Alaysha Harden, class of 2017
24 Hours
fiction

It wasn’t something I had ever seen before. It wasn’t like I could look at the TV in shock. CNN was on its usual cycle of making a victim look like a criminal to the nation. It was breaking news when I first came home this afternoon. But to me, it was just another game. Last month, another man was shot and killed by a police officer. And today, the news reported that there would be no

charges and that the officers acted accordingly. I shake my head and turn toward the window as my wife pulled into the driveway. I get up from the dark blue living room couch and walk through the kitchen to meet her at the door. She stumbles into the house almost dropping the bag of groceries in her hands. I help her steady, kiss her on the forehead, and take the bag from her.

“Thanks. Your boys are about to drive me insane,” she sighs. I let out a small laugh and watch two of my children come through the door after her. My daughter walks into the kitchen guiding my son who just learned to walk. My son looks up at me and squeals in excitement extending his arms to me. I walk over and pick him up.

“Hey, Jayden. How was your day, big boy?” I look up to my daughter and smile. “How was school, Melody?”

“It was okay. I am ready for the summer!” she exclaims, twisting one of the curls in her afro puff.

“Of course. What’s the plan for the summer, anyways? What’s your 17th birthday plans…”

“Oh. Don’t say that,” my wife interrupts, “Means we’re getting old, Marcus.”

“You still look 25, Laila,” I yell to my wife as she walks down the hall. I look back at my daughter and await her reply. She just shrugs and looks out the window. “You okay?” I ask her. She nods, looking at the TV for a moment as they replay the death of that man. She turns her head right before they shoot him.

“It’s just sick. I’m going to work on homework,” she says before darting up the stairs into her room.

I worry about my daughter, but it isn’t anything she hasn’t seen before. I look into the eyes of my youngest son in my arms. He has two teeth coming in on top. I put him in his high chair and grab some fruit for him to eat. I cut them up and place them on his table. I stare out the window watching my other two sons play football. Christopher is 10 years old and Anthony is 8. They both have light skin and dark hair like their mother and sister. Jayden and I both have darker skin and brown hair.

“I swear that’s your twin,” my wife says coming to stand next to me. She lays her head on my shoulder. “Baby Jayden did so well at the doctor’s today. He’s still kicking and bouncing. But your other boys were arguing all the way home today. And Anthony got in trouble at school.”

“What for?”

“He wouldn’t go back in his classroom. He just refused to and made a big scene. I think he stayed out in the hall until I came up there. I tried talking to him, but he wouldn’t tell me anything,” she shrugs.

“I’ll talk to him. How was work?”

“Same old. Same old. All I heard about was this craziness on TV and the protests. Melody was keeping me more updated than the news was.”

“Yeah. I’m too tired to think about everything going on right now. I just want to turn everything off and be with my family. What should we cook today?” I ask her as I wrap my arms around her.

“Marcus, I really don’t feel like cooking. Let’s just order food,” she says, breaking from my embrace. She walks over to the front door, opening it, and yells to the boys, “Chris. Anthony. How about pizza for dinner?” The boys stop playing football and both excitedly nod. Laila looks back to me smiling. She knows she already won the debate on dinner, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

“Laila, what happened to our healthy eating? Remember you said no skip days. No pork, no artificial sugars, no foods with high fructose syrup, and no fast food!” I tell her.

“It’s one day and we all need a break. The kids have been really good, too. They haven’t had pizza in a month. Melody cries about wanting fries every day. Our babies probably smuggle junk food,” she says, laughing and opening the laptop on the kitchen island.
“I just want to sit down at the table and talk to the kids. Especially today. We’re going to have to talk to them about what’s going on in the news. I know for sure it’s bothering Melody. She — ”
“I know, Marcus. But not today. Let’s just have pizza and watch a movie. We’ll talk to them about it this weekend. Maybe Sunday morning before church. Then they can go to church and pray about it,” she interrupts. I look at my wife’s face and I can tell the subject is upsetting her. Someone must’ve said something to her earlier today about it. I decide to leave it alone and I walk out on the front porch.
“Dad! Look at how far I can throw,” Anthony shouts throwing the ball about 5 yards to his brother.
“No, Dad. Watch this,” Christopher yells, catching the ball, and forcefully throwing it low to Anthony. Anthony catches it at his stomach, but the force of the ball knocks him over. I smile to myself seeing my boys trying to impress me. I jog over to Anthony to help him up.
“Good throw, Chris. Catch this,” I tell him as I throw the football over his head. Christopher tries to jump and catch it, but he can’t reach it. As he comes back down, he falls down and the football bounces in the air behind him. Christopher looks defeated for a moment, but begins to laugh as he knows he deserved it.
“You got me,” he chuckles running to get the ball. I leave the two of them to their game and I walk back into my home. I sit on the living room couch noticing Laila and Jayden are no longer in the kitchen. I turn the TV up to hear the reporter on CNN.

