|(Cover is a work in progress)|
By Eve Estelle
Description: Elena Belletori, a woman with a grudge against society, fights injustice with a vengeance—but when she is recruited by a like-minded organization, it turns out to be much more than she bargained for.
(New to 'Renegade'? Start here)
I woke up the following morning in a daze. I hadn't even realized I'd fallen asleep, but my body felt stiff, and I was still in yesterday's clothing. The last thing I remembered doing was sitting up off the bed—guess that didn't last long.
I yawned, and looked around the area for my phone. Part of it started digging into my thigh as I leaned across the bed, and I found it in one of my pants pockets. A popup notification on the screen told me that the battery was just about dead, but that wasn't a big deal as I really only needed to check the time, which read a little after eight-thirty.
I let out another yawn, and suddenly did a double-take.
Eight-thirty. Crap. Work.
I scrambled out of my comfortable bed, blinking the tiredness out of my eyes and attempted to regain my balance. Wow. I would have to eat something before I left, even though that meant I'd probably be a bit late. I ate at the coffee shop the last couple of days, but nothing before or after, and I was starving. I wouldn't be doing anyone a service by showing up to work hungry. Wouldn't be doing them a service by showing up late, either, but at least that way I'd hopefully be a tad more productive and more customers would be able to drink their coffee with heads still attached to their picky little bodies.
Whoops. Sorry. I really didn't mean that. Please excuse all thoughts of headless patrons drinking their daily cup of joe. What can I say, I'm a real charmer in the morning.
I mentally smacked myself in the face for my less-than-kind thoughts, and quickly pulled out a clean, red sweater from one of my clothes drawers. I proceeded to hit the bathroom, and continued on with making myself look decent.
Upon reentry into the bedroom, I grabbed my phone and snapped it onto the charger that was plugged into the wall, resting the device on the little table that sat next to my bed. Yes, I admit it. I'm one of those people who use their phone for everything and have it close to them during the night. Don't even start with me on the potential health risks associated with sleeping near a cellphone, I guarantee you I won't listen. At least I didn't feel the need to check my Facebook page every five seconds.
I did click the little button that wakes the device from sleep mode, though, but merely to see how I was doing on time. "Eight thirty-nine," I chuckled to myself, "few people can make good time like that." Smiling and perhaps feeling just a little too proud of myself, I sauntered over to the chair that I had hung my coat over after coming home last night.
I draped the heavy gray coat over my left arm and started to leave the room. Before stepping away from the chair and desk, I paused briefly, reaching into the pocket in the coat that contained the unmarked envelope given to me by the.. what was it called? Well, by the "envoy." I stared thoughtfully at it for all of maybe two seconds before I shrugged and tossed the letter into the nearby trash can.
As I left the room, I was hit with one of the most beautiful smells a hungry person could hope to be assaulted with in the morning.
"Is that bacon I smell?" I asked my father, who was standing in front of the stove with a sizzling pan when I walked into the kitchen.
"Sure is," he replied, "thought you'd probably be waking up soon, so I made a few extras if you're hungry."
"You're amazing," I said, and grabbed a small plate from the cupboard beside the sink. My dad lifted the pan off the stove a couple of seconds later, and scraped off a few pieces of crispy, mouthwatering bacon, gently plopping them onto my plate.
I took a seat at the small kitchen table that sat by the window, just beyond the counters and cooking appliances. After putting together his own plate, my father came and sat across from me.
"Don't you want something along side it?" he asked, "maybe a drink to wash it down?"
I narrowed my eyes, thinking. "Actually, yes," I replied, standing back up again. I walked over to the cabinets, opening the one that contained various food items such as cereal, oatmeal, and other random and yummy things. But instead of cereal or oatmeal, I grabbed a little yellow and blue container labeled with the brand name Carnation Instant Breakfast. That probably sounds gross, "instant breakfast." But this particular kind tasted just like chocolate milk, and could keep a belly full for a couple of hours.
I opened up the refrigerator and brought out the open gallon of two percent milk. After getting a cup for it all, I grabbed a spoon and added a packet of Instant Breakfast. Next went the milk, and stir. Voila.
