Calico

Black Cat was everything to Calico - brother, teacher, saviour... and traitor? Calico couldn't accept that the one person she could remember trusting would betray so brazenly. But now she was on the run, and as she searched for a safe haven, she would have to come to terms with the terrible, awful betrayal Black Cat had saddled her with. An entry for "The Fault in Our Stars" competition.

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1. Always Prey

I roared through the empty streets with nothing on my mind except how not to be arrested. The wail of the police sirens seemed distant but they were going to catch up to me sooner or later. The thought made me push the accelerator as hard as I dared and I was flung forward, almost smashing my nose on the steering wheel. Fear clawed my stomach as I sped through the maze of crumbling buildings with only the occasional streetlight as witness. Offhandedly, I wondered what this looked like to someone in the buildings - the growl of an engine, the brightening and dimming of yellow light in a window, maybe a twitch of the curtains, and then silence. Nothing more. But for me, it was a vortex of terror and anger and the desperate instinct of self-preservation. I did not want to be caught. Everything else was secondary. I jerked the steering wheel to the right and careened along the sidewalk, hearing the wheels scrape the curb. Black Cat never drove like this, but in the given circumstances, I wouldn't expect him to be driving anyone anywhere. Especially me.

 

Just thinking about Black Cat sent a spasm of hurt through me. He was a few years older than me, and dangerously good-looking, the kind of good-looking that let him distract shop girls while I stole whatever I could before the less friendly proprietors walked in. Strangely, I’d never questioned what someone like him wanted to do with someone like me, a scrawny starved girl who looked nothing like even the plainest of shop girls. Black Cat had said it was my hands that told him I’d make a good partner. He’d named me Calico when he found me, saying we’d be the best cat burglars in the city. The idea was alluring to me then, far from my miserable existence scrounged out of trash cans and dumpsters. But I had a few questions about the whole business.

 

“So why are we cat burglars instead of regular burglars? What’s the difference?”

“The difference, little Calico, is that cat burglars don’t get caught. Never. Just like real cats.”

 

I listened to him spin the future through my ears like silk; he drew me in and held me there. Don’t get caught. That sounded nice. I was in his thrall long before I watched him steal bread right under the nose of the baker’s wife, a deed that had earned me a sharp slap more than once, even though I was just taking the stale bread from their trash can.

 

“So who are we going to steal from?”

Everyone.”

 

And so we did. At first, we stole to keep ourselves fed and clothed. The transition was slow, because it required a new level of daring and stealth to go from stealing bread to stealing coats. But Black Cat showed me, and encouraged me and more often than not saved us both from discovery. I could still see him smiling proudly as I displayed the exquisite fur-lined coat I’d swiped from one of the swankier stores. My most treasured memory.

 

A memory that twisted and darkened as I remembered where I was now. Running from the police, all because of Black Cat. And nobody was going to help me. Especially when they saw the blood on my hands, that was turning brown as it caked on my fingernails.

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