“Go! We need to get out of here, man!” I shouted back at my crew, running as fast as I could. I could hear the sirens slowly follow us, as we ran through the maze of alleyways. There were so many turns, I couldn't even recognise where we were anymore. I couldn’t let them catch me.
“Nathaniel, we can shake them off if we split up!” I could hear my friend, Jay, yell behind me.
“OK!” I turned left and hid in a doorway, quickly taking off my black hoodie and white mask that we're bought from the costume shop, stuffing it my backpack. The sirens were getting louder and louder, and I knew it was time to get away from the alleyways. I quickly grab my backpack and step out of the alley into a nearby park. Sirens continued to get louder. Were they going to find me? I kept walking into the park, and the sound of sirens started to disappear. As they passed, I let out a sigh. I was holding my breath the whole time.
I can't believe it. I managed to steal thousands of dollars without getting caught by the police. I slowed down my pace and left the entrance of the park again and started to head home with my new earnings. It was a long walk as I couldn’t use public transport, so it took two hours to walk from downtown to my neighborhood, Granton. I sighed from relief when I loosely swung open the crooked iron gate and unlocked the battered, white wooden door into my house.
There was no one home.
I looked at my watch. It was two in the afternoon. My little sister, Yasmina was still at school, and I have no idea where my Mom is. Probably high on coke somewhere. I sighed for the third time, setting down the bag of goods and took some soda out of the fridge. My phone started to ring.
“Jay, did you make it?” I answered. I could hear him cackle on the other side.
“We did it, bro! Twenty-thousand dollars in an hour! Damn, I have a long night ahead of me.” I rolled my eyes.
“Don't waste it like that; save some of it at least.”
“What's wrong with giving myself a treat for all my hard work?”
“Hookers and drugs can only last for so long. You could save up for a car, a better house out of the hood. There are lots of things you could do with the cash.” Jay kissed his teeth at my list of responsible suggestions.
“Whatever, man. I'll save the next score on that.” He made me chuckle. As if he'll ever do that. I don't know why I nag him, every advice I give to him goes over his head, “Anyway, I'm calling you because T told me that we have another job, and this is a big one.”
“Well, what is it?” I leaned forward on the kitchen counter, taking a sip of my soda.
“There's a major deal going on at Kingsford Park. T thinks we can hijack it and take the drugs and cash. Once we sell off the goods, we get extra cash in our pockets! Awesome idea, right?” I coughed on my soda and slammed the can down.
“That sounds stupid. Who is involved in the trade-off?”
“Does it matter?” I sighed. These people don't think things through. Am I the only one here who has common sense?
“Never mind, I’ll come along. Only because I know you would mess up at times like this.” Jay laughed.
“Fuck you, man! We need every man we can get to pull this off. This is going to be so fun!” I seriously doubt that. I have a bad feeling about this. Despite that, I was stupid enough in agreeing to get involved in this disaster in the making. I was only doing it for the money. If it were successfully pulled off, the reward would be huge.
“OK, see you.” I hung up with a sigh. I could hear the front door rattle, someone was trying to get in. I wonder who it might be? I rolled my eyes, walking to the door, and swung it open. I wasn’t surprised to find my Mom loitering outside the door. Her eyes were bloodshot red, and her hair was uncombed. She looked like a mess, “Where the hell have you been?” I asked, glaring at her stumbling in the house.
“W-What are you talking about? I've been here all day.” She quickly mumbled.
“I looked in your room earlier, and there was no one there. I'm not stupid.” She kissed her teeth as she staggered up the stairs to her bedroom, “Wait, before you go to your room.” I grabbed her bag and quickly searched through.
“What are you doing? That's my stuff!” She started to yell, pulling the tattered bag away from me. Fortunately, I was a lot stronger and snatched it away from her grasp, pulling out a small packet of white powder. Typical. She stopped struggling and stared at the substance, like it was money, “G-Give that back, it's medicine.”
“You promised you would stop this, for Yasmina.” I wasn’t expecting her to follow her promise.
“I am trying to stop, that was already in my bag, and...” She stammered, coming up with every excuse in the book. I have heard it all throughout the years. It’s medicine, it’s for a friend, someone sneaked it in there on purpose.
“Do you realise that you’re high, right now? Do you think I’m stupid?” I yelled.
“You can’t tell me what to do!”
