Tyrus, tired of his friend trying to find something wrong with how he became a man differently, than him. He wondered why Paul was visiting. Usually, it was to get a few games of chess in, a few dollars to get his hustle moving, or to invite himself to some event Tyrus had on his agenda. Tyrus loved Paul more than his own blood brothers. In fact, he and his brothers had falling out many a times over Tyrus allegiance to Paul over them. Usually, it had something to do with some woman, Paul pursued and captured, knowing she was being interviewed by another. Off limits, didn't mean anything to Paul. "The game ain't fair. So, everything is fair game, man you know this." That would be his response, when questioning why he was scandelous enough to talk to the same woman he saw on the arms of another brother. Tyrus and his brothers were always clean cut, intellictually versed, and nurturing boys-turned men. Tyrus was the shiney pennie of the three of them. However, what the brothers didn't have in looks, they definitely made up in etiquette and style. " Why do you insist on hanging out with him, Ty?" Clinton, would ask. He was two years younger than Tyrus. Looked up to his brother for the guidance he needed to stay out of the trouble waiting for him in his own peer group. Tyrus would be coming home from baseball practice, see Clinton hanging with the fellows, and if they weren't doing anything, but hanging, Tyrus would make him go home. He would tell him, he could do nothing at home. Clinton would mug his face up, but underneath he would be glowing. He admired his brother and respected him, like he did there father. "Say something, and Ima knock you out with this bat-all y'all!" Tyrus would tease his brother and the other young men who gathered. They all admired Tyrus. He was the neighborhood hero. Some of them went on to do other things besides hanging, because of Tyrus' tauntings. They imagined him being their big brother, even when some of them had their won. Tyrus looked after them. He had to. His brother hung out with them. Watching what they did meant seeing what his brother was doing. "Who I hang with is my business. You just be about your business and handle them books." Tyrus would say to his brother. He always deviated the conversations about Paul, back to, study to show yourself approved. "Ain't never seen nobody as triflin as Paul. That brother got his priorities confused. I told you before and Ima keep telling you, one day it's going to be you and then you won't have an anecdote to save your friends ***. Not when you gonna be the one kicking it." Derrian was the oldest-three years Tyrus' elder. Derrian had been anti-Paul, since the time they were children playing hide-and-go get it. He had told his brothers, Paul, being considered one of them, back then, he was going to hide with Aisha. Everytime, he would see Paul following behind the two of them. Aisha was giggling like silly little girls do, happy just to be getting the attention from two boys, at the same time. Derrian was it. He closed his eyes and counted. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty....he had memorized where Aisha had ran and hid. He wondered if she would be hiding on the side of the stairs. He chase her back to the base from there. Twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five....Or was she down by the basement stairs of the store? He could block her way up the stairs and could kiss her real quick, before pretending to find the others. Forty, forty-five, fifty, fifty-five...sixty. Ready or not, hear I come! He yelled. He was hoping for the stairs by the store. He looked on the side stairs first. He saw his friend, Big Al soul kissing Kiesha. They was already going together-fast at eleven and twelve years old. "Y'all ain't trying to be found." Derrian said. "You know this" Big Al cheesed back. Kiesha blushing, trying to seem shy and innocent, which she was neither. Derrian was on a Aisha misssion this meant he was going to find her on the stairs. Was he going to just chase her back to base? Or would he try to kiss her? He wondered would she let him cop a feel? That way he'd know if she liked him or not. He approached the stairwell. He could hear giggling. Then he heard. "Come on Aisha, ain't nobody looking-come on before we get caught." It was 10-year old-already deep base in his voice manish Paul. "Stop Paul." Aisha was giggling like she was saying "Don't stop". And Paul understood the message in the silence. "Let me just see them, I ain't gonna touch-come on." Paul urged. He had already copped a feel so, he knew Aisha would show him if he had just a little more time. "un-un, Derrian gonna find us, I'm bought to go-move...!" Her smile on her face meant she needed more convincing. Her hands on her hip meant, he wasn't getting anymore than he already had. Derrian's little twelve-year old heart dropped. He pretended like he found them by surprised. She screamed ran. Paul, ran back to the base, like it was the Jesse Owens games. Derrian chased them both, thinking, Ima trip Paul, make him fall on his face. He did. "Man, you did that on purpose." Paul jumped up and pushed Derrian. Then he remebered how much bigger Derrian was. He wasn't really, but Paul always thought he was because he was older. "So." Derrian pushed him back and made him fall on his behind. Aisha watched everything. Eyes wide wondering if Derrian had heard or seen she and Paul. Paul knew he didn't want to fight Derrian. He knew he would lose. Besides, he couldn't fight his bestfriend's brother. And he knew fighting Derrian meant fighting Big Al, (Derrian's bestfriend), and Lil' Clint. All of them always acted like they didn't really like Paul. They just let him hang out with them because of Tyrus. Everybody was coming out of there, hiding places. Clinton had ran down the street yelling, " Fight-Fight, D is bought to whup on Paul....Fight-fight!" Clinton was only seven, so a fight was more interesting to him then playing some old stupid game, with the girls. The kids started to come out of there hiding nooks. The girls straightening their clothes. The boys cheesing and licking lip gloss off there faces. Shaking there heads to one another, the unspoken cue of "That was funnnnnnnn......" and a fight! This was some good after-school weekend playtime! Tyrus hoped it was anybody, but Paul. He was always fighting Paul's battle. They were the dynamic duo. But Tyrus really didn't like fighting. Let alone a fight that usual had to do with Paul snatching somebody's bag of candy, stealin somebody's basketball, or teasing somebody's ugly sister and her big brother