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The Crow and The Sparrow

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By the time Belle made it home she was wishing that she had accepted Tig’s offer of calling her a cab. Her side and back throbbed with every step she took and it was the thought of a hot shower that kept her moving. Humming as she went about putting beer in the fridge she wondered where she should keep the money that Tig wouldn’t take. It couldn’t hurt to have a small back up stash of money for emergencies, but she needed to be able to keep it somewhere safe so that it didn’t get wasted. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t notice that her mother was sitting at their dining table until she closed the fridge door.
“Mom - you gave me a…. “ Belle’s words trailed off as she took in her mother. Her clothes were the same as when she had left that morning but now her face was coated in a fine sheen of sweat and her skin was grey “Mom are you sick? Mom?’ Belle reached out to touch her mothers forehead to see how high of a fever she had but froze when she saw her mothers hands. One was folded into a fist in her lap while the other was scratching the skin on her arm, and based on the damage Belle could see she’d been scratching for a while.

Her heart dropped, she had seen this before and knew precisely what had been going on. The long sleep yesterday, her mothers strange behaviour all added up to one thing She was taking drugs, again. Belle was torn, she wanted to shout at her mother and shake her, get answers as to why, when they had almost nothing, was she able to find money for drugs but on the other hand she wanted to just hug the broken woman who was there and make everything ok. Fighting with her never really got her anywhere so instead Belle got a bowl, filled it with warm water and gabbed a cloth to clean the scratches.

“Ok Mom, lets have a look at you” Belle tried to get her mother to turn to face her with words but when that failed she physically pulled on her mothers arm. The pulling on her arm seemed bring hr mother out of what ever state she was in and she turned smiling she she saw her daughter “Belle - you’re here”
“Yeah Mom I’m back, come on we need to get you cleaned up”
“Did you get find and beer for Johnny? You know he hates it when the house isn’t ready when he comes in”
Belle sighed “Yeah Mom that’s what I was doing. Mom you’ve hurt your arm and I need to get it cleaned up ok?” Her mother let her take her arm but as soon as she started to clean the scratches she tried to pull away
“What are you doing, Stop!, That hurts, stop touching me” Her mothers voice rose to a sharp screech as she kept trying to pull her arm away.
“Mom stop! You’ve hurt your arm and we need to get this cleaned up and then get you into bed”
With a final wrench her mother managed to pull er arm away before she stumbled to her feat, causing the chair that she had been slumped in topple to the floor with a bang
“Leave me alone, don’t touch me. You don’t tel me what to do I, I, I’m the mother here. You don’t send me to bed”
Belle stood slowly raising her hand in a placating manner “Ok mom just let me clean this up then we can talk” She kept her voice low and in a tone she hoped was soothing but her mother was too far gone to really hear
“You tell me what to do No! you always judge me, look at me, you’re as bad as that ass who was your father You” Her mothers hand whipped up pointing at Belle “yYou judge sit and judge and do….things and No!” before Belle could really react her mother spun away and ran for the front door. Belle ran to try and stop her but by the time she got anywhere close her mother was out the apartment and heading down the street “Shit!” Did she chase down her mother, call the cops ? Belle was at a loss, the only thing she knew for sure was that hr mother was in no fit state to be out wondering the streets. Grabbing her keys she headed out to try and catch her mother up but she had no real idea where she would head and it wasn’t like she could just stop a passing stranger and as excuse me where would a strung out woman go if she wanted more drugs

After an hour of searching there had still been no sign of her mother and Belle knew she needed some help. Coming across a phone box she knew that she needed to call her brother. He had a cell phone that he said his work paid for and that they were only to call in emergencies, this had to count as am emergency right?

“You got John” Her brothers sharp tone made her jump a little “Oh thank god - John , it’s Belle I..I need your help” she could hear other voices in the background which grew fainter as her brother moved away “Why the hell are you calling, I told you that this was for emergencies only” His voice was a low hiss “I know and it is an emergency, Its Mom. John I came home and she was just sat there really out of it and then I noticed shed scratched her arms up and I tried to help her but she got pissed and then ran out the apartment. I’ve spent the past hour looking for her john and I can’t find her. She was obviously on something and now I Cant find her John!” Frustration and fear left Belle with her hands shaking and tears running down her face.

“You stupid fucking bitch! If she was out of it and just sitting there why didn’t you just leave her the fuck alone. You seriously cant do anything right can you! You’re a waste of space, get your miserable ass home and I’ll find her. If she comes home then you call and let me know if not keep your ass inside the damned apartment” Before she could answer the line went dead. Belle used her sleeve to wipe her face and then headed home. Perhaps John was right and her mother would already be there.

