Even Angels Aren't Perfect

The city of Los Angeles isn’t all glitter and celebrities. There are many parts of the city where wild things roam free, the shadows reign, and every man is for themselves. Lucy is 15, a girl smack dab in the middle of her teen years. But instead of worrying about boys and dress shopping, she has to learn to survive, no matter what that means. Her living arrangements are not exactly what one would call ideal, her best friend is a bit on the strange side, and she drinks too much coffee. When out one day, she happens to stumble upon an interesting man. Cold and guarded, he doesn’t exactly hit it off with her on their first meeting. But when she begins to learn more about him and he about her, they learn that maybe they aren’t so different after all. Soon, both of them are faced with questions. Were they ready to accept someone in their lives? Could they learn to trust after being broken? And most of all, could this friendship show them what love feels like again? Only time will tell.

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8. A Dangerous Liason

Even Angels Aren’t Perfect

           

I came back from my day out with Aaron and Abby, feeling satisfied and happy. Little did I know that it would all change soon enough.

It was unusually quiet inside the warehouse, a hushed silence that could only mean trouble.

I wondered if I should just go to my room and ignore it. If it was my problem Klaus would have intercepted me at the door. I had already been threatened once today, and even though I was Klaus’ favorite assistant, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t follow through if I interfered again. I really didn’t feel like spending the night on the streets.

            But being as curious as I was, and because I was concerned for whoever called for the silence, I decided against erring on the side of caution. I had to at least see what was going on.

I crept carefully around the warehouse, looking for the source of trouble. It didn’t take me too long to find. I could hear the commotion before I even got there. A small group of kids, 5 of the 11, were gathered loosely in a circle around Klaus’ door.  In the office was Klaus and Andrew, the latter looking petrified. What did he do?

Before I could even take another step in their direction, a sound besides their voices caught my ear. Looking to my right, I could barely make out a shape, hiding in the dark corners of the shadows.  It was Courtney, and she was bawling her eyes out.

“Courtney?” I asked hesitantly, “What’s wrong?”

“Andrew…” she choked out, “Andrew... He spent the money he was supposed to give to Klaus and he found out. He didn’t have enough for his quota. He’s gonna get kicked out for the night!”

It made sense. She had just been out last night, and judging from her look this morning, she had a rough night. Andrew’s problem only caused her to relive her memories over and over again. I should have asked her what happened during the night she was out.

“Lucy!” she exclaimed, turning to me with pleading eyes, “You’ve got to stop Klaus from doing it! Don’t let him make Andrew leave!”

What did she expect me to do? Just barge in and order Klaus around? Was she crazy? But how did one ignore those eyes, so filled with pain? I remembered that Andrew and Courtney were best friends. We started to suspect that she was falling for him, despite both of their protests.

Without knowing what to do, I walked over to the circle to get a better look. Andrew was looking destroyed, his head in his hands. What was Klaus saying that would cause that look? As terrifying as it was to be left out there all night, Andrew shouldn’t have been that scared. He wasn’t a small guy. But the kids around me started murmuring, saying all kinds of things. That was when someone reminded me it was a full moon.

In these parts of Los Angeles, whenever it was a full moon it was extra dangerous. All the creepiest people came out during the full moon. Serial killers, kidnappers, people into dark magic and rituals. Some of them even thought they were real monsters, werewolves and vampires. But they didn’t need to have supernatural strength to outnumber a teenage boy and overpower him. Nobody got sent out during the full moon. Andrew must have really made Klaus mad to get sent out tonight. It made my heart skip a beat just thinking about it. No wonder Andrew was so devastated. I wasn’t so sure he’d come back at all, much less uninjured.

All I could think about was Courtney, crying in the corner. But what was I supposed to do about it? Klaus didn’t listen to anyone, and attempting to boss him around could land me in as much hot water as Andrew.

Klaus got up from his chair, a truly fearsome look upon his face, a crushed Andrew lagging behind. All the kids stood back, looking worriedly at each other. We all felt for Andrew, but we all knew that we couldn’t interfere. I had wanted to stop them, but a wave of fear consumed me, and I stepped back with them. It felt terrible, being such a coward, but I was scared, and with good reason.

Klaus looked at each of us slowly, making sure to send the message. We would do well to stay as we were, for it kept us out of trouble. His eyes lingered for a moment longer when he reached me, before the hints of a smirk crossed his face. He was basking in the power of this moment.