…yesterday. More protests are likely to happen tonight. The mayor called in the National Guard earlier this afternoon after the police department announced that no charges would be filed against the officers. The Fuller family’s lawyer said he was very disturbed on the court’s neglect and blindness to the video showing Mr.Fuller with his hands raised and getting down on the ground before officers rushed him. The officers were responding to a call of a distressed man when Fuller was killed. Witnesses say that Fuller only became upset after an officer opened his car door trying to remove his daughter from the vehicle. The video shows Fuller asking officers to leave his child alone because they were scaring her. The officers proceeded to remove his screaming daughter from the vehicle as Fuller went to reach for his daughter and another officer shot Fuller. Fuller is seen getting on his knees as another officer runs up and shoots again, killing him.

“Dad?”

None of the officers were charged. We have Tom Wells joining us from town hall in Oklahoma. “Mr.Wells, what do you make of this case?” the woman asks.

The screen splits as a white male comes on. “Thank you, Laura for having me on,” he begins, “This man, Mr.Fuller, was a criminal. On his record, he has been known to be violent and…and assault police officers in the past. The officers responding were concerned about their safety. They were making sure his daughter was safe first and he began to act like a maniac. He didn’t comply and became violent.”

“Dad?”

“Mr. Wells, many people are saying that Fuller did comply with the commands in the video and was concerned about the safety of his daughter. And-”

“But look at this guy. He screaming acting like a psychotic thug,” Mr. Wells interrupts, “He has hurt police officers in the past, do you really think he’ll care about those officers. He’s a thug. Look at his record. We can’t assume that he didn’t have a weapon. He was acting belligerent. The officers-”