The apartment was still empty when she got there and Belle found herself unable to sit still. Todays events just kept going round and round her head. The interview, Tig’s smile, her mothers grey face, it all just merged into one. In an attempt to distract herself Belle cleaned. It made her already sore body ache but it kept her busy. Three hours later and there were still no sign of the other members of her family and Belle was back to pacing. How had she not seen what was happening with her mother, She had been through this before and she knew the signs. Where had she managed to get drugs? She had been fine when Belle left this morning, or had she “Shit she had them here” Heading to her mothers room Belle began to search. She had to have had drugs in here somewhere based on how she was this morning She had to of taken something. After searching the whole room all Belle could find was an empty baggy and a big mess. She took the time to tidy it up, and if anyone asked why things were out of place she would just say that she had been cleaning and couldn’t remember where things went.

She was just heading to the kitchen to make coffee when she heard the front door open rushing through she saw her brother coming in “John! did you find “ Belle stopped her brother was here but so was an older, balding man with tattoos and hard eyes, Between them they supported her mother who had a loopy smile and blood shot eyes “There she is: her mother slurred “Look Earnie, there is my Belle. Belle of the ball Belle. Chimes like a bell Belle. “ The hard eyed man looked her up and down and Belle stood rooted to the spot. She didn’t know who this man was but her gut told her he was dangerous and that she didn’t want anything to do with him.

“John….”
“Make yourself useful and open her bedroom door will you “ he barked “Jesus come on Mom lets get you to bed” Johnny’s tone was harsh but kinder than she had expected. She moved back to do as he asked and could still hear her mother chattering away“ My Johnny boy’s a good boy Earnie, he looks after his poor Mother”

Stepping out the way of the door Belle watched as they laid her mother down on the bed and then covered her over. Belle grabbed a trash can that she had already emptied and out it by the bed before turning out the lights and closing the bedroom door.

She found her brother and the strange man stood in the kitchen talking, When she walked up they stopped “Belle get Mr Darby a beer, I need to take a piss then I need to get back to work” he stomped passed her.

‘So you’re Johnny’s baby sister” The man - this Mr Derby was not a pleasant looking man He reminded her of a few of her mothers sketchy boyfriends. She gave a hum of agreement and handed him a cold beer from the fridge “Yes Sir” Her eyes were drawn to the bit of his chest she could see at his open collar and she was pretty sure that the tattoo there looked like a swastika . Dear god who was her brother involved with.

“You seem like a nice girl” His gaze traced the lines of her body and she resisted the urge to pull her jumper around herself more tightly “How have you been enjoying living in Charming? and the apartment? They’re nice places right?”
Belle tried to smile as she nodded “Yes Sir it’s been very nice so far. The apartment is great and the people here seem nice”

“Mmmhmm . Yeah folks here in Charming don’t like change so much but you know all things change and people get used to it. Your brother has been doing really well, working really hard for me. We’ve been really happy with what he’s done, and you know your Mom is a little lost but were family here and we’ll make sure she’s taken care of. “ Darby took a long pull from the bottle he held “You know Belle you’re a pretty girl and some folks, well they’ll try to take advantage of you, if you’re not careful. If you need help well you can always feel free to come and see me or my boys and we will look after you/ OK”

Belle resisted the urge to shudder and leave the room. While Darby’s words were kind enough on the surface, the state that her mother was in and the mans tattoos told her a different story. Her heart rate was through the roof and she could feel sweat beading on her back as she started to panic. “Um thank you sir, I’ll be sure to remember that going forward and um, thank you for your help with Mom. She’s had a bad day and things got a bit out of control I hope his wont affect your opinion of John”

The greasy smile Darby through her way made her skin crawl and when he moved forward and ran the backs of the fingers of his free hand down her cheek she tried as hard as she could to not struggle or push his hand away while internally she was screaming. John blundered back into the room cursing has he banged his shoulder on the door frame. “Sorry Mr D, I’m good” John seemed oblivious as to how close Darby stood to her and Belle used the distraction to step away behind the table. Darby kept his gaze on her for another few seconds before turning to look at her brother “Good stuff Johnny. Family is important. A pleasure to meet you Belle - remember what I said to you!” Darby followed her brother to the door. “Enjoy the apartment” and then he was gone. As the door closed Belle hurried forward to lock and chain it, before moving to the window and opening the blinds just a little to watch and make sure they left. She had the sinking feeling thatcher brother had gotten them all into some deep. dangerous shit and she didn’t know how the hell they would get out of it.