Chapter One- Julia (Cont.)
"Not until you pay me." People like him were twisted. They'd do anything to get whatever they wanted for free, but I knew better than to allow myself to be scammed.
He looked up from his papers, gave me a toxic look, then rolled his eyes as he reached for something under the table.
I readied myself for a fight, but he merely pulled out a bag of coins, allowing them to clink together as he dropped them onto the table.
In a swift motion, I placed the ruby onto the table and grabbed the bag of coins.
I pulled a coin out of the bag, examining it to confirm that it was real, and after confirming that it was, placed the sealed bag into my satchel. I didn't need to count the number of coins.
If they were real, then there would be more than enough to keep me, Thalia, and Orion alive for at least a month.
I stood there as I waited for Lincoln to finish examining the ruby. If I left before he was done, it would seem like I gave him an impostor ruby, even though I didn't.
"Very good," he said before placing the ruby into a drawer and returning to his paperwork. "You may go."
At this time of night, the bank seemed eerily quiet, so I didn't hesitate to make my way towards the door, listening keenly for the sound of a knife being drawn or a gun being cocked.
Thankfully, I made it to the door without incident, and met Reno standing outside the door.
"Did you get it?" she asked, regarding the cash. In the candlelight, her tattoo and unique haircut stood out.
Reno was born into a higher class family that could afford to pay for electricity, making it possible for her to have a half-shaven haircut and a tattoo of an ivy plant that ran from her skull,
down her neck and shoulder blade, side of her torso, and leg all the way down to her foot on the right side of her body. I always loved her white hair.
She still looked young and lively with such a distinct haircut and color. Across her throat was a deep read gash, showing that she'd been murdered by someone slitting her throat.
"I got it," I told her softly as I discreetly patted my satchel. I couldn't say anything too loud or make any wild gestures out of fear of being discovered.
People were still out on the streets, making their way too and from work and home from the pubs.
I couldn't be perceived as strange or different, or else I would be sent to an insane asylum for the rest of my life.
Quickly, I glanced up and down the street to check that no one was looking my way before grabbing Reno's hand, materializing her and making her visible to everybody.
Another strange part of my power was the ability to solidify any spirit I made physical contact with.
I'm still trying to figure out all the details, but it seems to only work when I make physical contact with them.
If it were any other way, I would have given myself up years ago and been killed for being an Alium, or a person with an abnormal power that the church claimed weren't natural.
The strange thing about that definition is that I was born this way. I began seeing the ghosts when I was eleven, but I hadn't done anything different to cause that change.
The term was made up by the church to differentiate the people like me with powers and the so-called normal people.
"Good. Now I don't have to listen to your loud ass stomach all night," Reno said as she led us off of the porch and onto the street.
Since she was already dead, she didn't need to sleep, so she usually lingered around our shed, waiting for me to wake from my short and restless sleep.
"It's not my fault food is so expensive these days." We began climbing the hill that led home.
"Ever since the Seli started limiting the amount of grain they sent here, prices for absolutely everything skyrocketed."
"That's not my problem. I'm dead, so I don't have to worry about food."
"And you also wouldn't feel alive again if it wasn't for me, so we both have our problems."
"Touche." Reno craned her head back to look behind us. "Your tattoo is showing," she told me.
Quickly, with my free hand,
I reached behind my head and adjusted my low ponytail so that it completely covered the tattoo of hummingbird wings on the back of my neck- close to the base of my skull.
My thick auburn brown hair was able to completely cover it when I had it tied in a low ponytail, but sometimes the cloth covered elastic I'd bargain bought at the last market shifted,
revealing my signature tattoo. I absolutely love it, but it's also very distinguishable.
If someone saw me enter that bank, they could identify me using the beautiful hummingbird wings on the back of my neck.
"It's covered," she assured me when I dropped my hand back down to my side. "Why did you even get it if you hate showing it off?"
"It's sentimental. Hummingbirds were a big part of my childhood, and the only reason I don't show it off is because it's unique. How many people have you seen with this exact same tattoo?"
"None. Not sure if that's a good thing or not."
"It's good for me personally, but not good for me professionally."
"You say that like being a thief is an actual job."
"Depending on who you ask, it is. It pays well if you're good at what you do, just like a farmer or a sales person."
"Except they earn their money honestly."
"You clearly haven't met many salesmen who advertise on street corners. The stuff they're selling and the way they're selling it is by no means legal.
" The hill flattened out, and I could see our shed from here.
"That poor soul," Reno said as she gestured to another spirit sitting outside of a closed bakery.
He had a laceration on his throat similar to the one on Reno's, and looked exhausted with only the light of a streetlamp faintly illuminating his face. "He looks like he's gone through so much."
"At least he's living out a peaceful life now."
"I'm not so sure about that. There's some strange strange and terrifying shit outside of the city."
"I can only imagine." We turned into our alleyway, and I let go of Reno's hand.
Before climbing the wall, I checked on my coin pouch to make sure it was still there, even though there was no way that it wouldn't be.
"I'm taking the stairs," Reno told me. Even though I was no longer holding her hand, she still looked solid and real to me, just with a more transparent complexion.
No one would see her if she took the stairs, unlike me, who would be thrown out of the building if I was caught inside.
"I'll see you in the morning." I grabbed onto my first stone and began my assent for the second time tonight.