Being raised in the raw, gritty streets of Northview Heights in Pittsburgh isn’t easy.
Being raised in the raw, gritty streets of Northview Heights in Pittsburgh isn’t easy.
Twin brothers, Deion and Day’onne Jenkins, have grown up in the cold streets of the Pennsylvania community with their adopted mother, Melissa, and their younger sister, Corrine. Deion, a young, aspiring writer, tries his best to stay out of trouble and keep his hands clean. But it’s a challenge with his brother’s hard, ruthless ways. Day’onne, who continuously wreaks havoc throughout the city, does whatever it takes to get on top with the help of his best friend, Menace. But after crossing the wrong person, Jewels, who is a vet in the drug game, things turn for the worst in all of their lives. Corrine, who is on the path of destruction, also gets caught up in the fire.
When push comes to shove and Deion’s family is in dying need of his help, will he swallow all of his fears for his family and put them over everything? Or will he continue onto his road to success and forget about the streets of Northview Heights that he tried his best to escape from?
Family Over Everything CHAPTER ONE THE BEGINNING . . . Twenty-four-year-old Relisha Jenkins lay sprawled out in the middle of her living room, gripped with fatigue and paralyzed with pain. Her boyfriend of two years, Derrick, sat on a nearby sofa, sniffing lines of cocaine and drinking shots of tequila. Briefly tossing his head back as the deadly drug raced through his system, Derrick threw his head forward before flaring his nose and standing to his feet. With a crazed look in his eyes, he balled his hands into tight fists as he stared down at Relisha. “Didn’t I tell you I wanted you in the house an hour ago? Where the hell were you?”
“Nothing, baby!” Relisha cried, her voice trembling in fear. “I told you I was out shopping with Gina!”
Not believing her, Derrick flared his nose up as he bent down onto his knees, grabbed a handful of her hair, and began to drag her out of the living room and into their bedroom.
“Please stop!” she cried as she tried to grab a hold of his wrists, but it was to no avail.
When Derrick finally reached their bedroom door, he continued to drag her until they were completely in the bedroom before he released the strong hold he had on her hair, causing her head to smack against the hard floor. Reaching down, he wrapped his arms around her neck before lifting her off of the floor, placed her against their dresser and slammed her against the mirror. Relisha winced and cried in pain as the mirror shattered, causing tiny shards of glass to pierce her skin.
“Your ass better start listening to me, do you hear me?” Derrick yelled as he shook her violently by her neck.
With her eyes rolling to the back of her head, she struggled to nod her head as Derrick unwrapped his ashy hands from around her neck, causing her to gasp for air. Derrick continued to smack her around until he had no energy left in him.
“Get the hell up and go make my money since you want to be so damn sneaky,” Derrick yelled as he kicked Relisha, who was now lying almost motionless on the floor, before walking out of the room.
Moaning in pure agony, Relisha cried from the pain that taunted at her as she sat up, grabbed the corner of her bed, and used it as a crutch to stand to her feet. Her knees buckled, yet she kept her composure as she slowly limped out of the room and into the bathroom before closing the door behind herself. Glancing at herself in the mirror, she quickly gazed away, ashamed of the sight of her busted lip and swollen eye. Grabbing a washcloth from the top of her toilet, she turned the sink on, dampened her cloth, and began to wipe the blood and tears off of her face. When she was done, she tossed the washcloth onto the back of the toilet before opening up the bathroom door and making her way out. Walking back into her bedroom, she made her way toward her closet before bending down to retrieve her duffle bag. Briefly closing her eyes as she bit down on her lip, she grabbed the small of her back, her knees trembling, as she grabbed a hold of her bag, and sighed as she stood back to her feet. Gently tossing the duffle bag over her shoulder, she slowly walked toward the front door and left to go to work.
An hour later, Relisha limped into Club 412. With her hair tied into a sloppy bun, a pair of shapeless, baggy sweat pants nearly hanging off of her plump behind, and a tattered shirt hanging off of her shoulders, she ignored the numerous glares as she headed toward the dressing room.
“Damn, what the hell happened to her? Derrick must still be whooping her ass,” a stripper named Delicious said as Relisha finally entered the room.
Disregarding Delicious, Relisha walked past her before she undressed out of her clothes and tossed them to the side. Opening her bag, she pulled out a gold bikini set, changed into it and gazed at herself in the full-length mirror on the wall. Admiring her stallion-like legs, thin waist, and caramel complexion, Relisha glanced at herself before she bent back down, reached into her duffle bag, and pulled out her small makeup kit. Applying a huge amount of foundation on her face, along with mascara and gold eye shadow that complemented her slanted eyes, she pulled out a spray bottle, sprayed the water throughout her hair, and ran her fingers through her roots as she watched her hair turn into long, ringlet curls. Glancing into the mirror, she noticed Delicious and a few irrelevant strippers enviously gazing at her curvy physique. She took a deep breath, turned back around, and finally made her way back out of the dressing room and toward the stage.
