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    Ronyx
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Down a Darkened Path - 13. Chapter 13

Claire grabbed Allison’s hand and pulled her towards the door. “We’ll try to catch him.”

 

She couldn’t understand Troy’s outburst when he heard Jayden’s voice. They seemed to have been getting along so well the day before. Earlier in the day, Jayden had walked blindfolded around the mall just so he could experience what Troy was feeling.

 

Now, he was gone. She pulled Allison frantically down the hallway and to the elevator. “What just happened back there?” Allison asked as they waited for the elevator to open.

 

“I don’t know,” Claire responded worriedly. “I’ve never seen Troy so upset. He’s been moody recently, but that’s the first time he’s shown rage. And poor Jayden. I don’t even know what he did to deserve it.” The elevator door opened and they entered. Claire pushed the down button a dozen times in an attempt to close the door so they could resume their search for Jayden.

 

Back in Troy’s room, his parents and Penny were extremely upset with Troy’s behavior. When they tried to question him why he had shouted at Jayden, he remained quiet in his bed with the sheet pulled over his head.

 

Penny paced back and forth, occasionally looking down at Troy’s hidden body. Suddenly, she stopped before her parents and asked, “Would you mind going down to the cafeteria for a little while?”

 

Mr. Neal rose and stood before her. “Why?”

 

Penny looked down angrily at her brother. “I have some things I want to say to Troy, and I don’t want to say them with you here.”

 

“Penny, don’t,” pleaded her mother as she stood and took her arm. “Troy’s been through enough.”

 

“Please, Mother?”

 

Mr. Neal grabbed his wife’s arm and led her to the door.  “Let’s go, Sheila,” he said calmly. Troy’s mother looked worriedly at Penny as they left the room.

 

She continued to pace around the room, occasionally stopping and looking out the window. She knew if she started talking while she was upset, she may say some things she would later regret. She had stood by for days and watched as Troy experienced mood changes, and she could understand them. But she would not tolerate him attacking Jayden. Jayden had lost everything as a result of helping her brother, and she didn’t want to see him hurt.

 

She walked over and yanked the sheet from Troy’s face. He attempted to pull it back, but she held it firmly. “Sit up!” she ordered.

“Leave me alone, Penny!” he mumbled as he rolled over away from her.

 

“What is wrong with you?” She walked around to the other side of the bed. “Why are you acting like a complete jackass?”

“Fuck you!” Troy sat up and shouted at his sister. “Fuck all of you!”

 

“Why?” Penny grabbed his shoulders and gently shook him. “Why are you acting like this?”

 

“Like anybody cares,” he responded sadly.

 

She reached out and attempted to hug him. “We love you, Troy.” He pushed her away and lay his head back on the pillow.

 

“Yeah, right,” he remarked sarcastically. “Poor Troy. Poor blind Troy.”

She grabbed his shoulders and shook him more forcefully. “Stop it, Troy!” He rolled over and turned his back to her. She walked over and stood staring out the window. When she felt she could talk without getting upset, she walked back over to the side of the bed.

 

“What did Jayden do to you?” She became confused when he started laughing into his pillow.

 

“Keep poor Troy in the dark.” He sat up and looked in Penny’s direction. “In the dark, get it?”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“When did you plan to tell me?”

 

“Tell you about what?”

 

“Jayden.”

 

“What about Jayden?”

 

Troy reached up and yanked the wrapping from his eyes. “About this!” he screamed. “That it was his cousins who did this to me!” Penny turned away and walked over to the window. She realized that they had been wrong by not telling Troy sooner about Jayden’s cousins. She walked back over to the side of the bed.

 

“Who told you?”
 

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied angrily. “I want to know why no one told me.”

 

She attempted to hold his hand, but he yanked it away. “We were trying to protect you.”

“Protect me?” Troy sat up and started laughing. “Protect me from what? The truth?”

 

Penny reached for his hand and held it firmly. She refused to let him pull it away. “You’ve had enough to deal with. It’s only been the last couple of days that you’ve started talking. We weren’t hiding it from you.” She squeezed his hand tighter. “We were just waiting for a good time to tell you.”

 

Troy remained silent. He kept his face turned from Penny, but he let her continue to hold his hand. There were a lot of unanswered questions, and he was waiting for her to tell him.

 

“You want the truth?” She grabbed his shoulders and turned him toward her. “Then I’ll give you the truth.” Troy pulled away and lay his head back on the bed.

