Sharpshooter in my backyard
Killed a small boy once and never told no one
If it wasn't for my shotgun
He'd be alive and I'd be halfway to heaven
Instead of sitting in the dark going through hell
You should've been here
You should've been here
It was like standing in a recently abandoned museum, a time capsule, a shrine that was never meant to be, filled with objects that had belonged to another –his long lost lover -that accounted for a glance into her bleak history. A few days ago this was her bedroom and now it represented another time. Another life.
Never again would Ash's porcelain hands curl determinedly around her Mora knife blades or the pretty pearl handle of her pistol, tucked away down the side of her bed. Nor would her hair of amber and rubies be pulled through her hairbrush that lay with wispy strands entwined between the bristles on her dressing table. Her signature -her red, red lipstick -would never grace her mouth again, and her exquisite body, the colour of moonlight and star shine, would never be wrapped up in her provocative way, in her black bedsheets.
They'd existed for many heated nights in that bed. It was so cold now, like they'd never really been there, like it was all his imagination and he'd dreamed up the beautiful nightmare that they once were.
Aiden sat in her room through the night, perched stiffly on the edge of her bed, staring at her things, enveloped in her fading scent –one day he'd forget what she smelt like altogether. He hoped that day never came. As every moment passed it was like he was losing her all over again, piece by broken piece, such tiny losses that he didn't notice it until he'd try to recall something accurately, like a memory of the way she laughed. He was unsure if the joyous, musical sound that rang in his head was what she actually sounded like or if he was making it up because he was too afraid to admit to himself that he was already beginning to forget.
He wished he could hear her laugh one last time. He wished they could do everything one last time, the good and the bad.
Every now and then his hollow eyes would lock onto the door. He half hoped in vain that this was all a sick joke and that at any moment she'd slink through the door, set her oceanic eyes on him and purr his name like she was the goddess of the seven seas. His Siren. It made it seem even more unreal that she was gone. All her things were here. All her things were here...
Aiden didn't say a word, he didn't move, he just sat there on the edge of her cold bed and waited for the sunrise, and hoped that it would chase the shadows away.
He took one of her sheathed Mora knife blades up and tucked it in his pocket. That would be his token of remembrance of Ashleigh York; a woman as furious and unforgivingly beautiful as a tidal wave. His freckled alabaster girl who looked art and made love like poetry.
The sun rose and he walked out of the door and ordered the maids to get rid of every single thing that was in there, every item of clothing, every trinket, every weapon, all of the furniture -everything had to go.
He wanted to do the same for Keegan, but since Sophia's death and the convenient disappearance of Jamie, the police were watching his brother's home closely. They weren't stupid, they knew that the Mafia was behind it but they couldn't convict anyone. There had been no trace of them at the crime scene. As if that wasn't reason enough, Keegan went missing and then the downfall of the UK's biggest drug lord happened soon after, and then there was the added disappearance of the Lockewoode girl. As much as everyone was keeping quiet, the streets whispered with Aiden's name. He knew that as soon as the cops had enough evidence, not even the ones in his pocket could protect him and his people, so it was up to him to make sure that that day never came.
"Get Mighty for me," he grunted in his husky sleepless tone to one of the maids over his cup of coffee. It was 6am and it had been a very long night, but there were still a few loose ends to tie up before the war began. The maid nodded and headed down the hall wordlessly. She returned a few minutes' later two steps behind a disoriented Mighty, barefoot with his dirty blonde hair sticking out at awkward angles from running his hand through it too many times and sleeping on it. Planning a battle strategy was stressful work. Aiden almost felt bad for waking him up when it was likely that his capo had only nodded off little over an hour ago.
Mighty rubbed the sleep from his eye, "I could ask you the same thing, boss. So wassup?"
"I need you to find a girl. Jasmine."
"Don't have one. All I know is that she was sleeping with my brother and now she's carrying his kid."
Mighty perked up and scraped his hair back, "Any idea where she's located?"
"No. All I have is a name."
"Okay...is Trish still about? She might know. She and Keegz were close."
"She's in my room. I'll go get her for you."
