After school I acted like an adult and did my laundry. I sat in the uncomfortable building with the homeless people looking for shelter and the creeps hoping to flash somebody. Theres only one laundromat that I can afford to use. Which is the grossest one. The machines aren the worst, though you have to check them before you use it. Rumor has it the owner refuses to step foot in the shop, which is why the prices are low. I bought my soap from a machine in the back and washed my uniform, and the only nice clothes I own. Black pants and a nice top with small vines on it that you can hardly see. I sit and do some math homework while I keep watch of my clothes. Rule 1: Don leave your clothes unattended. Randy, that lives in the corner chair, will steal your stuff. It doesn matter what it is, he will take it, then go back to his corner chair.
I buy a sandwich with the last of my ten dollars and go back to the apartment. I don step into the building till midnight. The front door is unlocked and not completely closed when I go up. When I walk in, I see the body laying on the kitchen floor. As I shut the door, they make a small noise and start twitching around a bit. A shiver runs down my back, and I notice all the windows are opened. How he is sleeping on the tile floor in just boxers I have no idea. I crawl into my bed with freezing sheets and fall asleep almost immediately.
Theres a small tap on my door. After each tap theres a five second pause, then another tap. The curtains are closed. The room is swallowed in darkness. The only light is a small peak of sunlight coming through at the bottom of the door. The middle of the light is being covered up by something in front of the door. I go to get out of bed and find I can move. I look to find my right arm and leg are tied to the bed posts. The rope attached to them disappears under the bed. My left side is free to move. I roll on my side and try to untie my right hand. When I try to undo the knot, the rope is yanked down. I slide closer to the edge of the bed. I try to pull my ride side back over, suddenly very aware of what might be under the bed. Images pass through my head of what could be under there. Monsters wearing human disguises. A low whisper comes from under the bed, ”One step. Take it. ” The rope is pulled very lightly, but not small enough for me not to notice. I try to find the knife I sleep with, but to no avail. ”I took it. Take it. ” I slide over to the edge of the bed. Below me is just the night. I look over at the light from the door again, one long, interrupted line of sunlight. A hand touches my back, and Im falling to the floor. The night takes me.
I open my eyes to my curtain less windows and yelling coming from outside my door. The sun shines in my eyes, as it does most mornings in this room. I take a deep breath and rub my palms up and down my face. ”What are you even doing here? ” A womans voice yells on the other side of my door. I realize shes not yelling at me when a man answers in a hushed voice. I can make out his answer since hes not yelling. I drag myself out of bed, one leg after the other. I start to feel excited as I get my clothes out. I love being able to wear a newly cleaned uniform. I hate when my clothes start feeling dirty.
Nobody notices when I sneak out. The group are too busy screaming in each others faces while a few of them watch and laugh. The wind nearly blows me over when I step out of the apartment. My legs immediately start to shiver. I start to speed walk hoping to get to school, and warm up as fast as I can. I hear the little ding of my phone once I start walking. ”Hello? ”
”Hey babe. Do you want a ride to school? Im sure its a little cold out in that little skirt they make you guys wear. ”
”I mean they should be giving out the winter uniforms soon, but yeah Id like a ride. ”
”Great, Im almost to your place. ” Crap, I can make it to Lils that fast. Also, now that I know she tells Leo everything I want to avoid running into her.
”Actually, I was with a friend last night. Want to meet me at the Loids on Mickley Street? Thats close to where I already am. ” I made sure to pick the gas station right in the middle of the ghetto and the middle-class part of town. Its not too close to the shit show that hed think its weird. Plus, itll take me a little less than ten minutes to walk there.
”Sure, let me just turn around. Im like five minutes away from there. ”
”Oh, okay, see you in five. ” I hang up and shove my phone in my bag. I grab the straps of my bags to make sure I don drop them, and start running. Its going to take me more than five minutes to get to the gas station. As soon as I start running, I curse how much stuff I have to carry every day. Why are books so heavy? The wind stops me from sweating too much, but somehow still makes me shiver. I turn the corner and slightly bump into someone. I yell out an apology and keep running. I start to see the gas station when I hear the rev of a sports car. My legs stop moving, and walk a normal pace across the street. Charlies car pulls up to the gas station. He gets out, an arm slung on the top of the car as he watches me finish crossing the street.
”Hey Mona. ” I let out a breathless hey. ”You seem out of breath? ”
”Yeah, they send home so much homework, and most of this street is just hill. I almost had to take a break and sit half way up. ” I let out a fake laugh, and he gets in the car. The car ride to school is quiet. Charlie skips through a collection of pop music before stopping on some techno song with a lot of base. The quiet sits awkwardly as a third person between us until we get to the school. As we go up the front steps Charlie walks just a little faster than me, three steps ahead. ”Hey! ” His head turns slightly to acknowledge me. I jog and catch up with him. ”Did you talk to Maddison? Im excited to meet your parents. ”
”Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it to her. Ill text her when I get to class. ” He gives me a small smile then scans his badge. The bell rings soon after we walk in the door, and we part. As I walk to class, I can help but feel like maybe hes mad at me. Once the teacher starts talking, I brush away the thought, and half pay attention.
