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Strange Love

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The door to the interrogation room opens and the man I hate the most steps through; my father. I watch him with narrowed eyes as he shuts the door and glances down at the open file in his hands before his eyes move over towards me. "Do you know how much trouble you're in, Aalyah?"

A smirk makes it's way on to my face as I tilt my head slightly. "Must be huge trouble if they brought you in."

His eyes narrow at my statement as he crosses the room and slams the file down on the table before pulling the chair across from me out and taking a seat. "I'm not supposed to be in here, they say your brother and I are way to close to the case. But I can get you a deal, if you answer all of their questions and tell the truth."

"Why would I want to do that?"

"Because you're facing the death penalty, and I would rather not have my daughter executed if there was a way that I could help you get it down to a lesser charge." He hisses.

My eyes narrow at his tone and I interlock my fingers together as I think about his words. "What makes you think I care? You took everything I cared about from me. He was my center, my light, my tether to this earth, my world and my husband. And you took him from me." I hiss as tears spring to my eyes and I force them not to spill as images of his bloodied body laying lifeless on the floor flash behind my eyelids.

"How?" He asks as he stares intently at the table.

"How what? How did you shoot him like a wild animal?" I practically snarl as the tears finally spill out and roll down my cheeks.

"How did you go from a sweet and innocent little girl to. . ." He pauses as he tries to think of the words he wants to say next. "to this?"

A laugh spills out of my lips as I reach up as far as the handcuffs will allow to wipe the tears away. "I have always been good at making people see what I want them to see. This is who I've always been."

He narrows his eyes and opens his mouth to reply but he closes it and turns towards the door as it opens. My brother steps through and shuts the door. "You shouldn't be in here."

"Neither should you." He replies as he walks over to where we are and takes a seat in the other chair as he glances at me before turning his attention to my father once again. "But we're family, and family always sticks together. No matter what."

I tilt my head to the side once more as I take in my older brother's face. Dark bags take up residence under his eyes, and his hair messy and unkept. "Well, well, well. . ." I taunt them with a smirk on my face. "it is definitely as bad as he feared, if they called you both in."

My brother's eyes snap towards my face and narrow slightly. He inhales deeply and exhales slowly as he thinks about his next words. "How can you be so calm like this when you're facing the death penalty?"

"You took the only thing that matters to me so I really don't care anymore." I mutter as they both turn to stare at me. I fall silent for a few minutes and nod. "I want the death penalty. I will tell the story, but I won't speak it. I'll write it. I want it published after I'm gone."

A silence falls over the three of us as they process my words. A few minutes later my father nods and reaches over to rest his hand on mine but freezes half-way and drops it to his side as he and my brother rise to their feet. "I won't try to change your mind about it because I know what it's like to have the love of your life taken from you before it was time. They'll want to transfer you to the prison in a few hours so you can await execution. I'll see what I can go about getting you notebooks so you can write your story."

"Great," I mumble sarcastically as I watch them head for the door. "I can't wait."

______

A sigh falls past my lips as I watch out the bus window as it pulls up outside the prison. Rising to my feet as the bus slows to a stop, I let my mind wander as the other prisoners and I get ushered off the bus and into the jail. They search us and make us get changed into our uniforms before they send us to find our cells.

"Not you," A guard says as he stops me from following the others to general population. "follow me."

He grabs my bicep and drags me down the corridor, through a set of double doors, and down another corridor before stopping. "This is where we keep the death row prisoners."

I look around as we walk deeper into the corridor, noticing that some cells have one prisoner and others have two. "Will I have to share my cell?"

The guard shakes his head. "Most do, some don't. You were going to have to, but your father pulled strings to get you one by yourself."

We stop walking in front of an open cell and he gestures for me to enter. Once I enter and turn around, he calls for the door to shut and it slowly starts to wind closed seconds later. "Now," He starts talking once more. "you are guaranteed one hour of recreation time. Other than that, you'll be locked your cell. Meals will be delivered and you are allowed visitors, yet you can only see them during rec time."

"My father said something about getting me a notebook so that I can write my story. Do you know anything about that?"

He shakes his head. "No, I don't. But if he managed to get them for you, someone will bring it to you in a few hours or it is already in your cell."

"Thank you." I murmur as I watch him nod and walk away before I back away from the door and turn around.

