Courage: A Twist on Two tales

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A day in the life of Eli Cinder

"Eli! Wake up!"

Once again, I jolted up at the nagging sound of my aunt. Ever since I moved into mom's workplace, Rachel had a speaker installed so she could call me from inside the house. In my opinion, she's just too lazy to go outside herself.

"Eli! Didn't you hear me?!"

I tried to block out her voice with my pillow. I didn't have a proper bed since Rachel wouldn't buy a new one for my new place, so I rested on an old mattress on the floor with only a blanket and pillow. I had arranged the place quite nicely, if I do say so myself. At least Rachel and Sterling allowed me to do what I wanted with this place. For the past three years, this was my safe haven. But even this wasn't entirely safe from Rachel's dragon voice.


Finally, I just had to comply. I pressed the button on the speaker, which was right above my head, attached to the wall and pressed the button to reply. "Yeah, aunt Rachel. I can hear you."

"Well good, it's breakfast time…so brink me my breakfast! NOW!!!"

I groaned and allowed my finger to slide down from the speaker. I roughly got up, my jet black hair was yet another victim of bed-hair. Meeko, my only true friend in the household, licked my face. He always did that. "At least somebody's not screaming at me." I said with a smile before placing Meeko on the ground beside me. I only kept him outside, away from my aunt and cousin. I made him his own little tree house for him to sleep in so he wouldn't bother them. He was an acceptation so I wouldn't complain about being lonely.

I got up, got dressed in my usual red shirt, orange jacket and blue genes. I combed my hair, sweeping it back a bit before messing my front bangs a bit to give it an edgy look. The yellow streaks were still visible. Finally, I put on my sneakers and got out to brush my teeth outside. Just like I always did. After that, I rushed inside the house and got started on breakfast. As usual, it was homemade french toast with fat-free butter and sugar free syrup for Rachel. For Sterling, I made a ham and cheese omelet, sausages and organic orange juice. Once that was done, I took both plates into my hands and walked up the stairs to hand my aunt and cousin their meals. I stopped on my tracks when one of my sneakers got loose and fell off. This happened every now and again, they were my oldest pair. I'd buy some new ones but the money I make from my job at the garage would sometimes go to Rachel whenever she needed to 'borrow' some extra cash. She eventually took over my dad's store, turning it into a beauty supply place where women could by facial cream, nail polish, shampoos, ect. Sadly, I worked there part time. Man it was sickening. With Sterling being a famous racer already, he made money out of the races held and out of the merchandising that Rachel made to sell online. I was surprised to discover that they were such a hit. I guess it payed to have fangirls. I managed to get my foot back into my shoe before I heard Rachel calling out again. I think I preferred her voice through the speaker.

"Eli! Where is my breakfast?!"

"I'm coming!" I responded and rushed up, balancing the two trays. First, I entered Sterling's room, which was once my room, and opened the door with my foot. "Morning, Sterling." I said as I entered.

No matter how many times I saw it, the place horrified me. It made me glad to realize it was no longer my room. Sterling had painted the walls from pure white to an eye soar gold, to match his hair. The walls were shrouded with posters of racers, female models, including ones of himself in his racer's uniform and even a poster of Princess Luna, photoshoped to look like he was standing next to her and kissing her cheek. I rolled my eyes at the sight of them. Even for a guy, Sterling had his own vanity, with a tall mirror and an assortment of hair products, including blond hair dye. Yeah, he wasn't a natural blond.

"About time you got here, squirt." my cousin sat upright on his bed, wearing a sleeping mask and his hair in, believe it or not, hair curlers to maintain it's form and volume. I am certain that not even cheerleaders are this crazy about their hair. I placed the tray on his lap and he began eating, not even bothering to say grace. I had a habit of doing that ever since my mom died. He didn't even say thank you, instead he just looked at me like I had forgotten to do something, "Well, what are you waiting for? Give mom her tray, lazy bones."

