She walked back from the grocery store slowly, she wanted to enjoy the bliss of being outside before she entered the house, she loved the whispering of the pines on the street, and the grasses that brushed her legs, she loved the breeze that caressed her tired skin, sometimes she’d swing her hands in the air and forget life for a second, she’d always pluck handfuls of dailies to keep in the old house, or pluck hibiscus flowers for Sterling. She rarely stepped out of the house, just once in a blue moon she’d go down to the local grocery around the block and shop the little things they sold.
She climbed up the stairs with the railings threatening to fall apart, the stairs were covered with dust that’d take a decade to clean, the place smelled of petrol and oil. The aged door squeaked as Stella pushed it open gently, trying not to wake Sterling, he was sleeping when she left. The floor boards creaked noisily no matter how quiet she tried to be. It was a very old house, they’ve been hiding in here for three months. She entered the house humming her favorite song, she’d make pasta for her and Sterling, and a cup of milk to make him sleep better. These luxuries have been rarities for a long while. She walked past the living room and into the bedroom and found Sterling still sleeping peacefully with that adorable look she loved so much. She found a paper on his chest, she was sure she didn’t drop anything on his body while leaving. Her body tensed and alarms rang in her head as she picked up the paper. “We see you’ve been taking care of the boy. If you run to the sky, we’ll always find you. It’s a promise I made to you, and you know I always keep my words”. She knew it. They’ve found her, again, as usual. Just when she was about settling down and relaxing in this new hideout, they discovered her again.
Where are they? How did they get in?? It was a useless question anyway, they always knew how to find her and get in to wherever she was. She picked Sterling up and walked out of the room, looking around carefully. She walked into the living room and found them there. How? What? She walked past the living room few minutes ago and they weren’t there. Five of them, she knew them, and another man? The Don himself. He came with them this time. Are they here to finally kill her and take her baby?.
“St, long time no see. My boys found you again huh? Your hiding game is whack. We will always find you“. The Don bellowed with his Alpha voice while the others laughed. He motioned to Jubril and he took Sterling from her and back to the room. The way they always handled him with care baffled her, but they always treated her roughly.
She scowled at them, she wanted to say a lot of vile things to the devils. Before she could think or utter a word, Jack and Jill dealt her slaps and blows until she started to see things. Her eyes whirled, her brain felt wooly. Blood trickled from her forehead and nose, some more blood was splattered on the floor
“Stella, you know how it is, if you try to play games with us, we will show you how games are played. You know I’ll always know what you’re up to and I know Sterling is being taken care of, well done St. I promised you we’re coming for him and you know I always keep my words. Run to the sky, we’ll follow you there. It’s fun, innit?”. He said with his gruffy voice. Him, and the whole gang, smelled of cigarette, the rich people’s cigarette, and pipe, and expensive wine, and the smell of being indoors in big mansions and surrounded by shelves filled with old books and documents, dressed in their heavy black mafia coats. They did not smell or look like the typical poor touts with brown teeth and local gin and worn out clothes.