 

“You’re right,” she said. “It was Jayden’s cousins who hurt you.” She squeezed his hand tightly. “But you have to believe me, Jayden wasn’t involved. He was standing at his bedroom window and saw you collapse on the street. He’s the one who called 911. He then went outside and held you in his lap until the ambulance arrived.”

 

Troy remembered back to that night. He remembered stumbling blindly down the street and begging for help. He could recall someone grab him and put his head in their lap. The stranger had tried to calm him while gently stroking the side of his face. It was the last thing he remembered before darkness overcame him that night. He now knew that someone was Jayden. He understood why his parents and sister took such an interest in him.

 

His sister squeezed his hand gently and continued, “He’s lost a lot since that night, Troy. He testified to the grand jury about his cousins. His aunt kicked him out of her home. He had nowhere to go, so Mom and Dad have let him stay in the downstairs bedroom until he graduates from school. You’re not the only person whose life changed that night.” She kissed Troy’s forehead, walked over to the window and stared out onto the parking lot below. She wiped away the tears that had fallen unnoticed from her cheek.

 

“Penny?” Troy sat up and whispered softly.

 

“Yes, Troy?”

 

“Thanks.” He sighed, lay his head back and appeared to fall asleep.

 

                                                                                                                          ********

 

“Where did he go?” Claire was standing out front of the hospital scanning the sidewalk. She didn’t see Jayden anywhere.

 

“Maybe he went to the cafeteria,” suggested Allison. Claire turned back towards the hospital door and hurried through the corridors. She scanned the cafeteria, but she didn’t see him anywhere.

 

“Let’s go get my car,” suggested Allison. “We’ll drive around and see if we can find him.”

 

They drove south for several blocks but didn’t see him. Allison circled the block, hoping he had walked in the opposite direction.

 

“Where the hell is he!” Claire shouted as they drove several blocks. “He couldn’t have walked this far.”

 

“Let’s head over to the Neal home,” suggested Allison. “He may have gone back there.” She reached over and held Claire’s hand as they turned around and headed toward Troy’s house.

 

Jayden stepped out from the alley and watched Allison’s car disappear in the distance. He felt guilty because he could see the anxious look on Claire’s face when they circled around the street. However, he was too upset to talk to anyone.

 

It’s my life, he thought. There is never a clear direction. All I do is wander down one dark path and then another. My life is a maze of uncertainty. Nothing ever changes.

 

He had been feeling hopeful the past few days at the Neal home. They had taken him in unconditionally. The only request they made was that he graduate. He had become comfortable in his new surroundings, and felt that he finally had found some place he could call home. But as he had become accustomed the past two years, things could change suddenly.

 

He didn’t understand Troy’s outburst. “Get him out of my room!” The words echoed in his ears. And they hurt. He was becoming emotionally drawn to Troy. He couldn’t explain it, and he didn’t try. He only knew that when he was with him things seemed to fit. Even his family and close friends had accepted him as someone they had known for a long time. Things sometimes happen, he would tell himself. Maybe it was time for my life to change for the better. But now, it was another dark path leading to nowhere.

 

“Get him out of my room!” Why? What had happened between yesterday and today to make him scream at me? The day before we had connected in the hallway. It appeared that he had accepted me, almost found comfort in my presence. What had happened?
 

Jayden walked aimlessly around the streets as he tried to figure out what he had done wrong. Before he knew where he was going, he found himself at the entrance of the hospital. He stood staring at the automatic doors as they opened and several people walked out. One man rudely bumped his shoulder. “Watch it, Buddy!” he shouted. “Are you blind?” Jayden turned and looked blankly at him without responding.

 

He walked into the hospital waiting room and sat down in a chair. He looked at the clock. It was almost eight. Visiting hours would be over soon. He waited until he saw Troy’s parents and Penny walk past the door. He held up a magazine to his face so they wouldn’t see him. A few minutes later, he walked to the elevator and headed to the fourth floor.

 

The room was dark when he entered. Only a small light from the bathroom illuminated the room. Troy was lying on his side with his back turned away from the door. When he didn’t stir, Jayden walked over and sat down in a chair. He stared at the motionless body for about fifteen minutes until Troy suddenly began to thrash around in bed.

 

“Don’t!” he screamed. “Don’t hurt me!” He threw his hands up to his face as if he was trying to prevent someone from hitting him. “No! Don’t!” he screamed louder. Jayden was getting up from his seat when Troy sat up in bed. He had a panicked look on his face.

