“Wake up, J. Wake up.” That’s what I told myself after the morning sunlight sneaked into my room. If I could cuss out the sun and it would actually run away screaming then… I lost my train of thought as soon as I heard a knock downstairs. I ignored it, thinking it might have been my imagination and wrapped myself in the covers. My whole system was ready to shut down for a couple of more minutes when- knock, knock...
My body protested as I slipped into the same jeans I wore yesterday, managing a black hoodie over the maroon sports bra I liked to sleep in. The knocking stopped when I set foot on the first step and I considered heading back to bed. Of course I let curiosity get the better of me. Still barefoot, I hurried down the stairs and reached for the door.
Benny charged into the manor and took a seat on the kitchen stool before gesturing me to approach him.
"Mason Dusk is on his way here. You will be my eyes and ears. Gain his trust, learn his secrets and report to me. Any questions?" Benny spoke fast and clearly, leaving me somewhat dumbfounded.
"Yes. As a matter of fact i do have a question." I began. "What the fuck?"
"You heard me. This is the chance I've been waiting for to take those Dusks down. Get it done, Jinx. If not so help me I will fire you and you will be back in the streets to fend for yourself."
A knock on the door made Benny stand and head to the back door. "Come by the bar after you're done with him." He was gone. Everything was so fast. I was confused, lost and downright lost.
When I opened the door at the second knock I saw Mason was on the other side, dressed in the same black coat that hid away the rest of his clothing. I tried closing the door, at least I meant to but his boot stepped between the door and frame. I don’t know what it was about him but he annoyed me so much, but at the same time I was intrigued. He hasn't exactly done anything to me, but right now I had the urge to throw him out the second floor window. He’d probably land on his feet though, so I discarded the idea.
“Go away. I have work today.” It was true, but it wasn't at Benny's. I already felt sick to my stomach about this and hope Mason would do as I say.
“No you don’t. Benny won't mind giving you a day off. We have lunch plans remember?”
I spun around on my heels, giving him a threatening look. “Actually, Benny would mind. In fact, Benny called just a few minutes ago asking that I get there earlier today.” Every word rushed out at once. I’m not even sure I understood myself. I really didn't care. When I was about to launch in another rant session just back up my lie he held his hand up.
“The man won't mind. Trust me. Get dressed.” He said.
“I am dressed.” I said in defeat.
His eyes took me in from head to toe, a brow rising over a fiery eye. “Dress a little nicer.”
My whole face wrinkled. By the looks of him, I knew this would be an argument that would go nowhere. I yielded. For now.
“Give me a minute.”
I wasn't mad at him. Not exactly. I was just taken aback by his approach. He was confident in what he says and does, which threw me off. There only ever been one other guy with so much confidence. Hobs, but lets not get into that now. In my room I stripped and stood only in my underwear as I browsed through the few clothes I've managed to buy throughout the years. I settled for a blue sundress and my black, ballet slippers. No jewelry or makeup. Makeup was too messy, so I never got any. Accessories were an unnecessary commodity when you don’t really have any money, so I didn't have any of that either. I took one good look in the mirror and noticed my messed up braid. Mason didn't deserve my efforts of looking pretty, so I left it as it was and headed down. I walked right past him and out the door.
We walked for a while in silence. Mason was looking forward at all times and it made me wonder. Does this guy think I'm stupid? Or does he just pretend I have no idea what he is doing? He wasn't looking to be friends. There was more here. His intentions are well masked, but not to perfection. I started a conversation for the sake of this increasingly morbid walk.
"What are we eating? Oh I know. We can go to Benny's and he'll give us a discount." Sarcasm was one of my many talents, but from the look of Mason's face he didn't really appreciate it.
"Ok..." I shut up.
"We're going to the Upper Level." He finally replied.
I stopped. Was he kidding? I hoped he was. The farthest up I've ever been is Level One, and that's only when I needed to do the shopping for Benny. That was it. I knew very well he meant a little higher than that, and it left me uneasy. Why? I haven't left the Lower Level for a reason. Because I knew the place well enough to be able to escape through every nook and hole. In the upper levels I was defenseless. It would be like throwing a poor Bambi in the middle of a field surrounded by lions. What if the Kovras were lurking up there, looking for me, thinking I'd be in the most obvious places?
"Is something wrong?" Mason asked, stopping just ahead of me. His hands were tucked in his pockets and his posture was stubborn. He wasn't taking now for an answer so I tried soemthing else.
"Can't we stay here?" I asked.
He looked like he was considering it, then his whole expression changed to one of superiority. "No" Harshly, he turned from me and kept leading the way to the staircase tunnel.
When I didn't move he doubled back and gripped my wrist. He took me into the tunnel and up the stairs to Level One, only to continue his stroke towards the fancy elevator that would take us to a world unknown. I didn't want to know it either. Two huge guards stepped aside the second they saw Mason coming their way. The elevator doors opened for us and Mason stepped aside so I'd get in firsts. He pushed a button that marked 'Up,' and away we were.
Mason was still focused ahead, his hands shoved back in the pockets of his coat. Then the doors slid open and I was faced with a lobby. The elevator was located in a building, which I stared at the inside of it for a long time. Mason urged me to move it along towards the street. I knew most of the sunlight hit the Upper Level, but my eyes were not prepared. The Upper Level nearly glowed and everything seemed to be made out of gold if you ask me. The level itself looked too expensive to look at
An impossible traffic was located at the main roads. Mason suddenly had his hand wrapped around on my arm and my body spun around, only to be cupped up in his arms. He cut through the transit, zig zagging from car to car. He set me down when we road on the roof of a minivan and held my hand in his.
