Lost in thought, I had almost drifted into blessed sleep when the sound of screeching tires and a loud truck horn bursts through the film of slumber that had fallen over me. I startle awake. My knife jumps into my hand as I quickly stand. It takes me a few seconds to register that the vehicle in front of me looks vaguely familiar and a few more to realize that the owner is shouting my name.
“Jacqueline! Raven! Hello?” He stretches out the ‘O’ in ‘hello’ to the point where I’m fairly certain he’ll have to take a breath soon lest he pass out.
“Yeah?” I had meant it as more of a statement but it had preferred to be a question. Silently cursing myself for my incessant wariness around guys, I step a bit closer to the truck.
The man does indeed look familiar. I know I’ve heard his voice before. A pair of twinkling hazel eyes stare down at me from the driver’s seat. He’s grinning. I know he has to be one of Drake’s friends, no one else would call me Raven, but that doesn’t narrow down the choices very much. He looks to be in his mid twenties. Maybe twenty-three. A little older than Drake, but only by about two years. He must have sent this guy. How did he know where to find me?
“If you’re wondering, Drake sent me to pick you up. Told me to case the whole city if I had to.” At least that question was answered, if a little uncannily. “Lucky I didn’t. Have to, that is.” He stops and continues to grin at me. I continue to stare back. His smile starts to fade. After a few seconds, he starts speaking again, “So yeah, Drake told me that you have a little chip thingy in your phone that tracks where you are if you get too far from him. He said that if we were lucky, you hadn’t disabled it yet. Wait…” concern knits his brows, “I can’t remember if I was supposed to tell you that…”
So that’s how he found me. To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me. It’s not the first time Drake’s tried something like this. He started out small, like enabling the GPS tracking devices on all of my previous cell phones. Each time, I managed to thwart his attempts. Figuring out how to rewire my phones, taking out the GPS component entirely, reprogramming his phone to give him false data, I had done everything I could think of to outsmart him. I thought he had given up; apparently not. Regardless, I’m beginning to see the merit in his idea. Maybe I’ll keep this one untouched for awhile.
“So you’re here to pick me up?” I nudge, startling him from his mutterings.
“Oh! Yeah! Hop in,” he motions to the passenger’s seat, “you can put your stuff in the back.”
I’m already swinging the door of the massive brown 4X4 open before he can finish his sentence. How this thing still works, I don’t know. I gaze around the interior of the truck. He probably spent more on the thousands of rolls of duct tape than he would have on a legitimate repair job. My eyes come to rest on a hula girl bobblehead attached to the dashboard. Her eyes seem to be pleading with me to get her out of this silver lined hell.
“I don’t wanna be here any more than you do.” I mutter under my breath.
“What?” Shit car guy looks at me quizzically. Damn, I hadn’t realized I’d said that out loud.
“I said thanks for picking me up.” I give him a sweet smile. Might as well get on his good side.
“Oh, no problem!” The grin is back. He reminds me of a Labrador Retriever. “Anything for Drake’s little sis.”
Of course, Drake and I aren’t actually siblings. His brown hair and green eyes in no way resemble my desaturated color palette. Even his bone structure of strongly defined lines and sturdy build are juxtaposed by my thin, birdlike construction composed of only edges. By now though, everyone seems to have forgotten our differences. Well, Drake has blinded them to the fact. He has made it clear that we are siblings, despite our appearances and my emergence from thin air. I can’t help but remember the first and last time he enforced our mass delusion.
We had just left the automatic doors of the grocery store. I was laughing. Drake had paused in front of each set of sliding doors and shouted “Abracadabra!” palm forward with his best serious expression rearranging his features. He had timed it just right every time so that the blast of air before each door blew his hair back at the moment of his exclamation. We were both in stitches by the last door. That was when it happened.
A boy -not in Drake’s gang, so one of the unpopulars- peeled himself from the shadows by the exit. He reeked of cigarette smoke. Two other shadows detached themselves from the wall behind him.
“Brought a stray home, eh? Y’know, if you feed it, it’ll just wanna stay longer.” A sardonic smile flickered at the corners of the boy’s lips.
All humor leached from Drake’s body.
“You wanna say that again?” His normally jovial self was in an instant transformed into a menacing, almost inhuman figure.
“I asked,” speaking slowly, the boy put emphasis on each word “if you’d brought home a stray,” he nodded in my direction. “Saint Drake just get more altruistic?”
Drake’s eyes crackled with an emotion I’d never seen on him before. Fury. Pure, unbridled hate. Moving faster than I’d ever seen a person move, he crossed the space between him and the boy before I could draw a breath to scream. The boy’s back cracked against the bricks behind him with bone crushing force. The wind had been completely knocked out of him. I doubt he could have cried out even if Drake’s arm hadn’t been jammed up tight against his neck.
“She,” he forced the word into the offender’s face, “is my sister. Got that?” He didn’t wait for a reply, “You ever talk that way about her again, you’ll have Saint Drake to answer to. You don’t wanna see what I can do to you.” I’d never thought the word ‘Saint’ could be made to sound so unholy. Drake had managed it.
Suddenly, he released the boy who sagged a little, legs almost incapable of holding himself upright. It seemed as if Drake had somehow drained all the vitality out of the kid. As if he’d left only a hollow eyed shell. He stared a while at his prey before grabbing him by the shirt collar, swinging him around and punching him straight in the face. Drake let go of the boy, pushing him away from us. Away from life. He spoke one word,
“Go.” Concrete and damning.
The boy stumbled away with the two others. They hadn’t even put up a fight, hadn’t tried to help. They knew it would have been useless. Taking one look back at us, all three boys ran as fast as they could. I remember the look of their sweat soaked backs receding into the forest beside the shopping strip. No one ever saw them again. No one asked why. Since then, our relationship has been sacrosanct. I am Drake’s sister, no questions asked.
I shake myself out of the flashback to find the owner of the truck I’m sitting in staring at me. We look at each other for an awkward period of time before I break the silence.
“Nothing. I just- well you… I was talking and you… zoned out. Totally. I was just wondering if you were ok, that’s all.” He scans my face, genuine concern in his eyes.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just… thinking.” Or something like that anyway.
“Ok… cool.” He looks out the windshield for a few seconds before announcing, “We’d better get going. Drake’s probably waiting.”
After a couple unsuccessful attempts, he finally gets the vehicle to cough out enough rust to start. It jolts forward, pushing me further into the old cushions than I had already managed to sink. I’ll have whiplash by the end of this. He apologizes and we’re on our way.