A man rescues a girl from her lonely world and brings her into his magical world.
|It was 10 o'clock when Al left the club and began walking down the dark streets. The stars covered the sky, but the moon was hidden by a couple, menacing looking clouds. He took his normal short cut down a couple alleys. There were two people in sleeping bags laying on the ground next to the large, green dumpster. A man sat nearby in a faded t-shirt, trying to make a fire out of yesterdays newspaper and some card board, Al felt a pang of guilt as he walked on by, knowing that he could do something to help. As he rounded the next corner he stepped up onto the sidewalk and admired the Robertson's yard work. He noticed the following house was a deep chocolate color instead of the usual yellow. The lawns grew larger and the houses more beautiful as Al continued his walk down the street. Al swung the iron gate in at the largest house on the street. The patio coming out around the house was surrounded by bushes that would hold perfumed flowers during warmer weather. Al jumped up the wooden steps two at a time and slipped through the door as quietly as he could.
"Aladdin Walters!" a woman's voice echoed around Al's head. He hadn't been quiet enough. "How come you are out so late? It is ten thirty!"
Al finally turned from staring at the door to face mom, Aliya. He walked over towards the marble staircase and took off his coat as he reached the first step, trying desperately to separate himself from her.
"Aladdin! Where were you tonight?" Aliya reiterated.
"Mom, calm down. I was just hanging out with some guys," Al climbed slowly up the stairs, knowing full well that she wasn't going to be quiet yet, and knew that her heavy accent would surely wake up his father.
"What friends Aladdin? You weren't hanging out with Ryan were you? Or Lucas?" she followed Al up the stairs he was still climbing.
"Maybe. Can we please do this in the morning?" Al was whispering as they got closer to where his dad was sleeping. "dad is going to wake up and he is going to tell to go to sleep too."
"Fine," Aliya folded her arms and walked up the last few stairs in front of Al. "If I found out you were creating any trouble you are grounded. Those boys don't use their talent like they should."
"Thank you. Good night mom." Al closed the door as he entered his room. The curtains on his ceiling high windows were drawn and the covers on his bed turned down. He tossed the 9 feather stuffed pillows off his bed and pulled off his shirt before he slid under the covers. With a long, relaxing sigh he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
Al leaned back into the booth and stretched his legs out under the table. Ryan and Lucas were sitting across from him with their eyes glazed over. The former was holding a greenish-brown joint to his lips. After he inhaled it he passed it lazily into Ryan's dangling hand.
"You want to take a hit Al?" Lucas asked as Ryan took a deep breath. Al shook his head.
"If my mom smelled that on me she would disown me," Al grinned. Ryan sat up and leaned over the table.
"Al, man. Your mom is from some other country. She doesn't get it. This is good for you," he smiled and started laughing.
"Yeah," Lucas joined in. "She couldn't do anything to you anyways. You're, what, 22?"
Al mumbled some incomprehensible words and climbed out of the booth. His two comrades looked up at him, shocked.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"Yeah, we haven't had any fun yet."
Without responding he walked over to the bar and waited for the bar tender to get him a cold drink. If he were to create any trouble tonight with those guys then he would be in some sort of trouble. Within seconds of sitting on a corroding bar stool he could hear Ryan and Lucas starting without him. The first sign was that of a lady screaming. Al looked over his shoulder and saw a ghostly white man standing in the doorway with a blood crusted knife in one hand and something dripping in the other. The lady was no longer screaming, but staring at the man, then around the room for another exit. Finally, she ran to the bathroom shouting for someone to call the police.
I walked back over to my table with a coke in my hand. Ryan and Lucas had their hands over their faces and were laughing hysterically. The man in the doorway was gone.
"Lucas, that was awesome!" Ryan high-fived Lucas. They were both shiny-eyed and flushed. Al shook his head.
"You guys shouldn't use your-" Al was cut off by Ryan's hand that quickly covered his mouth.
"Don't say magic Al," he looked serious as he spoke. "We are not pathetic witches, or little fairies. This is more than magic. This is power! We can rule the world with this!" Ryan stood up as he spoke and lifted his hand into the air to create a dramatic effect.
Al sat and stared, incredulous. This is what his mom meant when she said they didn't use their talent for good. Here they were making ghosts to scare poor women. Last night they had almost destroyed the little grocery store by making all the canned foods smash through the windows. The only reason they were never arrested was because everyone in the North Side of town was too scared of them. Once Al took a moment to think about how many times they had scared people into hysterics, vandalized the city, set fire to everything in sight, and created chaos in general he didn't know why he ever hung out with them.
"Al, where are you going?" Ryan stood up as he saw Al walking towards the door.
"I'm done with this," Al replied simply. "I'm not going to stand by and watch you do this."
"Are you saying you are going to use your powers to do fairy things?" Lucas asked maliciously.
"No. I'm saying I'm not hurting anybody anymore," Al opened the door and closed it when he heard a loud crash of glass.
"Would you look at that?" Lucas jumped up to his feet and walked over to Al with a huge smile on his face. "All the windows in the club just shattered. And, guess what? You stood by and saw it."
"Lucas, don't make me stop you," Al warned as he saw the other customers wiping glass carefully off their clothes and picking it out of their hair.
Lucas turned on his heel to walk back towards where Ryan stood by the booth. Once he reached the booth he turned again to face Al, who had opened the door again to leave, and shot a bolt of red light at the Exit sign. Al looked up and was it with the falling Exit sign. Lucas laughed and ran over to where Al lay, bleeding from his nose.
"Well, let's see if you can stop anything I do tonight. Ryan and I are going to go have fun!" with that Lucas jumped over Al and left the club. Ryan walked carefully over Al and followed Lucas down the dark streets.
Al sat up slowly as he dragged his hand under his nose. A bright, red streak of blood covered his index finger. The bartender ran over with a wet rag and handed it, wordlessly, to Al. The customers were also silent. Everyone was looking at Al. Curiosity and doubt was staring at out of there eyes. Al turned pink with shame. He had sat by for months watching his former friends bully these people, and now they had just walked over him.
"You aren't going to do a damn thing, are you?" a woman with a tightly wound bun on the top of her head spoke in an icy, cold voice. Al looked up at her, and then around at the rest of the customers. He stood up and turned towards the door. "Victor! Don't let him leave!"
The voice of the angry woman through Al's head. Without a glance back at anybody he waved his hand in the air. All the glass on the floor, tables, cushions, and people rose into the air and formed itself back into the empty window panes it came from. Al walked out of the club holding the now damp dish rag to his broken nose.
The city before Al was darker than he had ever seen it before. As Al walked down the streets he saw that all the dumpsters had been overturned. Some of the street lamps were laying on the ground. There were no lights on in any of the houses, apartments, or businesses. Al grew increasingly nervous as he still didn't hear any noise in the city. He walked in circles around the city through the alleys, trying to find where Ryan and Lucas were causing trouble at the moment. Finally, he heard a scream.
Al ran down an alley where there chunks of brick missing from the side of the building. He turned the corner and crossed the street to where the other alley lay. Another scream. Al increased his pace. He reached the end of the alley and heard the scream again, but it was behind him. There, in the wall, was a hold just large enough for a grown man to crawl through on hands and knees. Al didn't have time for that. He hit the wall with a ball of blue power. He watched as the mass of blue particles swarmed ferociously towards the solid brick and smashed through it without a sound.
"Don't touch him!" Lucas stood over a little boy as he mimicked the girl in a high, squeaky voice. The boy held his knees against his chest as he sat bolt upright in the corner of two walls. It was if he was trying to sink into the brick itself he was leaning so hard against the wall.
Al walked slowly up behind the scene. Lucas looked as though he held a fireball. After a closer look his hand was on fire, and he was getting it closer to the little boy's clothes as the girl kept screaming. Al assumed they were siblings due to their resemblances.
"Stop it!" the girl stood up and threw a handful of dirt at Lucas' face. She went to grab the little boy was struck across the face by Ryan.
"You will pay for that," Lucas said calmly, his eyes streaming. "First, you will see what happens when your little brother's clothes catch on fire. Then, you will know what it is like to fly."
Al closed his eyes and lifted his hands so his elbows were parallel to the ground. With as much power as he could muster he concentrated on Lucas' body that was ten feet in front of him. Slowly, Lucas lifted into the air. Al opened his eyes and saw Lucas floating 15 feet in the air.
"You found us," Lucas grinned. "It took you a long time. Ryan, get Al."
Ryan looked from Lucas in the air, to the girl and boy on the ground, to Al who had blood smeared across his face. It was a situation that he realized he didn't want to be in. After a couple more head-swiveling thoughts, Ryan ran out through the enlarged hole and was gone.
