Not My Baby Part 8 by: Henny Daniels

About two hundred miles from Jacksonville in a small city called Plant; Star sat chatting with a young woman who favored her in appearance and attitude; she had already dropped her daughters off in Palatka with her Aunt shortly after leaving Jacksonville. Star’s cousin, Mendi had informed her of an airbnb she could rent in her small hometown; she had agreed to use her own credit card and switch vehicles with Star as soon as she was filled in on all that had transpired.

“Are you sure, Mendi? This could bring some heat your way—you understand that right?”

“Well if you was really worried about that, you wouldn’t have showed up at my door! I got another place I can go to for a while. Remember that fine new man in my life I was telling you about a couple weeks ago? Well, girl he got his own house! He already lets me stay whenever I feel like it; he even gave me a key. Don’t worry about me hunny; he got guns—a nice little collection.”

“Oh really? You think he could let me borrow one while I’m in town?”

The pretentious smile plastered on her face faded at once. “Alright, now you getting ahead of yourself boo. Do you know how long it took me to get that key?”

Star rolled her eyes. “I knew you were just talking out the side of that fat neck of yours!”

“Ok, ok! I will see what I can do; chill out!” The two proceeded to chat against Star’s better judgement. It wasn’t that she disliked her cousin, she just hated holding conversations with her for too long; they would always end up in a subtle competition—sharing and boasting about the good news in their lives. Well, Star was the one sharing with good intentions and Mendi was blatantly boasting. For some reason, Mendi’s happiness stemmed purely from making herself and others feel as if she was doing much better than them in life—she didn’t drink alcohol, do drugs, cheat, lie or steal. But Mendi’s vice was feeding the beast known as her ego.

Every time Star would attempt to get a word in, Mendi cut her off with some irrelevant fact about her life—something she was proud of and assumed Star couldn’t relate to. Star would kindly compliment her for whatever it was and then attempt to complete her thought to no avail. I guess I’m just supposed to listen to her and not talk. Lawd this girl is annoying! It’s time for me to go.

Girl, I’d hate to cut you off, but I gotta get out of here.”

“What! Why? You just got here girl! I didn’t even get to show you the new patio set I just bought. You know you want to see it girl; it ain’t like you ever had a decent backyard up there in Duval.”

“I would love to but–”

As Star got up to leave, her sentence was cut short by the sound of glass breaking in the distance. Her heart dropped into her stomach, knowing instantly that she had been tracked down; she thought of Bella and Selah, her remaining daughters and the possibilities of where they might be, if they were still alive.

“What was that!?” Panic consumed Mendi. She hadn’t for a second considered the possibility that Star was telling the truth and had compromised her safety—until this very moment.

“Shhhhhh! Get down!” Star aggressively whispered, “It’s them! That noise came from the back. We have to get out of here RIGHT NOW!”

Mendi led the way, crawling to the nearest hallway in the opposite direction of the startling sound. She led them to a side door, that she prayed hadn’t been noticed in the intruders’ pursuit.

“The window Mendi! We gotta see if we’re surrounded first!” Star motioned for them to crawl in another direction, but Mendi refused.

“No girl, it’s too far! They’re already in here now. We need to get out like you said!” Unlocking the door as quickly and quietly as possible, Mendi stuck her nose through the small crack and didn’t see anyone. She opened it slowly and then crawled out onto the cool dirt that lay amongst patches of short, spiky grass. There was an oblong shrub only a few feet away—she lunged behind it without a second thought.

As Mendi’s body was outstretched in a pose like that of a cat, Star witnessed multiple bullets—as if in slow motion— vibrate through Mendi’s torso and hit the wall on the opposite side—causing the crisp white blouse she was wearing to transform to crimson in a few blinks of an eye.

Paralyzed by mental trauma, Star couldn’t even react to the deafening sound of rapid gunfire; she remained on her knees with her mouth gaping and watched the blood and life escaping her cousin’s body from only a yard away. Suddenly, Mendi’s annoying competition game didn’t seem all that bad to Star; in fact, there wasn’t a single existing violation she could think of that would make this brutal murder justifiable—she simply did not deserve this morbid fate, and it was Star’s fault that it had transpired.

“Alright Star, now that she’s out the way, we can talk.” An unfamiliar voice sounded over a megaphone. “We have your daughters, and if you want them to make it out of this alive, I suggest you cooperate. Now come on out!”




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