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Chapter 1

Into the Street - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by JB McDragon
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

The young boy watched his father warily, recognizing the look. The man was drunk. Again. Quietly, he retreated into the back room, where his mother stood by the bed, packing her bags. An ugly purple and blue bruise discolored one cheek, under her eye, and her lower liap had been split.

"We leavin' soon, Momma?" the boy asked, tucking a strand of dark brown, almost red hair behind his ear.

The young mother turned and looked at her seven year old son as he stood there, eyes large and black. Haunted eyes, that never seemed to feel peace. At least, not as long as they stayed in this house.

"Oui, ma petit. We be leavin' soon." She gripped her bony son quickly in a fierce, tight hug, then released him to finish packing. "You suitcase is in de car?"

The boy nodded earnestly, glancing out the bedroom door to check on his father. The man had placed himself in front of the television, beer in one hand and remote in the other. Maybe it would be a quiet night.

With a large hand attached to a painfully thin wrist, the boy pushed the door closed, blocking the view of his drunken parent. "Where we goin' t' go, Momma?"

She tugged her ankle band--a penny attached to a string, something she never took off--into a more comfortable position before answering. "We go t' y' aunt's house. Y' like it dere, Rem. Dey got a house bigger'n any y'ever seen. Dat's where I used t' spend m' summers, when I was a chile."

The boy nodded slowly. His aunt's house wasn't in the bayou. In fact, he didn't even think it was in New Orleans, he thought they had to drive all through the city to get there, but he wasn't sure.

"All right, den. You climb out de window, I hand de suitcase over an' you put it in de car. I meet you out dere. An you wait 'til I get dere, understan'?"

The boy nodded, eyes wide. "Oui, I understan'."

Jessie smiled at her son, touched his greasy hair lovingly, then sent him off. Gathering her wits about her, she walked into the living room where her husband sat like a sloth, dead drunk.

"Jessie!" he bellowed as he saw her. "I need anot'er beer."

She hurried to get it for him, ignoring the empty bottle he threw her way. She opened the refrigerator and pulled one out, then quickly walked to where he sat and handed it to him. As soon as he took it she started away, heading for the front door.

"Where you be goin'?" her husband snapped, watching with hawk-like eyes. "An' where de boy?"

"Remy in 'is room, playin'," Jessie lied, "an' I goin' t' Mrs. Anderson's. She need help wit' de new babe."

Mrs. Anderson had no new babe, but Jessie was banking on the fact that her husband didn't know that. She held her breath while waiting for his reaction, her muscles pulled tight.

Her husband settled back down and said nothing, and with a silent sigh she left the room.

The night was frigid, the frost crisp on the ground. The new moon was covered by thick clouds, making the night all that much darker. Swiftly she trotted down the street to where her son waited with the patience of one accustomed to having to wait silently for hours at a time as his father calmed down and became somewhat safe to be around.

"We goin', Momma?" he whispered as she opened the door and quickly got in. Jessie nodded as she turned the key in the ignition, not having to worry about her husband hearing the car start from down the street so far, and the tiny truck sprung to life. Remy wasted no time in turning the heater on, and they drove off. The vehicle couldn't be reported stolen; Jessie'd had it switched to her name a few weeks earlier. The only thing she had to worry about was that her husband may, out of spite, report that she'd kidnapped their son. But she couldn't leave without him. She wouldn't do that to a boy so young.

They had driven through the night, and were almost past the French Quarter. The sun had come up on the small blue truck easing its way past buildings and signs, large mansions and ramshackle huts.

Remy slept through most of it, head tucked on the dirty window and feet curled beneath him.

Jessie smiled at her sleeping son before glancing once more in the rearview mirror. She was terribly afraid of being followed. Though she had seen nothing so far, she continued to look, eyeing the streets all around her.

"Remy, wake up," she said, shaking him gently.

The boy groaned and started to stretch, one stockinged foot jamming itself against the windshield. "Oui?" he murmured.

