Longform

The Gang's All Here

Page 9 of 9

"She told me she's sorry but 'every time I see him, I'm reminded of what happened to my sister.'"

It's as if Venus's death killed something in the family.
Gina and her mother, Juanita, find it hard to sit on the porch at night. "I miss her walk and the way she used to swing her hair from side to side," says Juanita. "I keep asking myself, 'Why, why did they have to take such a wonderful person?'"

Becky hopes a trial will help heal some of her family's wounds. But she knows the hurt will never go away entirely. "I still keep looking down the street," she says, doing just that, "hoping to see her come up the sidewalk. Laughing and smiling like she always did."

Becky wonders how the Duvall girl's family is doing. Although she feels they could support each other in the days ahead, she's been told not to contact them. "I heard that the prosecution wants to keep her mother out of the courtroom so that she doesn't hear what they did to her daughter," Becky says.

Down the block, firecrackers explode. Becky doesn't flinch. "I know the difference between that and guns," she says. "I hate guns.

"Just last night, Venus's older brother shot out the windows of that car," she says, pointing to it. "He said, 'Nobody wants me. Nobody loves me.'...I love him, but that can't protect him. They say I'm mean when I call the police on him, but I do it because I love him."

News of the arrests of Venus's killers traveled fast. Her brother in prison heard about it and called Becky, demanding to know the names. She wouldn't tell him--he will find out soon enough, she says, and in the meantime, she didn't want to accelerate the cycle of violence that has taken too many already.

No one is immune, Becky says; one of the accused killers was a deputy's son. "I know I have to forgive them, but that's going to be hard."

"I take him to church," she says, pointing to Angel. "I hope some of the good stays with him. But I don't know...there's not enough for them to do. No hope, and so they get in the gangs."

Becky drags hard on her cigarette and caresses Angel's head. "Hey, Angel," she says softly, "where's your mother?"

Angel stops eating his ice-cream bar long enough to point to the sky above. Somewhere up there, where the blue turns to eternal black, a star watches over him.

Becky smiles. "That's right," she says, and looks back down the street.

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Steve Jackson