“So next time then, Daniel?” I called over to the only Mercedes Benz left in the parking lot, the pink suit stopped before he slid inside.
“We’ll be back soon, I promise!” His brilliant white teeth glinted at me before he slammed the car door and drove off into the growing fog that had just began to surround the frozen beach. The near by fair seemed like an unfinished sketch with the white mist covering some of the old rusting rides. I was so immersed in my thoughts that I almost forgot about Erin, who was staring at a solitary rock on the ground that was wearing a hat of snow. I watched her watch the rock for a couple more minutes before I picked up a lump of frost and tossed it at her hood covered face.
“Hey! What was that for!” She cried, her startled brown eyes glaring at me whilst bits of snow clung to her hair.
“You were just staring at that rock, it was creepy and I couldn't take it any longer!” I couldn’t help but laugh at her annoyance, and neither could she, she glared for about two-seconds longer before a smile broke through her lips and cracked along her rosy cheeks.
“So your first deal?” I continued “How’d it go?”
“OK, I guess, the guy that came over with me was pretty scary looking though”
“The guy with the long hair? He wasn’t scary looking”
“He had a scar all down his face and neck.” She looks revolted.
“Everyone has scars, even me; have I showed you the scar on my arm?” I pulled up the sleeve on my left arm and showed her the slightly darker mark that stretched from my shoulder to my elbow. “It was about two years ago, some bad people tried to steal our drug shipment and it ended in a massive shootout. I swear we were about to get away with the drugs when this spanish guy came up behind me and stabbed my shoulder and ripped my skin down to the elbow.” I pressed my finger against the puffy bit of skin, it still hurt slightly.
“Jesus Christ. What happened after?” I could see her flinch at the thought of the pain that I went through.
“Well, I shot the bastard, then I lost too much blood and blacked out about ten minutes after. Stephen and Nicholas must have carried me away or something, because two hours later I woke up with about fifty stitches. The guy who stabbed me was such an idiot though, like, who brings a knife to a gun fight? Anyway, I couldn’t work properly for about a month afterwards.” That was the month where I met Danny. “I mean, you’re probably not used to seeing people with scars, but that guy seemed pretty average to me.”
The fog was inching closer, I couldn’t even see the row of shops across the road from us. The cold was unbearable.
“Do you want to get a Starbucks?” I asked. “There is one just across the road from here.”
* * *
“Can I get a triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, 120 degrees, caramel macchiato?”
“And can I get a black coffee?” I asked the blonde woman at the till who wore the classic Starbucks green apron. We handed her the coins and she handed us our drinks, then we left into the menacing cold of LA, grasping our hot cups in both hands.
“So what else have we got planned for today?” Erin asked whilst taking a sip of her ridiculous coffee.
“There is one more deal, and then I'm meeting Stephen, Nicholas and Jordan back at the pier. Oh that reminds me… What time is it? I need to know when we’re leaving for the next deal up in beverly hills.” The cup had started to burn my hands so I pulled up my hoodie sleeve and wrapped them around it.
Erin pushed back her sleeve to reveal an expensive looking watch and showed me the clock’s face, each arm moving at different paces, but none of them made sense to me.
Here’s the thing, I never went to school. Whilst everyone was learning algebra and having tests and learning to read and write, I was training how to fight, being taught how to use a gun and the art of robbing a bank successfully. So the thing is, I am street smart, I can get out of tough situations and I can sell drugs easily, but I'm nowhere near being book-smart, I can read and write, but I have almost no general knowledge or understanding of maths, and something you would find as simple as reading a clock, I just cannot do. But it’s no big deal, I’d rather be where I am now than be in school.
“Can you just tell me the time, please?” I asked.
“It takes about two-seconds to just read it.” She thrust the watch closer to my face, almost smacking the thing off of my forehead.
“Fuck off, just tell me the time, what the hell.”
“Lizzie, can you not read a clock?”
“Just tell me the time.”
“Can you not read a clock?”
“Does it actually fucking matter if I can read a clock or not? I asked you to tell me the fucking time, can you do that?”
“Lizzie, you did go to school, didn’t you?”
“No, I did not go to school.”
“Because I was learning how to become a criminal, now tell me the fucking time before I push you in front of a bus you fucking twat.”
It was half past four, which meant we had an hour and a half to sort out this next deal before we were due back here to meet the others. The fog had grown heavier and was now swirling around us as we guessed our way back to the car. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Erin was judging me because I hadn’t gone to school, she looked like she was thinking meaningfully whilst she steed at her coffee.
“You know I don’t mind not going to school, right?” I asked.
“No, of course, it’s not a big deal.”
I could tell she was lying.
The snow had started to fall again, colder than before if that’s possible, I could feel myself tremble from underneath the pink suit jacket and my legs had begun to shake badly. My teeth had also started to chitter and rattle against each other.
I stopped for a minute to look at the Christmas window displays inside stores, every single one of them was happy, fake happy. Were Christmases even really like this? For some reason I resented the fact that other families could have a festive christmas when I have to worry about Stephens drug problems or how countless individuals and gangs held prices over our heads, which really sucked.
“Are you not just so excited for Christmas? We have such a good tree up this year, the house feels so festive this year!” Erin’s voice rang out merrily, her mood matching the various holiday displays through the shop’s windows.
“Hmm, I’m not sure if I’m more excited for Christmas or the group’s annual meet up next week. Actually no, I’m not at all excited.Christmas is pretty shit our way.” I pointed at the window display. “It’s not actually like that, is it?”
