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Confused, with your mind all muddled, you could barely understand what had happened. You had told yourself not to intertwine with the unknown, but here you were, chasing down this stranger like a mad man. With strands of hair threatening to fall out from your cap, you exhaustingly headed back to the stall after your failed search. The sun bearing down on you like a weighted boulder, you instantly regretted running.

You arrived at your stall and let out a large sigh. Your [e/c] eyes then fell to where your fruits were supposed to lie...and your stomach plummeted. The wooden storage built on your stall was bare, empty of all the colors the fruits had provided. You stumbled backwards and clenched your fists so tight the knuckles turned white. Tears prickled at your eyes, but you held them in.

What were you thinking?! Leaving your stall unattended? No doubt the fruits were going to get stolen, so why didn't you think of the damn consequences?

It wasn't the money you were fretting over the most though.

The thought of your stepmother's wrath was what curled your insides.

Stretching your arm across the frame, you picked up the now-empty basket and miserably began your trek back home. Stepping through the dusty, dirt ground, you numbly ignored the advertisers' attempts to persuade you into buying their products. No longer did you try to keep the male façade, so your head was turned downwards. Dead, glassy hues stared at nothing as your mind continuously echoed the same sentence over and over again: It is all over for me.

The trip went quicker than you liked and as always, when you entered the house, the woman's figure was waiting for you. She would do this every time, almost as if she believed you'd somehow steal the coins from her. Smirking at your discomfited state, she used her maroon painted talons to motion you towards her.

A lump appeared in your throat and you couldn't stop shaking. Following her order, you stood right in front of her and could feel your mouth dry up when she asked, "Where's the money?"

"I...um, I-I," you stuttered profusely.

She looked at you in disgust and her lips curled up into a sneer. The same, fearful talons wrapped around your face, pinching your cheeks roughly. You widened your eyes and wished you could rip away from such a grasp. "Speak up, you ungrateful child."

You opened your mouth and could taste the coppery, warm liquid that seeped from your gums. Forcing words out, you weakly blurted it all out. "The fruits got stolen."

The hand shoved you backwards, hard, and you tumbled onto the hardwood floor. Landing on your back and slightly bumping the back of your head, you refrained from groaning at the pain. You hesitantly peered over at stepmother and saw that she was already up in your face, her eyes twinkling darkly. In one, swooping motion, her right arm pulled back...and before you could comprehend anything...a firm palm whipped across your face.

By instinct, you pressed your hand against the throbbing cheek. More blood filled in your mouth and you leaned over to the side to spit it out. The voice that haunted your dreams rang in your ears again. "You incompetent bitch! What did you do?!"

She grasped the collar of your blouse and yanked it tightly, nearly choking you. You couldn't answer her question though, because what would you say? That you were curious about this man and had decided to follow him, so you abandoned the fruits? Which ever way you phrased this, it wouldn't make sense to this woman...and neither would it to you.

"That's it. You won't have supper tonight. Neither will you eat at all tomorrow." She finally let go of your choke hold and you sprawled on the ground, gasping for air. Brushing her hands off as if she had just touched filth, she calmly picked up the layers of her dress and walked away.

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