“Marcus!” I turn around to see my wife rushing towards me, grabbing the remote from my hand. “Turn this shit off. Your sons are right here. Damn.” I turn to see Anthony with his eyes glued to the now blank TV screen.
“Hey, buddy. Sorry, I was distracted,” I tell him waving to Jayden who is crawling all over the floor.
“Is he okay?” Anthony asks softly coming around the couch to sit next to me.
“Yes, he’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s just old news-”
“He don’t look okay. They killed him, didn’t they?” he asks even softer. I ignore his question. At this point, I don’t have to tell my kids when another person is publicly executed. They already know. Jayden crawls over to me and climbs up on my lap. I hold him with my right arm and I wrap my left arm around Anthony. We sit there in silence. Jayden and Anthony sit with their eyes closed. It’s the calmest I have ever seen my children. I embrace it and close my eyes, too. I try to tear my mind away from the news and the ridiculous reporters. I think about Melody, who is about to turn 17. She’s well on her way to becoming an Ivy League student. And Christopher, who is the last in math class but the first on the field in junior football. And Anthony, who is the sweetest, but gets caught up in every subject that’s out of his age range. And Jayden, who always has energy and is always up to hug everyone. And my love, my wife, my superhero, Laila. In 5 months, we’ll celebrate 18 years of marriage, but 22 years together. I promised to take her around the world, but with the kids, we’ve only been able to travel to Hawaii and the Bahamas. But this summer, we’re going to Paris for our anniversary and I’m sending the kids to New York with my sister and mother. It’s going to be a huge surprise and they have no idea. I find myself smiling thinking of how excited my whole family will be.
“Dad?” I open my eyes to see Anthony looking up at me. I raise my eyebrows. “He died front of his lil girl…right? What happens after… after we die?” he struggles through sniffs to ask me.
I can see the tears welling up in his eyes. I doubt that I can hold off the conversation until Sunday. I take a deep breath and sneak a look at Jayden, who is now sleeping in my arms. I guess I thought I could protect my babies from this and that their childhoods wouldn’t come to a halt when racism was thrown in their faces. He watches me waiting for my answer. I clear my throat.
“You go to heaven,” I tell him.
“But they said he was a bad man. Did they lie? Would he go to heaven and they go to hades?”
“Maybe. But I’m not God. God knows what really happened and he’ll send them where they need to go,” I look away from him hoping he is content with my answer, but he continues.
“But cops are good so they supposed to protect us and go to heaven. What if they do some’ bad? Do they go to hades? But… if they do bad…they just get to stay here until they die… they could hurt more people in that time.”
“I guess,” I get up from the couch holding Jayden trying to wake him up. It’s too late for naps and I need him to sleep through the night. Anthony sits there looking at the wall and I can tell he’s still thinking. I ignore him and force Jayden to stand up. A car pulls up outside with the John’s Pizza sign on the roof. Melody comes down the steps and picks up Jayden.
“Pizza’s here,” I call up the steps. I go over to get 40 dollars and meet the delivery man at the door before he knocks. I bring the pizza inside and place it on the dining room table. I go out into the garage to get drinks and I grab plates from the cabinet in the kitchen. Melody puts Jayden in his high chair. I pat Anthony on his shoulders pulling him back from his thoughts and I go upstairs. I pass Christopher’s room and tell him to go to the table. I open the door to my room to find my wife with her head in her hands sitting on the side couch of our room. She’s sitting there facing the window, but I can tell her eyes are closed.
“Love?” I scare her; she jerks her head up and wipes her eyes. I move over to her grabbing her hand. “Pizza is here. What’s wrong, baby?” She doesn’t reply, but I know it’s one of the same things that have been bothering her. “Love…Laila, look at me. I promise you we are going to be fine. Yes, we’re getting older and so are our kids, but nothing is going to happen. We’re all healthy. Nothing will happen to our daughter or our sons. Look. Look at the life we have built. Nothing can tear us apart. I promise.” I kiss her hand and she takes a deep breath. “I love you, Laila. Stop worrying, though. It’s unnecessary stress. C’mon,” I say pulling her up into my arms. We go down stairs to see the kids at the table. Christopher and Anthony are next to each other looking at some video on the iPad and Melody is halfway feeding Jayden.
“Hey, no electronics at the table. Laila, this pizza throwing them all off,” I tell her, looking at my kids. I notice Melody has her phone up to her ear. “Uhh… Melody, what you doing?”
“I’m just on the phone, Dad.”
“With who?”
“A friend.”
“So, a boy?”
“It’s just Leon.”
“Leon? Who is that? What happened to Kyle, John, Matthew, Leroy, Cletus…?” I say loud enough for the boy on the phone to hear. Melody jumps up from the table and ducks into the other room to get off the phone.
I sit down and just let go for the night. I tell the kids that dinner can be different tonight and I just watch them interact freely. After dinner, the kids go up to their rooms. Laila and I wash the dishes and go to our room with Jayden. While Laila gets ready for bed, I give Jayden a wash up and put on his pajamas. When Laila is finished, we switch roles. I wash my face and put on my checkered pajama pants. I stand looking at myself in the mirror. I flex and dance as usual. But for a moment, I notice my own eyes and it’s like my life flashes before me. My son asked me what happens when we die and I told him we go to heaven as if I believe that. I’m 46 years old and I still have no idea what I believe in. I just try to spend every day to its fullest with my babies. I place my hands on the counter and brace myself from panicking. I get a sinking feeling thinking about how I will guide my family as a father when I can’t answer their questions. I hear a knock on the door and Laila is there. She can tell I’m upset and comes over to hold me. I close my eyes and I let her carry out the same speech I gave to her when she freaked out earlier. When I am calm, I go over and attempt to read Jayden a bedtime story. He tears two of the pages and throws the book around before I can tell the whole story. Laila picks him up, rocks him to sleep, and puts him in his crib in the room across from us.
