Today was going to be a long day. It wasn’t bad enough that her alarm clock had decided to not go off but she still had to deal with that stupid dinner that her sister had set up. The last thing she wanted to do was dress up and eat dinner with her sister, her sister’s beau and a complete stranger. Then again she didn’t have much of a choice; her family members had a hold over her. A hold that tightened around her neck every time she was in their presence. As she moved around her apartment desperately trying to get herself prepared for the day, she almost forgot about the small body that lay a few feet away from her. The figure fidgeted in the bed before sitting up and staring around the room wide-eyed,
“Anna” they mumbled, “I’m hungwy” Anna gritted her teeth before throwing her things into a bag,
“Yeah well I’m not a chef kid so guess you’re shit out of luck” Probably not the best thing to say to a four-year old girl first thing in the morning. With her mood already sullen, Anna watched as the little girl’s eyes filled with tears and her bottom lip began to tremble, “Okay okay. Relax” She approached the bed, crouching down to the little girl’s level, “Celeste.. Relax. We’ll get you something to eat but we have to leave soon.”
“Bu..bu” Anna groaned and counted to ten to restrain herself from placing her hand across the child’s face,
“You want to see your brother don’t you?” Suddenly Celeste stopped her whimpers and her face lit up,
“Yeah! You pwomised”
“Oh no. As long as he holds up his end of the deal then I’ll keep my.. pwomise”
“Fret not buttercup” and that put an end to the conversation before Anna was ushering both herself and Celeste out the door, towards what she was sure was going to be a long day.
“I’m scared” those were the words that left Celeste’s mouth as she and Anna stood in the vacant warehouse. As she looked around she got the inkling that this was the sort of place her mother used to warn her to avoid once she got older. Her mother never described the stench of these no-go areas but Celeste knew the smell of death anywhere. The last house she and her brother had shared hadn’t been the best experience with its’ proximity to the cemetery. If that wasn’t enough, the only other people that were in the warehouse sans for her and Anna were four men who looked like they had never cracked a smiled a day in their lives. Furthermore, they were constantly reaching into their jackets, as if to ensure that whatever was stored there hadn’t disappeared. It was probably chocolate. Her principal always kept chocolate in his inner suit pocket. She wondered if Anna had any chocolate. She wondered if Anna liked chocolate. She hadn’t said much to her after she had taken Celeste away from her brother the previous night.
“Where is she?!” Was that.. Could it be, “Where’s my sister?!” It was!
“Damen!” Celeste cried. She saw his figure coming towards her and she instantly leaped forward. She didn’t take any more than two steps before she was swiftly picked up and she found herself in Anna’s arms,
“Whoa” she said, “Easy there” Celeste shot Anna a look she usually saved for her class teachers when they picked on her inability to grasp concepts as quickly as her other classmates before looking at her brother. Sweat drenched his entire face and his fatigue was accentuated by the heavy bags under his eyes. However when he saw her his face lit up and he gave her a reassuring smile,
“Hey buttercup” he said. His voice was hoarse and Celeste worried he had caught a cold. He looked sick. She would borrow him her pink scarf as soon as they got home. Speaking of which,
“I wanna go home” she cried. Anna scoffed and Damen shot her an even more vile look than the one Celeste had thrown.
“Soon buttercup.” Damen then turned his attention to Anna and his face hardened, “We had a deal”
“Did you fulfil it? Or are Celeste and I gonna have another sleepover? I wonder if she’ll wake up from this one” Damen took a step forward but quickly stopped when Celeste felt something against her ribs. Something was poking her stomach, “One more step. I just got this one so I wanna see how it shoots” Celeste saw cracks in Damen’s face. The same cracks she’d see when papa would yell at him.
“I need more time” He whispered, “I.. I have this thing tonight and.. I.. Tonight. Please”
“Fine. But I’m leaving Celeste over here with M” Anna nodded her head towards one of the men that stood watching the entire exchange, “He loves kids” Guess Celeste was wrong. The man can smile.
“You’re late” Those were the words that left her sister’s mouth as soon as she sat down next to her. Anna had to control herself from picking up the salad fork and stabbing her sister’s eye out, “Would it have killed you to clean up a little?”
“I had a job sister” Anna spat back.
“That’s no excuse to come in here looking like the last person at the end of a soup line. Even the Godfather had swag. Jesus Christ Lucille” her sister cried before drinking from her wine glass. She noticed Anna watching her, “It’s my second glass”
“In the past five minutes Michelle?” Michelle almost choked on the wine that slipped past her lips,
“Don’t try it. You and dad aren’t the only ones that know how to make people disappear, sister” Anna was sure that if the salad fork had just been a little closer to her hand,
“Lucy!” Anna looked up and automatically plastered a fake smile on her face as she stood up and embraced her sister’s beau, ”It’s good to see you. You look great”
“You’ve met her once. Lying is a skill you do not possess Kris” Michelle mumbled. Kris rolled his eyes,
“Anyway. You’re just on time. My friend was also running late. You guys could have shared a Taxify. Ah! There he is. Lucille, this is Damen and Damen, meet Lucille”
Michelle had had quite a few glasses of wine but not enough to be complete obliterated to the point where she was oblivious to the obvious tension at the table. She hoped she hadn’t set her sister up with one of her former sex-buddies. But then again this was her sister. She doubts there were enough men left in the city who hadn’t taken a stroll down Lake Lucy. She laughed into her drink at her demented thoughts and caught quite a vicious look from Kris. She shrugged at him. Dinner conversations clearly weren’t happening so she had to entertain herself. But if Kris wanted her to socialise,
“So.. Damen. What is it that you do exactly?” She was sure she slurred her words but Damen seemed to understand her,
“I work with Kris. Banking” Michelle noticed Damen only maintained contact with her sister. That’s a little offensive. She was sure she was prettier than her narcissistic sister,
“Oh? So you make the big money?” she asked.
