Authors: Addison Jane
The streets were busy, bustling just like it was daytime.
People avoided us like the plague as the six of us strolled down the street laughing and shoving each other. Acting like a group of normal teens during a night out. Or at least that’s what I thought it would look like. I hadn’t really ever been given the opportunity to be a regular teen.
My father never let me leave the house unless it was for school. And the situation I was in now, was really anything but normal.
We stopped at the nearest stairwell that led to the tracks.
Some of the stations had full barred doors that you had to push through after swiping your metro card. But there were some stations, like this one, that only had one single bar that came across at your waist. Which meant we could jump it easily.
We stood at the top, needing to time our approach perfectly. There needed to be a train on the platform when we jumped, so we could run straight for it and hope we made it in time before the doors shut. There was sometimes security on the platform or at the gates, and as soon as they saw us, we were done for, so it had to be perfect.
I felt the rumble of a train below my feet and took a deep breath. “Let’s go!”
Taking the stairs two at a time, my friends’ footsteps echoed in the concrete space as they followed me down. My eyes looked around as I ran toward the entrance bars, not spotting anyone but not wanting to wait around to find out.
I vaulted over the skinny metal bar just as the train ahead of me pulled to a stop and the doors slowly slid open. My friends were quick, even with Eazy having to lift Daisy over the bar before throwing his own body across.
I dived through the doors of the train, one after another they followed me inside, Eazy squeezing in just as the doors began to close. The carriage we’d stepped into was pretty empty, but a few people still eyed us warily. I simply grinned and waved at them over-enthusiastically, and they quickly looked away.
“What stop are we getting off at?” Daisy asked, still breathing heavily.
“As close to the city center as possible. Andre and Coop can get off with you, and we can carry on to the next station.” I knew Andre and Coop were capable of holding their own against any trouble even though they were smaller than Eazy. They looked older than a lot of us, which was usually enough to deter any assholes from thinking they could pick on a bunch of kids. Especially when Daisy looks like a little porcelain doll, with her dark hair and pale white skin, and the fact that she was all of five foot nothing.
Ten minutes and one impromptu pole dance from Layla later, Daisy and the boys jumped off. More people climbed on the train at the station, and that gave me hope that tonight might be a good night.
As if on cue, my stomach grumbled angrily. Neither Eazy nor Layla took any notice, no doubt their own doing exactly the same thing. One thing we all knew, though, was that no matter what, we’d find some way to get through another day.
We got off at the next station and set ourselves up.
Layla placed her thick sweatshirt on the cold concrete floor and laid out her guitar case before sitting down and quietly picking at the strings.
I sat a few feet away on top of my backpack, and Eazy sat down the line further on a bench seat, looking like he was just another guy waiting for a train. We found that people were more likely to give money to girls than they were to boys. We were more approachable and more able to pull on the heart strings. Boys tended to not like to admit that they were struggling.
E was one of those kids.
We were right to take advantage of this Friday night. As Layla filled the station with the beautiful sound of her guitar and voice, people were entranced with the sweet melodic sounds that came from her, and the way her fingers drifted so effortlessly over the strings of her instrument. The girl had some serious talent.
The flow of people was even busier than usual. We heard comments about Twisted Transistor, an internationally known rock band playing a gig not far from the station we were at. If you didn’t know who they were, you were living under a rock, a large massive fucking rock. They were everywhere, especially when their lead man Ryder Oakley ended up with a Motorcycle Club Princess. When that news story broke, so did hearts all around the world.
Lucky for us, the concert worked in our favor, because the people were mostly young and pumped up ready for a concert, and seeing Layla playing her guitar just helped to elevate their excitement. I watched in amazement as they stood around Layla, requesting songs and singing along with her as they tossed money into her guitar case.
Eazy moved a little closer, situating himself in the crowd of young people, so Layla was within reach. A lot of these kids were drunk already, and while they were being generous with their change, some began to get a little too boisterous.
After about twenty minutes, I could tell Layla was started to wear down and needed to take a break. But the enthusiastic fans chanted for her to keep playing. Eazy caught my eye and we both started to push through the crowd that had gathered.
