"My heart is my own, but nothing has been the same until I met her." ~ Dominic Brooks
"No one cares. No one wants to care. No one has to care. Why does he?" ~ Amara Mills
Cold darkness raided her small room and throughout the tiny apartment, but it only bothered her. She sleeps with three covers and two pairs of socks on to protect her from the chill, hoping heat would comfort her body during the night. Every morning, she wakes up drenched in sweat because the owner of the building likes to have the complex heated in the daytime. It's not like she has a choice to stay in the dingy living space; if she could live on her own, she definitely would. Surviving alone in this twisted world is a minor dream of her's, but first she needs to survive the last year in the most horrific place of teenage life. High school.
This is Amara Mills.
"Sh-shhh, Malcolm! Mara might be sleepin'." Her mother giggled drunkenly, tripping around the living room.
Amara shifted over in bed and read the clock sitting on the ground. Five o' nine isn't a bad time to wake up, she considered. I'll wait until they collapse in their room, which should be in… five, four, three, two, one. On cue, boisterous chain-saw snoring reverberated off the walls. Sighing, she unraveled herself from the cocoon of warmth and stumbled blindly to the only the bathroom in their apartment. Her footsteps were slow and cautious, each step trying to avoid the invisible creaks. Even though her parents do have a snoring problem, they will wake up at any sound, especially in their drunken stupor. Besides, she wants to get use to the new floor. In their old apartment she knew where to step, what door creaked, and what noises pissed off her parents the most. Luckily, the trip to the bathroom is short.
The bathroom's handle had been ripped off before the Mills moved there and as a make-shift her mother, Sherry, had taken off Amara's door handle to replace the missing one. Amara has enough sense to not object to anything her parents do, no matter how stupid or biased it may be. In the corner of the bathroom her step father, Malcolm, came up with the brilliant idea of throwing a towel over a spot developing black mold. Other than those minuscule technicalities, it is a clean, standard half bathroom. One shower with no tub, one sink, and a porcelain toilet in desperate need of a seat cover.
When Amara closed the door the bathroom door, she turned, facing herself in the mirror. There were bags under her green-hazel eyes, determination showing underneath the surface of fatigue. As she unpinned her hair, auburn curls fell to her shoulders. She ran her fingers through the tresses and pouted, not expecting her hair to have taken on a life of its own. Hopping quickly in the shower and out, Amara blow-dried her mane and lazily put it up into a French bun. Tattered skinny jeans, a Warriors' hoody, and black All Stars is her usual Monday outfit, but since today is her first day in a new school she wanted to make a good impression.
"Who am I kidding?" she grumbled to herself, tossing her new shirt back onto her bed. "Nobody is gonna care whether I like the Golden State Warrior's or not. Might as well go comfy."
She chose to go basic and slipped on her oversized jakcet, grabbed her eye glasses, and slung her leather backpack over her shoulder. Without looking back, Amara walked out the apartment and into the cold morning, putting her headphones on to concentrate to the instrumental of her favorite song. Freezing winds slapped her face, but nothing fazed her. Before going to school, there was a special place she had to see. A special object she had to touch in order to start her day off right.
His eyes snapped open and his body jolted forward, both alert from his previous nightmare. Frustrated with himself and unwilling to go back to sleep, the boy climbed out of bed and turned on the light switch. The balcony door to his room was slightly ajar, his mom must've thought it would help him at night. He walked to the cool outside while rubbing his eyes free of slumber, yawning loudly and scratching his head. The curls felt damp to his fingers. In the same second, he realized that his whole torso was sodden with sweat. Instead of going out to the balcony he closed the door and went back to his bed, peering at the alarm clock on his nightstand.
"5:53. Huh... guess I could stay up. No point in going back to sleep now," he mumbled lowly, heading toward his bathroom.
This is Dominic Brooks.
Dominic is what most girls would like to call "beautiful, sexy, handsome." To himself, he's just an ordinary guy whose parents have enough money to keep his grandchildren rich. He's neither rebellious, nor a nuisance to his family, but he's extracted himself from them. He'd prefer living like a regular person his age. No butler driving him to school since he has his own license, no maid doing his laundry, and no pretend friends. You'd be surprised how many of those he has. But, he's come to the conclusion that his life will never be normal.
He stared at himself in the mirror after he peeled off his wet shirt and the rest of his pajamas, staring hard. He stared at his large, pink lips, his sculpted abdominals, his brown eyes, wondering who could like him without those three aspects. No one. No one can, he thought mirthlessly. Dominic shook his head and went into the shower, washing away the last remnants of his nightmare. The warm water cleared his thoughts and he was almost happy, almost willing to forget why he'd been upset in the first place. However, his moment ended when the hot water gradually transitioned to cold, bringing back his sour mood.
It didn't help that today was the first day of his senior year.
Disgruntled, Dominic grabbed a towel off his towel rack and trudged back into his room. His heart nearly jumped out of his chest when he saw his mother sitting on the corner of his bed, looking at him with saddened yet joyful eyes.
