Disclaimer: I don't own Curse Workers. Holly Black does (but I could do a con to steal it from her -hahahaha. Okay,

sorry).


Almost Even

Being a cat had its upsides.

For instance: despite the cold night, my fur kept me warm. I had better vision, hearing and sense of smell; I could get inside almost anywhere, on top of almost anything. And, on the edge of a rooftop, where it would be so easy for a human to slip and fall, I could keep balance easily. In lots of ways, being a cat made me superior to regular people.

I loathed it.

More than that, I loathed humans. I hated them for proudly parading around in two legs. I detested them for being tale-free and not pestered by fleas. I was enraged seeing women run their hands through their beautiful, treated hair, when all I had was a dirty coat of fur and paws, and even more pissed off to remember the days I had prettier hair and better nails in my hands then they could ever dream off, back when I could afford to be vain about what I had. Back when I had something to be vain about.

Yet, three people, men, I hated in particular. Three brothers – the three brothers who had stolen my life and kept me prisoner for years. The ones I could blame for all that had happened to me. After all, it was their fault. And one of them I hated most.

Really, I shouldn't. One should not be honored anymore than the others; they all had merit. There was Phillip, who managed to be so cold and professional while trying to kill me, and later, while enslaving me.

There was also Barron, the dirty son of a bitch, who kept me on a cage, with a collar, like I'd always been an animal, instead of his ex-girlfriend. The same guy who also, more often than what could be accidental, forgot to feed me or give me water or clean my cage, leaving me hungry and thirsty and filthy.

Yet – though Barron was strong competition -, I still hated the third one more. He was the one I was closer to and had trusted (as much as I was capable of trusting, having grown up in the world I did) more than any other friend. The one who took that trust and smashed it to smithereens.

Cassel Sharpe.

There he was now, standing on the very tip of the roof, blank-eyed and unmoving. Vulnerable. And that was my doing. I had brought him here. I made him stand so dangerously close to the fall. I held his fate in my hands. If I decided I wanted him dead, he would die.

I hadn't felt so powerful in years.

In an odd way, Cassel and I had the makings to be comrades in this little war. He, too, was controlled by his brothers. But while I was actually forced into it, he was manipulated, and as any good con artist knows, manipulation can be fought perfectly well, if you are an even better manipulator.

Also, he was still free, part time. He still got to go to school and make friends and date and go to parties and talk to his mother. What did I have? Nothing. They left me nothing. I couldn't even sleep in a bed or eat real food or even talk. And after so long under Barron's care, I could barely say to have dignity. All I had was revenge.

And that's what I was here for.

Well, not only revenge, though that was a sweet, sweet bonus. They were plotting to kill my father. I couldn't allow that. I intended to show them just why you don't mess with the Zacharovs.

And, being Cassel their weapon, he would have to go.

I wished that he could be awake for this, and that he had his memories. I wanted him to look at me, knowing who I was, and that he felt scared, but that at the same time he still trusted me never to hurt him. And then realizing how wrong he really was.

Just like I had.

I didn't like thinking about it, but remembering was so easy. The memories flowed like a river; firmly ignoring the dam I had built up. I could feel again the cold floor under my back as Barron held me. I could feel the anger, the confusion and the reluctant fear. I could see Cassel walking down the stairs and freaking out, both at his expression and the way he pinned me down even stronger than his brother.

Yet, I could also remember – however ashamed – of the rush of relieve and trust that came down on me when he whispered "run" in my ear, because I really believed he would protect me. He was Cassel. He was my friend. He would never hurt me. He loved me.

Supposedly.

And then I could feel the regret that followed; cold and bitter, soaked in disappointment.

But now I could get even. No one would know that he hadn't committed suicide. Well, his brothers would probably guess. At least, I hoped they did. It wasn't like I hadn't left enough clues behind. First off, I wasn't where I was supposed to be. Then there was my curse and the fact that I hated them. And they would recognize my work, I think. It wasn't the first time I had gotten myself inside a building and led someone to death.

I was more than capable of doing it. And, given proper incentive – such as tip a very unbalanced scale back to place – I might even enjoy it. I just had to make him jump.

Now.

I focused on making him take that one last step, but as the seconds ticked, nothing happened. Frantically, I wondered if there was something wrong with my curse, but somehow, I knew that wasn't it. I still had the power to go through; I was just not being able to.

Do it, Lila. Come on, do it now.

I was pushing, but nothing changed. For some reason, I found myself staring at his face, really looking at him for the first time since I was fourteen, wondering how, even though he was so different – tall and strong; a man's body instead of the boy he used to be -, he could still look exactly the same.

Now! NOW!

A desperate meow left my throat, and I hoped that the sound would make me angrier, forcing me to take action. And I did get madder. But I still didn't do anything.

What is your problem? This is what you've been waiting for!

The wind had picked up. It made Cassel's hair flap around, as did my fur. Black and white.

He's a rat. He stabbed your back. It's only fair.

Someone could show up any minute now. I didn't know how often the students around here sneaked out, to smoke or whatever. If they were anything like me, a lot. Plus, my great vision didn't change the fact that I had no idea what time it was. Dawn could be approaching. I knew that, if I wanted to do it, I had to do it soon. And I wanted to. So why couldn't I?

Just do it! It'll feel better afterwards.

I had to stop remembering. I had to act.

You thought he loved you.

What was wrong with me?

You might have loved him.

Fuck!

I turned my back to Cassel, seething, hating him more than ever, and myself right along, which only served to make me furious. I couldn't do it. I waited so long, he did so much to deserve it, yet I just couldn't do it. The daughter of a crime family boss, once supposed to be boss herself, couldn't even kill an enemy. It was pathetic. If my father could see me, he would be disappointed.

I didn't want to think about what had stopped me. I didn't want to give my reasons a name, or even admit they were there. Instead I focused on what I would do next.

I couldn't very well go back. My failure didn't change them trying to kill my dad. They had a good plan, so there was no relying on the odds of them failing. And they were conmen who – theoretically - worked to the Mob. Snowmen would be successful at a coup d'état down in hell before the Sharpe brothers had their consciences getting in their way. I could only see one way to stop that.

Cassel was a powerful Worker. Probably the most powerful in actuality. Even without his memories, he would be a great ally. Although I preferred eating cat crap – and I knew what went on them – than admitting it, I needed him. If I couldn't kill him, I would have to get his help.

Before I could change my mind, I jumped from the roof, easily finding the snow guards and window sills that formed a path down, leaving Cassel, the weight of my failure and my troubled mind behind.

I hit the floor just as he woke up.