Riches to Rags

Chapter 25

Two years ago, Republic city

I yawn, and rub my stiff thighs before heading out. My legs are sore from being on my feet all day, and I’m looking forwards to easing into a hot bath at Priscilla’s. It’s been an exhausting day at the shelter, handing out porridge, talking to people, checking they’re generally okay, or even just offering advice. They know my face now, and whilst I feel lucky to be on the other side of the serving table, it also plagues my consciousness with guilt.

Gingerly I place one foot in front of the other, and the pain eases off as soon as my legs find a regular pace. It’s actually a short walk back to Priscilla’s from the shelter, but today I have to take a detour; she’s ordered me to grab a few groceries, including a couple of steaks which, apparently, I’m cooking tonight.

I push open the convenience store door, and the bell at the top catches, releasing a short, high-pitched tingle. There’s a girl at the counter smiling at the cashier whilst paying for a pack of cigarettes. She’s pretty, with a fair complexion and a short-haired bob. She looks to be early twenties, around the same age and height as me. I catch her gaze as she turns to leave, or I think I do, but it’s hard to see through her shades. In either case, she smiles at me, and I return the gesture before heading to the meat counter at the back.

As I scour through the stack of pre-packaged rump steaks, seeking one that will be lean enough for Priscilla, I find myself thinking back. Six months… six whole months. It’s hard to believe that’s how long I’ve been living with her. I’ve been chipping in to help with the rent by working part time at the car wash, and also the local newsagents. As of last week, I finally saved up enough money for a deposit on a place of my own. I’ll be breaking the news to her this weekend, and I really hope she takes it will.

Suddenly, a loud ruckus erupts outside – a man shouting, a girl screaming. Without thinking about it, I drop the steaks back into the refrigerator and dash outside, glancing at the terrified shop cashier on the way past. He’s a young, straggly boy, so I can’t blame him for hiding behind the counter.

“Just give me the money, bitch!” A pale-faced guy with a scarf around his jaw hisses the words, pointing a gun at the woman from earlier. She’s holding her hands up, sobbing.

“I told you, I don’t have any! Nobody carries cash anymore, see for yourself!” She says, throwing her purse to the floor.

The man picks it up and rummages through it, then grumbles and hurls it back at the woman, the whole time never letting the gun drop. “Well you’ll… you’ll just have to do instead, pretty face,” the man growls, sliding his thumb down the back of the gun with a loud click, and pointing it more squarely at the woman’s forehead,” why don’t you just come with me, nice and slow like. We’ll have some fun.”

“Hey. Nice weapon,” I interrupt with a calm voice, praying that I don’t startle him too much.

“Who the fuck are you, bitch?” The man spits, darting eyes at me nervously, “Do you want a fucking hole in your head or something?”

“Actually,” I try to force my voice to sound husky, and I lid my eyes at him, “I’m all kinds of turned on from watching you. I mean… I love guns, especially… big ones,” I say, looking at the weapon and smirking.

“What the… just, what!?” The man seems confused, perhaps torn between aroused and angry.

“Oh come now, look at me, and now look at her. I’m the better catch, I promise.”

The gun shakes in the man’s grip, “Is this… is this some kind of joke?”

“Not at all. Besides, she’ll be trouble, but me? I’ll be fun… maybe more than you can handle… ” I stick a finger in my mouth, desperately trying to mask my own disgust at everything I’m doing, then run it down the curve of my V-neck t-shirt, just above my cleavage. I never once break eye contact from him.

He gulps, and starts to sweat profusely. “N.. nothing’s more than I can handle,” he stammers, pulling the gun away and clumsily sticking it in his belt, before grabbing my arm, “Come on then, my place is close. I-I’m gonna rock your world.”

“I bet you are,” I murmur, then bend at my knee and thrust my elbow sharply backwards, landing a blow just beneath his ribs. He doubles over with a loud “Oof!” and so I waste no time in grabbing his head and slamming my knee against his nose. He falls backwards onto his ass, and holds his hands up in a weak defence.

“Stop it! Fuck! Crazy bitch!” he says, his scarf hanging low, the creamy wool slowly turning crimson. He spits out the blood that’s frothing from his nose, and wobbles back onto his feet.

“Get the hell out of here, you sick fuck!” I yell, kicking him roughly in his ass as he makes a hasty retreat. He curses all the way, and I wonder if I should have called the cops. No. The sad truth is, I just don’t trust them, not after how they handled things when I was out on the street...

“T-Thank you… that was amazing…” the woman stammers, between sobs. She’s taken her shades off now, and I can see she has deep brown eyes, almost matching her hair colour.

“No problem. Do you have a car? Are you okay to drive or… did you want to grab a coffee? There’s a shop just on the corner.”

“I… I could do with settling my nerves first. Thank you…”

“I’m Korra,” I grin, stretching out an open palm.

“J-Jinora. It’s really nice to meet you. I guess you’re my hero?” She grins, taking my hand and shaking it firmly.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I chuckle, “Let me just check the poor boy in there hasn’t had a heart attack, and I’ll walk you there.”

The boy is fine. His name’s Joe, and apparently he only started working here last week. He didn’t even have the sense to call the police, but I’m grateful for that; I’d be glad if I never saw another cop in my life. I walk back outside, nod at Jinora and lead her the short distance to Bean City. It’s a nice, peaceful little coffee shop, hopefully the perfect setting to calm her nerves.

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