Wilma knew next to nothing about fashion or business, first of all. But she stayed because she had an obligation. Not because she would be betraying her grandmother if she didn’t. The store was a shell of her grandmother’s existence. To close it would be removing her from her self-designed history book.
Hassan unconsciously reached for the hem of his uniform, which was blue and had yellow smiley faces plastered all over it. It was painful to look at, more so to have it on. He tugged at it desperately. Apparently, getting to wear the right size was not the kind of privilege an average employee got to have.
Sadie looked up. There wasn’t much to see. The buildings towered over each other, effectively blocking the night sky. They were the exact same height and width, all of them, twelve floors and seven windows apart. Sadie lost count of them after passing a dozen or so. A light turned off on the fifth floor across the street.
Sandra sighed. She teared her eyes off her daughter and continued to beat the single egg that was alone in her fridge this morning. The yolk spattered off the bowl and landed on the pile of letters to her right. Every two days or so, that pile welcomed yet another letter. Today was that day.
Her legs trembled. She closed her eyes shut. She had to do something. For Soba. For every single life about to be wasted. A glass of jar dropped to the floor somewhere in the room, breaking into pieces. She forced her eyes back open.
Stores were just starting to close one by one, the bookstore around the corner, the butcher shop in front, the hair salon. What did a hair salon have? Hair. Hair that Asher did not have. She had an idea: a terrible one, but brilliant for sure.
She parked her car at the very end of the street. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t hers, it was her foster parents’. Her seventh. The ones that she ran away from eight days ago. The ones that probably worried more about their car’s whereabouts than their foster daughter’s safety. Fuck that.
She was still feeling sorry for the rose petals she left behind when her footsteps slowed down. The sea of students behind didn’t. She missed a step. Before she knew it, her arms were flailing in the air, and she lurched down towards the staircase. Face first.
She glanced at her mom’s unfinished work still standing on the kitchen counter. Her creations were often so intricate, so delicate that they took Cassandra’s breath away, and this one was no different. Eleanor King was quite the mechanic. A witch, as she called herself. “I can make anything for you and your dad,” she used to say.
And she, trembling, pulled a black plastic bag from under the robot vacuum’s wheels—it lifted itself, ever so slightly, almost as if thrusting its imaginary arms in the air.