“Sorry guys, we need a small intermission,” I called over them as they chanted for her to play something from their favorite band. Most groaned and moved away, heading up the stairs with their excited voices bouncing off the walls as they prepared themselves for what, I don’t doubt, would be an amazing concert.
“Come on, I gave you money, I want a show,” one guy slurred. He was wearing a Twisted Transistor T-shirt, but with how drunk he was, I could almost guarantee that the security on the door wasn’t going to let him or his buddies inside.
E stepped in front of Layla, folding his arms across his chest. “You got a show, now get lost.”
A guy behind them pulled out a fifty dollar note and waved it in the air. My eyes widened. “How bad do you want this money?” he taunted, his body swaying slightly.
The others chuckled, but Layla, E and I stood our ground, not saying a word.
“I’ve heard of you homeless kids. Willing to do pretty much anything for a few dollars.” His voice was cold and calculated despite his inebriated state. “You girls take your shirts off and give us a little show, and it’s all yours.”
“Fuck you,” I snapped, taking a step forward, my anger spiking. “We don’t want your rich kid ‘
daddy pays for fucking everything’
I heard another train pulling up to the platform in the background, the rush of wind billowing around us and chilling my body.
A flash of darkness flared in the boy’s eyes. He reached out and wrapped his hand around my wrist, pushing me back against the concrete wall. Eazy moved to step in, but one of the other guys threw a sucker punch, hitting E on the side of the head and throwing him off balance.
“Eazy,” Layla screamed as one of them jumped on top of him, he got another punch in before he was thrown off and Eazy leaped on him, delivering a harsh blow to the kid’s cheek.
The bastard moved in closer, but I wasn’t about to take this crap lying down. I pulled him toward me and raised my knee, connecting it with his stomach. He doubled over but didn’t release me. Instead, he pulled on my arm, tossing my body to the ground. My elbow connected with the concrete and I cried out in pain, the jolt bringing tears to my eyes.
I heard hurried footsteps around me and loud voices. Out the corner of my eye, I saw someone pick up Layla around the waist and pull her away from where she was attempting to drag the two other guys off Eazy as they had him pinned to the ground.
I screamed as I felt a foot connect with my ribs and looked up to see my attacker looming over me, spouting some crazy shit from his mouth that I couldn’t understand due to the pain taking over my senses.
I felt ill, clutching to my body and trying to hold down the vomit that threatened release.
Through the blur, I saw an object come out of nowhere, connecting with the side of the asshole’s head. He crumbled to the ground, and someone else took his place towering over me. But instead of flinging venomous words, he held out his hand.
I held my sore arm against my body as I reach out with the other. Thick fingers wrapped around my small hand and pulled me to my feet. Another hand was placed on my shoulder to steady me as I swayed.
“Let me go, douche bag,” Layla screamed, the guy holding her chuckling in amusement as she kicked and fought against him.
The boys who’d attacked us were pulling themselves to their feet now, blood and bruises on all their faces.
“You think you’re cool, picking on two girls and teaming up against the one guy who was trying to protect them?” A stony-faced guy stepped out of the crowd of young men who were now standing with us, some clenched their fists like they were ready for a fight, others breathed heavily with blood already on their hands. But the boy who talked stood tall, his arms folded across his chest. His words sounded fierce but calm.
Two of the boys cowered, like losers licking their wounds, but the one who had attacked me turned his seething gaze in my direction. “Bitch couldn’t take a fucking joke.” He spat on the ground, a mixture of saliva and blood making a puddle on the concrete platform.
I bristled. “You’re the only fucking joke around here.” I attempted to step forward, but the guy holding me tightened his grip on my shoulder.
“There’s three guys here for every one of yours. How ‘bout you tell us a joke, and we see how it turns out?” His voice was deep and rich, and it made my body buzz. There was a confidence about him, the way he held himself and how he spoke. The guys that stood beside us respected him, I could feel it.
“Street brat.” The bastard glared at me before finally turning and hobbling with his buddies up the stairs to the exit.
Layla was dropped to her feet, she turned to the tall guy behind her and huffed at him, raising her middle finger in the air which only made his grin spread wider.
We both looked to Eazy at the same time, he was sitting against the wall where Layla’s guitar case was, his arms propped up on his knees and his head hanging with his hood covering his face.
