Chapter One

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***

I sat at the window of the little apartment my mother and I shared in an old building, admiring the Brownsville painting someone had drawn on the wall on the other side of the street.

I loved my world. My quarter.
Brownsville was my home. I'd grown up there. I'd done everything there. It was part of me.

I turned and looked at my mom in the kitchen. A beautiful forty year old afro american lady. I stared at her while she cooked the little we had available.

She looked so depressed at times and it hurt me, because I knew why.
My mother was born from an American father and a Cameroonian mother. She'd grown up in America and as an american citizen.
She grew up and met my father during an organised party by a friend of hers. He was Israelite. They immediately hooked up. They had that immediate spark and fell in love.
Not long after, my father married mom even with the refusal of his own family.

Two years after their marriage, they had me.

All was fine until a few months after my birth, my father died in a car accident, leaving us to ourselves.
My father's family seized everything and they all returned to Israel. Leaving us helpless.
To this day, I could say my mother was still in great sadness which she tried to hide from me.
But I could see it. And I promised to make my mother happy again. I was going to get her out of poverty and misery.

"Pssst! Pssst! Harl!" I heard a loud whisper from out the window. I looked down and there stood one of my closest friends, Yasmin. I smiled at her.
"Watchu doing? Get your ass down here!" she smiled.

"Coming!"

I got up from the window and ran to my little room to change. I wore my old dirty converses, a white T-shirt and another shirt around my waist. Then I tied my hair up into a sided ponytail and ran out of my room.

"Going out with Yasmin?" my mom asked, smiling.

"Yes, ma. I'm gonna bring back some change if luck's on my side."

"Harlem don't do anything stupid."

"I won't."

I kissed her cheek and left the apartment.

*

I met Yasmin downstairs. She'd tied her hair into a bun and wore a grey pullover, jeans and converses as old as mine.

"So where're we going?" she asked me.

"Not too far. Let's take a stroll around. We might fall on someone not so lucky."

"How about Manhattan instead?"

"You got money?"

"Nope. But I know how we'll get there."
-
Yasmin and I strolled through the hood and into town where we took the subway discretely. And soon enough, we were in one of Manhattan's quarters.
I leaned against a wall in the streets while Yasmin and I, silently observed those who passed by.

I leaned against a wall in the streets while Yasmin and I, silently observed those who passed by

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We waited patiently until we both spotted a round man of about fifty years old. He had a briefcase in his hand and was leaving an office building. Perfect.

"Check out the fat man." Yasmin said.

"He's good."

"Let's go get him."

We casually crossed the street and walked up to the man.

"Good afternoon, sir." we both greeted.

"Yes, good afternoon." I stood a little behind him while Yasmin was in front of him.

"Sir, please we're lost." she lied.

"Really? Where do you stay?"

"Brooklyn. Don't really know how we ended up in Manhattan and..."

While she spoke, getting all his attention, I slowly and discretely stretched out a hand and removed his wallet from his pocket. He didn't feel a thing!

While Yasmin spoke to him, I looked at her and winked.
And immediately, we both took off. Running as fast as possible.
The confused man stood wondering until he felt his pockets and discovered that his wallet was missing!

"HEY! HEY! STOP!" he shouted helplessly. Too late. We were gone.

We ran up to three streets away!

Once safe, we stopped to open his wallet.

"Huh? Da hell is this??" I asked, angrily.

"What?"

I pulled out the only money present in that wallet and showed it to Yasmin.

"Ten dollars?!" Yasmin asked, surprised.

"Ten dollars! That pop was all dressed up with only ten dollars in his pants??" I couldn't believe my eyes and so did Yasmin.
We were suddenly really annoyed.

"Girl, we gotta return home with fifty dollars each. You with me?" I asked her.

"You know me."

"Let's get some people really scared. But not too much. Don't want the cops on me."

"Same here. Now let's get serious."

We adjusted the little pistols we'd put in the waistbands of our jeans. Yes, when things got a little hard, I preferred to use a gun. No harm done. It was a little game we always practiced and of course my mother wasn't aware.

Yasmin and I had succeeded in stealing about three more wallets after we'd explored other streets. We were careful not to get caught.
But what got us really satisfied, was the last theft.

We'd followed a well dressed lady into an empty street. It was already evening, fifteen past five exactly.
She turned into a quiet and dangerous street, unaware that we were behind her.

Luckily, after the second theft, we'd bought ourselves plastic clown masks for a dollar. Perfect for our little crimes.
We wore the masks and approached the woman from the back.

"Hello." I said quickly standing in front of her, blocking her way and pointing the gun straight at her.
The lady froze, afraid. She tried to turn and escape but Yasmin was there, pointing a gun too.

"Going somewhere?"

The woman began pleading.

"P-please. Please! Take everything, spare my life!"

"I like that. Your purse! Now!" I yelled at her.

Trembling, she threw the purse at me.
I quickly opened it.
Two hundred dollars. Yes!

I threw the empty purse at her and motioned for Yasmin and I to run away.
We ran as fast as we could, removing our masks and hiding our guns, laughing all the way like kids.
-
When we were far away and safe, we stopped to rest a little. We were both panting.

"Woo! Hahahaha."

"Hahahah, that was fun tho." Yasmin said.

"I know right." I stood up straight, "Guess how much I got from her purse." I said, breathless.

"How much?"

"Girl two hundred dollars."

"Woah! Altogether we got 250!"

"Yup. Let's share the fifty for ourselves. The hundreds, we take 'em back to our moms."

"Yeah. Let's get some Pringles and Pepsi. I'm starving!"

I laughed.

"Hahahaha me too."

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