 

Jayden sat down on the side of the bed and took Troy in his arms. “Shhh,” he said soothingly. “It’s all right,” he assured him. “You’re safe. I’ve got you.” He remembered a Saturday night a week earlier in which he took a beaten boy into his arms and tried to comfort him.

 

He rocked Troy gently when he tried to pull away in panic. “It’s okay, Troy,” he said softly as he continued to rock him. “No one’s going to hurt you.”

 

Troy threw his arms around Jayden’s waist and held him tightly. “I’m scared!” he cried.

 

“I know,” Jayden responded as he ran his hand over Troy’s face and wiped the tears away. “You’re safe now, though.” He rocked Troy for several minutes until he could feel his body start to relax. He tried to have him lie back, but Troy refused to let go of him.

 

“Hold me, please.” he begged. “I don’t want you to go.” He buried his head into Jayden’s shoulders and trembled. Jayden tightened his arms around him and rocked him.

 

“Do you want me to call your parents?” he asked after Troy seemed to settle down. He could feel Troy shake his head against his neck. A minute later, Troy pushed away and lay his head against the pillow. He reached out and attempted to find Jayden’s hand. When he felt it, he took it in his and held it tightly.

 

“Are you all right?” Jayden ran his hand against the side of Troy’s face.

 

“I hate these nightmares,” he replied. “This one was really bad.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Jayden said softly. He knew his cousins were the cause of all Troy’s problems. He knew there was nothing he could do to change things, but he felt it was something he had to say.

 

Troy lay quietly for several minutes. He appeared to be asleep, but his hand kept squeezing Jayden’s occasionally. Jayden took his other hand and cupped it around Troy’s. Without thinking, he leaned in and kissed Troy’s forehead.

 

“Thanks,” Troy whispered softly.

 

“For what?”

 

“Coming back.”

 

Jayden became filled with emotion. He thought that maybe, just maybe, the dark path was going to lead somewhere this time. He leaned down and once again kissed Troy’s forehead. He listened as Troy sighed. A minute later, his body relaxed as he fell asleep. Jayden rose from the bed and sat back in the chair. He watched Troy in the darkened room as he slept peacefully.

 

                                                                                                                      ********

 

“Where have you been?” Claire jumped up from the school step when she saw Jayden walking toward the school. She ran up and embraced him tightly. “We’ve been worried sick about you. Mr. Neal drove the streets all night looking for you.”

 

Jayden began to feel guilty. He thought that since he spent the night with Troy, no one would be looking for him. He hadn’t thought to use Troy’s room phone and let them know he was all right.

 

“I spent the night with Troy.” He laughed when Claire stepped back and gave him an astonished look.

 

“What? Where? When?” He started to laugh louder.

 

“Slow down,” he laughed as he took her hand and led her up the steps. “We’re going to be late if we don’t move it.”

“Wait!” She grabbed his arm and turned him toward her. “You can’t just say you spent the night with Troy and leave it like that. After the way he shouted at you, we thought you might have run away.”

 

“It crossed my mind,” he admitted. “I walked around for a long time. Somehow I ended up back at the hospital.” He grabbed her hand and started walking.

 

“Wait!” She stopped again. “And?”

 

“And what?” He teased. He was enjoying the confused look on Claire’s face.

 

“Would you stop it!” She hit him gently on the arm. “Be serious, Jayden. What happened when you went back?”

 

“I don’t know,” he replied. “We just kind of made up, I suppose.”

 

“He wasn’t upset?”

 

“When I got there he was asleep,” he explained. “I sat down and closed my eyes. Then, he had a nightmare.”

“Nightmare?”

“Yeah, a bad one.”

“And?”

 

“And I held him.”

 

“Held him?”

“Yeah, he asked me to hold him, so I did.”

 

“That’s it?”

 

“Yes,” he said as he took her hand and led her to her first period. “I held him. I guess we kind of made up.” She looked up at Jayden and stopped. She then stood on her tip toes and gave him a kiss on his cheek.

 

“What was that for?”

 

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just felt like doing it.”

 

“I know what you mean,” he grinned. He remembered kissing Troy on his forehead the night before because he ‘felt like doing it.’

 

                                                                                                                       ********

 

“Anthony!”

 

Jarvis ran across the lobby of the police station when Anthony and Tyrone came strolling from behind the barred door.

 

“Hey Little Man,” replied Anthony as he knelt and hugged his younger brother. He stepped back and gave him an angry look when he noticed that he was crying.