They filed out of the house while Jill flung few money notes at her. She knew what the money was for, they wanted her to always take care of Sterling. She hated to always take the money but she had no choice, that was their only means of survival. She could not work, they’d always find her workplace and stalk her, scare her; she quit working, for the sake of her colleagues and for Sterling’s sake. One time she worked as a waitress, a fine young man had come to order strawberry pie, he kept coming everyday until one day he came dressed in that mafia coat and made her sit with him at his table all day. From afar, you’d think they were having a heart to heart, but he was gently whispering threats and terror to her. Her boss had come to know why she was sitting with a customer, only for him to make her boss kneel there under gunpoint. After that encounter, her boss asked her to leave and never come back
She made to stand, staggering and falling down a few times. She thought of how it all started. Two years back, she had met Frederick, he was very good looking and wealthy. He called her ST. His charms drew her in and she fell head over heels soon enough. Things became steamy and in six months they were married in court. He made her feel warm butterflies, he treated her like a goddess. As much as she knew, he owned a business in the United States. Three months into the marriage, she became pregnant with Sterling. By the time her pregnancy was due, Frederick hardly came home, everything felt like he was running away from someone. She was concerned, she asked but he gave vague answers. Sterling was born, the day he clocked four months, they had gone to the movies, these men stalked and waited for them at the car. That was the day she knew what Fred was into, and the day her woes started. He was member of a city gang, he was next to the boss, well trusted and loved; but he took them for granted, he looted a lot of funds into unknown accounts and made secret plans to take over the ‘throne’; when Sterling was born, he set up an account for him and transferred all the money there and registered landed properties in his name. That was how Sterling got dragged into the mess. Sterling was one year and two months when Frederick died, she had come home to meet him lying dead on the bed, with a knife in his chest, her phone beeped with a message that read “St, it just began. We’re coming for the boy, he belongs to us. Run to the sky, we’ll always find you. It’s a promise”. She knew how the gang operated, they revenged in hundred folds. She was so scared, she ran away with her son that day. And she’s been running, for eight months. She could not talk to anyone about it, they’d hurt the people she told. She could not report to the police, the police was scared of the gang too. All she could do was run and hide, and when they found her, she’d run again. One would think Frederick and the whole family killed their boss, all Fred did was betray the gang.
She picked up few necessities and strapped Sterling on her back and sped out of the house. She ran as fast as she could until she got tired. She flagged down a cab and gave him the address of her grandma’s. She did not care anymore, she needed to be with someone. She did not know any other abandoned or lonely place to run to.
She got there and stepped out while the cab driver stared at her suspiciously, she probably looked like an escapee from hell or something. She walked into the porch and checked the flower pot for the spare key, she knew that mama won’t be around at that time of the day and she’d keep the spare key for her house keeper. Walking into the house, everything felt and looked the same, the old yet charming decor, the natural flower with water filled vases, the welcoming scent of Old Spice. She breathed in the smell of home and safety, something she’s not felt for years now. She knew though, deep down, she was not safe yet, Sterling was not safe yet.
The orange beam of the setting sun peaked into the room. She opened her eyes and the events of the day and past months flooded her memory. Maybe she should lose her memory for a bit. Or maybe she should be strong for her, for Sterling, for the life she’s lost, and maybe for Frederick. She didn’t know how the gang wanted to do it, but she knew they would take Sterling, maybe when he grew older, their properties and money was in his name, and maybe they wanted to make him one of them too. They could just kill her, or seize Sterling; but they loved to torture her, to make her restless and miserable, to make her run and run and cry and cower in fear everytime, they enjoyed the mind games and the hide and seek. Sterling finally woke up and started whimpering. She took him, bathed him in grandma’s vanilla bubble bath, fed him mashed potatoes and yoghurt. By the time they were done, it was night already. Granny was not home yet. She was scared a bit, have they followed her here and maybe went in search of granny and took her? They always hurt the people she ran too. She came here cos she needed Granny’s strength and comfort, deep down she knew the woman was safe.
She carried Sterling out to the garden at the backyard, breathing in the scent of fresh roses and dandelions gave her peace for a while. She was determined to be strong and fight, they would not take Sterling, he did nothing to them. The decision caused a surge of happiness and strength in her and even she didn’t know when the fight would end, she knew it would end and she’d win. Or so she hoped.
Sterling sat on her legs, he would be two years in the next two weeks. Tears flowed down her cheeks, he deserved a life, a real life. The little boy looked up at her and smeared the tears with his tiny fingers, maybe in a bid to wipe them. He gave her his one in a billion smile. He knew nothing about what life had thrown at them.
She looked up at the starry sky, she spotted a shooting star. She was elated.
“Baby, look up, that’s a shooting star, make a wish“. She whispered to him
She looked up, and made a wish. With tears of mixed feelings flooding her eyes and raining down her cheeks, she shut her eyes.