“What?” Lil Bro and Sis stared at Twin. They couldn’t believe it. Their brother, their big brother, really had killed a man?
“Yeah. Who’da thought it was him, skinny little shit like Peanut.”
“Wait.” Lil Bro was beginning to remember it all now. “Wasn’t that about the time … “ He left the question hanging, not wanting to put that together with what else had happened to the family.
“Yeah,” said Twin. “Keep going.”
Sis was remembering, too. She could say it. “Isn’t that about the time he went to live with Auntie and her family?” She stood there as if in shock. Which she was.
“Yeah, that’s right, little girl. That’s exactly right. In fact, that’s why Mommy sent him away.”
“But why?” asked Lil Bro. “Why would Peanut do that …?“ Again he left the question hanging as the memories began to fit together. Even as a little boy he’d heard about Snake and what he did to kids, especially little boys. Mommy had always told him to stay away from him.
“Oh, no,” he said, looking at Sis. From the look on her face he knew she knew it, too.
“That’s right,” said Twin. “He came after Peanut, up on the roof.” She shook as her memories of that day came back and she told them—how Snake had tried to rape him, Peanut grabbing the knife out of Snake’s back pocket and stabbing him to death, then cutting off his thing. Him running back into the apartment, covered in blood. How Mommy had taken his clothes and the knife and gone back up on the roof. When she came back she’d had a lot of money and Peanut’s books from his secret place up there.
“Mommy told me to get him cleaned up. He was crying so much I didn’t think he’d ever stop. It really did freak him out. I don’t know which was worse, Snake coming after him or him killing him.” Twin was back there, back in the apartment, cleaning up her twin brother who had just killed a man. The kids could see it in her eyes. Twin was looking at something else, something not there.
“That night, remember she was on the phone with Auntie?” The kids shook their heads. Mommy talked with Auntie all the time. They didn’t remember this time being any different.
“Well, they were making plans for Peanut to go live with her. Remember how much he was crying the next day while Mommy packed up his stuff and Auntie came and took him away?”
Sis remembered that. Something had told her she’d never see him again. And she was right. They never did see him again. Now those pictures in the papers and the magazines were the only way they had any contact, if you could call that contact.
“But that still doesn’t explain why Pimp Dealer grabbed you.” Lil Bro wasn’t getting it like Sis was. Maybe it was because she was a girl, closer to the age Twin had been when she’d been snatched.
“He found out, didn’t he?” Sis whispered. “That’s why he took you.”
“Yeah, little girl. That’s why he took me.”
Lil Bro was getting it now. “That was 2, maybe 3 years after it happened,” he said. “How he’d find out, anyway?”
For the first time since she’d come into the room, Twin looked like she really had died.
“How’d he find out?” Lil Bro wasn’t going to let it go.
Twin looked down at the floor while she said it.
“He found out from me.”
They didn’t want to believe that, either, that Twin had betrayed Peanut. She explained how it had happened—the fight with Mommy, Guy overhearing it and telling Pimp Dealer so he could get some more drugs, how he and Man had grabbed her and taken her to Pimp Dealer. She didn’t go into the details, even if the kids were grown now. There were still some things they didn’t need to know.
“So that’s what happened. Pimp Dealer said if I tried to run or anyone came for me, he’d kill our entire family. And that he’d track down Peanut and kill him and whoever he was staying with, too. So that’s why Mommy told Peanut to never come back and never try to get in touch. She didn’t want Pimp Dealer to kill us.”
Lil Bro and Sis had this strange look on their faces. Twin couldn’t quite make it out. Was it sadness? Or hearing about Mommy’s betrayal? She noticed they’d talked about everyone except her. And she was afraid that she already knew why.
Sis started to answer but Lil Bro grabbed her arm and pulled her back. “There’s something I haven’t told you yet,” he said.
Sis grabbed her arm out of his hands and backed away. “No,” she said. “No.”
Twin looked from one to the other. She saw it in Sis’s face and Lil Bro’s agony.
“Remember when I told you they caught me listening in on Guy?” He could barely get it out, whispering the words. Now he looked as guilty as Twin had when she admitted that she was the reason why Pimp Dealer had found out about Peanut. What was going on here?
Lil Bro was shaking all over, unable to say it.
“They went and got Mommy, didn’t they? DIDN’T THEY?” Sis was close to hysterical.
All Lil Bro could do was collapse on the floor. “Yes,” he sobbed. “It was my fault.”
When Sis could collect herself she went over to Lil Bro, who was still on his knees. “It was my fault, it was my fault,” he kept saying. “She’s dead and it’s my fault.”
Sis knelt down by him and, sobbing as well, put her arms around him. “It was both of us,” she cried. “It was both of us.”
Twin didn’t understand. Mommy was dead, Peanut out of reach. How did this happen?
Sis looked up at her and saw the questions on her face.
“It was our plan,” she told Twin. “We decided it together, that he would follow Guy and Man to see if he could get more information from them about where you were so we could come get you.”
Twin felt sick. “You mean Mommy’s dead because you were coming to find me?”
Sis was still tending to Lil Bro, who was beginning to get himself together. She looked up at Twin again, Lil Bro still in her arms. “Yeah,” she said. “We didn’t know …”
Now that she was almost through that first crying Twin held up Lil Bro, the anger beginning to replace the shock and sadness.
“Why didn’t you warn her?”
“I tried to,” cried Lil Bro. “I tried.” He took a breath, it seemed the first one in minutes. “I got away from that dude at Pimp Dealer’s house. I took his cell phone and called Mommy to tell her Do-Good was on his way over there and that she should run. But I was too late. He was already there.”
“What did she say?” Sis needed to hear those last words.
Lil Bro almost didn’t want to tell her. But now she needed to know it all.
“She asked where you were. She wanted to know you were safe.”
Twin couldn’t hear any more. She’d gotten all her questions answered except one. Where was her fucking twin brother? It had all started with Peanut, her being alone all those years and then being why Pimp Dealer found out, getting snatched off the street and in that hell for all these years, the life she could have had, losing those babies, having to fuck all those men, the porno movies. Finding out about Mommy’s lies and now that she was dead. And Do-Good.
It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t even Lil Bro and Sis’s fault. It was all Peanut’s fault. She vowed she would find him and when she did she would destroy him, at least.
She didn’t know the grudge would make her easy prey for someone named Reporter,just like it had for Pimp Dealer.
Tomorrow in “Promises of Starlight”: Lil Bro and Sis wait to run to somebody they know