It had been a few days now. A few days of pure running. With nowhere to go. With no sign of home. Even if there were, she wouldn't want to go back. She could barely remember a family. Could barely remember her name. For two years, she hadn't heard it.
The young woman crouched down behind the hydrangea bushes in front of a ragged white home. She was hiding from the sight of the nearby street. She couldn't have run too far. She was too weak. Hadn't eaten in a while. Last thing she had eaten were two peaches from a tree someone had in their backyard. But she could never stay in one place long. They were after her. She could hear them. In her head. In her thoughts, constantly. She couldn't sleep.
Because they were in her dreams…
Her lids fell over those uniquely colored eyes like stage curtains, as she swung back into the memory of a few nights back...
The door opened, and footsteps echoed through the cool darkness of the cellar. Red was in her usual place- sitting in a computer chair in the middle of the room with handcuffs on her wrists and ankles- the chair itself stapled to the floor. When she felt the presence of a man near her, her eyes shut and she sat completely still- a stillness that was impossible unless you had been trained for it.
She could detect his arm rising over her head, his fingers wrapping around the chain of the light bulb overhead. With a click, light filled the cellar, and she squeezed her eyes tighter for a moment. Her head tilted downwards, and hair of long red, black, and cream, cascaded down at her cheeks.
"Aye' Red..." The voice was soft. It was the softest thing she'd heard in her time here. Max. He was nice. Even though he beat her, and abused her, and used her- he did it kindly. He had a sense of humanity to him. He cared about Red. She didn't understand the full meaning of how he cared, but she knew he at least cared.
The man raised his hand, his fingers moving over her cheek. The touch was warm, but she flinched from it anyways. A hard touch meant a beating and abuse. A soft touch usually meant rape or sexual exploitation. She had learned these things. Memorized them.
But this time Max wasn't making any move on her. Instead, he knelt down and undid her handcuffs. But she didn't move. She hadn't even opened her eyes yet. She wasn't going to escape; Red had lost all hope by then.
Max wrapped his arms around her and brought her to her feet, sliding some kind of bill-folder into her back pocket. He leaned in, his hard body expelling the feel of his racing heart. He knew what he was doing, but Red didn't. His lips neared her ear, and he whispered as quietly as possible:
"All doors are open. Ace and Jack are on the second floor... Go."
She opened her eyes again, staring into the leaves of the bush in which she hid. As she tilted her head back up, staring into the night sky, she saw a small creature flicker creamy opalescent wings, and land on one of the bright blue hydrangea blossoms. The thing was a moth, probably. Or a butterfly. She couldn't tell the difference right now. But she reached a limber arm upwards, her fingers extending to graze the sweet satin texture of the blossoms next to the fantastic creature.
The door of the house creaked open, and she flinched at the sound, the winged insect fluttering away quickly.
"Is there anyone out here?" Said a gruff male voice. Red cringed, sinking lower into the crease that was the wall of the porch and the towering shelter of the bushes. After a few moments of holding her breath- and engaging in a surreal lack of motion- the man went back inside.
It was time to move again.
Red scurried from behind the bush quickly, stumbling quietly at first. She lacked a real grace, because her body had not been use to walking or running. For two years she sat in a basement, and occasionally rose up to do a bit of work.
She pressed onward, her aching legs carrying her down the block- behind houses before she turned out towards the road. The hum of dull street lights was a lullaby to the poor. The sound of music thumping from cars coming and going was awakening. And the soft mutters of nearby men and women seemed to rip her heart from beneath her chest, and throw it on the ground.
Fear was everywhere. She just wished she could appear alone, in a wide open desert. But even then she'd fear the three mob bosses coming after her.
She had come on around another street, and about twenty minutes had passed. She had slowed her jog to a cautious walk, observing everything around her. The paint chipping off of every house. The cracks running rampant through the sidewalk. The soggy paper cups and torn cigarette packages sitting against the slope of the curb. The occasional condom wrapper sitting near the trash cans at every few street posts. Those made her tremble.
But she found herself stopping for one simple detail.
She turned her eyes to a bundle of ruckus from across the street. The lights of a two-story house- if you could call that thing such- flicked on as the sound of things breaking seemed to erupt from inside. The door swung open and Red felt her heart pounding heavy- as though someone were going to jump out and find her watching. But instead, a lamp seemed to fly out of the door, crashing onto the porch as a young little tabby cat jumped out of the house with a hiss, racing down the steps at the speed of lightning.
The door slammed shut as the owner of the house cursed loudly to themselves, and the cat sped across the street. It ducked down and moved into the gutter, its head just barely peaking out. Red felt a small flicker of understanding. She knelt down, her knees scratched up from lots of falling in her escape. She reached her hands forward, and looked at the cat's ears- being mostly all she could see.
"So you're running too?" She spoke. The kitten turned its head up frightfully, big green eyes searching her for some form of hatred that Red did not possess.
Red stared back, before reaching her hand slowly to stroke the kitten's face- the animal soon pressing its head into her hand to gain more of her affections. As the kitten stepped out, Red rubbed it more. It was a boy kitten, she noted mentally. And it had beautiful bright green eyes.
"Like a Kiwi." Red whispered to herself. "Kiwi."
She lifted the small kitten up, the animal showing only little resistance to Red’s gentle ways. Running her fingers through the fluffy dark fur, she took a moment to assure the kitten she meant no harm. She then slid the cat close to her chest, letting it slip down into her shirt. The head stuck out as Kiwi began to purr, and Red folded her arms protectively over her chest.
And again she began to walk, eyes rolling over every house, sign, person, car, and piece of trash lying around. Everything within view fell victim to her searching and desperate eyes. The cold pavement, bearing cracks with weeds sprouting forth from those jagged ugly lines. The cars, some sitting with shadowy figures settled inside, the windows either tinted or hazed by smoke. All the world around her was decadent, save for the kitten nestled in the sweet cushion of her breast.