"Oh, did I scare you? I'm sorry, I did knock." Her eyes, the same coffee brown as his, burned with sincerity.
Dominic shook of his momentary shock and chuckled a little. "Yeah, a little. That shower is seriously sound-proof. What's up?"
She patted a spot for him on the bed, her usual gesture of saying that she has either good news or bad news. He hoped it wasn't the latter. Slowly, he sat on the mattress, making sure his towel stayed secure around his waist.
"Your dad and I have thought about it... and we think since you have been doing great this summer, attitude wise, that you can enroll to Crowmont High." Before Dominic could let his excitement burst, she held up her hand. "That is, if you promise to keep your grades up."
He nodded, water dripping from his hair. "Yeah. Yeah, of course I will. Anything else." He knew that was his mother's request, good grades. His dad only cared about one thing...
Yvonne Brooks saw the skepticism in her son's eyes. "Your father wishes for you to consider Morehouse."
"Again? Mom, he can't keep pushing that college on me. USC already accepted me and that's where I want to go."
"He knows that, Nic. Just... just give it some thought; ponder it a bit more. Applying to one college you've never seen before isn't a safe idea." She smoothed out the stress lines on his forehead with her thumb. "Besides, California is so far away."
Dominic chewed on his lip, contemplating his mother's motives for getting him to stay. "I'll think about it."
Yvonne smiled and kissed her son's wet hair, then stood up from the bed and walked to the door.
"Breakfast is done. Come down whenever you're ready." With that, she glided out and softly shut his door.
Crowmont High, a ghetto, impecunious school that Dominic has always dreamed of attending. Ever since the 7th grade, he's begged his parents to let him choose his own high school and once they saw his choice, they immediately turned down his request. In freshman year, he slightly became seditious; flunking major tests, passing his honors classes with a C average when he could've been the head of his class. He doesn't want to be the prep kid his dad always demanded he be; no, Dominic longed to go to the school with the normal kids, normal kids who'd treat him normally. All he has to do is lie.
Lie about the person he truly is. Dominic Brooks, son to big time lawyers and founders of Brooks Law Firm, Yvonne Brooks and Xavier Brooks.
Dressed in a plain black shirt, jeans, with black and gray Jordans, Dominic made his way down the grand staircase and into the wide dining area where his parents, his sister, his two brothers and his father's parents sat. Isabelle, his three month old sister, is being fed formula by their maid, Stacey. She's a giggly baby that rarely cries during the day, but at night her screams can be heard a mile away. Tyler is a year younger than Dominic, but could pass as his older brother. He's a couple of inches taller than him and equally handsome, but his eyes are the same grey as his father's and his hair can never be as curly as Dominic's so it's often cut. Daniel is his adopted older brother, not resembling anyone at the table. His skin is a shade darker and he's muscular. Him and his fiancée, Lia, are in town for the weekend. Lia is still in bed, a late starter by nature. Granny Brooks hair is still as curly and black as ever and nothing on her shows any signs of aging. Grandpa Brooks is exactly like his son Xavier, demanding and tough. He's the other man in the house who wants Dominic to apply to Morehouse.
"Good morning son. Sleep well last night?" His dad asked, a forkful of pancakes stuffed into his mouth.
Dominic sat down at the table and kept his eyes in his food. "Yes sir."
"Have you thought about Morehouse? Great academics and you'll be around your own people." Your own people as in black kids.
"I need more time, sir." Dominic said dismissively, pushing his eggs around with his fork.
Grandpa Brooks grumbled at the end of the table, "More time, pfft. Needs more sense if you ask me. Dishonoring our family by going to some crack baby school in the ghetto. Should be going to Wilmburton, meet a nice girl like Ka—"
Fed up with the turn of the conversation, Dominic stood up, his abrupt motion causing his chair to scrape the wooden floor and to tense everyone's emotions.
"I'm going to school early. Probably'll go hang out in the parking lot or something..." He drifted off, snatching his book bag off the hall closet hook and bounding towards the front door.
Tyler called after him. "Nic, I thought you were gonna give me a ride!"
"Tomorrow!" Dominic called over his shoulder, slamming the door behind him.
This is how his morning's usually start off.
Last year, Dominic wouldn't have minded listening to his dad and grandpa fuss about his choice of colleges, but this year he thought he should be in control of where he felt like going. Over the summer, they had utilized his depression as a slot of time to convince him Morehouse would be where she wanted him to go, that she would have gone to Spelman and they'd be together. But he knew better. He knew she would have him go anywhere he wanted to and she would follow, because their lives melded that way.
She wanted to go to USC.
She wanted him to go with her so they could start their life together.
She wanted to be with him.
Without her in his life, he spiraled out of control, hence the whole nightmares. It was one night, the night where he planned on telling his girlfriend that he had gotten accepted to USC and they could find an apartment together. Dominic had drove to her house to pick her up, ecstatic and joyful; yet, when he pulled up to her house, he saw her kissing his best friend in her driveway. He'd confronted one of them, because he knew in his heart that she would never cheat on him, that his friend had brainwashed her somehow or blackmailed her. "I was going to tell you, Nic. You weren't supposed to find out this way." Their argument had been in the middle of the street, where he had stopped his car. It was a rainy night and one car's headlights were out. She got hit. She died May 19, 2012.
