One Gang and a Bronze Battle

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Chapter 36, I Can be More


[BY SEAN SHAVEL]


I wake up and for the first time in a while, my joints don’t hurt as much.

“Man, that feels good,” I sigh to myself when I can stretch my arms. After having my hands tied behind my back for weeks, sleeping without restraints feels as good as sleeping in a five-star hotel. I mean, I still have to deal with sleeping on the floor but at least I can rest my head on my arms now.

Feeling like stretching my legs as well, I stand from my new little sleeping corner in the basement. By stand, I mean, I lift myself up as ungracefully as possible, avoiding any pressure on my broken leg. The tools that were hanging on the wall are gone as well as most of the torture devices. I can’t decide if it’s because Jane’s given up and getting information from me or because she doesn’t want me to kill myself with anything here.

Like I’d need anything more than the chain I as tied with.

And yet... I don’t. I could very easily end it all, but I... don’t. I’m not sure why.

“Ey, Bubble Boy, you’re awake,” I hear a voice say from the top of the stairs. I look up and it’s my newly assigned caretaker. A glorified babysitter really. “And you’re free from your chains?” Chad asks. “Are you attempting an escape or?”

“That’s Jane’s doing, not mine,” I explain.

Chad nods before bringing breakfast over. “Y’know, for a prisoner, you have it good. Jane doesn’t even feed her guests like this,” Chas jokes.

I can’t help a small grin as I take the tray from my caretaker. Sure enough, my breakfast could be enough to feed a whole army. Bacon, perfectly cooked eggs, toast, sausages, and croissants fill one of my plates while I have another plate with avo on toast and a side of salmon. Along with breakfast comes water, orange juice, and coffee. Usually, I can’t even look at breakfast without wanting to throw up, but with more than three hour’s worth of sleep in my system, I feel brave enough to try some out.

“Why don’t you have some as well?” I ask Chad while I limp over to the other side of the room to drag some crates closer. Chad sees my attempt and goes to fetch three crates himself before setting them down in the middle of the room. He puts the tray down on the crate in the center while he sits down opposite me. I sit as well.

“Nah, Jane would kill me if she found out I ate your food. Besides, Spanner left my dinner alone last night so I got my fill,” Chad tries explaining.

“Yeah, but that was last night. Just take some. There’s no way I’m finishing any of this on my own in any way.”

“You’re so skinny, you need all the food you can get,” Chad argues, “If my Ma saw you, she’d force-feed you.”

“I’ll eat more at lunch,” I try to reason.

Chad contemplates it for a second before giving in. He runs his left hand through his wavy brown hair and goes to take my croissant. He takes a big bite before he smiles at me. “Happy?” he asks.

“Ecstatic,” I reply.

I go to nibble at the piece of toast and take a sip of the coffee. It’s too sweet for my taste but I still like coffee in the morning nonetheless. I’m suddenly reminded of how things were before I got captured. The days before Jane... When Amber was just finding her feet as Sterling’s heir. She had it rough back then... I saw so much of myself in her. The quiet pain that felt like a deafening noise in your head. I remember having to come up with ways just to get her to eat. I don’t blame the girl though. When you’re in that state, food tends to be on the list of things you forget to think about.

“Hey, Bubble Boy, you alright?” Chad asks with a mouthful of croissant.

“Yeah, I was just thinking of some stuff.”

“You should eat more than a slice of toast though,” Chad says, “If we were at my home, I would’ve made you a killer breakfast frittata.”

“You have a home?” I ask. I don’t know why I care, but people in this life don’t usually have a home to go back to. Or at the very least, a home worth going back to.

Chad finishes chewing before he claims the orange juice for himself. “Yeah, back in Sicily, but I left little more than a year ago.”

“Sicily?” I ask surprised. “Yeah, I can actually see that now. You do have a bit of an accent if you listen closely. Plus I see some of the Italian genes.”

“Pap’s Italian, but Ma’s Dutch,” Chad grins, “if you’re wondering where I got my length from, it’s my Ma.”

I look Chad over. He is pretty damn tall. Not very Italian of him. His more tanned skin does remind me of someone frolicking under an Italian sun though. Warm brown eyes and dark lashes glance over at me - reminding me it’s awkward to stare.