"So, Lucas. What is your plan now?" Al asked quietly. He was staring up at the helpless Lucas, who still wore a smile on his lips. The girl was now holding tight to the little boy, but didn't know what to do next.
"Al, you don't have the nerve to do anything," Lucas said calmly. "So let me down!"
Al closed his eyes again and pulled every bit of power in his body to channel through his arms and out his fingers. His arms lifted very slowly, as if he were lifting weights. Just as slowly, Lucas rose another five feet. Then, another ten. Soon, Lucas was almost as high as the apartment roof was.
Al opened his eyes and saw the fear in Lucas' far off eyes, and the confusion the girl's eyes. With a deep breath, Al let his arms fall. They went down slowly at first, then dropped the last couple inches. Likewise, Lucas floated down easily the first ten feet, and was dropped straight to the ground the last fifteen.
The girl and little boy stood up and walked over to where Lucas lay in a crumpled heap. After he didn't wake up and grab them they walked around him and over to Al, who was now down on his knees breathing hard.
"Go," Al said to the two who were staring at him with a loss of words. "Get out of here before he regains consciousness."
The little boy started walking away with his sister's hand in his, but she didn't budge. He pulled on her hand to leave but she knelt down in front of Al.mpletl
"Thank you," she said looking into Al's blood shot eyes. "Please, let me help you out of here."
"No, no. It's okay," Al said in between short breaths. As he tried to prove to the girl that he was fine by standing up, he fell down to his hands and knees. Reluctantly, he let the girl help him to his feet and get him back to the alley. Though he knew that it wouldn't be a good idea, Al waved is hand towards the wall with the hole in it and the bricks picked themselves up and rebuilt the wall. Once Al dropped his hand he collapsed onto the ground.
It was nearing midnight when Al came to. The girl was poking the small fire with a stick. She was wearing a very large poncho and slippers that looked like they had seen better days. The little boy was curled up on the ground inside a sleeping bag. The stars were shining over head and there was a sliver of moon.
"Where am I?" Al asked. He looked around and wondered if the girl was young enough not to have left them in the same alley where Lucas was hidden behind a measly, brick wall.
"In the alley behind our apartment," the girl said simply. "What is your name?"
"Uh, Al," Al said slowly, confused at where they were. "Why?"
"I thought it would be good manners to ask," she replied as she sat down as close to the fire as she could.
"No, I meant why are we in the alley and not inside?" Al said a little exasperatedly.
"Oh," a blush rose to the girl's cheeks. "All the doors to the apartment are locked. Your...acquaintances, made everyone go into a lock down. Don't worry though. Max and I have slept out here many times."
Al looked up at the girl's face, which was completely expressionless. He thought about his bed with a goose down comforter and 9 feather filled pillows. Right now he was with two children that slept next to a fire with a sleeping bag and an overlarge poncho.
"Thank you, for taking me here," Al said awkwardly and climbed to his feet. "I can make it back home now."
"Oh," the girl looked up at him. "Okay."
"What is your name," Al said and handed his hand out to her.
"Sasha," she replied as she took his hand. Instead of shaking her hand Al pulled her up to her feet.
"Could you point me in the right direction, Sasha," Al asked with a small smile. Sasha nodded, another flush rose high into her cheeks.
Al followed Sasha down the alley and onto the main street. He didn't tell her exactly where he lived, and he wasn't sure he was going to tell her that he lived on the most wealthiest street of the city. It was already obvious from him being able to do magic that he lived in the South Side of town.
"We are two street south from being at the edge of town," Sasha pointed. "So, if you go straight down this straight you will hit Mayor street, and I'm sure you can find your way from there." Sasha turned to head back toward her brother and Al followed.
"Wait. Sasha?" Al thought for a second as she looked up at him. "You want to go do something? Sometime?" Al knew the response he would get but he could change it.
"Um...I don't think I will be able to," Sasha took a couple steps back to where her brother lay. "I have to watch my brother. My parents work all day long."
Al watched Sasha walk back to the little fire. He felt a pang of sadness for what she was living in, and a pang of sadness that he wouldn't get to see her face again.
"Sasha!" Al shouted. She looked up, but didn't respond. "I'll come see you tomorrow! When the sun is the highest in the sky!"
Al thought about Sasha the walk back to his house. He couldn't forget how big and green her eyes were. She had the longest, black lashes he had ever seen. Her lips were full and pink under a small, square nose. He loved the way her hair fell over her shoulders and moved back and forth as she walked.
"Stop thinking about that," Al said to himself. "She is probably only 16, maybe 17. I'm way too old for her."
Al barely remembered that he was to go see Sasha that day after lunch. When he did he decided that since she didn't seem to believe him it wouldn't matter if he showed up or not. He wasn't thinking rationally; it was brought on by pity.
"Aladdin," Aliyah sat down across from Al with a plate of pancakes. "Are you going to tell your father what happened last night?"
"Al, you do have to tell me everything this time. I won't be able to help you when the sheriff comes and investigates if you don't tell me what happened," Don said. Al looked a lot like him. The same high forehead and straight nose.
"Okay," Al said and stabbed a pancake. He wasn't going to protect his friends this time. "It wasn't me. Everyone in the club will back me up too."
Al took a moment to cover his pancakes in thick, maple syrup and shove half of it into his mouth. Aliyah stared at him with a disgruntled look at how his was using his table manners, or lack of them. After a large mouthful of orange juice Al swallowed his food and began again.
"I told Lucas I wasn't going to stand by him anymore," at this Aliyah smiled and clasped her hands together. "He blew the windows of the club. After he left I fixed the windows and went out to see where he had gone. Of course, Ryan followed him. All the litter and damage was from them."
"Well?" Don asked with a mug of coffee in his hand. "Did you find him?"
"Yeah. He was...uh...making game with a little boy and girl. Nothing happened. To the boy or girl," Al finished his orange and stood up.
"What about Lucas and Ryan? Did you get the cops?" Aliyah asked.
"Al, what happened?" Don asked sternly.
"Ryan ran away," Al shrugged and grabbed his coat to escape. "Lucas and I had a scuffle. We can just say that I won. Sorry I was home late mom." Al kissed his mom on the cheek, patted his dad's shoulder and walked out the door with Aliyah asking questions behind him.
"I guess I will go see the girl," Al sighed and began the walk to North Side.
The streets were not as destroyed looking as they had the night before. Al thought about what should he do for the first ten blocks; whether or not he should go see Sasha. He had decided earlier that morning not to go, but he was a little worried that they had spent the night outside after they had escaped from Lucas. If it weren't for the possibility of Lucas finding them Al would have turned into one of the little sandwich or coffee shops, but the thought of Lucas in a rage made Al speed up.
Al almost passed up the gray apartment building that he had been laying behind last night. He ran up the front steps and knocked on the door. Of course, no one answered. To his surprise, the door opened easily when he wriggled the door handle. Once Al closed the door he realized how many rooms there could be in this 20 floor apartment.
"Excuse me?" Al asked the first person he saw. "Mam? Do you know where Sasha lives? She is about this high, brown hair? With a little brother?"
"No, I'm sorry," the old lady said shaking her head like she was a bobble head. "There are no children living here."
The lady walked slowly passed Al and opened a broom closet. After she pulled it out she stood back in front of Al and stared at him.
"There is a young woman that works here a couple hours a week," the lady said. "I think her name might begin with an 's'." The lady beckoned Al to follow her down the long hall. Al stared up at the ceiling with disgust. It had a yellow stains here and there with globs of brown and black in the corners. The drywall was flaking off the walls and there were several holes along the wall, not to mention in the carpet. At the end of the hall there was a set of wooden stairs. There were cobwebs in between the steps, though Al wasn't sure they were all cobwebs and not spiderwebs.
"Is this here?" the lady asked gruffly. "If she did anything against the law you can take her right now. I don't want to get involved with any legal matters."
"What?" Al asked confused. "No. She isn't, no. I'm not...anything," Al mumbled. He looked into the room that the lady opened the door to. It was a kitchen. One of the doors to a cabinet was hanging on by a single hinge. The floor was similar to that of the ceiling in the hall, stained with indistinguishable things. There was grime coating half a foot up on the walls. Al could see from where he was standing mold on the sink and on the faucets, old food on the stove that may be starting to grow mold itself. In the corner, on her hands and knees, was Sasha.
"Well, if she isn't the one you're looking for let her get on with her work," the lady grumbled and walked out.
