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Author: Dani Rene








10 years ago



I was brought up a religious Catholic boy. My ma made sure I went to church every Sunday and said my prayers every night. Even though I was convinced talking to a man I couldn’t see was stupid, she would slap me about the head and tell me to do it anyway. Her influence on my life is the reason I’m here today, alive and not lying beside my da six feet under. She needed me just as much as I needed her. At twenty-eight, I still live with her, wanting to show her that no matter what, I’ll be by her side.

I obeyed the rules she set out for me when I was growin’ up. Made sure I didn’t get myself into trouble, at least for a while. It wasn’t until I hit sixteen and got into life with the motorcycle club that it all went south. Which brings me to today. The whispers I’ll be takin’ over from Da have been nonstop over the past couple weeks, and I’m pretty sure Ma has been dreading this day since she had me.

The thing is, I tried. I truly did. I wanted to be the son my ma could be proud of, and even though I’ve done some stupid shite, I still know right from wrong. I watched Da fuck up too many times to count, and I vowed to never be like him.

You can’t stay innocent forever. Not when you live in Belfast. Northern Ireland has always been famous for the shite that goes down on the daily. It’s as if the world is watching, waiting for another storm to hit. Violence was a way of life, not something to be feared.

And when I was a youngen, I didn’t think about how much my life would change when I was old enough to be dragged into the darkness with my da. It wasn’t the usual worries that bothered me, it was the danger that arrived with coming of age. That’s what Da called it at the time. I knew I would need to step up and take over. There was no doubt in my mind I had a duty to the club. But I convinced myself it would be when I turned eighteen, and not before that.

My da was a leader.

He had men who followed him into the flames, and they all came out on the other side. Walking around like they owned the world, even though the country was burning around them. Unscathed by what life threw at them, ignorant to the people who needed their help. The problem was, they became overconfident.

When you don’t know loss, pain, or heartache, you think you are invincible.

They did.

My da convinced his men they would live forever. But that didn’t happen, and he left me and Ma on our own. The memory of the war he started is still fresh in my mind. Only two years have passed since he died, and I notice how Ma still seems as if she’s walkin’ around in a trance.

I lift my stare to her, hoping she’ll look at me, but she doesn’t. As I sip my coffee, I wonder when she’ll stop missin’ him, if ever. She may be gettin’ older, but she’s still the strong woman I’ve always known her to be. It’s Sunday; she’s dressed in her favourite outfit as she gets ready to go to church. I may not be joinin’ her, but she’ll pray for me. It’s what she tells me every week.

“I’ll pray for you,” her words come as she grabs her purse and glances my way. She still loves me, has hope for me, even though I may not believe in what she does. I don’t go to church or pray. I gave up on that a long time ago. But the way my ma looks at me is nothin’ short of a miracle—her expression filled with love, with affection she shouldn’t feel. But she does. One thing about her is she’s stubborn. Must be where I get it from.

“Aye.” I chuckle. “No need. You know I’m goin’ straight to hell,” I tell her. It’s somethin’ I believe with every fibre of my being. When I was thirteen, I remember standin’ and singing some feckin’ hymn that meant nothin’ to me. It was part of the service, but when I looked up, my gaze caught the priest’s, and he smirked. It was as if he knew I was tainted, and he made the sign of the cross.

Ma used to call me her wee monster. I was a nightmare growing up, and even now, as an adult, the name stuck. Which is why it’s my road name. I’ve come into my own, and I’m proud of it.

She tuts at me. “Ach, don’t you go talkin’ like that now.” She leans up onto her tiptoes to press a kiss to my cheek. “He knew what was comin’,” Ma says in a soft voice. “You just make sure to walk through that door safe tonight,” she tells me before she steps out into the early morning sunshine. It’s a beautiful day. You’d never think I’m about to step into my father’s shoes. I didn’t want it. I was happy being the Vice President of the club, but it’s the line of succession. There’s too much to do without fighting what’s inevitable.

Once I’m alone in the house, I wonder if I’ll ever see the disdain on Ma’s face when I become President. It’s not a life she wanted for me, but there is no choice. I can’t walk away from a legacy. Her words ring in my ears. It’s somethin’ she’s always said to me before walkin’ out of the house.

Makin’ my way to the small office I set up after Da died, I shut the door, and I settle in behind the desk. We have a meetin’ later, and I have ta get my shite in order. Opening the clubs on the Main Street this weekend has been grand. But we need more income. There’s only one way I can see to get that, but I’m not prepared to deal drugs. Weapons, maybe. I’m about to call my VP, Rebel, when gunshots ring through the air.

Panic twists in my gut because I realise I didn’t hear the engine on Ma’s car startin’. Crouching down, I creep to the office door and down the hallway before another round of gunfire hits the windows of our home. The place I grew up in. Even though I have the clubhouse and all that comes with it, farmland that spans hundreds of acres just outside Belfast, I’ve always stayed home. Being in the city energises me.

When I reach the living room, I pull my gun from the leather holster and get to my knees. I can’t take any chances when it comes to violence, when it comes to being under attack. I’m alone here, and if someone did want to get in, I can only fight so much. Being outnumbered has never bothered me, not even now, but the thought of Ma being out there alone, it’s got me pushing to my feet. I lean against the wall beside our front door and breathe in deeply.

Listening for any more noise outside, I close my eyes and focus. I wait a couple of minutes before I pull open the front door, hiding behind the wooden surface, and show my gun first. Silence greets me when I do, which means they’re gone, or they’re waitin’ on me to walk out.

But when no shots come, I step out into the line of fire with my heart beating a rhythm against my chest. My ribs ache from the thrum, and as I make my way onto the small porch where Ma and Da used to sit every evening, I take in the destruction in front of me.

In death there is silence.

It’s only when I reach the wee garden, do I see it. Blood. I’ve never seen so much mayhem in one small area before. Droppin’ my gun, I race out into the street, forgetting there are men out here who want me dead. I find my mother’s car still in the same place she parked it yesterday, with holes all through the doors, the one side completely fuckin’ obliterated.

It’s not that which has me fallin’ to my knees, though, it’s the ol’ lady in the driver’s seat. She’s not breathing. The window has shattered, glass everywhere, and her mouth hangs open while her eyes are wide with shock as she stares out into the abyss.

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