Religion is forbidden and those who have it are considered insane and sent to the Asylum. The only thing you are allowed to believe is what your government tells you. Brinley Larson was only 8 when they took her away to the Asylum. It had been a cold day in the Western region of the Russian Empire and she had just been looking for something to eat, while her parents worked at their minimum wage jobs. It had been sitting in the bottom of the dumpster she'd been digging through, the cold metal container protecting it from the elements. It's worn leather cover was soft under her cold fingers and the gold letters shown like stars in the white winter. It only took one page for them to take her away to the Asylum. Just one page of her book and she was sent away for a mental illness she doesn't have. Ten years later Brinley still refuses to give into her treatment and holds onto her faith.


8. Chapter 7

I don't have any clothes of my own besides the ones Mack gave me when I left the Asylum, so right now I'm wearing some of Tylanni's clothes. The shirt is too tight and the pants are too short, which isn't surprising since I'm 2 inches taller than her and 10 pounds heavier. The jeans end just above my ankles and I can already feel the winter wind nipping at my heels even in the apartment. My wavy blonde hair hangs down to my waist in a thick mess, since it hasn't been cut in 10 years. I have no idea how to do hair, so I simply opt to put it in a ponytail.

"Going to work?" Luke asks from behind me.

"Yup, my shifts from 8 till 3," I tell him as I gather the things I'll need for my job.

He looks at the apron in my hand and then at my wrist. "You might want to cover up your code."

"Right," I say and begin looking for something to tie around my wrist.

"Here," he says as he walks over to our bags, "I still have the shirt from the Asylum; we can use the fabric until we find something better."

It seems ironic to be hiding my mark of my time at the Asylum with something that came from that wicked place, covering up one mark with another, but it's all we have for now. Luke rips off a strip of the white shirt and hands it to me. I wrap the cheap fabric around my wrist doing my best to make it look natural. The cloth effectively covers the black tattoo, but it looks a bit out of place despite my best efforts.

"Thanks," I say as I continue to adjust the cloth.

"No problem, but you should probably get to work if your shift starts at 8," he replies and gestures to the old clock on the table.

"Yay, I got to go," I answer and grab my apron and a jacket before heading for the door.

My footsteps echo on the warped wood of the stairs and spray dust into the air, the dust swirls around me and gathers in my lungers like thick thunder clouds. As the door to the store opens the cold meets my skin and I shiver, winter sucks. Only about a block in front of me I can see a figure walking down the street, I think it's Jack. I've never talked to Jack, so I guess this an excellent opportunity. My feet pick up speed until I'm walking next to Jack, he gives me a sideways glance but doesn't say anything.

"Where are you heading?" I ask in attempt to start up a conversation.

"Work," he answers with out looking at me.

"And where do you work?" I ask patiently.

"At the new electronics store," he answers as if he'd rather be doing anything but talking to me.

"Oh, I didn't know they had a new one. Where is it?" I awkwardly ask in an attempt to keep the conversation going.

"Uh, it's on the corner of Belridge and Pearl," he replies and it's blaitently obvious that he's uncomfortable with our conversation.

"The thrift store I work at is on Belridge! What time is your shift over?" I try to ask optimistically.

He shifts awkwardly beneath his thick winter jacket. "I get out at 3."

"So do I! We could walk back to the apartment together," I say excitedly even though this conversation is nothing but awkward. I want to be friends with Jack, but I'm not sure he's interested; he seems so closed off.

"Can't, I have some errands to run after," he says harshly and starts walking faster.

Jack hurries ahead of me and I don't try to catch up with him; he clearly wants nothing to do with me, so I'll just leave him alone. I walk the last few blocks to the thrift store and step inside. I'm greeted with the musty smell of old clothes and rusted pipes.

Arnold sits behind the counter and smiles when I come in. "Are you ready for your first day of work?"

"Yep," I answer with a smile.

"Perfect! Now your job is to help the customers who come in to find what they are looking for and keep the store neat," he tells me and begins to show me all of the different sections of the store, "then all you have to do is ring them up, the cash register is really easy to use."

