Tracey threw her head back and laughed loud enough for several people to turn and look their way.
“Yeah we do! There’s a whole bunch of problems with teeth and claws roaming the streets out there.”
Vintage let an exasperated breath out his nose and glanced sideways at Tracey before continuing.
“We all know about Kol and his gang, right?”
Tracey knew to dial her energy back at that one. While making light of their situation helped, Kol was no joke. The city split into unofficial districts after the Breach; Kol’s gang ruled the neighborhood next to the one Tracey and her friends lived in, but he was slowly pushing against the boundaries. At his worst, he was ruthless and completely unbeatable.
“Kol’s getting far too bold. We need to come up with a way to stop him.” Vintage curled one of his hands into a fist. Tracey raised an eyebrow; aggression and Vintage didn’t go together. Derrick took that moment to speak up.
“We could try talking with them and see if we could work something out.”
“Like he’ll listen! That brute doesn’t know what reasoning is. He only looks out for himself.” Tracey punctuated her last word by standing up, energy spreading like lightning through every limb.
There’s only one way to fix this. We have to show up, guns blazing, scare them off.
Hrida placed a gentle hand on Tracey’s shoulder. Tracey tensed at the unexpected touch, but the fire in her eyes banked, and she sat down.
“Kol is a bully,” Hrida said calmly, “and what’s the best way to stop a bully?”
“You stand up to them,” Vintage answered. “I understand where you’re coming from, Derrick, but talking is only going to get us so far.”
“So when do we start?” Tracey looked up from her carving, a wild grin spreading across her face. She barely noticed, but no one else at the table shared her excitement. Hrida remained composed as always, while Derrick’s brows furrowed together, the expression he always made when he was unsettled.
“It’ll take a few days to figure out the details, but soon. We’ll start soon.” Vintage looked over at Tracey as he spoke, a determined expression on his face.
“Alright!” Tracey thumped her fist on the table. “Well, if that’s all, I’ll catch you guys later.” She rested a hand on Hrida’s shoulder and nodded to Derrick and Vintage before grabbing her bag and striding confidently out the door.
Tracey easily whiled away the rest of her daylight hours working on one of her apartment walls. The sun sank toward the horizon as she finally sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor.
I fixed it.
She’d painted the remaining cabinets white before going back and decorating them with words for everything she could think of that brought her joy. The colors exploded outside the lines, contagious and vibrant and beautiful. It made her chest ache with happiness, just looking at it. She wanted to stand on the roof and howl her feelings to the world. Then she remembered.
I’m supposed to meet Hrida for dinner.
Tracey jumped up off the floor and went down the hall to the bathroom. In the middle of scrubbing the paint off her arms, she paused. The water had washed away more than paint. A tattoo had surfaced where unmarked skin used to be, and the sight of it made her tighten her grip on the sink and bow her head. It was only one half of a yin yang symbol, but it cut deep. She took a deep breath then swirled makeup onto the inside of her wrist until the tattoo vanished again. Before she left, Tracey looked at herself in the mirror, and her eyes held no pain. The door to that time of her life had closed again.