“Why’d you leave home?” I ask while quickly looking down at the plate of food in front of me. God, I can be awkward when I’m not thinking.

“I’m looking for my big brother,” Chad explains. “I don’t know where exactly he is, but I heard he was in Tygerwell so I’ve been looking around. The best place to find info seemed to be joining a gang so that’s what I did.” He grabs a piece of bacon and eats before continuing, “Yeah, I sometimes miss the luxuries of home, my Ma’s cooking mostly, but I miss my brother more. He was a pretty serious guy, rarely smiled, but he always made me feel loved. I have to get him back.”

I unintentionally scoff, “If only I had someone that wanted to look for me too.” Realizing I said that out loud, I quickly lookup, “I mean, it’s nice having family like that. Your brother is lucky to have someone like you.”

Chad doesn’t reply and instead looks at me a little saddened. I have no idea what he’s thinking and it’s killing me. Not able to keep his stare, I glance back down and start picking at the sausages, my too-long fringe covering my eyes. I need to change the subject. I need to find something else to-

Wait? Why am I even making conversation with this guy? He’s just my caretaker. I got one bath from the guy and now I’m comfortable enough to get chummy? Don’t be ridiculous, Sean. He doesn’t care. Nobody cares.

I go a little numb again and drink more coffee.

God, I’m useless. I used to get depressed thinking I’ll be nothing more than just the driver, but now... I’m not even that. I’m just... nothing.

I don’t have anything to offer anyone.

“I can practically see your negative aura pouring out of you. Jesus Christ, I’m choking on your depro thoughts,” Chad suddenly says, waving his hands around like he can swat depression away. The sight is too unexpected for me not to let out a chuckle.

“You’re a child,” I laugh.

“Hey, no need to call me a child! I’m eighteen thank you. How old are you?” Chad argues, crossing his arms across his chest. Now that I look at him, he’s pretty fit for an idiot.

“I think I turned twenty not too long ago. I’m not really sure what date it is.”

“It’s March thirtieth.”

“Yeah, then two weeks ago,” I confirm.

“Whoa, you spent your birthday here!? Alone!? Outrageous! Where’s the alcohol?”

“Are you even old enough to drink?”

“Legal drinking age is 18 thank you very much.”

I chuckle again and look down. I don’t know when, but we finished breakfast somehow. Even though I didn’t eat much, I’m still pretty stuffed. With still some coffee left, I take another sip.

“I’ll ask the chef to prepare you some pasta tonight. It’ll help get a little meat on your bones. Nobody’s getting laid with a skinny ass like that-”

I immediately spit out my coffee. “What?!” I ask surprised. “Who said anything about getting laid? Besides, wouldn’t being imprisoned be a better reason not to get laid?” Who does this guy think he is?

“I’m kidding, Jesus Christ, you act like a virgin,” Chad laughs.

Mortified, I take a long, dragged out, sip of my coffee. When I’m done, Chad is still looking at me.

“No way, you are a virgin! That explains why you wanted to die!”

“Can you shut up?” I ask when I feel the back of my ears turning red, “Wanting to die has nothing to do with sleeping around or not.”

“Oh, poor Bubble Boy, it has everything to do with it.”

“You’re just an idiot,” I mumble looking away. God, this guy has no tact whatsoever. He just speaks his mind 24/7. No filter. Definitely reminds me of someone but I can’t put my finger on who exactly.

Without warning, I hear the basement door creak open. Hearing it as well, Chad quickly gets up and takes the empty tray. “Well that’s my cue,” he says, “It’s been a pleasure, Virgin Boy.”

“Hey!” I try to call out, but Chad already turns his back and leaves with a smug victory smile. Bastard.

“Miss D’logiram,” Chad greets on his way up the stairs while Jane comes down.

I inevitable immediately slump on the crate at the thought of having to talk to this woman. It’s just too unpredictable with her. I can’t keep up with her crazy. One minute she wants to crush me and the next she’s helping me out.

“You ate all your food?” Jane asks surprised when she gets to the bottom of the stairs. In fear of having her kill Chad, I don’t tell her he helped, and instead I just nod.