Aiden walked into his bedroom to find Trish already awake with lavender rings under her eyes, entertaining a well-rested Jamie. "I'll take over here," he said reaching for the squealing child as Trish opened her hands for the fiftieth time for her game of peekaboo, which she was regretting playing now. "Mighty's waiting for you in the kitchen."
"Yeah. Keegan's got another one on the way and I need to track down the mother. Do you know her? Jasmine?"
"Jasmine," Trish scrunched up her face in distaste, "Yeah I know her." She shifted off of the bed and readjusted the sash on her dressing gown, "Keegz sure did know how to pick 'em. Ugh!" As she shuffled towards the door she studied Aiden, noticing that the bags under his eyes were darker than hers. "Is it done?" She nodded her head in the direction of Ash's room.
"Yeah, it's done."
She folded her arms, resisting the urge to wrap them around him, "How do you feel?"
"I'm not sure yet." Aiden picked Jamie up, "Take the rest of the day off. You look like you need to catch up on some sleep."
"I'm not the only one," she said softly. She was looking at him in that way again, like she pitied him. He was glad she didn't move to comfort him.
"I'm fine. I've gotta go see my mum, finalise the details for tomorrow. I'm taking Jamie with me."
"Keep an eye on Heaven for me."
She frowned, clearly not pleased to have to associate herself with his premature midlife crisis again, "I thought you said I had the day off?"
"You do...from the baby," he smirked lazily like he couldn't be bothered but he couldn't help it. "I'd leave her with Dougie but...you know."
"Yeah I know," she rolled her eyes.
Aiden pulled up outside his mother's place at around 10 o'clock with Jamie in tow. He looked up at the pollution stained, graffiti bound walls of his childhood home, Myatts Field Estate, and sighed. Driver turned off the ignition and looked at the building with him. They'd come a long way. They had a lot of fond memories of growing up on the block but coming back here was depressing, only serving as a reminder as to why they'd been so eager to get out in the first place.
Aiden had thought about moving her out of here once, his mother, because that's what you did with your parents when they got old. It was your turn to look after them -but Aiden didn't think she'd ever really taken her turn in raising her boys. She hadn't earned the right to be spoiled properly. He'd been the one to raise himself and Keegan, and he had taken on the added pressure of trying his best to look after his mother on top of it.
His father, like Keegan's, was no staple in his life. Just another one of his mother's wastrel lovers, who was out before Aiden even made it into the world...and never bothered to come back.
She'd called Aiden her little man. For as long as he could remember, Aidan was told that he was the man of the house. That was so much pressure for a kid to bear, but bear it he had. He didn't want to be like the men his mother associated with. He didn't want to be like his dad, but in fighting the urge to turn into one sort of monster, he'd turned into another.
Instead of the junkie, he was the pusher.
So she didn't deserve anything more from him than the bare minimum because she'd barely given them that. He kept he fed, clothed, her bills paid, and made sure she was clean. It was the least he could do. It was the most he was prepared to do.
"I'll be back in half an hour," he said peering up at the second floor of the run down council block where he mother stood watching him from over the chipped railing in her night gown, smoking a cigarette, with her hair in rollers under a silk bonnet. "That's if I can't get out any quicker." He stepped out of the truck and fetched Jamie from the back. She shook her head at him disapprovingly, her yellow tinged eyes combing over his all black attire, his gang colours, and the huge truck he'd pulled up in. "Here we go," he muttered to himself. "Open the door," he called up to her. She kissed her teeth and turned to walk inside to press the enter button on her intercom. "HEY!"
She turned around, "What?" she snapped back in the same unfriendly tone Aiden had used.
"Put that out. I don't want you smoking around him." He held Jamie a little tighter, fearing that even from two floors up she could potentially ruin her grandson's life too.
She kissed her teeth again and stubbed out her cigarette on the side of the railing, making ash rain down, carrying its dying embers away in the breeze, and went to let them in.
