Chapter 6: A Captain's Invitation
I get back to my apartment and shuck off my wet, ruined clothes. Naked, I want to have a shower but not before I find the card Dale gave me first. So, I quickly look on my tiny desk, but for some reason it’s not there either. It was probably on the floor under my clothes from last night. I kick around what’s on the ground and still can’t find it.
Argh. I give up.
Sighing in frustration, I turn towards my shower and walk in. The water was only free for the first five minutes each day so I have a short sweet break from reality under the pounding shower head.
Personal hygiene was important to the Government, so most people individually were nice and clean. However, the streets were always a mess. Being cut off from the rest of the New World, we had only our resources to use. A lot of shit ended up on the street and no-where else, especially when rubbish trucks were so rare these days.
I hop out of the shower, wrap myself up in a towel and lay down on my bed. Did I forget to mention that I had to replace my pillows at least twice a week? If I lay down softly enough, it didn’t matter, but eventually the material would be inevitably cut to shreds.
I hear my phone play a tune and my whole body physically cringes.
That would no doubt be an important call from Red headquarters. Hopefully not Prof. Hedgy.
I reach my hand onto the floor where my bag is. I rummage through until I find my phone and I answer it, putting it to my ear.
“Hello?” I ask.
“You left before I could hand out my invitation,” Oh my gosh. It was James.
“Captain,” I answer formally, “As you well know I have an important mission to complete within the next 6 days, I have a lot on my plate, partying isn’t –”
“I don’t care if you come or not,” he snaps, sounding forced, which makes me furrow my eyebrows, “What government block do you live in?”
“What?” I ask, in disbelief, “How do you know I live in a GB?”
“I’ve seen you walk home –... Ah, I didn’t mean it like that. We scout the city a lot,” James sounds nervous all of a sudden, “What number? I’m dropping off the invitation you forgot to pick up.”
“26,” I cringe telling yet another soul where I lived. Was this really a refuge anymore?
James the Brains hangs up without saying goodbye and I stay on my bed, letting out a sigh of frustration.
I’m about to sit up when there is a sudden smash behind me.
A jump to my feet, twirling around with my hands curled into fists. My eyes widen and my fists drop to my side when I see my plastic window completely smashed in, a strong veiny hand grips the sill of the window as another one shoves in a little piece of paper.
“Sorry…!” he calls out as he drops down to the first level.
I shove on some slippers and walk to my shattered window. I look out to see James the Brains waltzing off down the sidewalk like he was so damn proud of himself.
Did he think jumping up to my second floor to smash in my window, just to drop off an invitation, would impress me? I’d say in his confident swagger – yes. Yes, he did.
I punch in his number, but he doesn’t answer. It goes straight to voice mail, ‘Hi, um, yeah, you’ve called James, you know I’m busy protecting and saving lives so maybe call another time?’
“You better pay for that broken window,” I snarl into the phone, hanging up just to see the phone light up again.
This time it’s my mother. Oh, fantastic, just what I needed.
“Hello?” I answer as cheerfully as possible, I stumble to my bed and collapse onto it.
“Alyssa,” my mother speaks quietly. Only one word.
“Yes?” I ask. I wait for her to continue but it’s silence from the other end, until she asks, “… have you got a job?”
“Yes,” I answer quietly, “Mum, is everything alright?”
“What job is it?” she asks.
“The Five Reds,” I find myself speaking as quietly as she, although I have no reason to.
“You better not come back here,” she warns, “We will call the police.”
“Mum, I didn’t –” the phone starts beeping, she’s hung up on me. I’m not surprised. She rang occasionally to make sure I wasn’t coming back. The reason I was thrown out of home was odd, to say the least. Living at home was strict. My parents use to be obsessed with controlling my ‘danger-factor’. I shiver at the memory, that’s what they use to call it. They hated it when everything I touched, was irreparably damaged. Then one day, I was doing one of the many chores they set out for me. I was shredding through papers to help clear out their office. Apparently, I shredded something really important.
Must have been a cheque or something. They both lost the plot and told me to leave and never come back.
And here I was. My parents didn’t want me, my co-workers avoided me… except James, apparently… and the only person to truly show interest in my physical body, ironically, was the most dangerous villain in the city.
I get up and get changed into some loose black shorts and a white shirt. I head out of my block to go down to the cleaning cupboards at the end of the corridor where I find a dust pan and brush. I waltz back into my apartment to clean up the mess of the broken plastic.
I sweep it all up, and pick up bits hiding in the clothes on my floor.
