Trigger Warning: Transphobic/homophobic/bigoted language used. Violence, weaponry and blood are also in this chapter.
The cold weather was fast approaching, so Pepper, Rose and I were trying to make the most of the few days we had left to sleep outside. When it started to grow colder, we’d have to move our bags into the bathroom to stay warmer. The floors in there were disgusting, so we’d try to prolong it as much as we could.
Things were tense between all of us though. Rose was going out tomorrow to start doing sex work, and Pepper was not happy about it. He didn’t want her to get hurt. I was neutral on the situation, I knew it was dangerous but it felt like our best shot at getting out of here.
“So, guys,” Rose chimed in after a few moments of silence. “I found this great little swamp house, its kind of a mess. But its super cheap and in a few months we’d be able to afford it. What do you think?” Rose bit her lip nervously.
“A swamp house?” Pepper wrinkled his nose. “You mean that abandoned shack a few blocks over?”
“Yea, that’s the one.” She smiled, as if she were talking about a large mansion on the beach.
“That place is a dump, Rosie.” He half-frowned.
“I know, but at least it’s a roof. It’s better than freezing our asses off out here.” She retorted.
“She has a point, dude. A shitty roof is better than no roof.” I offered. Sure, it didn’t sound like a castle but it would be much warmer than this.
“I guess, yea. Is it safe? Like is there mold or anything? And will we have time before someone wants to buy it?” Pepper asked, rapidly firing each question like a gun.
“It’s safe, yea. I checked it out the other day. And it’s not exactly being bid on.” She giggled cutely.
“Alright, I’m in.” Pepper agreed reluctantly. I could tell he wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but I think we all wanted a roof over our heads.
“HEY!” A gruff, male voice boomed from the other side of the park, interrupting our conversation.
“Where you at, Clementine?” He yelled angrily. “I know you’re here.” The man taunted. I looked nervously at my friends, unsure what to do. “Come on out, Princess.”
“They usually sit behind the bathroom, Hemp.” A familiar voice informed the angry man. Jean.
“Thanks, doll.” The man named Hemp thanked her, his tone reminding me of my step-father. There footsteps quickly approached our hiding spot behind the building. My heart pounded, my body froze. I had no idea what to do.
Rose whimpered, which broke me out of my frozen state. I jumped up, fists balled, ready to take on whoever was coming over here. My mind told me I was no where near strong enough to take on anyone over the age of twelve, but my adrenaline rush made me ignore it. I had to protect my family.
“Well, well, well.” The man named Hemp finally came into view. He spoke slowly, tauntingly. Like a predator playing with it’s prey. Behind him, Jean stood with her arm draped lazily over a pretty girl’s shoulders. Jean had a sly smile on her face, and I instantly knew this was her doing.
“Oh my darling, Clementine.” The man smirked. The use of my old name made me ball my fists. I’d always hated that name, but it sounded even more vile coming from his lips.
“The fuck do you want?” I spat.
“Mmm, you haven’t heard? You’re a very wanted woman.” He knew he was pushing my buttons, I could tell by his amused expression. My fists were balled so hard, my nails digging hard into my palms. I thought I’d draw blood, but I wouldn’t let him see how his words effected me.
“Yea, I know I’m wanted.”
“Do you know how wanted you are? The person who returns you to the queen gets five million, and your hand in marriage.” My face dropped. I didn’t know this. He knew I didn’t know this. That sick fuck was enjoying every last minute of this.
“Oh yea? Good luck getting me back there. I’m not going without a fight.” I balled my fists harder, though I felt like a toddler trying to fight a tiger.
“Mm, that would be a problem, my darling.” He smirked, pulling his shirt up slightly to reveal a knife strapped to his pants.
“Fuck off Hemp. Leave him alone.” Rose jumped up and flung herself in front of me. “He’s not going anywhere with anyone but us. If you want him, you’ll have to get through me.”
“Shut the fuck up, Rock. You couldn’t fight me if you tried. You’ve always been a little sissy ass bitch.” He smirked, he really got off on using our dead names.
“Oh really? Did you think I was a sissy ass bitch when you fucked me in the locker room in eleventh grade?” Rose retorted. Hemp’s eyes flashed with anger, and I knew this wasn’t going to end well.
“Fuck you, queer! That shit never happened.” He screamed as he lunged towards Rose. His fist connected with her face, a loud thud echoing through the mountains around us.
Rose landed on the ground, her hands taking the brunt of her fall. “Never, once was enough. You’re too small for me.” Rose spat something out on the ground, it looked like a tooth covered in blood.
“You little faggot!” Hemp pulled his knife from his waist and crouched down over Rose. For a split second, she looked up at me and we made eye contact. Her expression was urging me to do something, but I knew she didn’t want me to help her. She wanted me to run.
But I couldn’t, I was frozen on the spot.
Rose looked back at her attacker, not a single trace of fear in her face. “Kill me if you want, but just know you can’t enjoy five million dollars while in prison.” She spat at him.
“I won’t go to prison, dumbass. No one cares about a queer like you. You’re nothing. Besides, I’ll be a fucking prince. I’ll be above the damn law.” He gave her that creepy little smirk, just before plunging the knife into her stomach and twisting it.
“I. Will. Fucking. Kill. You!” Pepper raged from beside me, pulling my eyes away from my dying friend.
“What’re you going to do about it, Pansy?” He pulled the knife from Rose’s side with a sickening squelch. He stood over her body carelessly, as if she weren’t even a person.
“I’ll fight you, motherfucker. To the death, if I have to. Though, I’d prefer if it were your death.” Pepper taunted back. I’d never seen him like this. He was so fierce, so protective. It ignited something in me.
“Mmm, maybe not.” A creepy smile slowly slid across his face. He dropped the knife, it bounced off Rose and landed somewhere in the grass. “I’ve got bigger plans for you, Pansy.”
“Fine, take me. Let Thorn go. I’ll do whatever you want.” He dropped his tough guy demeanor. I had no idea what he was doing, and it scared me. Part of me knew he was about to do something stupid. But, on the other hand, my heart soared at the fact that he’d sacrifice himself for me.
Hemp pounced at Pepper, swinging his large arm towards my friend’s face. Pepper was faster though, and was able to duck. But in some freaky, martial arts looking move, Hemp swung Pepper around and grabbed him roughly by the waist.
“Thorn, run!” Pepper yelled, while fighting against his attacker.
“Wineberry, Jean, don’t let her get away!” Hemp screamed as I started to fly off as fast as I could.
“Find Rose’s dream house, Thorn! I’ll meet you there.” Pepper screamed after me. I didn’t exactly know where I was going, but I was about to find out.
I just hoped that both of us would make it there alive.