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The Hate U Give: Part 5 – Chapter 26


It’s around eleven the next morning, and I’m still in bed. After the longest night ever I had to seriously get reacquainted with my pillow.

My mom flicks on the lights in my new room—good Lord, it’s too many lights in here. “Starr, your partner in crime is on the phone,” she says.

“Who?” I mumble.

“Your protest partner in crime. Momma told me she saw her hand you that bullhorn on TV. Putting you in danger like that.”

“But she didn’t mean to put me in—”

“Oh, I’ve dealt with her already, don’t worry. Here. She wants to apologize to you.”

Ms. Ofrah does apologize for putting me in a bad situation and for the way things turned out with Khalil, but she says she’s proud of me.

She also says she thinks I have a future in activism.

Momma leaves with the phone, and I turn onto my side. Tupac stares back at me from a poster, a smirk on his face. The Thug Life tattoo on his stomach looks bolder than the rest of the photo. It was the first thing I put in my new room. Kinda like bringing Khalil with me.

He said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.” We did all that stuff last night because we were pissed, and it fucked all of us. Now we have to somehow un-fuck everybody.

I sit up and grab my phone off my nightstand. There are texts from Maya, who saw me on the news and thinks I’m dope personified, and texts from Chris. His parents grounded him, but he says it was so worth it. It really was.

There’s another text. From Hailey, of all people. Two simple words:

I’m sorry.

Not what I expected; not that I expected to get anything from her; not that I even wanna deal with her. This is the first time she’s spoken to me since our fight. I’m not complaining. She’s been nonexistent to me too. I respond anyway.

Sorry for what?

I’m not being petty. Petty would be saying, “New number, who dis?” There’s a damn near endless list of things she could be apologizing for.

About the decision, she says.

And that you’re upset with me.

Haven’t been myself lately.

Just want everything to be how it used to be.

The sympathy for the case is nice, but she’s sorry I’m upset? That’s not the same as apologizing for her actions or the garbage she said. She’s sorry I reacted the way I did.

Oddly enough, I needed to know that.

You see, it’s like my mom said—if the good outweighs the bad, I should keep Hailey as a friend. There’s a shit ton of bad now, an overload of bad. I hate to admit that a teeny-tiny part of me hoped Hailey would see how wrong she was, but she hasn’t. She may not ever see that.

And you know what? That’s fine. Okay, maybe not fine, because it makes her a shitty-ass person, but I don’t have to wait around for her to change. I can let go. I reply:

Things will never be the way they used to be.

I hit send, wait for the text to go through, and delete the conversation. I delete Hailey’s number from my phone too.

I stretch and yawn as I creep down the hall. The layout of our new house is way different than our old one, but I think I can get used to it.

Daddy clips some roses at the kitchen counter. Next to him Sekani inhales a sandwich, and Brickz stands on his hind legs with his paws on Sekani’s lap. He watches the sandwich the same way he watches a squirrel.

Momma flips switches on the wall. One causes a grinding noise in the sink, and another turns the lights off and on.

“Too many switches,” she mumbles, and notices me. “Oh look, Maverick. It’s our li’l revolutionary.”

Brickz scuttles over to me and jumps up my legs, tongue wagging.

“Morning,” I tell him, and scratch behind his ears. He gets down and returns to Sekani and the sandwich.

“Do me a favor, Starr,” Seven says, searching through a box that has “Kitchen Stuff” written on it in my handwriting. “Next time, be more specific about what type of kitchen stuff is in the box. I’ve gone through three, trying to find plates.”

I climb onto a stool at the counter. “Lazy butt, isn’t that what paper towels are for?”

Seven narrows his eyes. “Hey, Pops, guess where I picked Starr up from yester—”

“The plates are in the bottom of that box,” I say.

“Thought so.”

My middle finger wants to extend so bad.

Daddy says, “You bet’ not have been at that boy’s house, I know that.”

I force a smile. “No. Of course not.”

I’m gonna kill Seven.

Daddy sucks his teeth. “Uh-huh.” He goes back to work on his roses. An entire bush lies on the counter. The roses are dry, and some of the petals have fallen off. Daddy sets the bush in a clay pot and pours dirt over the roots.

“Will they be all right?” I ask.

“Yeah. A li’l damaged, but alive. I’m gon’ try something different with them. Putting them in new soil can be like hitting a reset button.”

“Starr,” Sekani says, mouth full of wet bread and meat. Nasty. “You’re in the newspaper.”

“Stop talking with your mouth full, boy!” Momma scolds.

Daddy nods toward the newspaper on the counter. “Yeah. Check it out, Li’l Black Panther.”

I’m on the front page. The photographer caught me mid-throw. The can of tear gas smokes in my hand. The headline reads “The Witness Fights Back.”

Momma rests her chin on my shoulder. “They’ve discussed you on every news show this morning. Your nana calls every five minutes, telling us a new channel to watch.” She kisses my cheek. “I know you better not scare me like that again.”

“I won’t. What are they saying on the news?”

