...The first time Cerveras showed up at the rec center I didn’t know him. It had been days since the drive by and when I didn’t hear anything about the case, I knew it had joined the same trashcan where the other reports had gone.
A blue Prius pulled into the parking lot, and a long-limbed man climbed out from behind the wheel. He faced the skate park, his eyes covered by shades. A Dodgers baseball hat was pulled down over his brown face, but even without the uniform, he had cop written all over him.
The skaters present murmured in growing uneasiness. Beside me, Ceron muttered, “What up with 5-0?”
“Whatever up with them. Stir up shit,” I said. I followed the lone cop when he strode toward us. He looked familiar. I recognized that lean-hipped, easy stroll from somewhere. He was the kind of man I couldn’t help but watch, though I hated myself for it. Then it hit me like a sucker punch—it was the cop who responded to the last drive-by at my place. I’d managed to forget that encounter until now. For sure nothing ever came of that visit. No one got busted. Face it, no one cared about what went down in the barrio.
I especially didn’t want to remember Cerveras’s touch and the mess it made of me the rest of the night. I tried real hard to forget that. I buried myself in skating when I wasn’t taking care of Nattie and Tio, though I hated them sometimes, too. Wasn’t I too young to have to do this? I wasn’t even old enough to drink, for fuck’s sake, and here I was playing mom and dad to two people who were never going to leave me. Nattie would never grow up and Tio was only going to get older and more feeble.
My grip tightened on my board when the cop approached. He took off his shades, and I could see his dark eyes. His gaze dropped away from my face and skimmed me from head to foot. My body grew hard at his look. I hoped my homies didn’t see what passed between us. Or if they did see it, that they wouldn’t understand it. Maybe they thought he was just scoping me for hardware.
“Afternoon, gentlemen.” Cerveras touched his cap. I was sure he mocked me. His dark eyes glittered. “Good to see you out and about this fine sunny day.”
Ceron and I traded glances. Was this guy for real?
“Same to you, officer,” I muttered. I stared over his shoulder at the road beyond the fence. “Been busy? Busting jaywalkers? Chasing kids out of the river?” I met his gaze. “Rescuing cats from trees?”
Cerveras didn’t rise to the bait. He gave us a lazy grin that made him seem about our age. I looked away from his knowing eyes and avoided looking at anyone else in case they saw what he saw. “No time,” he said. “Too busy handing out parking tickets and rousting little old ladies at tea parties. Safe stuff. River’s a dangerous place, you know. People with guns and spray paint. Off duty right now. Haven’t got a care in the world. Thanks for asking.”
Ceron sidled away. His board caught pavement when he glided back into the bowl. I glanced at him, then back at Cerveras.
“You here ’bout something, homes? Checking up on me?”
“Do I need to check up on you?”
“Really, why you here?”
“I wanted to see you again.”
I hadn’t expected that. It’s like the guy didn’t care what I thought about his interest. I wasn’t used to people being that bold. “What makes you think I wanna see you?”
My words amused him. My anger boiled over.
“Leave me alone, 5-0. Get your kicks fucking with someone else. I ain’t interested.”
“You say so.” He reached over and flicked a strand of hair out of my eyes, his fingertips searing my skin everywhere they touched...