“It's not what it looks like! She’s drunk,” he explained.
“Oh, no she’s just fallen for you, man.”
“What?” Max yelled back. His adrenalin began to pump through his veins as he saw people trying to escape the police. He had no intention of getting caught in this mess. Lucky for him, he lived just a few houses away. He looked down at Mei. She appeared to be knocked out, and he was not about to leave her behind. Max began to pick her up when Cora Pennington ran into the garden, screaming for her friend. Mei groaned as her head rolled back onto Max’s arm while he slipped his other arm under her legs, picking her up.
“What did you do to her?” Cora angrily yelled as she stomped towards Max.
“Nothing! I swear! She had Patron,” Max desperately explained. “We need to get out of here, now! I can bring her to your car,” he offered.
Cora reluctantly agreed, not sure of what his original intentions were. They begin to head towards the pool area when Nelson observed cops coming towards the garden area.
He grabbed Cora’s arm. “Look we can walk out of here, but your friend can’t. If the cops see her like that, we are all in trouble,” Nelson quickly explained. He motioned for them to step further into the garden.
Chapter 4~ Escape
Mei grudgingly gathered her stuff as she exited the school bus. She often dreamed of living somewhere else, not that her house didn’t look inviting; however, what goes on behind closed doors, no white picket fence can hide forever. “If people only knew the hell I am living in; well… it makes no sense to dream. This world is cold,” Mei grumbled as she entered her townhouse, or as her stepfather so proudly put it, “his” home. She was only an uninvited guest.
Mei opened the front door and placed her purse on the hallway table close to the door. She slowly pulled her backpack off of her shoulders and dropped it down in the corner next to the front door.
“Honeybee, I have lunch waiting for you at the kitchen table,” her mother, Song Paulard, announced as Mei entered the kitchen.
Mei’s father, Jacob Gordon, had nicknamed her Honeybee when she was born due to her mixed heritage. Her mother loved calling her Honeybee; the gesture helped her to feel close to her deceased husband.
Jacob had been murdered ten years ago in Atlanta, Georgia where they once lived. After his untimely death, Mei had never been the same. She experienced frightening encounters, visions, and dreams of her father who warned her of people who come into their lives.
Often, late at night, she could feel someone gently smoothing her hair, a kind gentle hand gliding over her face. Mei privately told her mother, hoping that she would not think she was going crazy, but it backfired. Song remarried two years after Jacob’s death, to his longtime friend, Thomas Paulard.
Mei did not get along with her stepfather. Thomas may have been able to get things past her mother, but not her. Eventually, his true colors were revealed to Mei. Not only was he verbally and emotionally abusive towards her, but also, as of late, he had become more sexually abusive. Although he had yet not forced himself on her, he had touched her in ways no fatherly figure should be touching a child. It didn’t matter how many times she confessed to her mother. It would always backfire on Mei, which made her look like an emotionally unstable liar. The school counselors accused her of making dreadful claims to get attention from her mother, due to the death of her father, and hasty marriage to her father’s friend.
Thomas had taken so much away from Mei. Her mother distrusted her, at times making her feel like the other woman in her mother’s marriage. He did not allow Mei visitors or friends. He had scared off all of Mei’s playmates as a child. Cora was the only who seemed to intimidate him, which was why Mei finally received the chance to develop a friendship with her.
The past few nights Thomas had tried to break into her room, late at night while the rest of the family slept. Thomas' recent actions were new, and Mei feared he was attempting to steal the one grace that kept her pure. Mei had bought new locks for her door and was all too happy when her mother installed an emergency exit system in each upstairs room in case of a fire or break-in.
Mei eased down into a chair at the kitchen table and began to eat her lunch. Her mind reflected on the haunting experience she had had earlier that day. It was strange; she was sure it was Max Martinez's voice. Mei started to feel as if she was growing into an even more significant of a freak, now that she was overhearing other people's thoughts.
Mei replayed the words in her mind. Come back to me? He was arguing with his girlfriend. Maybe she is trying to break up with him, and he truly wants to be with her, Mei speculated to herself. "This doesn't explain why he looked at me," she mumbled out loud.
