Street and Greet
James had always liked this spot in the town, hidden in the gap between the charity shop and the small cafe.
The streets of Ross were always deserted at this time of night, and lit, only by the street lights, giving it an orange glow which James always found strangely beautiful. Opposite him, there was a black iron gate, stopping people breaking into the swimming pool for a late night swim. He still saw gangs climb the gate and go for a swim anyway. Course they never saw him, no one ever did, he blended perfectly into the shadows. In his torn jeans, and dark blue hoodie. He kept it zipped up to hide the fact he wore only a black vest underneath.
His skin was pale, almost white. This always made his hair stand out more. Not that it mattered, it was black, it stood out on its own. Thankfully, the only time it didn't, was when he was hiding in the shadows. His hair wasn't very long, but it was long enough that it could fall into his eyes. He would usually leave it there until one of the curls started to poke him in the eye, and then he would push it back. His mother had blonde hair, and he always wondered what would have happened if he got her hair, instead of his father’s black hair. The thought made him shudder. Blokes shouldn't be blonde. Mean popular girls on the other hand. They can be as blonde as they like.
He was spared thinking about blonde hair any longer by his phone vibrating.
He looked down at his phone with his so called blue eyes, (he thought they were more grey than blue despite what everyone else said) to see her had a text from his mother.
“Hope u r enjoying your friend’s house,
He hated lying to his mum, but he needed to think, and he could never do that around her. Especially if she was in one of her moods.
He put his phone in his pocket, and looked up at the iron gate, where suddenly, a girl his age had appeared, and was staring directly at him.
James heard himself gasp, then swore under his breath. If he made a sound or moved his cover would be blown. Not that it mattered anymore, his cover was almost certainly blown, all gasping would have done is shown her he was not a statue. But that wasn't the reason he gasped and then swore. He gasped because she was beautiful, and swore because he had just gasped in front of a beautiful girl.
She was leaning against the gate post with her arms folded across her chest. He couldn't see her eye colour from where he was, but he could feel her staring right at him, wondering who he was, and why he was sulking in the shadows.
She had brown hair that reached the end of her shoulder blade. It wasn't dead straight like some of the popular girls at his school, but it wasn't curly either. Her hair was like his in a way now that he thought about it, and what was he told his hair was...wavy?
She wore a blue hoodie and a grey T-Shirt that looked crumpled, but not ripped. To match the crumpled T-Shirt she wore a pair of worn out jeans. Worn out, but not ripped. She must take care of her clothes unlike him.
He had been so mesmerized by her, he didn't realize she was walking over to him.
He felt his stomach tighten into a knot, and his palms became sweaty. Was he nervous? No, he couldn't be nervous. he had spoken to so many girls before. Why was she any different? Girls were known to be charmed by him, with his so called “good looks” and “silver tongue”, course he never thought that himself. In his opinion, he was rather dull.
As she walked over James noticed she walked with a little spring in her step. The same kind of spring you would see a little girl walk with. He didn't dare say that to her face, because now he could see her up close, he saw she looked rather strong. She would defiantly be able to hurt someone if she was provoked, and he almost admired that in a girl, not, that he had ever met anyone like that at his school. They were too obsessed with makeup and boys too focus on defending themselves.
She stopped just in front of him so she was still in the view of passers-by, not that there were any. It was smart move on her behalf. For all she knew, he was a serial killer.
She looked up at him and smiled a sweet smile. Blue, he thought. Her eyes were a perfect blue.
“Hi,” she said; still smiling. She spoke in an accent you couldn't say was one thing or another.
Curious, he thought. Another thing to about her that fascinated him; her accent.
“I’m Lucy," The girl continued; "Lucy Cordel”
“I…I’m James…James Price” James managed to splutter out. Oh goody you’re a stuttering idiot, he thought to himself. Because that impresses girls. He saw Lucy smile harder as she forced back a laugh. James felt himself blush furiously. Stuttering and blushing, what was wrong with him? He was never nervous around girls. Why was Lucy so different?
He quickly recovered his composure.
