Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This short story is based on the #sunscribbles Twitter prompt, Crash, the images below, a restaurant trip, and characters from Brothers Through Fire: about two orphans. The younger brother is now a sister, and it’s a couple of months since they ended up on the streets. Enjoy!
Shelter from the Storm:
Lightning flashed across the sky and reflected off broken window panes, illuminating the abandoned warehouse and the boy inside. It was a crude shelter, if a building with gaping holes in the ceiling could be called a shelter, but it was the best they could find.
Jono ran a shaky hand through his hair and winced when a drop of water splashed onto his head. A crash followed another flash, and a rumble drowned out the rumbling of his stomach. The heavens opened and created a crescendo on what was left of the roof. He leapt back, under an intact section of roof, and grimaced as the door creaked open.
Nina stepped through the doorway and dropped her soaking coat to the floor. ‘Aww man! Seth, it’s wet in here too!’
Seth scowled and tossed Jono the single bag he carried. Jono fumbled and caught it. He delved inside and pulled out a single loaf of bread.
‘Sorry, it was all I could get before they noticed us.’
‘And these,’ Nina added. She pulled a couple of chocolate bars from her oversized pockets.
Seth glared at her. ‘I told you to leave the stealing to me.’
She looked away. ‘I know, but they were watching you so closely, an’ no one ever notices me.’
‘That’s not the point!’ Seth sighed heavily and stifled a cough. ‘Don’t do it again, okay?’
‘But I want to help too!’
Jono grinned and placed a hand on her shoulder. ‘Just don’t get caught then.’
Seth shot him a glare and headed for the pile of tatty blankets in the corner. Jono followed him and lay the loaf of bread in the empty wooden crate beside their sleeping area.
‘I was thinking, instead of chocolate sandwiches, maybe we get something different?’
‘We’ve tried, the store owners around here recognise us now. Unless you have a better idea?’
Jono bit his lip and nodded. ‘I might, but it’s a long shot, and if it doesn’t work we’ll be soaked AND hungry.’
Seth grit his teeth, but Nina smiled. ‘We’re already soaked and hungry. Let’s try it.’
They huddled close together and set out into the stormy night. Thunder rolled, lightning flashed, rain splashed their legs, but they didn’t go far. A few twists and turns away from the warehouse, Jono tugged them under a shop awning and pointed triumphantly to a rustic restaurant.
Seth raised an eyebrow. ‘They’re closed, and even if they weren’t we don’t have any money.’
Jono flushed and looked away. ‘I know, but I’ve been casing the place. The girl who has the keys always forgets to close the window at the back. See!’
He was right. The window at the back, concealed in an alleyway, was ajar. ‘It’s probably on the latch, idiot.’
‘Am not!’ Jono retorted. ‘I tried it last week, and it’s easy to slide open.’
‘I learned more from my dad than how to avoid his fists,’ Jono replied. Seth winced, but Jono continued before he could offer any sympathy. ‘He was a chef, before he became a drunk. I’ll cook us something, then we’ll leave again before anyone finds us.’
Seth sighed. ‘Fine, but we better not get caught.’
Jono flashed him a smile and led the way towards the window in a low crouch, concealed by the shadows from the few passers-by crazy enough to be out so late in this weather. They reached the window and Jono pulled it open. ‘I’ll go first. You send Nina in if the coast is clear.’
Seth nodded as Jono scrambled inside, and he pulled Nina back against the wall to wait. A few moments later Jono reached a hand through the window. Seth hefted Nina into his waiting arms and climbed in after her. He squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the large dining area, littered with an assortment of rustic tables and chairs.
Jono gestured towards a back room. ‘Kitchen’s that way.’
They followed him across the dining area and into the kitchen. Nina ran to the fridge and swigged some juice from the carton, but Seth followed more cautiously. ‘No cameras?’
‘Just near the tills, and we avoided those,’ Jono replied. He opened the cupboards and placed some pans on the stove. ‘See if they have any candles, will ya? Don’t wanna risk the lights.’
Seth nodded and hunted through the drawers. Utensils. Cloths. Candles! But the worn match book beside them only had one match left, and it broke in two when he tried to light it. He bit his lip. Jono had his head in the fridge. He had time. He set up the candles and raised his palm. Flames flickered in his hand, and he directed them towards the candles. He smiled softly as they lit, but withdrew his hand as if a snake had bitten it when Jono leaned over his shoulder.