"Uh...hi," Al said with a blush in his cheeks. He hadn't thought about what he would say to her when he saw her, but he hadn't imagined this scenario. Apparently, Sasha hadn't imagined this either. She lifted herself up so she was sitting on her heels, holding what looked like a rotting sponge. Her hair was tied up with a ragged bandanna, she still wore the slippers but the poncho was gone.
"What are you doing here?" she asked quietly.
"Well," Al hesitated. He didn't even know what he was doing there. "I told you I would...come." Al tried at a smile but his confidence was dissipating as Sasha's expression remained blank.
"You should go. I have work to do," Sasha lowered herself back to hands and knees and resumed her scrubbing of the grimy floors. Al looked out the door and longed to leave. When he looked back at Sasha he felt that pang of guilt again. With a wave of his hand the grime that Sasha was scrubbing disappeared when her sponge touched it. After a foot she stood up.
"Are you done?" Al asked with a successful smile. Sasha's smile was still absent.
"Please," she pleaded. "This is the only way I can get money. If you ruin this for me I will starve this week."
"Why can't your parents buy the food?" Al asked with an are-you-crazy tone. "And, what about your brother? You don't care if he starves too?" Al grinned. Sasha looked at him with hatred in her eyes, and only then did Al see what was going on.
"Leave!" Sasha screeched with her emotion filling the room. Al closed his eyes and wished that he had not said anything.
"Oh, Sasha. I didn't even think about it. I didn't realize," Al shook his head at what he had just done. "I'm sorry. Can I make it up to you?"
"Yes. You can leave!"
"Sasha, come with me," Al extended his hand to her. "We will get away from this. I won't let you starve either."
Sasha stared at Al and at his offered hand. She looked around at the kitchen that had several weeks of work left to do. A couple hours a day working on this would give her enough money not only for enough food, but money to get a coat and mittens from the Good Will down the street. The pros of leaving were not outweighing the cons. If she left, she would lose this job. No coat. No mittens. No food.
"Do you trust me?" Al asked without the smile he had been sporting since he entered the kitchen.
"Yes," Sasha said. After she said it she didn't know whether she said it from hope or belief.
"Then, let's go," Al led Sasha out the kitchen with the hand she placed in his. Once out of the apartment he felt he could think clearer, breath better. He was going to take her to the sandwich shop that he had passed on his way here.
"Uh, maybe we shouldn't go...in, anywhere," Sasha said nervously. Al tightened his grip a little bit on her hand and rubbed it softly with his thumb. He could feel her relax a little bit, but once they were entering the sandwich shop she slid her hand from his and ran around the corner and into the alley. Al followed her with curiosity.
"Where are you going?" he asked quietly. He still felt bad about misjudging the situation so badly before. "You really don't want to go in?"
"I can't," Sasha whispered. Al thought it might have been a sob. "I don't have a home. That wasn't my little brother. The city hates me because I live on the streets."
Al walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. Sasha jerked at first, feeling his arms encircle her. Once she felt the heat and security that they offered she relaxed beneath them. Al turned her around and saw that her large, green eyes were magnified by the tears that were building up. He leaned over and kissed her on the head. One tear slid down her cheek onto her plaid, button up shirt that Al was positive was a man's shirt.
"Let's go to the park," Al took Sasha's hand and led her out of the alley.
"Al? I am hungry."
"Why are you smiling?" Sasha asked indignantly.
"You finally said my name," Al smiled and reassured her by rubbing his thumb over her thin hand again.
The park was full of children playing Frisbee, dogs chasing balls, and infants learning to crawl with their young mothers clapping with excitement. Sasha looked around at all the new things. She combed through her hair and pushed it behind her ears, though it didn't take away from the deep blush in her cheeks. Everything that she had ever seen had been in North Side, and none of that had seemed as joyful and fun as the activity in the park.
Al led them down the sidewalk that wound between the tall, oak trees and past the pond. Sasha watched the ducks paddle themselves around the pond. A couple children were throwing dried pieces of bread into the water, most of them bounced off the heads or bodies of the brown ducks. Sasha smiled as the little children would giggle when they hit one of the ducks.
"Mmm," Sasha stopped walking and sniffed the air. "What is that smell?"
Al stuck his nose into the air and took a gentle whiff. The mouth-watering smell of the greasy hot dogs cooking on a grill made him lick his lips. These hot dogs were the best in all of South Side. "That, my dear," Al headed up the hill to where the black grill would greet them with billows of smoke, "is the smell of lunch."
Al handed the greasy-haired man at the hot dog stand a crisp, ten dollar bill and grabbed two hot dogs. On the edge of the stand their were sticky ketchup and mustard bottles. A little girl was standing on her toes with her tongue hanging out of her mouth, one hand clutching her own hot dog and the other reaching hopelessly towards the ketchup bottle.
"Here you go, little one," Al said as he passed the little girl the ketchup bottle. She whispered thanks with a smile. Al grinned as he saw the bun on her hot god was all mushed up around the hot dog. "And, here you go."
"Thank you," Sasha said. She squirted ketchup on in a thin line the length of the hot dog. After watching Al take a large bite of his mustard covered hot dog she opened her mouth wide and took a large bit too. The salty juices filled her mouth and made her feel instantly thirsty. "Could we get some water anywhere?"
"Yeah, of course," Al grabbed her hand and started walking towards the street behind the hot dog stand. "This is the best smoothie store in South Side." Sasha took another bite of her hot dog and glanced at her reflection in the window of the small store. She felt even more out of place than she had earlier. Al didn't seem to notice how uncomfortable she felt as he held the door open for her.
"How can I help you two?" the tall woman behind the counter asked with an exaggerated smile. She had a black pony tail high on her head and dark makeup on her eyes.
"We will have two strawberry-banana smoothies, please," Al said with confidence. Sasha had her arms crossed awkwardly across her chest as she tried not to let her greasy lunch touch her clothes. Al finished his hot dog and grabbed the two smoothies with hand while guiding Sasha out with the other.
They drank their smoothies in silence as they walked along the street. The people on the street increased as more stores and shops appeared. Sasha didn't recognize anything that they passed, but Al knew where they were going. He was leading them further into South Side, closer and closer to where his house was. When he thought about it he wasn't sure whether it was a good idea, but he wanted to show her good things in the world. As the stores and shops turned into houses that grew larger and more beautiful by every block Sasha's eyes grew larger and larger. Those large, green eyes that Al loved to look into.
Al's large white house was on their right. They passed it. Now Al was not sure where he was going to go. They walked down the streets until the neighborhoods had disappeared. There was brown grass on either side of the service road that they were walking on. A couple flowering bushes were scattered across the hill before them. Al led them off the road and up this small hill.
"Where are we?" Sasha whispered.
"This used to be my favorite place in the world," Al replied. At the top of the hill they looked out over the town. The town looked small and peaceful from up on the hill.
"I'll bet you can all the stars in the heavens from right here!" Sasha exclaimed as she turned slowly in a circle with her neck craned to see the puffy, white clouds pass by.
She lay down on the ground. The grass was green and lush up away from the polluted road. Al looked down at the town. He could just see the top of his house which was at least a half mile away. Where he had taken Sasha from this morning was a mile more than that. They were away from everything. Al looked down at Sasha and recognized the sigh of relaxation that he did every time he used to visit this spot. Then he remembered that she had no where to return to after this period of freedom.
"Sasha?" Al hesitated. Usually he was confident, but he didn't want to say anything that would hurt her again. In his head he thought about what he could say and how could say it to get the answer he wanted. DID YOU EVER HAVE A HOME? HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN ON THE STREETS? HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED LIKE THIS? After a pause that wast too long he found it. "Where did you live?"
Sasha was still laying on her back. Her eyes were shut as she thought. Slowly, she opened her eyes and searched the bright, blue sky as if looking for an answer. Her eyes were mesmerizing Al.
"I don't remember ever having a home," she said quietly. A wave of guilt and shame enveloped Al. He had no house to return her to. After his dates he liked to walk them up to the front door and give them a kiss for them to remember how great a date it was, but there would be no kiss on the doorstep for Sasha. After he took her away from her job, which resulted in her getting fired from it, he doubted she would be sleeping in that alley way anymore. He became worried for her.
"What's your favorite color, Sasha?" Al diverted his thoughts away from his fear for Sasha and towards getting to know her.
"Purple," she smiled and looked up at Al. "What's yours?"
Sasha smiled even more. She blushed and batted her eyelashes over her vibrantly, green eyes.
"What is your favorite book?" Al asked, trying to think of his as he did so.
"I have always wanted to read A LITTLE PRINCESS," Sasha said. She took Al's arm and pulled him down next to her to stare at the clouds. "That one, right there, looks like a little old man."
"Oh,I see it! He has a big nose too!"