Arnold explains how to operate the cash register to me and then goes in the back to take inventory. The store is empty so I begin moving through the different racks of clothing to get a better sense of the store. In the children's section I find a bright blue coat with little pink and purple flowers stitched into it, Lorelai loves blue and flowers. I decide to buy the coat for her when I leave, she really needs it.

 The door at the front of the store dings as someone enters the store. A woman with black hair faces away from me and begins sorting through a rack of woman's clothing. I'm about to go offer help to her when she turns her head to look at a pricetag and I see ehr face, it's Eva. Ducking behind a rack, I quickly shuffle to the back of the store in hopes that she'll leave.

The wicked woman continues to sort through the rack tossing all sorts of clothes over her arm to purchase later. I know she can't afford that many clothes, especially in the condition my father and her are living in, yet she persists on grabbing more usless items. I can't believe she's shopping instead of looking for her daughter.

A winter hat and a pair of sunglasses lay on the accesory table behind me and I snatch them up in hopes that Eva won't recognize me. Eva takes her massive pile of clothes to the front and I'm forced to come out of my hiding place with my hat and sunglasses on to help her. The hat isn't very suspicious considering, even in the store, it's freezing, but the sunglasses are definetley out of place.

She doesn't even look at me as she hands me the huge pile of clothes. "I need you to set up a changing room for me."

"Of course," I answer and shuffle to one of the dirty changing rooms near the back of the store.

Eva follows me into the changing rooms as I hang the various items on the rack. She has all sorts of random items here like a hot pink, skin tight cocktail dress, which she'll probably never use, and a pair of silver stilletos. I can feel her eyes boing into me from behind and I thank God that I tucked most of my hair into the hat and covered my distinct gold eyes with the sunglasses.

When I turn around she snaps at me, "Don't you think it's rude to wear sunglasses while your helping a customer? Have some respect!"

I want to say something sarcastic like, 'Oh, sorry Queen Eva. I would never want to dissapoint you!', but instead I mumble, "I have migraines."

"Migraines," she huffs as if it's a great inconvenience to her.

Eva struts into the dressing room and demands I wait outside so I can tell her how she looks. She acts like I'm her God damn servant. She first comes out in a pair of skin tight jeans and the world's ugliest bedazzled shirt.

"What do you think?" she asks me with her lips pursed waiting to criticize what ever I say.

"Um, those jeans look great on you, but I think they'd go better with a different shirt," I try to compliment her even though she looks horrific.

"You know what, I'll take the, but these jeans are going to have to be a no," she says with so much attitude it's almost funny.

"Alright, what ever you say ma'am," I say sweetly, but she just roles her eyes and walks back into the dressing room like I deeply offended her.

A few minutes later Eva comes back out in the pink cocktail dress and silver stilletos. The dress barely covers her butt and does not leave much to the imagination, she honestly looks a bit like a hooker. I wonder what my dad would think if he saw his wife playing dress up when she should be looking for they're daughter; I doubt he'd care.

"Are you going to a cocktail party?" I ask her as innocently as possible.

"No," she replies while admiring herself in the mirror.

She looks at me for a moment to see my reaction and I'm stunned that she hasn't recognized me yet, she probably doesn't care enough to be looking for the crazy girl who kidnapped her daughter. I smile brightly at her to keep her from opening her big mouth and she takes it as a sign of approval. Eva tries on more than a dozen outfits and unfortunatley no one comes to the store and saves me. She buys almost every item she tried on, which is quiet a lot considering she had me go back to the racks to grab even more clothes. By the time she's done I have a pile of clothes in my arms so big that I can't see where I'm walking. I drop the massive pile on the counter and begin ringing her up. She ends up spending over $70 at a thrift store, which is a shit tone of money considering the most exoensive item she bought was $5.

As she hands me the cash her eyes narrow and she asks, "Do I know you from somewhere?"

"No, ma'am, we just met," I answer innocently.

Her fingers catch a piece of the honey blonde hair that sticks out from the hat. "That's funny because my husbands ex-wife had this exact color of hair. What was her name? Jane maybe."