‘Found some, huh? Cool. Take a seat, dinner’ll be ready in no time!’
Seth wrung his shaking hands together and leaned against the counter. Nina leapt onto the opposite counter and nodded towards Jono. He closed his eyes to block her out. Was she right? Would it really be so terrible if Jono found out about his magic? He must have nodded off, because the next thing he knew Jono was shaking him, and the steaks, potatoes and vegetables he’d been preparing were nearly done.
‘You all right?’ Jono was frowning. ‘Did you doze off?’
‘Maybe,’ Seth replied around a yawn. ‘Looks good.’
‘Yeah, it’s nearly done!’ Nina said with a pout. ‘You missed it all, big brother.’
He ruffled her hair. Jono seemed none the wiser regarding his powers, but maybe he’d be okay with them… ‘Get us some plates, Nina.’
Nina nodded and sent him a meaningful look as she passed him on the way to the cabinets at the other end of the kitchen. He leaned beside Jono and folded his arms. Surely after squatting together for a couple of months, after Jono had stolen medicine for Nina from the hospital, he could trust him? He met Jono’s eyes and swallowed the wave of anxiety, hoping the friendship they’d built wasn’t about to come crashing down around them. ‘Can we talk?’
‘Sure, what’s up?’ Jono turned down the heat to keep the food warm and nudged his shoulder.
‘I’ve…’ Seth wrung his hands together and started again. ‘I’ve been keeping something from you. Something important.’
Jono narrowed his eyes. ‘Did my father send you to drag me back home?’
‘No! Nothing like that.’ He looked away. ‘I have magic.’
‘Like, you can do tricks?’
‘Nope.’ Seth raised his palm and summoned a small flame.
Jono’s eyes widened, and he turned on Seth with a pout. ‘You mean ta tell me that last week, when it snowed an we were freezin’ half ta death, you could’a summoned us a fire?’
‘Um. Maybe? It doesn’t usually work if I’m sick.’
‘You were sick and you didn’t say anything?!’
‘Keep it down! I didn’t want to worry Nina. I’m fine now.’ He coughed, and his chest rattled.
Jono wrapped an arm around his shoulders. ‘We’re sleeping here tonight, and you’re going to make us a big fire, okay?’
Seth nodded and trembled against him. ‘Okay. You’re not mad?’
‘Oh, I’m furious,’ Jono replied with a wry smile. ‘But not about the magic.’
Seth returned the smile and stifled another cough. ‘Thank you.’
‘Don’t mention it.’
Nina returned with the plates, and they dished up the food and blew out the candles. Seth met her eyes as they made their way towards the fireplace in the dining room, and her smile was brilliant when he crouched in front of it and held out a palm. They settled in front of the blazing fire to eat, and afterwards they pulled down the thick woollen curtains and huddled together underneath them.
Jono nudged Seth in the side. ‘Better than a leaky warehouse, right?’
Seth smirked. ‘It’s passable, but I doubt we can come back. They’ll notice the missing food.’
‘Maybe they won’t,’ Nina said with a dreamy look in her eyes. ‘I want more steak.’
‘Me too.’ Seth carded his fingers through her hair and they drifted off, lulled by the warmth seeping into their bones and stomachs full of rich food.
They awoke to a clatter, and a crash as the door banged open. Sunlight filtered through the open door, and a burly man with a moustache stared at them, jaw dropped. Seth nudged Jono awake and dragged a sleepy Nina around the chairs towards the window. Jono reached it first and leapt outside.
‘Hey! Get back here!’
Seth ignored the man and bundled Nina into his friend’s waiting arms. He glanced over his shoulder and flung himself out of the window after them, just in time to avoid the man’s outstretched fingers. The clatter of their feet down the alleyway matched the harshness of their breath, but when he looked back, the streets were empty. They hadn’t been followed, but it was a close call, and they wouldn’t be able to crash at the restaurant again.
Thanks for reading!
I like these characters and return to them from time to time. This’ll probably be a full length novel one day, along with the other 4 projects I’ve been bouncing between for NaNoWriMo! (Also this is dialogue heavy, probably to make up for the lack of dialogue in last month’s story!)
Share lines with #sunscribbles every week on Twitter, or write a short story based around the prompt and share a blog link.
Next week? I’m reviewing Magic at Midnight 🙂