Her name was Katherine. His Kathy.
Coping with her sudden death was the most difficult task in his life. In the first stage, Dominic was in denial. He refused to believe the doctors once they told the families Kathy had succumbed to her extensive injuries, resulting in her death. He denied it until he dressed in a black suit and went to her funeral. He lost his mind when the reverend had said, "Girlfriend to Joseph Reed." Dominic all but started a fist fight in the church, giving Joe a good shiner, a busted lip and a bloodied nose. The first months were the hardest. His parents kept him under wraps amid the summer, making sure he steered clear of any remembrance of Katherine. It worked, to an extent. He'll never be the same Dominic his family once knew.
The new Dominic will forever be a broken mess. At least, that's what he views himself as.
Crowmont isn't a big high school, well, not as big as Wilmburton and definitely not as clean. Dominic immediately felt out of place when he saw the broken down vehicles in the parking lot compared to his black 2013 Dodge Challenger, and those were just the teacher's cars. For a while, he sat in the car and stared at his new school. Graffiti graced the side of the attendance office, broken glass glittered on the gravel of the lot, six out of thirteen windows were boarded up, and three cop cars were prepared on the curb. He considered leaving to get Starbucks since he hadn't done much to his plate at the table, but then he saw a girl run up the school steps and through another building on the side of the school. Choosing to be curious instead of cautious, Dominic turned off his car and followed her.
She ran straight through the first building, which led off into a hallway connecting to the school and that hallway brought them to a staircase. He stayed approximately fifteen feet away from the girl, stealthily following her down the steps without producing so much as a breath of sound. They ended up in an auditorium filled with hundreds of seats and a stage closed off with royal blue curtains. He picked a seat in the back and watched the girl walk down the rows of chairs to the stairs leading up to the stage. The air tasted stale, but he knew it was a recently used facility. Dust would've collected into the air if it had been abandoned. After she got up to the stage, the girl turned on a light switch and pulled a rope with all her strength and created a schism between the two large curtains, revealing a grand piano. The lights brightened the whole stage, but kept the rest of the auditorium under darkness.
Dominic watched as she sat down and took off the hood from her jacket and untied her hair, letting it fall down past her shoulders. Her hands rummaged through her backpack until she found papers. Sheet music, he guessed. Lightly, her fingers touched the keys, playing a familiar beat. At first, she just tested out the keys to see if they had the right tunes then once she was satisfied, her whole concentration shifted to the actual notes. And he concentrated too. Music flowed out from the instrument the next second later, her fingers moving methodically against the keys and her voice humming to the song. If I Ain't Got You by Alicia Keys. He blinked in amazement as she grew out of her shell and began to sing softly with the piano, but her voice wasn't as strong as it could've been, wasn't as passionate. All the passion was directed to the piano. Who is this girl?
Without much thought to what he was setting out to do, Dominic rose to his feet and mindlessly walked down to the front of the stage, smiling up to the girl who still had no idea that he was there. At the end of the song, she chose to hum out the last keys to herself and sighed in contentment, blissfully enjoying the feel of the instrument beneath her fingertips.
Dominic's clapping brought her out her reverie.
The girl's head snapped to the bottom of the stage and she squeaked at her audience. "Wh-what are... who are you and what are you doing in here?"
He smiled shyly, walking up the steps and standing five feet away from her. "You're an incredible pianist. How long have you been playing?"
She folded her arms across her chest, like she was securing herself from his curious eyes. "Answer my question first. Who are you and why are you here?"
"That's two questions," Dominic corrected.
Frowning, she shoved her sheet music back into her bag and hastily got up to leave, but in her rush all the papers cascaded out and onto the stage floor. Dominic got down to help her pick them up, opting to do the responsible thing rather than continue to stare at her.
"My name is Dominic Brooks and I came here because you were the first person I saw. Now answer my question. What's your name and how long have you been playing?"
She giggled so quietly that he almost didn't catch the pealing sound. "That's two questions."
"Hmm, you got me there. Okay, just the first one is important." He handed her the papers he collected and both of them stood up.
Her face burned with blood, her eyes avoiding his. "Amara... My name is Amara."
"No last name, Amara?" He asked, hoping the interrogation would create more redness in her cheeks. It did.
He grinned and held out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Amara."
She took his hand in her's in an attempt to shake it, but something went through her that shocked and shook her entire frame. Befuddled, Amara let go of the new boy's hand and ran off the stage, her backpack rigorously slung over her shoulder. Dominic felt the tingles run its course within his body and dropped his hand down in the same instant she had jerked away from him. He called out to her as she dashed past the rows of seats.
"Will I see you again?" His yell echoed out and he knew she could hear him, but she kept running until she exited out the auditorium.
Even though he thought against it, Dominic wanted to see her again.
And even though she knew it was wrong, Amara wanted to see him again too.