Running to him, I cradled my arm against my chest and my ribs burned like they were on fire. I dropped to my knees and spoke softly, “Eazy? Are you okay?”
The boys standing around us watched on in silence as I reached out and pushed his hood back from his face. “Oh, E…” I whispered sadly, my fingers brushing the side of his face. He finally looked up. One of his eyes was already swollen shut, blood dripping from a fresh cut above it. There was more bruising and blood on his cheeks. “Let’s get you home.”
I stood up and stepped back, giving him room to stand. It was evident he was in a lot of pain. When he finally reached full height, I heard a gasp come from behind me.
His head hung again, but this time, it wasn’t because of the attack he’d just endured, he wanted to hide his face, and that’s when I realized why.
“Hey Bray,” Eazy croaked, leaning back against the wall for support. The head boy stepped forward, his brow furrowed in confusion. The kid who’d helped me to my feet moved in beside him. “Girls, meet Heath and Braydon Carson.” He gestured to the two with a battered hand.
Heath’s attention flicked to me, the intensity of his eyes sent a small shock straight up my spine and through the center of my shoulder blades, causing me to shiver involuntarily before steeling myself again. Heath was the strong front man. Something about him drew me in and made me curious. My mind wandered, wondering what it would be like to see the dark, serious look drop and maybe catch a smile. His chocolate brown hair was short but spiked up sharply on his head, and seemed to match his demeanor perfectly. It was the baby blue eyes that struck a strong contrast to everything else about him.
Braydon on the other hand had a flare of fun and amusement that followed him. While he stared at Eazy in shock, a grin began to break through, and he seemed excited about the reunion. You could tell that he was obviously more laid back than his brother, his hair was a little lighter and shaggier and his body, even though still broad and strong, didn’t quite match up to that of Heath’s.
“Where the hell have you been the last few months, man?” Braydon asked sounding both astounded and elated.
E chuckled softly. “Been here, bro.”
“Living in the city?”
His tone darkened as he replied, “Something like that.”
Heath studied the interaction carefully, his eyes and ears taking in everything. As I watched, I could see his mind working, piecing together the puzzle. “You living on the streets?”
E didn’t turn his head, instead, just moving his good eye to where Heath stood, his body tense. “Yeah. Mom and Dad gave me the boot when they found out about the prescription meds I was taking.”
“They kicked you out?” Braydon growled deeply in his throat. “What the fuck?”
“Look man, thanks for your help, but I need to get the girls back home before some crazies take advantage.”
I didn’t miss the way Heath’s eyes flared, and a few of the other boys tilted their heads in confusion.
Ducking into the group, I dipped myself under his arm. “I think you forget, kid. We are the crazies.” He laughed as he leaned against me as we stepped away from the wall that was supporting him. My ribs protested in pain, and I whimpered under his heavy weight. We only made it a couple of steps before I was wrenched away.
Two guys took my place, holding E up easily. My friend didn’t look too happy about it as they walked down to the next tunnel, which led to the other side of the tracks, so we could catch the train that would take us back home.
I glared at Heath, tearing my hand from his tight grip. He seemed unfazed by my act of rebellion.
“You all right?” The deepness in his voice seemed almost unnatural for a guy who I knew couldn’t have been much older than myself. It was almost soothing like you felt as though he was in control. And you know what? It was nice to let someone else be in control for once.
I nodded. “Yeah, just a little sore.”
His hand brushed around my waist, his fingers skimming across the delicate skin of my stomach where my shirt bared a sliver of my midriff. Just one simple touch sent everything in my head flying in different directions. Part of me begged for him to pull me against his body just so I had an excuse to touch him. Another part screamed at me to run, knowing that if Eazy knew these guys from back home, just what kind of lifestyle they had.
A light pressure on my back pulled me from my thoughts as Health guided me forward.
“You smashed my guitar over that guy’s head,” Layla protested loudly, I could hear the pain in her voice, though.
Braydon stepped toward her laughing. “Sorry, had a rock star moment. I’ll get you a new one.” He bent down and helped her pack the broken guitar back into its case, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the money we’d earned was still inside.
The guys in the group all followed us, some whispering quietly among themselves as we climbed in the train. Heath sat next to me, staring out the window as the train took off and the tunnel walls began to flash by in a rainbow of graffiti.