“So what’s a pretty little girl of no more than sixteen doing out this late at night?” He smirked. “Don’t you know what people do to pretty little girls?”
The smile left her face instantly.
“It’s none of your business what I’m doing out. And if you dare try anything, I’ll knock you into next week.” Her voice was venomous. It didn't suit such a small, sweet girl. She only came up to the top of his shoulder. Although in her defense, he was one of the taller boys in the year.
“Alright princess calm down.” He knew this was annoying her, but it calmed him down, and he desperately needed that right now. “And don’t worry, I won’t ‘urt you” His accent was thickening as it always did whenever his emotions got the better of him.
She picked up his accent straight away.
“You’re not from here are you?” She spoke with a curious look in her eye.
She caught the shocked look on his face.
“Your accent gives it away.”
Now she was the one with the smirk on her face. She couldn't hide the fact she was proud to have shocked him so much he hadn't been able to hide it on his face. And it annoyed him that he couldn't hide it. Even after all those years of practicing hiding his shock or fear he could still be beat by a girl.
“No…no I’m not.” Oh the joys we are back to stuttering.
“Well then where are you from?”
Lucy couldn't hide he amusement about the effect this was having on him.
James’ eyes darkened and his face went blank. "Doesn't matter where I'm from."
James saw Lucy take a scared step back.
Time to change the subject, James thought. "So,” James smiled cunningly. “Tell me about yourself Lucy."
They talked for hours after that. James managed to figure out her accent was slightly American. James wasn't sure why though. Maybe she had visited America for a while, he thought. But if that was the case; why did she have a tan like everyone else James knew who had visited somewhere sunny like America. He had found out Lucy's favorite colour was blue, her favorite song was Heart by Heart, her favorite film was Despicable me, and so much more.
"Alright," Lucy managed to speak through their laughter. "I need to sneak back inside now."
"Aw come on," James protested. "Can't you stay just a little longer?"
"I'll stay.." Lucy paused. "If.." Again she paused.
"If..."James was known to be impatient.
"If, you tell me where you and that accent of your's come from." Lucy bounced a couple of times.
"Lucy..." James protested.
"No," Lucy cut him off. "I want to know."
"I can't tell you Lucy.." James seemed to be stepping further into the shadows.
"Why not?!" Lucy almost yelled at James.
"Because I don't know!" James shouted at Lucy.
“You don’t know!" Lucy's voice had gone rather high from the shock. "How could you not know?!” Although his expression was unreadable, Lucy caught a quick smile of amusement flash across his face. She forced herself to cough before she continued. “Haven’t your parents told you?”
James’ expression was unreadable, but she could see he wasn't the boy who had been teasing her moments ago.
He pushed his hair off his face and looked her in the eye. She hadn't really looked at him properly before. Only from across the street; and even then she hadn't seen much as he had been hidden in the shadows.
He was rather handsome with the black hair and blue eyes, the street clothes that clung to his figure quite tightly, showing off the fact he was well built. Most would just think he worked out to impress all the girls, but she could see that it was so if he ran into trouble while out here in the streets, he would be able to fend them off.
She wasn't sure how long they just looked at each other. It was probably only a few seconds, but to her, it felt like an eternity. And in that eternity it was just him, her, and the deserted street, and she didn't want it to stop. She shouldn't have felt like that, he was a troublemaker, and surely he was a heartbreaker too.
James cut the moment short by looking away.
“We moved when I was little after…” James started. His voice was distant, and when he looked up from his feet he didn't look at her, but past her, as if he was remembering it all. Whatever happened to him must have been terrible. It would explain so much though. People like him, who hid in the shadows late at night, had often had something horrible happen to them in their childhood.
She was curious now, and if she was going to find out what had happened, she was going to have to ask.
“After what James…" Lucy spoke kindly. "You can tell me.”
That last part had been too much. His eyes, which had only a few moments ago had shown a vulnerable little boy, now darkened to show the tough street boy she had met a few hours ago. In fact his whole body posture changed. He had stiffened, his face was tight and his hands were fists. Was he going to punch her?