Aiden nodded at his soldiers posted outside of her block as he passed. It wasn't safe enough to leave her unguarded yet and just because nobody had tried to harm her yet, didn't mean they never would. His soldiers shared their condolences with him and smiled at little Jamie as they went, some more heartfelt than others. Keegan had been well-liked amongst their makeshift family of ghetto misfits. His absence was felt across the board.
Titan stood to the right, outside of his mother's front door. "What's good, A?" They bumped fists, "Heard you went missing."
"Did you?" he replied, disinterested in talking about his short break from home -his small slice of Heaven.
Titan took the hint, "I'm glad you're back."
"Thanks," Aiden smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "How's she been?" he nodded toward the cracked door to his mother's flat with the same dull brass numbers and too bright red paint that chipped and flaked in areas, the surface uneven from being repainted so many times without care.
His mother reappeared, poking her head around the door and scowling, "She has been fine, now hurry up and come in. You're letting all the heat out."
Titan looked away, pretending that he didn't hear his boss being addressed in such a manner. Aiden entered without a word.
"There's my beautiful grandbaby," she cooed reaching for Jamie, "You look just like your father, so handsome..." her smile faltered but she recovered as quickly as she'd begun and nuzzled her lined face into her grandson's youthful skin. Years of recreational drug use had taken a toll on her appearance, aging her beyond her years. The term 'black don't crack' didn't apply to Grace Michaels, and it was a shame; she had been so beautiful. Jamie whinged and pulled himself closer to Aiden, gripping his shirt and burying his face in his broad chest. She pouted, "You're facety like your father too."
"You smell like cigarettes," Aiden scolded, leaning the baby away from her nicotine breath.
"Aiden, please," she said putting her hands up in defence, "I don't need any of your noise right now. I've just lost my son. If I want to smoke a cigarette to deal with it, I will. It's not like you let me do anything else. You've always got these bloody thugs of yours outside of my house, watching me like I'm a damn child."
"It's for your own safety, Grace."
Grace narrowed her eyes at him. She hated it when he called her by her name. She kissed her teeth, "Yeah, yeah, whatever. D'you want a drink?"
He furrowed his brow, "It's ten in the morning."
"Did I ask you for the time? Are you a clock? Do you want a drink or not?"
"No," he said tightly.
"Suit yourself. I'm having one." She sauntered into the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of cheap vodka. Aiden sighed internally -if it wasn't one thing with this woman, it was another. Take away her drugs and she turned to cigarettes, take away her cigarettes and she turned to drink. Take away her drink...and you were in for a headache, so Aiden said nothing when she grabbed a chipped mug from her cupboard and poured herself a double on the rocks at ten o'clock on that cold Thursday morning.
She was burying her son tomorrow.
Grace took a satisfied sip of her substitute medicine and led them into the living room filled with overflowing ashtrays of too many crumpled cigarette butts, dust on all of the surfaces, plates with dried food on them, and her net curtains stained yellow by tobacco smoke and dust.
Aiden kept Jamie in his arms. "The place looks like shit."
"Well give me one of your fancy-schmancy maids then and it won't."
He couldn't be bothered to explain to her that that's not what the Diamond Mafia maids were for. "You don't do anything all day and it's just you here, so why can't you keep the place clean?"
"Because it's just me that's here," she reiterated, talking out of her neck, "What do I care what it looks like? It's a shithole." Aiden didn't argue. The place was a shit hole, and no matter how many coats of paint or how much redecorating took place, she always made it revert back to this state. It had looked like this all his life; filthy. It looked worse than usual today.
Despite his hostility towards her he still asked, "How are you doing?"
She took a sip of her drink and smacked her lips together, "How do you think I'm doing? My baby's dead. I've gotta bury him tomorrow, and my other child treats me like I'm some mental patient to be locked away and dealt with at arm's length." She sunk down in the tattered threadbare loveseat and cradled her mug to her chest, "I feel like I'm a prisoner in my own fucking house. I can't go nowhere, I can barely wipe my own ass without seeing one of your men lurking."
"They're keeping you safe, Grace."
"I don't need to be kept safe, I'm fine. Ain't no one looking for me. It's you that's the criminal," she jabbed her finger in his direction, "You and your brother. That's why he's dead."