"We gon' t' go get food." Jessie pulled in at a small diner, parking the car. She popped the glove compartment open and removed some of her precious money, the money she had been saving secretly now for years, and her son's sunglasses.

"C'n I 'ave eggs?" Remy sighed wistfully, taking his mother's hand with one dirty paw and with the other putting on his sunshades as they walked into the restaurant.

"'Course." The woman smiled, knowing it was something the boy's father didn't normally allow. She didn't know why, the man ate eggs. Personally she thought he didn't allow it out of spite.

They seated themselves and a teenage girl brought them some menus, popping her gum. After a few minutes she came back, gum still popping. "What can I do you for?"

"I jus' be 'avin' oatmeal, merci," Jessie said, handing the menu back. Oatmeal was the cheapest thing on there.

Remy's eyes lit up and he licked his lips before looking once more at his mother for permission. She smiled and nodded. "I gon' t' 'ave de eggs."

The waitress folded her arms across her chest and gave him a world weary look. "Scrambled, over easy, boiled, sunny side up--"

Remy's face fell and he looked at his mother for help.

"Over easy," she mouthed.

"Over easy," he said a little too loudly. The waitress glared at him, then wrote it down.

"You order be ready in a few minutes," the waitress said boredly, already leaving.

"I don' like her," Remy mouthed, wrinkling his nose in distaste.

His mother smiled fondly and ruffled his hair. "It don' matter if y' don' like her," she said, leaning across the table to be closer to him. "You got t' be nice anyway. Be polite an' courteous an' maybe you scare her out o' bein' so rotten!"

Remy laughed at the thought, but when the waitress came back with their food he smiled winningly and thanked her profusely.

The shower had been on for almost fifteen minutes. Jessie smiled as she flipped through the shows on the tacky little television. It was a cheap motel, and they only received three channels as far as she could tell. One told you what was on all the other channels, one had a talk show running, and one was definitely an adults only movie.

"Remy!" Jessie shouted at the wall. "You gonna grow fins in dere?"

She heard an answering laugh, but there was no other response. Her son loved the water. He loved to be clean, and was probably soaping himself up for the fifth time. Well, as long as he managed to get the dirt from under his fingernails and the grease out of his hair, she'd be happy. Normally he tried to stay clean, and showered every night. Lately, though, the plumbing hadn't been working in the bathroom and her husband hadn't deigned to fix it.

Her husband.

She looked down at her wedding band, remembering when he had asked her to marry him. A promising young policeman from a good, stable family. She had been thrilled. When things had started to go downhill she'd had Remy, hoping he would bring them together. She should never have done that. He was born with demon's eyes, terrorizing her husband who grew disgusted with the boy when it became apparent that he wasn't a threat. Though she loved the child dearly, she regretted putting him through seven years of torment at his father's hands.

Smiling somewhat wickedly, she pulled the ring off her finger and looked at it. Maybe she could pawn it. Nah. She wanted the satisfaction of throwing it somewhere, hurling it through the air.

Jessie got up off the bed, walking almost gleefully to the room door. It opened on the parking lot, the office around the corner. Happily Jessie threw the golden band as far as she could. She had a good arm, and it landed clear out on the driveway, where it would hopefully get run over many times.

She swept her brown hair away from her face, holding it back with one hand as she turned to look up at the stars. They were beautiful tonight. Her breath caught as one shot from the sky, and her mind quickly formed a wish for it to carry to earth: let my son be safe.

Jessica smiled and turned to go in, then stopped as her eyes came to rest on a familiar brown Cadilac sitting down the way. Her heart stopped in her chest, and she watched as a heavy set man stepped out, a scowl etched on his once-handsome features.

Quickly, before he saw her, she retreated into the room and closed the door. She ran to the bathroom, where the shower was still on, and ripped the curtain open.

"You pere be 'ere," she said by way of explanation, thrusting boxers and pants at her tiny son. "Hurry."