“It’s none of your business what happened.” James spat at her. His voice was icy and each word was like a slap in the face. Why did this hurt so much? He’s a stranger, a street boy, and you are acting like the boy you love is telling you he hates you. “I haven’t told anyone one, not even my closest mates what happened, and you expect me to tell you? The pretty little princess I don’t even know.”
He was right. They barely knew each other and she had expected him to tell her one of his biggest secrets. But he had insulted her and she wouldn't let him get away with that.
“I am not a princess. And maybe you should watch what you say to me. Wouldn't want me to follow you home and tell your mother where you really were. Would you?” She had to try her hardest to keep the fear out of her voice. He was giving her the same icy stare her father had given her earlier today. Just before she had run out.
“Oh god please don’t tell my mother.” He smirked at her; his words dripping sarcasm. It had been a long shot, and a bad one at that but she wouldn't back down.
She didn't get the chance to reply.
He pushed past her, with such a force she stumbled to the side. If it hadn't been for the shop wall she would have fallen. James didn't seem to notice though. He just stalked off down the street.
She stared after him. She couldn't help it. Now he was gone she felt empty. She had only known him a few hours and yet she had felt like they were connected in a way, and only with each other would they be truly happy. But that was impossible. How could you feel like that about someone you had just met?
What would her mother think? She had run out of the house, walked around the street alone late at night and talked to a stranger all in the space of a few hours. Her father would still be mad at her for wearing her casual clothes to his formal dinner party and allegedly “ruining his reputation”. But she didn’t care about that right now. James was getting away and she was doing nothing about it.
She was about to run off when a hand closed over her mouth and another one around her waist.
“Don’t scream little girl,” Came a harsh voice in her ear. “This will all be over very shortly.”
~ * ~
James had been certain Lucy would have come after him when he walked off. Isn't that what always happened in a book? But this wasn't a book, he thought. This was real life and he was expecting a girl he had just met to come running after him, calling his name and try to stop him from leaving.
James sighed. He’d had enough drama for one night. He decided he would just ring his mum and say that his friend had had a family emergency and he was walking home now.
He reached into his pocket to find his phone missing.
Drat, James thought. It must have fallen out when I pushed past Lucy.
The thought sent shivers down his spine. He hadn't expected her to stumble to the side. She had just looked so strong to him. But now that he thought about it, so was he, and he had pushed her rather hard. It had taken all his will power not to steady her, make sure she wasn't hurt, hold her in his arms. But he was supposed to be mad at her and making sure she was okay isn't what a mad person would do. He probably just looked like he was stropping off. Oh great, he thought. She thinks you are a stroppy teenager.
Way to go James.
Oh shut up will you.
Great, James thought. You're arguing with yourself....again.
James pushed his bickering thoughts to the back of his head. He turned around and started to head off to where he had dropped his phone. He was nearing the corner when a group of guys all in black combat gear comprised of tight, v-neck vest and loose trousers ran past him. One knocked him off his feet and he hit the ground with a thud.
“Hey!" James shouted. "Watch where you're going!" James was already pissed with himself; but now he was pissed at these guys too.
They didn't reply. They didn't even look back. But he saw draped over the shoulder of one of them was a girl. She was limp and bloody but he recognized the long brown hair and casual clothes. His heart stopped.
~ * ~
James’ world was spinning. So many questions were running through his head.
How did she get kidnapped?
Why wasn’t she moving?
Who’s blood was that?
Then suddenly Lucy’s head shot up. Her blue eyes were panicked, her hair a bloody mess. There were gashes on her cheek, some still bleeding.
“James!!” Lucy cried. Her voice was high and panicked.
Her cry was like an alarm clock to James. He shot up, and after quickly tying his hoodie around his waist so it wouldn't slow him down, he started to sprint after the goons.
They were fast, and they'd had a head start, but sprints were what James lived for. Whereas the goons who had taken Lucy were obviously built to fight, he was built to sprint. He had spent years training to be a sprinter. Building his muscles in his arms and legs, as well as dieting. This meant that not only was he one of the fastest in his school but he was also able to defend himself when he got into trouble.