“No but I see enough of it” If that was supposed to be a joke it certainly did not have the best effect as the tension at the table suddenly increased. Kris cleared his throat,
“Yeah uhm.. Damen and I work on the same level. Same department”
“Yep. Each other’s better halves” Damen really was terrible at jokes. Michelle glanced over at her sister and she was positive she saw sweat rolling off her forehead. What the hell was going on?
“I thought you worked at L’Argent” It took a moment for Kris to realise that Anna had spoken to him. She had been deathly quiet as soon as Damen had sat down,
“Last time you saw me was three months ago. I changed jobs. There’s just better opportunities at RANDBANK”
“You have no idea” Michelle noticed how Damen’s fingers tightened around the fork in his hand when he said that. Something was definitely off.
“And what is it that you do.. Lucy?” Michelle heard the name roll off Damen’s tongue with spite. Anna responded without missing a beat,
“Babysitting” A look flashed over Damen’s face and Michelle quickly realised that once again family business had become too personal. She glanced over at her sister and recognized the look on her face. Shit.
“Go choose the wine” Michelle ignored the glare that Anna shot her. What the hell was she thinking?, “Kris. Take my sister and go pick out a wine. Now” Kris didn’t need to be told twice but Anna did and she was seemingly pulled out of her chair and almost pushed away. Kris didn’t care. Better to deal with Lucille’s sulks than Michelle’s wrath, “Who does she have?”
“What?” Damen was too focused on starring daggers into Anna.. Lucille.. Whatever the hell her name was’s back that he almost didn’t hear the question, “What did you just say?” Why did Michelle find herself constantly repeating things tonight?
“Who. Does. She. Have?” She saw something flicker behind his eyes. Pain? Rage? She didn’t care either way; she just wanted an answer to her question.
“My.. My sister” Chances are she was probably dead but he didn’t need to hear that. Michelle took a sip from her glass,
“You have the option of whether or not your sister lives. Me? I don’t have the luxury of holding the fate of my sister in the palm of my fucking hands. If I were in your position I would have told my father to go fuck himself. But alas, you love your sister and I.. Well I always preferred being an only child” Wha.. That was the last thing Damen had expected to hear. What the hell had he gotten himself into?
“Point is what I hold between my legs will achieve more than what Lucille hopes to achieve by.. babysitting” Again; what?
“We don’t need you. Whatever my sister and father have planned, they don’t need you anymore. I quit the family business as soon as I met Kris. That was a year and a half ago but that doesn’t mean I don’t dive back in now and then” She saw on Damen’s face the same confusion that was on hers at the beginning of dinner, “I can find you your sister. And then you guys can go into hiding”
“Your family said they’d leave us alone after the job”
“Then you’re dumber than you are pretty and you sure are pretty. Your sister will be dead as soon as the job is done” And if M was through with her, she’d wish she was dead much sooner than that.
“What do you want?”
“What your sister wants. For you to go find her”
“Where is he?” Anna almost screamed the question when she got to the table and found Damen absent. Luckily Kris was holding the wine for if it had been her, the bottle would have shattered to the ground, “Michelle!”
“He left. He grabbed his jacket and ran out” Yes he ran out after she had given him the location of where his little sister was being held but Lucille didn’t need to know that.
“And you let him go?!” Kris shot apologetic looks at the other patrons who were disturbed by Lucille’s’ loud voice. Michelle shrugged. Who was she to stop a valiant brother from saving his baby sister? Chances are as soon as he reached the apartment, M and his goons would beat him to a deathly pulp and then most likely shoot him without thinking about the repercussions but then again; Lucille did not need to know that.
“I’m not a babysitter. You are” Michelle had barely taken a sip of her glass before Lucille slapped it out of her hand. Temper temper. It was almost as bad as their fathers’. Almost.
“Do you realise what you’ve done?” Anna said. What had she done? Michelle pondered on the question. Had she sent a young man and his little sister to certain death? No. her father despised loose strings and all Damen was going to get in the end was a bullet to the head. What she had done was capitalize on a opportunity that would ensure she would always remain the perfect daughter and she had essentially signed her sister’s death certificate. Yes. She definitely realised what she had done. But Lucille didn’t need to know that,
“No. Why? Have we disappointed father?” Michelle was sure that if her sister had been a little closer to the table, a salad fork would have found itself wedged into her eye. After letting out a banshee-like shriek, Lucille quickly stormed out of the restaurant.
“What the..” Kris felt a migraine forming. He knew Michelle’s sister was a junkie and had some personal struggles but that was just,
“Crazy huh?” His girlfriend said with a shrug before standing up and wrapping her arms around him, “Told you she was.. Special”
“Yeah but that.. And why did Damen..”
“How about I make it up to you? We’ll go home. I’ll slip into something more comfortable and then I’ll” the rest of the sentence was whispered in his ear but it did enough to make his blush visible from a distance, “And then we can talk” Kris cleared his throat, his face still red and his palms sweaty,
“Talk about what?”