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OCTOBER 3RD

One week before Misha's Flight

Mr. Goode perched down on the steps of the coffee shop, down beneath to where Pops couldn't see him slacking off. He rubbed his hands together to warm them before diving into his coat pocket. He plucked from it his trusty flask, taking a greedy swig of it. He liked to think it staved the cold. He settled into his hiding spot, leaned up against the brick wall beneath the railing. He blinked once, twice; it didn't take long for him. Soon, his world was black, and he drifted off to nap.

"Whaaat the f-f-fuck!" he stammered, as the rush of warm water jarred him right awake. When he regained his senses he found the smirking Audrey, standing above him with a bucket in her hand.

"You tryna kill me!"

She laughed. "You're scaring away the customers. Nobody's gonna come if they see a bum sleepin' on the steps!"

"I knew you were racist!"

"Des! Des! What's goin' on out here!" Pops exclaimed, running out of the house in his ratty boxers and fuzzy slippers.

"Your so-called security guard is sleepin' on the job again, and in front of my shop!"

"Boy, I'm not payin' you to sleep on the job!"

"You're not payin' me at all."

"You're here rent free until you get back on your feet, remember? Until then, you supposed to be watchin' the cars and movin' em every couple of hours so our residents don't get tickets!"

"I see the cars. They good!"

"No sleeping on the job. You hear me? I'm not tellin' you again!" He slammed the front door behind him. Mr. Goode shot Audrey a dirty look. She shot him one right back.

"Damn, can y'all shut the fuck up?" Jayden mumbled to himself upon waking up to their loud bickering outside, gritting his teeth hard enough to redden his cheeks. He slowly rolled out of bed.

He kicked the mess of papers his older brother left on the floor as he crossed over to his side of the room. He found adorned on the shelves all the trinkets his brother thought were so special. With his brother's gym bag on arm, he grabbed a chair and climbed it. He moved hastily, unbothered that his shifty moves could cause the trophies, the gadgets, all the fancy things to fall to the floor and break. One by one, he carelessly tossed it all in the bag, sweeping across the shelf with his skinny arm. But he paused at the black bat, as he always did. He scanned it from its lustrous ebony barrel to its silver grip, to the etching on the knob of his brother's nickname. It made his hand shake. He gave it one last thought, waiting for his brother to come scold him. But the room was cold and quiet. The bat hit the top of the pile with a clang.

The early sun spilled a vibrant orange paint over the dense, dark blanket of the fading night sky. The morning air was crisp and cold. Jayden tried his best to stifle his shivering body as he stood up on the roof trying to get one spliff in before school.

"Are you saying I can't win a thumb war 'cause I'm a cat?"

"I'm saying you can't win a thumb war contest because you don't have THUMBS— BECAUSE you're a cat!"

Before the bright blue screen sat a bubbly young girl with brown cheeks the size of a chipmunk's as she stuffed them with a spoonful of cinnamon sugar oatmeal, intently watching the nonsensical prattling and luny chaos of her favorite cartoon. Destiny's eyes were big, glossy black pools framed by her sweeping eyelashes. The beads in her hair rustled like leaves as she whipped her attention towards the door, suddenly remembering that she had someone outside waiting on her. The girl raced to the door to greet him. She was much younger than Jayden, and still at least a head-and-a-half his miniature. She looked up at him, not smiling, but with a bright, inquisitive energy in her round, brown cheeks and big eyes. In her arms, she cradled a large gray Kenji Kat doll, which were all the rage, and which she never went anywhere without. 

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