Malukah Dezmona, raised in hatred and destruction, will escape from the hellhole of her previous life and attempt to start a new one. With enemies luring her from her hideout and with loyal friends who'd do anything to protect her, she starts her journey. As with everything, it'll end in some way or the other. This is her story.
It was an orange day. The outlines of the buildings were glowing like embers set against the burning sky. The ragged clouds were thinning and the sun was descending. The long shadows walked before them, reaching beyond their line of sight. The familiar Romanian air filled their lungs with stagnant familiarity, and yet, it renewed their spirits after a long day at school. They were finally making a slow ascent up the hill of the rich residence villa, with voluptuous and elegant mansions flanking the streets and showcasing far too healthy and far too green gardens despite the drought the country was currently suffering. Well-kept gardens came with the perks of being rich. That, along with many other things.
"I saw him watching you, Malukah. I think he suspects something's going on." The shorter of the two solitary walking figures spoke, breaking the appeasing silence between them. Her blue eyes were locked on the distracted face of her friend.
Malukah just kept walking with her head hung low. Her dark ebony-colored hair covered most of her face and the shadow cast upon her eyes veiled the life in her green eyes. Many thoughts were revolving incessantly in her mind, mostly disturbing her. When Malukah answered her friend with silence, Baduna decided to continue.
"He might call Domestic Abuse agencies." Baduna had hit home because instantly, Malukah's wanderings snapped and her full attention was on her loyal friend. "He saw the bruise on your arm when you took your sweater off, and he noticed the difficulty you were having when you were holding the guitar. I think you have to tell him, it's better if an adult knows about it... He might be able to help."
"Don't speak another word," Malukah seethed angrily. "I thought we agreed that I would handle this alone. I don't need to drag everybody concerned about me into my family business. What happens in family stays in family. That's what my father taught me."
"Malukah..." Baduna sighed sorrowfully. She slipped an arm around Malukah's waist and gave her a quick squeeze.
For a split of a second, Malukah felt the world was in place, and the sky didn't look so broken to her. But it all ended when they reached the top of the hill and, like a jewel on a crown, a stately and sumptuous mansion sat, overpowering and overlooking the rests.
"I can stay until dinner," offered Baduna.
Upon reaching the iron-wrought gates of Malukah's house, they stopped before entering. Malukah's heart hammered in her chest and a sense of apprehension took over her. Her eyes traveled through the winding driveway and stopped on the front steps of her house. Her father's Porsche was in the middle of the driveway, with the driver's door opened. The door of the mansion was also opened. She could feel fear and anger emanating from inside the house, even though she could see neither. She took two involuntary steps backward, then turned to the right and kept walking.
Baduna saw all this with compassion and understanding. She followed Malukah, guessing her intentions.
"I don't want to go home just yet," whispered Malukah.
"I know," replied Baduna. "Let's go crash at the race tracks. Speed always takes your mind off things."
Silence answered Baduna once again. However, Baduna had known Malukah for so many years that she could guess the likely responses Malukah's silence accounted for. Baduna had learned to read Malukah like a book, a very fragmented book.
"What are we up against?" Malukah's eyes were gleaming with excitement as she zipped her leather jacket. She inhaled the smell of the road and exhaled a voracious desire for adrenaline and speed. Baduna's brother owned an automotive repair shop; he let Malukah leave her gray Mitsubishi Lancer in the shop when not in use. After leaving Malukah's house, they went straight to Baduna's place and then to the shop.
"Some kid from uptown," said Baduna, shielding her eyes from the setting sun, "and that dirt bag we beat last month. He knows the conditions of this road the best. We have to be careful, he's too sneaky."
"I remember him." Malukah stretched her fingers.
"Miss Dezmona, very nice to see you again, and your little co-driver too." A tall blond walked towards them, with a grin plastered on his face. His shoulders were thrown back importantly and he jingled mockingly the keys of his racecar.
"I'm afraid we don't share the same feelings," replied Malukah.
"I guessed as much." He shrugged his shoulders and lowered his voice an octave. "I hope you came prepare to lose your money because it isn't going to end any other way."
"We shall see." Malukah narrowed her eyes, fierce meeting her competitor's. He walked away. Malukah saw him exchanging words with his burly co-driver.