“Finally, I can rest,” she exclaims coming back into our room. We lay down and before I know it, she’s asleep.
I lay awake thinking, yet my mind is blank at the same time. At two a.m., I hear Jayden crying on the monitor. I get up and go into his room. He can’t seem to get comfortable, so I pick him up and sit in the rocking chair with him. The moonlight pours into the room and I can watch my little baby’s face. At times, he’ll be calm and then his face will frown up as if he’s having a bad dream.
“What can a little baby be dreaming about that’s scary? Jayden, there’s nothing to be afraid of because daddy will always be here to protect you,” I whisper to him as he calms back into peaceful sleep. I put him back down, but I don’t go back into my room. Instead, I go into the living room and lie down on the couch. I don’t think. I don’t sleep. I’m just there.
“Marcus, what are you doing down here?” I open my eyes to see my Laila kneeling next to the couch.
“Nothing,” I tell her as I get up and follow her back upstairs. I jump into the shower and yawn about 30 times. It’s like I slept with my eyes open; I remain restless. After I get out the shower, I wake the boys and head downstairs to make breakfast. I make a plate of turkey bacon and bagels and I set out the orange juice. I wake Christopher up again and I stop by the hallway bathroom to fluff out Melody’s hair. I put on a light blue polo shirt and black pants. I go into Jayden’s room to find Laila dressing him to match me. She smiles knowing that just made my day. I run into Anthony chasing after his electric airplane and I tell him again not to fly it in the house. I wake Christopher up for the third time and drag him downstairs for breakfast.
“Can you take Jayden to daycare today and pick him up this afternoon?” Laila asks me, handing me Jayden.
“Sure. Am I picking up Anthony and Christopher today?”
“No, just Anthony. I should be able to get Christopher from practice today,” Laila tells me, pouring coffee into her travel mug. I sit Jayden on the floor, go into the garage to make sure his car seat is in my car correctly, and check that the child lock is on both doors. I check his daycare bag and move it into my car. I go back into the house and tell the boys to get ready. Melody comes downstairs to get breakfast.
“Riding with mom?” I ask her.
“Yes. I’m thinking about applying for this scholar’s program for the summer.”
“Okay, Just make sure it’s not in July.”
“Why?” she asks, squinting her eyes at me. I shake my head smiling as my wife come into the kitchen.
“Boys, let’s ride,” I shout, grabbing their lunches out the fridge. I kiss my wife and hug my daughter. I pick up the baby and take him to the car. Christopher runs out the house first making sure he gets the front seat even though Anthony doesn’t race him. Anthony drags himself to the car with his head hanging low. I figure that he is just tired. Once we’re all in the car, we pull out and head toward Hillside Elementary. I turn on the radio, but it’s filled with the results of yesterday’s verdict. So, I turn on the gospel CD and let it carry us through the morning traffic. I pull up to the school and Christopher hops out. He waits right outside the car for Anthony, but Anthony is frozen in place.
“Anthony, it’s time for school, buddy,” I tell him turning around to look at him. He doesn’t look at me. He just stares out the car window. I tell Christopher to go ahead realizing that Anthony’s behavior might have to do with what happened at school yesterday. “Momma told me yesterday you wouldn’t go back into your classroom after recess and you stayed there until she came and got you. What’s that about?” I ask him checking the time. He doesn’t respond right away. He waits a moment.
“Well… I… I don’t wanna be near the white kids,” he says quietly, clasping his hands together in his lap.
“Uhh … why?”
“They killed that man-”
“The people in your school did not kill that man,” I tell him, “You can’t judge an entire race off of one bad apple.”
“But they act like it’s okay. They aren’t sad ‘bout it. ‘Cause they white. They don’t have to worry ‘bout it. And they did slavery a long time ago and they not sorry ‘cause they still gets to kill us, Dad,” he says, keeping his head down, “I’m scared of them.” I look at him with a complete loss of words. I can see tears welling up in his eyes from the thoughts that should never cross a child’s mind. He’s too young to be afraid of normal people.
“Anthony, I promise you that we don’t have people here that are like that. Those people are far away. And no matter what, Daddy will protect you,” I tell him, trying to rush him out the car. He nods and picks up his backpack as he gets out the car. I watch him walk into the school building and I drive away heading to First Steps daycare.
Jayden is asleep when we get there and doesn’t wake up as I get him from his car seat. I drop him off in his class and head to work. I think about Anthony the entire ride there. I don’t know how to protect him from his own thoughts and I know I can’t protect him from the entire world. I walk into work with my mind still racing and I forget to avoid Terrence.
“Marcus, can you believe this justice system?” he asked, appearing next to me as I walk towards my office. I shake my head, hoping he will talk about something other than the case. He is extremely involved in activism and like myself, has three sons. His sons are a lot older than mine and he constantly talks about their struggles. I try to listen, but it only fills me with anxiety. How will I prevent my sons from being profiled or falling victim to the system. I care about the injustice, but I like to focus on my family and shelter them from feeling afraid. I guess I’ve already failed with one, though.
“…organization is going to challenge the verdict and charge the officers with different… they have to be convicted of something and hopefully they’ll serve some jail time, right?” he explains.
I nod my head and try to look like I’m thinking about what he just said even though I was half listening. Eventually, he leaves and I consume myself in my routine work: emails, making charts, emails, checking balances, emails, filing, and more emails. Around two o’clock, my phone goes off; the only people who text me is my wife and daughter. I look down and see it’s Laila. I text her between sending emails.