“How was your day? Did you have a good time?” her mother asked in broken English.
“It’s fine, mother,” Mei replied in Chinese.
Song looked into her daughter’s beautiful green eyes. She loved her dearly and wished she knew how to make her happy. Since her husband had died, Mei’s eyes had lost their sparkle. Marrying Thomas did not seem to make life better for Mei. Thomas and Mei bitterly argued for years, and it was only getting worse. Mei had so much hatred towards her stepfather.
If only I could make her see how much her stepfather loves her, Song thought to herself.
“What, Mom?” Mei snapped, becoming agitated by her mother’s silent stare.
“Nothing,” Song replied, becoming further lost in thought. She so desperately wanted a perfect home, but with Mei and Thomas regularly at each other’s necks, it was an impossible dream.
Mei returned to eating her lunch, continuing her thoughts about Max. As much as she hated to admit it, she lusted after him, just like every other girl at their high school.
Maybe if only I were prettier, maybe just maybe, I could see myself with him, she thought.
Her nine-year-old sister, Araiha Paulard, suddenly rushed through the front door with her two, snobby friends, Brittany and Jessica, in tow.
“Food is on the table for you, Araiha!” Song yelled in Chinese, as Ariaha flew past the kitchen.
“Not hungry Mom!” Araiha shouted back, heading up the stairs.
“Girls,” Song sighed as she walks into the living room to finish her chores.
Mei jolted as she felt the sudden vibrations of her cell phone. Scrambling, she pulled it from her front pocket.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Mei, it’s Cora.”
“Hey, Cora…what’s up?”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“Ah, nothing; sitting home I guess.”
“No, no, no! There is a big party tonight at Zack Gilman’s house. His parents are out of town for the weekend.”
“I don’t know about that…what if they come back or something? I got enough problems,” Mei lightly joked.
“Mei, come on! We’re teenagers! We’re supposed to get in trouble.”
“I don’t know, Cora, but I guess I can think about it,” Mei sighed.
“Okay, I will call you back in two hours to get your answer, and it better be ‘yes,’” Cora demanded.
“Okay bye,” Mei ended as she pressed the end button on her cell phone.
She finished her lunch and headed upstairs to her bedroom, making sure to lock the door behind her. Kicking off her shoes, she flopped down on her full-size bed and dosed off.
It felt as if only a few minutes had passed when Mei suddenly was awakened by the sound of someone trying to pick the lock of her bedroom door. Fear gripped her as she glanced over at the alarm clock on her nightstand.
“No!” Mei whispered. It is after nine. Her stepfather had been home for an hour, and her mother and sister were at Ariaha's gymnastics practice. Mei jumped to her feet and grabbed her purse and cell phone.
The she paused. “Wait…I thought…how did this get up here?” she whispered. She knew she did not bring her purse upstairs with her.
The sound of the doorknob being jingled brought her back to reality. She didn’t have much time to think. She could hear something being shoved between the door and frame, trying to pry it open. She quickly grabbed the emergency ladder, thanking her mother once more for insisting on one in every upstairs bedroom.
Mei lifted her bedroom window and threw the ladder over the windowsill. She didn’t care if it was secure enough to climb down. Mei looked back at the door. He was still trying to get into her room. She realized he was now having success and quickly made her way down the ladder and onto the front lawn. She overheard her mother and sister enter the front door. They had just missed her. Mei pulled out her cell phone as she scurried away from her home, relieved to have yet again escaped his unwanted touches.
An inappropriate, dark image of Thomas touching her flooded her mind. Mei could not stand another grope from him. It would only be a matter of time before he followed through on his destructive desires.
She quickly called her best friend, Cora Pennington. “Cora, come get me, please!” Mei pleaded.
“Sure girl! So, you’re coming to the party with me?” Cora excitedly asked. She was more focused on getting out that she didn’t immediately pick up on Mei’s distress.
“Yeah, whatever would keep me away from him,” Mei replied, fighting back the tears.