I only stood there for a second to make sure my shoe wouldn't fall off again and he's calling me lazy? I'm not the one still laying in bed waiting for my meal. I rolled my eyes and walked out, reaching Rachel's room next. It used to be my parents' room, my mom's after dad died. She had completely destroyed it. All of the family photos that once adorned the walls had been removed and replaced with gaudy self portraits of herself and Sterling. The room was painted pink and the bed now had supper gaudy and flashy bedspread to match Rachel's flamboyant personality. Speaking of Rachel, there she was. Her hair, also in curlers, her face was covered in green goop, what she called a face-mask, and wearing a sleeping mask with a nightgown that still made me want to throw up, even though I had yet to eat my own breakfast yet. I placed the tray on her lap and, just like her son, didn't thank me.

"Finally, what kept ya? Lose your shoe, again? Keep that up and we're gonna have to start callin' ya 'CinderEli'."

"You kind of already do." I said sarcastically.

"Is that sarcasm? You know how I feel about sarcasm, Eli."

'That you hardly understand it?' I asked in my head. That's become kind of a habit for me, to think it and not say it. Besides, I've already received one too many slaps in the face for doing that in the past, not to mention getting scars from her long sharp nails. They healed and weren't noticeable anymore, but still I was never going to speak up to her again. I hatted getting beaten, the pain kept reminding me of the stinging in my heart from when my dad died doing what he loved. I sighed before lowering my head.

"Sorry, Aunt Rachel."

"You're forgiven." she said before taking a bite from her toast and began speaking with her mouth full, this lady had no class, no matter how much she denied it, "Now, when you get back from work today, I'm gonna need ya to pick up Sterling's face cream from the pharmacy."

"Again? I just bought it last weak."

"My boy's hair needs proper care and attention, so do it!" I silently agreed and she kept on talking, "Next, pick up the groceries, we're almost out of that salmon, my dry cleaning and polish Sterling's bike. Is that clear, or do I have to write it down for you?"

"No need. I've got it under control."

"Good. Now get out, let me eat."

"Yes, Aunt Rachel." I gladly left the room and started getting my own meal ready. I didn't make much, just a simple grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. Once I was done, I looked up the stairs and listened attentively. Sterling and Rachel were most likely getting dressed. While Rachel worked at the store, Sterling drove around town, getting the attention of various girls and smiling for the cameras. Racing season was starting next weak, so the entire city was abuzz with excitement. After I ate, I cleaned my dish, only to have a now fully dressed Sterling and Rachel toss theirs into the sink, splashing my face with soap and water, much to my annoyance.

"Don't forget to vacuum the rugs before you go out, cousin." Sterling said arrogantly as he slid his fingers through his hair, "Bad enough we've got a messy relative, we don't need our house to be that way too."

I sighed, trying to sustain my anger towards them. I knew getting mad was not going to solve anything. Rachel picked up her purse, Sterling got his car keys, and the two walked out the door, calling out to me.

"See ya, CinderEli."

Once the door closed, I could finally breath in peace. I knew if I didn't do what I was told I'd be in big trouble. But for this one glorious moment, I could breath in. It was the only time of day where I could get some peace. I soaked it all in before taking my time to eat my meal before getting started on the rest of the day.

As always, my day went like any other. Here I was, an eighteen-year-old kid, recently graduated from High School, with no planed future and stuck working for Rachel. Well, what she doesn't know is that all throughout high school I've been studying my butt off, getting good grades and learning everything I could about mechanics. While I was off doing my errands I would head to the library and use the wifi to ably to any good college out there. The money and tips I made at Rachel's store, I saved up since I started working there. I even got a second job on weekends at Jade's cafe, owned by her brother and her sister-in-law. I've been doing everything I could so I could pay for college. I was practical and choose the best one for me and my salary. I applied for a great college away from the city. Affordable, with a great mechanics and engineering program, best of all, it was far away from Rachel and Sterling as possible. Now that I was old enough, I was technically allowed to leave the house. Since Rachel was my legal guardian and I didn't have any other relatives I had no choice. Now I did, and I couldn't wait for the chance were I would get up and leave the place. Once I got there, I knew I would need to get another job to support my studies, but at least I'll be away from my family. Jade would often lend me her Mpad (magi pad) while I was at the dinner so I could check out any emails from the college.

