Chapter 14

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We walk and walk until we find ourselves on the very edge of the town. Down a dusty highway is miles and miles on wasteland. In the distance a few tall buildings can be seen, but haze makes them almost invisible. It's creepily silent.

I break that silence. "Do you ever wish you could just run? Leave this place and never look back?"

Marco kicks a rock into the wasteland. "I mean, I guess I have a few times. But then I think I'd be even worse off trying to cross that wasteland. At least here there's water and crap like that."

"But don't you think out there at least, you won't have to keep being reminded of all the terrible things here?"

He looks at me with a nervous glint in his eyes.

"Everywhere you turn, there's soldiers parading around like they own this place. Around every corner someone is crying out because they're dying. At least in that neverending dump, you don't hear everyone's suffering."

Marco takes my arm and begins to drag me back towards the town. "Let's head to the beach. Maybe that will take your mind off all that."

I drag my feet all the way to the shore. With each step a cloud of dust builds behind me. It floats lazily for a second before sputtering out into a heap of dirt.

The second we reach the boardwalk, the salty smell hits me right in the face. I let it wash over me in thick waves. Marco does the same.

"Race you to the ocean!" I scream as I bolt for the waves.

"Not fair!" Cries Marco as he tries to keep up.

I sprint with all my might until my ankles are submerged into the water. Thank God we don't have any shoes. It's icy cold temperature sends chills up my spine. I shiver as each wave smacks against my shins and sprays my face with a thin mist.

Marco catches up and splashes me. Water goes all over my shirt and in my hair. I kick up some water and I douse his shirt. We run around kicking up water and running around in the water until we're soaking wet, and freezing cold.

We start to head back to our little alley way. The setting sun warms our back as we head down the long road. By the time we get back, our clothes are nearly dry and our hair has stopped dripping. I pull out our things out of our nook and pull out fresh clothes. I hand a pair to Marco while he starts to set up beds for the night. I dig out some food and join Marco on the beds.

"So, we walked around, but we couldn't find any jobs." Admits Marco as he hands me a slice of bread. "I'm guessing that's the goal for tomorrow?"

I take a bite of bread. "We'll have to. You know what we're saving up for?"

"A beachside condo?"

"You betcha."

We threw our wet clothes out of our little hut. I wrap myself in the blanket and curl up by Marco. He finishes up his dinner and lies down next to me. We close our eyes and fall asleep to the gentle sound of the birds calling for each other.

We wake up the next morning to the sound of bustling town markets. The smell of freshly smoked meats and newly picked fruits surge around in the morning air. I slowly drag myself out of my cocoon of blankets and pillows and begin to get ready. Marco isn't far behind me in putting on a fresh shirt and taking a bite to eat.

"How much money do we have on us?" Asks Marco as he digs around one of the bags.

I dump out the bag with our coin box.

"I think still about ten bucks, give or take a few cents. That should get us some more food, maybe another pillow. I don't if know inflation has kicked in around here or not."

Marco packs up the little hut and tucks it into the corner. I repack the bag and tuck it in as well, but keep our cash in the pocket of my shirt. Pumped with our new determination, we set out to job hunt.

We scour around the market looking for a help wanted sign. It takes hours before we find someone in need of assistance. A young woman running a tailoring and laundry service out of an old building. We head in and our greeted with a thick cloud of steaming chemicals.

"Hello! I'll be out in a just a minute!" She calls from another room.

We take a chance to look around. Large metal tubs are stacked everywhere. Steam pools out of every other room. Smaller piles of clothes with little paper labels are everywhere. A little table with a broken cash register is crushed into a corner.

"Sorry about that," She runs in. "How can I help you folks out?"

Long, dark blue-black hair in thick braids that reach to her hips. A sullen face so common around here. Big, almost childish eyes that dream of other times. It reminds me of someone, but I just can't seem to pinpoint it.

"Uh, sir? Can I help you?"

I look back at her. "Oh, sorry."

Marco stands in for my lack of speaking ability.

"We're looking for a job. We saw you could use an extra hand around here. How about four more?"

"Oh, uh, sure." She motions for us. "Follow me."

We head down a long hall. The scent of chlorine and dish soap overwhelms me for a second.

"Hey, aren't you guys a little young to be looking for jobs?" She stops and turns to us. "Sorry, I really shouldn't be asking. I forget what's happened sometimes."

We turn into a little room with a fridge, a couch, and a long dining room table. She hands us a sheet of paper and some pencils.

"So yeah, it's all day, nine to nine, lunch break's twelve to one, ten bucks a day, and it's every day except Saturday. Are you in?"

Marco and I glance at each other. "Sure." We take the pencils and sign off the sheets. Our first real accomplishment since we lost it all.

She takes them and tucks them into a folder. "Cool, so, my name is Armelle. My family runs this place, and you guys can start today or tomorrow. But this week we'll only pay you how many days you come in." She stands up and heads to the door.

"We'll start now." I reply boldly. Marco looks at me, almost as if he's frustrated in what I've done. Nevertheless, we both stand up and follow her out into a little room full of piles of laundry.

"You guys can take each pile and fold the clothes. When you finish with one pile, put the label back on top and start on another one. I'll call you at lunch break." She heads out just as the someone else comes in.

We turn back and start on a pile.

"Is this really what we're going to do for the rest of our lives? Folding piles of strangers laundry?" Complains Marco as he grabs another shirt.

"At least it's something! At least now we can work towards our goal instead of just sitting around and waiting for things to happen!"

He sighs and folds another shirt. I grab a pair of pants and fold them angrily. We work and work for what seems like days without stop. We get through about ten piles and more shirts and socks than I can count. Armelle, and who we're assuming are her parents, keep sprinting in with big baskets for the piles. They run in as fast as we can fold . It's already dark and windy out by the time Armelle comes in with a tired look on her face.

"Hey, we just closed up." She hands us a booklet. "Just sign this saying you came in and left. Then you're free to go."

We sign and stand up. She waves as we head down the empty streets. Cold winds fresh off the sea blow our hair in front of our eyes. We drag our bare feet along the sandy roads. Once we reach our little nook we crash onto our pillows. Neither of us bother to get something to eat or drink; we just close our eyes and fall asleep in that instant.

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