Walking onto the stage, she nodded toward the disc jockey before gripping the thick gold pole, arched her back, and patiently waited for the music to start. Skimming the crowd, she saw that the club was filled to capacity, almost like every weekend, with people who wanted to witness the infamous Relisha work her magic tricks on the pole.
When Nelly’s “Tip Drill,” blared through the speakers, Relisha skidded her hands toward the floor. With her face down and ass up, she hopped to the balls of her feet before she started to gyrate to the music. Moving flawlessly like the professional she was, the crowd exploded and threw a large amount of bills onto the stage.
After dancing for two more songs, she bent down, gathered her money, and ran off of the stage and back into the dressing room. Stepping back into her shirt and sweat pants, she tossed the bag back over her shoulders before discreetly hightailing it out of the club.
“How much did you make tonight?” Derrick asked as Relisha walked into the front door.
“Two thousand,” she replied as she fidgeted with her fingers and eyed the floor like a child.
Derrick, who was seated on the couch, got to his feet and walked over to Relisha. Snatching the duffle bag off her shoulder, he reached into it and pulled the money out of it. He stuffed it into his pockets, tossed the duffle bag into her face, and walked away.
Bending down and picking up the bag after it had fallen, she peered into it and shook her head when there wasn’t at least one bill left in it.
For the first year of Relisha and Derrick’s relationship, Derrick cherished her and nearly kissed the ground that she walked on. He catered to her every need, uplifted her during the difficult times, and laughed with her during the good times. Although he was a notorious drug lord at the time, Relisha looked past that and loved him for him. But after the first year, things started to go down the drain. The good times became a distant memory and the bad times became their new reality. After becoming addicted to his own drug product, Derrick slowly but surely lost his power and respect as one of the biggest leaders of Pittsburgh’s drug cartels. Once he was a full-blown addict and lost everything, he lashed out all of his anger and frustration on Relisha. He abused her mentally, physically, sexually, and emotionally. But being deeply in love with him, she stayed, silently hoping she’d have her old Derrick back. But as she stood there, in the middle of her living room, holding an empty duffle with a bruised heart, Relisha finally came to the conclusion that enough was enough. She threw the bag back on the floor before she stormed off toward him.
“I’m so tired of this! You think you can keep taking my money that I bust my ass for, so you can smoke it up? I think not!” she yelled as she balled her fingers into tight fists and narrowed her eyes.
“What? Who you think you talking to?” he yelled as he turned around to face her.
Relisha, whose chest was heaving, started to walk up closer toward him before he gritted his teeth, ran toward her, and lunged at her. Grabbing her by her neck, he then lifted her into the air before he slammed her onto the floor, instantly causing her to arch her back in pain.
“You crazy? How dare you try to put your hands on me, woman? I’ll kill your ass!” he yelled as he started to kick her.
Curling into a ball, her body violently shook as he continued to pound her body with his feet. Once he briefly stopped to catch his breath, Relisha took it as her only chance. She mustered up all of the strength that she had from within, uncurled herself from her ball, and lifted her feet into the air, delivering a hard kick to Derrick’s testicles.
Gasping, Derrick doubled over as he clutched his testicles and his eyes nearly rolled to the back of his head as he fell to the floor and groaned. Relisha weakly forced herself to her knees and slowly crawled on all fours, as if she was a dog. Making her way toward the kitchen, her body throbbed with every move. When she finally made it into the kitchen, she crawled toward the cabinet under the sink, opened it, and pulled out Derrick’s .357 handgun.
“What you gon’ do with that?” Derrick growled as he held on to the kitchen wall with one hand and his crotch with the other hand.
Ignoring him as she got up, Relisha gripped the gun in her hand and aimed it at him.
“Get that shit out of my face! Are you crazy?”
Twisting up her nose as she stared at Derrick through her scornful eyes and shaking her head in disbelief. she finally took heed to how the love of her life had drastically changed for the worst. Derrick’s masculine features, soft, creamy brown skin, and long dreadlocks were long gone. Now, he was a shell of his old image, nearly a hundred pounds with matted dreads and an empty look in his eyes.
Cocking the gun as she placed her hand on the trigger, she said, “I will no longer be your punching bag, Derrick. Goodbye, my love.” She squeezed the trigger three times and watched as all three bullets pierced his chest, instantly killing him.
