CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

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I made back home. The house was buzzing with movement. Zephyr was placing her duffle bag at the front door as I entered. Excusing myself I went up to my room. It was night, so the room was too dark to see. Turning on the light before I entered, I then took a breath. After I shut the door behind me, I stripped my clothes off and deposited them into the hamper before hopping in the shower. I was in search of a moment of clarity and to dull my senses. The hot water provided the latter.

I did not understand what I would do to make my father feel as bad as he had made me. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to hurt him. Maybe it would make me more like him than I ever wanted to be. After a while, I stepped out of the shower and coated myself in moisturizer before I put on a plain pajama set.

When I walked out of the door, Zion was waiting on me with a cup of tea. Sitting next to him, I accepted the cup and brought the warm liquid into my mouth. Zane lightly sweetened the peppermint tea, which was my favorite.

"Zephyr is ready to go," I said after gulping down a third of the mugs volume.

"She wants to get on with her life. Zane has no ambition so he could end up here for a while. Cisco likes him, but he likes most people. How was your mom?" His arm went over my shoulders, allowing me to lean into him.

"My dad hit her when she said she wanted to speak to me. He beat her like a dog and my grandmother abandoned her and I know Kenya did nothing to stop the abuse. He chipped a tooth gave her a black eye and scratched her. She had to run to Canada to get away." Zion began rubbing my shoulder. He was always protective over me. I was glad to have found him because I knew he would never hurt me like my dad had done to my mom for years. I could feel my eyes well up with tears and allowed them to fall. I felt no fear in letting him see me emotional.

His fingers swept away the tears, and he rained kisses down on my forehead. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet. My mom said she would file for divorce and she's out of his reach. I don't know what I would do but I'm pissed. I wish I had a plan but I can't think of a way to make him hurt. It's typical of me. Angela and Wilmer got away with fucking me over so why shouldn't my father?"

"Rome wasn't built in a day. Just take some time and you will figure it out." I patted his leg in agreement.

I found myself standing over a large pot of crabs I had boiled in a heavily seasoned gallon of water the next afternoon. The scent of cyan pepper caused my nose to tingle. I was feeling nostalgic for simpler times like I used to have in my past. The crab boil reminded me of how my paternal grandmother would wake up early Sunday morning. Before the rooster would dare to wake everyone up, she would wake everyone up with a song of clanging pots and pans. After church we would all feast. I was nine when we last visited.

I smiled at the memory of my dad going to get me and my cousins some sugar cane to chew on and how hyper we would get from the plant. My uncles would smoke cigarettes as they watched us. They would be pungent enough to give me headaches. Those were the good times. Now I wanted to put my father in a pot and boil him.

"Zane I swear to god if you take a potato out of my pot again I will stab you with this dirty knife, dinner is almost ready," I said to him at a voice serious enough for him to drop the fork out of his hand and step out of the kitchen. He had been trying to get a sample since I started cooking. With Zion not home from his first home game and Zaire back in Olympia for work, there was no buffer. He had chilled without his father being there and had become playful.

"Fine, no need to have a baby over it. Just let me get one. I bet Cisco is hungry and we can share, isn't that right little man," Zane asked, pulling Cisco into the conversation who was fully engrossed in his tablet. He was sitting on a barstool ignoring us both.

"Uncle Zane, why won't you let me just mind my business," Cisco asked, not looking up from his device.

"You two," Zane said, his fingers pointed at us while he shook his head. He made his way to the living room and muttered. A ringing noise echoed through the mansion, signaling us that Zion had entered the house. An electronic voice said the garage door had opened. I heard it close and Zion walked in with a smile on his face. I could smell his cologne from a few meters away.

He walked over and kissed me before he grabbed his son who squealed. He pretended to make him fly as he carried Cisco to the living room. I had a grin on my face as I realized how normal this was to me. I had made a family.

Going into the refrigerator, I pulled out the coleslaw and placed it on the counter followed by a pitcher of Arnold Palmer. It was Zion's preferred after game drink. I wanted to serve Zion a great dinner to make up for not working the game.

"Hey baby, are we eating in the dining room or watching a movie and eating?" His tone suggested a preference, and it was not for the dining room.

"Go pick the movie and I'll fix your plate. Send the other two here to fix their own," I said. Turning back to the stove, I killed the flame and began making portions for Zion, Cisco, and I. Cisco and Zane walked in making a bunch of noise. I smiled at them before handing Cisco a plate and he followed me while trying not to spill the contents on the floor. When I walked into the living room, I almost dropped the plates I was carrying.

Kneeling near the coffee table, Zion nervously smiled while holding a box that presented a simple silver band with a single purple diamond.

"I was planning to make this a bigger moment, but seeing you taking care of our family really solidified how I feel about you. I swear I was going to buy you an island or something. You came into my life and made every day worth getting up to experience. You embraced my family and my son as your own. You are my rock and I want to be with you until the end of time. I can't imagine a future where you aren't there and I don't want to. So will you make me the happiest man in the world and marry me? It's still early in our relationship. We haven't even had our first argument but I want to let the world know that you are mine." I barely registered his words. When Zane walked in he hooped and hollered while Cisco kept asking what was going on.

The longer I remained silent, the more Zion shook. I knew the answer to the question. I didn't even have to think about it. It stunned me. Shaking the shock away, I answered before he passed out. "Yes."

He got up and ran over to me. Zane took the food from me just as Zion kissed me. It was like the very first time. Exhilarating, fun, and comforting. I couldn't believe he had proposed to me. We moved to the couch where he held me and the movie played. I had no words, and neither did he. We were on cloud nine. Under me I could feel his phone vibrate several times.

"Baby answer it please," I said, kissing his cheek. He smiled and pulled his phone out. I watched as his smiled quickly inverted. He showed me what was on the screen. Zion had an email pulled up on his screen filled with screenshots from our conversations. I pulled the phone from his hand and began scrolling, seeing every little detail of my life being displayed on the screen. I checked who they sent it to and saw over thirty recipients. When I made it to the bottom screen and read. "I'm coming for my son, you can't take my rights away. Trust me when I say this Zion."

Zion just stared at me both angry and sad. I shook my head and looked to the ceiling. I laughed a little feeling stupid for thinking Angela and Wilmer finished tormenting us after the little stunt they pulled.

"That bitch knows how to fuck up a mood." Angela had made a move, and I was tired of playing defense. I had a family to defend now.

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