Aiden's jaw tightened.
"You can sulk all you want. I wasn't perfect but I didn't raise you lot to do the shit you do. There is nothing good down the road you're walking. It's either death or prison. Keegan was nineteen-years-old and now he's dead, Aiden, because of you."
Aiden breathed heavily but said nothing. He was used to these kinds of conversations with his mother, the classic blame game. It was another reason why he avoided seeing her. She never wanted to own up to what she'd done to them, never wanted to face the fact that had she done better by them, they would have never had to turn to the streets to find a family of their own. To survive. She loved talking about how bad they were, but when time came to take Aiden's money that he earned from being the criminal she loathed so much, she accepted it without comment. Her silence never lasted long; she still managed to turn around and run her mouth some more after she'd spent it all. He was used to it by now.
"I spoke to James; told him about the funeral."
Aiden's eyes flashed and his scowled tightened further at the mention of Keegan's sorry excuse for a dad. "Why the FUCK did you do that?" he barked.
"He's his dad."
"He ain't shit and he didn't do shit for Keegan. That man is not his dad. All he did was knock you up and leave."
She shrugged, "Yeah, well he didn't seem too bothered anyway. He won't be attending."
"Good. I don't want him there."
"It's not about you."
"Keegan wouldn't have wanted him there either."
"How do you know what Keegan would've wanted?"
"I know more than you!"
Sensing the tension in the atmosphere, Jamie's bottom lip quivered and his big doe eyes bounced between his uncle and his grandmother's turbulent expressions. If Grace gave Aiden anything, it was most definitely her temper.
Aiden took a pause and stroked the baby's chestnut curls reassuringly. His voice though, still tense, came out softer, "Look Grace, I came here to finalise the plans, not fight with you. We're going to St Bernard's church at nine tomorrow. Did you find something appropriate to wear?"
"Yeah, I bought something." She readjusted her slight frame in the chair, "I could do with some more money for shoes though."
"I gave you five hundred pounds."
"I had to buy a few other bits and bobs too. Look, stop being tight all right. It's not like you're strapped for cash, Mr big shot drug dealer!"
Aiden sighed and reached into his pocket, "How much do you need?"
"Two hundred should do it."
"For a pair of shoes?" he said incredulously. His mother wasn't exactly a luxury shopper; there was nothing luxurious about her. Two hundred pounds for some shoes was an unusually high amount for her.
"I'm going to my son's funeral. I'm not turning up in some cheap shit from Brixton market."
Aiden sighed, "Fine." He pulled out a wad of twenties and held it out to her, looking the other way as she snatched it avariciously from his hand without so much as a thank you. "What about grandma?" he asked with false hope.
His mum kissed her teeth, "Why are you even asking me about that old bitch? Don't look at me like that, Aiden. You know how she feels about us_"
"I know how she feels about you." Grace leant back in her chair and arched her brow. "Forget about it. I don't think they'd come anyway. It's not like they knew Keegan."
"Oh Aiden, piss off! Every time you come round you're always on this 'woe is me' rubbish. Why do you even give a toss about them? What have they ever done for us?" He wanted to point out that she'd never given them a chance too because she was too selfish to drop her petty issues with her family and let her kids meet them. "You're bloody rich, you've got everything you need. The world is at your feet."
"It's just money."
"Yeah well some people don't have 'just money'. If it's just money then why are you so damn tight with it?"
"I just gave you two hundred pounds," he said through gritted teeth.
"Two hundred pounds is nothing but a drop in the ocean to the great Aiden Michaels. I hear what they say about you, how you practically own South London. I bet you've got more dosh than you let on."
Jamie whinged again.
Aiden bounced him gently on his knee and tried to ignore the burning sensation in his chest. He'd had enough. He spoke low and fast, "His tombstone is engraved and the flowers have been ordered an arranged how you wanted them. I told the choir to sing the hymns you asked for, they're in the programme." He dipped into his inside pocket and pulled out said programme. On the front was a dashing photograph of Keegan in a tailored suit at a wedding they'd attended the year before. He looked so smart, so handsome and...happy. His smile was roguish, but that was Keegan -troublesome through and through.
