Adelaide started eating the cakes before she even reached the hideout. She could not help herself, her stomach so pained and bones so chilled. Berlin's spring had been unusually cold this week, blanketing light snow onto everything and anything. The streets were almost frozen but always alive, which meant Adelaide was to be out there. Always patrolling for unwatched food and easily-grabbed money.
Today, the old baker left his shop door open to cool fresh pastries. He was too kind a man, and while not fond of thieves, he usually had a stale loaf or two for Adelaide if she looked hungry enough. She should not have taken the cakes- it was wrong, but how good they had smelled! How pretty their little frosting flowers looked. Home filled her memory in droves, all vanilla and earth and warm furs. She did not come to until she had shuffled the pastries into her apron and made her hasty escape into the street.
Jakob would be angry with her again when he found out she had lost her friendship with the baker. She finished her cake and trudged on, past the east-side factories and workers filing out to end their day. The sugary delight almost made Jakob's troublesome moods worth it. She turned a street corner and slipped under the ruined boards that marked the entrance of her building: her home. Eggs was guarding the door, and nodded her in.
"You are late, Ada."
Adelaide jumped at her brother's voice, full with worry and their familial Hamburg accent.
Candlelight haloed his face, so only Alaric's round cheeks remained prominent. He stepped out, his shadow stretching across the brick face of the abandoned warehouse. They were twins, but he was taller. However round her brother stayed, he'd started growing taller, as all brothers seemed to do.
Alaric leveled the candle, his nose crinkling. "What have you gotten all over yourself?"
Adelaide looked down on body. Her bunched apron was a rainbow of icing streaks and frosting petals. She bit her lip clear of the incriminating evidence, pressing her skirts to herself. The remaining cakes had been smashed in her rush.
"You got sweets, did you? Jakob already began the tally." Alaric asked, eyes wide and bright. "Wait 'till I tell you—"
"Oh, no..." Adelaide hid her face in her hitched apron's hem; the tears came all the same.
"What's wrong?" Alaric grabbed both her shoulders, worry filling his voice again. "I thought you had sweets."
"I ruined it. I ruin everything. Oh no, no, no..." Adelaide freed the cry from her throat and dropped her apron: the ruined pastries splatted to her feet in gobs of cream and cake.
Alaric fell back a step, his thick eyebrows bunching into a fine line. He smeared the cake with the toe of his boot; Adelaide sobbed into her hands the whole time, muttering another "I ruined it" for good measure. She had nothing for the other children now. She had nothing for Jakob.
"Ada, Alaric! Sich beeilen!" Jakob's voice cut the air into thin, cold slices. They were needed.
Alaric breathed out and reached after his sister, wiping tears from her cheeks. "You leave him to me and say nothing. I can fix this."
"But..." Adelaide sniffled.
"Nin, we will be fine," he insisted, smiling strong. "I have this today."
It had been several months since Alaric and Adelaide had joined Jakob's crew, a motley gang without homes- or who might as well be homeless. Papa died in Hamburg, in the chilled grip of 1890's winter, and Mama was already faded into a beautiful memory of childhood lost. Papa had remarried before his passing though; his new wife was younger and uninterested in managing children. She only wanted Berlin, where everything was centralized, rich, and fast. She wanted Berlin so much, in fact, that she forgot the twins one day in the center of Potsdamer Platz.
YOU ARE READING
In the streets of Berlin, twin siblings, Adelaide and Alaric, fight to survive in a gang of young thieves until the day when they stumble upon a mysterious creature with the ability to feed them sweets for the rest of their days. And those days migh...