“They calling you brave,” Daddy says. “But you know, that one network gotta complain, saying you put them cops in danger.”

“I didn’t have a problem with those cops. I had a problem with that tear gas can, and they threw it first.”

“I know, baby. Don’t even stress it. That whole network can kiss my—”

“Dollar, Daddy.” Sekani grins up at him.

“Roses. They can kiss my roses.” He smudges dirt on Sekani’s nose. “You ain’t getting another dollar outta me.”

“He knows,” Seven says, glaring at Sekani. Sekani gets guilty puppy-dog eyes that could give Brickz some competition.

Momma moves her chin off my shoulder. “Okay. What’s that about?”

“Nothing. I told Sekani we gotta be careful with money now.”

“He said we might have to go back to Garden Heights too!” Sekani rats. “Do we?”

“No, of course not,” Momma says. “Guys, we’ll make this work.”

“Exactly,” Daddy says. “If I have to sell oranges on the side of the street like the Nation brothers, we’ll make it.”

“Is it okay to leave though?” I ask. “I mean, the neighborhood is messed up. What are people gonna think about us leaving instead of helping fix it?”

Never, ever thought I’d say something like that, but last night has me thinking about all of this so differently, about me differently. About Garden Heights differently.

“We still can help fix it,” Daddy says.

“Right. I’m gonna do extra shifts at the clinic,” Momma says.

“And I’m gon’ figure something out to do about the store till I get it renovated,” says Daddy. “We ain’t gotta live there to change things, baby. We just gotta give a damn. A’ight?”

“All right.”

Momma kisses my cheek and runs a hand over my hair. “Look at you. Community minded all of a sudden. Maverick, what time did the claims agent say he was coming?”

Daddy closes his eyes and pinches the space between them. “In a couple of hours. I don’t even wanna see it.”

“It’s okay, Daddy,” Sekani says, with a mouth full of sandwich. “You don’t have to go by yourself. We’ll go with you.”

So we do. Two police cars block off the entrance to Garden Heights. Daddy shows them his ID and explains why we need to go in. I’m able to breathe during the whole exchange, and they let us through.

Damn, I see why they aren’t letting people in though. Smoke has taken up a permanent residence, and glass and all kinds of trash litter the streets. We pass so many blackened frames of what used to be businesses.

The store is the hardest to see. The burned roof folds into itself like the slightest wind will knock it over. The bricks and burglar bars protect charred rubble.

Mr. Lewis sweeps the sidewalk in front of his shop. It’s not as bad off as the store, but a broom and a dustpan won’t make it better.

Daddy parks in front of the store, and we get out. Momma rubs and squeezes Daddy’s shoulder.

“Starr,” Sekani whispers, and looks back at me. “The store—”

His eyes have tears in them, and then mine do too. I drape my arms over his shoulders and hug him to me. “I know, man.”

A loud creaking sound approaches and somebody whistles a tune. Fo’ty Ounce pushes his shopping cart down the sidewalk. As hot as it is, he’s wearing his camouflage coat.

He comes to an abrupt stop in front of the store, like he just noticed it.

“Goddamn, Maverick,” he says in that fast, Fo’ty Ounce way where it all sounds like one word. “What the hell happened?”

“Man, where were you last night?” Daddy says. “My store got burned up.”

“I went on the other side of the freeway. Couldn’t stay here. Oh nooo, I knew these fools would go crazy. You got insurance? I hope you do. I got insurance.”

“What for?” I ask, because seriously?

“My life!” he says, like it’s obvious. “You gon’ rebuild, Maverick?”

“I don’t know, man. I gotta think about it.”

“You have to ’cause now we won’t have no store. Everybody else gon’ leave and never come back.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Okay. If you need anything, let me know.” And he pushes his cart down the sidewalk but comes to an abrupt stop again. “The liquor store gone too? Oh nooo!”

I snicker. Only Fo’ty Ounce.

Mr. Lewis limps over with his broom. “That fool got a point. Folks will need a store around here. Everybody else gon’ leave.”

“I know,” Daddy says. “It’s just—it’s a lot, Mr. Lewis.”

“I know it is. But you can handle it. I told Clarence what happened,” he says of Mr. Wyatt, his friend who used to own the store. “He thinks you oughta stick around. And we were talking, and I think it’s about time for me to do like him. Sit on a beach, watch some pretty women.”

“You’re closing the shop?” Seven asks.

“Who’s gonna cut my hair?” Sekani adds.

Mr. Lewis looks down at him. “Not my problem. Since you gon’ be the only store around here, Maverick, you’ll need more space when you rebuild. I wanna give you the shop.”

“What?” Momma sputters.

“Whoa, now, wait a minute, Mr. Lewis,” Daddy says.

“Wait nothing. I got insurance, and I’m gonna get more than enough from that. Ain’t nothing I can do with a burned-up shop. You can build a nice store, give folks something to be proud to shop in. All I ask is that you put up some pictures of Dr. King alongside your Newey Whoever-He-Was.”