I hated it. None of the kids had a choice to be here. They were either orphans, like me, or they had such abusive families that anywhere else was better. None of us were old enough to live on our own yet. I still had 3 years until I was legally an adult. Some would think we could go to the law, to rat Klaus out, but that wouldn’t solve anything. He was clever and charismatic. He would get away unscathed, and the kids would be stuck in foster care.

There was always a chance to find a wonderful family, but it was mostly parents who were just as bad as their parents had been. Some were alcoholics, some were abusive parents, and some were druggies. They were all smiles for the case agents, and then they dropped the act.

In a sick, crazy way, Klaus was better than them. At least he didn’t hit us, and he fed us, and he let us have some personal things. He made sure we had most of our needs met, as long as we were cooperative. It was our best option, and he knew it. That’s why he got away with what he did.

“What a crowd,” he commented haughtily, “Is everyone that interested in Andrew’s affairs? Surely none of you are here to object. Or perhaps I’m wrong?”

He enjoyed his reign over his little kingdom, and took every opportunity to assert himself. He looked at us again, finding no resistance. But then a strangled noise came from the back, originating in the corner where Courtney was huddled. She couldn’t think she was fit to object right now, could she?

Klaus’ eyes strayed to her position, taking in the sight of her damp eyes and clothes in a state of disarray. He studied her for a moment, and then walked over to her. All of our eyes followed. What was he doing?

He bent down to her level, clearing his throat. She stopped looking at Andrew, turning to peer fearfully at Klaus.

“Courtney, isn’t it?” Klaus asked, his voice a bit too soft.

She only nodded, returning to look at Andrew. That was bad. She shouldn’t look at him when Klaus was talking to her. It would only mean torment.

He glanced back at a trembling Andrew, understanding dawning upon his face.

“Are you crying about Andrew, Courtney?” Klaus asked, “Are you upset that he’s leaving? It’s only for a night, silly girl. Of course, it is a full moon. That could cause some problems. I suppose you could say that Andrew is in for a rough night.”

She looked back at Klaus, anger evident in her eyes. Her spark of rebellion was beginning to grow.

“Of course,” he continued, pretending not to notice, “You had a pretty rough one last night didn’t you? What happened, Courtney? Are you scared of the dark? Did someone try to hurt you? It must have been long for you as well. I bet that’s also why you’re crying. Such a shame, isn’t it? But that’s what happens.”

Her eyes filled with frightened tears, and she buried her face in her lap, curling up even further. Why was he still going after her? Didn’t he think she’d had enough? After last night I thought he’d back off a bit. He was really a sick human being.

But something about this confrontation made me angry, so angry I couldn’t even stand it. After trying to comfort Courtney this morning, it made me pissed that he was ruining the effort. The anger overcame the fear, and I stepped forward loudly. I was sick of his manipulation of her.

“Give it a rest, Klaus!” I blurted out angrily, “I think she’s had enough!”

He stood up slowly, pulling on the sleeves of his jacket as he got up. He looked back, eyes trained on me. He didn’t even need to ask to know who said the comment. He studied my position and my expression, taking in the comment. Finally, he smirked. He strolled languidly towards me, predatory grace in every step.

The kids isolated me from them, spreading out so that they weren’t close. Courtney was staring at me in shock, a look of consternation on her face. I realized that I hadn’t just made the wisest of choices, but Courtney had needed my help.

Klaus stopped a foot away from me, looking down on me.

“Such a loud noise from such a quiet mouse today,” he said, “Not one I really expected. From one who’s supposed to be extra obedient, I wouldn’t think you’d exclaim like that. Especially so soon after our little chat this morning.”

He waited for some sort of response, something that I had none of. My anger had made me act impulsively, but I hadn’t made a plan ahead of that. I just couldn’t take Courtney’s sobs anymore. It was deathly silent.

Klaus raised his eyebrows, and then started circling me, just like a bird of prey or a wolf planning an attack. This was definitely a problem. I knew that I was being made an example now. He occasionally liked to embarrass kids out in the open, making a spectacle of it to teach us a lesson. And sure enough, every kid from the house had come out, wondering what was so upsetting that it hung in the air so thick it was like fabric. That was this situation.

Finally, after what felt like an hour of tension but was probably only a few minutes, Klaus stopped in front of me again.

“Were you upset about young Andrew like your friend Courtney as well, Lucy?” he asked snidely, “Are you mad that I’m sending him out on such a dangerous night? Maybe you think you can do something about it.”