"Yes!" they laughed together as the shape of a little old man evolved into a tailless dog.
"Why did you want to read that book?" Al asked.
"When I was little I went into a book store and there was lady with a green covered book," Sasha started. Her eyes looked like she was looking far away, far back into her memory. "The lady had a long, brown braid. She was wearing a yellow dress and I remember that I always thought that she was a princess. That was the book she was reading. It sounded nice too. I only heard a few minutes worth though," she said sadly. Al rolled onto his side to see if she looked as sad as she sounded.
"Why didn't you stay to hear it all?" Al said softly. Though he was pretty sure he knew why.
"I was with my dad," she whispered. "I was six. He brought me in with him as a pity seeker. He went to the coffee counter and tried to get some muffins or something to drink. My dad never tried for a job, just for handouts. Right as I realized that I liked what the lady was reading he was getting yelled at and he ran out of the store. The lady that had been yelling at him knelt down next to me. She gave me a little bag with a muffin inside and told me to go catch up to my dad. I didn't show him my muffin though."
Al stared at Sasha then rolled back to his back. He wondered if she had ever read a book before, or if she could even read. It troubled him that he had originally gone to find her because he found her attractive. He didn't know what to do.
"I should start walking back," Sasha said. She stood up and brushed the grass off her clothes. Her plaid shirt didn't look any the better without the strands of green grass.
"You know, Sasha," Al took a breath of encouragement as he stood up. "You could stay at my house if you need to. No one would mind at all."
"I had a lot of fun today," she started walking down the hill. Al followed with confusion at why he had asked her that and guilt swimming through his mind for taking her out at all. "Maybe we can do it again someday. I'll be around."
"Wait. Are you sure you don't want to stay?" Al wanted to grab her hand, but was unsure of how she would take that. "You won't be cold. And you won't be hungry."
"No, thank you," Sasha smiled. "I'm not a charity case Al. I can take care of myself."
With that Sasha walked quickly away from Al. He was walking slowly down the street, watching Sasha scurry down the street. As he neared his gate he made sure that she was far from sight to see him open the gate. For some reason he didn't want her to see where he lived. At least, not if she wasn't going to be there.
It had been more than a month and Al hadn't told his family about Sasha. Now that he didn't talk to his friends anymore, no one knew about her. He felt bad about not telling anyone because it just increased her invisibility in the world. His mom would not agree with what he was doing though.
"Hey, Al," Don asked his son over his cup of coffee. "Ryan came by yesterday to see you. He said he feels bad about everything that has happened and misses your friendship."
"Oh," Al replied with confusion. "Thanks. Did he say anything else?"
"He said if you agree to go talk to him then you can find him at the club," Don looked over his brown mug at Al's expression. "And, Lucas won't be there. Ryan wanted to make sure that you know that."
"Okay. Well, then I guess I will go see if he is there tonight," Al went upstairs to his room. Watching out for his mother around the corners. He didn't want her to know that he was going to see Ryan.
Once inside his room he clicked his fingers and the door locked. With another snap the shutters on all his windows closed silently and locked themselves. He walked over to his closet and levitated the box from the top shelf down into his hands. The box was wooden and very ornate. He waved his hand over it three times in a clockwise motion, muttering words under his breath. The box cover opened slowly. Inside their was a deep, blue stone. It was wrapped with a thin coil of wire that swirled around the edges. The stone was secured in this wire holder, and then a black cord was tied through it. Al grabbed this and through it around his neck then placed the stone under his shirt.
"I'll see you later dad," Al walked through the kitchen as he spoke. His dad was sipping his coffee and looking out the window.
"Al?" Don didn't turn from the window. Once he was sure Al had stopped walking he started up again. "Do you think Lucas will be there?"
"If Ryan said he won't be, then why should he be?" Al asked with convincing puzzlement. He could feel his heart speed up nonetheless with the amulet hanging against his chest.
"You can't hide that from me, Al," Don responded quietly. "I don't want any trouble today."
"I can't hide what?" Al tried at sincerity but he knew he had failed.
"Aladdin," Don turned around and his face was just as sharp as his voice. "If something happens and you use that," Don's voice faltered, "I won't be able to help you out of the mess."
Al stared at his father as he turned back to the window to sip his coffee. With that obvious dismissal Al walked out of the door. He always forgot that his dad had some power as well. Though, he didn't realize he would be able to feel the power emanating from the stone he wore.
The sun was a pale yellow, hanging above the small, dank buildings in North Side, just starting to heat up the streets. Al walked on the side of the street that was bathing in the sunlight. The feeling of apprehension rose in his chest as he closed in on the club that his friends and him used to sit in regularly. His apprehension turned into curiosity as he walked through the door and saw that Lucas was not there. Ryan sat in their old booth wearing his favorite shirt that was bright red with a black skull on the front of it.
"Hey, Al," Ryan said sullenly though he had a smile on. "How have you been?"
"Hi. I have been good," Al replied honestly. "You?"
"Okay," he nodded his head with the usual buzz he carried with him. "I talk to Lucas once in a while. He is always mad though, so it isn't very fun."
"Where have you been hanging out? Any new friends?" Ryan asked with a blank expression. It didn't seem like he cared at all.
Al thought about telling him about Sasha but was nervous. She wasn't like them at all: no home, no money. Al told himself it was a pity date. Before he could find something else to say though, he said her name.
"Sasha," Al blurted. Ryan rose his eyebrows at that.
"I met her in the park," Al struggled to explain himself. He hoped Ryan wouldn't be able to tell that he was lying through his teeth. "She was walking the path around the pond behind me, but I didn't know that. I wasn't paying any attention and I stopped in the path. She ran right into me and spilled her tea all over both of us. Man, Ryan. She is beautiful!
Al sat in the booth across from Ryan and thought over what he had just said. Even though he hadn't seen her but once several weeks ago, he didn't want to say he didn't hang out with anyone at all. He did wish that it had happened that way. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen though.
"That's good," Ryan was sitting up and looked more interested now. "Where does she live? How old is she? Where do you guys hang out?"
"Uh..." Al was overwhelmed with all the questions. He knew it wasn't a good idea to say a word about Sasha. "Well, I don't know where she lives. I am not quite sure how old she is. We have only hung out a couple times. It just happens to be...in the park. Mostly."
"Hmm," Ryan responded with a slight nod. "Okay, cool. Well, I am glad you came down to talk to me. I have to go do some stuff, so I will see you later."
Al sat dumbfounded as Ryan walked out of the club. He tried to think about what had just happened; it was a very short conversation. The metallic hands of the small, round clock on the wall were ticking by slowly. Al sighed when he saw it was only 11:30 in the morning. Sasha's face popped unexpectedly into his mind. He drummed his fingers on the plastic table as he argued with his himself.
-I have to go see her. No, I can't see her again. But, her face won't leave my mind! She lives in a different world. I want her in my world! She barely lives in this world. I'll bring her into my world.
After Al's argument in his head he left the club. He was still arguing with himself about what he was going to do. Instead of searching for her he went to the park. Maybe he really would run into some beautiful girl in the park.
The sun was high in the sky when he reached the park. There were dogs chasing frisbees and little kids chasing the dogs. He smiled as he felt the slight de ja vu. A frown quickly replaced the smile as her face danced before her eyes. After walking around the park a couple times he sat stiffly on the metal bench by the pond. He could feel the warmth that had been collected from the strips of metal he was sitting on. It was so comforting that he closed his eyes and basked in the sunlight. When he opened his eyes he saw a pair staring at him from behind the tree across the pond.
Al stood up fast and stared at the tree. He knew there had been someone right there. The pond was at least 30 yards long so he couldn't see any features. It looked like they had been looking at him though. He started walking away from the pond, keeping his peripherals on the tree. Just when he was about to blame the distance on the image he saw a person stride slowly from behind the tree.
The person wore a bright red shirt and black pants. Al's heart stopped as he realized it was Ryan. His thoughts flew through his head as he remembered the questions Ryan had asked him at the dinner. 'Where do you guys hang out?'. Al tried to keep his pace normal as he hurried back to his house. He thought that Lucas must be involved in this; he must want revenge. Were they tracking him or Sasha?
Instead of going through the front door, Al walked around the side of house to where his large windows were. He used to sneak in through his window all the time. Then, Aliyah found out and put a charm on the window that he didn't know how to break at the time. Now he waved the window open as he pushed himself high into the air with a thrust towards the ground with his other hand. He landed softly in his second story room. The window shut just as silently and Al replaced the charm. Though his stomach was growling, quite loudly, he lay on his bed with his feet dangling off the edge. He thought about the hundreds of times that Lucas and Ryan used to come over as children and they would play harmless pranks and jokes on each other. It was a scary thought that they could be trying to gang up and play another on him.