He pulled them on even as he stumbled, soaking wet, out of the shower, his foot catching on the edge of the tub and almost sending him sprawling. He reached his mother by the window as he buttoned his jeans, and she grabbed his arm to pull him away. "He be comin'," she said, her face white. "Hide."

Remy looked around frantically, seeing that there was nowhere to hide that wouldn't be searched. Finally his eyes came to rest at the top of the bed, where the headboard sat away from the wall, even if it only was by six inches or so. He moved to the end and pulled hard at the bed, widening the gap to eight inches. Swiftly he started to slide behind the headboard, scoring his shoulder against the metal before scrunching himself into something so small he couldn't be seen.*

"Stay dere," his mother said, her voice ragged. "Don' come out, no mat'er wha'."

Remy nodded fearfully, and his mother straightened up as the door handle rattled.

"No mat'er wha'," she repeated in a whisper.

"JESSIE!" The voice was the roar of a furious animal. The door opened, finally, and the man stood there, silhouetted. "Wha' you t'ink you be doin'?" he asked quietly.

"I leavin', Paul. I be tired o' you hittin' me. I ain't takin' it no more."

From his spot Remy could see his mother's feet and part of her legs. He waited silently, then heard his father approaching.

"Y' can' jus' leave."

There was an in drawn breath, as if Jessie were about to say something, then a slap resounded throughout the room. Remy cringed and pulled himself lower, staring at the floor.

"Where be de boy?"

"Gone. I tol' him t' run. You ain' never gettin' you 'ands on--"

Again there was the sound of flesh hitting flesh, and the following thump as his mother's body hit the floor.

"Dat boy's a demon. He gon' t' go kill people, unless you tell me where he be. Only I c'n make sure he behave. He even got you charmed!"

Remy closed his eyes tighter, afraid to look up, afraid that he would look straight into the face of his father.

"He ain' a demon an' I won' let you hurt 'im!" Jessie shouted.

Remy clamped his hands over his ears, not wanting to hear what he knew would follow. Small teeth bit into a young lip, drawing blood as the boy tried furiously to keep out the noises, and to keep from screaming himself.

His father hit his mother a lot. But it had never, ever been this bad.

His muscles ached from not moving. His breath was ragged from trying not to cry, not to let anyone know he was there. He didn't know how long he had been there, either. But his father was finally gone.

Slowly, afraid that at any minute the monster would walk back in the door, he straightened from his crouched position.

"Momma?" Not without a struggle he managed to get out from behind the bed, stumbling to where his mother lie, very still. "Momma? We got t' go. We got t' go now, 'fore he come back. Momma?" He knew even before he touched her that she was dead. Her eyes were open and glazed, and her body was so very still. He choked on his own tears, fighting them back. "I sorry," he whispered, but could do no more as he heard a noise outside. Swiftly, the urge to survive strong in his veins, he went through his mother's pockets, feeling sick the whole while. She only had ten dollars on her, but it was money. He went and hid back behind the bed as his father came back in. The man rattled around for a bit, then walked back out.

His mother had wanted something better for him, something away from his father the monster. Remy once more slunk out of his hiding place, pausing above her body. He bent and removed the string from her ankle, the penny attached. Then he stood back up and hurried out of the room before his father could come back.

It was cold that night. True, it had been cold other nights lately, but he had been in a warm bed with his mother nearby. Not this night.

He had run until he thought his lungs were going to burst, at which point he'd ducked down an alleyway. Wearing only his still-damp jeans, he had huddled into a little ball to ward off the chill of the night. He'd thought he was too numb to hurt at the loss of his mother. He wasn't.

He cried until he couldn't cry any more, and then there were dry sobs to take the place of tears. His skin was prickly with goose bumps, and his eyes felt scratchy and dry. Dawn was coming, bringing with it warmth and light and perhaps hope. But it was at least three hours away, and the small boy huddled by the brick wall wasn't going to last that long.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Remy knew that. He knew he was too cold, that he needed to at least walk to stir his blood and warm his body.