Aiden had frequently wondered if his kid brother would ever grow up and be a little more serious. He'd hoped for it when Jamie came along but Keegan stayed the same. Aiden told himself that he just needed a little more time; after all, he was only nineteen.
But now his time was up and Aiden would never know.
On the back on the programme was Ash. His mother screwed up her face, "Oh, the little white girl's dead too. Humph." Her tone suggested something along the lines of 'good riddance to bad rubbish'.
"Yes," Aiden said tightly, mentally preparing himself for her ignorant comment that was sure to follow.
"How'd she die?"
"She got shot."
"Serves her right; stupid girl. She had no business running around with you lot the way she did, like some damn hussy, thinking she was bad 'caused she was getting dicked down by a nigger. I told you, they're all the same, them white girls, thinking they're God's fuckin gift to_"
"Are you done?" The fire in Aiden's chest blazed. He couldn't stand his mother's closed-minded ignorance. She was so bitter and hateful toward everyone and it made him even more ashamed to be her son than he already was.
"I never did like you and her together. You could've done so much better. That's the thing with you young ones; the sistahs' ain't good enough for you."
"Is that right?" he scoffed.
"Yeah, it is. The media got all of you fucked up thinking everything else but black is better. You'd have been better off sticking with your own kind."
"I did stick with my own kind," he said darkly.
"That trollop was not one of us."
"She was a human being, wasn't she?"
His mother kissed her teeth, "Okay, 'All Lives Matter'. You know damn well that ain't what I meant."
Why did he even bother?
Aiden got to his feet and readjusted the squirming baby in his arms, "I came here to let you know what's going on and to let you see your grandson, and I've done that."
Grace's eyes dulled and the corners of her mouth turned down. She jumped up and ungracefully splashed her drink onto her carpet that was in dire need of a hoover, "You're leaving already?" She sucked the spilt alcohol off of her fingers like she didn't want to waste a drop more than she had to.
Aiden averted his eyes. Even without the drugs she was still a junkie.
"Jamie's being fussy. It's time I got him home."
"And where is home, exactly? 'Cause it ain't with Sophia. The police have been here, asking about where his mum went. You know I don't like police at my house, Aiden," she snapped making Jamie fuss even more.
"And what did you say?"
"I told them I didn't know shit...but you do, don't you?"
Aiden gave her an ominous look.
His mother pursed her lips and nodded to herself, "Of course you do. There is something really wrong with you. For fucks sake, that's his mother, Aiden!" she shrieked gesturing at Jamie.
The child started to cry.
"Keep your voice down," Aiden hissed.
"Don't tell me what to_"
"D'you know what, Mum -shut up! Just shut the fuck up!" He took a quick step towards her and glared at her, and for the first time since her son entered her home Grace quietened down and shrunk away from him. "That bitch Sophia is the reason your son is dead. She sold him out," he snarled lowly, looming over her like today would be the day he repaid her for all of her wrongdoings.
Jamie's cries became louder.
Aiden blinked and backed away. He patted Jamie on the back and bounced him on his hip, "I'm sorry J. Sshhh, it's okay. It's okay."
He looked back at his mother who stood still shrunken into herself, looking at her son like she had no idea who he was, wondering how she could have created such a big, angry thing. But that was just it; she didn't know Aiden. She never bothered to, and that was why that big, angry man stood before her.
He sighed, "The car will be here to pick you up at eight." He walked out into the hall still trying to settle Jamie down.
"Aiden!" she walked out after him.
"What Grace?" he snapped looking down his nose at her.
"...Be careful out there, okay." She bit her lip then went onto her tiptoes and planted an alien kiss on his cheek.
Aiden stood stock still and blinked at her. It was the most affection they'd exchanged with each other in years, and he was unsure how to take it.
Jamie stopped crying and for a few second the three of them stood in the hallway suspended in an uncomfortable silence that was filled with words unsaid.
"I will. See you tomorrow." He straightened up and left.
Thank you for reading, sugar lips 💖. What do you think of Aiden's mum? Let me know in the comments below.