“Oh…okay! I'm coming! No! Meet me at the gas station,” Cora sternly responded, realizing her best friend was in trouble.
Mei ended the call and started walking towards the corner gas station at the end of her block.
She began to reflect on all the pain she had endured at home and throughout her life. Tears flooded her eyes as she watched a father and daughter, happily holding hands while they passed her. She still remembered the walks she took with her father when they lived in Atlanta. Mei desperately wished he could be there. She missed him, and she felt terribly alone without him.
Making it to the corner store, she headed straight to the restroom to wash her face. After pulling herself together, she decided to buy a bottle of water while waiting for Cora. Standing in line to pay, she couldn't help but glance over at the beers and alcohol in the fridge. It enticed her, beckoning for her to have a sip. For the first time, Mei looked forward to going to the house party, knowing she could get drunk and forget about her problems, if only for a few hours. It seemed like a gift.
She paid for her water and decided to stand outside, hoping the fresh air would do her some good. It shouldn't be much longer, she thought. But, how long were these thoughts going to plague her? The tears began to fall again, and she couldn’t stop them.
Mei felt like time was running out on her. She needed to get away before her stepfather succeeded. But, how could she win, how could she ruin his success? she pondered.
She let her long wavy hair out to try and hide her face from everyone. People were beginning to notice. Then, Max’s brand new SUV pulled up to the gas station. Mei rolled her eyes. The football team guys are obnoxious, she thought. She was in no mood to be played with, "Thank God," Mei whispered, turning her head to see Cora pulling up into the parking lot.
Chapter 3~ Contact
By freshman year of high school, Max had developed a powerful crush on Mei Gordon. The problem, of course, was Mei. She appeared to not ever notice him and would not even look in his direction. Max did not dare to approach her. He could not understand if it was the intense feelings he carried for her, churning in his gut, or if it was merely her sheer existence that intimidated him. Either way, he only fumbled on his words whenever he tried to speak to her.
On occasion, he would build up enough courage to ask her for a pencil or the time, but that’s not what came out. His words seemed to wrap themselves around his tongue, causing him to look like a babbling fool. He finally accepted that the Universe was telling him, “Mei Gordon is out of your league, buddy.”
I need to get her out of my mind. It is the junior year... Soon we will be in our senior year of high school, and she won't even look in my direction. Does she find me to be that repulsive? She’s like an immortal vixen, oblivious to how much power she has over me. I’m too young to have these feelings! Max thought, while sitting in his last period class that he so happened to share with Mei.
It was two-thirty in the afternoon, March thirteenth. Friday had finally rolled around. Everyone was eager to get out of class and start their weekend. Flyers had secretly moved between students about tonight's house party at Zack’s. The entire high-school football and the cheerleading team planned to be there, including Max and his best friend, Nelson Lopez.
Max and Nelson had played football since their freshman year. Nelson was the primary player on the field, holding the coveted, quarterback position for the Belmont Eagles. Max was a wide receiver and being one of the fastest runners on the field was giving him much attention. Although both Max and Nelson were well known for their skills on the field, people remarkably knew very little about them outside of school.
Nelson was a painfully obvious flirt, but Max was enticingly full of mystery. Many girls assumed Max was like his best friend Nelson, only interested in what girl would give it up to him; however, Max was different.
Max had gone on many dates but had never considered himself a part of any relationship. Some speculated that he was afraid of dating a gold-digger and assumed that he thought all women were like his mother.
Everyone in town knew of his mother’s scandalous reputation and openly licentious behavior, but Max had other reasons for why he didn’t take the girls he dated seriously.
His latest catch, Taisha Ledell, although beautiful and shapely, was still someone Max never considered his girlfriend. For starters, he found her too shallow and self-centered. He held fast to his belief in casual dates and fun times. He didn’t want to be tied down to one girl, especially her, but Taisha told a decidedly different story.