I take in the small, yet kind of spacious, cell. A bed rests up against the left wall, a toilet and sink against the right wall, and a desk sits against the wall in front of me. "Home sweet home." I mutter as I move to sit on the bed but stop mid-step as something on the desk catches my eye. I turn and walk towards it. Seeing a singular leather-bound notebook in the middle of the desk, I pull the chair out and sit down before opening it and grabbing a pen. I take a deep breath and slowly exhale as I try to think of where to start. The beginning would be nice. The small voice in the back of my head speaks up and I nod as I uncap the pen and put it to the paper.

Six months ago - January 11th, 2019

"You didn't have to come, you know." My brother mumbles as he and I follow our father.

"Yeah, well, it beats staying home all day." I reply. Which is true the university I study at had to close down for two weeks so it can be fumigated and so the administration can figure out what they are going to do about the mold in the walls.

"You never said why you came home from college when it is not spring break or Thanksgiving break."

"It had to be fumigated and by that, I mean the entire campus."

A silence falls over us as we follow our father into Rollins Bar & Grill, where we find the owner sitting in a booth. I watch as my father and brother slide into the seat opposite of the man, leaving me to stand off to the side. I tap my hand against my thigh, a silent gesture to let my brother know that I am going to step away, before turning and walk towards the bar. I take a seat and clasp my hands on top of the bar.

"Can I get you anything?" A semi-deep Australian voice asks from behind me and I jump slightly before turning around to face the owner of the voice.

"Yeah," I reply as I take in the man's curly red-orange hair, his soft dark-brown eyes, and his 5'11 stature. "I'll have a water, please."

He nods as he walks around the bar and grabs a glass, filling it with ice and water. Sliding the glass across the bar, he does the same with the straw and he leans against it. "I'm Buddy, but my boss and co-workers call me Murphy."

"I'm Aalyah." I reply as I reach over and shake his hand.

"I saw you come in with those two guys that are sitting over there with Rollins. How do you know them?" He asks, his voice soft and low.

"They're my brother and father, only family I have left." I reply just as softly as I unwrap the straw and stick it into my drink before taking a sip.

He nods. "The only people that I could classify as family are my co-workers and my boss."

Murphy and I make small talk for about ten to fifteen more minutes before the sound of people rising to their feet and walking towards us fills the air. I glance up at my father and brother before taking another sip of my water. "We're leaving already?" I ask as I glance at Murphy before looking up at my father who nods.

"Yes, we've gotten all the information we needed at the moment."

"You guys go on ahead, I want to finish up my water." I gesture with my left hand to the almost empty glass. My brother reaches up and squeezes my shoulder as they pass, which is another silent gesture meaning that he knows what I'm doing. I take a small sip as I watch them exit the bar.

"Murphy, can you lock up once she leaves? I've got to get home." Rollins asks as he walks towards the back room.

Murphy nods at his bosses words. "Yeah, I can." He turns his attention back to me after watching his boss leave. "You clearly wanted to talk to me about something without the others around. What is it?"

"This maybe coming off a little bit too strong, and feel free to tell me if it is, but I really enjoyed talking to you and I want to get to know you. Can I give you my number?" I ask as I grab a napkin and quickly scribble down my number before sliding it back across the bar.

He nods as he takes the napkin and folds it up, sticking it in his front pocket. "You were not coming off too strong, although I fear I am about to. Can I take you out to dinner tonight? I also really enjoyed talking to you and I want to know more about you." He asks, hopefulness lacing his words and mixing with his accent, as he reaches over and rests his hand on top of mine.

I nod as a blush takes up residence on my cheeks. "I'd like that. Just text me the time and I'll be ready."

He flashes me a smile as he removes his hand from on top of mine and watches as I hop down from the stool. "See you later, Aalyah."

"See you tonight, Murphy." I flash him a smile over my shoulder as I glance at him one last time, a smile hidden beneath his beard, before exiting the bar and heading to meet my father and brother.

"There you are." My brother exclaims as soon as he catches sight of me. "What took you so long?"

"Murphy and I were finishing our conversation." I grumble as I open the back door and climb in, shutting the door behind me and pulling out my phone.

