I throw away the box and look in the cabinet for more, and, just my luck, there’s absolutely nothing. Mumbling curse words to myself, I run upstairs to Kloe’s room and open the door. She’s sitting on her bead, writing in her song book. She looks up when I enter the room.
“Hey!” she smiles at me.
“Hi” I try to smile, “Kloe, I’m going to the store for food. Can you keep an eye on Trissa for me?”
“Uhhuh, count on me!” She returns her focus to her song book, and I leave.
Once I have my house key and my week’s pay, I exit the front door, locking it behind me, and go around to the side of the house. I unlock my bike from the chain tying it to a tree, hop on it, and start pedaling as hard as I can into town. Since we live in the woods at the edge of town, I have to hurry there and back in order to get the food here in time for them to eat and get to school on time.
Pedaling my way through the leaves and dirt, I finally emerge to the paved road. I follow the road all the way into town. I get to the grocery store, and purchase the cereal and some apples, too.
I’m about to turn around and head home when a boy about my age walks up to me. I’m frozen. I’ve never seen another person my age outside of the family. I’m not supposed to interact with them. Especially boys.
“Hey” he says, smiling at me. His dark hair and electric blue eyes are next to impossible to resist. I want to talk to him. I really do. But I can’t.
“Uh.” I mutter and turn away. The punishment for underage interaction is very, very strict.
“Pia.” He says, and then he’s right next to me.
“Uh, um,” I stutter. How does he know my name? I need to get out of here.
“Pia, I need help.” He whispers.
This catches my attention. “Who are you? What- what do you want from me?” I ask, quietly.
The boy looks both ways and pulls me into the alley in between the grocery store and the library. “You don’t recognize me?”
“No. I’m not even supposed to be talking to you..” I mutter.
“What? Why?” the boy looks surprised.
“It’s the law. No person under the age of 18 can talk to anyone their age outside of family.” I reply, my anxiety growing.
“The – The law?” He shakes his head.
“Wait, who are you?”
“Jonathan Roodley, but I go by Jon.”
“how do you know me?” I ask. I know I shouldn’t be here, talking to him, but I need to know.
“I know of you, is the more accurate way to say it, I suppose.” He answers simply.
“I really shouldn’t be talking to you.” I say.
“You mean you shouldn’t be seen talking to me.” He corrects.
I raise an eyebrow. “What do you want?”
“I told you, I need help”
“Help with what?!” I say, exasperated.
“My-“ he starts, but stops, his head turns toward the street. “Go. Hide.” He hisses at me.
I turn to follow his gaze, but he pushes me farther down the alley. “GO” The urgency in his voice convinces me to obey.
I run down the empty alley until I reach the dumpster, which I hide behind. I peek my head up slightly over the dumpster, just enough so that I can see, but cannot be seen.
A short, chubby man emerges from the corner and pushes Jon into the concrete wall of the alley. I can’t hear much, but what I can make out doesn’t sound very good. I hear words like, “girl”, “gun”, “kill”, and “die”. Was Jon going to kill me? I don’t think so, because he did save me from being caught talking to him. And the vibe I got from him wasn’t bad at all. He seems to be a very nice person. The other man is the one I’m worried about. I haven’t seen him around town before, but then again, I haven’t seen half of the people in my town, being too busy taking care of Kloe and Trissa.
Jon and the man are talking, the man looks really mad and Jon looks a bit scared. He didn’t seem to be the kind of guy who would get scared. He’s tough looking, with his long black hair and piercings. He’s also good looking. But that may just be for my lack of exposure to men in my life. I keep hearing bits and pieces, none of which make any sense to me.