WAITING

Life is always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act.

Lucia walked in quick confident strides. She could tell she was being followed. The follower was a middle aged man with a goatee.

'6ft, weight undetermined, Caucasian, most likely a hired thug, judging by the cheap jeans and leather jacket.' She listed the information in her head, which she gathered from a quick glance as she was pretending to tie her runners. A normal person would feel trapped. Their palms would sweat, their stomach would slosh undigested material around otherwise causing 'butterflies', perhaps they would try to run or shake him off, perhaps they might go into a public area and hide amongst the crowds. Would they be afraid? Yes. Wouldn't you? Lucia felt none of these things. She hadn't even a developed concept of them. A fourteen year old young woman, unarmed, on her own and she felt nothing. Her mind just went through the procedure.

"Follower is unsuspicious. No other potential followers recognised. "

She was in a crowd. Busy pedestrians were on their way to work and other casual duties. She saw what she needed.

"Elderly pedestrian. Female. Dependant on walking stick. Small handbag on right shoulder."

The old woman was hobbling along, looking quite lost. Lucia tracked her movements as a fox tracks a wounded rodent. The pensioner meanwhile clutched her bag cautiously as the crowd pushed her around like a plastic bag caught in the breeze. Lucia felt no pity. She saw opportunity. The woman pushed through the crowd to a garda, who stood by his car, carelessly chatting on his mobile to someone Lucia didn't care about. When the elder was but a metre from the garda, she wheeled around and pretended to just notice the follower who, realising he had been spotted, began to thrash through the sea of people. She ran at the woman.

'What are you-'was all the old woman had time to say before the youth kicked the stick from under her to causing her to lose her balance. Lucia made a useless effort to pull the handbag from the lady's grasp. The garda spotted the commotion and sprinted over to the scene. He grabbed onto Lucia's waist and pulled her off. Lucia had to concentrate to stop herself from pushing free from the garda's clutches.

'What are ye at?' He shouted into her eardrum, as he dragged her away from the shocked elder.

Someone from the crowd moved over to the baffled woman and helped her up. Blood oozed from a shallow cut on her thumb. Lucia probably scratched it in the tussle. The dismayed woman looked at the girl, her creased face filled with venom.

'How dare you!' she spat.

Lucia began to cry. 'I-I am sorry. He said he'd kill me if I didn't. Please don't let him hurt me.' She wailed.

The garda screwed up his face.

'Easy there. Whose gona hurt ya?'

She pointed at someone in the crowd. He had a goatee and wore cheap jeans. He froze in the middle of bounding toward them. He then turned around and plunged through the crowd in haste.

'Stop!' The garda called, releasing Lucia and chasing after the thug.

She was free now and nobody was following her. The old woman waved her stick, encouraging the garda.

'Go on get him! Bloody hooligan!'

The old woman seemed a lot more confident now. Perhaps it was just being lost which unnerved her. Nobody was watching so she stopped crying. She felt something. It was like her heart was sinking and pressure was building in her head. She wanted to properly cry now, her breathing became sharp gasps. She must have felt it before. Lucia was never able to identify emotions. It was difficult for her. The emotion she was feeling was obviously a sense of frustration, but she did not know that. She had grown up giving names to what she felt instead of relating them with other people. She looked again at the old woman, who was still watching the garda chase the thug into the sunset. She decided to name the feeling- lost. She felt lost. She wanted to go somewhere quiet now.

'Hold on there.' Someone said in a commanding voice, grabbing her by the arm.

It was another garda. He wore the signature high visibility jacket. His face had a fat moustache filled with crumbs. In his free hand was a steaming cup of hot coffee.

'I believe you owe this woman an apolo-.' This was as far as he got. Lucia felt what she called orange. It was her favourite colour when she was younger and when she felt orange she did bad things so she named it orange, so as to make herself feel better. It had no effect though, she still did "bad things". In a quick move she freed herself and attempted to knock the cup into his ugly face. Her aim was to blind him but the hot tea only scalded his neck and arm.