I tried to make words come out of my mouth, but I couldn’t think of anything that was good enough. Besides, it was better not to say anything to fuel Klaus’ anger. He was more like an animal than a human now. He just wanted another reason to strike at me.

“Not going to speak, are we? That’s fine,” he said, “But I have a splendid idea! If you’re so upset about Courtney and Andrew, you can take his place!”

The kids gasped, not expecting the offer of a trade. Klaus had never done this before. I’m sure I looked shocked, because he continued without waiting for me to speak.

“What’s wrong, Lucy?” he asked, sickeningly sweet, “Why don’t you do that? This way she’ll have him and be happy, and this whole thing goes away! Of course, that still leaves you, out in the cold. But why would that matter? What else are friends for if not to help each other out when they’re in need? So how about it? Want to trade?”

How? How could he ask me that? It was so cruel. If I said no, I’d be a coward and betray my friends in a sense, making Courtney cry and making Andrew face it out there. But if I said yes, I’d have to be out there, cold and alone. I had a hard enough time being out there on a normal night, much less on the night of a full moon. I couldn’t do it.

My eyes started to water, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of crying. He was looking at me expectantly, the crowd waiting on bated breath. Andrew was looking to me excitedly, almost as if he thought I was going to volunteer. But I knew I couldn’t. He was wrong, he was so wrong. I was too weak to volunteer for that. And I hated myself for it.

Klaus wouldn’t leave me alone, he would make me answer. I was going to have to hurt Courtney and Andrew, right in front of their faces. It was painful.

“I-I…” I whispered, my heart starting to break.

“What was that?” Klaus asked, leaned forward, cupping his hand around his ear.

“I can’t…” I said again, trying, and failing, to keep the pain out of my voice.

“She can’t she says! And why not?” he asked loudly, curling his fingers around his lips again, as if pretending to think.

“I know!” he exclaimed, “Pick me!”

He was drawing it out more than necessary, all to teach me and the others a lesson.

It’s because she’s scared,” he said smugly, “Too scared to even help out a friend. How disappointing. But it’s not unexpected. I guess you’re all bark and no bite.”

He turned to the other kids, making some speech to them. But I couldn’t hear, because I wasn’t paying attention. My eyes were fixated on Courtney and Andrew, on the grief in their stances and the hurt playing across their faces. I had failed them, and I had failed myself.  But I had to fail them, for I had to take care of myself. It was despicable of me, but my survival instinct was too strong to be righteous.

I turned, barely even functioning, only to see Klaus face to face with me. What was he going to do?

“Well,” he said disdainfully, looming over me again, “If you don’t have anything else to say, my dear Lucy, I suggest that you step back in line.

Looking down at my shoes to avoid any eye contact, I trudged back to the circle, feeling Klaus’ eyes burn my back. The kids parted for me, making a spot that was separated by a person wide space on either side. I stepped in, still not making eye contact.

I was so weak. I was a coward, and I was weak.

Klaus’ gaze lingered for another moment, and then he raised his voice to address the whole crowd again.

“Well,” he announced, “As long as nobody else has anything to say, Andrew will be leaving and it’s time for lights out. That includes you Courtney. Don’t hang about. This little gathering is over now. Get out of here.”

The kids dispersed, all looking at me with a mix of pity and contempt in their eyes. It was like getting ticketed on the side of a road, but it was worse. Drivers getting tickets didn’t betray anyone.

As I started to leave, Klaus spoke to me from behind, holding Andrew’s arm firmly in his hand.

“Lucy,” he called, “Don’t go to sleep just yet. I would like to have a little discussion with you before the night ends. I’ll meet you in your room after I take Andrew for a little stroll. Am I understood?”

I nodded again, my words caught in my throat like a lump. I couldn’t stand to look Andrew in the eyes.

I shuffled to my room, dragging my feet along the way. I guess I was thankful that Klaus didn’t do anything worse, but he still could. Did he want to humiliate me more? Or did he want to say something else? I didn’t know.

This was just awful. The day had started horribly, gotten so much better, and then spiraled down abysmally.

I made it to my room and sat on my office chair. I wanted so badly just to go to bed, to sleep away my problems, but I knew Klaus would be pissed if I was sleeping. And so I just waited, agonizingly trying to figure out what to do, wondering what I could occupy myself with to keep my mind off the situation.