 

“Hey, Boy!” he said angrily. “Wipe your eyes clean. You got to toughen up.” He grabbed him playfully around the waist. “Real men don’t cry.” He then noticed his aunt standing off to the side with Tyrone.

“Auntie!” He walked over and gave her a hug. “I told you not to worry none. My boys got us out.”

 

Just an hour earlier, three of his neighborhood friends had come in and made bail for them. It had taken a few days to gather enough money, but now Anthony and Tyrone were free until they had to appear at trial.

 

He threw his arm around his aunt and headed for the door. “Man, I can’t wait for a real home cooked meal.”

 

She looked up at him and smiled. “How does barbequed chicken, potato salad and coleslaw sound?”

 

“Mmm, mmm,” he replied. “Let’s hit the road. I’m starving.”

 

They found his blue van in a parking area behind the station. While he was behind bars, his friends had gone to the police impound and gotten it out. Since it had been searched for evidence, the police had signed it back over to his aunt. His friends had earlier in the day brought it down for him to use when he and his brother were released.

 

Jarvis was riding in the back seat with his aunt. He caught Anthony’s attention in the rearview mirror and grinned. “Did you bend over and pick up the soap?” He stopped laughing when Tyrone turned and scowled at him.

 

“None of that gay shit, Little Bro!” he warned. “Got it?” Jarvis hung his head and nodded.

 

“Speaking of gay,” he turned and looked at his aunt. “Where’s that faggot cousin of ours? We got some unfinished business to take care of.”

 

“In hell!” Jarvis shouted. His aunt smacked him lightly on his arm.

 

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I haven’t seen him since I kicked him out of the house.”

 

“That mother fucker is mine,” Tyrone hissed. “My boys told me he snitched on us to the cops.”

 

Anthony spoke for the first time. “We’ve got some guys looking for him. Some guy who goes to his school heard he could be staying with that white boy we roughed up.”

 

“What are you going to do?” Jarvis asked excitedly. He still hated Jayden for what he had done to his brothers.

 

Tyron turned and gave him a concerned look. “Sometimes it’s best that you don’t know certain things, Little Bro.” He looked over at Anthony. “Just let us take care of it.”

 

“I hope you fuck him up,” spat Jarvis. He jumped when his aunt slapped him on his arm.

 

“Watch your language,” she warned.

 

“Anthony and Ty say fuck all the time.” They laughed when he shouted again as his aunt slapped his arm.

 

                                                                                                           ********

 

Claire pulled up to the hospital entrance and let Jayden off. “I’ll be back in about an hour. I have to go pick up Allison.”

 

“That’s going to take an hour?” Jayden wiggled his eyebrows. He started laughing when Claire’s face started to redden.

 

“Shut up,” she giggled. “It’s been a week since we’ve spent some quality time together.”

 

“Quality time, huh?” Jayden smiled. “So that’s what they call it now?” Claire’s face reddened deeper as she flipped him off and drove away.

 

When he entered Troy’s room, the curtain was drawn back and the sun was shining in. It was the first time Jayden could remember it being so bright.

 

“Who is it?” Troy sat up in bed and looked in the direction of the door.

 

“Jayden.” He walked over and took Troy’s hand and held it. “Where’s your mother?”

 

“She left to go run some errands.” He squeezed Jayden’s hand. “Are you alone?”

 

“Yeah,” he replied. “Why?”

 

He smiled when he saw Troy begin to blush. “You got to help me out,” he said nervously.

 

“Yeah, sure,” Jayden replied. “What do you want me to do?” He waited for Troy to ask him to help him to the bathroom or to get him a glass of water. He wasn’t prepared for what Troy asked next.

 

“I got a problem,” he stammered. “Promise not to laugh?”

“Yeah, sure.” He gave Troy a puzzled look.

 

“Look.” Troy lifted the sheet and showed an erection poking through his pajamas. Jayden stepped back and started laughing.

 

Troy sulked, “You promised me you wouldn’t laugh.”

 

“Okay,” Jayden apologized. “What do you want me to do?”

 

“I’ve been hard all day,” he explained. “I need to jack off, but I’m afraid Mom or a nurse will walk in and catch me.”

 

“Okay,” Jayden grinned, but he didn’t laugh. Since he was the same age as Troy, he could empathize with his situation. He often felt the same way at his aunt’s house when he would masturbate. He was always afraid someone would walk in and catch him.

