I knocked on my apartment door and waited for Nico to come and open the door. Anxiety and desperation were eating at my insides, what was I going to do now? Where would I find a lucrative job? All the companies preferred college graduates, whereas I was only a high school graduate. If only my father never got sick and my mother had a lucrative job, then today I would be working in some successful company. But if I started wondering about all the what ifs then I would lose everything, and even though I didn’t have much to lose, I had enough.
The door of my apartment opened with Nico standing in front of me, grinning. His green eyes, very much like my own, were sparkling. His blonde hair a mess. Just seeing him happy made my lips curve in an involuntary smile. Even though my little brother didn’t exactly have a normal life, he was always happy, always optimistic. I tried my best not to let anything worry him, but he was happy without me even doing much.
“Hey, Nico, how are you?” I asked with a smile, even though anxiety had my heart pounding. I quickly ran my eyes over Nico, making sure he was alright.
“I’m great, how are you? Did you get the job you wanted?” he queried, raising his head a little to look me in the eyes. Even though he was only ten years old, Nico was already as tall as me, however, thanks to my high heels I appeared a little taller.
I shook my head in response. “No, they had already hired someone before I had a chance,” I lied, not wanting him to worry.
“Oh, well it’s okay, I’m sure there are better jobs for you,” he replied with a smile.
“Yeah, I hope so,” I muttered the last part to myself, not wanting Nico to see me upset; his heart would not be able to handle the stress and anxiety.
“Can we go out today? I am bored,” Nico complained.
My heart clenched in sorrow. Because of his heart condition, I tried my best to make sure Nico didn’t exert himself; five times he had suffered from an attack and I had to rush him to the hospital, praying to God to let him be alright, and every time the doctors instructed me to make sure Nico didn’t engage in a lot of physical activity and to get his surgery done as soon as possible. If only the doctors knew just how difficult it was to get money.
“We can do something at home, you know you’re not supposed to exert yourself,” I suggested, wishing that somehow, from somewhere I would get the money for Nico’s surgery so he could go out and run around with kids his own age, instead of staying cooped up in the apartment.
Guilt and desperation stabbed my heart when the smile on Nico’s face fell. The sparkle in his eyes dulled as he sighed audibly. “It’s been three weeks since I went out, please Alice, just for twenty minutes, take me to the park, anywhere,” Nico pleaded, his eyes begging me to give in.
Sighing in defeat, I looked my brother in the eyes. “Okay fine, we’ll go to the library, you can read books,” I conceded. Library was the only place I could think of where Nico would be able to spend time without exerting himself.
Nico smiled, a full megawatt smile that I loved so much. Punching in the air, Nico hooted in excitement. “Yes! I’ll go get my jacket,” he stated, then jogged over to his room.
“Don’t run,” I chided. Shaking my head, I went to my room to get my wallet. Since I was already wearing my trench coat, I just had to get my woolen cap and my gloves out of the closet. Even though it was afternoon, I made sure to remain protected, London winter could be vicious. Exchanging my high heels with comfortable trainers, I shut my closet and made my way out of my room where Nico was already standing.
“Hurry up, Alice, we don’t want the library to close up,” Nico said in a rush.
“It’s not going to close up this early and where is your backpack?” I questioned.
“On the chair.” I picked up the black backpack and slung it over my shoulder. I had to take the backpack to the library so Nico wouldn’t have to carry heavy books.
“Let’s go,” I stated. Nico wasted no time in running out of the apartment, giving my heart a sudden jolt. “Stop running!” I scolded, following after him, making sure to lock the front door.
Outside was fairly chilly, but that was to be expected. Even though Nico and I lived in one of the poor areas of London, there was a lot of crowd. People were milling about, rushing here and there. It was nearly time for lunch which explained the crowd. I made sure to hold Nico’s hand tightly, to make sure he wouldn’t get lost.
After about twenty minutes of weaving in and out of the East End London crowd, Nico and I finally arrived at the library. Nico wasted no time in going inside and immediately rushing off to the Biology aisle, leaving me alone. Wanting to make sure that he was okay, I followed Nico to the Biology section only to find him sitting on one of the many beanbags in a corner, reading a big, fat book, while a whole bunch of books were placed beside him on the small table.
“You seem to have an obsession with Biology,” I commented, looking over to see Nico reading about the heart. Whenever Nico and I visited the library, he always opted to read science books, mainly Biology, which I found strange yet impressive, as a boy his age wanted to read about super heroes and stuff.
“I want to be a doctor, Alice, this is why I need to study a lot, so I can help people with heart diseases, then no one would have to stay home because of a bad heart,” he answered, a determined look in his eyes.
Unwanted tears pricked my eyes at hearing my brother’s answer. His heart condition was effecting him so much, both physically and emotionally, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Blinking my eyes rapidly to stop the tears from falling, I reached for my necklace and begun fiddling with it. “You stay here and read, I’m going to go do some research, okay?”
“Okay, but please can we stay here for a few hours, I want to sit and read here,” Nico requested.
I nodded with a smile. “We’ll leave when you want to,” I replied, then turned and walked to the check-out desk.
“Hi, are any of the computers available?” I asked the cute burnette sitting behind the desk, typing away on the keyboard.
“Sure, there are a few computers that are free, you can go and see,” she answered politely.
“Thanks.” I turned and strode to the computer area. The computer area had lots of computers, which were arranged five to a table, each with its own mini cubicle. Which was amazing as one would have complete privacy when working.
Finding an empty cubicle, I sat on the swivel chair and turned on the computer. As soon as I opened the internet tab, I hurriedly searched for lucrative online jobs. I would prefer to get an online job, so I could work from home, that way I wouldn’t have to leave Nico alone and would be able to take care of him.