Wife♥: Mel got suspended
Me: WTF. How
Wife♥: Helped organize a walkout at 12 today
Me: What?
Wife♥: Her whole grade walked out the school as a protest.
Me: God
Wife♥: I’m taking her to get her nails done.
Me: You’re rewarding her?
Wife♥: I support her courage and leadership. Our baby is strong.
Me: Ant said he was scared of white people this morning
Wife♥: We’ll talk to him later tonight.

I finish up my work for the day, realizing that if I want to get Jayden before Anthony then I need to leave now. I take the long way out the office, so I won’t run into Terrence. When I get to the First Steps, I listen to Jayden’s daycare teacher’s rundown of how his day was and we leave. Jayden is fussy, so I give him his pacifier and his teddy bear. On the way to get Anthony, I decide that we’ll go to Chuck E Cheese. It’s the perfect time to make the boys happy and Christopher won’t complain because he’ll be at practice. I pull up at the school at 3:17 and Anthony gets into the car still visibly upset.
“How was your day?” I ask him. He shrugs and plays with the teddy bear in front of Jayden. “Well, I think I know what can make it better,” I tell him. This catches his attention and he looks up at me, giving me a side eye.
“What?” he asks.
“Hmm, maybe a place called Chuck E Cheese?” I tell him, putting the car into drive and pulling off. He lets out a cheer and I can tell I just brightened his day. I drive 20 minutes down the freeway and get off at exit 87 to go to the bank. I take out 500 dollars for Chuck E Cheese and to give to Melody and Christopher. I drive west down highway 45, when my wife begins calling.
“Hello? Yeah?” I answer.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking the babies to Chuck E Cheese. Why? What’s up?”
“Christopher got sick during practice and I’m back at work. I have a 4 o’clock meeting,.” she tells me.
“Damn, okay. I’ll go get him. Should I take him home?” I ask, looking for a place to do a U-turn.
“I don’t know how sick he is. Maybe he’s just overheated or something,” she says, rustling papers in the background. I make a U-turn and speed in the opposite direction. I look in the rearview mirror and see Anthony’s face grow sad. I open my mouth to tell him that it’s okay, but I notice a patrol car speed out behind me. I slow down and my body stiffens. He turns his sirens on and I pull off onto a quiet looking street. I notice my wife still talking.
“Babe… Babe,” I say, interrupting her, “I’ll text you. We just got pulled over.”
“Wait, what? Well I’m going to stay on the phone.”
“Don’t be silly. Go to your meeting, love,” I tell her as I hang up the phone. I sit my phone down in the cupholder and take a deep breath. Jayden spits out his pacifier and begins to wail. I look for my registration in the glove compartment trying to ignore the baby’s cries and Anthony’s growing panic.
“Dad? Dad? What’s happening? I thought we were going to Chuck E Cheese. Jayden’s face is all red. Why’s he crying?…Dad? Why’s he taking so long…” Anthony rambles on. I reach in the back and pick up Jayden’s pacifier. I wipe it off on my shirt and the officer appears before my window. I roll down my window and meet the officer. He’s a white, slightly overweight man with dark brown hair.
“Do you know why I pulled you over today, son?” the officer asks.
“No, sir.”
“Well, I saw you speeding and making an illegal turn,” he says, looking around my car. I don’t reply. Instead, I reach back giving Jayden his pacifier.
“Hear me talking to you, boy. License and registration,” he demands. I mumble an apology and retrieve my papers from the passenger seat. He snatches them from my hand and takes them to his car. I look back at Anthony, who looks like a deer caught in headlights. I tell him it’s okay and that there’s nothing to worry about. He becomes frantic, looking back and forth between the patrol car and me.
“He’s taking too long, Dad,” he tells me. I ignore him and I text my wife telling her it might take a minute.
“Can you step out the vehicle, buddy?” the officer demands, a foot away from my door without my papers.
“Is something wrong officer?”
“Step out the vehicle. Don’t resist,” he shouts before leaning over and talking into his radio in a voice I can’t hear.
“Okay. Okay,” I tell him, hearing Jayden begin to cry again as his pacifier falls again. Despite my spinning mind telling me not to, I instinctively reach behind me to pick it up. I don’t know what comes first: the loud bang, the ringing in my ears, Anthony screaming, the blood on Jayden’s face, or the pain in my left arm. It all seems to happen at the same time and for moment, my mind goes completely blank. I feel dizzy and my ears go numb from all the noise. I look down at my arm and the blood pouring out of the hole. I lift my right hand up touching the wound lightly. I can’t feel a thing. I look up out the window to see the officer with his gun still trained at me. He’s yelling, but I can’t hear him. Did he just shoot me? I can’t tell if my hearing is gone because of the gunshot or the throbbing in my head? Did he just shoot me? I put my right hand up and nod to the officer. Sir, I’m innocent. Why did he shoot me?
