Sixteen year old Rayne watched as her younger sister, Pepper, bounced out of the kitchen area. Both of them had been awake since about four o’clock this morning and Rayne desperately wished she could find a quiet, dark corner where she could curl up into an invisible lump and have just a few more hours of sleep.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t her life any longer. Looking around at the other “guests” that had spent the night here in the homeless shelter with them, Rayne recognized the sad, hopeless defeat in their eyes, the painful acceptance that this shelter, this misery, was their life going forward.
Pepper hadn’t given up, Rayne thought, protectively pulling her chemistry book closer. She had a dreaded chemistry test today and Rayne knew that she needed to ace it. No way would she let anything slow down her determination to get the highest grades in her class. After that horrible scene back at their apartment, watching those disgusting, horrible men illegally evict her and her sisters, then dump all of their precious furniture and belongings into the street, Rayne was determined to succeed! No, not just succeed. Rayne was going to thrive! And the first step in her plan was achieving the highest grades and becoming the absolute best student in her class!
Pressing her lips together with determination, she focused on the information in her textbook and flipped the page, reading ahead so that she was more prepared than any other student in her class.
Nibbling at the hard biscuit, the breakfast provided to the shelter residents that morning, something occurred to her. She was already the best in her class so…?
Tutoring! She could tutor some of the other students, maybe the ones taking the lower level classes? Maybe even in her own classes! Looking around, the idea of earning money by tutoring felt like…a dream!
Rayne glanced over at her sister who was busy altering a skirt that Pepper had found in the shelter’s clothes bin. If Pepper could alter charity cast-offs, making them into something more interesting and trendy in order to earn some extra money, Rayne figured she could offer her expertise as well!
For several moments, she sat very, very still, her mind concentrating on developing her idea. While Pepper bounced around, her energy visible to anyone who bothered to look, Rayne kept very still. Intensely focused. But inside, her mind was going a mile a minute, working through the details of her plan.
Yes, she could do this. She could meet potential clients in the school library after classes. She would accept only cash, one hour at a time, she thought.
“Ready?” Pepper called out, fresh and alive and wearing the skirt she’d worked on this morning and looking…beautiful! Dark haired, blue eyed Pepper always looked so gorgeous, but with the newly fashioned skirt, Pepper was hip and stylish.
Rayne smoothed her plain cotton top down over her too-worn jeans. “Yes,” she sighed, wishing that she had a bit more of Pepper’s “vive”. But she was the studious one of the Abbot sisters. Thinking of her tutoring plan, Rayne now knew that she could make her studious, more sedate nature work in her favor!
After arriving at school, Rayne hugged Pepper close. “You look awesome!” she whispered. “Go sell some clothes!” And then she was gone, hurrying down the hallway towards the math department.
Stopping at her algebra teacher’s doorway, she knocked, feigning confidence when Ms. Johnson turned at the sound. “Rayne!” the teacher called out, pleased surprise on her features. “It’s been a while, but how are you doing?”
Rayne didn’t mention everything that had happened to them over the past few months. This teacher probably already knew the humiliating story, but Rayne wasn’t going to add in the rest, that they were living in a homeless shelter and barely keeping things together.
“Things are going okay, but…I was wondering if you had any students who might need a tutor. I’m trying to earn some extra cash and…”
“Are you kidding me?” Ms. Johnson gushed, eagerly taking a piece of paper out of her desk. “Yes! I have three students just off the top of my head who need some help. Let me reach out to their parents,” she said, already moving towards her computer. “I’ll see if they would be willing to pay for a tutor because…” she laughed, shaking her head, “…these students aren’t getting it when I explain the concepts.”
The tightness in Rayne’s chest eased up slightly. “Thank you!” she whispered, feeling both shame and pride. “Just…let me know.” She turned to leave, but then faced the teacher again. “Thank you!”
Then Rayne hurried away, feeling…strange. Powerful? Was this what confidence felt like? Goodness, she loved this sensation!
