Authors: Astrid 'Artistikem' Cruz
Astrid 'Artistikem' Cruz
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This book is a work of
fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places,
events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are
productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Text and cover art copyright
© 2014 by Astrid H. Cruz
All rights reserved.
Published by Artistikem
Original photography by
Pixabay user SplitShire.
Table of Contents
everyone who believed in Steven from the get-go
for those who will believe in him from now on.
those who cheered for this story since its conception,
for the one who stomped his foot and told me to stop.
now I know better, for now life has taught me so much.
now I feel I've finally given Steven and Giana
they always hoped for.
shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place
for the first time”
~ T.S. Eliot, Little
I'm sitting behind the
counter ready to crack the cash register open and call it a night
when the bookstore's door opens, making the wind chime sing, and in
comes this guy.
So fucking annoying, these
customers that come in right before closing time.
I greet him, he doesn't
Make it quick, you dumbass.
But no, of course not. He
strides leisurely through the bookshelves, taking his time.
for anything in particular?” I give a fake smile.
I look at my watch and my
stomach rumbles. That salad I had as a late lunch disappeared the
moment it hit my trachea. Damn those things; it's like eating water.
Push up my glasses, hit the
bridge of my nose.
closing in five,” I shoot his way. Better get on with it, dude,
or I'll kick you out.
He gives me a slight nod and
goes on browsing.
Damn you. There's some
leftover lasagna in my fridge, calling my name.
One look at him and I can
tell he's searching, not just browsing like most people do. He knows
what he's looking for. If only he'd tell me, I could help. He's old.
Well, not too old if you ask my mother, passing fifty maybe. The kind
that still comes here, a select member of the small group of people
that still read print.
He plucks two books from
different shelves and brings them to me, pays for them, and without a
I open the cash register and
give a quick glance inside. It's not hard to count fifty bucks total.
Put them in my pocket, get my purse, coat, scarf, and get the hell
out of there before I collapse.
Lights off, lock the door,
pull the gate.
me the money, bitch!”
A punk, a blade, a set of
bloodshot eyes. “Give me the money!”
money?! Dude! This is a fucking bookstore. We don't make money, we
He goes for my purse, but I
dodge him. “Shut up, bitch, and give me the fucking money!”
A swipe of the blade in the air.
on, man! I already told you I've got nothing! Bookstore equals
bankrupt, you idiot. Take your anger somewhere else. Channel it
somehow.” I manage to close the padlock by hitting it with the
heel of my hand and it goes
mean, you're angry. Aren't you? You're angry at society, humanity,
yourself, maybe even your family. Why are you doing this? Did you
ever dream of ending up like this? Mugging people on the street?”
His eyes flick from right to
mean it, dude. Get a grip. There's a place two blocks from here where
you can crash, get a shower, have a hot meal. You know, help you get
your shit together. This adrenaline rush isn't worth it, nor is
shooting stuff up your veins.”
you.” He pounces, the blade almost reaching my neck.
I duck away from him and all
I hear is a swooshing sound. The punk's flying, fucking flying two or
three feet above the ground and hitting the wall with an
What. The. Fuck.
I look down at my hands, my
legs. I didn't do shit.
There's someone wheezing
behind me and when I turn, I see him. It's the old dude, the
customer. His bag with the books is lying on the ground and he's
doubled over, a hand against the wall.
Are you okay?”
He waves a hand at me,
The vagabond is sprawled
against the wall and there's blood on it.
Please, let me help you.”
I try to reach the man who’s
trying to catch his breath as if he'd run a marathon, but he pushes
did you do? Who are you?”
He sends me a menacing
glance and I know I should leave it alone, but I think he needs my
I grab his bag and go for
his arm. He can hardly protest through what seems to be an asthma
me take you home, sir.”
He's tall and heavy and
pushes me away with every step, but we make it to my car and I'm able
to shove him inside.
I slide into the driver's
seat and pause.
the fuck happened back there?”
His breathing slows down yet
he doesn't look at me. He won't even send me another glare.
He blurts his address and
we're off. In silence. I won't talk if he won't talk.
And fuck me if I'm mute, but
when we reach our destination, I knew it rang a bell. It's some
exclusive residential area with manor after manor stretching out on a
wider than normal street.
The dude's loaded. Not that
you'd tell from his clothes, maybe a bit from his face but definitely
not his clothes.
Once we reach the number, he
tries to bolt.
Let me unlock it first!”
the button and the thing
his sign to stagger out and shut the door with a bang.
I jump out, shout at his
back, “A thanks won't fucking kill you!”
He stops short of opening
the gate, turns on his heel and strides back.
I'm at my door, across from
him, holding onto the car in case the guy goes berserk.
He stops on the other side,
sneers at me over the car's roof.
didn't see anything,” he snarls.
He points a threatening
finger at me. “Not. A. Word.”
Then it dawns on me. Oh my
god does it dawn. The junkie flew through the air.
I narrow my eyes even though
I'm trembling. “It's you.”
There's murder in his eyes.
“I said: not a word!”