CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

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"Come on, Cyprus," Cisco's squeaky voice chimed in my ear. Grumbling I allowed him to pull me from a book I had busied myself with. It was two days after Walter had left and the last day of Zephyr's visit.. Like when I left home he left without saying goodbye. Nobody tried calling him with threats though.

We were going to the mall get Zane clothes since he only had three days packed and would need to stay longer. His father wrapped him up in the drama more than his sister. Zion wanted protect the impulsive idiot because he had nowhere to go. Cisco was excited because he knew he would get toys while we were out.

"Where is your dad?" I asked as I closed the book.

"He's talking to Uncle Zaire and Zane." He answered as I slipped on my shoes. They had gotten into a scuffle, that Zaire won. He had told me he would mediate some peace between the two before we went out. Cisco pulled me to the kitchen where everyone had gathered. Zane and Zaire were joking with one another. Brothers were weird.

We took separate cars to the mall where we diverged. Cisco went with his uncles and aunt, giving us some time alone. We were a couple who rarely went on actual dates. So any outing we tried to make as romantic as possible.

Zion walked me to the cologne store and bought three extra bottles of the citrus scent that he liked me to wear and we walked to the shoe store. The mall was relatively dead since it was the middle of the work week. I was hungry, so we went to the food court and took a seat.

"Can you get me an order of bourbon chicken with white rice," I asked Zion, who would get a sandwich for himself. He kissed my forehead before leaving me to fiddle around on my phone. As I scrolled through my friends feeds, I looked at a picture of Sonny and Joelle kissing. I smiled at the picture and gave it a like. It took them long enough to end up together, and I was happy that they were enjoying the relationship.

"They look happy together. Nala needs to get with the handsome boy with the waves." The voice was warm and familiar. I turned to a woman wearing far too many layers for the early spring weather. The voice belonged to the woman who sang lullabies after my nightmares and told me stories of angels.

She removed the scarf that was covering her face and pulled off a pair off opaque glasses. My breath caught in my throat as I took in her appearance. A black eye marred her beautiful face. Upon further inspection, I noted her split lower lip and scratch along her right cheek. Tears welled in her eyes as I took in the evidence of a beating. I could see the tears in her eyes and the shame she was carrying.

"Mom." It was the only thing I could get out. She opened her mouth to speak, revealing a chipped tooth along the bottom row of her mouth. The scar on her face would probably last for a while. I knew my father had attacked my mother in the past. She would always flinch if he walked up to her too fast, but this was my first time seeing it.

"How did you know I was here, and how did you get here?" She sat down at my table. I looked for Zion but couldn't find him. She sat her purse on her lap. It was the only thing she had on her.

"I used my credit card and bought a ticket with a layover here so he wouldn't know. I knew you had moved here and have been tracking your boyfriend's social media to meet you." Zion was a fan of posting his location. The hype had trickled, so we were free

"This isn't the first time he's put his hands on you is it?" She shook her head. A tear rolled down her face.

"Why did you come to see me?" I asked her.

"He's been hitting me a lot lately, so I asked my sister if I could stay with her until I got myself settled. I'm going to Canada." I wondered what she would do. She had a journalism degree that she had never used so it would be hard to break into the industry in her mid-forties.

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