"Nikki. Nikki. Wake up, we have to move," I whisper hoarsely while prodding her lightly on the side. Her petite body rolls over and I can tell she's awake, but is refusing to open her eyes. Every day we sleep outside of camp she does this. I think she forgets we're not in total safety anymore.
I shake her more vigorously as worry and threat set in; we all know that there are people out for us. Looking for us. A light shiver slides down my spine, then envelopes my entire body with a feeling of unease. Oh, the memories. At times I wish for them to just fade, but in all fact, they are all I know for sure about myself.
My gaze slides back down just in time to see Nikki finally flutter her eyes open, to reveal the icy blue underneath. Even when she's just woken up her eyes still have an edge, but if you don't know her you wouldn't be able to see it. You'd be to mesmerized by how deep they are, and how the ring of black emboldens the color. Her bleach blonde hair is in disarray that frames her face in a perfect curtain, giving off a shadow effect on her tan skin. Even though she's a year older than me, which makes her 15, she's still only 4'10. Hah, shorty.
She blinks a couple times, trying to remember where she is at. Then it seems to hit her dead on when her eyes lock with mine. She rolls to her knees and starts rapidly wrapping the few objects we brought in the thin paneled cloth. I wish I could wake up that fast, I have to lay there for a while, then stretch, and lay a little longer. I start to smile thinking of some of the things I do half asleep, but then I realize that I'm letting the mind bunnies get the best of me. I try to help but her hand always flashes in front of me and grabs it before I can.
We stand and I start off first, my feet disquieting the world as they slam into the ground. It takes me a few seconds to realize that there are no feet accompanying mine. I turn and see Nikki standing stagnant and stiff. Her hand was inching into a fist at the edge of her collar bone. I run back over and pull with all my might at her arm. My attempts weaken and last shorter amounts of time.
"Earth to Nikki, let's move," I say with another effortless tug. "Remember? Funny story, people kind of want our intestines on a stick. Let's go! GO!" I overly strained the last syllable in go, hopefully my sarcasm caught her.
"My locket's gone." She whispered worriedly.
She's had it ever since I met her. The star shaped bronze locket was always there in its fading glory. I've asked her a couple times about it, but she never answers. She just gazes towards the clouds and clutches the locket, so I've almost given up on it. I don't know what's on the inside, or if it even still opens, but I know it's important to her and she won't leave without it.
She drops at a great declivity and frantically races her hands through the grass in search for it. Before I realize it, I've dropped down next to her and am also scanning the fading summer grass. I feel anxiety growing as more time passes without finding it. With each slide and swipe of my hand nothing comes up except grass and leaves, and I can feel nerves breaking one by one as the sun claws higher into the sky.
"I found it!" Nikki cries triumphantly. She starts to fasten in on, slowly moving her hair out of the way, but I have grown too impatient to wait any longer. I grab her wrist and tug, with a jolt she almost falls to the ground, but then stumbles into pace with me. We crash through the open field as the painted colors of the sky run together into a pink that will soon solidify into a pale blue.
Droplets of dew splatter up and hit my legs, refreshing the skin and mollifying the itch of grass and insect bites. The tree line of the woods is slowly growing into view, and as we approach my nerves start to ease as the feel of home starts to come closer. The instant we break through the tree line we stop, grasping for air. Nikki's arms collapse to her knees as she hunches over, and I lean back into a tree, light headed trying to keep myself standing. My mind starts jumping to the other dozens of times this happened, it only makes my head spin more, so I start valiantly fighting the mind bunnies back to reality.
"Klair, where's Briar?" Nikki exhales out.
I swallow hard, my swollen throat protesting. "Left earlier, I guess"
She just shrugs and starts walking sluggishly toward the sound of trickling water that will lead us to camp. I can tell she is hassled by everything that has already happened this morning, but I can tell she's trying to keep a good attitude. Unlike me she can handle stress and direct anger in different directions. I have been getting better with managing it, but people know that I have anger issues and know the signs when a blow up is coming.