Setting it in my lap, I put on my seatbelt as the two of them climb into the front seat. I look out the window as my father starts the car and begins to slowly drive. I wave at Murphy who walks out of the bar, probably having just locked up the place. He waves back and flashes me a smile as he turns the corner and disappears from my line of sight. I turn back towards the front as I rest my elbows on my knees. "So. what now?"

"Your brother and I have to go into the station and continue our investigation so I'll drop you off at the house and leave you money for pizza or something as it might be another late night."

"You don't have to leave money," I reply way too quickly and my brother notices as he raises his eyebrows at me. "I'm just going to go over to one of my friend's house, if that's okay?"

My father nods as he turns on to the main road. "Yes, but please be careful."

I duck my head quickly as I roll my eyes before I raise my head back up and nod. "I always am, father. You don't have to worry about that."

His eyes meet mine in the rear-view mirror. "I am your father, it is my job to worry."

"Yes, I know that. But there is a really, really thin line between worrying and being very over-protective. And you have been skating on that line for years now. Like seriously, I am nineteen years old, I can do what I want." I practically hiss through clenched teeth as I stare out the window. My phone vibrates in my lap and I grab it instantly, opening it.

I don't know what type of food you like but I was thinking Italian.

A smile makes its way to my face as I begin replying. Italian sounds great. What restaurant are we going to?

His reply is almost instant. Actually, I was thinking about picking up ingredients and just make dinner at my place. If that's okay with you? I was just thinking about how easier it would be since you wouldn't have to explain it to your brother or father if they were to catch us at dinner.

My smiles widens at his careful consideration all throughout his typed words. That seems perfect. I'll text you after my brother and father drop me off at my house.

"Isn't there supposed to be a massive snow storm coming at some point this weekend?" My brother asks just as I lock my phone and drop it back into my lap.

"Snow storm? What snow storm?" I demand as I sit forward and rest my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands.

"I heard they were calling for snow but I don't know how mad it's going to be."

"You might be stuck at your friend's house for a few days depending on how bad it's going to be." My father tells me as he pulls up outside of the house.

I nod as I unbuckle my seatbelt and I grab my phone in my hand. Opening the door I turn and look at both of them. "I'll text you tonight and let you know if I decided to stay the night or if I decided to come back to the house."

"Be careful." My father warns as I step out of the car.

"I will, dad. I love you both." I don't wait for them to respond, I just shut the door and walk up the sidewalk towards the house.

I open the door to the house and step through, shutting it and locking the deadbolt as the sound of my father's car speeding off fills the air. I kick off my shoes and put them on the shoe rack before turning and walking up the stairs. I push open the door to my room and pad over to my desk before taking a seat and opening my computer. I log on to my school's portal and a sigh tumbles past my lips as my eyes scan over the long list of assignments that I have to have done by the end of next week. I grab my phone and open it, pulling up my conversation with Murphy and beginning to draft a message.

I know I said that we could have dinner tonight and I'm pretty sure you've already bought the ingredients but I have so much classwork I have to get done. Is it okay if we reschedule? I skim over the message, checking for any errors, before I click send and a few seconds later, I quickly add, I really want to have dinner with you, Murphy, and get to know you, so please don't think that I'm just using that as an excuse to not hang out with you.

I set my phone back down on the desk before rising to my feet and walking over to my dresser where I pull out a baggy shirt, a pair of sweatpants, a sports bra and a pair of underwear. My phone vibrates on my desk and I drop the clothes on to my before I cross the room and grab my phone.

It was a message from Murphy. It's alright, Aalyah, and I actually haven't gone to get the ingredients. I was on the way to get them when Rollins called and asked if I would do inventory tonight instead of next Friday. So it really works out, don't worry about it.

A small smile invades my face as my eyes scan the words and think of a response. Yeah, I guess it does work out that way. But why didn't he ask you to do the inventory earlier before you locked up for the day?

I send the message and slide the phone into my back pocket before grabbing my clothes and exiting the room. Padding across the hallway, I enter the bathroom and turn on the light before shutting the door and setting my clothes down on the towel holder. My phone vibrates once again as I grab the rag I use to clean the make up off of my face. I wipe my face clean of make up and pull my hair from its messy bun before rinsing out the rag and hanging it up on the hook. I pull my phone from my pocket and open it. Because he's an asshole.