Chapter I: Krümel
Please don't look here….
Please don't look here…
My dry throat was being scratched the more my lungs pleaded for air. Even with my back up against the wall, my hands clutching the bread, I couldn't escape the adrenaline jitters that were consuming me. The cold air frosted my breath. My pulse jolted through my veins.
The running of heavy footsteps followed me. They were chasing me like the monsters from folktales, legends, and nightmares. Reality didn't ease the evil that lurked in the evenings. The streets weren't afraid to catering to demons.
I tried to control the suffocating coughs that were brewing from my mouth. But how could I? That ticklish sensation kept crawling in my chest. It kept stirring trouble.
The seconds ticked by. Again, my heart let out several erratic beats.
I wasn't safe.
"Where'd that shitty kid go?"
"Fuck if I know. Damn street rat could have scurried anywhere."
I heard the men shouting. I couldn't breathe. My muscles tightened around my ribcage. Don't move; don't make a sound, I told myself. My tired eyes burned as I refused to let myself blink. I clutched my food tighter. That's right; squeeze the anxiety away.
Their words were fading.
Mentally, I said a silent prayer. At least, that's what Daddy told me to do. But then again, dad said that and never came back. Suddenly, an unexpected cough burned from my throat. The sound echoed from the alley.
"There's the filthy thief-"
My cracked lips stuttered empty words. I starred at the gang forming around me. My small frame began to shrink lower to the ground. I was confident when I formulated the idea. The plan seemed easy.
Just grab the food and run.
Why, why couldn't anything ever work for me?
"No-please. I-I-" There was no saving myself. I was caught red handed, stealing precious goods.
My chest wheezed horribly as I staggered down the vacant path. How could the nights be so cold when we weren't even exposed to the elements above? My blurry eyes starred up at the cave ceiling. I remember dad talking about the surface-the warmth. A shiver danced up my back.
The pain of being alone invaded my thoughts again. Dad promised he would be back. He said; he would never leave me alone in the dark. I believed him. I held onto every sound.
My weak limbs couldn't carry me far. I could feel my knees buckling under me. The dull aches in my ribs were making me grow more exhausted. My hands locked onto my sides and did their best to support my broken body. There was no medical treatment, no kiss on the forehead and a sweet cherry tart for support. I had to limp to my own bed.
"You said-" I began taunting myself, "you promised-" Eventually my bruised bones couldn't carry me any longer. I stumbled over my tethered shoes. My hands didn't even bother to catch me before my face smacked the ground. I didn't scream. I silently hissed as the tears leaked from my eyes. There was no point in calling for help.
Help never came.
My coughing grew more aggressive as I wobbled on my arms. It took several attempts before I could get my limbs to support my upper half. The chilly breeze nipped my exposed skin. I surrendered to my drained body. With grinding joints, strained muscles, and a crumbling heart I crawled to the nearest shelter. The streetlights did little to proved decent lighting. I couldn't see but a few inches from my face.The fear of the unknown was always daunting. However, there was no pick of variety for this evening. Tonight, I would have to endure any trouble I was about to venture into. At this point, if someone wanted me dead, well that's just how it was going to be.
I dragged myself under the shelter and let the effects of the day over take me. My busted lip drained blood onto the cobble floor. My swollen eyes filled with pressure as I laid my head down. Sleeping seemed impossible, the pounding in my head acted like a hammer against my skull. The night shivers pricked my flesh and all I could do was curl into a slight ball.
Alone I slept.
"What should we do?"
"We can't leave her like that-she's barely able to breathe."
My eyes slightly cracked open. Where were the voices coming from? I couldn't lift my head but an inch from the stone before my vision spun out of control. My insides twisted as the hunger pains returned. The combination was making me nauseous.
"Levi?" I heard a lighthearted man question. There was an unsettling silence. Though, I wasn't sure what the conversation was entailing. But I figured, I best be on my way. I couldn't endure another, "wake up call" or "reality check" as I was so often told.
With stiff tendons, I heaved into a crawl position. The palms on my hands trembled and heated with agony. My dehydrated lungs ranted into a coughing fit the more I moved. Everything flared with pain.
While the sniffles never ceased.
Instantly, I froze. The fear bubbled inside of me like a boiling pot. I let the amber locks of hair drift around the sides of my face. What were they going to do to me? I clenched my jaw, unable to imagine any more beatings. A clamor of boots shuffled near me. I reacted by shoving myself deeper into my shelter. I crammed myself as tightly as I could against the angled ceiling. And with shaking arms, I held them in front of me, in hopes of defending myself.
"Ah nice goin' Farlan you scared her half to death." The young girl in front of me was boisterous with her words and obnoxious with her actions. Her choppy pigtails flared around her as she directed the taller man to her right. Still my body trembled.
"Wasn't my intentions, Isabel. " the man spoke gently, "you know me-I didn't mean any harm." I watched as each of them faced me. Their eyes were deciding my fate. I wasn't comfortable, not even in the slightest degree.
I wormed under their presence.