“Get out the vehicle!” he yells at me, shoving his gun at me. My hearing comes rushing back and the screams from my sons fill my ears making my head hurt more. I get out the car slowly, realizing that it’s serious now. One wrong move scared a man who has the right to kill me. Why did he shoot me? I stand in front of the officers as still as I can, but I can hear Anthony screaming for me. I look back at him and I move towards him opening the door.
“I just need to calm down my sons. They’re crying and screaming,” I tell the officer as I open the back car door. The officer slightly nods at me, unsure of what to do next. I look down at Anthony. There’s snot running out his nose and his eyes are swollen from crying. I see him look at my arm and his eyes grow wider, his breathing shorter. He’s panicking and I don’t know what to do to calm him. I grab his hand and try talking to him, but he can’t hear me over his crying and Jayden’s. I notice another patrol car pull up behind the first one, adjacent to where the first officer is standing with his gun out. I close my eyes for a second trying to think, but the pain in my arm is starting to sink in.
“Anthony, let me go. I have to step away from the car…”
“No, Dad. No, please,” he screams, holding tighter to my arm.
“Not right now, Ant. Let go. Let go and I won’t get hurt. Let me go…”
“…stop pulling away, Dad. Dad…” he’s cut off by his own screams. I feel pressure in my right side. And in my stomach. And in my stomach again. My legs cripple under me and I fall to the ground face up. My head is right next to the back tire and my hearing is gone again. My pain is worse. God, it’s so much worse. I look up at the open car door and see Anthony’s face. There’s blood on his face and I can’t stand to see his helplessness. I lift my left leg and reach over shutting the door. He slams two hands onto the glass window trying to see me, but he’s struggling to. I lift my head a little to look at my body. My shirt is no longer blue. It’s red and I’m laying here. Why did he shoot me? My life is pouring out of me as if it’s an unlimited well. It covers me in warmth, but leaves my insides cold. I try to lift my hand to put pressure on the wound in my stomach. My left hand doesn’t move and my entire right arm fills up with this tingling feeling. It’s like my arms are asleep, but I can’t wake them up. Am I dying?
There’s too much blood. Holy shit, I’m dying. God, please don’t let me die. I can’t breathe. Who’s going to take care of my kids? My baby is only one. He won’t even remember me. Anthony. Anthony needs me and Christopher, too. Anthony is 8. He shouldn’t see this. I just wanted to take him to Chuck E Cheese. Just wanted him to feel better and to not be scared. I’m not going to see Christopher on the field. I’m going to miss all his games. And Melody, I never get to tell her I’m proud of her. I can’t see them graduate or get married. I can’t see grandkids. Who’s going to take Laila to Paris. My wife. My beautiful, beautiful wife. And my babies. I can’t breathe. I don’t want to die. Please, help me. Why is his gun still aimed at me? Why did he shoot me? I feel like I have to cough. There’s blood in my mouth. I’m dying. I’m dying.
I just want to hold my babies and grow old with Laila. I didn’t get to sit down at dinner with my family. I told Anthony that no one would hurt him. I couldn’t protect my babies. Laila, 18 years ago in her wedding dress. And 17 years ago, she was carrying Melody. And then Chris. And then Ant. And then Jay. Laila, I wish I could hold you. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect our babies. I didn’t tell you I love you, today. I love you, Laila. I love you, Melody. I love you, Christopher. I love you, Jayden. I love you, Anthony. I try to say it out loud, but blood trickles out of the corner of my mouth. Please, I just need a little more time. More time. Why did he shoot me?
I’m dying. Where am I going to go? Lord, Jesus, I give my soul… I don’t know what to say. God, I’m dying. I don’t know what’s after this. I was supposed to have more years to figure it out. God, I’m scared. I’m dying and I’m scared. I just… Laila… I just want Laila. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t move my legs. I’m going to die. I can’t breathe. There’s blood filling… I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Please, I’m so scared. My baby won’t remember me. I’m missing their entire life for nothing. Laila, I’m so sorry. I can’t breathe. I… I can’t… please…

THE END