Harper shut his eyes, denying what was right in front of him. She couldn’t go. He blinked tears from his eyes.
And then he wasn’t crying, he was no longer watching Akali’s lifeforce disappear, pouring from a gaping hole in her neck. He could feel the cool pavement pressing into his legs, but he could no longer see it. He knew he was still kneeling on the sidewalk in a growing pool of her blood, but to his eyes, the scene was gone.
He was in a hallway, a door stood open before him, calming music emanated from the threshold, reaching out, and pulling at him. He stepped through the door.
Now he was in a ballet studio, mirrors lined two walls, the other two were a soft comforting peach color, it was if this room was meant to destress you.
In the middle of the hardwood floor, Ali spun. Her dark chestnut hair was woven in a crown, framing her face, small wisps had escaped and now framed her face. She was twisting round and round in some sort of ballet turn he didn’t know, looking so serene and tiny, in the room all by herself, the rest of the class long gone.
Harper tapped his knuckles against the door frame, and her steps faltered. She glanced over at him, looking just the slightest bit disappointed. It seemed as if she had been in her own little world, and he had shattered it.
“Hey, little sis,” He murmured, hands fluttering as he strode into the room speaking.
You again? She signed, sarcastically with a smile upon her face. She snatched up her stuff, and wrapped herself in the long grey coat she wore after leaving dance in the wintertime. He held her bag, while she slid on a ruddy old pair of converse. They walked out the door, through the white hallway, and up the stairs to the street above. Frigid air greeted them, stinging Harper’s face, and numbing his extremities.
“How was ballet?” he asked, frozen fingers stumbling across each other, barely able to pair the signs to his words.
She shrugged her shoulders, in a passive way, hands still, hair swimming about her face.A gust of wind blew past them, bringing with it the smell of pine and sweet sap. He could practically taste the coming holidays in the air.
As they reached the corner and waited for the signal light that said they could then cross safely, a woman in a dark trench coat darted out of the corner convenience store and across the busy street.
She disappeared behind a large truck, and was soon running down the block ahead of them.
“Stop her!” A man cried, sprinting out from the shady market after the woman.
He waved a gun, and pointed it at everyone. People started shouting, and dropping to the ground, distancing themselves from us.
“Give me the money!” He growled, Harper then realized that the man was directing the demand at Akali. She still stood facing the street, unknowing of the terror lurking behind her, so it seemed as if she was ignoring the man.
Horrified, Harper nudged her arm. She turned around and gasped when she saw the man pointing a gun at us.
“You! Put your hands up!” He yelled, gesturing to Akali with the gun, people screamed.
Akali raised her hands to sign, eyes darting to Harper’s in terror. In that second, he felt as if they were frozen. Her pupils were dilated, eating up the golden brown of her irises. Her brow furrowed in question, but Harper was suspended in the moment, so she began to sign.
A piercing shot sounded, barely echoing in his mind. It was followed by a screams, and before the first person even called 9-1-1, sirens were nearing.
Akali fell to the ground, the contents of her bag spilling around her.
And Harper was still fixed in place. Feet rooted to the ground, eyes staring at the person he loved most in the world, but not seeing. Throngs of people were surrounded them shouting, orders, pleas, anything. And then he was on his knees.
This couldn’t be.
And it wasn’t. Harper was still staring into Akali’s eyes. She hadn’t been shot, She was waiting for me to explain to the man that she couldn’t understand. She was alive. I raised my gaze from hers. The man’s hand trembled on the gun. His face was hard, but his demeanor was soft. He didn’t want to shoot her.
This time, when Akali raised her hands to sign, and the man’s finger instinctively went to the trigger, Harper thrust himself in front of his sister’s, protecting her body with his.
Harper was supposed to graduate high school, he was supposed to go to college and live, he was supposed to have a normal life, full of happiness and love.
But instead, he sacrificed his life for his sister’s and died in Akali’s arms during the coldest time of the year, surrounded by strangers, on the corner of 273 W 72nd St.