The store was in view. Darou Salem Market. Meghan could almost smell all the different foods that were waiting inside the thick walls. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Two loaves of bread, five cans of canned soup, six bottled water bottles, and a few apples. That’s all that they would take.
About fifteen feet away from her, Suzanne entered the store casually. Kyle made eye contact with Meghan. She nodded to him. He went inside the store, followed by Meghan a few seconds later. She glanced to the cash registers. There were ten working them at the moment, and also the others that walked around the store to help customers out. This would be interesting… Meghan looked to where Suzanne was as she waved a worker over to her. She began talking animatedly to him, her job to keep an eye on the workers to make sure we weren’t caught. Kyle began walking down to the fruit section, looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Meghan took in a deep breath and split off to the other end of the food section. The bakery was at the end of the hall. She’d just have to get the bread, and leave without people noticing. Casual.
Dairy products. Milk, eggs, yogurt… Cereal boxes, orange juice… Despite her craving for the food, Meghan continued on walking, ignoring the urge to take the food and swallow it all on the spot. A glinting plastic bag caught her eye. Potato bread. Although she knew that it was perfectly normal for someone to be taking bread from off a shelf in a store, Meghan couldn’t stop her heart from pounding as she delicately picked the two loves of bread from off their position on the shelf.
Bread in hand, attempting a nonchalant appearance, she glided down the aisles of the store, heading for one of the small refrigerators where the water bottles were held.
“I am not satisfied with this!” someone was screaming. “Is this all that you’ve got? It’s pathetic!” It was Suzanne.
“We don’t have the brand that you’re looking for, miss. I’m sorry, is there----—”
“There is nothing you can do! I want what I want, and if you don’t have it, I’ll… I’ll—”
“Please, calm down, miss.” Meghan poked her head around the corner and almost laughed. As always, a crowd gathered around Suzanne, including all the workers and most of the customers. Meghan silently opened the refrigerator door and pulled out one, two, three, four, five, six water bottles. Next stop, the back door.
There was one in the girl’s bathroom, although it was always locked with a chain, which is why she had crafted a pick specially for that door. Her shaky fingers pulled the pick from her shirt pocket, and she continued on into the girl’s bathroom. If Suzanne was doing her part of throwing a tantrum and distracting all of the worker’s and customers, no one should be in the bathroom.
Walking faster and faster with nerves, Meghan threw open the door to the girl’s bathroom. She did a quick check around her to see if anyone was in there. In one stall, she could see somebody’s feet. She turned around searching for Kyle. There he was, next to the dessert section which was filled to the brim with Twinkies, cookies, and other goods. She shook her head and held up her pointer finger to him. He dipped his head a bit and leaned against the wall. Meghan went back inside the bathroom, letting the door slam shut behind her.
The stall door swung open and a small Asian woman stepped out. She smiled warmly at Meghan, although she looked at her quizzically upon seeing her holding bread and a hairpin. Meghan smiled back and stepped casually in front of the mirror, patting her wild blond hair back behind her ears. She certainly wasn’t the most beautiful creature. She was tall, skinny, and her body was flat, not the most attractive appearance. Still, she felt good about her looks and didn’t really think much of it. Slowly, the lady washed her hands, muttering to herself in some foreign language. After what seemed forever she finally left.
Meghan flew to the lock, letting her hands fall upon it greedily. She set the bread on the ground and began messing with the lock and the pick. She heard the door open behind her. She looked up apprehensively. What would she say if it wasn’t Kyle?
“You’ve got everything?” he whispered. It was Kyle.
“Yeah,” she replied softly, letting her fingers move nimbly as they twisted the pick around in the keyhole. She felt a click, and she pulled the lock down. The lock opened. She pulled it of the chain and unraveled it from around the handle.
“Can you get the door, Meg?” Kyle asked. Meghan quickly examined the metal door. It looked old, rusted, and hard to move.
“It looks like it make a lot of noise if we were to… Just go as fast as you can, Kyle, and I’ll try to retie this and lock it up before anyone gets back. Besides, Suzanne is causing such a racket, no one will probably notice. Alright?” Kyle nodded with determination on his face. “One, two… three!” Meghan pulled open the door. It creaked and groaned awfully as she thrust it open to let Kyle out. He burst from the bathroom and began to ran.