Max enjoyed going on dates with Taisha, but would not allows the relationship to go any further, emotionally, claiming that he just wanted to feel things out first before jumping into the deep end. Deep down, this was a blatant lie. There was only one girl he could not get out of his mind nor could he get her attention. Mei was the exception to every rule for Max. He found her intoxicating, a warrior queen of exotic beauty. Her medium frame proudly carried well-sculpted, yet feminine muscles. She was also one of the most intelligent girls in the class, but she kept that to herself.
She appeared to be particularly selective of her friends, only maintaining a friendship with a few. Max knew she had a best-friend named Cora Pennington, but she didn’t show any interest in joining the cliques at school; Mei definitely stood apart. She was an untold mystery wrapped in a tantalizing enigma, and Max desperately wanted to unravel her.
He leaned back in his chair, casually glancing over at Mei. Such a beautiful mix, he thought. African American and Asian with brilliant green-eyes, golden complexion, gorgeous smile, and a gentle heart, he observed, his thoughts rambling on about Mei’s beauty.
His grey eyes sparkled when he looked at her. A slow smile grew on his face when he suddenly felt a sharp jab in his side. He spun his head around to see Taisha Ledell glaring at him.
They bickered under their breaths until the teacher loudly cleared her throat. The entire class looked at them. Out of everyone who was staring at them, Mei’s eyes were the ones he felt piercing through him. Max turned his attention to Mei. Intensely, their eyes locked.
If you can hear this, then you’re the one I’ve been searching for. Come back to me, Max’s heart channeled to Mei.
She felt the strangest sensation; her ears began to ring until she could hear audible words. Come back…to me? Mei grabbed her left ear, confused and frightened.
It seemed as if Max Martinez was communicating with her. She didn’t realize she was staring right back at him. She felt oddly relaxed as if in a trance. Mei looked away quickly, still holding her ear. She immediately grabbed her books as the bell rang, darting for the door.
Max quickly stood up, noticing Mei’s reaction. I know she heard me, he thought. This realization only threw fuel on the inferno blazing inside of him. He swiftly grabbed his books, attempting to pursue her. Just as he made it out the door, a very angry Taisha roughly yanked him backward.
She peered at him with confused anger in her eyes, clearly piercing with questions. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Max turned around to face her. After seeing the reaction from Mei, he could not let anyone or anything come between him and his one, real desire. “Taisha, Look we had a couple of dates; you know how I am, I don’t do steady. I am just not ready for a relationship,” he lied.
Max then hastily walked away. His only concern was catching up to Mei.
Taisha, desperately trying to catch her breath, felt dumbfounded by his words. She was very much in love with Max. Taisha foolishly believed that Max at least liked her. They had dated for a month, and he was an excellent catch. After they had had sex just a week ago, Taisha couldn’t get enough of him. She was sure he wanted to be with her. Taisha also admired his gentleman-like demeanor. He would open and close doors for her. Max was the one for her, and she was not ready to let go.
The final bell rang. Mei couldn’t make it to her locker fast enough to shove her books in and escape the hell called high school. She casually noticed the eye of Max Martinez staring in her direction but decided he must be looking at Paula Waters, who was walking behind her. “All the guys wanted to get a piece of Paula Waters.” She was a Little-Ms.-Everything. “Who could compete with that?” Mei grumbled under her breath.
Mei made it to her locker, shoving her books inside and slamming the metal door closed. She quickly headed out the main doors, making it toward her bus. As she rushed out the door, Mei felt Max’s stare again. Is he looking at me? Mei questioned herself. She jumped onto her bus, putting the question behind her.
Max stood at the foot of Belmont High School steps, imaging what it will be like to talk to Mei. Her beautiful, almond shaped, green eyes and golden complexion enthralled him. He loved her long, soft, wavy hair and beautiful smile, the rare times he could catch a glimpse of it.
“Oh boy, you got the stare! That could only mean one thing. You’ve just seen Mei,” Nelson Lopez stated as he approached his friend.
Max couldn’t help the smile that stretched across his face. “You know me too well,” Max replied.
“Don’t give up; one day she will notice you. You’ll just have to break your neck on the field,” Nelson joked. “But, in the meantime, let’s hit the house party tonight. Everyone is going to be there; so many honeys to help you pass the time. You know what I mean?”
