Bonus Chapter [2.1]
BEWARE: YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE A younger (smol) KAYDEN
There will be 3 parts because it is getting so damn long. Lol.
Thank you for reading ♥️
The sky looked bright and pretty with streaks of yellow and blushes of red—like the skin of a nectarine. The clouds were whipped cream sprinkled with pieces of grated, candied orange rind, and the sun was the liquid yolk of an half-boiled egg spilled into the mix just because. Or it could be custard, but then it wouldn’t be the shape of the sun.
Whether it turned out to be a dessert egg or a breakfast egg I wanted to paint it, or take a photo and save it for later, anything other than being here right now.
Why did the sky have to be so pretty on such a dreary day? And why did I have to be out here instead of safe in a nice cosy house all week?
The answer to my question shoved me out of my musings. The moment I steadied myself, I found him standing in front of me, Frank—as he liked to call himself. No surname attached. Just Frank.
I had a hard time believing that, but it wasn’t my place to ask questions. I don’t think it ever was.
I curled my fingers into the hem of my sweater. It wasn’t really chilly, but this was the only piece of clothing I had from before. The rest had either been stolen or traded for something I no longer needed or had with me. I couldn’t remember which but at this point it didn’t matter.
I just didn’t want to spend today in hand-me-downs that had seen better years half a decade ago, and it wasn’t until I dragged my eyes from the sky that I realized I had spaced out again.
Frank had his arms crossed and sported a large frown on his otherwise gentle face. Almost immediately, I knew that I was in trouble for not paying attention.
“Sir?” I asked when he remained silent, half-expecting him to yell at me. He did that often, but I knew that he only raised his voice to get his point across. I got lost in my own head too often for whispers to reach me.
“I told you,” he started, his voice quiet. “That polite act is going to get you killed here.”
“Yes,” I told him. I obviously hadn’t gotten mugged enough times for sounding rich, for the lesson to sink in. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize either, kid.”
“You’ve got to be mean and take what belongs to you before someone else snatches it away.”
“What belongs to me.” I repeated, but he must have heard it as a question because he answered.
“You aren’t going to survive in this city without a roof over your head and a family watching your back. This is the only chance you’re getting.”
“Can’t I just stay with you?” I mumbled and took a glance at the other people around us. They all looked like they belonged here. I didn’t. What business did I have joining a gang, anyway? Gangs equaled violence, that was common sense, and that was all I had been running away from since day one.
Homeless plus son-of-a-big-shot-politician-and-CEO didn’t make for good variables in a linear equation that determined my safety and happiness, especially in the shelters where I had been holed up. A hundred people cramped into a poorly ventilated room to sleep on the floor, and no one had any qualms about stealing shoes from snoring men.
The thought about ending up in a shelter of any kind made me want to turn around and walk away. But where would I go? The streets? The homeless there weren’t any less vicious than the ones in the shelters.
“I can’t babysit you all day, kid,” Frank said, interrupting my train of thought
“I can get a job,” I said, hoping to change his mind last minute. Arguing hadn’t worked on the way here, but maybe now he would have a magical change of heart and we would go back to his apartment and forget this crazy idea.
“If that was possible, you would have had one a month ago when I found you,” he said and I felt my hopes deflate. He was right. No one wanted to hire me, and even if they did, the money I made was no better than scrap. Even if it wasn’t, my ‘roommates’ at the shelter would make me cough it up sooner or later.
I couldn’t take another beating without breaking something, and I didn’t have the money to make a trip to the ER.
“All you have is here, or it’s back to the streets,” Frank said, “I don’t take in freeloaders.”
“You let me freeload for a month.”
“Ah, yes. To fatten you up for the picking. There ain’t such a thing like a skinny runner.”
I laughed, without meaning to, and he laughed too. I don’t think he understood how wrong his statement sounded but he laughed anyway, and that made me feel a little warm on the inside.
I stopped tugging on the fraying end of my sweater. “Frank, I don’t think I can do this. I mean, this is a gang, and gangs—”
“You’ll be okay, kid,” he said seriously. “I didn’t save your life just to kill you. All you need to do is prove your worth to the Ciscos.”
“Prove my worth?” This time it was a question. “And how do I do that?”
“You’ll deliver a package, take the payment and come back. Simple, ain’t it?”
“So I’m in the sales department,” I joked.
“Practically,” he clapped his hand on my shoulder, “and you won’t be alone.”
He pointed to the crowd ahead of us. “We send you out in groups, just like it’s done in the Bible.”
It was odd hearing him compare this and religious texts in any way, but I stayed silent. I didn’t think he cared so there would be no point in mentioning it.
Frank reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife. “This baby has never left my side before, but I have high hopes for you kid.”
He pressed it’s hilt into my palm and I lifted it to my face, blade up. “Will I have to kill someone?”
“If you want to.” He shrugged then looked at his watch. “Well, I best be off. Good luck, kid.”
I watched him walk off, smacking whoever stood in his way. For a wooden cane, it was especially sturdy and I had been hit enough times to be able to relate with those who he had just assaulted.
I looked away from the grumbling crowd and rubbed my arm—the bruise I had gotten from being woken up this morning felt extra sore—before tucking Frank’s knife beneath the loop of my belt.
I had nowhere else to keep it, and my jacket would hide it from the sight of anyone with unnecessarily grubby hands.
I turned to the line forming in front of me and kept my head down.
If I do this right, I’ll become one of the Ciscos.
I never thought that I’d have resort to selling myself just to survive, but anything was better than doing it back out on the streets and having to do it again and again and again until there was nothing left of me.