Meghan began pushing on the door. It wouldn’t budge. She took in a deep breath, trying to control her anger. She leaned against the door, trying to shut it, but it just wouldn’t move. She swore angrily and swung her head to get her messy blond hair out of her eyes.
“Come on! Come on!” Footsteps were coming near the bathroom. Did someone hear? Was someone coming to use the restroom? Meghan pushed the door as hard as she could. Finally, to her relief, she heard a click.
Swiftly, she picked up the chain from off the ground, and began winding it around the door handle. Just a little more… The footsteps were getting closer. Meghan bit her lip anxiously and began tapping her foot on the ground. As fast as she could, she picked the lock up and fastened it on the chain. Just in time. The door began to open and Meghan spun around wildly, throwing her hands to her side.
“Mama, am I gonna die?” a child’s voice said. A woman around twenty-five entered the bathroom, holding the hand of a girl around four.
“No, no, of course you’re not going to die,” the woman said, obviously amused. Meghan nodded to them politely and quickly escaped from the bathroom. Kyle should probably almost be back to their current residence, an unoccupied house that was waiting to be bought. Of course they were staying their without the owner’s knowledge, but at least they had a place to stay, even if they weren’t able to use the shower or the stove.
She made her way around to the front of the store. It was quiet again. Suzanne must have gotten kicked out. Meghan hurriedly walked to the front of the store, passed annoyed employees, and out the front door.
A cold wind blasted her as soon as she stepped out in the night. She zipped up her jacket, and, ignoring the cold weather, walked briskly down the sidewalks, toward the bench were Suzanne said she would be waiting. People bumped into each other everywhere, and she couldn’t seem to get enough space, but that’s just how things were in New York City.
Meghan spotted Suzanne huddled on a bench, trying to shield herself from the wind with her flimsy coat. Meghan hurried as fast as she could through the throngs of people to the bench. Suzanne’s grimace turned into a joyful smile as soon as she saw Meghan, making her naturally pretty face become even more beautiful.
“Meghan! You made it! You’re safe!” Suzanne tackled Meghan in a hug, knocking her into the pedestrians. The groaned in annoyance. Suzanne pulled Meghan over to the bench and they both sat down. “How did it go? Was it as smooth as always?”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Meghan answered. “I always dread this part of the week. I never was cut out to be a thief. When I was young, my mom and dad got so angry at me for stealing this little tiny container of lip gloss that I was grounded for a month and got the worst spankings ever.” She laughed to herself pathetically. “Gosh, would they hate to see me now.”
“I understand what you mean, Meg. I mean, it’s not like my dad ever got mad at me for anything I did, but I do hate this time of the week. I’ve never been a thief, and to have to learn to adjust to this entire lifestyle is so hard,” Suzanne said. She brushed a string of brown hair from covering her gray eyes and continued speaking.“Anyway, we should probably get going. Kyle will be so bored all by himself, as you know.” Meghan nodded and the two girls stood, heading for their home.
“Hey, Suzy?” Meghan said.
“Yeah?” Suzanne replied. Meghan’s stopped walking.
“I just wanted to thank you. You and Kyle both. You know, for taking me in last year and everything that you guys have done for me since.” A wind whipped through her wild blond hair. She probably looked like a maniac—who could every willingly take in something like her? Yet, Kyle and Suzanne did without a second thought. The other people, whether they lived on the street or not, had simply mocked Meghan when she asked for a place to stay, but not them. Tears began swelling up in her eyes. “I mean, this wouldn’t be my first choice of a life, but you and Kyle make it bearable for me.”
Meghan felt a hand tenderly grab her own. Startled, she looked up to see Suzanne giving a comforting smile.
“That’s what we’re here for, Meg. We’re your best friends, your allies. We could never turn our back on you. Now come on, before it gets too cold.” Meghan beamed and followed Suzanne as she began sprinting through the crowds of people to their home.
Eventually, they were standing in front of a small, worn out house. The blue paint was peeling off and the windows were speckled brown with dirt, but Meghan couldn’t help feel comforted as she set her eyes on the rickety old house. She turned to make sure no one was looking and opened the front door to the house, Suzanne close behind.