Slowly oxygen builds up in my system, evening out my ragged breaths as my mind sways back to normality and away from the rocking waves of my mental boat. My steps no longer stagger and the high pitched tone in my head is gone, so I can hear the rustle of the world awakening. Everywhere I look the scenery gives off an energy of total serenity and poise. I blink once. Twice. And I keep them shut accepting the memories, and the fact that they are past.
I can see the wooden boards, and irons in waiting. The metal chains and the gritty feeling of rope against my skin. I see the abusers hands and the intruding words that could be lie or truth. I can still taste my own blood, but I wouldn't cry. The eyes. They're so clear, the light yellow color. So much hatred and malevolence. I was a fighter, and I kept fighting. The world was fading, and then the light. Of my savior…
My breath comes out shaky and I lean one hand against a tree and stop to fight off all of the voices overcoming my mind. It's mostly shady whispers, but I don't like them. I prefer to have my mind just to myself and no intruders. I shut everyone out and away from my secrets, and put a 'please do not disturb' sign on top. I had worked hard to keep people out and I'm not opening the door again.
I open my eyes wondering if I had made a big scene, but to my avail, Nikki hadn't paid any mind to me. I regain my intellectual balance and continue on my way, trying to finally leave behind my memories, though I know that it won't work. They've been carved there with a white hot knife, and scars have been left.
Thankfully when I look up the make-shift camp is in sight, with our rugged belongings in their normal position. The rusty old pot hangs from a tree branch over a diminutive fire, and a tarp covered with mud and leaves encases an abandoned fox den that we expanded. A decent sized river runs down the edge of our camp and disappears into the woods. To top it off a hollowed out log contains our few belongings, most of which we stole, off to the side of the camp.
I look towards the rock that hangs over the river and see Briar sitting in a relaxed form, sharpening her knife on a stone. Her dark brown hair is pulled into a messy braid that's plopped over her right shoulder. I can't be sure if she has noticed our arrival, because I'm almost sure her gray-blue eyes are trained on her current task. It's slightly frightening how at ease she looked while sharpening a lethal weapon.
Since she's 15, also, that makes me the youngest of our trio, but certainly not the weakest. Before I met Nikki I was your regular street fighter, trying to survive. I stole, but I kept it to a bare minimum, and I hustled people, but only when I knew that they didn't need the money as much as I did. I still had the mighty temper, and so I was often fighting with strangers. To be honest, I half way enjoyed it. I liked being able to blow off some steam and prove myself to others. I grew strong and unbreakable, as I still am. I can't remember much anything, but my years on the street and now.
The three of us, we're so different, yet in almost every bitter aspect, we are the same. Our minds are tortured with what is, was, could have been, and should have been. Struggling to find a place where we truly are, and live. We hold onto every memory, every pain, and thought, because in all reality they are all we are. And so we steal, and lie, and con, and hustle, but we do it for survival. Survival of the fittest.
I run up to Briar and leap at her. She tosses her knife to the side and flips me over. I bury my foot in her chest in a way that it won't hurt, so instead of fighting back she simply dove into the clear, turquoise water. It splashed up and rained down, cooling off my sweaty body. I stand and jump into the river striking a pose in mid-air, then let out a scream underwater because of the shock of the cold.
I break through the surface of the water and shake out my hair. A high pitched shudder escapes and my instincts come into play, so I look around and take everything in. Nikki is standing on the rock looking over us and carefully removing her necklace so she can dive in with us. When I look back Briar is right in front of my face. I pretend not to be shocked and calmly spit water in her face. She wipes it off and barely blinks.
"You were up awful early this morning," I say as Nikki jumps onto my back.
Briar simply shrugs and says, "I wasn't early, you were late," then dives under the water and swims off.
I take full realization of Nikki being on me, so I flip over backwards and wrestle her off. As soon as I catch a break I swim rapidly towards the edge and claw my way up the steep drop, and then sprawl to let myself dry off. I breathe in and the sweet, tangy scent of the forest consumes me. My eyes flutter shut, yet I can still see the light through them. The last thought that floats through my mind as the early morning sun lulls me to sleep is: This is where we stand.