1 / nadia
The money slips underneath my thumb like butter. Each bill is smooth and crisp, flicking away into my open palm like this is what it's made to do.
300, 400, 500...
The count goes all the way up to $1200. Just what we priced it for, just what we were hoping for in return.
My eyes scan the bill on top before safely tucking the stack into an old envelope, wrinkly and dirty from a few sales before this one. But from what I understand, money isn't too picky about where it's stored.
I take the late subway back to Cherry street which is just a few blocks from our house. It's nearly midnight on a school night but we don't go to school. Not usually, anyway.
The dirty subway doors open and I hold onto my Jansport straps while exiting. There were only two middle aged men riding with me and one young asian woman who looked confused.
Outside, the walk home is cool and wet which is contrary to the warm April day we had just a few hours prior. I think about the fact that we're going to be 18 in just a few months — July — and the thought burns the back of my throat. We'll be old enough to do most things we started doing at thirteen.
There's a stray cat in the alleyway by the house who is walking in circles. It's been doing that all week so it's just a matter of time before the thing falls over dead. I point a finger gun at it and shoot.
Once I'm home and inside, Uncle Al is sitting on the sofa with a beer, the back of his bald head staring at me. Wrestling is on tonight and he's fully engrossed.
"I'm back," I announce while closing and locking the door. My Jansport slips off of my shoulders easily and lands on the floor with a thud.
"Whatcha got in there, kid?" Uncle Al jumps in his seat at the sound, which was louder than I expected.
"Oh, just some textbooks I stole from —"
"Jesus, kid. The money!" Uncle Al's voice is deep and grainy which matches his overweight physique perfectly. He's got to be at least fifty with a very impressive beer gut, but that's just a wild guess on his age. Nobody really knows.
"Oh," I sigh, "$1200, just like we asked."
I unzip my backpack so I can show Uncle Al the money. I know he'll be impressed because the price wasn't haggled down at the last minute. It's the first time I've pulled that off.
"$1200, huh? That's $300 a piece!" Uncle Al tells me while he raises his beer bottle, almost like he's saying "cheers!" It's not even an impressive amount when split.
With my head cocked, I put the money back and stand up. There's a defensive edge to my voice, "but you said the entire profit was going to me and the boys this time."
Uncle Al laughs and I can see his beer gut wobble from over the back of the sofa. Does he think this is some sort of joke? Vechky's keep their promises, and Uncle Al should know this especially.
"Don't laugh, it's what you told me and what we agreed on!" my voice strains like a baby trying to yell.
Uncle Al twists his head to look at me. His face is tomato red in the numbing television light. "Too many cigarettes? You're too young to have a voice sound hoarse like that."
My foot rams against my backpack. "All $1200 goes to us, alright? Just like you agreed to in the beginning."
My cheeks burn hot. No response.
Uncle Al groans and shifts his large body back and forth on the sofa, mumbling something before he takes a swig of his beer.
"Where's the boys?" My voice sounds small now.
Uncle Al points towards the ceiling which either means they're asleep or smoking pot. My money is on pot. I know that Jax and Angelo will be ecstatic once they see the textbooks I stole and the wad of money I've just brought home.
Once upstairs, the boys are asleep. Jax has one arm hanging off of the bed and Angelo is naked with the blanket covering his crotch and upper thighs. Both are snoring loud enough to make the walls vibrate.
It's pretty lame the boys can't even hang on until midnight to see what I've brought home.
I swing the door closed aggressively but it doesn't make a sound. The floor creaks loudly as I walk down to my bedroom.
Even though we're triplets, I've always had a separate room from the boys. None of us are identical either so everyone just assumes I'm older; and I am by ten minutes.
My room isn't clean but it's organized. I've got piles of clean clothes and piles of dirty clothes, stacks of notebooks, cash hidden and separated under the mattress. Everything in its place, as grandma used to say before she was buried in the backyard one night in August.
"The boys," as most people call them, are kept in check by me. In fact, I run this entire house when Uncle Al isn't mooching and our parents aren't too busy with drugs. That's about 90% of the time... and when Uncle Al is mooching.
My window hitches up easily and I bring my book bag up onto the bed with me. Fresh air fills the room and I can smell the musty rain from a spring downpour again. I don't need to smoke cigarettes out the window, but I do. It's just something I've always done. Angelo and Jax don't. They'd whip one out in the middle of Safeway if I didn't stop them.
My door shakes with a knock and then opens, slowly, Angelo's head looking in. I'm so glad he put pants on.
We stare at eachother blankly for a few seconds, my cigarette hanging from my mouth.
Then we both smile. I transfer the cigarette to my fingers and bounce with excitement, patting the spot next to me. We both know what's up.
I've already got his cut out of the money envelope by the time he sits down.
He takes the cigarette from my hand and inhales, soon blowing smoke the opposite way. We look at eachother again and smile, the money tight and safe in his palm.
This is our payday.