The sun was setting when Al pushed himself onto one elbow. He squinted around the room and realized he had fallen asleep. Groggily he opened his window and hopped out. There was no reason to go down the stairs and upset his mother after he had tried to not let her know he was home. The air outside was cool and refreshing on his face; it cleared away all traces of his nap.
"Aladdin? That you?" Aliyah called through the large house as Al stepped through the doorway. Al followed the voice into the kitchen as she answered. "I thought you would be gone all day with Ryan. Do you want some fresh-baked cookies?"
"I was gone all day," Al grabbed a cookie and took a big bite. The chocolate chips were still hot enough to burn his tongue. He cringed with unexpected pain.
"Here," Aliyah shoved a napkin into her son's hand. "Use this. I just swept the floors. You're right. It's 5 o'clock."
Al sat down on the bar stool that Aliyah offered him. The news reporter's deep voice was barely heard from the television that sat across the counter from Al. He read the bold words dully as he finished off his cookie.
"That is so sad," Aliyah said as she wiped her hands on a dish towel.
"What is?" Al looked up but couldn't see anything that could be sad to his mother.
"Aren't you listening to the news?"
"Mom, the volume is set so low I don't think a bat could hear it," Al retorted. "I'm reading the headlines at the bottom of the screen though. A basketball player was sent to jail for putting a hole into a rival's car. I would guess that this basketball player has more talent than everyone thinks." Al smiled. He didn't have to guess that this player had some magic on his side when it came to talent.
"Not that, Aladdin," Aliyah rolled her eyes and turned up the television. "A girl was just found in an alley! Listen to this!"
"Thank you, John" a woman reporter was standing in front of an alley as she spoke into her microphone. "The girl was found in this alley between 1st and Cane. Mr. and Mrs. Adams, who are at the hospital with the girl, found her at 3 this afternoon," the reporter walked about halfway down the alley with the camera following her closely. "The girl was in the corner behind this dumpster, and only her blood covered arm was seen by the Adams. When the Adams went to the girl they found her unconscious, covered in bruises, and bleeding from several wounds including her head," a picture popped up onto the screen. It sent chills through Al. "Though she looks to be only 15 or 16 years old, the doctors have said she is 19. Her name has not been released. We have no more information about this right now except to call the authorities if you see any suspicious behavior; the culprit is unknown."
Al stared at the television. His mouth was open and his eyes were wide. Aliyah turned the television down and set about washing the dishes she had used for making cookies.
"Oh, Al," Aliyah said sweetly. "If I knew you were so sensitive about things in the news I wouldn't have had you watch it."
She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, mistaking his expression of shock and fear for disgust. Al stood up and slowly pushed in his stool.
"I'm going to see if Ryan is done with the chores he needed to get done," Al said quickly as he fled the house with Aliyah staring at him reproachfully from the window.
Al couldn't get the picture from the television out of his mind. It was staring at him where ever he looked. Sasha's beautiful face was crusty with dried blood. There was a thick white bandage around her head and a smaller one around her left wrist. Her lip was cracked with dried blood at the corner and down her chin. Her right eye was purple and swollen. He quickened his pace down the street. At the end of the block he turned around and hopped into his car. He didn't know what he was going to do, but he knew he had to go to that hospital.
"Hi, can I help you" a short, squat nurse asked Al as he waited at the counter. He didn't realize how embarrassing this was; he didn't even know what he was doing her anymore.
"Uh, yeah," Al said nervously. "I need to see Sasha."
"Okay," the nurse said pulling out a folder and opening it. "What is her last name?"
"Uh..." he was never told her last name. "I don't her name."
The nurse closed the folder and he could tell she was trying to compose herself for turning him away nicely.
"But, please," Al begged. "She doesn't have any friend, but me. Her parents aren't here. She has no siblings to come and take her home or see if she is okay. No one else knows she is here!"
The nurse gave him a stern look as his voice elevated. His shoulders dropped and he let go a breath of air he didn't know he had been holding in. Though he saw no hope he stared at the nurse without anger, but waited for her answer with despair. The nurse shifted her position and leaned forward to him.
"If you don't tell anyone I did this," she whispered into his ear. "Her name is Sasha Reimer. Go to room 214."
Al stared at her with disbelief. She smiled and had to wave her hand towards the doorway before he could get his feet to move. He was shocked that she let him go in. Once he was walking down the hallway he didn't quite know why he didn't use any of his powers to make her let him in. He could be very convincing when he tried.
The room was on the right hand side of the long, white hall. There was no one in front of the room, and the door was open. He felt unusually awkward as he walked into the room. Ever since he saved this girl's life he had felt emotions that put him out of his comfort zone.
"Sasha," Al whispered once he was beside the bed. He looked up and down her small body. She hadn't looked that skinny when he had seen her last. He wondered if that one day had been the cause for this. Had that one day really taken away the only job she could get? Al snapped from his thoughts as she moved her head.
There was no response from her. She was still facing the opposite direction. He couldn't tell if she were awake or not. There was an IV going into her bony, right arm. A bandage was still wrapped around her head, but not her wrist. Her left arm was in a sling now. The right eye was still large and purple.
"Sasha," he tried again when he saw another movement. This time she turned her head to face him. He caught his breath when she did look over. Once she was there and awake he didn't know what to say. "Hi, Sasha. Do you remember me?"
Al looked hopeful as he rose his eyebrows and gave a faint smile. She nodded slowly. Relief spread through Al.
"Good," Al said sheepishly. "Do you need anything? Anything at all?"
Sasha nodded again. Al stood up and nodded with her. He wasn't sure if she was going to say anything but didn't know what she could need. Finally she lifted her IV arm to her mouth.
"Water?" Al asked quickly. She nodded again. "Okay, I can do that."
He took two long strides to the sink and filled up one of the paper cups that were sitting in a stack next to it. He could feel the waxy covered dixie cup wobble in his hand as he filled it. Looking back at Sasha he could see that her lips were dry and chapped. He hurried back over and held the cup so that she could drink. After 5 cupfuls she was content.
"Why...are you...here?" Sasha spoke with a raspy voice. "More."
Al filled up the water cup again and brought it back to her before answering. "I saw what happened on the news." He said quietly as he took the paper cup and refilled it for the 7th time, noting that they may need a bigger cup. Sasha drank this one down a bit slower than the rest.
"Oh," Sasha was quiet. She didn't look at Al straight on, keeping her swollen eye as far away from his view as she could. "Did it say when I will be released?"
"No," Al was solemn. He knew she had no where to go, but the hospital did not. "They said what happened. Well, they said how they found you."
There was a moment of silence between the two as they were both thinking what would happen when she was released. Sasha kept her eyes on the dull, blue covers that she was lying in. Al brought her another full cup of water and she drank it slowly.
"What are you going to do when you are let out?" Al asked quietly.
"I'll find somewhere to go. Something to do," she replied with confidence.
"What if you are supposed to take medicine like Vicodin to stop the pain that you will be having?" Al asked, trying to get her to look at things realistically. "It's November. We are lucky we aren't buried in three feet of snow!"
"I make it work every year," Sasha said a little hurt.
"Not when you are in this condition, Sasha," Al tried to convince her that she needed help. Last time he offered her refuge she had turned him down and said she wasn't a charity case.
"I don't have a choice," Sasha said sharply. Al pulled the doctor's stool over to the bed and sat down. He would have been eye level with her if she had been facing him. He glided his fingers across hers and up her hand till he reached the sling.
"You do have a choice," he said seriously. "I'm giving it to you right now."
Sasha turned her head a little so she could see Al with her good eye. He could see all the pain, confusion, terror, and helplessness that she was feeling. She opened her mouth and closed it again. Right when Al was sure she was going to answer the doctor walked in.
"Hello, hello," the doctor said in a tenor voice. "I am Dr. Rick, and you are, sir?"
"Oh," Al stood up and took a step with his hand stuck out in front of him. "I'm Aladdin Dugal."
"Hey, I know your father," Dr. Rick had a smile that covered most of his face. "Important man, your father. So, how are you related to Miss Reimer?"
"He's my cousin," Sasha replied before Al could make words fall out of his mouth. He could now feel them dangling on as his mouth remained open with surprise.
"Really?" Dr. Rick was surprised as well. "I didn't know the Dugals had any relations here."
"We didn't use to," Al replied smoothly. "Sasha moved into an apartment here about 3 years ago."
"Huh," Dr. Rick wrote that down on his pad of paper. "So, Sasha. Are your relatives still living where you left them? We could give them a call if you remember your old address."