Jane nods as well before she slowly comes strolling closer. I watch her carefully and can’t figure out her mood today. She’s not even looking at me. Instead, she’s avoiding eye contact by looking around the room like she’s seeing it for the first time. “Kyle’s leaving for the international gathering today so I’ll be in charge of things for a little while,” Jane says idly. When she gets to the crate that Chad was sitting on, she goes to sit down as well, crossing her legs. She looks way too clean to be in this room. Her white blazer is too sharp, her grey pants too crisp. She belongs on a pedestal. Or better yet, a mental asylum.

“Gosh, I’ve had a headache since last night. The soundproofing down here kind of helps for it though,” Jane comments.

Is she... making small talk?

“I don’t think this room has soundproofing,” I say.

“Really?” Jane asks. I don’t answer and she goes back to looking around. “How did you sleep?” she asks.

“Do you really care?”

“No need to be hostile.”

I let out a sigh and cross my arms. “I slept better than before,” I say. Jane looks over and... for some reason I feel as though she might really care about the answer to her question. Some people just ask things out of politeness, courtesy, but with Jane, I feel as though she’s asking because she genuinely wants to know... Feeling like pushing my luck, I add: “I would sleep better if I had a bed though.”

“That could be arranged,” Jane says. Surprised at her fast reaction, I watch the woman perk up when she takes out her phone. She furiously types a text before looking back at me. “Anything else?” she asks.

“Did... did you take your medication this morning?” I ask.

Jane hands me a guilty smile and I’m immediately uncomfortable. “Not yet, I haven’t had breakfast.”

Something about that nags at me... Last time she didn’t take her meds she was like this as well... More... human?

“What’s your medication for?” I ask.

Jane tugs at a loose strand of mousy hair that fell from her tied up hair. “I had an accident when I was younger and got anxiety from it. I can’t remember what happened, in fact, I’ve had memory problems for a while now, but I’ve had to take benzos every day since then.”

Benzodiazepines. My mom had to take them for her insomnia. “How much do you take?” I ask.

“Oh, just in the mornings,” she says, making me relieved for a second before she adds: “About seven mg’s.”

“What?” I ask, “That’s almost double the max amount!”

“Whoa, since when do you know so much about Benzos?”

“My mom got addicted to them,” I explain, “You can’t take so much! You’re practically overdosing every morning!”

“Relax, it’s what my doctor prescribed,” Jane says, “I’ve been taking them for almost ten years now. I’m fine.”

I nearly laugh out loud. Fine? She’s being chronically insane for ten years and I bet I know what’s been helping with that. In fact, now that I think about it, my mom and Jane are quite similar. The instability... “You said you have memory problems? Did they start after your accident or after you started taking meds?”

Jane thinks about it for a second but then shakes her head. “I can’t remember,” she admits.

“Don’t take your medication,” I suddenly say.

“What?” Jane asks.

“Don’t take your meds,” I repeat, ” You can’t immediately stop taking it, but take it slow. Go for four mg’s this week and then two next week and then one the week after and then stop taking it altogether. You might have some nasty symptoms but I think for the long run it’ll be better for you,” I explain.

Jane frowns at me like she’s never had someone tell her she’s in danger before.

“Why?” she asks - suspicion growing in those pale eyes of hers.

“Benzos can cause long term memory loss. My mom had troubles with her memory. She also got addicted and had withdrawal symptoms when my dad tried to stop her from taking them. Did your doctor really prescribe you this dosage?” I ask.

“Yeah, and because I was so forgetful my dad had to always remind me to take them,” Jane answers casually.

I don’t know exactly what is going on, but... There’s definitely something strange in the works here.

I look closely at Jane and she looks away shyly. She seems so vulnerable now... Definitely different than when she was taking her meds... And seeing her like this... I might... I might be able to do something for once... For the first time since I got captured, I feel like I can be more... If I’m smart about this, I can really be useful again.

Maybe the reason I haven’t been saved... The reason I’ve never had my hero show up... was because... I’m the hero. And heroes need to do the saving.

“Actually, this basement’s airflow is pretty bad,” I say after a while, the wheels in my head turning, “I think I’d sleep better in a proper room. And with a broken leg, I can’t really run away no matter where you keep me locked up.”

I watch Jane in anticipation, but to my surprise, she only smiles. “We have plenty of free rooms in this place,” she says.

I... I really can be more...


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