She hated the cold.
The freezing air always had a way of sneaking in no matter what she did to cover up. The only thing it was good for was picking pockets.
She had become a sort of expert. Waiting at just the right moment for her unsuspecting victim to go by, she would bump into them, small hand deftly reaching into their coat and pulling out a wallet or, sometimes, a wad of bills. In most cases, they never even noticed…bumping into a small girl was hardly noticeable, after all, especially when they were in a hurry.
But when they did notice, she would stop, innocent eyes looking up, and offer an apology.
"Excuse me," she would say softly, a faint smile touching her lips.
And they would smile back, waving off her apology, and then continue on their way, not realizing they had just been robbed by the cute little girl with the big innocent eyes.
It was a practice that had become custom…like with her knife. The more she practiced, the better she got. She couldn't afford to be sloppy. Sloppy got you caught. And the last thing she needed was to get caught.
Bump, quick sleight of hand, then on to the next person.
She had to be the fastest. She had to be the best.
If there was one thing she hated more than the cold, it was leaving her little brother. When she was out, she was constantly worried about him. Or rather, worried someone would find him and take him away, despite her precautions.
Every day out had to be "a good day". She wouldn't settle for anything less. She could pickpocket five people or even twenty. She wouldn't stop until she had enough money to buy enough food to last for a few days. That way, she didn't have to go out as often.
Even then, she was frugal enough to have money left over. She always made sure there was money left over, and she would stuff the bills into a jar hidden in another room in the warehouse. It was an emergency stash…something to fall back on…just in case.
But secretly, she was saving that money for their future. Maybe right now that jar was only half full, but if she kept at it, it would fill up, and then she would go on to another jar and another. She would keep going, keep saving money until there was enough to get their own place. A nice place with big glass windows. Maybe somewhere near the ocean.
Away from the stealing and pickpocketing. Away from the constant struggle to survive. Away from the cold.
So, it had been a good day. The two bags she was carrying proved that. She was even smiling, content that she wouldn't have to leave her little brother for a while.
But, as she approached the warehouse, her smile faded. The grate to the vent has been moved aside, just enough for someone to crawl through. She placed the bags on the floor, trying to force her heart to stop pounding.
Taking a deep breath, she removed her knife from its sheath and made her way into the vent. A million thoughts went through her head, and they all concluded the same: Robbie. Who was in the warehouse? What did they want? Was Robbie okay?
She was always so careful. Never using the same streets whenever she made her way back home. Always making sure she was never followed. So many precautions, yet there was always that element of danger. That constant risk of losing all that she had worked so hard for. The threat of Robbie being taken away.
Quietly, she moved through the warehouse, steadying the knife in her hand, ready to strike out. Her trained eyes keenly assessed each room, looking out for whoever had moved that vent. A slight shuffling noise caught her ears, followed by a small grunt. She quickened her pace, heart pounding again at the thought of Robbie being hurt.
Then, laughter…Robbie's laughter. She frowned, finally reaching the room and taking in the sight before her. There he was, rolling on the floor laughing as a giant dog licked his face. She let out a sigh of relief. The animal was probably looking for somewhere to hide from the cold, much like them when they first found the warehouse. The only threat the dog posed was possibly licking someone to death considering how much fun it was having with Robbie.
"Remy!" he shouted, finally noticing her standing at the doorway. He moved to stand up, but knelt instead, arm going around the dog's neck. "Can we keep him?"
The last thing they needed was another mouth to feed. She looked down at the scrawny animal wondering how long it had been since it had last eaten. The poor dog looked up at her, finally settling down. It probably realized that she was the one in charge, the one to decide whether it would stay or be kicked out into the cold again.
"Please, please, please?" Robbie cried out, big blue eyes pleading with her. His lips turned down into a sad pout, and he squeezed the dog closer to him.
Having a dog would complicate things. But...it would also make a great companion for Robbie. She would certainly worry less knowing that there was a dog taking care of him whenever she went out.
"I'll take care of him. Promise," Robbie continued imploring her, perhaps taking her silence as a sort of denial.
"Alright," she finally conceded. Letting out another sigh, she wondered briefly who exactly was the one in charge.
They settled down for the night, underneath their mounds of blankets, after they had had their fill from the food she had bought.
"Good night, Remy," Robbie whispered, one arm holding his teddy bear and the other around the dog next to him. "Good night, Billy."
She shifted slightly, a little surprised at the dog's name. "Why Billy?"
Robbie shrugged and rolled his eyes as if her question was redundant. "Because that's his name," he answered, before letting out a loud yawn and finally closing his eyes to sleep.
She stared at him for a few minutes, still pondering the dog's name. Where in the world had he come up with a name like Billy for a dog? She filed it under childhood innocence. Robbie had a way of seeing the world in a different light. Far different than how she saw it. She always made sure to shield him, protect him from the reality of the world they lived in.
Had she ever been that innocent? Had she ever been that young? She had been forced to grow up too soon.
A gust of wind pushed itself into the confines of the room they were in. She shivered, cocooning herself and Robbie under the blankets so as to keep the cold out. The freezing air always had a way of sneaking in no matter what.
She hated the cold.