"Um..." Sasha murmured.
"She has none sir," Al interrupted.
"I thought you just said she moved here," Dr. Rick put his hands on his hips and glared at us. "She had to come here from somewhere. She would have only been 16."
"She was a foster child," Al explained. He was surprised how easily he was lying right now. It was back to normal. "Her foster mom, who was my third cousin, died at that time. Sasha came here because she has met us a couple times."
Dr. Rick stood staring between the two of us. Al knew Dr. Rick wouldn't be able to argue with something like that though.
"Okay, well," Dr. Rick tried to compose himself again by shifting his feet and opening up his folder. "We just got back your cat scans. There is no damage, just a concussion. Let me remove these bandages from your head so I can see how your stitches are doing."
Al stepped back so that Dr. Rick could unwrap the long, white cloths. Not three inches from her swollen eye their was an inch long line of stitches that started just above her temple and went up. Dr. Rick looked at it for a second then stood up.
"Looks good," Dr. Rick said. "Okay, we are going to keep you over night, and then you can go home. I'll write you a prescription for headaches, concussions tend to result with that."
"Thank you, Dr. Rick," Al stood up and shook the doctor's hand and took the prescription from his hand. Dr. Rick walked out of the room and closed the door. Al turned to Sasha with a smile. "Why did you say that? That I was your cousin?"
"I have made a decision," she said quietly. Al smiled, thinking of his great triumph. "I want you to tell Dr. Rick that you will take me home tonight so I don't have to stay in the hospital."
"Okay," Al said with an even bigger smile. "I'm glad you decided to stay at my house."
"I...didn't say that," Sasha said slowly. Al walked to her side and stared at her poor state.
"What do you mean?" he said just as slowly and quiet.
"I don't want to stay here," she emphasized. "I don't have the money to stay here overnight. I know I am already in debt. Please, just get me out of here. I'm already far in debt with you, too."
Al clenched his jaw. He didn't want to let her out of the hospital if she wasn't going to stay at his house.
"Sasha, I can't do that," he said looking down.
"I don't want your help," she replied to his unspoken thoughts. "I don't want your pity. I can manage."
"I don't pity you, Sasha," he looked back up at her. "I find you very courageous and strong. You are sweet and thoughtful. I want you to help me, make me happy."
Sasha didn't respond. Al thought about anything he could say or do to get Sasha to agree with him. Then, he realized that she couldn't drive herself anywhere, so he would just drive her to his house.
"Okay, Sasha," Al said with mock irritation. "I'll go get Dr. Rick."
While Al walked down the hall he called his dad and told him the story. Not quite the true story, but that he knew Sasha, what they had told the doctor, and that she was going to stay at their house. Al stopped at the front desk and told the receptionist he needed Dr. Rick so he could take his cousin home. He thanked his lucky stars that the receptionist wasn't the nurse it was before.
"Of course," she said sweetly. Al could tell she was a new girl at the hospital. "Just fill this form out, please, and I will inform her nurse to get her ready to leave."
Al smiled his dashing smile back at her and quickly filled out the sheet. When he got back to the room Sasha was out of the bed and on a pair of crutches. Al's smile of triumph disappeared instantly. He didn't she hurt her leg as well. It was unbelievable that she wanted to go back to the streets while she had a splint on her arm and a soft cast on her foot.
"Okay, Al," Dr. Rick said with something other than polite curiosity in his eyes. "I signed the out-patient form and here is a sheet of symptoms to look for if she has a worse concussion than we expected. You are taking her to your father's house, right?"
"Of course," Al said seriously as he looked over the sheet he was handed. "I just called my father and he will have the spare room ready for her when we get there. Thank you."
Al held the door open for Sasha and watched her hop her way out of the room with a feeling of helplessness. Dr. Rick nodded his goodbye as Al walked out behind Sasha.
"Here, let me help you," Al opened the door and slid the sit so it was pushed as far back as it could go. He let Sasha pass by him so she was in the opening of the door. After taking her lightly by the waist he took her crutches one by one so she could lower herself into the car. Al helped her slide her legs in the car so that she didn't nudge her leg or wrist in the wrong way. Carefully, he closed the door and ran around to the other side where he opened the door and hopped in. He shoved the key in the ignition and started driving, knowing that the car would lock itself once he started driving. Once she was locked in Al calmed down. He was scared that she would have jumped out of the car once she realized they were passing through North Side if the doors were not locked.
"You can drop me off here," Sasha gestured to the sidewalk. Al ignored her and kept driving through the town.
"Stop the car!" Sasha shouted.
"I am not stopping the car," Al said quietly but emphasized his point. Sasha struggled to get her hand to the lock button on the far side of the car door. Al grinned and put the child lock on the car door buttons.
"This is not funny," Sasha said as she pushed all the buttons over and over again on the car door. "Let me out!"
Al looked over at her with frustration as she started pulling on the door handle and shoving against the door with all her might. He was only a couple blocks away from where he lived. She would have a larger shock about where he lived now that she wasn't looking outside as the landscape transitioned into the large, magnificent houses.
When Al parked he turned off his car and looked over at Sasha. Instead of fighting she now had her arms crossed and was completely still. She had looked at the house they were parked in front of and she wasn't happy. Al got out and circled the car to open Sasha's door. She looked away from him and made her body even more rigid and stiff than it was a moment ago.
"Sasha, let's go," Al said offering her his hand. She grumbled some profanity that Al barely heard. "It doesn't matter if you want to get out or not. I will carry you out if you don't help me."
"If you touch me I will scream," she warned with a deathly grim glare. Al leaned down and scooped her up.
It was easier than he thought it would be, she didn't weigh very much at all. She followed through with her threat as soon as she was lifted from the car. Al whispered a word under his breath and her scream was silenced. Sasha shut her mouth abruptly. She opened it wide and closed her eyes, going through the action of screaming but not hearing a thing. Al looked down to see her mouth moving very fast and her eyes dark with fury. She was filled with anger when she realized that Al didn't hear a word because she was still silenced. Sasha changed her tactic and started twisting in his arms. Al walked up the path to his front door, easily containing the struggling girl in his arms.
When the two got to the door Al lifted Sasha higher and held her closer so he could twist the door knob open. Al almost kicked the door open when it was held open for him by his dad.
"Hey Al," Don said with a nod. "Your mother is in the spare room. Upstairs," he added the last word when Al had headed towards the kitchen where the spare room would appear on the other side.
"Upstairs?" Al asked curiously, but started up the long stairs. As he reached the top of the stairs he muttered something under his breath and Sasha's voice was heard low and fast.
"...do this at all. Blasted, stupid, arrogant, ass!" she looked up in shock as her voice rose in anger and she knew she wasn't the only one that hear.
"Aladdin!" Aliyah shouted from the spare room in joy. She jogged out of the room with a big smile on her face. "Oh, you poor thing. Aladdin you just put her on the bed and I will get some ice for her eye and something good to eat."
Al walked over to the bed and set her down. The covers were already turned down so it was easy to slide her right in, though she was still trying to be difficult.
"I'm not staying here," she said.
"You have no choice," Al replied.
"I'll leave when you're not here," she said defiantly.
"Really?" Al asked with sarcasm. "I didn't know you can get down those stairs with a cast on. Besides, I won't leave you."
Sasha glared at him and looked the other way. After a couple minutes of being silent and stiff she relaxed into the bed. She was covered with soft sheets and a puffy, down comforter. Her head was laying on pillows that felt like she were laying on clouds. Al stared out the window at the dying light across the sky. Everything was orange and red. When he looked back at Sasha she was fast asleep.
"Aladdin! Aladdin!" Aliyah shouted upstairs from the kitchen. "Come quick!"
Al ran out of the guest room, where Sasha slept peacefully after breakfast, and dashed down the stairs. His socked feet slid across the shiny, tiles of the kitchen as he tried to stop.
"What happened?" he asked his mom who looked a lot calmer than she had sounded. "You're watching the cooking channel? If you got me down here to learn how to stuff a turkey I'm stealing your television."
"No, of course not," she sighed and clicked a button on the remote. The news channel popped up with that same woman from yesterday.
"Arnold Mayor, 47, was just arrested for the attempted murder of Sasha Reynolds, 19, on this past Tuesday," the blond reporter spoke quickly. "An investigation began when Sasha's body was found in the alley behind the Ole Cafe, though evidence led the investigation to the night club, The Black Cat, where Arnold Mayor worked as a bar tender."
"Aladdin," Aliyah interrupted the flow of the reporter. "Wasn't that the club you and your friends always went to?"