During my lunch break I visited Jade, who greeted me like she always did. "Eli! Hermano, come on, Josua saved you your usual." Jade was a Puerto Rican fairy with a bubbly and sunny personality. She always knew how to make me smile. Aside from Meeko, she was the only other person who I could depend and trust. Her older brother was a strong and handsome male fairy who treated me like his own blood. He kept on saying he hoped to one day be blessed with a son like me one day, which always made me blush. I had a bad habit of that.

Josua handed me my salad, I never ate meat. My mom was a vegetarian and so was I. Jade happily flew from one place to the other, placing the orders and greeting the customers. She was like the sister I never had. She hovered beside me, I don't think I've ever seen her feet touch the floor. Her wings were simple butterfly-like in appearance, but pink and orange in colors. Her skin was tan, her eyes green like the stone of her namesake and her hair was long, brown and wavy with a stylized bang brushed over her head. Her ears were pointed and was a bit shorter than me. I was a pretty tall guy.

"Hey, Jade. Any word from Baltasar U?"

Baltasar University was the school I applied to. Since I was on the waiting list and there were other students applying this year, I hadn't heard from them as of yet.

Jade shook her head in apology, "Sorry, mi'jo. Nothing yet." she said in her spanish-accent.

"But we are keeping a sharp eye on it." said Josua with a wink, "You are a smart and bright young boy, so don't you worry. If it is the way of God, you shall make it."

I smiled in gratitude. I still remembered my mom's words: To have faith and be strong. I did the best I could and while Jade and her family's support was great, I still didn't feel like I was that courageous yet. They made me smile and reminded me that there was still good in the world. I guess, I had yet to find my place in it. As much as I appreciated and adored them all so much, even they couldn't give me the answers I needed. I felt something was missing in my life, but I never knew exactly what.

My eyes turned to the t.v. screen where they were announcing the upcoming race in the next two months, and try-out racers would participate in order to compete in the race of July 25 this summer. Tomorrow will be the first try-out race of the year. The races had at least four rounds for the racers to compete in. The winning racer would move on to the finishing round and compete with the current champions. The racing champions were divided by three; the first, the second and third. This year, Sterling was the first, having beaten Lumina last year, which was a shock for everyone. There have been rumors that she will be making a comeback this year, but only time would tell.

I saw Sterling's photo on the news, looking as cocky as ever. The second picture was one of the princess, or as everyone called her "The Beast." She was about to turn twenty this year, a good week before the actual finishing round of the races. Jade rolled her eyes and scoffed, "I can't stand those people. Calling that poor chica a 'beast'! What do they know?"

"I don't know, Jade. She is pretty intense." I said, looking back at the image of the angry princess.

"I wouldn't be surprised." said the fairy, "Having all those cameras following her around like that. I can only imagine how she feels. And you Eli, you should know better than to judge a book by its cover."

"Well, she's definitely an open book as it seems."

Jade rolled her eyes, "Boys. You never know how a woman's mind really works."

"Oh, and you do?" I asked with a smirk.

"More than you realize, hermano." she winked back.

I simply rolled my eyes, Jade always acted as if she knew exactly what she was talking about. As much as I loved her, she could be pretty clueless and naive at times. Which reminded me, I needed to get back to work.

"Oh man, I gotta go!" I ate the last bit of my salad, took my backpack and dashed off. "See ya guys!"

"Hasta luego, Eli!" I heard Josua call out and I simply waved back. They were the best friends a guy could ask for.

As I walked down the streets, I noticed that there were two very suspicious figures behind me. One of the things I inherited from my mom was that I had a keen eye for spotting anything out of the ordinary. I guess it came with my knack for being able to fix a bike or car by paying close attention to details.