'You little whore!' He yelped.

She took a deep breath through her nose, smelling coffee and began to run. The garda chased after her like a bull in the Spanish bull fighting festival. The coffee had only succeeded in slowing him down. Lucia would have to outrun him. This wasn't easy because of the fact people get out the way when they see a guard running whilst no-one did the same with Lucia. In fact three people jumped out and tried to stop her. Those people got a fright and her fist in their guts. She came to some stairs and leaped down them. At the last step she tripped. Her body smashed against the pavement. Her shoulder stung and her palms had scratched against the pavement causing skin to peel. When she tried to move her ankle screamed in protest. It felt tender, even the slightest movement was agony. She could hear the patter of the garda puffing down the stairs. She held her breath and lifted her body up. She hobbled as fast as she could up to an old building site and stopped under a graffiti covered bridge. It was covered with beer cans and cigarette butts. It smelt of sewage. Lucia would have run further. She stopped when she saw a figure at the other side of the wide tunnel under the bridge. This figure had a goatee. He looked surprised at first but then happy.

'Fancy this darlin.' He said reaching into his jacket.

He was foreign. His accent was West Virginian. She took a deep breath. She was determined to escape free. In that breath she noticed a faint smell among the sewage. It was coffee. She didn't even have to look behind to know that the garda was there. The man with the goatee took out a switch blade and clicked it.

'Well howdy there sir, I was just about to pick up my little sis from school when she went all skrits and I had to chase her all the way down here. Very sorry.'

'Yeah? Then what's the knife for?'

The American frowned darkly. 'So I can gut ya like a fish when you come over here. Got it?'

'I am warning you. I will use this.' He said holding out a can of pepper spray.

'You think that'll stop me from stabbing your eyes out. Come on try it Irishman.' He taunted raising his hands.

It was another opportunity. Lucia took advantage of it. With her good foot she propelled herself towards him and kneed the thug in the groin. He wailed and buckled. In the heat of the moment she forgot to move her head to the right and his forehead smashed into her. She bit her tongue; she tasted the iron tang of hot blood in her mouth. But she had to ignore it. Her hand shot out and palmed his face. It was a convenient way of giving your victim a concussion without the burden of hurting your knuckles. Her other hand grasped where he was holding the knife and she dug her nails into his skin. His grip loosened and the knife was now in her possession. She wasted no time, plunging the weapon where his diaphragm would be. She pushed him away and took a few steps back, keeping a safe distance. The American groaned. His knees buckled and he collapsed to the ground. She turned to the garda who held the spray in shaky hands. He opened and closed his mouth as if wanting to say something but lacking the words. Lucia took the knife and held it to her neck.

'W-wait don't.'

'I am tired of killing.' She announced, her words slightly slurred. Her accent was rich and almost unique. It surprised the garda.

'Put that down. You can stop killing. I will help you.'

She looked at the pepper spray then back to the man's face. He took the hint and hitched spray back into his belt.

'Okay? Now put it down.'

She stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. Slowly, she put the knife on the ground and stepped away from it. The garda walked over to her.

'Alright now. Where's your family?'

Lucia leapt at his face. She bit into his cheek, feeling the blood dribble down her chin. She held on, grinding her teeth deeper into the soft flesh. She let go and reached for his belt as he held his hands up to his face and took the spray. The garda screamed almost inhumanly as she burned his wound. He held up his hands to stop it and flung out wildly. Lucia stopped when he was on the ground. Now she had to act fast. She approached the dying American.

'Why did you attack?'

'I just wanted to show you a good time.' The American gibbered, his face pale from blood loss.

Lucia looked at his wound then at the pepper spray. She wondered something. The garda began to scream again. So she hobbled away.

She had tried to clean up the blood in a nearby puddle. But it was dry and stuck to her clothes. The water had turned crimson. At least she had been prepared for this. She was taught how to survive. But she still needed her family. They were essential for now. But what should happen if they become a burden? Lucia needed to talk to Soot. She was like Lucia. She was family. Lucia hoped she wasn't dead yet.