By the end of the week, Rayne felt much better! She had five “clients”, as she referred to them. And met with them every afternoon in the school library. They paid her ten dollars a session! Ten dollars! By the end of the week, she had fifty dollars in cash!
“Can you believe this?” she whispered to Sloane and Pepper as she showed them the cash. “Just for teaching algebra!”
“Did you see her?” one of the men at the next table commented. Loudly! The other three men, all in their early twenties, laughed right along with the other man.
Kular and his friends turned, listening to the crude comments, all with equally disgusted expressions.
“Man, I’d love to…” the first man stopped when he realized that he had an audience. “What?” the guy snapped. “Want to join us?” The belligerent man had sandy blond hair that was swished over in a stylish flip. He even had his collar flipped up, as if that could…Kular had no idea why anyone would flip up their collar. It was a bad nineteen eighties look that should have died out at the end of that decade but seemed to be on the rebound.
Kular and his friends stared for a long moment, then turned back to each other, continuing their conversation. “I don’t think that Germany would agree to those terms,” he continued, their conversation dealing with a debate on the economic trends in Europe.
“They should,” his friend argued. “It would give the companies a major tax advantage over…”
Kular stopped listening as he turned at the touch of someone’s hand on his shoulder.
“I was talking to you!” Sandy Hair announced, his feet wide and his chest heaving with indignation. “I don’t appreciate it when mongrels ignore me.”
A mongrel? That was an insult that simply couldn’t be ignored.
Kular stood up slowly, eventually towering over the man by a good four inches. “And I don’t appreciate being touched by a sexist pig who would speak about a lady in such a crude manner,” he replied, mimicking the other man’s belligerent stance.
Sandy Hair quickly understood that Kular was bigger, taller and stronger…plus, Kular never backed down from a fight. He’d learned over the years that allowing aggression in any form was dangerous. But he never attacked first, and always tried diplomacy first.
“The ‘lady’ in question, was good for a night of fun, but trust me, she doesn’t deserve to be protected by anyone. She was…”
Kular lifted his hand, instantly silencing the man’s coming insult. Obviously, the man sensed Kular’s authority because he stopped mid-sentence. Kular’s eyes sharpened as he said, “A woman gifted you with pleasure and now you denigrate her. That’s not the actions of a man. Those are the actions of a coward.”
The other man scoffed, shifting uneasily on his feet. “She wasn’t a lady. She’ll sleep with anyone who asks.”
Kular lifted a dark eyebrow. “Apparently, you do too.”
It took a moment, but slowly, Sandy Hair realized that he was being judged for his loose morals. When he finally understood, his face flushed red with embarrassment and anger. The normal response from any other man would most likely be, “Of course!” since most men pride themselves on their promiscuity, as if it made them somehow more masculine. But the way Kular had spoken the words showed his revulsion for such actions and Sandy Hair took umbrage.
“Listen, mongrel…!” and Sandy Hair’s fist pulled back.
Kular almost rolled his eyes at the man’s ineptitude. And with an easy movement, Kular lifted a hand and, with barely any effort at all, captured the man’s incoming fist in his hand. With only a slight squeeze and a twist of the idiot’s wrist, the man was now down on his knees, stunned by the switch in power-positions.
Kular bent over to ensure that Sandy Hair could hear his words. “I believe that you are a coward who uses women’s trust to build up your pathetic self-esteem,” Kular growled, bending lower. “Women are gifts and we should treasure every interaction with each of them as if they are a blessing. You, in particular, should show more respect for the women who come into your life, because they most likely pity you after their time with you.” Kular released the man’s fist and stood up, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt. “Now, I think it is time for you and your friends to leave. I would also advise that you call a taxi, because none of you are sober enough to drive home.”
By that time, the bar’s manager had arrived, angry and carrying a bat. “Get out!” he snapped to Sandy Hair and his friends. “And don’t ever show your idiot faces around here again!”
Kular turned and resumed his seat. “If you take into account…” and he continued his conversation with his friends as if nothing of importance had just occurred.