“What’s your name?” he asked, without even turning to me.
I caught his eyebrows raise, but it was only a momentary show of emotion because his face relaxed back into its seriousness. “Interesting name.”
Smirking, I replied happily, “Thanks, picked it myself.”
“That why you call him Eazy?” he asked as he finally turned his body to mine and met my eyes.
“It’s a street name.”
He didn’t miss a beat. “And what exactly is a street name?”
I sighed, wondering if this was something I really wanted to talk about with a guy I’d barely just met. Just because he made me feel safe, didn’t mean that I could trust him. I’d learned a long time ago how deceptive people could be, and how easily they hid behind a persona that they portrayed. Like an actor on television or a performer in a play, they were who they needed to be in order to get what they wanted.
“A street name gives us protection. Helps us to leave all the bullshit we dealt with before, and start something new,” E explained from across the aisle.
“Why can’t you just go home?” someone asked with a touch of sadness in their tone. “Surely your mom and dad have cooled off by now?”
“Why would he
to go home?” I fired back.
Braydon sat forward in his seat, bracing his elbows on his knees. “It’s where his parents are, his family.” He spoke like that was the obvious choice.
“Let me tell you a story…” I started, frustration settling in.
“Fay, please don’t,” Eazy whispered, pleading with me through one good eye.
I shook my head. “His parents kicked him out in the depths of winter, with nowhere to fucking go. Do you know what it’s like to have
? To know that there’s no place for you to escape from the cold. To have no one hold your hand as you go through withdrawals.”
For the first time, I saw a part of Heath flash in Braydon’s eyes. He was angry, but unlike his older brother, he was barely able to contain it. His hands shook, and his chest began to inhale more deeply as if he was trying to calm himself.
“We found him on the streets, shaking and barely aware of what was going on around him. He was coming down off an addiction to prescription pain meds, and his parents had kicked him to the curb when they’d discovered his little secret, letting him suffer alone. They’d never even offered him the chance to get clean, even though they had the money to afford any kind of resources that he needed.” My voice rose accusingly even at these boys, who I could tell from being in their presence for this short time, were kids that would have offered him a place to stay, had he asked for it.
But E was too proud for that. Feeling like just because of a mistake, he had let everyone down that he cared about.
“A son with a problem was not good enough to be a part of
family,” I whispered in disgust. “So now he’s a part of mine, and I will never give up on him.”
I could see my words seeping into their minds. Their eyes danced with curiosity and confusion, but Eazy just looked away.
“I love you, E,” I whispered, my voice breaking.
He didn’t turn to me, but I heard the quiet reply, “You too, Fay.”
A voice came over the carriage, warning us that the next stop was coming up.
“I’ll get off and go and find the others, tell them that we’re heading back,” Layla offered, passing her guitar case to me and moving for the doors.
I caught a gentle flick of a head, and suddenly two guys were out of their seats and stepping up behind her. One was the tall boy who’d restrained her. She looked over at me warily before he thrust his hand out to her. “I’m Lucas, this is Sam, we’ll be your bodyguards for the evening.” The train pulled to a stop and the doors slid open. Lucas stepped out first, holding his hand out to Layla. “If you’ll please come this way—”
She snorted, sidestepping around him, and taking off down the platform. Lucas smirked and gave me a cute wink before he and Sam took off after her.
“You have your boys trained well,” I commented quietly to Heath as the train started up again and the other boys began to chat with E.
Heath relaxed back in his seat, the tenseness of his body seeming to have calmed a little and allowed him to relax. “I don’t tell them to do anything, but they respect me and trust me enough to know that in situations like these, I know what to do.” He turned his head to look at me, and once again I was stunned by the depths of his eyes. The color calmed me. It was like staring into the soft waves of an ocean. “We also have morals. And I’m not gonna let anyone beat on a couple girls, and take on a guy when the fight isn’t fair. Not if I can help it.”
“What makes you think I needed your help?”
He turned away once again. “How are those ribs holding up?” It could have been my imagination, but I thought I saw a smirk quirk in the corner of his mouth.
I frowned, daring him in my mind to look back at me so he could feel the glare I was hitting him with. “Touché, asshole.”