Where Reno Goes
by: The Goldfish of Evil
I heard it as I was walking home – a painfully human whimper from an alleyway. It was late, much too late to be out in the slums, but I had a job helping one of the merchants and my mother more than needed the money. And of course it was much too late to be examining whimpers in alleyways. I know that now, but back then, I was still a new kid in a big city; the connection hadn’t formed yet. So I stopped and I looked.
There was a man in the alleyway, thick body coiled over another that looked tiny by comparison: it was a boy, a kid I knew from school. He was the only one that would talk to me, actually – I was big for my age and quiet, so most people wrote me off as stupid or even “wrong in the head” when I started school in the middle of the semester. I wondered if he had thought that, too, and just didn’t care whether it was true or not. The second day in the cafeteria he had sat down beside me, this lanky redheaded kid a little younger than me, with big blue eyes and that grin, and started talking. He never had a lunch, and the third time he came to my table, I simply let him take half of mine. It had become something of a ritual between us; not exactly something that could rightly be called a friendship but… I had begun to find myself talking now and then, breaking the steady stream of information he provided about everything and nothing. And anytime I did, it seemed to delight him.
I had learned, since then, that he was something of an outcast himself – he talked all the time, and where he went, there was trouble. His mother was a whore, they said, and didn’t care enough to feed him. From what I could gather, that’s what the man was talking about, too. He had the redheaded boy up against one of the alley’s walls, one hand pressed up against his mouth and the other with a knife pressed up against one cheek – he was sliding a line under one of his eyes, savagely muttering something that seemed to involve the word “fuck” and “whore” more than anything else. There was already a line under the boy’s other eye, and as he caught sight of me beyond his attacker’s shoulder, a tear slid over it and down his cheek, stained pink with blood.
People could say that I had a choice, but I didn’t, really. There was no point where I stopped to weigh my options – he caught sight of me and then I was in motion, driving my shoulder into the man’s side and throwing him off the redhead, who slid down the wall. I could hear him crying, surprisingly soft sobs, but then the big (and ugly, I saw now) man was scrambling on the ground to look up at me. The shock on his face at the sight of me was almost comical; I might have been big, but I was still just a teenager.
“Who the fuck do you think you are, kid?! This’s none of your business!”
And maybe he could have taken me. But I had the element of surprise. And the only person that had bothered to be nice to me in this dark and dirty God forsaken city was crying on the ground behind me. So when he started to lift that knife, stained with the redhead’s blood, I punched him. It was the first time I had punched anyone with the intent to hurt them – really, honestly hurt them – and pain shot through my hand. But I had gotten what I wanted; he dropped the knife, reeling back, and I pulled back my other arm to hit him again. This time blood burst from his nose and he fell back in the muck at the bottom of the alley again, clutching weakly at his face with a shocked cry. I darted down to pick up the knife, holding it out as I backed towards the redhead, and ordered, “Don’t get up.”
There didn’t look like any chance of that, but I kept my eyes on him until I got to the other boy, and knelt beside him. He was still crying, hands over his face – but I could still see the strange dual tears, clear and blood red, running down his cheeks. I shoved the knife away, and without really thinking about it, wrapped my arms around him, picking him up with an ease that startled even me. He let me do it without a word, just curling one hand in my shirt and pressing his face against my shoulder as I hurried out of the alleyway; it would be a write off, this shirt, but I didn’t care. I was whispering to him as I nearly ran for my house – “It’s okay, Reno. I’ll take care of you, I promise…”
The cuts were deep. When we got to my house my mother took care of them as best she could, but she told me and him that the scars would be permanent. But when I caught him running his finger over one today, long after that alley and after my mother hand informally “adopted” him; long after we proved the snide rumors that we were lovers right and we joined the Turks together, he told me that he didn’t really mind the marks. That he liked them, actually – because they reminded him of when I promised I would take care of him, even if now he smirks and says he doesn’t need much taking care of, except in bed.
But there’s that softness to his eyes that says that memory honestly means something to him. I’m the only one that gets that look. That’s why I know I’ll keep my promise. Where Reno goes, there will be trouble. And me.