“Kyle, we’re back!” Meghan called. She heard some thumping around, and Kyle appeared in the archway to the kitchen.
“Took you guys long enough,” he grumbled. Meghan sighed. It was obvious that he wasn’t in a good mood.
“Well, that went smoothly,” Suzanne said, attempting a cheerful attitude. “We’ve got enough food for the rest of this week and probably half of next week, too!”
“Just shut up, Suzanne. We have a serious problem here. You two took forever getting back. You could’ve been caught! If they would have realized that they were just robbed, they would’ve been searching for whoever robbed them, and you, Suzanne, would seem like the prime suspect! You were acting so strangely in there, it would be only natural that you were aiding in some sort of robbery! Meghan would’ve been suspected too! Then we’d have this whole entire trial on our hands that we’d have to deal with. Do you two want that?” Kyle yelled. Meghan and Suzanne shook their heads shamefully.
“You’re right, Kyle,” Meghan sighed. “I’m sorry. We weren’t even thinking about that, to be honest. We just kind of sat down and didn’t feel like leaving.” Kyle sighed.
“Obviously. Just make sure that next time, don’t do that again. Normally, things go much more smoothly. Today, there was that Asian lady, and then the door wouldn’t shut.”
“And I almost got caught by some woman with her kid,” Meghan added.
“Wow, Meghan. Close one, huh?” Suzanne said.
“Yeah, you should’ve felt how fast my heart was beating!” she exclaimed. “It was really scary. I heard these footsteps, and I knew they were coming. I still hadn’t put on the lock or even started putting on the chain.”
“You’re lucky you got away,” Kyle said. He ran an agitated hand through his messy brown hair. “You need to be more careful, Meghan.”
“I was being careful!” she protested as she followed him into the kitchen. “I was going as fast as I could. Most people can’t do something like that under pressure. Most people can’t do something like that at all, actually…” Kyle tossed an apple to Meghan and she sat on the ground as they began having their dinner.
“You probably couldn’t have done this a year ago,” Suzanne said as she sat down to join Meghan.
“You’re right. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this a year ago,” Meghan said. “I’ve always been naturally quiet and shy, and if it wasn’t a last resort, I would never have even considered stealing.” She absentmindedly began playing with the apple, tossing it from hand to hand.
“You should tell us another story,” Suzanne said suddenly.
“Huh? Why?” she asked as she took the piece of bread Kyle handed her.
“Well, you’re the only one who had a proper upbringing, you know, and you haven’t told us a story in a long time. Right Kyle?”
“Well, yeah, I guess,” Kyle said.
“So you should tell us a story!”
“But my stories are so boring, Suzy. I don’t see why you find them so entertaining,” Meghan said. Suzanne looked at Meghan expectantly, completely firm in Meghan telling them a story. She sighed.
“All right, I guess I will. What do you want me to tell you about?” Meghan asked.
“Anything’s all right, really,” Suzanne said quickly. Then, after a moment’s pause, she said, “Actually, if it’s all right with you, would you mind telling us, perhaps, about the night your mother died?” Meghan felt as if an ice dagger had stabbed her through the chest. The one topic that she hated talking about most. Why did Suzanne even want to know about that?
“Suzanne,” Kyle said warningly.
“Please, Meg? We told you about our father and how he abused us, so… Besides, no matter what you tell us, it’s not like we’ll hate you or anything,” Without saying anything, Meghan stood up wither her bread and apple, went up the stairs, and into the room she had claimed for herself.
Meghan’s slid down the wood of the door until she was sitting on the ground. She felt a tear roll down her cheek. When she was in such a good mood, too. Why did Suzanne have to ruin it?
If only they knew what had happened. If only they knew who she was. They thought they knew, but they really had no idea. What would they say if they knew that Meghan Elizabeth Colland, their best friend, was not only a homeless thief, but a freak as well? What would they say if they knew that for no apparent reason, she could see the future, and didn’t even have control over it? Would they still say ‘It’s not like we’ll hate you or anything’?
No. Stop it! Meghan told herself. She tried to ignore the tears and eat her food, but they just kept on coming and coming, until she found herself sobbing on the floor of the room, as the memories she had tried to forget flooded her mind.