Jadedly making her way out of the kitchen, she stared at his lifeless body one last time before making her way toward her bedroom. Walking into it and reaching into her closet, she pulled out all of her clothes and the rest of her belongings before she packed them up and left their apartment for good.
A couple of months after Relisha killed Derrick, she became homeless. She went from living on the streets and eating out of garbage cans to living in homeless shelters. After losing a large amount of weight from lack of eating daily, Relisha lost her job at Club 412 and just when she thought that things couldn’t get any worse, she found out she was pregnant with twins. Completely broken and having nowhere to turn, she finally made it back to the neighborhood where she was born and raised, Northview Heights.
Even though Northview Heights was a high-crime neighborhood, it was still home for her. When she arrived back, five months’ pregnant with twin boys, and appearing shattered, she stopped at her old neighbor, Melissa Johnson’s, house and knocked on the door.
When Melissa answered the door and noticed Relisha, she welcomed her in with warming arms. Melissa, who was in her mid-thirties, was a kindhearted woman who went out of her way to help and provide for a pregnant Relisha. She showered her with motherly love, gave her food, clothes, and a place to rest her head. But after Relisha gave birth to her twin sons, naming them Deion and Day’onne, she started to take advantage of Melissa. She would stay out late hours of the night while Melissa stayed up in the house taking care of the twins. At first, Melissa didn’t speak too much on it, reasoning she was acting out on all of the things that she’d been through. But when the twins turned one and Relisha failed to show up on their birthday, she’d had enough.
“Hey, girl!” Relisha said as she staggered into Melissa’s apartment.
It was one in the morning and as Melissa sat there in the living room, with her legs and hands crossed, she shook her head in pity as the strong smell of marijuana and alcohol assaulted her nose.
“Look, baby girl, you have to go. Not now, but right now,” Melissa said as she stood up.
“What the hell you mean I got to go? This is my house, too!” Relisha yelled, her words slurring.
“I’m sorry, but last time I checked, I pay the bills in here while you rip and run the streets. You have two boys to take care of but you’d rather party and stay out? I’ve had enough of it! Your clothes are already packed at the door.”
“Yeah, whatever! You can keep those bastard kids here! I couldn’t care less about all of you!” she yelled as she stormed toward the door, grabbed her clothes, and wobbled out of the front door.
An hour later, Relisha showed up at Club 412 in a baggy sweat suit that hung off of her rail-thin frame. Judging by her sunken eyes, thin hair, and rail-thin frame, most of the people she bypassed had mistaken her as a drug addict. Her once flawless physique and erotic features had vanished long ago. That day was the first time she’d been at the club in months. As she started to make her way toward the dressing room, almost everyone she passed dropped their mouths in shock.
“What the hell happened to you?” Delicious chuckled, folding her arms under her breasts as Relisha walked into the dressing room.
Relisha rolled her eyes to the back of her head as she began to strip out of the sweat suit and changed into a baby blue bikini that hung off of her body.
“I know you aren’t going out there like that?” another stripper asked with a frown.
Relisha continued to ignore them as she strutted out the dressing room and walked onto the stage.
The disc jockey hesitated to play the music at first, but after noticing the murderous glare on her face, he gave in. When Plies’ song “Plenty Money” roared throughout the club, Relisha bit down on her lip as she arched her small back and gripped the pole. The crowd erupted into loud, thunderous laughter as they watch her try too hard to make her small booty meat shake. Relisha tried her best to ignore the laughter, but after she didn’t notice not one dollar thrown on the stage, she instantly knew she was making a fool of herself.
Gripped with embarrassment, Relisha ran off the stage with tears blurring her vision. After arriving back into the dressing room, she collapsed on the chair and cried her heart out.
“Damn, girl, you look bad,” Delicious said, taking a blunt out of her bra before taking a long pull at it.
Relisha looked at her nemesis, teary-eyed and full of sorrow. She knew she had made a complete fool out of herself and it was tearing her up inside as she noticed the sly smile on Delicious’ face.
“Let me hit that blunt!” Relisha said, ignoring her smart remark.
“You sure? It’s . . .”
“It’s what? Pass the blunt,” she yelled before snatching the blunt out of Delicious’ hand and taking a long pull.
Delicious smiled mischievously as she watched Relisha take a few puffs from the blunt before she awkwardly looked at it. “It’s laced, you dumb bitch!” Delicious laughed.
Paige Green is a high school senior from Pittsburgh, where she grew up in the Northview Heights area. Since the age of ten, she has written plays, short stories, and eventually Family Over Everything. Motivated by her surroundings, she pushed herself to always strive for more. Her main goal in life is to help young, at-risk females who are trying to find their way in life. Paige lives with her mother, two older brothers, and twin sister, Paris Green, in the Atlanta area.