“Ah, I'm not into that scene, you know that,” Max replied as they began to walk towards his car in the student parking lot.
“Come on man! It’s almost the end of the year, and you haven’t gone to any parties. If you’re not going to do it for yourself, don’t be selfish; do it for me?” Nelson laughed.
“I'm supposed to help my uncle with something tonight. I can’t,” Max shrugged. “Hey, I promise, if something comes up if something changes--I’ll go…promise,” Max ended. He knew his uncle all too well. Tamarius never canceled on him. Each Friday the thirteenth, his uncle would insist that he stay at the mansion, and far away from his mother. Max didn’t always understand his uncle, but he obeyed him.
“Deal; that’s fair…so what’s your uncle’s number?” Nelson teased.
Max laughed as they entered his new, gold Chevy Suburban that his father had recently purchased for him, another guilt gift.
Chapter 2~ Max
Being a part of the Martinez family might have appeared easy, but it was not. Max had been born into a life of wealth and privilege. His father and uncle treated him as if he was royalty, making it difficult to be modest at times.
The Martinez family had not started out this way. Max's great-grandfather had migrated from Caracas, Venezuela to Port of Spain, Trinidad. He married and settled down in the small town of San Juan.
Max's great-grandfather, Maximilian Martinez, Sr. was not an average man. He was an eccentric man, living every day for God. Maximilian, Sr. believed that there was an invisible war happening right here on earth and that many unexplained events could be explained through spiritual reasoning. But while Maximilian was a spiritually rich man, he was financially poor. His wife Allison Page Martinez had given him one son whom they named Maximilian Martinez, Jr.
Maximilian, Sr. developed into a great spiritual warrior. Day in and day out he worked tirelessly, fighting dark entities and demons on behalf of the innocent. He never charged money or expected anything in return. His only request was that those with whom he worked provide their own supplies. Maximilian, Sr. was an extraordinary man, but he eventually died of a stroke from overworking; he had taken on too many clients.
His father's actions had a profound effect on his son. Maximilian, Jr. had taken his father’s death particularly hard. His mother struggled to provide for them both. She raised livestock, grew fruits and vegetables, not only to feed her son but also, to help earn a living so that she could send him to school. Had it not been for the livestock they sold and ate, life would have been much harder.
Maximilian, Jr. watched his mother suffer. Allison was a beautiful woman and could have remarried; however, she refused. She had never gotten over losing the love of her life. Maximilian, Jr., remembering his mother’s struggles and his father’s sacrifices, vowed not to let his family suffer in poverty. He believed that if his parents had had the right tools, meaning money, his father would have lived longer. He would have been healthier and stronger to fight for his clients. This understanding had caused Maximilian, Jr. to become focused on being physically fit and healthy with the use of natural herbs and fresh, healthy foods. He did follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a spiritual; yet, he was not like his father. Although God had blessed the Martinez family, not all lived up to the Martinez name.
Maximilian, Jr., however, did succeed in building a fortune for his family. He became a brilliant inventor who created numerous, life-changing devices that were used all over the world. After receiving his first, significant check, he gathered up his wife, Daisy Smith-Martinez, and their two small sons, Maxwell and Tamarius. The family moved to the United States, settling into a small town in Central Florida named Lexington. Eventually, he and his wife passed away leaving their grown children multibillionaires. Maximilian, Jr. also left them a different legacy of continuing wealth. He had learned a great deal about putting God first in his life and understood if God had not blessed him, he would not have succeeded.
Before they passed away, Maximilian, Jr. and Daisy had attended the wedding of Maxwell, their eldest son, to Jenna Castle. Maximilian, Jr. did not approve of his son marrying the foster child they had taken into their home; however, he could not convince his son otherwise. Two years after Maxwell and Jenna wed, they had a son named Max. Maximilian, Jr. dearly loved his grandson and before he died, had made specific arrangements ensuring his grandson’s financial future.