Meghan lay propped against a pile of pillows, her calculus homework sprawled across the foot of her bed and her phone in hand. Her fingers moved swiftly over the buttons as she typed, “I don’t care about that, Katie.”
“Sweetie?” Elizabeth called. At the sound of her mother’s voice, Meghan hid her cell phone under her heaps of pillows and snatched her calculus homework, giving the impression that she had been working on math the whole time.
“Yes?” she replied. Her bedroom door opened, and Elizabeth stepped in, her shining blond hair fashioned into a gorgeous bun. She was wearing a dark blue dress with no sleeves and a diving neckline. It was the day of her interview about interior designing which would be broadcast on TV. smile spread across her charming face as she saw Meghan holding her textbook in her lap.
“You’re such a dedicated student,” she said. “Much more than when I was your age, certainly.” Guilt stabbed Meghan’s gut, but she ignored the feeling.
“Yeah…” she said awkwardly. “So, are you leaving?”
“Yes! I just came to make sure you were all right, honey. I’m going to be gone until late because some friends promised to take me somewhere special, I have yet to know where, so make sure to be a good girl and not stay up too late,” Elizabeth instructed. Meghan grit her teeth. She wasn’t a little girl. She was sixteen years old!
“Don’t worry. You can count on me, right?” Meghan said instead of saying what was actually on her mind. Elizabeth beamed.
“Thanks, honey. You’re a dear. Oh, and by the way, how do I look?” She spun around daintily, showing off her luxurious apparel. Meghan gave her a half-hearted thumbs up.
“You look hot, Mom,” she sighed. Elizabeth grinned.
“Thanks, hon.” The doorbell rang. “Oh, that must be my ride! Got to run! Bye sweetie!” Elizabeth grabbed her coat and trampled down the stairs to answer the door. Meghan pulled her phone back out from under the pillows and slid up the cover. One new message. She clicked on it. It read:
idc ill tell u anywy. this is wut hapned. he sed 4 me 2 call him 2morow so i got all angry and sed y not 2day, u no? so he sed he didn’t want 2 say it wit all the peeps ther. that made me evn more mad and sed, who cares? then he sed fine, i rlly don’t like u.
Meghan stared at the screen. What was Katie even talking about? And why did she write with such improper grammar? The envelope on the bottom of the left screen bounced and the phone vibrated. One new message: “meg, where r u?” Meghan shook her head. Such annoying spelling.
Meghan heard the front door screech open. Soon Elizabeth would be gone and she wouldn’t have to worry about having, or not having to do anything. She could do whatever she wanted, not that she’d do anything her mother wouldn’t want her to do. She clicked reply and began texting Katie back.
“Mom came in to make sure I was doing my homework.” Send.
“Hm?” Elizabeth was saying. “Do I know you?”
“Is your daughter home?” a voice—male—asked. Meghan sat up on her bed curiously. Someone was looking for her? Who?
“Er, yes she is, but—”
“Good. I would very much like to speak with her.” Meghan’s phone vibrated and the screen lit up. Another new message. She glared at the phone. She wasn’t interested in Katie’s pathetic tales of failed romance attempts, especially when some guy she didn’t know was looking for her. She sighed and pocketed the phone anyway.
“I have to go, though, and I would—”
“I don’t care. Besides, I won’t be long.” Meghan swung her feet over the edge of the bed. Who was that man, and what did he want with her?
“No, really, I need to leave right now, so could you—”
“It’ll only take a minute,” the man said. The footsteps were coming up the stairs. Meghan had no idea who this man was, if he was amiable, unfriendly, attractive or ugly, but she knew one thing for sure. Whoever he was, she had a feeling not to trust him. Meghan’s feet sank into the plush carpet as she walked cautiously over to the door. She carefully peeked through the small crack between the door and the wall, trying to see what was going on.
“Do you have any idea who I am?” the man asked. Meghan saw Elizabeth shake her head nervously. “I am a tracker. An Amaseran tracker. And you know why I’m here, am I correct?” A horrified expression came onto Elizabeth’s face, and she began shaking her head.
