In a last ditch effort to find some sanctuary, Marise slammed her arm against the wood door, peering over her shoulder at the staring men gathering across the deserted street. This wouldn’t turn out well. The grey light caught all the trash, the snuffed out fire barrel, and the scrawled graffiti.
She hit the door again. “Jordan!” Her voice wavered, weak and all too shrill.
Nothing stirred inside.
“Oki be damned,” she whispered to herself, cradling the bag against her side. She looked once more at the barred windows, knowing the person she’d called a friend sat there on the other side, waiting out the desperate banging. Marise spat, withdrew the knife and carved her initials into the wood.
Let them live with that.
Someone whistled. “Damn. I’d hate to get on your bad side. You need a place to stay, gorgeous?”
She spun around. The six men, each scrappy, returned her glare with smiles as rotten as their surroundings. She flipped them the bird, making sure they didn’t see where she kept the blade as she tucked it away. A gust of wind sparked up, tugging at her cap, but it stayed in place. She broke the stare, headed down the street.
“Look at her, she’s got spunk.” A chorus of snickers sparked up behind her, but they stayed in their territory. The humidity clawed at her suit, groping her body as her heart pounded.
She’d run out of options.
Jordan, that bitch, had abandoned her. A flicker of justice struck her as she thought of hitting up the Syndicate for some “assistance.” Marise could bring down their entire fucking lives with some maneuvering. She shook her head, trying to dispel the thought, but it hung there like a virus.
A few streets away, her head had cooled enough to recognize the callousness that’d take and she didn’t have it in her. The market teemed with people, fresh food and scavenged parts from Shabatidan’s robots. Dozens of tarp-draped stands, flimsy rusted metal poles jutting out, spread along the concourse. Pressed against the buildings, jumbled stalls left only the barest room to distinguish store entrances from the merchants. In the distance, the docks were all but abandoned, the gulls circling overhead. She dug in her bag, pulling her pages, tools aside, and found a handful of dollars. She took a deep breath and pulled the stained bills out of her bag. Only seven, but she clutched them as if they’d solve everything.
She approached the vendors. The rich, the dignified, tried to hide their faces as they scavenged for bargains, little quick fixes to their problems. For the most part, they ignored her, as if she or they didn’t exist. They bumped into her, didn’t offer apologies or anything. Keeping true, she slipped past the parts sellers, past the live animals, to a fruit stand. Lumped into crates together, the exotic fruit looked warped, smaller than she’d expected, but hell, they could’ve been dried out and still looked majestic to her. “How much?”
“Ten dollars for a bundle,” the overweight man said without looking up. He scrawled on a pad as he checked his inventory.
Marise’s throat went dry. She clutched the bills in her hand. “I only have seven.”
The man stopped writing, peered through his brow. Eyes hard and annoyed, he said, “Then I guess you’re shit out of luck.”
“Can’t I buy one or two by themselves?” Her voice had lost its confidence. She slipped the knife out, held it at her thigh, out of sight. She eyed the crates.
“It’s in a bundle only. Sorry kid, but if I did that for you, then every little beggar off the street would want the same thing.”
“Oh.” The knife slipped between the netting. She tugged it as little as she could. The knife caught, pulled free. She wrapped her hand around the produce, fumbling around two of them. “I see.”
His eyes travelled her filthy body. He ticked his hand against the page. “Since you can’t buy anything, I’d invite you to move on. You’re driving away my customers.”
She swallowed hard, clutching the bills in her one hand. She nodded and stepped uneasily toward the end of the market. Each step felt like it took forever, but she tugged on her sleeve and the fruit rolled against her wrist. She turned a corner and slipped them into her bag.
She looked back over her shoulder as she zipped the bag shut, found him still staring at her. He went back to his inventory. She wondered how long it would take him to find the missing fruit.
Serves him right.
Unsure where to go, she scanned the surrounding area. Where did the homeless come together? No, she wouldn’t last the night. She wrapped her hand around the hilt of her knife, taking comfort in it.
Another tram shuddered past overhead. Marise watched it, then began to follow its lanes. Maybe there she could reclaim the image.