Daddy chuckles. “Huey Newton.”

“Yeah. Him. I know y’all moving, and I’m glad, but the neighborhood still needs more men like you. Even if you just running a store.”

The insurance man arrives a little later, and Daddy gives him a tour of what’s left. Momma gets some gloves and garbage bags from the truck, passes them to me and my brothers, and tells us to get to work. It’s kinda hard with people driving by and honking their horns. They yell out stuff like “Keep y’all heads up” or “We got your back!”

Some of them come and help out, like Mrs. Rooks and Tim. Mr. Reuben brings us ice-cold bottles of water, ’cause this sun ain’t no joke. I sit on the curb, sweating, tired, and one hundred percent ready to be done. We aren’t anywhere near finished.

A shadow casts over me, and somebody says, “Hey.”

I shield my eyes as I look up. Kenya’s wearing an oversized T-shirt and some basketball shorts. They look like Seven’s.

“Hey.”

She sits next to me and pulls her knees up to her chest. “I saw you on TV,” she says. “I told you to speak out, but damn, Starr. You took it kinda far.”

“It got people talking though, didn’t it?”

“Yeah. Sorry about the store. I heard my daddy did it.”

“He did.” No point in denying it, shoot. “How’s your momma?”

Kenya pulls her knees closer. “He beat her. She ended up in the hospital. They kept her overnight. She got a concussion and a whole bunch of other stuff, but she’ll be okay. We saw her a li’l while ago. The cops came, and we had to leave.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. They raided our house earlier and wanted to ask her some questions. Me and Lyric gotta stay with Grandma right now.”

DeVante struck already. “You okay with that?”

“I’m relieved, actually. Messed up, huh?”

“Nah, not really.”

She scratches one of her cornrows, which somehow makes all of them move in the same back-and-forth motion. “I’m sorry for calling Seven my brother and not our brother.”

“Oh.” I kinda forgot about that. It seems minor after everything that’s happened. “It’s all right.”

“I guess I called him my brother ’cause . . . it made it feel like he really was my brother, you know?”

“Um, he is your brother, Kenya. I honestly get jealous of how much he wants to be with you and Lyric.”

“Because he thinks he has to be,” she says. “He wants to be with y’all. I mean, I get why. He and Daddy don’t get along. But I wish he wanted to be my brother sometimes and didn’t feel like he had to be. He ashamed of us. ’Cause of our momma and my daddy.”

“No, he’s not.”

“Yeah, he is. You ashamed of me too.”

“I’ve never said that.”

“You didn’t have to, Starr,” she says. “You never invited me to hang out with you and them girls. They were never at your house when I was. Like you ain’t want them to know I was your friend too. You were ashamed of me, Khalil, even the Garden, and you know it.”

I go quiet. If I face the truth, as ugly as it is, she’s right. I was ashamed of Garden Heights and everything in it. It seems stupid now though. I can’t change where I come from or what I’ve been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me? That’s like being ashamed of myself.

Nah. Fuck that.

“Maybe I was ashamed,” I admit. “But I’m not anymore. And Seven’s not ashamed of you, your momma, or Lyric. He loves y’all, Kenya. So like I said, our brother. Not just mine. Trust, I’m more than happy to share if it means getting him off my back.”

“He can be a pain in the ass, can’t he?”

“Girl, yes.”

We laugh together. As much as I’ve lost, I’ve gained some good stuff too. Like Kenya.

“Yeah, all right,” she says. “I guess we can share him.”

“Chop-chop, Starr,” Momma calls, clapping her hands as if that’ll make me move faster. Still on her dictatorship, I swear. “We’ve got work to do. Kenya, I got a bag and some gloves with your name on them if you wanna help out.”

Kenya turns to me like, seriously?

“I can share her too,” I say. “Matter of fact, please take her.”

We laugh and stand up. Kenya glances around at the rubble. More neighbors have joined in on cleaning up, and they form a line that moves trash out the store and into the trash cans on the curb.

“So what y’all gon’ do now?” Kenya asks. “With the store, I mean.”

A car honks at us, and the driver yells out to let us know he has our back. The answer comes easily.

“We’ll rebuild.”

Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug.

He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died.

Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending.

It would be easy to quit if it was just about me, Khalil, that night, and that cop. It’s about way more than that though. It’s about Seven. Sekani. Kenya. DeVante.

It’s also about Oscar.

Aiyana.

Trayvon.

Rekia.

Michael.

Eric.

Tamir.

John.

Ezell.

Sandra.

Freddie.

Alton.

Philando.

It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first—Emmett.

The messed-up part? There are so many more.

Yet I think it’ll change one day. How? I don’t know. When? I definitely don’t know. Why? Because there will always be someone ready to fight. Maybe it’s my turn.

Others are fighting too, even in the Garden, where sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot worth fighting for. People are realizing and shouting and marching and demanding. They’re not forgetting. I think that’s the most important part.

Khalil, I’ll never forget.

I’ll never give up.

I’ll never be quiet.

I promise.


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