He soon caught up with the first of the goons and quickly disposed of them with a strong shot to the temple. The goon crumpled to the ground instantly. Any other time James would have checked to make sure he hadn't killed the guy. But there was no time for that, and he started off again. He had to get Lucy before they reached the main road and their goon van. Once there he would have no chance of catching them.
The goons had realized they were being chased now, and the two goons that weren't carrying Lucy, who had now started struggling, spun round to face him. James swore there had been another goon when they ran past him. But they had been running fast. He had probably just imagined the goon.
He had faced two guys at once before and won, but they weren't as big as these guys, and they wouldn't have been trained in the arts of being a goon. And he’d never been up against not only them, but time as well. He knew he would have to take out the bigger of the two first while he was still fresh. But before he could lunge at them the goon he thought he had imagined; reappeared. James didn't see the goon coming, but James knew he was there, standing behind him, holding the lead pipe. Only James was too late. The goon swung the lead pipe and it connected with his skull. James crumpled to the ground instantly.
The world had started spinning.
James saw the past few hours flash before his eyes. Saw Lucy laughing so hard that she snorted a bit. Saw her bobbing up and down when she started to talk the minions from Despicable Me. James saw his mother tutting over him as he woke up with a hangover this morning.
Then he heard the goons laughing at him and Lucy screaming his name. Then the world stopped spinning for a second. The goon who had Lucy was standing over him. He was forcing Lucy to look at James. He could see the tears in her eyes. Some of them splashed on his face. He wanted to call to her, but he couldn't make a sound. The goons laughed again. Then they walked away from James; leaving him to bleed out. James tried to push himself up, but his legs and arms had shut down. James just lay there helpless; waiting for someone to come help him.
James must have passed out at some point. For when he next opened his eyes it was almost dawn; oh, and it was now raining. He wiggled his fingers and his toes to see if he had feeling back in them yet. It seemed like he did, but it still hurt to move.
Next, he swore, loudly. Okay, James thought. At least I can talk again.
James forced himself to sit up. He had to get his act together. He wouldn't be able to find Lucy by lying in the street.
James forced himself to his feet; and stumbled almost instantly.
“You alright there?” The voice came from behind.
He turned around slowly to see a girl standing in the middle of the road.
“Dear God you look awful," The girl sounded disgusted. "If you insist on drinking underage you could at least try and stay sober enough to waddle on home. Instead of collapsing in the middle of the street, and getting blood everywhere as well might I add.”
James stood gobsmacked. This girl looked around the same age as Lucy, but that was the only similarity between them as far as he could see.
While Lucy had her brown hair that she kept down, this girl had long blond hair that was tied neatly behind her head in a bun. And where Lucy had been wearing jeans and a hoodie, this girl was wearing a short black skirt with thin black tights underneath, a white vest and a pale green jacket. She was taller than Lucy, almost as tall as him in fact, and instead of Lucy’s warn smile she had a scowl on her face, her green eyes looking at him with disapproval.
James felt instantly mad. These were the kind of girls he hated. The girls who in a fight would spend more time making sure they looked good than actually fighting. They would just wait for their prince charming to come do all the work for them.
“I ain't drunk.” He tried to speak to speak without emotion but with everything that had happened his accent was beyond control.
“Well something happened to you.” She had a posh voice so unlike Lucy’s sweet, slightly American, accent. How could two people you meet so close together be so different?
“Got in a fight. That’s all you need to know. Now if you’ll excuse me ma’am I got someone I need to find.” With a quick mocking bow he turned around and started to walk off. But after the first step he felt his knees collapse and his head hit the ground. And for the second time that night, he passed out in the street.
~ * ~
When James regained consciousness some time later he was no longer in the middle of the street, but in a soft double bed. It took him a moment to realize he wasn't in his own bed; or his own room for that matter.