"Do you trust me?" He asked.
"No." I told him and he grinned, holding my hand tighter and leaping towards a small Honda. I was yanked along with him and I expected myself to fall over to my death. I didn't. Instead I stood firmly on the roof of the car, Mason holding me by the arms. I shoved at him, making him step back a foot or two.
"Whoop! Mason! My lovely!" It was a pretty high pitched voice. It came from behind us and I carefully turned to see a tiny blonde beaming from car to car. There was barely any room left and still she leaped onto the car Mason and I were on. It made me nervous to have such little space.
"Wow. Who's her?" She pointed a thumb at me and I wish I could have snapped it off. I didn't recognize her from the times I've seen the Dusk family patrolling the Lower Level. This must be his girlfriend.
"Pretty." She said just when Mason was about to introduce her to me but she beat him.
"I'm Loon. Half-sister of this half dimwit. A pleasure to meet someone who is actually pretty."
She was beautiful and also just the slightest bit taller than me. Her hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders and her figure was average. In a good way. She was shaped like a chubby guitar, which made her a lot cuter than she probably realized. Her face was of none sharp features, all so rounded and inexplicably adorable whilst her personality was way too energetic.
"I'm..." I began, remembering Mason already introduced me. "Well you know."
"Race ya both!" She yelled, taking off onto a speeding car.
She was off. So was Mason. The car I was on took a sharp turn that had me stumbling. I caught myself before I fell off the edge and jumped off to the next car. I could see Mason and Loon, like two bouncy balls, furthering from me. I struggled to catch up, each car I landed on taking a turn. It was getting annoying. I wasn't built for this. No. I'm serious. I was not built for this at all. Come to think of it? I have no idea what I was built for. My thoughts scattered when Mason grabbed my waist and helped me to the sidewalk. It felt good to have solid ground beneath my feet. Loon came over and stood way to close to me.
"So are you coming to the Annual Ball? Everyone in the upper levels knows about it." Her voice rose in excitement.
"I don't think so."
"Did this ass not invite you yet?"
"We just met, Loon." Mason cut in, his voice dark and brooding. I didn't get it. Was he upset, or annoyed? Maybe both. It still didn't explain his reaction.
"Well if he doesn't invite you then I will. You are totally welcomed to the ball. So where are you from?"
"She's from around." Mason answered.
That made me frown. Around? Was he embarrassed that I was from the Lower Level?
"Actually. I'm from the Lower Level. Maybe that's why I knew nothing about the ball."
"Oh. Well that's cool. Now you know. If you want? We can go get you a pretty dress. Oh! You could borrow one of mine. I think we might be about the same size."
"Great! I'll see you then!" She was gone.
Were they all like this? Did they all just cut you off when you try to say no? Then you just feel obligated to do what you were trying to back out from.
Mason took off. I followed close behind him. We ended up getting some hot dogs from a cart close to a park, which were pretty good. We settled on the bench facing a sparkling lake. We talked for a long while and I knew hours had passed us by.
"How long have you been living here?" Mason asked.
"About a month now. I've been traveling a lot."
"A traveler? Where have you gone to?"
"Oh just... Here and there."
"Do you like it here?"
"It's a nice city. I mean the Lower Level is not that bad once you get used to it."
"I would have honestly thought you to end up at a higher level."
"Well I don't have much. Plus I don't look like all the women here. I look like them but I don't look the part. Lower Level suits me better."
"Right. A woman like you down there? Not unusual at all."
"What? I fit there just fine."
"Have you ever heard the expression 'A diamond among coal' before?"
He settled back against the bench and nodded. Had he just called me pretty? I might have never heard the expression but I could figure what I meant.
"Why is your family such tyrants? Why are you?"
He laughed. It wasn't something of humor, but of disapproval. "We are not tyrants, Jinx. We simply enforce the law that needs to take place in this city. If we don't, then it would be chaos."
"Chaos? A bit dramatic, don't you think?"
"So, if you're so embarrassed that I'm from the Lower Level, why did you bring me here?"
"I'm not embarrassed. I just don't like Loon getting all in my business."
My hair was a mess. I could feel it. I undid the braid and brushed it with my fingers. I tried tying it into a simple pony tail but my hair band broke. Next thing I knew, another set of hands were brushing my hair back. Mason tied it with a rubber band, then pushed the tail over my shoulder. Against my back, his hand traveled over the top of my dress and I could feel his finger trace a scar leading down my spine. I jerked forward and tossed my hair back to hide it.
"What was that?"
"Nothing. I should get going. Thanks for today. It was ok." I stood.
When he called I looked back at him, but he said nothing so I left.
I hurried through the city square and found the building where the elevator was. It was the tallest building in the city and I power walked across the main floor. Everyone in the lobby gawked at me. Clearly they've never seen a normal person before. Though, I'm not normal, or a person. I pressed the button for Level One and the doors closed. On my way down I slipped down and held my knees against my chest. The ride down was endless and my brain wouldn't shut up about the scars in my back and how Mason came so close to seeing them.
When I heard the last ding, relief took over. I was out of the elevator as fast I could and took the stairs down two at a time, not caring for the lack of light. When I was finally in the Lower Level I breathed in the familiar sent of ruin and alcohol. I knew where I needed to go next and it pissed me off. Just as I took the street to Benny's my phone rang.
"I'm almost there. Don't rush me." I remember saying similar words a few days ago. Except back then, I was on my way to work. Now I'm on my way to snitch.