Maxwell had foolishly confided in his wife who then showed her true colors. Jenna devised a plan to defraud her husband and son out of their inheritance. Maxwell Martinez had been a phenomenal man, but after dealing with Jenna, he became cynical and cold towards everyone, including his only son.
Max felt rejected by his father, so when his mother won custody of him in the divorce, he was all too happy to go and live with her. Thank God for Uncle Tamarius who loved Max like a son and taught him everything he knew.
Tamarius, a remarkably handsome, six-foot, four, athletically built man, was unmarried and childless. He threw himself into spiritual warfare, determined to do everything in his power not to let Satan have any further victory over his family. Tamarius observed how Jenna had destroyed his brother, and although he didn't resent women, he became acutely cautious of getting into a deeply committed relationship. Tamarius wanted to one day settle down, but worried he would never meet someone who could understand his family secrets and his unwavering desire to be a warrior for God.
Chapter 1~ Mei
A young, sixteen-year-old girl named Mei Gordon lived in a neat, three-bedroom townhouse with her mother, Song, younger sister, Ariaha, and stepfather, Thomas Paulard. She had been born in Atlanta, Georgia to Jacob and Song Gordon. Two years after her father’s tragic death, her mother remarried, and they moved to a remote town in Central Florida called Lexington.
As far back as Mei could remember, the world appeared differently to her; it felt different. To her, seeing, speaking and playing with human spirits was a typical experience. She enjoyed most visits from numerous spirits; however, the occasional dark entity would present itself to her. It did its best to drag her into the darkness.
Mei refused to allow the darkness to win. Her being epitomized the spirit of a profound fighter; yet, she did not fight alone. Her great-grandfather encouraged her by speaking into her spiritual ear, summoning her will to continue fighting. She knew that he was sent by God and cherished each visit with him. He revealed to her things to come, the good and the bad. Occasionally, she would find the courage to tell her mother about her supernatural experiences; however, Song would ridicule her experiences and scold Mei for daydreaming.
At school, Mei often got into trouble for daydreaming. Her teachers were annoyed with her muffled whispers into thin air, along with the occasional blank stares, from which no one could shake her. Despite their intentions, however well they might have been, it was hard for them to understand or appreciate Mei’s profound gift.
When Mei experiences a vision, her entire, physical body shut down. She becomes rigid; her eyes do not blink, and her mouth is agape. This alarmed her teachers, causing them to call for the school’s nurse and counselors each time. Sometimes Mei’s episodes would last minutes, but on exceptionally rare occasions, it could go on for an hour.
Although her body appeared unresponsive to the outside world, inside, an entirely different scene played in her mind's eye. Mei was utterly taken in by the strange experience. Her spiritual body actively recorded everything she felt, tasted, viewed, and heard.
At thirteen, Mei experienced an ardent vision that changed her forever. Thomas, her stepfather, had hired a small, local, landscaping company to care for the lawn and trees around their home. They were reasonably priced and eager to please. The usual, two men did a terrific job and paid attention to every detail, but on this particular occasion, they had brought along a new guy. The new person had missed the warning on mowing the patch of soft land beside the thirty-feet deep, man-made canal. To his surprise the lawnmower fell into the dark murky water, taking him with it.
He had to let go realizing he would drown if he didn’t. For the next few days, the owner of the landscaping company insisted on retrieving the lawnmower, grumbling over the expense of the machine.
Mei and the entire household had watched intensely as the three-man crew fought to find the lawnmower in the dark waters. After coming back with scuba equipment, they discovered the lawnmower resting on a ledge about ten feet down.
They were scratching their heads, struggling to understand how to get the lawnmower out. It was too heavy to swim it to the surface, even with two men, and the murky waters offered no visibility.
Mei stood by the closed, back, sliding glass door of her home and watched. She wanted to hear what was being said and touched the handle to the sliding glass door to step outside.
Suddenly she was pulled into a vision.