After a time, Klaus showed up in my “doorway,” the curtain between my bookshelves. He looked at me, looked at my room, and sighed.

“Lucy, Lucy, Lucy,” he said condescendingly, “You’ve made quite the mess for yourself, haven’t you?”

“Just… say what you want to say Klaus,” I responded, quiet and tired, “I just want to go to bed and fall asleep.”

He smirked, leaning against the side of the wall, taking a moment of reflection. He sighed again.

“Well I hated to do it to you, Lucy, I really did,” he said lightly, “But what can I say? I had to teach you the right place again, just like I said this morning. If you wouldn’t have said anything like a good little girl, this wouldn’t have happened. It just goes to show you that being the hero gets you nowhere.”

Yeah right. You loved every minute of humiliating me. You wish I’d tried to lash out even more, just so you could get a thrill putting me down.

“So listen,” he said, not even missing a beat, “I think that because you had a little rebellion today, I have to make sure you don’t do it again. It wouldn’t look very good if I only humiliated you after a warning.”

What? Oh, no. He wasn’t going to send me out too, right? No! There was a reason I couldn’t do it today!

“You’re so pale all of a sudden, Lucy,” he commented, sounding satisfied, “Are you scared I’ll put you out too? You should be. But don’t you worry your silly little head. That’s not what I’m going to do.”

I relaxed probably a bit too visibly, my wave of fear and sickness leaving me. Klaus chuckled darkly, enjoying his ability to manipulate me.

“No, not that,” he continued, his glee growing, “But what I am doing is cutting off your meals for a couple of days. You seem to think of yourself as such a hotshot; it should be no problem for you to find food on your own, right? After all, you can always eat at Abby’s. I already told the kids not to help you or there would be consequences.”

“What?”I asked in a mild panic, “But, Klaus, That’s not-”

“What?” he asked, cutting me off, “Fair? I’m not fair. Life isn’t fair. Get over it and accept it for something less than it could have been.”

I didn’t say anything else, fuming but knowing he was right. This sucked. He’d never stopped meals, but it was probably because I wasn’t kicked out instead.

Klaus looked over my room again and my face, waiting for any more comments. When none came, he bid me a goodnight and started to leave. But as he was almost out of sight, he peeped around the corner again.

“And Lucy, one more thing,” he said, calling my attention, “If it had been anyone other than you, I would have put them out as well, despite their pleas. And I would have too, if you hadn’t backed down. I didn’t want to let my best assistant run around and get hurt if I didn’t need to, but I can assure you that I have no real reservations about doing so if I deem it necessary. Keep that in mind the next time you have an urge to be a hero.”

He left, and I waited as I heard his footsteps disappear into the hallway. He was gone.

I flung myself onto my bed, hugging my pillow so tight that it almost ripped. Everything hurt, emotionally and physically. Courtney’s face and tears kept showing up in my mind, the look of flustered fear and total dread on Andrew’s face. I couldn’t have done anything about it and still stay safe, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.

 I had managed to keep my tears in check during the fight and when Klaus came to talk to me, but they flowed freely now. The streams of saline cascaded down my cheeks, my chest starting to ache. I had to reel in the pitiful weeping noises, so I didn’t wake anyone up, but the sobs still managed to wrack my body.

After a half an hour of crying, I began to enter the self-pity phase. But I just wanted to go to sleep, and I could feel a second round of tears welling up when I thought about it, so I repressed my emotions. What use was crying all night?

I turned off my light and wriggled into my covers, using the blanket as a handkerchief for my eyes, wiping away the tears. As I lay there, I was startled by the noise my stomach made. It was growling, complaining that it hadn’t eaten dinner. The least thing I had eaten was the hamburger with Aaron. It seemed so long ago.

I might be able to mooch something off of Abby in the morning, but I would just have to be hungry for now. I felt bad for taking advantage of poor Abby’s hospitality, but I didn’t have a choice. I’d have to lie and say I just missed breakfast too, because she would haul me down to her house and tie me down if she knew what Klaus had said and done. Tomorrow was just going to suck.

But I forced these thoughts away, thinking of happier things to try and sleep. My mother, our dog, Abby’s birthday party last year. It was the only thing that kept me from crying again. Soon though, the warmth and my fatigue began to overcome me, allowing me to lapse deeper into a state of relaxation.

I was thankful when my dreams came speeding towards me. I sank into the sweet dark river, feeling sleep wash over me.

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