I tried to ignore the two, hoping they were just heading in the same direction and would leave in the next turn, which I needed to take in order to get back to the store. However, they did not leave. I felt them getting closer towards me and I slowly began to accelerate my walking. They eventually managed to grab hold of my backpack and drag me down into a nearby alley filled with garbage all around. I finally caught who and what they were. They were two trolls, literally, trolls with rounded faces, colored pale brown or brown-green with webbed ears and large noses. One was tall and skinny while the other was short and blurb. They wore typical street gang clothing, right down to the leather jackets, torn up clothing, tattoos and piercings around their ears and even noses.

The taller one squatted down to my level and arched an eyebrow, "All right, kid. Here's whats we's gonna do." as he spoke his saliva managed to get splattered all over my eyes, man it was gross. "Yous gonna hand over your money, and nobody gets hurt. Got it?"

I didn't show any signs of fear, nor did I feel any. I've lived with Rachel and Sterling for three years, and they were much more annoying than mister Spitty-mc-spits-alot here. "And what if I don't?" I said strongly. The rounded troll took me by the collar and lifted me up into the air.

"Smart mouth, aint ya?"

I struggled to break free. I knew I should have done more push ups in gym class. But, as Fate would have it, I didn't need to lift a finger to get out of his grip.

The large troll suddenly felt woozy when someone had hit him from the back of the head. He fell to the ground, releasing me in the process, and was knocked out cold. Unfortunately, he kind of landed on me. I grunted as I tried to push him off of me and that was when I saw my savior.

It was a girl, no taller than I was, covered in a dark blue jacket, covering her head and wore a pair of dark sunglasses. She had white sneakers and a pair of gray page pants. All I could see of her skin were her hands, which she wore fingerless gloves, and her nose and face. Her skin was dark like mocha. The taller troll laughed.

"Yous think you're so toughs, girly?"

The woman didn't say a word but instead she leaped up and jumped kick the guy right in the face. She moved with the speed of a cheetah and the reflexes to match. I had never seen anybody move like that before, heck I didn't even think it was possible. The taller troll tried to kick and punch at her, but she dodged his attacks every single time, it was like he was fighting a ghost. He attempted to kick at her but she effortlessly grabbed hold of his leg and spun him around, causing him to be thrown down to the ground. I finally managed to shove the unconscious fat troll off of me and the girl offered her my hand. Before I could take it, the taller troll got up again and launched to attack her. My eyes widened when she simply turned around and punched him square in the jaw without even flinching or grunting. She punched him three more times before leaping up and landing behind him. She took his arm and twisted it, causing him pain.

That was when she finally spoke, "Leave him alone." she said in such an intimidating yet clam voice. The taller troll began to sweat and quiver in fear.

"Y--y--yes, mam!"

She released him and he screamed in terror before running out of the alley. The fatter troll finally came to but upon seeing the terrifying martial artists before him, he screamed and ran out like a coward just like the other one. I finally stood up, took my backpack and stared in awe at the one who saved me. She didn't show any emotion whatsoever, it was hard to read her since her eyes were covered by the dark sunglasses. Still, she did save my life, I had to be thankful.

"Thanks." I said, "That was… was incre--" before I could finish, she cut me short by lunging at me and pinning my body against the wall. I felt my face turn red, I though she was going to attack but, she didn't push on my chest for too long or too hard.

I couldn't make out her face due to the shadow underneath the hood and the dark glasses, but I could have sworn I saw something underneath her right eye. Still, I couldn't make it out, I was too distracted by the powerfully strong heroine in front of me. I felt both intimidated, but also relieved that she wasn't going to hurt me. I can't explain it but, I just…knew she wasn't going to.

"Don't tell anyone what you saw." she said, her voice was strong, feminine, but also kind of soft, "Do you understand?"

I nodded my head, still too stunned to speak. In a flash, she leaped up like a grasshopper and leaped onto the roof of the buildings, disappearing from sight. I have never seen moves like that before. Well, in movies sure but never in real life.

For the rest of the day, I couldn't stop thinking about my mysterious savior or who she was. What she did, what she displayed before my very eyes.

Now that was real Courage.

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