I had half an hour at most before he would be home. Perhaps less if he finished up from work early and I hastily grabbed up things from my dressing table, shoving them into my school rucksack.
Essentials, you know. Underwear, jeans, jacket. A bit of makeup. And of course the jewelry box and necklace from my recently dead mother. Last, as if in afterthought, I pulled out a slim book of poetry I had been reading from beneath my pillow and tucked it into the front pocket of the backpack.
I could still feel the moment his fist connected with my jaw with enough force that it left me reeling, spinning back away from him and slamming into the thin wall of the trailer home we shared. It didn’t stop and I brought my arms up to try ward off some of the blows only to find my stomach crushed against his knee. I fell. And fell and fell. And when I could, I ran. And ran, and ran. It was one of the few things I was good at, running.
And my music too. I have my mothers voice, and her grace. I don’t know what I get from my father. I’ve never met him. I don’t even have a name. But maybe he likes to run too. As a child, I imagined him a prince, who would one day arrive and whisk me and my mother out of the hell that was our daily existence. It never happened. And now she’s dead and it’s just me and my step father.
“Fuck.” I cursed as I heard the roar of the Ford Falcon pulling into the drive and I hastily tugged open one of the cabinets beneath the kitchen sink. I pull a catch and access the concealed back panel, grabbing from within several wads of cash and a shot gun.
With that done, I made a dive for one of the windows near the back, the glass shattering against my shoulder as I impacted with the ground at a roll and Ran as fast as I ever had. Not for the road, but for the trees that surrounded the trailer park, branches whacking me in the face and twigs scratching my still sore bruises.
A few weeks later and I was staring at the black blur of the road as a bus rumbled its way out of the shitty town I’d spent most of the first fifteen years of my life. I pulled up my hoodie and curled up against the window just as the bus rumbled to one of the many stops on its route to Boston. I wasn’t to be alone on this journey for long, and I felt the seat give a bit as someone took up the previously vacant one next to me.
“Valentine,” He offers with an extended hand encased in soft kid leather.
I crack open my eye, still bruised and swollen to stare at the hand, slowly following the path of the arm and up to his face. He was beautiful, there was no other word for it. Well dressed, three piece suit and every bit of him worth so much more than I could ever hope to be. I was entranced.
I took his hand, my dark skin enclosed in the black leather as he shook it. “Ronnie.” His grip was firm, but not painfully so. And when he released my hand he placed it on my head, pulling it down against his shoulder. “Sleep,” he directed, and I did. Immediately even. That was the first time he drank from me, not that I would know it for some time afterwards.
Twelve months later, my money had almost all gone and I’d been kicked out of the hostel I’d been calling my home after I missed rent for the third week in a row. I’d been frequenting half-way houses and alleys. The latter more than the former, and winter was starting to set in. The dream had become a nightmare and more often than not I went hungry. My voice gained me a bit of spare change, and if it wasn’t for that, I would likely of perished.
The streets were rough, and to survive you have to fight. Tough it out. Act the hard-bad-ass so people don’t dare touch you, and for the most part they didn’t. Thank god. There were sometimes brawls, fights over territory. I learned how to take a hit. I learned how to blur the lines with what ever drugs I could win, usually in the underground fighting scene that was growing in popularity in Boston. I didn’t always win, but I won more than I should of. I was lucky. And my opponents less so.
This particular night, it was me that was the unlucky one, and the fifty I had put down to enter the fight had been for naught. I’d lost, and I was nursing a bruised jaw, a hungry stomach with not a single penny left on me. I stepped out of the building, rounded the corner and ran straight into the man I’d first met a year ago on the bus to Boston.
“Saw you fight,” Valentine speaks first, putting me at arms length with a hand on my elbow as he takes in the state of me. And I wasn’t much to look at. I’d grown a few inches, but I’d lost a lot of weight. There was some tone in my arm but it was hidden beneath the threadbare jacket I wore. I hadn’t seen a shower in weeks, and my stomach grumbled it’s protest. “You’d of won if you had even a half decent meal in the last few days. Come on.”
I voiced no protest, and was led over to the waiting car. A Jaguar, of course. Sleek, silver and even as I was put into the passenger seat, I pulled my over-sized coat around me tight, fearful of somehow rubbing a bit of myself onto the expensive interior.
I was silent the entire trip, my eyes on him more than the road, or the fancy car, or where we were going. He was quite something to look at and looked exactly as he did those twelve months ago. We pulled into underground parking and I was lead to an elevator which rose to the top of a large building, opening directly into the penthouse suite. I halted there, turning to look at Valentine, I found my voice. “This is… some kind of fucking joke right?”
“No, my dear. I do not find any of this in the slightest bit funny.” The way-too-handsome man speaks with a strange inflection to his voice, archaic in nature, and entirely proper. He steps in close, finger tugging at the woolen scarf wound tightly around my throat and the fabric yields easily to the touch, unraveling and falling to the floor at my feet. “Veronica, is it?”
I nod, taking a step backwards to put another foot of distance between us, the scarf still on the floor. “There’s a shower through there. I expect you to go in, and not come out for at least an hour and every inch of you is clean and no longer smelling like something that’s crawled out of a garbage can.”
I remained still, statue-like and staring at him with my wide brown eyes, not daring to take a single step further into the room.
“Chop-chop, I haven’t got all day Veronica.” He punctuates the first two words with a pair of claps and I start to move swiftly for the indicated door, my rear given a sharp slap on the way past.
The door is slammed behind me and I sink down to the ground, one hand reaching up to try do up every lock on the door, but sadly there’s only one and I’m left alone to contemplate my luxurious surroundings.
OOC: More to come, will post here as I write it up over the coming days.