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Authors: Pittacus Lore

Legacies Reborn

BOOK: Legacies Reborn
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CHAPTER ONE

AS USUAL, BENNY IS AN ASS AND I CAN'T KEEP
my mouth shut.

Lunch had been going okay. We'd walked to the diner a few blocks down from our apartment. Everybody in Harlem seemed to be out on the streets, enjoying the first warmish day in weeks. Mom looked radiant in her crisp white button-down. She's always been able to make her work clothes look fashionable instead of like something she was forced to wear while serving fancy customers at a restaurant down on Wall Street that we could never afford to eat at. Benny, my stepdad, was quiet most of the meal, except for a groan here or there—based on his swollen eyes, I'm guessing he had a little too much fun out with his boys last night. All in all, things had been smooth sailing.

Then I had to go and ask if I could get some new headphones. Nice noise-cancelling ones that'd block
out the world around me, or at least the noises in our apartment. That seemed worth fifty dollars to me.

The request doesn't go over well.

“Sure, baby,” Mom says as she tries to nab the last grape from a side of fruit salad with her fork.

Benny looks like she's just agreed to buy me a Lexus for my sixteenth birthday or something.

“Hold up, now,” he says. “What's wrong with the ones you've got?”

“They're busted,” I say, pointing to the headphones slung around my neck. “Only one ear works.”

“Then deal with one ear,” Benny says. He wolfs down the last bite of a burger. “Your mom works six shifts a week. Sometimes more. I support us too. What do you do?”

I almost laugh at the word “support.” Benny's been off work for a few months now on paid “disability,” even though I haven't seen anything wrong with him. It definitely hasn't stopped him from drinking beer all day while shouting at our TV, driving me crazy.

“I put up with you,” I mutter, staring down at the half a waffle floating around a little syrup lake on my plate.

“Dani,” Mom says.

“What'd you just say?” Benny asks, his voice a low boom.

I bite my tongue. For Mom's sake, I keep quiet.

“She's having a great semester in school,” Mom says. “Lord,
I'll
pay for the headphones. Don't worry.”

“Oh really? Where's this money coming from, then?” he asks.

“Benny, don't spoil the meal. You know I set aside a little tip money for things like this.”

“At least she
works
,” I say. It slips out before I can stop it. Benny snorts and I can tell I've crossed the line.

When he speaks again, his voice is deep and full of anger.

“Listen here, you spoiled little—”


Benjamin
.” Mom cuts him off.

He looks back and forth between us, jaw flexing as he clenches his teeth. Benny's pretty much always an asshole, but it's when he gets quiet and silently rages that I know I've hit some kind of nerve. I haven't seen him look this angry in a long time, and that's saying something, considering we never see eye to eye on anything.

My body tenses up with anger. I want to hurl my plate at him, or flip this whole table over. I wish I could do
something
.

He stands up abruptly, his knees banging against the table and causing our plates to rattle. On his feet, he's a behemoth, six foot two and thick from years of manual labor and Mom's cooking. A couple of people look over at us, and Mom puts on a smile to show them
that everything's all right.

“You got so much spare cash lying around, then you won't mind paying for this shit,” Benny says, waving at our table. And then he's off and out the door.

Mom slowly takes her napkin from her lap and dabs her lips.

“You want dessert, baby?” she asks.

I shake my head and suck my teeth, looking across the room at nothing in particular. If I look at Mom I'll apologize for what I said and take responsibility for starting the argument, and I don't
want
to be sorry.

She shrugs and glances at her phone. “I gotta get down to the restaurant. My shift starts soon.”

“I'd hate for those rich-ass bankers to have to pour their own drinks.”

“Language, Dani,” she says. Then she smirks. “Besides, those rich-ass bankers are the ones buying you a black and white.”

And before I can protest she's up and across the diner, chatting with our waitress at the bar as the woman makes me a to-go milk shake.

I walk Mom to her train. We cut through Morningside Park, which is kind of crowded because of the nice weather. There are all sorts of families grilling and having picnics. A bunch of kids playing pickup basketball on the courts. We don't really talk—Mom just hums
some song I don't recognize and I try to cool off. We've done this a million times. Walking beside her always makes me feel better, no matter what's been going on at home or at school.

But we can't spend all day strolling around. Eventually she has to leave.

We come to the subway entrance.

“Text me which headphones you want, and I'll go pick them up,” she says. “It'll be our little secret.”

“Until Benny finds out,” I say.

“He won't. He's not exactly the most observant guy. He'll forget all about them by tomorrow. Maybe we'll do something fun if the weather stays. Just you and me. I've got the day off.”

This is what it should always be like. We don't need anybody else in the world except each other.