When I turned on the computer, I was full of hope, but now, after searching through nearly fifty links, I was starting to lose hope. No online job was paying more than what I was already earning at the bar and the gas station. Even if I did opt for an online job, I realized now that I wouldn’t be able to manage working online due to my odd hours at the bar and the gas station. However, I continued searching link after link, praying to God to get me a job.
“Hey, Alice?” Nico’s voice startled me. I looked to my right to see Nico standing with his arms folded across his chest.
“Yeah, what is it, are you alright?” I asked concerned.
“Yes, I just wanted to tell you that I think we should go, your shift is about to start,” he told me.
Looking at my wrist watch, I cursed under my breath. It had been five hours since Nico and I had been here, and he was right, my shift at the gas station was about to start.
Hurriedly turning off the computer, I stood up and grabbed the backpack. “Did you borrow any books?” I asked Nico.
He nodded. “Yeah, there are at the check-out desk,” he answered.
Taking his hand, I walked to the check-out desk to see the lady checking out the last book and stacking it on top of the already big pile. Without saying anything, I unzipped the bag and put all the eight, fat books in it. Once all the books were in, I zipped the bag shut and slung it over my shoulder, making sure not to let anyone see how uncomfortable I was with the heavy bag. Bidding our farewells to the librarian, Nico and I left the library.
The crowd had thinned considerably in a span of five hours. Not many people were seen wandering around, which prevented me from holding on to Nico’s hand. Despite that, I made sure to have Nico walk as closely to me as possible. I couldn’t risk him walking at a distance; his heart disease had turned me into an anxious, worrisome mess.
We reached our apartment in less than twenty minutes. Unlocking the front door, I hurried inside and put the backpack in Nico’s bedroom. I didn’t want him to carry it or anything, if I put the bag in his bedroom, then Nico could simply unzip the bag and read whatever book he wanted. If someday I did become rich, I would buy a book shelf for Nico where he would be able to put his books and other knick knacks.
Rolling my shoulder to alleviate the pain, I left Nico’s room and went to the kitchen to prepare Nico’s dinner. I still had an hour before my shift actually started, which was enough to make some Italian vegetable soup. I wanted to make Nico something like a grilled burger or something as it was easier, but it wasn’t good for his heart and I would never put Nico’s health in jeopardy just to make my life easier.
The doorbell rang as I was cutting the vegetables. I frowned, curiosity blooming inside me. Who would visit us at this hour? It was no time for the milk man or the landlord to arrive, then who was at the door? I put the knife down and was about to go and see who it was, but Nico beat me to it.
“I got it, Alice, you make dinner,” Nico bellowed. I reluctantly picked the knife again and went back to cutting, however, my mind was wondering who was at the door, as I strained my ears to listen to anything strange.
When all I heard were strange, incomprehensible words, I put the knife down again and went to check what or who exactly Nico was talking to.
“Nico, who is—” my words died in my throat as I took in the men standing at the threshold of my apartment.
Gideon Maslow along with his brother and the older man, who I presumed was his father, was standing at the threshold of my apartment, looking as deadly as ever; his eyes unreadable.
“Wow, you’re even shorter than I thought,” Gideon’s brother commented.
Ignoring his comment, I turned my attention to Gideon. “I—Is everything alright?”
“Aren’t you going to invite us in, young lady?” Gideon’s father queried.
My cheeks heated in embarrassment. “Of course, my apologies, please come in,” I stated politely.
All three men entered my apartment as Nico closed the door. “Alice, do you know these people?” Nico enquired.
“Yes, I do, Nico, why don’t you go in your room while I talk to them,” I told him.
“Are you in danger?” he asked anxiously.
“No, no, not at all, I just need to talk to them about something important, that’s all, I’ll call you out as soon as they leave,” I responded.
“Okay, but you call me if you’re in danger,” he stated.
“I will,” I replied.
“Promise?” he held up his pinkie finger.
Linking my pinkie finger with his I smiled. “Promise.”
Satisfied, Nico sauntered in his room, closing the door softly behind him. While I went in the living room where Gideon was sitting with the other two men.
“So, shortcake, what are you, 4′8, 4′10?” Gideon’s brother enquired.
“I’m 5′0,” I stated. “Would you like something to drink?” I asked them, not forgetting my manners.
“No, go and pack your bags,” Gideon ordered, locking his sea green eyes with mine. My heart flipped as Gideon stared me, his eyes willing me to submit.
“Why?” I questioned, dread creeping up my spine. If he had any intentions of separating me from my brother, then he had another thing coming.
“Because I said so,” Gideon stated simply.
I shook my head. “I’m sorry Mr. Maslow, but I will not do anything you tell me if I don’t get a proper reasonable answer,” I stated.
Gideon’s eyes hardened, resembling green shards. “Do as I say,” he commanded.
“First give me a valid reason,” I demanded.
“Wow, you’re quite willful,” Gideon’s brother piped in.
“Shut up, Kieran,” Gideon snapped. Oh, so that was his name. I liked Kieran, he was not as intimidating as Gideon, I wondered where the younger one was?
Standing up, Gideon strode over to me until he was standing just a few inches from me. I raised my head to look at him. Without high heels, Gideon towered over me, making me feel vulnerable.
“Go and pack your bags, little peach, I won’t tell you again,” he stated in a dark tone, threatening.
“Why?” I questioned, not letting myself back down. I was not his slave, he had to give me a reason before I did anything he requested.
His next words had my eyes widening in shock.
“We are getting married.”