 

“Can you stand by the door and let me know if anyone comes?”

Jayden started laughing. “Sounds like you’re the one who’s going to be cumming.”

 

“Come on, Jayden!” he said anxiously. “Get serious. I got to do this now before Mom comes back.”

 

“Wait a minute.” Jayden walked into the bathroom and got a wad of toilet paper. He returned and put it in Troy’s hand. “Cum in this.” Troy nodded his head. “I’ll keep an eye out. I’ll knock twice on the door if anyone comes.” He again started laughing. “I’ll knock once when you do.”

 

“Smart ass,” laughed Troy. He pulled down his pajama bottoms to his knees, leaving him completely exposed. The head was bright red and swollen. Jayden knew it wouldn’t take him long to reach a climax. For a second, he felt like reaching out and doing it for Troy.

 

Jayden hadn’t reached the door before Troy took his cock and started to feverishly stroke it. He opened the door and poked his head out. He scanned the hall and then looked back and watched as Troy continued to masturbate. He could feel his own cock hardening and wished that he could join him.

 

After about three minutes, Troy moaned and arched his back. Jayden watched as volleys of cum shot out onto his chest. He couldn’t believe the amount of cum that exploded from his reddened cock. When Troy lay back and tried to catch his breath, Jayden knocked on the door once and started laughing.

 

“Damn!” Troy shouted. “I forgot to cum in the toilet paper.” He ran his hand over his stomach. “I’ve got this shit everywhere.”

 

Jayden scanned the hallway quickly, and then he walked over and took a towel lying on the nearby sink. “I’m going to wipe this off you,” he informed Troy as he began to wipe his cum soaked body. “Damn, dude,” he laughed. “No wonder you had to get off.”

 

“I told you.” Troy’s face started to redden. “This is so embarrassing.”

“Don’t worry,” Jayden assured him. “I liked the show.” He took Troy’s hand and ran it across his erection. “See.”

 

“Damn!” Troy ran his hand up and down Jayden’s erect cock. Jayden continued to wipe the cum from Troy’s body. When he ran the towel over Troy’s cock, he arched his back and came a second time.

 

“Unnggg!” he moaned again. Jayden quickly cleaned his body and stepped away. He was afraid that someone might enter and catch them. Troy pulled up his pajamas and covered himself with the sheet. He then reached out and searched for Jayden’s hand.

“Thanks,” he said as he squeezed Jayden’s hand tightly.

 

“Any time,” Jayden laughed. Just then the door opened and Mrs. Neal walked in. They released their hands, but not before she saw them.

 

“Are you boys enjoying yourselves?” She gave them a puzzled look when they started laughing.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading! I appreciate all the wonderful comments.  -Ron

Copyright © 2009 by Ronyx All Rights Reserved
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Chapter Comments

A hopeful turn for Troy, yes, but a disturbing and ominous one for Jayden. The Prosecutor and the Judge seem to be incompetent to have allowed Anthony and Tyrone a low enough bail that they were released. There appears to have been no consideration for Jayden’s safety!

 

Between the Judge, the Prosecutor, and the detective, it’s amazing crime isn’t rampant in their town! Their ineptitude must allow many witnesses to be murdered before trials occur. Are they taking brides or are they just bad at their jobs? Someone call in the state or the Feds to fix the local ‘judicial’ system!

Edited by droughtquake
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Wow! The first half of the chapter was a rough one. Happy that Penny told Troy what he needed to hear without coddling him. He needed that. Troy's nightmare and Jayden being there to hold him brought tears to my eyes. Glad they made up. Really enjoyed  the end of the chapter! 😉 

     I don't understand how they could let two thugs accused of attempted murder out of jail?? I don't have words to express what a horrible person jayden's aunt is! I hope Jayden and the Neal's at least get a heads up that they're out of jail. What a shitty justice system this community has!

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Since the cousins are out on bail, shouldn't the police be concerned about their witness? On a positive note, maybe Troy has made some steps forward in his recovery. More good story. Thanks.

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@Wesley8890 @jaysalmn Jayden's aunt has some very real world reasons for acting the way she does. They may not be understandable to others not in her situations and probably difficult to justify even for her, but she is the one who has been struggling to raise three sons and was forced to take in her nephew. She resents what she perceives was Jayden’s privileged upbringing and the burden he represents. Jayden’s cousins were providing his aunt with much needed income and other resources (like driving her to the store). She sees her sons as ‘earning’ money in the only way possible given their circumstances. She sees Jayden as an outsider who judges her and her family and finds them wanting.