The walls were a pale green colour like the jacket the girl had been wearing. In fact now that he thought about it the whole room was similar to her. He realized the bed he was lying in was placed against the centre point of the back wall. It had white sheets with red flowers on it. The metal of the bed was a very polished black and the pillows matched the sheets. The floor was polished wood and the room was barely furnished. Apart from the bed there was only a wardrobe up against the left wall, a dresser next to the bed and a chair in the top right hand corner, all a plain white. There was a window in the middle of right wall. James went over and looked out of it. To his surprise he looking out over the street he had napped in last night.
It took him a second to realize there was someone sitting in the chair. The girl with the blonde hair and the posh clothes from last night was staring at him. She had changed into a black, thin strapped vest and pink, baggy trousers; and she had styled her hair so it looked like Lucy’s.
While he was staring out the window she was who knows where with those goons.
He moved toward the door and regretted it instantly. His head began to hurt and he started to see white spots. He decided it would be best if he sat back down.
“I see you've finally decided to wake up.” The girl remarked. "Honestly, if I had known you were going to be out for three days, I wouldn't have given you my bed." She continued to ramble on. "You're lucky my dad is hardly ever home. He'd have a lot of questions for you."
James sat on the edge of the bed, his feet on the cold wooden floor. He turned his head to face her.
“Who are you? Why are you helping me?” James knew he sounded rude but he didn't care. He wasn't in the mood for small talk. He wanted to find Lucy and at the moment this girl was stopping him from doing that.
“You’re welcome by the way; you know you're rather heavy.” There was a smile on her face, but not a sweet one like Lucy’s. No, this smile only said I'm better than you, nothing more, nothing less. She thought of him only as charity.
James only glared at her.
“Well isn't someone in a talky mood.” Was she enjoying this? When she noticed the look he was giving he she gave up her little game and her voice turned all business.
"Hold on a sec." James had only just processed what this girl had been rambling on about before. "Did you say I've been out three days?"
"Shock horror," the girl faked a gasp. "You speak." She started to giggle in that stupid way only a girl can. The high pitched, popular girl in a film giggle.
"Answer my question." James kept his voice as calm as he could.
“Ugh you’re no fun." The girl stopped laughing. "I’m Holly, yes you've been asleep three days, and as for why I didn't leave you in that street, you met my sister Lucy last night...and I want you to help me get her back.”
~ * ~
“Your sister?!” James couldn't hide his surprise. They were so different. How could they be related?
“Yes my sister. Now while you are sitting there gobsmacked those goons are getting further away with Lucy; they already got a three day head start. So if you wouldn't mind sharing your plan for us to get her back…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, us? What do you mean us? There’s no way you’re coming too princess.” James was not going to have princess over there slow him down.
“Of course I’m coming.” Holly was speaking as if this was a conversation about the weather forecast.
“Look sweetheart," James started. "I’m grateful for you dragging me off the street and letting me crash at your place, but this ain't something a lady like yourself is gunna wanna get dragged into.”
“I already have been dragged into it. Lucy is my sister, and if you think that I’m going to let some stranger go after her then you are stupider than you look.” Fair point I guess, James thought.
“Hey I ain't a straight A student but least I can fight. The only way you could beat one of those goons is by boring them to death.” Holly scowled at him. God this family don’t like getting teased.
“Oh yes you did a great job of fighting those goons before didn't you." Holly's voice rose. "Tell me how did Lucy thank you for saving her…oh wait she didn't because the goons still have her.”
The words stung.
Maybe she was right; maybe it would be good to have Holly come with him. It would be good to have some company and it would be good to have someone watching his back when he was facing those goons. Plus who knows Lucy better than her sister, and Holly was smart, she could help him locate the goons. And a rich girl like her would be able to provide all the supplies they would need for the journey.
“Alright” he spoke with no real emotion. He saw the shock on her face. So even though the princess had been determined she was coming she hadn't expected him to actually agree to it.
“Alright?” she raised an eyebrow. She wanted him to say it. She knew how much it would pain him to say it.
“Alright” he started off sharp and forced himself to soften his voice. In her defense, she had just lost her sister to goons. “You can come.”
Holly cleared her throat.
“Good. So…” She seemed to breathe the word out. She didn't want to do this. “When do we set off?”
