Just…Just once. It was only just this once. He was desperate.
Chris’ eyes flickered back and forth between the bag of jerky on the shelf and the man at the register. He was flipping through a newspaper, sitting in a chair that was tilted back slightly against the wall. There was one other person in the 24-hour convenience store, a woman who was scolding an employee on the phone. She was on the other side of the store from Chris but he still kept an eye out for her.
Biting his lip until the taste of liquid metal touched his tongue, Chris tried to walk around the store casually, glancing at the wares. He had already zoned in on what he needed. Beef jerky, packaged sandwiches, and bottles of water. He could hide those fairly easily under his oversized hoodie. His eyes lingered on a bag of Skittles and after a second of thought, added it to his list.
Chris quickly grabbed the items, shoving them into pockets and the waistband of his raggedy jeans. He quickly checked to see if he looked noticeably bulkier and then if anyone had seen him. He had been in the store for almost five minutes now. Any longer and he wouldn’t be able to leave, pretending that he didn’t find what he was looking for.
Swallowing around the immovable lump in his throat, Chris walked as casually as he could to the door. He quickly opened the door and rushed outside but didn’t get very far. Chris crashed into a hard body. Physics ended up with him landing flat on his ass with a groan, the air knocked out of him.
“Oww,” Chris whimpered. He opened his eyes and looked up to see that all eyes were on him.
“You fucking thief,” the man at the register spat, getting to his feet.
Chris’ eyes widened in silent panic as he looked around and saw that everything he had taken was now splayed on the floor around him.
“I—I,” Chris stuttered before shooting to his feet and making a mad dash out of the store, pushing past whoever he had crashed into previously.
Chris tore down the street as fast as he could, not daring to look back at the yelling directed at him. He shoved past the few pedestrians who muttered curses at him and ran, adrenaline and fear coursing through his veins. He had to get away. He couldn’t afford to get caught. Too much was on the line.
Chris managed to duck into an alley, pressing himself up against the wall and trying to catch his breath as quietly as possible. The seconds ticked by with agonizing slowness and Chris’ anxiety levels increased tenfold per imagined tick. He had to get back. Even though his attempt was a bust, he had to go back. He could try again at another store, but he had to get back.
Taking a deep breath, Chris peeled himself off the wall. He heard a crinkle and dug into his back pocket and smiled. He still had the Skittles packet. Chris clenched the red plastic tightly in his hand and bit his lip to try and prevent the tears from leaving his eyes. He tucked the Skittles back into his pocket and took several deep breaths to pull himself together and began walking back out onto the main street. He didn’t get very far.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Chris backed up in fear as a man approached him. He was blocking the way out of the alley.
“Home?” Chris squeaked.
“Home will have to wait, little thief.”
Chris’ eyes widened when the man stepped into the flickering yellow light, the only light source in the alley. Dark uniform, shiny badge, holstered gun. It was a cop.
“Please,” Chris begged before he realized the word left his lips. “I—I can’t go to jail. I can’t.”
“Then next time, don’t crash into a cop while trying to leave a convenience store and drop all your stolen goods,” the man replied. Silver flashed and Chris’ eyes zoned in on the handcuffs the cop was pulling out.
“No, you don’t understand, I can’t,” Chris pleaded. He couldn’t go to jail. He had to get back. Chris charged. Reason and logic were replaced by a desperate need. He had to get back.
Chris managed three to four steps before the cop grabbed him and he was pressed face first against the wall, broken bricks digging into him. Chris thrashed and screamed incomprehensible gibberish, trying everything within his powers to somehow get free until he felt a jolt run through his body and his mind fell into dark oblivion.