By the time I’ve cleaned my apartment and stuck a piece of paper over the window, the best I could come up with, my phone is ringing once again.
I jump over onto my bed and pick it up, answering.
“You should have a break from your work, Alyssa,” James, again, “Please come tonight. I don’t know why, but I want to see you out of the work space. I want to see you in a different –”
“James, James,” I try to cut him off, “I’m really busy –”
“Don’t make me go to Prof. Hedgy and tell him you’re being anti-social with the rest of us. Prof. Hedgy hates it when workers isolate themselves.”
I suck in a breath. Prof. Hedgy? No, thank you.
“Alright, alright, I’ll come,” I hang up on him before he can continue.
I cross my legs onto the bed and I suddenly have a ridiculous smile on my face.
This was unexpected and hilarious.
Captain James the Brains was clearly showing an interest in me, surprisingly.
I once had a friend in school, Jules, at least for a day. She told me no girls wanted to be my friend because my hair and nails were prettier than theirs. That I looked so good, no amount of hair products or makeup could help them compete.
The only problem with that was, even though girls were apparently intimidated by my looks, boys were in their own way, repulsed. I remember having a boyfriend for about an hour, in high school. He tried to hold my hand and my nails pierced his skin, ruining his best hand before a football match.
I remember he said, ’fuck, forget about it, ‘Lyssa’ and he never talked to me again. The clear memory makes me upset. It just reminded me how quickly people gave up on each other.
Hence, I had to look after myself. I learnt not to rely on anyone else from a young age.
It was generally hard to make friends in Frank City, anyhow. Mostly because everyone was scared of one another. You could never know what weird abnormality the next person that you encountered might have.
I pick up James’ invitation and jump back on my bed. My eyes widen when I read the words, clearly personalised on this particular one for me, ‘Alysa, you’re very welcome to my 24th birthday, 11 Eve street. I don’t have a date tonight, could you be mine? Dress code – pyjamas,’ I bite my lip, he spelt my name wrong. Also… pyjamas? What the heck?
That wasn’t very impressive. I’m literally trying not to snort. This was a joke, for sure.
As I think about it, I feel a poke in my thigh and I see a small corner of something sticking out from under my pillow. Oh yeah, that’s where I put Dale’s card!
I pick it up – it has a metallic number on one side, nothing on the other.
I had to look at the positives. Now I had two ways to get famous. Be James the Brain’s girlfriend, or steal Dale’s ring.
I’m almost about to call Dale, but I think about the party tonight.
Did I really have time to deal with Dale today? The day was half way through.
I sit on my bed for a while, contemplating my options.
If I didn’t call Dale, he’d come looking for me. I frown as I remember his threat clearly.
I punch in his number and call him, my palm is suddenly sweaty as I hold the phone to my ear.
It rings three times and heads straight to voice mail. It’s just a beep.
“Oh,” I’m unprepared for the abrupt short rings, so I quickly muster something together, “It’s Alyssa. Just calling so you don’t, ah…” I’m about to say ‘worry’, but I doubt Dale worried about any woman, so I just skip to the next part, “I c-can’t help you out today. You had a job for me? I can talk tomorrow. I’m a little busy today and tonight so I’ll call tomorrow. Um… bye.”
I hang up the phone while biting my bottom lip. Well, I hoped the message was acceptable to him. I had no idea if he’d laugh it off or probably even just forget about me. I sounded like I wasn’t even interested. But I guess I was nervous and… well… I did call. So that counts for something, right?
And it wasn’t my fault he didn’t answer.
I lie down one more time on my bed, this time at ease with everything.
I had the most handsome man at work interested in my company and I had a way to get in with Dale to be able to successfully accomplish my mission.
If I played things right, I could potentially have the title ‘The Diamond Spy’ under my belt, along with Captain James the Brains hooked through my arm.
I’d be famous and rich in no time.
I mean, hell, I had bluffed my way into the Five Reds and somehow managed to lure in the Lord of the Underworld!
I laugh to myself because hell yeah, I had this in the bag. I had all the power. In 6 days, I could have it all. Everything anyone had ever dreamed of.
I decide to take a nap because once I woke up, I’d get ready for James’ party. Perhaps he’d come to pick me up?
What could possibly go wrong?
I just had to play my cards right, better than anyone else’s in Frankincense city. The way I was going, it’d soon be my damn city. I smirk at the thought.
I didn’t know it yet.
But that would be the last time I’d think like that.
I was confident this day would turn out exactly in my favour. But that was the last thing that was going to happen.
Frankincense wasn’t my city to play games in.
And I was about to find that out the hard way.