“Well first we gotta get some supplies you know food, water, money, clothes etc.”
“I’ll take care of that. You just use your little criminal brain to figure out where those goons have taken my sister.” And with that Holly got up and walked out. Her walked had no little bounce like Lucy’s. No she walked around like she was on a catwalk. Oh goodie, he thought. I’ve agreed to bring Barbie along.
James suddenly realized he was no longer in his own clothes. Who had changed his clothes? Where was his hoodie? Who on earth wore this?
He was in silk black pajamas with gold sown in at the cuffs and neckline. There was a pocket above the heart also with a gold outline. God if he was expected to put a pocket hankie in the pocket... In the middle of the pocket, sown in the same gold as the rest were the initials J.C. J.C? James thought. Who on earth is J.C?
“John Cordel,” Holly’s voice snapped him back into reality. “My father,” She had reappeared in the doorway holding his clothes in her right hand and two rucksacks in her left. “I had your clothes washed.” She saw the disgusted look on his face. “They were covered in blood and mud what did you expect. That I would let you cover my room in filth?” So this was Holly’s room? Made sense, the room was practically screaming Holly....and hadn't she mentioned he was in her bed? God how hadn't he noticed earlier. Idiot, James' angry man had found a way back into his thought pattern.
“Well then, where can I change?” The confused look on Holly's face made him smile. “Sorry to disappoint you sweetheart but I ain’t gunna change in front of you am I. And anyway you need to change too.”
“What’s wrong with these clothes?!” Holly seemed appalled that he was insulting her clothes.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Her expression didn't change. “We are going after your sister and you think you can wear your shopping clothes.”
“Dear god these aren't my shopping clothes. No not at all. How could you possible think that? These are my athletic clothes.” Holly did a little twirl to show off her clothes.
"They look more like pajamas to me." James didn't know anything about clothes; but they had to be pajamas.
“Well what do you suggest I wear then?” Holly put her hands on her hips.
James walked over to her wardrobe and flung it open. He made a disgusted noise. It was the girlyest thing he had ever seen. Unlike his wardrobe which held only a few hoodies on hangers on one side, and a few shirts, vests and jeans on the other, this wardrobe seemed to have levels. On the bottom there were multiple shoes of many shapes, sizes and colours, and then on the next level there was a variety of skirts, leggings and tights. The next level consisted of shirts, long and short sleeved, and vests, and on the final level there was jackets and...hats. Really, James thought. Hats?
James pulled out a black hoodie, black vest, black leggings and black pumps. “Put these on.”
“What!” Holly looked disgusted. “Absolutely not, those are Lucy’s clothes.”
Of course they were, James thought. Princess wouldn't be seen dead wearing this.
“Don’t care" James said. "Put ‘em on.”
“No," Holly crossed her arms over her chest. "Its not fair; you get to wear your clothes."
“Unless you want me to wear your father’s PJ's to rescue your sister I don’t really have a choice do I.” He wasn't going to get through to her like this. He needed a new approach. “Look...” James made his voice as soft as possible. “I know this isn't really your style, but whatever clothes you wear are going to get ruined. Now do you want to ruin your own clothes that you seem to care for deeply, or do you want to ruin these clothes that you don’t seem to like very much at all.”
“Fine.” She was defeated. “I’ll wear them.” Then as fast as lightning she grabbed the clothes from his, dropped them and the rucksacks on the bed and shoved him out of the room. Shoving his clothes into his chest she said, “Go across the hall and change, then meet me in the hall and we will set off to get Lucy.” Seeing the shocked and confused look on his face she continued. “Sorry sweetheart you didn't expect me to change in front of you did you?” and with a smile she shut the door on his face. Only stopped by James lodging his foot in the doorway.
"Where's the food princess?" James smirked. "I've been asleep three days, I need something in my stomach."
"You'll get your food when you're changed." Holly kicked James' foot out the doorway and close her door on him.
“Well looks like princess has got some bite,” James muttered to himself. As James crossed the hallway he found himself smiling and laughing for a good reason, for the first time since he met Holly.