ii. red light green light (part one)

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"Red light," said he.

"I can't stop," said she.

"Green light," said he.

"Don't go," said she.

And that was the way it ended.

_______________________

Alice had not meant to spill her coffee all over her boss. But she had.

And now, here she was, outside the five-star restaurant Divinity she'd worked her ass off for the past five months to be able to take her boss to because this place is ridiculously expensive, the furious boss in question already halfway down the street, fuming about stupid no good teenagers and their stupid no good ways and this suit is Armani and I knew it was a mistake hiring a little girl--

Dejectedly, Alice makes her way to the bus-stop and sits down on the bench. What a cruddy Tuesday, she thinks. But then again, she corrects herself, things have been oh so much worse.

She clenches her fists. This is the third job she's lost in a year. If she doesn't get her act together soon, she'll get her and her little brother evicted from their apartment -- which, by the way, is a cruddy, filthy, one-room thing that on rainy nights smells of mold, but is all they've got left.

They used to live in a cliché house on a hill. They used to have the white picket fence around their house, with flowers in the windowsills and bright colorful curtains in the window and a lovely little porch swing and music and laughter were never strangers in their home.

But that had been years ago.

Now, she, at the age of merely twenty-two, has to care for her little ten-year-old-brother, Israel. When she was in college, things had been great. As soon as she got out, however, her mother had called her with the news of her father getting into a huge car accident on the freeway and he had been the only casualty.

Her mother had never really been the same after that.

And then the day came when important-looking men in suits came to collect money they didn't have from her mother. Alice had been forced to dropout of college two weeks before graduating to her sophomore year because the strain of caring for Israel, a baby at the time, was putting a lot of pressure on her mother.

The men came in and began speaking in hushed voices to her mother. Alice, nineteen, knew to take Israel out when her mother's face turned that shade of white.

Alice shuts her eyes and leans her head against the back of the small booth of the bus stop. Painful memories are resurfacing inside of her, faces she'd rather not recall, screams and wails, some hers, that she'd rather not hear, and that awful, nagging little voice in the back of her head telling her over and over again it's your fault, your fault, since the day her mother--

Suddenly, thunder booms loudly overhead. Alice opens her eyes in surprise to see that there are about ten or so people crowding into this little booth with her as a torrential downpour, not uncommon in this part of Oxford, England, begins to fall.

The flashbacks are starting. She can feel them, trying to get out, but she won't let them. No, these demons will not win today. These demons will not win tomorrow. Not when she has Israel counting on her, no. But the images are coming faster, stronger, digging long fingernails into the soft, tender skin of her refusal, banging in her mind's door, yelling let us in, you cannot hide forever--

The bus is here now. Alice slowly opens her clenched eyes at the hiss of machinery as the bus halts in front of the stop. As she stands to get on board, a sharp pain explodes on her bottom lip and she winces, tasting blood. She'd bitten her lip. Too hard.

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