Crossing the border at two in the morning was an experience that Aiden hated. It was dreary. The agent booths at the border were extra menacing. There was a glow about the border that he hated. Fluorescent lights were everywhere. It was like a makeshift interrogation room, but outdoors and with the potential of denying you entry into your own country. It was like driving straight into a trap. And after the recent experience at the border and his sister’s handling of their joint questioning, Aiden’s stomach turned for the entire two-hour drive toward the border.
Ayanna’s driving didn’t help the situation. He asked her to slow down at least seven times before she finally shut off the radio and gripped the wheel tightly with both hands.
“Take a nap or something. I’m not going that fast.”
Aiden sighed. He turned his head toward the window and gazed at two young women smoking in front of a Tijuana bar. He thought for a moment about jumping out of the car and joining them. He put his hand on the door handle and tensed up a bit trying to see Ayanna while simultaneously keeping his eyes straight ahead.
“Don’t you dare. That’s exactly the shit that’s got us in this situation in the first place.”
“What? What situation?”
“Being questioned for murder. You can’t stay away from any girl. Damn it. Will you focus?”
“You’re not making any sense. Just drive your damn car.”
Aiden eased back into the seat. He hand was now relaxed on the top of his knee. He rested his head on the window and closed his eyes, hoping that she would just be quiet.
“Why’d you have to give her your sweatshirt? Damn it. Why?”
“What difference does it make? They all had on sweatshirts.”
“Yea. They did. You’re right. But she had on your sweatshirt. Do you have any idea what that looks like?”
“No, no I don’t. What does it look like, Yani? Do you think I killed her?”
“No! No. But what I think doesn’t matter. It looks bad.”
“That’s not what looks bad. So don’t try to put it on me.”
“What the fuck did I do that looks bad?”
“Everything. Ayanna. Everything.”
Ayanna loosened her grip on the steering wheel and brushed her hair behind her left ear. As much as she could without losing sight of the road, she turned her head toward the driver’s side window. She refused to sigh and was conscious of her breathing. Aiden could see, though, that her jaw was clenched.
When she finally pulled up to the border, she pulled her passport out of the glove compartment, reaching over Aiden without saying a word. She answered all of the questions as briefly and politely as possible. Her voice was quieter than usual, and she merely turned to look at Aiden when asked about his passport. He pulled it out from under the seat and handed it over to the agent, reaching across his sister without saying a word.
“No,” Ayanna spoke. “He’s my brother.”
“Oh. How long have you been in Mexico?”
“For what purpose?”
Ayanna smiled her sweet smile, and Aiden thought he could see her bat her eyes at the agent. He rolled his eyes. A few moments later, they were waved on.
“You’re full of shit. You know that,” Aiden said.
It was near four in the morning when the pair arrived at an apartment building in the northern part of Los Angeles. The building was painted a deep blue and was home to six units. Two on the top level and four on the bottom level. The top two units belonged to Aiden and Ayanna. The bottom four were rented out to an interesting cast of characters. Ayanna owned the building. She asked few questions. She only demanded that rent be paid on time and no questions be asked in return. It worked out well for her tenants. Or for a certain type of tenant that she seemed to be able to attract.
There were separate staircases that led to either Ayanna or Aiden’s front door. Concrete stairwells were exposed to the dark sky. The exterior of the entire building showed its age and lack of care. The stairs were no different. Cracked with a very unstable looking rail. Aiden was constantly relieved that no one with children lived in the upper two apartments, and he knew form personal experience that navigating the stairs after a night at a local bar was just asking for a disastrous end.
The pair exited Ayanna’s car, which she parked in the one covered spot. Aiden’s car sat along the curb. He glanced at it for a moment.
“Can you carry my bag up to the door?” Ayanna’s voice was quiet.
“Really?” But Aiden picked the bags up off the floor where she left them. He walked quickly up the stairs to the door of her completely remodeled apartment. He set them down in front of the door before turning back toward her. She stood at the foot of the staircase. “Well? I don’t have keys to your door, you know. Do you want me to leave them here?”
Ayanna didn’t make any movement toward the door. Aiden sighed. He left the two duffel bags at the top of the staircase and ran back down the stairs. He turned to walk across to the other side of the landing.
“Will you stay in my spare room tonight?”
“What? No. No,” Aiden said. “Are you crying?” He turned toward his sister and gave her a hug. “Fine. Okay. But just for tonight. You really need to relax a little.”