“Nathan, let me in!” I could hear a small voice outside, knocking on the door. Our argument came to a halt. Mom snatched the packet from my grip and marched to her room. I opened the door and greeted my little sister, Yasmina. The light of my life. Mom was supposed to pick her up from school, but she had a habit of 'forgetting'. This wasn’t the first time that Yasmina has walked home alone in this messed up area.
I let her in and offered her a drink of orange juice, hoping that she didn't notice her sham of a mother getting high in her room. Who didn’t even bother to greet her daughter and ask about Yasmina’s day. This was a recurring situation in our everyday life, and I was getting sick of it. I just need to save as much as money as I can and get Yasmina out of this hellhole away from the crime, gangs, and drugs before it gets to her. Every night, I worry about it and try to find anything that would make me some cash. Some days, I wish that I never dropped out of high school, but there’s no point regretting it now. What’s done is done.
As Mom showed no sign of cooking anything for her daughter, I pulled out ready-made dinners once again and threw it in the microwave. I could buy better food but when I finish a job, I never have time to prepare anything as Yasmina needed to go to bed early for school the next day. For now, ready-made lasagne will have to do. Yasmina never complains, and I’m not sure whether that makes me relieved or even more worried for her. I never knew what she was thinking. Did she know about Mom and her addiction? Did she know about all the illegal jobs I was doing? I was trying so hard to make life easy for her, but I can sometimes tell that she worries about us too. No child should have to think about these sorts of things.
By eight o’clock in the evening, Mom eventually came out of the room to say goodnight to Yasmina. She still looked high, but hopefully not enough for Yasmina to notice. She looked ‘tired’. Mom pulled Yasmina into her arms.
“I love you, baby. You know that, right?” She whispered to her. Yasmina nodded and smiled.
“I love you too, Mom. Nathan too.” She beamed, pulling me to join the hug. I didn’t feel like hugging Mom, but I’ll do it for Yasmina. I can tell Mom felt awkward hugging me. Once we pulled away, Yasmina ran into her room and closed the door. I let out a massive sigh and glared at Mom.
“You don’t realise how lucky you are.” I hissed. She rolled her eyes and turned to her room, “You need help.” She stopped in her tracks and turned back at me.
“You need help! Look at you. You’re a disgrace. Hugging your innocent daughter while you’re high on coke. You think that’s what mothers are supposed to do?” I hissed.
“I don’t need rehab, and I don’t need you to judge me and treat me like crap. Thanks to me, we have a roof over our head and food.”
“Yeah, how long is that going to last? By the way, the last time I checked, I was the one who paid this month’s rent after finding out that you ‘forgot’!”
“Shut up, Nathaniel! Stop talking to me like this!” She screamed. She stormed back up to her room and slammed the door. Yasmina would have heard that. I kissed my teeth and quickly peeked into my sister’s room. She was sitting on her bed, hugging her knees.
“Hey, are you OK?” Yasmina looked at me and nodded weakly. I sat on the bed beside her, “Can you not go to sleep?” She slowly shook her head, “Don’t worry. I’ll stay here until you’re asleep.”
“Please don’t fight.” She suddenly whispered.
“What?” Tears started to form in her chestnut eyes.
“Don’t fight with Mommy.” My suspicions were correct. I wrapped an arm around her shoulders and stroked her long, wavy hair.
“It’s not like I want to. She’s isn’t listening to me.” I replied truthfully. She didn’t need to know the context, a kid should never have to listen to that, “Listen, I need you to focus on your schoolwork. We’re going to be moving out of this house soon and living in a super nice place in a safe, quiet area. I’ll be able to drive you to school every day, so you won’t need to walk in the dark. I’ll cook you yummy food, once I learn how to cook.” I was spouting anything to keep her distracted. However, these are the things that I wanted in our lives. Most importantly, I want to keep Yasmina safe and happy.
“What about Mommy?” I paused briefly.
“Well, as I said, Mommy is ill. She needs help from the doctor. Once she does that, she’ll be able to live with us too.”
“You promise?” I paused again. I wanted to get away from Mom, but Yasmina loves her. I slowly smiled at her.
“I promise.” I kissed her lightly on the forehead, “Now go to sleep. Don’t want to be late for school tomorrow.” Yasmina nodded and jumped under the covers, looking happier than before.
“Night, Nathan. I love you,” She whispered.
“Night, love you too.” I quietly closed the door and sighed once more. I hope that one day that all the promises I made will happen. That we will get out of this hellhole before I end up getting myself killed.