“I never seen one, but Emma is cheap, that’s what Mama says cause she used fake flowers at her wedding, so maybe she didn’t buy cameras.” I blurted, eager to say anything to elicit another smile from Bear.
“Make sure you keep this money safe. Hide it somewhere. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret between you and me,” he said with a wink. I tried to wink back but only managed to blink both my eyes at him like the genie on the old reruns of I Dream of Genie. Bear reached over and pushed some of my crazy stray hairs out of my face, tucking it back behind my ear. His fingers were rough but gentle, and when he withdrew his hand I wanted nothing more than for my hair to spring back out so he could do it again.
“I don’t want your money,” I blurted. I’d gone to the dollar store last week with my three-dollar allowance and couldn’t find a single thing I really wanted. Three hundred some things were way more than I could ever want.
“Well in my world when someone does a favor, we repay that favor,” Bear said, resting his chin on his hand. My eyes darted to the ring on his middle finger, a skull with a shiny stone in the center of the eye. Bear looked down, following my gaze. “You like that?” he asked, taking the ring off his finger.
“Yeah, I never seen nothing like it.”
Bear held it between two fingers and looked down at it like he was seeing it for the first time. He was quiet and his forehead scrunched like he was thinking about something the same way mine did when I did my math homework. “I have an idea,” he said, setting the ring on the counter. “This ring? It’s a promise. In my club, when we give this to someone it represents a promise.”
“A promise for what?” I asked, staring down at the ring, amazed, as if it were hovering in mid-air.
“A favor, whatever you need. It means I owe you.”
“Yes,” he said, tucking the bills back into his pocket. He slid the ring onto my thumb, it was so big I had to close my fingers around it to keep it in place.
“Wow. Cool!” I looked up into his eyes and smiled. “Thank you. I’ll keep it safe I promise and I won’t use it unless it’s super important.”
“I know you won’t,” Bear said. A throat cleared and we both looked toward the sound. Standing by the open door was yet another man wearing the same type of vest.
“We gotta go, man. Chop called. We gotta be back at the MC in twenty minutes.”
“Gotta go, Darlin’, You make sure you keep that safe okay?” Bear tapped his finger over my closed fist.
“I’m not gonna tell no one. I swear it,” I said, making a cross over my chest, something you only do when you are very serious about the promise you were making and I wanted Bear to know how serious I was about keeping quiet.
With a wink and a clamoring of the bell against the door, he was gone.
I watched as he slapped the back of the head of the dark-haired man who tried to rob the store. They exchanged some angry words before putting helmets on and heading back down the road. The third man following close behind.
Not thirty seconds after the last biker had left, Emma May sauntered through the door. “Anything exciting happen while I was gone?” she called out, heading for the back room.
I set the ring in the back pocket of my shorts. Then I crossed my fingers behind my back.
“No ma’am. Not a thing.”
* * *
The sunlight of midday was blinding. Skid wasn’t the only one hungover. We had partied in Coral Pines with some spring break chicks until the sun came up this morning. Skid just hadn’t yet learned the value of eye drops and strong coffee.
The fucker is lucky I didn’t lay him out right there in the parking lot of that fucking gas station.
“Are you out of your fucking mind holding up a gas station? Especially one in the same fucking county as the club. I don’t know what they told you when you patched in brother but we’re not a bunch of fucking juvenile delinquents. We don’t ride around holding up gas stations or doing anything else that runs the risk of bringing huge heat down on us. We got big shit going on right now and dumb shit like this could land us all serving real fucking time. And who the fuck holds a gun on little fucking girls? I should shoot you to teach you a lesson. Where is your brain man?” I smacked Skid upside his head and knocked his sunglasses to the ground. “Prospect,” I shouted over to Gus. “Why don’t we do stupid shit right now? Why don’t we point guns at little girls?”