Al sat and stared at the television screen. He was dumbfounded that the, usually, happy bar tender was accused of beating Sasha. All he could think of was how Ryan had acted that last time he had seen him. Al tried not to think of how easy it would be for Lucas to make Arnold do something to Sasha. He had read in one of his mom's books that someone who was really powerful could infect another person's mind. Lucas could easily pull something like that off.
"After several hours interrogating Arnold, the reasoning behind his actions were revealed," the screen was replaced with video footage from within the jail. Al was mesmerized with everything that was going on now. He took note of the way the man talked; what he said and how he said it. The most interesting thing was his hands.
"Why did you try to kill Sasha Reynolds," the mustached cop asked the overweight man in front of him.
"To teach a lesson," Arnold's voice replied simply. Al frowned.
"What lesson is that, defense?" the man asked.
"I teach people what they need to learn" Arnold's calm voice irked Al. Aliyah sat eating grapes with avid curiosity in her eyes.
"What do you think Sasha needed to learn?" the man said, sounding as irritated as Al felt.
"She needed to learn to clean the floors with her own elbow grease," Arnold smirked.
"And how would hitting her teach her anything?" the man said, trying to keep calm.
"I didn't say it was her lesson to learn," Arnold looked into the camera and winked. Al stood up, rigidly. He knew what was going, and wasn't happy about it. Aliyah looked up at him questioningly.
"You're not going to see what happens?" she asked with shock.
"No," Al turned on his heel and walked out before he heard the next question to be asked. He didn't want to hear what had happened from a news channel when the victim was laying in the bedroom next to his. In the bed.
The blinds in the room had been shut and the room looked a lot darker than comfortable. Al thought that may be from the information he just came upon: Lucas was controlling Arnold, and was sending me a warning, no, a challenge. He walked slowly to the side of the bed where Sasha lay on and sat down at her stomach. It surprised him to see her big, green eyes staring up at him. She looked wide awake.
"I thought I left you sleeping," Al whispered, though he knew it wasn't necessary when there was no one asleep.
"I thought you said you wouldn't leave," she said with a smile dancing on and off her face.
"Will you tell me?" Al whispered again. He hoped she would know what he was asking.
Sasha sighed and looked into the fluffy, white blankets that she was swimming in. On the other side of the bed there was her food tray with an empty bowl that had been filled with oatmeal and berries and a mug that was still half full of mint tea. She wondered when lunch time would be, her stomach was already adjusted to the wonderful food that she was getting. Sitting quite close to her was Al. His eyes were looking down at their hands that were just inches from each other.
"I started working at the Black Cat about two weeks ago," Sasha started. She was so quiet that Al had to strain to hear what she was saying. "Everyone was so nice. He knew that I didn't have a place to live, so he let me sleep in the restaurant, in one of the booths. I had told him I would work for any thing at all, so he gave me a place to sleep with only a small cut in pay. He was very generous. In the morning I would help open up the club, wiping down all the tables and sweeping the floors. When the club opening I would do whatever Arnold needed. Usually, I would be in the kitchen doing dishes or some minor prep work. Sometimes he only needed me to help open and then would give me the day off. He told me about the guys that used to come in and wreak havoc. Arnold said that one night, one of the guys stood up against the others and their was a fight. He told me how all the windows were blown out, but then that guy had simply raised his hand into the air and everything was fixed. Every time one of the guys would come in for a drink Arnold would tell me to clean the bathroom or kitchen so I wouldn't become a target for one of their pranks," she stopped suddenly and looked down. Al had taken hold of her hand and was stroking it with his other hand.
"He doesn't seem like a bad guy," Al said, not giving any hints that he knew that part of the story.
"He wasn't," Sasha nodded. When she opened her mouth again the explanation was so vivid to Al that he thought she had pulled him into her nightmare.
"I was in the kitchen when he grabbed me by the arm. It seemed like he was drunk, but there was no smell on his breath. He started shouting at me and pulled me out the back door. I had been washing the dishes and still had a steak knife in my hand. When he saw the sun glint off the blade of the knife he grabbed it from me and slapped me.
" 'Don't be handling weapons in front of me!' I flinched as he shouted, afraid he would hit me again. 'Run', he said.
"I stared at him. A little too long I guess. He slapped me again and shouted at me to run. I did. I ran straight down the alley as fast as I could. My heart was beating so hard that it hurt, yet it was getting enough oxygen through my body. I could feel myself getting dizzy from running so hard. All of a sudden there was a large tug on my shirt and I was pulled off my feet and onto the ground. I grabbed for my shirt, it was still tight around my neck making me struggle to breathe. He was on his knees behind me, strangling me.
" 'You should have ran when I first told you to', he said darkly. My adrenaline was rushing and making me feel sick to my stomach. He leaned over me and I could feel his breath on my neck. Rape was circling around my mind. 'You are beautiful'.
"He let up a little on his grip and I slowly climbed to my knees. The hand that held my shirt was holding on as tight as ever now, but the other one was crawling down to my waist. I kicked back as hard as I could, but I didn't find the target I had been aiming at. He shoved me forward and my wrist broke my fall. That pain was very little compared to what he did next.
"He grabbed my ankle and laughed scornfully, 'You thought you had a chance of hurting me?'. Then he twisted it, fast and hard. I screamed out and agony and pain and that angered him even more. 'Do you want me to get caught?' He pulled me almost to my knees by hold of my hair, then threw me back onto the pavement," Sasha pointed to her head injury at this point and then caressed the wrist that was being held by Al at this point too. "I lay helpless on the ground. There was blood on my lips, I could taste the salty, bitterness of it. I could feel it pooling under my head and crawling down the pavement under my cheek. My ankle hurt so much, and my head as well. I thought I was going to die right there, but he didn't think so. He came over and took my hand in his. As he kissed the top of my hand he pulled out that knife. 'No one goes against me' he whispered. Then he drew the knife across my wrist. I winced in pain and closed my eyes. When I opened them he was gone and everything around me was spinning."
Al sat silent and held her hand. He waited, thinking that she would cry after reliving what happened. Five minutes passed before he realized that maybe she was stronger than he thought. He looked at the fading bruises on her face; the skin around her eye was yellow, her lip looked like it had regained normal color, and her stitches didn't look red and infected anymore. Dr. Rick had told them when they were leaving the hospital that they could take the sling off her arm after a week, which would be two more days. The soft cast on her leg would be a little bit longer. The nurse had said it could be taken off as long as she isn't using the leg at all.
"You look...thoughtful," Sasha looked up at Al with curiosity in her own eyes.
"I was assessing all the damage," Al said quietly. He was actually surprised it was still quiet with his mother around, she was usually flitting around the house with boredom.
"I'll be okay," she smiled. "I have been through hard times before, you know."
Al didn't say anything. On the inside he was fuming about how Lucas had actually done all this to Sasha. When he saw Arnold in the interrogation room he could hear Lucas' rudeness come out through Arnold's voice. The smug tone overpowered Arnold's usual polite tone. Then, the story Sasha had shared. Lucas had embodied Arnold and did try to kill her. Those last words he had said to her 'No one goes against me', had confirmed everything.
Without saying a word to Sasha, Al went down to the kitchen where Aliyah was still glued to the news channel.
"Mom," Al grabbed her attention and threw a coat on. "Would you bring Sasha some lunch? I'll be back later."
"Aladdin, where are you going?" Aliyah said, barely turning her head from the television. She lifted her head when she heard the door slam. "Aladdin!"
Al walked past his car and down the street. He kept his pace slow and hoped that by the time he got back to the house he would be distracted enough to not think about Lucas. It didn't take as long as he thought it would to reach the book shop. He peeked in the window before he walked through the glass paned doors. It had been years since he had been in there.
"Hello," an old, thin woman approached Al with a smile plastered on her papery thin face. "Do you need help with anything?"
"Oh, no," Al smiled back. "Thank you. I'm just browsing." Al smiled until the woman turned away into one of the dusty shelves. He was surprised the shop was still in business. There weren't any other customers in the shop, and it looked like he had been the only one for a long time. Most of the books had a layer of dust on them. It reminded him of the school library at the high school he had attended, none of the books were ever touched.
At the end of the third isle he went down he found what he was looking for. It was hard cover and green. The title was embellished in gold, but there were no pictures. He walked it slowly up to the cashier.
"Could have this gift wrapped?" Al asked. His lips curved up into a small smile as he rose his eyebrows. He was trying to look hopeful, and hoped he didn't look pleading.
