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© Jojo B 2018

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Snakes and Splinters

29

The boys didn't want to go with me to the Santiagos, Walter least of all, but seeing as it was gang related, I convinced them into going. If Ario was able to, he could give us some details of what happened with the Zikas.

We got ourselves into Phoenix and Walter's cars and on our way to the Santiagos home. The ride was quiet, Walter driving and Gomez and Severn in the back. I barely needed to give Walter many directions anymore, as he had seemed to get the hang of driving to the Santiagos' house. Arriving in not too long, and I was the first to get out of the car, hurrying towards the front door. I knocked on it loudly and felt my stomach turning in unease as I waited for it to be answered.

Carlos himself opened the door, his face tired and lined with worry. I gave him a tight hug before he even had the chance to talk, and I felt him quickly steady himself. Carlos put his arms around me, giving my back a gentle rub as I squeezed him.

"It's okay Coral, he's going to be fine," he assured me gently in his native language.

Pulling away, I looked up at him and he gave me a small encouraging smile before he turned his brown-eyed gaze to the Simpsons who had gotten out of the cars and come to the door. Carlos looked surprised that all seven of the Simpsons were present, but he didn't comment.

"Come in," he stood aside and let us enter his home.

It was so strange to walk into Ario's house and not see him right away. Of course, there were times when he was out, but he was almost always home when I visited, because he was often the one I came to visit.

"Where is he?" I called back to Carlos who was returning a nod to Phoenix.

"Up in his room," he replied.

"Are we all going to his room then?" Giovanni asked with a frown.

"I doubt we can all fit in there," Eli replied with a sigh.

"I've never been upstairs before," Gomez muttered, mostly to himself.

Manuel came out of the kitchen, looking at Gomez with a slight frown, "You better not try and steal anything."

"I don't even want to be here," Gomez replied, frowning back at him.

"Then why are you here?" Manuel narrowed his eyes.

Gomez rolled his eyes, ignoring the question, which annoyed Manuel further as he clenched his jaw.

"Please don't fight," I looked between them. "We came to see how Ario is."

Manuel sighed and didn't say anything. Instead, he pushed past us and went to head up the stairs. I decided to follow him up to Ario's room, which I had been to many times. The several footsteps of the Simpsons could be heard trudging up the stairs behind me and when I reached the landing at the top, I saw Manuel walk into Ario's room. I gently pushed the door open to let myself in, peeking round to see Ario in his bed and Diego, Paulo and the twins sitting on, or next to Ario's bed.

Relief flooded through me when I saw that Ario was actually awake. I had pictured him unconscious and unresponsive, so seeing him with his eyes open and (of course) frowning at the Simpsons, made me feel more at ease. Most of the boys stayed back, leaning against the wall by the door, whilst Phoenix and Landon came closer to the bed with me and Carlos. Ario's face was bruised and busted and one of his arms had a bandage around it, a smudge of red staining through the white wraps.

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