“Pretty much. When are you guys meeting up?”
“Shit I dunno, like, monday maybe? You wanna come?” I yawned into my palms.
“Well, yeah! I wanna meet the rest of the group. What time monday?”
“Who haven’t you met yet?” I slugged down about half of my coffee to perk myself up.
“The black guy, and the computer guy. I can’t remember the names.”
“You not met Jordan? You guys would probably get along well, he’s cool for a gang banger to be honest. And I’ve only met sylvester like three times myself, such a dick. Just don’t talk to him, he’s a creep.”
“Well, I’ll keep that in mind. What time monday?”
“I dunno, when everyone’s ready I guess. Just come over at two. Now I’m more excited. Hey did I tell you about that time I spent a month in LA’s Youth Detention Centre?”
“So today we are supposed to bring in around about eighty thousand, maybe more if we’re lucky.” I could see my breath hit the icy air and sink until was no longer visible. It looked like a dragon’s breath, not mine.
“Oh, right. The next people must be spending a lot of money on their drugs then.”
“Not really, just the same as what the last people spent.”
“Then how does that make eighty-thousand? Do the maths, twenty plus twenty is only forty?”
I started to get this awful sick feeling in my stomach.
“What do you mean twenty?” I could feel my voice grow cold with the weather, like how Stephen’s gets when there is a gun pointing at him, or me.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t fucking play games with me, I told you forty. Show me the money.” Erin still had the coffee cup clasped between her delicate fingers, crushing the flimsy paper mug in stress. She stood unresponsive surrounded by snowflakes and misty air.
She reached a shaky hand into the pocket of her jumper, and pulled out a single stack of green. Just one stack, that was it.
“What, is this it?” A painful lump grew in my throat, choking and suffocating.
“This isn’t even twenty.” I tried to gulp down the lump, but that only made it burn more. In my hand I held eight of the forty-thousand we were supposed to have.
“Lizzie, please don’t get mad, listen, we can just sell the other drugs for a higher price! You said they were rich, then at least we would get most of the money. Please Lizzie. I’m so stupid.”
“Hold on. Thats a good idea actually, we could sell it to them for sixty and then I could explain to Stephen what happened.”
“Yeah! Now lets go pick up the other drugs.”
“The drugs are in the boot, we don’t need to pick them up.”
As Erin’s face fell so did my patience. She didn’t even follow me to the boot, not that I wanted her to anyway. I rested my hand on top of the red painted trunk, my fingers stuck slightly to the icy surface. When I opened the boot I was surprised at the sheer vacancy, I mean I knew that there would be nothing inside but I wasn’t expecting it to be so.. so empty.
“Fuck.” I wanted to scream it, but it came out as a whisper, a breath of cold air. “ Fuck, fuck. Fucking fuck.”
I wanted to punch the car but I would want to dent it, I also wanted to rip Erin’s face off, but that probably wasn’t the best idea.
There was all these things I wanted to do, but what I actually did was this; I climbed inside the trunk of the car, I slammed the hood shut, and I locked it.
I didn’t know how much time passed. Actually, I didn't care how much time passed, all I cared about was the dread I was felling; the dread that soon I would have to get out of the trunk, and that, no matter how much I didn’t want to, I’d have to face Stephen. The stress was enough to drive a sane person to insanity, but I was always a bit insane to begin with, you have to be to survive here.
Maybe an hour later there was a knock on the hood, I ignored it at first and then she started trying to force the door open and started to hit it. “Fuck up!” I called out to her. About two minutes later my phone buzzed. She had sent me a fucking text.
Lizzie, open up. - Erin x
I stared at it for a couple of minutes before I replied.
Fine, but only because I’m running out of breath. - Lizzie.
I hovered my finger over the button for a second before hitting send and unlocking the boot. She looked down on me from where I sat, clinging onto my knees pathetically in the back of the truck, I thought she was going to pull me out and tell me to stop being such a retard, which she did do (minus the retard bit).
She was still clutching my jacket sleeve when she began to talk to me, it may have been some kind of protective thing, or she could have been trying to comfort me; but I think it’s more likely that she was trying to make sure I didn’t run off into the fog as soon as she let go. Not that I wanted to, but the chances of me trying were a lot smaller because she wouldn’t let go, even when I tried to shrug her off of me.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” She looked full of emotion, each one layered over another until you couldn’t tell what she was actually feeling. Sad, lost, guilty; the list could go on until there was no words left to describe her.
“You can’t, that’s the thing.” She looked more distressed than anything after I said this, but I kept on talking. “You see, now I have to take the blame for this. And it’s me that’s gonna have to face Stephen and Nick and Jordan and… they are gonna to hate me so much.” The panic was gnawing at my insides and began to hurt my head.
“I’ll go with you! You don’t have to take the blame.”
“You’re joking? I’f they’d be pissed that I had messed it up then what do you think they’d do if they found out it was you?”
She murmured and began to scratch her neck. I knew that she was thinking desperately for a way to fix the situation. She stood for a while, scrunching her nose periodically and kicking the snow around her feet.
“Where are we going?” Erin asked.
The snow stuck to the car’s windshield as we drove through frozen LA. Confused californians trudged around the snowy streets, looking lost and surprised at the freakish weather. It never ever snows here, ever. This is probably the first time since the ice age or something.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” I hated that my voice was cold as the weather outside, but I couldn’t bring myself to change it. I stared dead ahead and gripped the steering wheel tightly until my knuckles felt like they would break through my skin. Then I released the grip.
The rest of the journey was silent.