By lunch Charlie seemed to forget about what was bothering him. He flirts with some new girls that recently started sitting with them. I eat the lunch Charlie grabbed for me and watch him flirt. I always come a few minutes late to lunch, because then hell get lunch for me.
I feel the table look at me while I walk out of the lunch room twenty minutes early. Charlies eyes are preoccupied on the cleavage of one of the new girls. Knowing Charlie, he probably didn tell the table we were back together either.
I grab the lock on my locker and it notice that its already open. I take the lock off and check for a break. I know I locked it before lunch. So, why is it not locked? I swing my locker open, and something falls onto the floor. I pick up a folded piece of paper and two pictures. The picture shows Leo and me at the train tracks the other day. He stands inches from me holding my face. The second picture shows him holding me to him from behind. ”What the **? ” My heart starts to race when I unfold the piece of paper that the pictures were tucked in.
”I see you for what you are. You live in a shit hole and pretend your royalty. You tell people that your ex was a bad guy. Well, you two seem pretty close here. I suggest you lay low, unless you want the school to know what you really are. Your ”boyfriend ” knows what you are. Why do you think he wants anybody but you? Im watching you. Step out of line and Ill tell the whole school about your make believe character. ”
”What? What does lay low mean? ” The bell rings above me, and I hear the bustling start coming. I slide the note and pictures in my backpack and rush off to class.
As the last bell rings and I grab my things, I can help but look at those around me. Who could be watching me? Why would they want to watch me? Lil brushes past me with a few friends. I could see her doing something like this. She does have a weird obsession with wanting to take me down. She doesn know the combination on my locker though, but neither does anybody else. How would she get it, though? Her locker isn even in the same hallway as me. I take a quarter out of my pocket, the last of my ten dollars. I turn the bottom of my lock and change the combination.
I take a few more looks before turning the corner. All I see is the bustling of high schoolers. I go into the locker room and sit for a while. I don want to get dressed while so many people are in here. The last of the softball girls rush out for practice as I get my clothes out. As I take off my uniform, careful not to get it dirty, I see myself in the mirror. My stomach is small from only getting one meal a day, two on a good day. The skin on my hands is dry and flakey. My ribs poke out more than I like, and my thighs live a mile apart. I turn my head away as I start to slide on my pants. I don like looking this way, but this is what I can afford.
When I walk out of the locker room, and through the school its quiet. The hallways are already almost deserted. I notice somebody standing by my locker when I get in the hallway. They don hear me as I get closer. They
e tall with broad shoulders. ”Whatcha doing? ” Charlie spins around with a little smile.
”Hey, I thought you left. You changed your locker combination. ”
”Yeah, somebody took something from my locker. ”
”Oh shit, was it important? ”
”No, just some dumb shit. ” I eye his weird stance up and down. ”What were you doing at my locker? ”
”Oh, well, I was going to put this in there. As a little surprise. ” He lifts up a little piece of paper. I take the paper and unfold a picture of a dress. I look up at him confused. ”Thats the dress my ma… er, Maddison got for you. ”
”Oh, its nice. ” I give an awkward smile and look at the clock. ”Oh shit, Ive gotta get going. ” I tuck the picture into my pants pocket.
”Where ya going in such a hurry? ”
”Oh, well, I have an interview. Little part time work to make me look put together for college apps. You know. ”
”Oh, have fun I guess. ” I take my leave feeling like that interaction was awkward.
I jog to the gas station where Charlie and I met this morning. I figured it was a safe place in the middle of everything. This place would make sure I wouldn see people from school, and people from home won rob me. Your next-door neighbor would bail you out of trouble, but would still steal your shit if you had shit to steal. My hands push the wrinkles out of my pants, and I grab a travel perfume from my bag. A spray of perfume, and a couple deep breaths and Im ready.
The cashier at the front doesn look up when I come in. I stand in front of him for a minute before speaking up. ”I have an interview set up for three? ”
”Okay. ” He walks off without another word, so I awkwardly stay where he left me. The cashier and a guy in darker jeans come back up front a few minutes later.
”Yeah, thats me! ”
”Come to the office with me, and we can start the interview. ”
”Careful, hes an asshole. ” The cashier whispers as I walk past him. I glance back, but keep walking forward.
”Have a seat. ” He motions to a chair when we get into the office. ”So, it says you go to Hendle High School? Senior? ”
”In any clubs or activities? ”
”Nope, I have a pretty open schedule. ” He runs through a few of the normal interview questions. What are your hobbies, are you a team player, what would you do with a problematic customer. I smile and answer with the peppiest crap I can think of.
”Well! ” He stands up and I follow. ”You seem like a perfect fit. Ill give you a call when I get a day for you to start, and we can set up your information then? ”
”Yes. Thank you very much. ” I shake his hand before he opens the door for me. I nod and smile at the cashier as I walk past the counter. The sun shines into my eyes as I open and walk out the door.