The girl before kneeled to my level. I couldn't help myself, shying away was an automatic reflex. The shadows became my protector of the lurking monsters. My breathing continued to wheeze relentlessly. My scrunched torso screamed, the aches hadn't left from yesterday.
"It's alright-not gonna hurt ya!" The girl cheerfully grinned. I still kept my distance as she talked. "Names Isabel. You gotta name?"
I paused. My memory chip wasn't fitting properly. What did daddy call me? I use to have a name. Name…
I remained silent. My heavy eyelids were making it difficult to see, to stay awake. I had to choke the scratchy coughs back down. I wouldn't make a sound. Then they would leave-right? They will grow bored and let me rest. I just want to sleep.
"Hungry kiddo?" The man quietly asked. A reassuring grin rested on his face. My sandy tongue began to become washed with saliva at the sight of the bread. Even my gut rumbled loudly as if it too had seen the glorious food. However, my uncertainty got the better of me.
Trying not to be rude, I simple shook my head. Daddy said, remember your manors.
"Its alright-common you need to eat to build some strength." The man again returned a soft smile. His words were encouraging. The girl took the bread from him and waved the delicious dough in front of me.
"Common its good!"
That bribe wasn't going to work.
"Oh Levi-" The man perked up as a pair of new footsteps joined them. I only sulked more. I couldn't deal with any more people.
Isabel interjected, "Levi-bro the girl won't come out. She's even refusing food. What should we do?" The new member stood with erect posture, polished shoes, and a stern expression."Smart kid." Was Levi's blunt reply. The blonde haired man next to him crossed his arms. Defeat stretched across his face.
"What do you suppose we do?"
"Levi-bro!" The young girl protested. Her head spun around to the men behind her. Frustration raged in her voice. "You can't say that! She's just a kid. She needs help. Don't be cold stubborn fool." I tried to swallow but the dry patch clogged its path. And in return I got nothing but congested coughs.
I was miserable.
I heard a round of sighs.
The stern man, Levi spoke up as he glanced down at me. "Looks like that kid we saw the other day. Guess someone got their clock cleaned pretty good." I was too tired to care about his remarks. Besides, I didn't own a clock.
"You mean that's the kid who was tussling with those group of boys?" I heard the other man pipe up. Doubt loomed in his tone. Isabel came to my apparent defense.
"Like a girl couldn't take on a few street rats." She looked at me again. "Nothin' wrong with a fightin' spirit." A warm smile crossed her cheeks with an added thumbs up. If I hadn't been so exhausted I would spouted off my record. I had won many boxing fights-after all daddy taught me so.
"Levi-we can't leave her. See that eye socket?" The blonde gestured to my face. "If we don't get that swelling down, she could lose her sight." I heard a sigh from Levi. I shuddered unsure of his mood.
"You know what its like being on the streets. We all do."
"Besides-" Isabel said in a hyper voice, "she's under our staircase. So she's kind of like our responsibility now. Isn't that right Farlan?" The man let out a chuckle.
"I believe so. Wouldn't you agree-uh Levi?"
I stared skeptically at the man before me. His charcoal bangs brushed his grey eyes, his emotionless face. I wasn't sure about him.
"Tell you what kid. " I watched as he tore a small section off the bread. My stomach growled. Then to my surprise that piece was thrown in my direction. My little hands scrambled to catch it. I held the delicate baked good gingerly. Its aroma smelled delicious. "Once you finish that. You can come get more. I want to make sure you're not going to puke everywhere. Don't want the mess." And with that the man named, Levi spun on his heel. I heard him climb the stairs over my head, followed by the shutting of a door.
The others seemed to catch on to something, at the time; I wasn't aware of and left too. Again, I found myself alone surrounded by the shadows. However, to my delight a piece of bread laid in my hands. The doughy fluff was a refreshing bliss. My gut moaned like a wild beast.
I lifted the food to my mouth. My tongue nearly got to taste the crunchy substance, but I lowered my head before it could. I sat there with a ragging stomach and a weak body. My mind had insisted that I return what wasn't rightfully mine. Daddy always said, never ask for handouts. I was too young to realize that the situation wasn't the same scenario.
With a little more thought and an act of determination I collected myself to my foal like legs. Every nerve fired off like a round of cannons. Standing was sucking the life out of me. With winded lungs, I pulled myself out of shelter and made my way to the stairs.
It was a torturous climb.
I stood in front of the door, light headed, before placing the bread on the floor. I slightly chewed my thumb nail, unsure of what I had done was the correct decision. Just as I was about to back away, my body had all it could handle. Spotted vision coated my sight before I felt my arms smack the cold ground.
"Looks like your plan worked Levi."
I was only able to pick up bits of their conversation. My mind was too scattered from the events leading up to this to connect the dots. I could only feel the drips of blood from my lip. Even now, the pain seemed numb-tingling?
"Ah, well almost-"
I couldn't handle anymore…
"She didn't even touch a crumb-"
Appologies for not being able to edit. Too busy. Thanks, Enked