“We'd be better off alone.”

“Dani . . . ,” she says.

“It's true. We were fine before he came along.”

“Not always, baby,” she says. “You're forgetting he's the reason we can afford to stay in our apartment.”

“If that's all it is, then I can get a job,” I say. “I'm almost sixteen. We can get along just fine without him.”

She smiles, but I don't think it's because I've just come up with some brilliant solution to our problems.
We've had this conversation a hundred times before.

“He's a good man,” she says slowly, patiently. “He's just going through a rough patch.”

As far as I'm concerned, this “rough patch” has lasted for the last three years, ever since he moved in with us.

“Besides, you need to be focused on school.” She smirks a little. “I'm going to find some SAT vocabulary lessons for you to listen to on those fancy new headphones to make sure you're putting them to good use.”

I roll my eyes. She kisses me on the forehead, squeezing my shoulder gently.

“I'll see you tonight, Dani,” she says. “I love you.”

“Yeah.” I stare down at the concrete. “Later.”

She lingers.

“I love you too,” I say finally.

She smiles, and then disappears down into the subway.

Thinking about going back to the apartment makes my blood start to boil again, and with Mom gone there's no one left to keep me calm. I know from past experience that it'll be best if I give Benny a little while to cool down. Besides, I don't want to be stuck in my room avoiding my stepdad when it's so nice outside. So I walk for a while until I finally come to the Cathedral
of St. John the Divine. I cut through the groups of people snapping pictures outside and go into the little park beside the church where this weirdo statue of an angel and a bunch of giraffes stands. I think it's really called Peace Fountain, but I've always called it Big Crab because that's what all the animals and the winged man are standing on—a Big Crab. That's also what Mom called it when I was just a kid and she used to take me on walks through the university campus nearby and talk about how if I worked really hard I'd be one of the students there when I grew up.

Now I come here when I want to get away from everything else.

I grab a bench, stretch out my legs and cross my arms, enjoying the feeling of the sun shining down on me. Music blasts from one ear of my headphones. I try to completely zone out.

I don't know how much time passes before my phone starts to vibrate in my pocket, the music in my ear suddenly replaced by a ringtone. I sigh, fearing that it's Benny asking me where the hell I am, or if I'll run by the store and pick something up for him.

But it's Mom.

“Hey,” I say when I answer. “I thought your shift star—”

“Where are you?” she cuts me off. Her voice is short
and on the verge of a yell. It startles me so that I don't answer at first. She continues. “Did you hear me? Where are you?”

“At the Big Crab.”

“Go home.”

“Mom, what's—”

“Dani, baby,” she says. She sounds like she's about to start crying or something. “You need to go home. Right now. I'll be—”

I don't hear what she says after that, if she says anything at all. There's some yelling and then a loud bang, and suddenly our connection is gone.

I try to call back, but I've got zero bars.

“What the . . . ,” I mutter, jumping to my feet. I pause for a few seconds, staring at my phone, my heart pounding against my ribs. I'm not exactly excited about going back to the apartment and spending the rest of the afternoon hearing Benny shout at sports teams. But Mom sounded so worried . . .

The sky becomes overcast, and all of a sudden I feel like something bad's going to happen. I keep hearing the concern in Mom's voice repeating through my head.

I start to run towards home.

As I dart through the park and past the short blocks to our apartment, I can tell something's not right. I hear shouting from inside apartment buildings as I run past
open windows. A couple of other people are sprinting through the streets, in a hurry somewhere. I speed up, continuously checking my phone to see if I've gotten a message from Mom or something.

Finally, I'm home. The metal security gate bangs behind me, loud, and I'm guessing every other apartment in our crappy building hears it. Someone yells from inside 1B as I run past the row of mailboxes in the entryway and then up the hard, worn stairs to our place on the fourth floor. I'm shaking as I try to get my key in the door, but I can't tell if it's because I'm completely out of breath and drained from running all the way here, or because I'm so spooked by Mom's call.

I start yelling as soon as I get inside.

“Mom?” I ask. “Benny? What's going on?”

Benny's in his big blue recliner. There are a couple of empty beers on the coffee table, and I'm hoping that means he's forgotten all about the headphones.

“Benny, Mom jus—”

He shushes me, waving a hand in my direction, not taking his eyes off the TV, where a blond boy with glowing fireballs in his hands is fighting a gross-ass giant.

Anger builds up inside me. Benny is watching some crappy sci-fi movie while Mom might be in trouble or something.

I'm about to start shouting at him when I recognize
the United Nations on the screen. Then a reporter from one of the news stations Benny loves to yell at comes into frame. That's when I realize that this isn't some movie: it's live.

BOOK: Legacies Reborn
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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