I can feel the heat of anger rising at my chest at the way Eva so easily dismisses my dead mother, she doesn't even know her name. My mother's name was Janice, not Jane. The two names aren't even that similar.

"My mother's name is Kelly and she has brown hair," I lie smoothly.

She drops the piece of hair and grabs her bags. "Must be a coincidence."

"Must be," I reply keeping my features smooth and emotionless.

"Have a nice day," Eva tells me with a fake smile.

"You too," I tell her with an equally false smile.

The door closes behind her and I let a sigh of relief, though; the tension is still there, she knew it was me. Why didn't she say anything? Doesn't she want to send me away or is she just glad to have Lorelai and me out of her life? I shake my head free of these thoughts and begin picking up some of the clothes Eva left scattered on the floor.

The res of my shift passes slowly as I help the few people that come in and keep the store clean. At the end of my shift Arnold gives me permission to do some shopping. I sort through the various items and end up getting a few shirts, a sweater, and two pairs for myself, the bright blue jacket I found earlier, some pants, and a few warm shirts for Lorelai, and a winter jacket, some shirts, and pants for Luke. I pay with the money I earned today and leave the store to head back to the apartment.

I can see Jack about a block ahead of me, but I don't try to catch up to him, he doesn't want anything to do with me. Jack turns down a side street in the opposite direction of downtown and shopping, I thought he said he was running errands. I ignore Jack's strange behavior and finish walking to the apartment. When I arrive Lorelai and Alex are the only one's there, Mack, Tylanni, and Luke all left for work.

"I need to go to the grocery store," Alex tells me as I enter the apartment, "You guys want to come?"

"Yes!" Lorelai says eagerly and I'm reminded that she's been stuck here all day.

"I think Jack is running errands though," I tell him.

He laughs, "I don't really trust Jack to get groceries, so we'll go get them."

"Alright," I say with a shrug and a smile, "Oh, but first, Lorelai, look what I got you today."

I pull the bright blue jacket out of one of the shopping bags and hand it to my sister. She squeals in delight and pulls the thick coat on, it fits perfectly.

"It's so pretty! I love it! Thank you, Brinley!" she squels and wraps her little arms around my waist.

I wrap my arm around her thin shoulders, I didn't remember what family was like at the Asylum, but I think this is it. "You're welcome," I tell her.

I pull away from her warm embrace and Alex, Lorelai, and I walk to the grocery store. We walk into the store and my jaw drops, I've never seen so much food in my life. Alex grabs a cart and we begin making our way around the store grabbing various items as we go. Lorelai runs over to a shelf of what look like brown squares with little colorful sprinkles on them, I'm not sure what they are, but Lorelai sure seems excited about them.

She run back over with a box of them  in her arms and asks, "Can I please have these, Brinley?"

"Umm, what are they?" I ask dumbfoundedly.

Alex laughs next to me, "They're brownies and yes, Lorelai, you can have them."

I narrow my eyes at the box of "brownies". "What's in them?"

Alex shrugs, "A bunch of stuff that you probably shouldn't be eating, but you don't car because they're so good."

"That doesn't sound healthy," I say still studying the box.

"It's not," he replies, but keeps going down the aisle before I can respond.

We leave the grocery store with a few bag fulls of food and hurry home to make dinner. At the store we got tortillas, cheese, some chicken, and a pepper, so we can make quesadillas. Alex cooks the chicken and tortillas on the stove while I cut up the pepper, and we let Lorelai sprinkle the cheese on the quesadillas. By the time we're done we have 7 piping hot quesadillas ready to eat.

Tylanni, Luke, and Mack return from work just before we finish, but it takes Jack longer than the them. The six of us sit at the table with our food for close to 15 minutes before Jack shows up, what took him so long? He was just running errands. No one says anything as Jack sits down and we start eating. I notice that Jack came back with nothing, how do you run errands and not come back with anything? We eat in silence and when we're done I offer to clean the dishes. As I clean the dishes with soap and water OI can't help but be suspicious of my new friend, Jack.



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