"What an asshole," said Baduna. "Come on, we're about to start."
Malukah and Baduna got inside the Lancer and drove the car to the starting line. There were only three cars this evening. A tall and curvy girl, wearing scanty clothes, walked up with a handkerchief in her hand. As she walked, she swayed her hips provocatively. She raised her arm, signaling the drivers to be ready. At this point, Baduna spread the map of the site on her laps, studying every physical feature of the land. The engines were roaring; the drivers gripped the steering wheel and the gear stick. When her arm went down, the screeching tires on the dirt, lifting a wall of dust, were all they could hear.
Malukah's body was pressed against her seat due to the sudden change in speed. She grinned excitedly as she swerved to her right and drove past the kid from uptown. Racing was her passion, she never felt half as much alive as when she was behind the wheel. Adrenaline pumped, it felt so good.
"There is a hairpin corner coming up," said Baduna.
"Got it." Malukah shifted gears to take the corner. She was practiced in the art and knew every maneuver there was through careful observation and diligent practice. She could not lose this. She made the turn quite effortlessly. She shifted gears again and stepped on the gas pedal. The increment of speed felt exhilarating.
"That dirt bag is still on the lead," said Baduna.
"Not for long," said Malukah confidently. The car was going at 230 kph. At this speed, it was skills that kept the drivers alive. After several natural obstacles, they were side by side with their competitor's car. Malukah smiled mischievously at them and feed her engine. She was gone from his side in a second. Everything ended.
Baduna collected the prize money and both of them were back to the shop. Baduna's brother handed them bears to celebrate their undefeated victories.
"I say, she's the best racer in Romania!" Baduna raised her can. Her brother did the same.
Malukah was disengaged in the celebration. She was extremely happy she had won, but ending the race meant going back home. She pushed her untouched beer can away. "I have to go see my mother. Thanks for everything guys, see you tomorrow in school Baduna." She left the shop.
"What's up with her?" Baduna's brother asked.
Baduna shrugged in response, knowing exactly what was going on.
Malukah didn't like leaving her mother alone for a long time. The longer she was gone from her side, the more suffering her mother had to undergo. At least with Malukah by her side, his father's anger was evenly distributed between the two.
She sprinted across the driveway. The car door and the mansion door were still opened; light was poured onto the entrance. Dire feelings arouse the moment she stepped into the house. It was spacious and well lighted. The marble floor of the reception mirrored the chandelier from above. She walked slowly toward the kitchen, where she was sure her father would be. The smell of ethanol was stronger the closer she got.
Malukah peered into the kitchen. Her father was sitting on the kitchen island, pouring another bottle of vodka into his mouth. He had several empty bottles lying on the floor, smashed. She scanned the room for signs of her mother, to no avail.
"You're back, goddamned child," her father's gruff tone caught Malukah by surprise.
"Yes sir," was all she could say and stood still. She feared his bloodshot eyes and detested his putrid breath.
"Well don't stay there, disappear from my sight!" He bellowed, hurling his half-empty bottle of vodka at Malukah.
She let out a small scream and covered her head. The bottle smashed on the wall two centimeters above her head, showering her with vodka and shattered glass. She didn't wait to be asked twice and immediately turned to leave.
"By the way, that whore is lying on the steps, mind taking that filth to her room? I have important guests tonight."
Malukah hurried to the stairs, brushing away the pieces of glass from her hair. When she got there, she saw her frail and delicate mother, bruised and battered, lying unconscious. She couldn't cry; she was used to these sights every day. She just brought her mother's arm over her shoulders and pulled her up. Malukah dragged her up the stairs and into her own room. Her mother moaned in pain when Malukah placed her on her bed, and hurried to the bathroom to get the fix. Baduna had helped her buy heroin from the streets the other day, Malukah made sure to use it just in special cases. Tonight, her mother was one.
"Malukah, what're you doing?" Her mother asked when Malukah injected the substance on her bloodied arm.
"Mother, I promise this will make you feel better. Sleep now." Malukah disposed the syringe and put the spoon, the powder, and the lighter back in the bathroom. The effects were instantaneous; her mother didn't feel pain anymore, but delusional pleasure. Malukah locked the door of her room as she heard another bottle shattered on the floor. She was not letting that monster come close to them tonight.