But he was so tired, and so sad, and he just didn't care anymore.

His mother's face, bloody and beaten, kept rising before his eyes. It was his fault. He knew that with a certainty that was hopeless. Maybe he was a demon. Bringing bad gris-gris to all those who touched him.

These thoughts were sluggish through his cold-befuddled mind.

~I need t' be movin'.~ The thought drifted through his head. He didn't care.

He would have died that night if she hadn't come along.

She was a street walker; there were many of them in this area. A "working girl," if you were the polite type, a whore if you weren't.

"Hey, dere chile, you better be gettin' home."

He didn't react, and Sabrine almost just continued on her way. But something stopped her, and she went back to where he huddled. With a sigh, for she knew no good would come of it, she pulled off her own jacket and wrapped it about the child's shoulders.

With strength born of necessity, she hauled him to his feet and started pushing and shoving him out of the alley, down the street and to her apartment.

"Where . . . " he started as she tucked him into her bed, piling blankets on him until he was little more than a mound.

"You safe f' now, chile. Jus' stay dere, I keep you f' de night."

"What you gon' do wit' de li'l runt?" one of the three women in the two room apartment asked the next day.

Sabrine shrugged. "Don' know. Find a way f' 'im t' make money, I guess." She turned and eyed him. He sat on the couch that had been pulled out into a bed, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He'd been quiet all morning. Her own daughter, Raquel, sat next to him, staring at him as intently as he stared at the blankets.

"He got strange eyes," another woman said.

Sabrine nodded. "But he a cute li'l t'ing, f' a runt."

There were murmurs of assent from the group.

Sabrine eyed the boy, long hair in strings, arms and legs lanky. He was quite handsom. Fleetingly her mind danced across the idea of handing him over to a pimp, but she dismissed it with disgust almost as soon as it came.

She shrugged. "Maybe he can pick pockets. Raquel can teach 'im dat."

Remy looked up at the girl, who smiled gleefully. She was just past five, and had a rather large gap between her front teeth. Personally, he thought she was gross. But then he remembered that his mother said you should be nice to everyone, so he smiled back.

"You got strange eyes," the little girl noted.

Remy started to throw an insult back at her, then quickly changed his mind. "You got beautiful eyes."

Raquel thought about that for a moment, then nodded. "I guess I like you. I teach you t' steal."

"Dey so cute," one of the women cooed, only to be laughed at by the others.

"Chile, wha' you name?" Sabrine called.

"Remy," he answered quietly.

"You got family, Remy?"

He frowned, not wanting to go back to his father but unable to remember the name of the aunt they were going to go to.

"De police could help you, m'be," Sabrine said.

A look of horror crossed his features as he thought of being forced to go back and live with his policeman father. "Non, t'ank you," he whispered again.

Raquel looked at him a bit more. "I teach you t' steal, den you can get you own place. Right now you on my an' my mom's bed."

Remy turned and glared at her. "Pardon."

Raquel shrugged.

"Well, boy," Sabrine said, coming and sitting next to him on the bed, "I suppose you 'ave t' stay 'ere. Don' worry, we keep de police from you."

Remy smiled thankfully, then glanced out the window. It was high noon, and the city was sweltering. Somewhere out there, his father could be looking for him.

"You sure you keep de police 'way from me?" he asked in a whisper, remembering the way his mother had looked when his father had finished with her.

"Oui. We keep y' safe, chil--Remy. Don' worry."

Before anyone says a seven year old boy can't fit behind something eight inches wide, just let me say that at eight years old I fit behind a headboard that was only 4-5 inches away from the wall. We were playing hide and seek. It took them half an hour to find me, and then it was only because my older sister knew how little I could make myself and told everyone to even look in drawers and things. Heh.

Thanks to Raven and Faith, who beta-read. :)


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