“No, no…” she moaned. “Please, you can’t! You can’t…” Meghan continued watching the scene, not sure whether to be frightened or intrigued. Something out of the ordinary was certainly going on, just like what Meghan had wanted, but this didn’t exactly seem like what she had in mind, whatever was actually happening.
“Yes, Elizabeth Jane Stewartt Colland. We can. We have direct orders from Lord Phestus, direct authorization. So you have no right to say we can’t.”
“But she’s my daughter! My only daughter! You can’t take her away from me, she’s the only life I have!” Elizabeth yelled. Meghan was more confused than ever. Take her away? To where?
“I don’t care. Lord Phestus doesn’t care, either. We need her; she rightfully belongs to us. She’s an Amaseran by blood.”
“She doesn’t belong to you! Meghan doesn’t belong to anyone!”
“Yes she does! Whether you allow it or not, we’re taking her. Where is she!” The footsteps started up again, and Meghan took a frightened step back, her heart pounding mercilessly. What was going on? He was coming nearer her room, she could feel it. Meghan instinctively dove under the bed, hoping he wouldn’t come in and look for her. The door burst open, and Meghan saw two sets of legs walk into the room.
“No, you can’t do this!” Elizabeth protested.
“Is this her room?” the man asked, completely ignoring Elizabeth’s complaints. Meghan remained silent, afraid to breathe, afraid to blink. She didn’t want to leave Elizabeth, no matter how ridiculous she acted sometimes.
“I don’t know, is it?” Elizabeth said angrily. “I told you, go away! This is my house! I have a right to kick people out of my house, you know!”
“This must be her room,” the man mused. Meghan saw feet passing right next to her bed, less than an inch away. Her heart felt like it was leaping from her chest to her throat with every beat. It was amazing he couldn’t hear it. “The bed is still warm. She must’ve left recently, which means she’s in this house…”
“What makes you say that?”
“I already told you, the bed is still warm.” Meghan listened intently as he went through everything she had. She heard her closet door open and slam shut, her drawers open and shut quickly. She squeezed her eyes closed and pressed her teeth together, hoping beyond hope that he wouldn’t drop to his knees and look under the bed. She hardly even noticed as her mother disappeared she was so frightened.
“Where are you, Meghan?” the man said. The sound of his voice sent chills down her spine. “Meghan, you can come out. I won’t hurt you. I know that you’re probably in here.” Meghan held her breath. She wouldn’t breathe. She wouldn’t do anything to make it known where she was. She breathed a sigh of relief as he began walking over to the door. Perhaps she could escape after he left. He opened the door and was about to leave when there was a sound—the sound of a vibrating cell phone.
Meghan’s heart stopped. Why did Katie have to text her at this time of all times?
“I heard that, my dear,” he whispered. She watched, her eyes wide with horror as he began walking slowly over to the bed. “I know you’re in here. And I think I know where you are now. I believe that you are… under the bed!” Meghan screamed as he lifted the bottom of the blanket. She rolled out from under the bed, stood up as fast as she could, and began running blindly to where she thought was the general direction of the door. Instead, she ran directly into the arms of the man. His arms wrapped securely around her, preventing her from being able to move.
“Please, let me go! Please!” she cried. “Let go!”
“Meghan!” Elizabeth shrieked. Over the man’s shoulder, Meghan saw Elizabeth holding one of the kitchen knives in her hand, a wild and crazed expression on her face. “Let go of my daughter!” She began to charge at him, the knife held up and ready to attack, ready to kill.
“You think it’s that easy?” he murmured. Before Meghan understood what was going on, she was standing over her mother, who was bleeding, dying.
“Mom!” she screamed. “Mom! Mom! MOM!” Elizabeth slowly raised up her head to look at her daughter.
“Run,” she whispered, her voice shaking. “Run, Meghan. Don’t trust anyone, just run!” Meghan turned and began running as fast as she could, away. Away from her dying mother, away from the man who had caused her mother to die, her home, her friends, her life.
“Wait!” the man yelled. “Meghan, wait!” She ignored him, threw open the front door of her house, and ran out into the cool evening air. Tears rolled down her cheeks and water blocked her vision; she could barely breathe because of the sobs raking through her body, but she kept on running. She couldn’t stop running. Nothing could stop her. It was her mother’s last request: Run. So that’s exactly what she did. Run.