I sat back down at the table. "Is Mom awake yet?" I asked my father as I settled in to eat. And drink.
"She was for a little while," he said between bites, "but she woke up this morning not feeling too good, so I told her to go back to sleep."
I frowned. "She's sick? Is it the flu?"
My dad shook his head as he finished chewing. "Not sure," he said, swallowing, "nothing serious. But you know her, she needs the rest anyhow." He furrowed his brow as he paused to stare at my plate. "Man, you are just inhaling that," he said. "You alright?"
I glanced down at my plate as I stuffed the last slice of bacon into my mouth, and quickly finished off what was left of my Instant Breakfast. "Oh, yeah I'm fine," I responded after a second, "just woke up late so now I'm late for work."
"It's Saturday," my father said, "you don't have work today."
I blinked, and set my cup back down on the table. Saturday? Well thank the man upstairs, that was a big relief in more ways than one. "Huh," was all I said out loud. My father wore a humorous smile on his face, but I also noticed a slight hint of worry in his eyes.
"You spend a lot of time at the coffee shop," he said quietly. "You live in the same house as us, and yet it seems like you live a thousand miles away."
The way he said it made me feel so incredibility guilty that it took me a moment to respond. "I'm sorry," I said, glancing at the table. I opened my mouth to try to offer an explanation, but I hesitated, finally closing it again as I remembered that I couldn't do that. He seemed to take notice of this hesitation, but instead of pushing for an answer, he just watched me for a minute. It was very depressing, knowing that I could very well tell him everything I was doing after work—but I was scared to mention it. What I was doing was pretty much illegal. It was also very, very dangerous. These were my parents. How could I tell them something like that?
"Are you in trouble?" My father asked, no emotion in the question, just words, plain and simple.
"No," I responded, "I promise that. I'm not in any trouble." Which was true, I wasn't. Yet.
He nodded, though it was clear that he knew something was going on. "You're an adult. What you do with your days is your business now. Your mother and I are always here if you need us, and I do hope you will tell one or both of us if something is wrong."
I couldn't help but smile gratefully. "I will, I promise."
He returned my smile. "Love you, kiddo," he said. "Now, don't you have somewhere to be, now that you don't have work to go to?"
I let out a quiet laugh. "Love you too, Dad." I stared at the window for a second, out at the swaying tree branches and at the colored leaves being carried away in the wind, until finally continuing, "I think I'll just enjoy my day off, today."
He responded a second later, his voice sounding lost in thought, "It's good to do that, once in a while." He suddenly sat up straight again, with the sharp inhale of air and an "Oh," that signaled to me he remembered something. "Me and a few friends got takeout yesterday, and I snagged you one of these," he said, pulling out a single, packaged fortune cookie and handing it to me.
I couldn't help laughing. That was just like my dad. Always thinking of me and Mom. "Ahh, love these things," I said, taking the crinkly wrapper containing the delicious Asian cookie.
"I always remember how you loved them as a young kid," he smiled, chuckling. "You'd sneak back out into the kitchen and take every single one from the bag," he continued, "heck with everyone else,"
I laughed again, remembering those distant days. "And I'd open them all at once, to read the fortunes," I added.
"Mhm, that's right." He reached back into his pocket and pulled something else out—though I couldn't tell what it was. "We also brought your car back," he said, revealing the object to be my car keys.
"What?" I asked, surprise making my eyes widen. I took the keys from his outstretched hand. "Oh my gosh! When did you do that?" Ahhh, my car. After almost two years, I once again had my car. This would cut my twenty-minute walk to work in half, maybe more.
"This morning," my dad said with a big grin on his face, "Eric was in the area with his tow truck, so I thought we'd surprise you. You need the wheels, it's making me tired watching you walk everywhere."
I couldn't hold in my excitement. I'd missed that little piece of metal. It had served me well these last few years. "Mind if I go take a look?" I asked, jumping up from my chair.
My father nodded and gestured with his hand. "Would have gotten scared if you didn't want to," he chuckled. "Go ahead."
