Anastasia is the oldest and has always acted that way. She and Pietor (the latter younger by two years) may be on even ground for finding means to survive, but Anastasia is the brains behind it as well as the driving force. Pietor looks for food when he’s hungry, looks for money when he’s broke, doesn’t prepare enough to take care of their child of a sister as well as himself.
Elena is confined to their abandoned one-room loft home, sketching with stolen crayons on dirty paper towels and napkins from trash that Anastasia or Pietor have come across. She loves to draw, but it’s boring, so one day she decides to follow Anastasia out.
Pietor goes out earlier than his elder sister by her command to look for daily work; clearing snow from walkways, selling newspapers, anything to add to what little money they have. Anastasia wakes up an hour later, binds, kisses Elena on the forehead, and makes sure she has her trusty knife before trudging out. Her breath hangs like cigarette smoke, and her eyes are down, trying not to draw attention to herself.
Elena is twelve, old enough (in her own opinion) to join her siblings and bring in her own share. Her argument is always “you were younger when they died!” but Anastasia gives her a look and she quickly quiets.
Her sister would never touch Elena, but there are times when it seems like she may strike her. There are times when Anastasia and Pietor fight, barely controlling themselves from using fists. It’s more terrifying than the late night conversations the two have when they think Elena is sleeping about almost being killed on the streets, or about almost being followed home by some malevolent force by the name Vitaliy.
It had been about five minutes. Elena dresses herself in something warmer than usual- the loft may be freezing but it lacked the true bite of the outside world. She rarely goes out, and only when the three travel together to a park, or go shopping for clothes and other occasions in which Elena is needed.
It’s not completely impossible to follow her sister. Elena knows the areas that she scouts. This isn’t the first time she’s followed her out, actually it’s not the fifth or sixth either.
This is a sort of game for her; see how far out she can get without chickening out. Anastasia takes different paths every day but she uses a pattern. Elena can take any of those paths and end up in the same area.
Nobody pays attention to her- a grubby looking preteen- making her way through the streets. Some look wary, wondering if she’s a pickpocket. Little do they know that she is actually able to stealthily steal, albeit not a lot. That isn’t her mission for now; she’s here to play her little game.
There are a few turns and long stretches of road between her and her destination. She nearly slips a few times on the icy pavement, arms like windmills before she were to fall on her behind. It’s when she nears a smaller square where Anastasia usually hangs around when nothing else is happening that she hears the noise of a fight.
Normally, she wouldn’t follow it. Normally, she would leave by that point and return to their makeshift home and wait for Pietor to return home with dinner and maybe a treat. But she decides to peek around the corner.
In the shade cast by the building, Anastasia has her fists up, and there is the telltale red stream of a broken nose. She has probably sustained more injuries that aren’t visible yet. A boy, a few years older than her stands across from her, a nasty grin on his face. Her bag is on the ground, money flooding from it.
“Elena?” Anastasia gasps, head snapping in the direction of her sister. Elena’s mouth is wide open; she is unsure of what to do.
Vitaliy uses the distraction to kick Anastasia’s feet out from under her, sending her sprawling onto the ground. In the process, her hat falls off, better revealing her more feminine face. He gasps, stepping back as if he were actually considering that she were a threat to him.
Before she can gather the energy to come back up, Vitaliy grabs her forearm and yanks her towards him.
“Anatoli, you’re not…” he trails off, sneering. Anastasia gasps, pulling away from the iron grip on her arm to no avail. He only lets go when she kicks at his shins. Vitaliy yowls, shoving her down to the cobbles again.
She wastes no time in shooting to her feet and aiming a punch to Vitaliy’s face. It hits home, and he spins with the momentum. But that doesn’t put him out for long, for he easily responds with throwing himself at Anastasia and pinning her against the brick wall of the building beside them. She yelps, breath knocked out of her from the impact. Vitaliy draws his knife.
“It’s a shame having to kill you. But I’ve been looking for you and that brother of yours for months now, and you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Then, quick as a flash, Elena has stabbed him in the back of the neck and he falls limp onto her sister, whose eyes widen.
Elena steps back and drops the knife. It clatters onto the cobblestones. Anastasia pushes Vitaliy, already dead and spewing blood from the stab wound, off of her and rushes to Elena.
“Elena, are you alright?” She’s frantic, grasping Elena’s face.
“’m fine.” Elena replies, but she isn’t, she’s shell-shocked. This is her first kill, and while she’s seen many a murder, she’s never taken a life…
“No you aren’t. Let’s go home, okay?”
When Elena doesn’t answer, Anastasia repeats, “Okay?”
“Okay.” A whispered response.