coming to honor her ugly duckling status. Tyrus could usual just talk their way out of fighting. He had Derrian to back them up. But this time it was Derrian and Tyrus didn't know what to do. "Come on, D, it just a game." Tyrus jumped in between the two of them. "Shut up." Derrian scowled at his brother, pushing him out the way of his victim. "Ooooooooooooohhhhhhh, fight ! Fight! Fight!" Clinton was was doing his imitation of Muhammud Ali and Bruce Lee combined. "Ty, I ain't did nothing, D tripped me and I ain't did nothing." Paul was trying to get his story in, all the time sheepishly looking at Aisha. She was standing there frozen. She really didn't think all of this would come out of Paul hiding with her. She didn't even want him to follow her. She wanted to found by Derrian. He was always extra nice to her. He shared his potaoe chips freely with her instead of the S-O-M-E portions of four chips he gave to the other kids begging for some. It hurt her to think, he had seen or heard what had occured in the stairwell. She was hoping they wouldn't fight. Mostly, she was hoping that her mother wouldn't catch her out there with all them boys. "D, why you gotta push me. I didn't nothing!" Ty said, eyes down. He knew when to confront his brother and when not to get involved. His brother was mad. This was a fight he didn't think he could win-not even for the dynamic duo. Derrian balled his fists up. He was ready to just punch Paul in his eye and his chest. He wanted to send him home sissy boy crying to his momma. He wanted to, but he couldn't. Over a girl? He looked at Aisha, then looked away, trying to convince himself she wasn't worth it. Not that you know a girl's worth at twelve. He was more hurt than anything and he remembered what his father would say, "Boy, hurt feelings heal quicker than the hurting life gonna put on you, if you wear them feelings on your chest. Fighting is for thugs. If I hear about you fighting in them streets, you gonna have a bigger fight with me, when you get back home." He really didn't want to fight Paul. It was just then that the street lights started flickering. Everybody knew that meant, time to go in the house, before mommas came out on porches, in house coats, slippers, arms crossed hollaring for you to "Get yo' butt in this house." Every child's fear was a mother coming to get you.....if she had to come off that porch, you knew you was in trouble. When it came to seeing a fight or seeing the belt, the fight could wait. Especially when it was neighbood fights. You could always see at least two or three of those a day. "You lucky today." Derrian looked up at the streetlights and then at Paul. But stay away from me, When you come over my house, pretend you don't see me, or Ima give you this whuppin' I let you get up from." "I ain't scared of you." He was, but Paul never knew when to let his mouth stop. Tyrus was dragging his friend's arm away from his brother. "Just go home Paul. Come on. I'll walk with you." Tyrus siad "My brother and no street lights gonna help these thangs Ima put on you tomorrow." Derrian was yelling at the two of them as they walked away. Paul hunching his arm loose from his friend. Tyrus looking back at his brother still looking intensly at the two. "What happened?" Tyrus asked Paul when they had gotten about five house away from ear shot. "Your brother trippin' over that girl. I got two girlfriends at school. Aisha ain't nothing." Paul spitted on the ground, clearing the lump he had in his throat from the beginning of the fight he thought he was about to have. Tyrus didn't understand why his friend always had to instigate. He knew Derrian liked that girl. Everybody on the block knew it. He didn't geven know why he felt like being Paul friend, even when it came to choosing between his brothers. Nobody on the block knew that either. "D will be alright. Ima talk to him when I get home." Tyrus said assuredly. Moreso trying to convince himself, than his friend. The next day, Kiesha knocked on the door and gave Derrian a note half folded with his name and hearts drew all over it in pencil. Inside it said: I like you, do you like me? Circle one YES or NO He laughed out loud. Keisha laughed too. "It ain't from me!" She rolled her head and her eyes. "Gurl, ain't nobody want you 'cept Big Al-yo' bucked tooth self." "Your friend like these buck teeth." "Somebody got to, but it ain't never gonna be me." "Shut up, boy! Just hurry up and give me back that paper." They always capped on each other. Kiesha was like his sister he never had. Aisha was her younger sister and she knew they liked each other from the time Big Al and Derrian came over to play in the house instead of outside with all the other kids. Derrian circled yes and then wrote at the bottom of the paper. Do you want to be my girlfriend? Circle one: Yes or No He folded the paper back, and then again. "Huh." He pushed the paper back to Kiesha trying to maintain a nonchalant attitude about the paper. He knew she was going to look at it as soon as she left out that door. He didn't care. Fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rang again. "Tell them ****, kids to go play on they own stairs!" Derrians father yelled from the living room. He didn't move or look up from reading the paper. Just yelled like he always did about some **** kids. Derrian ran to the door. Kiesha handed him the paper. She was smiling and laughing. He snatched the paper and shut the door. He could hear her singing, "Somebody-got-a-boyfriend-somebody-got-a-girlfriend-Aisha and Derrian sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First come love, then come marriage. Then come the baby in the baby carriage." He knew Aisha had circled yes. After that there was no more games of hide-and-go-get-it for them. They sealed their pre-teen union with a kiss that day. It was followed by many years of holding hands, walking home from school together, meeting in between junior high classes and highschool lockers,teaching each other how to soul kiss, and even copping feels without begging to, turned to heavy petting and almost going all the way. Aisha never stutted Paul after that one night of the street light fiasco. He would look at the ground when she or Derrian showed up, outside to play. Over the years, Derrian watched Paul carefully around his girlfriend and his friends girlfriends. When it was just a hint of him trying something sneaky, he would glare at Paul and let him know he still had a *** whupping to dish out, if he even tried to look like he wanted go there. Through it all, Tyrus and Paul still remained the best of friends.