I got the job. I got it. No more relying on Charlie for food, no more stealing meals during holiday breaks, and I can finally buy my own soap. My phone buzzes, and I answer with a chipper hello. ”Mona? I need your help. Can you come over to The Brink? ” My mothers rushed voice sets off all the alarms in my head.
”The Brink? What the ** are you doin there? ”
”Hurry Mona. ” She quickly says in a hushed voice before quickly hanging up. I grip my phone and start speed walking away. Once I get out of view of the convenience store, I start running. My legs start to ache when I start going up the hill that meets the bottom of the one I just ran down. In the back of my mind, I go through everything that could be happening. She couldve gotten into some bad business. Or, she could owe money, or she could have been caught selling something. Maybe she was robbed, of what I don know. Or she could have gotten stabbed, or literally anything bad, and it would happen to her. I don understand what shed be doing at The Brink in the first place. The Brink is a strip club for the drug dealers, their bodyguards, and gang members. Why would she be there? Shes dating her live-in drug dealer and has never stripped in her life.
I stop in front of the dark, sleazy building of The Brink. I grab the front door handle when I hear my moms recognizable bitchy tone. I go around to the ally, and in the very back of the ally is my mom with some sketchy guy. Mom stands with her hands flailing around, and her feet shifting back and forth. Shes obviously high off her gourd. ”Terry? ” Her head whips my way.
”There you are, you little bitch. ” She starts walking toward me, so I meet her half way. She grabs my arm between hers and leans into me. ”I owe him some money. Pay for me. ” I look down at her, then back up at him.
”Yeah, she owes me like $300. ”
”What the ** Terry? You
e sleeping with your dealer. Why the hell are you buying from other people when you don have money? ”
”Don talk to me like that you snotty ass. Frank stopped giving me as much, because he cares about me. ” She says in a whiney, mocking tone.
”I don have $300 **ing dollars you dumbass. ”
”Well, good luck then, because I use you as my collateral for everything sweetheart. ” She grabs a piece of my arm between her fingers and squeezes. I ignore it at first, but when I don react she twists my skin.
”Ow! God dammit woman. ” I yank my arm out of hers, causing her to stumble into the garbage bin. ”Look, I don know what shes talking about, but I don have any money to pay for her shit. ” He glances over at my mom hanging on to the side of the garbage.
”Sorry, but I need something. I won give her anything anymore since she doesn actually have a back up plan. But my boss needs something. ” As soon as his mouth closes, hes grabbing my arm, and dragging me out of the ally.
”Hey, what the **! ” I start to struggle, and he answers with a tired sigh.
”Hey, I still want to buy some shit from you dude. ” Terry stumbles over and grabs on to his arm. His arm flinches up hitting the corner of her chin. Her ass hits the ground, and then her entire body is down.
”I have nothing to do with this man. ” A finger touches the back of my neck, then another. The hand squeezes the back of my neck, and above me Leo stands holding me. The dealer quickly lets go of me without breaking eye contact with Leo.
”What are you doing Bill? ”
”Getting my payment from Terry. She put her daughter as collateral. ” Leo licks his bottom lip and glances over at my mother laying on the ground mumbling something. His hand gripping the back of my neck squeezes tighter, causing my neck to bend back more. I let out a little gasp from the shot of pain, and a little grin forms on his face.
”Well. ” He drags out the word as if pondering the situation. He takes his other hand and touches the bottom of my face. ”I guess I can help out someone as cute as you. Huh? ” His grip loosens, and he pushes me away by the neck. I stumble to the side. ”How much druggie owe you? ” I try to get my bearings while Leo pulls out his wallet.
”Come help me out Mona, you good for nothing. ” I slowly walk over to the pathetic 40 year old laying on the pavement. Theres some blood on her chin, but other than a bruise and a little cut she should be fine. I try to give her my hand, but she can hardly find it let alone use it to get up. I grab her by the elbow and pull her up. As soon as shes on her feet, she stumbles into me, and my arms hold her up by the sides.
”Jed, take Terry home. Lock her in if you have to. ” Some young kid yanks her out of my arms and starts stalking off with her.
”Mona you were supposed to get me shit! You stupid little b… ” She gets cut off when shes shoved into the backseat of a car.
”Drug addicts, huh? ” I turn my head to Leo, and hold myself by the elbows. ”Look, I know you don have that much money, and I do. ”
”Its not free. ” He gives a chuckle. ”Im not sure what I want from you in return, but Ill get my money refunded in some way. ”
”I don have anything to give you. I have twenty dollars in my pocket if thats what you want. ” He laughs and rubs his face.
”I don need your savings, and don necessarily need money as my pay back. Just remember you owe me babe. ” He kisses my cheek and goes into The Brink. I release my elbows and allow my hands to shake. The tremor travels down to my toes. I owe Leo. I rush as far away from The Brink as I can.