"I think I can do that," the lady nodded like she was a bobble-head. Al waited patiently as she opened a drawer and pulled out several colors of ribbon. She took the widest piece, which happened to be purple, and cut a big strip. He watched curiously as she tied it around the book and then curled the ribbons. To finish it off she placed the book in a brown, paper bag and handed it to Al with a large smile of triumph.
"Thank you, so much," Al returned her smile and took the bag. On the inside he was laughing at the way she had gift wrapped the book. "Have a nice day!"
Al was in a better mood when he left the book shop with his purchase. He thought about what he could do about Lucas, but now his anger and feeling of betrayal had faded so he could look at the problem more logically. Al decided that what had happened was a warning, and Al wasn't planning on crossing him again anyways, so he would let it go. Once Sasha was better, then Al could plan something, but that was if his plan with Sasha were to fail.
"You left me again," Sasha whispered. Al was sitting in the chair across from the bed. He was glad she didn't say she was uncomfortable with him staring at her while she slept. Instead, she looked happy, even though she was sporting a pout.
"I won't leave again," Al crawled up onto the bed and lay on his stomach next to Sasha. "Without telling you, I mean."
"If you tell me, then I can plan to make my escape," Sasha said as quiet as before. She tried turning over onto her side but the sling on her arm prevented her. Al slid it over her head and off her arm, then she rolled over and they were eye to eye.
"You want to escape from me?" Al asked as he wrapped his arms around Sasha, bringing her close to him. Her eyes mesmerized him. Every time her dark eyelashes covered her eyes he longed for them to open quickly. The beauty that poured out of them, the mystery, the confusion, every emotion that she held deep inside her he could see through this bright, green portal. He almost missed Sasha's answer as he daydreamed.
"Maybe," she looked down as she said it then looked back up slowly. "Maybe not."
Al suddenly became aware of the sound of his heart, and it was loud. He saw her cheeks turn crimson and she looked away again. The down-feather blanket was folded at the end of the end of the bed and the sheet was clinging to Sasha's curves and falling down into the valley of her waist. He wish he could lay behind her where he knew he would mold perfectly to her body. Instead, he kicked off his shoes and slid into the sheets with Sasha.
"I don't think-" Sasha started as she saw what Al was doing. Once he was inside the sheets he pulled her close to him again. She didn't finish what ever she was about to say, but stared at Al.
"Do you trust me?" he whispered into her ear. Al wasn't inexperienced by any means, and he knew how his hot breath rushing down her neck would make her blood rush and her heart beat hard enough that she wouldn't be able to answer him fast enough for him to think she means no.
"Um..." Sasha hesitated like Al guessed she would.
He took her by the chin and could hear is own heart beating fast and hard as his lips stayed an inch from hers. After what seemed like forever he kissed her on the cheek and climbed out of the bed. He crossed the room in only two strides and grabbed the brown paper bag. When he got back to the bed he saw that Sasha looked crestfallen. That feeling of guilt that he had felt so often with her washed over him once again. He knew it was the best thing though. It was too soon to try anything with her. Al didn't want to do something that he would feel more guilty for later, like losing her trust in him. When she looked up at him the sad expression was gone and it was blank.
"Before I forget," Al murmured quietly. He was embarrassed by what he had just done. "I bought this for you."
Sasha took the brown package with her small hands and a quizzical look on her face. She peeked into the bag before pulling out the green-covered book. When she saw the golden title, Al saw her mouth open half an inch in amazement. Her eyes widened and glazed over. Al wasn't sure if she was going to cry or not.
"Thank you," Sasha took the book out of the ribbon and felt the cover with her palm, tracing the letters with her fingers: A-L-I-T-T-L-E-P-R-I-N-C-E-S-S. "I can't believe you remembered this."
"I remember everything about you," Al said and slid his arm behind Sasha again. "Can I read it to you?"
Sasha took a moment to consider his offer while staring at the revered book. After handing him the book with care she snuggled into his chest and relaxed.
The entire time Al read he was thinking about what could have happened if he had only kissed Sasha. He wondered whether or not she would have gone along with it, and how far she would have gone. At the last second he had decided he wanted her to know that he wasn't taking advantage of her, and that he never would. He couldn't wait until the next time he had that opportunity. When he could feel her lips on his, hold her warm body in his, feel her smooth skin with his fingers, and hopefully feel that smooth skin on his own skin.
It took four days for Al to read the "A Little Princess" to Sasha. He would hold Sasha in the crook of his arm as they sat on the couch in the living room, or the comfy bed that he had come to love. His favorite part of the reading was when she would nuzzle into his body after an hour. Al listened to her soft breathing as she slowly fell asleep. When he asked her why she always fell asleep she simply said that she felt comfortable in his arms.
"I wish the book wasn't finished," Sasha yawned into Al's chest. She rolled over so her head was in his lap and her eyes were on his.
"Me too," Al swept her hair away from her face and behind her ear. They sat on the bed with a fleece blanket wrapped around Sasha and most of him. He wished they could stay like this forever, but she was going to leave soon.
"What are we going to do today?" Sasha asked as she fingered an edge of the blanket.
"Well," Al smiled and took her fidgeting hand in his. "We took your cast off yesterday, so we can do whatever you want to do."
Sasha's expression froze and she looked up at the ceiling. Al hoped that she felt the same way he did. He didn't want her to leave.
"I guess," Sasha hesitated before looking back at Al. "I guess I'll go home. I don't need your hospitality anymore."
Al thought about what she would do when she was back on the streets. He thought about what he would do without her. Though it had only been a couple weeks, he felt like she had been there for months. Sasha stared up at him with determination printed on her face. Usually Al would protest instantly to her going 'home'. He was almost as surprised as she was that he wasn't arguing.
Without a thought Al took Sasha in his arms and lifted her up towards him so he could reach her lips. Last time he had hesitated long enough to find reason, but his lips were already pressed against hers. He kissed her softly, parting her lips with his. His heart was beating to a drum he couldn't hear and his thoughts were rushing faster than he could reflect on them. Then he felt her tongue with his and the intake of breath she took as her heart rate accelerated.
Sasha pressed her hand against Al's chest. Before he could stop kissing her she reached her arm around his neck and pulled him close. Al swung his legs out from under Sasha and into the blanket with her. His hands seemed to have a mind of their own as they wrapped around her body. Her skin was warm and soft beneath his hands. He moved his lips from her mouth to her neck, leaving a trail of kisses all the way down. His breath on her neck made her squirm with delight and goosebumps raise on her arms and legs.
Al felt himself harden against her thigh and sighed. He ran his fingers through Sasha's hair and settled it at the nape of her neck. She watched curiously as he propped himself up on one arm and stared down at her.
"I love your eyes," Al whispered. He leaned down and kissed her nose, then hard on the lips. "I don't want you to go back."
"I have no where else to go but back," Sasha replied. Her hands were limp on his body and he frowned.
"I want you to stay here," he kissed her cheek.
"I can't stay here," Sasha put her hands on Al's chest and tried to push him up. "There is no reason to anymore."
"I want you," Al blurted. "I want you, Sasha. Please, stay with me."
Sasha stared at Al and then pushed him again with her hands. When he didn't budge she turned her head and looked at the wall. "I'm not a charity case. I don't need your pity."
"Sasha, look at me," Al said softly. She ignored him. He took her chin in his head and repeated his request as he turned her head. "Thank you. You are not a charity case. I don't pity you, but admire you. You are so brave, Sasha. You are very beautiful. I like spending time with you. I loved reading that book to you. I have fallen for you."
"My father said he loved me," Sasha looked up at Al with an obvious strain to keep back the tears. "He brought me across town one day and told me to wait for him on the bench he pointed to. It was morning at the time. I waited until it was dark out before I got off the bench to find a better spot to sleep. The place I slept was only 15 feet away from the bench. I waited 3 days for him to come back for me. When I realized he wasn't coming back I tried to find my way back to the alley I usually slept in. It took me all day. When I got there my father was at the corner with a bottle of booze. I figured out that he could make more money if he didn't have to watch over me, and he would have more money to spend on his addictions if he didn't have to buy me a little food," Sasha took a breath. "People do what they need to when they want something. You will leave me when you find something else that you want."
Al traced the back of Sasha's neck with his forefinger. He didn't pity Sasha for what she had been through, though he did feel that she had a hard life. With her brilliant green eyes on him it was hard for him to think of what to say.
"I won't leave you," Al replied.
"Yes you will," she nodded. "You don't even know me. You don't know if you will leave."
"How about this," Al took Sasha's hands in his and kissed both. "You live here for two weeks. If you don't like it, then I will take you anywhere you want to go. You have to try though. Deal?"
"Um..." Sasha hesitated and blushed. "That sounds good. Are you sure you will let me leave?"
"Do you trust me?"