I smiled, and gave my father a little hug before I headed for the front door.
Upon exiting the house, I was greeted by the sight of my beautiful, if aging, Chevrolet Impala, its dark blue paint severely needing a wash. A feeling similar to butterflies in the stomach made me smile, and I couldn't stop smiling. I felt like laughing. Why not? I said to myself, Go ahead and laugh. Laughing's good. So I did. I just let myself laugh for a minute, while I walked over to the passenger door.
I took my keys and unlocked the door, leaving it open as I bent down to sit in the passenger seat. I sat there looking around for a second, taking in the mess that was my car. Actually, there wasn't much in there, it's just that what was in there was sort of.. tossed. I tried not to keep much in my car for that very reason. Still, I had a little snowflake air freshener hanging from my rear-view mirror, which, if I remembered right, was filled with Mountain Breeze. The scent had all but worn off by now, however. I also had various papers scattered over my leather backseats, as well as a pair of shoes on the floor, and a phone charger was plugged into the center console under the radio. I wondered what else I had left in there, and leaned forward slightly to open the glove compartment. There I found some more papers, most being related to my car, such as the owner's manual, and a bunch of restaurant straws, which I had apparently been hoarding because so often I'd needed a straw but couldn't find one.
Something else caught my eye, too. Under a few of the car papers was a small, reddish-brown wallet. My breath caught in my throat as I realized what it was—more specifically, who it belonged to. I sat back in my seat after bringing it out from the glove box, and just ran my fingers over the worn leather. My heart sped up at the thought of opening it—but I did it anyway.
I felt a pang in my chest and my eyes started to tear up as I stared at a dead man's driver's license. I remembered when he lost this, the wallet, and he was terrified that someone was going to steal his identity and buy a bunch of expensive television sets at Walmart or something. Jasper was able to make a joke out of most anything—even though it wasn't always intentional. But I had been driving around one day and saw the wallet lying on the ground in front of the grocery store we always stopped at. It was a miracle that no one had picked it up. I was so excited to surprise him with it—but unfortunately I never got the chance.
I glanced around at my car's gray interior, which suddenly seemed a whole lot grayer. I brought my legs up under myself and leaned my head against the back of my seat. I continued to stare at Jasper's image on the license. "I'm sorry," I whispered hoarsely, "I don't know what I could've done, but I'm sorry." I stayed like that for a while, my heart feeling like it was being weighed down by a couple of cement blocks.
Finally, after the tears subsided, my sadness turned into anger. How could people be so stupid? So ignorant of others? How could they live with themselves, knowing that they've caused someone so much pain? Jasper was inside the house when it caught fire—but the fire wasn't his fault. I don't care what anyone says. They drove him to do it. They did it. They burned my house and killed my fiancé.
My anger boiled over. I couldn't stay here any longer. I wiped at my face with my sleeve, and got out of my car, locking and closing the door. As I went to enter my parents' house again, I realized I was shaking. I took a deep breath to try and calm myself, before going back in.
I stopped by the kitchen again, to see if my father was still there. "Dad?" I asked, after seeing him still at the table.
He blinked, probably at my appearance, though I sensed he understood why I was so upset. "Yeah?"
I stared for a second. Finally I swallowed and asked, "If you had the chance to stop some of the idiots running around causing others' pain, would you?"
He didn't respond for a second, but instead inhaled a small breath of air. I could see him thinking over what I was saying. "Yes," he said quietly, "I would."
I nodded, and headed for the guest room.
I sat down on the bed. I knew this was a bad idea. A terrible idea. But it was the best chance I had... If I could stop something like this from happening to even just one other person, it'd be worth the risks.
So I stood up, went over to my little trash can, and picked up the envelope I had thrown into it. After a moment's hesitation, I tore the round metal seal off and brought out a folded piece of paper that read simply: For peace and freedom. At the bottom of the letter there was a phone number. I grabbed my cellphone off of the table, unplugging it from the charger, and dialed the number.
"You are calling from a verified number," a robotic voice answered, "please state your name."
I swallowed. "This is Elena Belletori, and I'd like to join your
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