TONYBOY: I'm sorry you didn't get the part. I'm sure you would have made a FANTASTIC Tony; you practically feel how the guy feels. Happy birthday! I hope you had a great year as a year old. ) Sorry for the long wait for the chapter. Hehehe. Writer's block + school stuff Arrghh. Haha. Well, here's another chapter! In this one, Maria's thoughts about her brother are finally confirmed. Enjoy!

CHAPTER XI: The Truth About the Black Band


"Mika…Mika please…Let me in…"

I paid a deaf ear to my brother's insistent knocking and begging as I continuously wept into my pillow. Bernardo…my Iargo…my own loving hermano…not even my Papa had hit me before. And even though Bernardo had only slapped my hand, the thought that he had done so made me cry even more.

"Go away!" I cried to him. "I don't know you! You're not my brother!"

I was so angry at him. I was angry and sad at the same time. I was hurt emotionally more than physically. It felt as if I'd been betrayed.

"Mika…Maria…" I heard him say through the door. He sounded upset. "Mika…I'm so sorry…Forgive me…forgive me please…"

"Leave me alone!"

There was silence for a long time and I continued weeping.

"You lied…" I said to no one in particular as I cried. "You lied to me…my brother would never have done this…he would never ever ever have done this…I don't know you, anymore, Iargo…what happened to you…?"

"I love you, Mika…you know I do…" Bernardo's voice was so quiet through the door that I barely heard him. After he spoke, I heard footsteps sound in the living room and then as the front door closed. There was silence after, and I sobbed more, knowing my brother had left again.

"Maria…" It was Anita's voice now and her knocking that I heard. "Maria…let me in…"

Without thinking twice, I got up from bed, my face in my hands and unlocked my door. I needed her. I needed her now more than ever. I had to know what was happening to my brother.

"Oh Maria…"

Anita enveloped me into a hug after we stood there facing each other, me in tears and her with a ball of cotton and antiseptic in her hands, looking most apologetic.

"I am sorry…I am sorry for Bernardo acting that way…ssshh shhh, it's all right…" Anita rubbed my back comfortingly.

"Where is he?" I said bitterly. "He left again, didn't he? He left again to go to his friends…"

"He is upset…he is as upset as you are…he will be back, don't worry. He is just angry at himself…you have to understand your hermano…"

"Understand what?" I asked her, my voice rising in frustration. "I don't even know who he is anymore, Anita! He leaves at night, sleeps all day or right after school…I don't know where he goes, or what he does with his friends…he was not like this in San Juan, Anita, you know he wasn't! He's a stranger to me now…what happened to him…he is not the Bernardo I knew before…he is not my Iargo anymore…"

Anita looked at me sympathetically as she listened to me speak. My face already felt swollen from crying and my throat already hurt from the tears I'd expelled.

"Bueno…I think it is time for you to know…" she sighed, looking at me sadly.

"Know what exactly?" I asked her. "I just want to know what's going on…why he's changed…"

Anita led me back to my bed and made me sit down. After she offered me her handkerchief and I'd wiped my eyes, she began to talk and I listened. The black band I'd noticed on Bernardo's wrist proved to be something more than I'd expected.

"This gang…they call themselves 'The Sharks'…Bernardo is the leader of them all. It's so stupid really, I've told him many many times about things that could happen if he keeps this up. But you know your brother, with his head as hard as a rock…" Anita looked at me, her dark eyes shining with concern. "I am always afraid for him, Maria. I don't know what they are capable of doing with those Polacks they hate so much…"

"That is why he is hurt then? He was in a fight?" I asked carefully. I knew I was bargaining for more than what I wanted but I felt I had to know. My chest tightened when Anita nodded.

"Those Polacks in school…they call themselves 'The Jets' and they are constantly in fights with other gangs. Bernardo's gang…it's the only one that dares to challenge them. Bernardo demands for them to give up their territory. This territory thing…oh Dios mio por Santo…sometimes it gets too far…like what happened tonight," Anita explains. Her voice is hushed so that Mama and Papa won't hear, but her words strike me just the same.

"Oh my goodness, Anita…" I covered my mouth with my hands. "They fight each other? What if they get hurt? What if…what if someone gets killed?" It was too dreadful to think about but I knew there was a possibility. I knew how dangerous gangs could get. I suddenly feared for my brother's life. But then…'The Jets'…there was something strikingly familiar about the name.

"No one has gotten seriously hurt before, though Bernardo has come home several times with more than a black eye for company. He tells your Papa he just had an accident or something. Oh Maria, you must not tell your parents!" Anita held on to me with conviction, pleading me even with her eyes.

"How can I not, Anita? Nardo can get seriously hurt…Papa…you know how Papa adores him…and Mama…it would not do well for her if something happened to her only son," I told her. Horrifying images of Papa and Mama suffering from Bernardo's doings came to my mind. "They can make him stop, Anita. Papa can. He has to stop this,"

Anita shook her head. This time, I could see her tears forming.

"You do not understand. Your Mama and Papa cannot do anything about this. They will try but they will never succeed. This is what Bernardo lives for now. You cannot stop him from this. I have tried, I've told you. This is not like not allowing him to go to a park. He is eighteen Maria. He knows what he wants and he does it and no one can stop him," she told me sadly. "You do not want your Mama worrying herself to death whenever Bernardo doesn't come home. You wouldn't want to see your Papa shout and curse at his only son. You know he'd want Bernardo to leave The Sharks but you also know Bernardo would never do that. It will only make them fight, Maria. Things are fine just the way they are now."

"Things are not fine, Anita," I told her, knowing she was right and that I couldn't do anything about it. It frightened me and for the first time, I felt as if the wall my family had built around me to keep me safe was being destroyed. "Things are not all right at all."


After Anita left my room, I ran over in my head the words I knew I'd heard of before: The Jets. I'd seen it or I'd heard someone mention it sometime, but I couldn't remember.

Frustrated, I squeezed my eyes shut and ran the words over and over in my head, associating it with images I thought were linked to the day I first heard of it.

Paper? Yellow lines…soft cushions…a drawer? A color…blue…a scent…'buddy-boy'…Riff…

I suddenly sat up, horrified upon remembering where exactly I'd heard of the Jets.

"Tony!" I said, my breath catching in my throat.

A/N: More next time! Be sure to stay tuned!