In the vision, she stood on her back patio. Her mother frantically ran past her. Mei looked down by the canal in her backyard, and the two men were screaming, standing around a man, lying unconscious on the ground. The two, conscious men were panic-stricken. Song, Mei’s mother, ran by yelling at her to get towels, but Mei couldn’t move; she appeared to be in shock.
In her mind, Mei pondered on what could have gone wrong. Instantly, images of what took place, moments before, began playing in her mind’s eye.
One of the men had suggested attaching a strong chain from the lawnmower to the back of the owner’s old Ford truck. Unfortunately, the chain they found wasn’t long enough, and they decided to find a way to acquire more length. They saw a rusty chain in the back of the owner’s pickup and quickly attached it to the other. But when they began to pull the chain by using the power of the truck, the lawnmower became wedged on a second ledge.
The owner seemed to be more concerned with retrieving his lawnmower than with safety. Annoyingly, he stood too close to the chain. Song had repeatedly warned him, "Watch out for the chain!" or "Don't stand so close to the chain." However he chose not to listen. So focused on his investment, he would step away, only moments later to end up right back next to the chain.
One of the men started the engine while the other stayed in the water, a safe distance from the lawnmower. The owner precariously stood near the rusty, old chain. When the chain jerked, the owner thoughtlessly yelled at the driver not to stop. “Force it!” he encouraged.
Then it happened. The chain snapped, wrapping around the owner’s leg, ripping away at his flesh, right down to the bone.
Mei abruptly came out of the vision. She needed to tell her mother what she had just experienced, but then she stopped and thought, She never believes me; she always feels that I'm daydreaming. She also thought that her mother would do nothing to prevent the accident from happening, but after careful consideration, Mei decided to tell her mother about the vision.
Her mother’s response was, "Don't worry; they seem to know what they are doing." But her mother's body language seemed to say the opposite as she stood, staring nervously out at the men in her backyard.
The very next day it happened, precisely the way Mei had envisioned it. She felt guilty and angry; it was as if she had intentionally done it to him. She cried, standing out on the back patio. Song assumed that Mei was just scared by what had happened.
From that day forward Mei felt punished for not doing more to prevent the accident from happening. She felt as if God had punished her for not wisely using her gift. She no longer had visions. Mei stopped communicating with spirits. She knew they were there, but she blocked herself from hearing and seeing them. She became miserable and withdrawn, loathing herself for years, until that one day in school, when she experienced something new.
Max Martinez, a favorite student who attended her school, finally caught her attention. Of course, all of the hormone-driven, teenage girls were obsessing over him. He stood an impressive six-foot, two with soft, alluring grey eyes, perfectly dark, curly hair, and a sweet, caramel complexion. He kept his hair well maintained and was always seen donning the latest fashion. His belief in staying fit and healthy attracted Mei; however, his ego seemed a bit too large for her tastes.
Yet he stood apart from the other guys his age, particularly in the way he treated girls. This is why the girls could never get over him. Every girl, except Mei, wanted to be with him. Mei just found it too hard to become silly about a guy over whom everyone else was obsessing. She wanted a guy who embodied a good heart, and someone she could trust. Mei had to know she was truly loved by a guy and refused to settle for nothing less. She had observed the girls Max dated and could not see herself in any of their shoes.
No good deed goes unpunished...
"Dad, what is this about?" Cressida stormed into his office and threw the files onto his desk.
Although on the phone with a client, Charleston took one look at his daughter’s face and knew the conversation with his celebrity client would have to be placed on the back burner. "Yes, something just came up. I will have to call you back. No, I promise you everything is going to work in our favor. Okay, take care now." He set the receiver down and picked up the file his daughter had so dramatically thrust before him.
"Cressida, I gave you this case because I thought you would be the perfect person to handle it." He spoke like the self-confident businessman that he was.
"What? Are you kidding me? Dad, this is the same man Mom said broke into our home and attacked her!" Cressida’s shrill voice echoed across the walls of her father’s office. She was furious at her father’s carefree demeanor.
"Pudding, your mom is not in any position to talk. She has lost her mind. You can't listen to her," Charleston replied. He made his way over to the bar to pour himself a drink.
