We moved on a Saturday in late August. I hated the place from the moment the U-Haul pulled up. I couldn’t believe how filthy it was; there was graffiti everywhere, even on the steps. At the bottom, they sunk into the ground leaving a quarter step on one side and a half on the other. I imagined they kept going down past the ground all the way to hell.
The nightmare continued when my Mom and I went up to see the apartment. It took up half the second floor but the layout was shitty. I mean, there were two doors, but both opened into the same hall, one near each of the stairwells. If the hall was ever on fire, we were screwed.
Mom started looking at the kitchen and I could hear her muttering about how dirty everything was. You could tell that the last people living there didn’t clean anything before they left. I’m not even sure they ever cleaned the bathroom. It was too gross for words. I decided that if Mom wanted me to clean it, I wanted one of those contamination suits and a flamethrower.
Just across the hall was the door to what was to be my room. It was way too small; I didn’t think I could fit in half my stuff. I just wanted to cry, why did everything have to go wrong just as I started the last year of school? It was supposed to be my best year, a senior, maybe on the student council, maybe Prom Queen. Instead I was stuck in a ghetto, well, as close as Ottawa gets to one, anyway.
It started two months ago, when Dad lost his job at some investment firm. He was a manager of some sort . I tried asking what he did once and he talked for an hour trying to explain it to me. At the end I still had no idea. Maybe if he could communicate better, then we wouldn’t have ended up moving from our house in Rockcliffe, with its in-ground pool, and basement games room, to this dump off Mechanicsville. You can tell by the name that it’s not the most prestigious area of town, not even as good as Chinatown or Little Italy. At least they have cool stores and good ethnic restaurants. Mechanicsville just has cruddy bars and street fights and sirens every night. Needless to say, I hate it here. So does Mom. I hear her and Dad fighting sometimes, when they think I’m asleep.
But I was damned if I’d be seen crying when Dad yelled up the stairs at us to start carrying stuff in. “I might be the man of the house, but I’m not going to do it all.” I guess he was accepting his ‘limitations as a human being’ or some other excuse he learned from those stupid talk shows. I hated the way he talked after he got fired. He was so weak, so useless. And on the one day we were supposed to make a good impression? It was so embarrassing.
Two hours later, I was hot, tired, dusty and sick to death of moving. As I trudged down the steps for one more box, a girl pushed herself off the truck where she’d been lounging. She was smoking; something I’d rarely seen someone my age do in public. She had waist length black hair with hot pink streaks, and was wearing jeans with holes at the knees. But these weren’t fashion a la mode holes; they were more like “I can’t afford new jeans” holes. I don’t give a shit for your opinion holes. She was probably the coolest person I’d ever seen. Forget the Holy Spirit, I had my Holey Jeans.
A couple of her friends were standing on the sidewalk by the truck, looking at me like I was a bug under a microscope. And not a very interesting bug, at that.
“You shouldn’t be leaning on the truck, my dad won’t like it.” I couldn’t believe I just said that. I sounded so geeky. As she stood up from the truck, she gave me a challenging look that invited a fight. I figured she could clean the street with me, so I changed my tone fast.
“Hi. We’re just moving in.”
The girls rolled their eyes while Holey Jeans just continued staring. “No shit, Sherlock,” she sneered. Behind me I could hear Dad’s footsteps coming toward the door. He’d be out here any second, and would freak if he saw them touching the rented truck. He was adamant that we couldn’t afford to pay for any repairs, not the tiniest scratch.
I guess the girls heard him too, because Holey Jeans flicked her still burning cigarette at my face and stepped onto the sidewalk. She curled her lip at my involuntary flinch. Then she leaned in close to me and whispered silkily.
“Watch your step, daddy’s girl because if you make a wrong move, I’ll cut your pretty face.” Not that I needed convincing but one of her crew added, “She’s done it before, even did time for assaulting some skank.” The smoke-filled air...