 

Jayden’s aunt has made a series of compromises throughout her life that help justify, in her mind, the actions of her older sons. Jayden broke the Don't Snitch Code and needs to be punished. That he snitched on his own family means the punishment needs to be even more severe.

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20 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

@Wesley8890 @jaysalmn Jayden's aunt has some very real world reasons for acting the way she does. They may not be understandable to others not in her situations and probably difficult to justify even for her, but she is the one who has been struggling to raise three sons and was forced to take in her nephew. She resents what she perceives was Jayden’s privileged upbringing and the burden he represents. Jayden’s cousins were providing his aunt with much needed income and other resources (like driving her to the store). She sees her sons as ‘earning’ money in the only way possible given their circumstances. She sees Jayden as an outsider who judges her and her family ad finds them wanting.

 

Jayden’s aunt has made a series of compromises throughout her life that help justify, in her mind, the actions of her older sons. Jayden broke the Don't Snitch Code and needs to be punished. That he snitched on his own family means the punishment needs to be even more severe.

Okay I can see that. That's my problem I don't look at it from both sides like that. I've often accused people of not getting the whole picture when I didn't this time. I still don't think she's right, but I can see her position much clearer now

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3 hours ago, droughtquake said:

@Wesley8890 @jaysalmn Jayden's aunt has some very real world reasons for acting the way she does. They may not be understandable to others not in her situations and probably difficult to justify even for her, but she is the one who has been struggling to raise three sons and was forced to take in her nephew. She resents what she perceives was Jayden’s privileged upbringing and the burden he represents. Jayden’s cousins were providing his aunt with much needed income and other resources (like driving her to the store). She sees her sons as ‘earning’ money in the only way possible given their circumstances. She sees Jayden as an outsider who judges her and her family and finds them wanting.

 

Jayden’s aunt has made a series of compromises throughout her life that help justify, in her mind, the actions of her older sons. Jayden broke the Don't Snitch Code and needs to be punished. That he snitched on his own family means the punishment needs to be even more severe.

I totally agree with u. I totally get it.  Still makes her a horrible person.

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Awesome job on the story, love the fact Troy is actually falling for Jayden. Looking forward to the next chapter.

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On 8/22/2017 at 1:31 AM, JeffreyL said:

Since the cousins are out on bail, shouldn't the police be concerned about their witness? On a positive note, maybe Troy has made some steps forward in his recovery. More good story. Thanks.

@JeffreyLThat's EXACTLY what I was going to say! Don't the police HAVE TO TELL Jayden and the Neals that Jayden's psycho cousins are out on bail?

 

And I ditto everyone who said their justice system sucks! How the hell can they be out on bail? Obviously, it wasn't set high enough. They should have never gotten out.

@droughtquake I can see what you mean about Jayden's aunt. She enabled her sons to do whatever they wanted as long as they brought in the money. There were never any consequences for their actions. I would say she's guilty also for what her sons did to Troy. She raised those monsters.

 

Excellent chapter, Ron. :)

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5 minutes ago, Lisa said:

I can see what you mean about Jayden's aunt. She enabled her sons to do whatever they wanted as long as they brought in the money. There were never any consequences for their actions. I would say she's guilty also for what her sons did to Troy. She raised those monsters.

I do want to point out that Jayden’s Aunt does not exist in isolation. Jayden’s cousins heard the messages repeated and amplified by their friends and mentors as well as the music they listen to and the movies they choose to watch. Basically, every possible direct influence on them other than teachers who they probably mistrust tells them the same thing.

 

Authorities don’t have much credibility in the hood. The police are often rightly seen as antagonists who indiscriminately target People of Color. City officials are seen as ignoring the very real problems that exist (like extreme unemployment; lack of infrastructure maintenance; non-compliance with housing and other regulations; ignoring the dumping of mattresses, sofas, and hazardous waste; homeless encampments; and other signs of neglect and poverty) or attempt heavy-handed, top-down ‘solutions’ that don’t address real-world problems.

 

 

If Jayden’s Aunt and cousins were able to get some of the few jobs that they qualify for and exist within a realistic distance of their home, they’d probably have to work three or more minimum wage, part-time jobs with no benefits. They’d be running ragged, sleep-deprived, trying to deal with their 60-80 hour work weeks. The alternatives aren’t legal, but much more lucrative, more prestigious especially in the eyes of their peers, and much less time-consuming.

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