A Dream Changes Everything

A Dream Changes Everything

Nimble fingers slid between pocket and wallet without the owner taking notice. They moved by matter of inches, yet completed their task within seconds. By the time the owner’s hip collided with the thief’s shoulders, it was too late. The wallet had been firmly stashed in a new pocket, a deep inner pocket located on the skin side of a ratty jacket.

The angry, “Hey!” sounded distant as the thief darted through the crowd, navigating with expert ease between pairs of legs until she found the familiar alleyway. No well-to-do businessman would stick their head down here. It was too grimy, the reek of garbage thick in the narrow passage. He likely hadn’t realized he’d been stolen from yet. And when he did, he would send a peon to check the area, unwilling to risk gaining a spot of grease on his fancy, pressed clothing.

She’d be long gone by then. Already she had wriggled halfway into the tunnel beneath the dumpster. She fell the short distance to the bottom of the shaft, pulled into a roll so she wouldn’t bash her head on the hard stone, and dashed across the dimly lit corridor. It had been meant as a service entrance for the sewers, but had never been connected. It served, instead, as a quick getaway for the local street children, and an entrance to the hideout where they slept.

Less than five minutes elapsed between theft and arrival at her safe haven. Marei allowed herself a triumphant grin as she flopped onto a fraying cushion. Instantly she gained an audience. Those who had decided to linger for the day peeking out from their favorite hiding spaces.

It was the rule of the roost that anyone who didn’t participate in acquiring daily supplies was forbidden from partaking in dinner. The whole point in pooling their resources was that no one had to work any harder than they used to in order to get by, even if the rules of entry demanded that everyone share their gains. But knowing what their intrepid ringleader was up to seemed enough to drive the layabouts out of hiding. Sometimes knowledge was worth the risk of an empty stomach.

“Whatcho got?” A mud-spattered boy sauntered over to her cushion and knelt beside her, peering over her shoulder as she opened the wallet.

Though she was several years his junior, Marei gave him a look that could have melted steel. He bristled and shuffled several feet backwards without rising. His eyes grew dark and he bared his teeth in an awkward snarl that wouldn’t pass as menacing. Perhaps he recalled the black eye Marei had given the oldest of the boys three days ago when he tried to help himself to the rucksack of food she brought back for the youngest of their troop.

Age hadn’t mattered since Marei’s arrival. It was no longer the oldest and most experienced calling the shots. It was the cleverest and the strongest. And none of them had found a way to outwit her yet.

“Whatcho got?” she countered as she peeled the leather open and peeked inside. Her eyes danced with the light of triumph but she didn’t yet reveal her spoils. “It ain’t time to divvy up yet, so what you gettin’ all grabby for?”

“Just wanta know what you up to,” the boy, Darrel, replied. “You always bring the best stuff.”

Marei hated the way he sulked. Darrel’s attitude often undermined his skill, the one sin she could never forgive. “Getcha own treasures before you worry about mine.”

“Got my cut already,” Darrel sniffed.

Marei did her best to imitate acid for a moment before she finally rifled through the papers tucked into the largest portion of the wallet. She stopped when she found the one she wanted. Not the characteristic brown printed with the crown symbols and amounts that granted them value. This page had an aged yellow tinge, the edges bent and torn from use.

With tender care she unfolded the page, allowing her eyes to drink the carefully crafted lines. The numbers meant little to her, the dimensions and resource calculations well beyond her current understanding. But the shape made perfect sense.

Darrel scoffed. She hadn’t noticed him creeping forward and gave him another look to wake the dead. This time he retreated back to his battered blanket, scowling all the while. “Whatcho wasting time on that junk for, huh? We could all be rich if you spent your skill in the right place.”

“Ya? Well you could feed half the troop on your own if you used your skill efficiently. But you just want to laze around and groan after you find an easy target.”

Darrel stuck out his tongue. It might have been more effective if he hadn’t been edging closer to fourteen. Marei’s tongue darted from her mouth in return. At twelve she still had enough childish charm to make the insult stick.

“Asides, you can’t just go stealing all the wealth and riches you want in one day. Someone’d take notice and then we’d all be in big trouble.”

“Don’t try and tell me you ain’t got big dreams, Marei. You got bigger dreams ‘n all the rest of us.”

“Better believe it.” But that was the big difference between her and the other members of the gang. They were too worried about filling their bellies, too worried about luxurious blankets and shining gold, to think about the long term. “You just don’t understand the value of this here.” She gave the picture a little shake.

“Just a picture,” Darrel sneered. “Ain’t gunna feed nobody.”

Marei barked a laugh. “Ain’t just a picture, thick skull. It’s a plan. A chart. Directions. They buildin’ this here ship down in the harbor right now. A beauty she is too.” She traced the lines on the page, careful not to let the dirt from her hands smear the delicate craftsmanship. Two massive masts rose from the center of the vessel. From what she could gather it had four lower decks. The way the shipbuilders talked, it would serve as both air and ocean vessel when it was finished. A marvel, specially crafted with love from design to final coat of polish.

“And it’s gunna be mine someday,” she murmured, folding the plan and tucking it carefully into her pocket before she pulled the money from the wallet. She’d leave the fancy leather somewhere it could be found. She’d leave all the cards inside, but the money she’d put towards the gang’s dinner. And if she had time, she might just swing by the docks and see how much progress the workers had made on the construction of her ship.

If you have a moment, please check out what my writing partner did with this prompt!

And if you’d like to participate leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week ;)

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