Cressida regretted the harsh words. She knew the topic of her mother always led him to a drink. "Daddy, I'm sorry. It's just that… this man is pure evil. I can't defend someone like this. Daddy, Blake Carter, raped and killed over 23, young girls and boys." She went to stand behind her father. A tear rolled down her cheek as she pictured the faces of the innocent children who’d been hurt by this man. "Only a fool would take this case. His guilt is obvious."
Charleston set his glass back on the bar and turned to face his daughter. "Cressida, had I had another option, I wouldn't have asked you. Nobody will take this case. I would take it myself, but my workload is already overflowing, and with your mother's illness, I can't afford to lose anymore cases. Look, honey, it truly is a done deal for Blake Carter. It's an easy case. No jury in their right mind is going to let him off." He placed his arm around his daughter’s shoulder and pulled her closer to plant a kiss on her temple.
"Please, for Daddy? I have no one else."
Cressida crumbled under her father's embrace. "Okay, Daddy. I’ll take it." She felt as if a part of her had just died.
"That's my girl. Hey, we can't always have the good cases. We have to sometimes defend filth. At the end of the day all you need is a shot of rum and a piece of a..."
"Daddy!" Cressida cut him off before he could finish.
Charleston let out a hearty laugh as he walked back to his desk. "Well, you know what I mean." He smiled and settled into his chair.
"Dad, you’re a pirate." Cressida remarked as she made her way to the door.
"Hey!" Her father called out holding up the file for the Blake Carter case.
She walked back and hesitated a moment before snatching the file out of her father’s hand.
"Ar, ar, ar," he snorted in his lame attempt at a pirate.
Cressida nervously smiled. She had a bad feeling about this case. She looked at her watch. Five o' clock had finally rolled around. She rushed to her office, shoved the file into her briefcase, and grabbed her coat. With a quick flick of her wrist, she locked her office door and headed out.
As she walked, Cressida pulled her hair out of its tight bun and shook it loose. One of her friends had set her up on a blind date. The timing was great; she needed something to distract her thoughts from this upcoming case. She made her way to the local gourmet restaurant and headed for the bar where they’d agreed to meet. All Cressida knew about Joshua Smith was that he was a local realtor in his mid-forties who was divorced and had five kids.
She made herself comfortable at the bar and ordered a rum and coke, thinking about the last statement her father had made, only moments earlier. Occasionally checking her watch, Cressida waited and ordered another drink. She looked around at the other patrons wondering if there’d been a mix up. Was she in the right place? Yes; this was exactly where he’d said to wait for him. She waited another half hour, but her date never showed. Feeling lower than dirt, she ordered three, straight shots of vodka. She quickly swallowed them down and kept ordering more as if each one held the power to make her forget about her miserable life. The bartender ended up cutting her off. Beyond drunk, Cressida was unable to get off of the barstool.
Meanwhile, Maxwell sat in the dining room, having coffee with a business associate when he noticed Cressida at the bar. "So are we done here? I can see a friend of mine is in trouble at the bar." He took the napkin off of his lap and placed it on the table.
"Yeah, sure. It was nice doing business with you," Hank Williams replied, putting his hand out for Maxwell to shake.
Maxwell shook his hand, threw down some money for the meal and stood. "I'm sorry for cutting this short, but it appears that my friend is about ready to fall off that stool. Call me later so we can finalize everything. It was good meeting you, Hank," Maxwell said before hastily making his way over to Cressida.
He reached her just as employees were beginning to slide her off the barstool. Maxwell held her as her head rolled backwards.
"How much did she have to drink?" he asked the bartender.
"She had eight shots of vodka and two rum and cokes," he replied. "Lucky for her it's early, and the place isn’t too busy. I was able to keep track of her. Any busier, and I would have let her drink herself into oblivion."
"I understand." Maxwell grabbed her things. "Cressida, it's Maxwell. I'm going to help you out, okay?"
No response came from her.
He picked her up and carried her out the door. On his way he passed a short, plump, and bald, middle-aged man, standing there bewildered as he held a bouquet of flowers.