“Twitch, your eggs are getting cold.”
The young girl flashed a wide grin before slamming her fork down into her eggs. She then scooped up as much as she could fit onto the utensil, engulfing it in one bite. “Well if the great Sabby says so,” Twitch said, “I may as well eat it like this.”
Sabbath Bauer frowned. She stared with disdain at her sister and the mess she was making. “You’re an animal, Twitch.”
“Oh, yes, I am!” Twitch threw her head back and howled. “I’m changing! I’m changing!”
Sabbath shook her head. The two were about as opposite as night and day–Sabbath had bright gold eyes and a sleek black coat. She enjoyed soft rock and and a good book. Twitch had amber eyes and a splash of white on her coat. She preferred cheesy horror stories and death metal, the louder the better. Sabbath was polite and sincere, but Twitch was a brat. It was almost unbelievable that they were twins.
Other people–children especially–seemed unnerved by Twitch. Grownups doted on Sabbath, but many seemed to avoid her sister, assuming they could do so without their parents noticing. Ash and Anne were aware of this, but they knew that for all of her obnoxious tendencies, Twitch was harmless. If she went too far, they were quick to get her in line.
“There, all done,” Twitch said. The fork made a loud clatter as she dropped it onto the plate. “Happy now, Sabbath?”
“I’d be happier if you weren’t wearing your food.”
Twitch laughed. “Who cares about that?” she asked as she wiped a chunk of egg from her chin.
“I care! It’s embarrassing.” Sabbath grabbed her sisters plate and carried it to the sink. “I swear, Twitchy, you couldn’t be classy if you tried.”
“I ooze class,” Twitch replied. She tossed her cup into the sink.
Twitch’s smile turned mischievous. If Sabbath noticed, she didn’t care, choosing instead to sit back down and pull her phone from her pocket. She peered up to see Twitch leaning over the table. “What is it?”
“Wanna play a game?”
Sabbath shrugged. “Sure,” she replied, putting her phone back in her pocket. She wasn’t exactly eager to play one of her sister’s games, but it was better than fiddling with her phone.
“Okay then, we’re going to play Dares. Cool?”
“Come on, Twitch, we’re gonna leave soon–”
“It won’t take long,” Twitch said.
Sabbath rolled her eyes. “My turn or yours?”
“Mine, of course,” Twitch said. She began to whisper. “You know that burger stand over on J Street? The one that has the soggiest french fries on the face of the planet?”
“Yeah, the guy who uses those frozen patties from the discount store. ‘Joe Burger,’ I think.”
“I want you to steal some of those fries.”
Sabbath sighed. “Twitch, if I get caught–”
“You’re Sabby. Just put on a cute face and be you.”
Sabbath leaned back in her chair. Sneaking wasn’t her strong suit, but she knew how to appeal to grownups. Manipulating them was easy–she could play the crankiest geezer like a marionette with the right tricks–she just didn’t like doing it. “Okay, so I get the fries. Then what?”
“Then meet me out back.”
* * *
There was a single bag of fries laying on the edge of the cart, well out of that ape’s line of sight. Even if he could’ve seen her, she could tell that Joe was busy on the griddle, flipping each greasy patty every few seconds. It was almost as if he was begging someone to walk up and snatch them. Still, Sabbath kept to the alley, waiting for him to turn his back completely. After all, Joe seemed like an unpleasant fellow, and she wasn’t in the mood to test her luck.
Sure enough Joe did turn, reaching underneath his fryer to grab a pair of frozen patties out of the box. With a quick twist of his hands he’d snapped them apart, and he dropped them carelessly on the griddle, taking time to turn his back and wipe his nose. She took that moment to reach out and snatch the bag, but as she turned back toward the alley she felt a greasy hand grab her by the arm. She wasted no time putting putting up the loudest fight she could.
“Let me go!” she shouted, frantically pulling away from the lumbering brute. She held the fries against her chest with her free hand, fighting as hard as she could in a feigned attempt to break free. What she wanted was to cause a scene, to draw as much attention as she could. And she did just that–all around them people began to stop and stare at the fat ape manhandling that poor innocent child.
As a crowd began to gather, Joe loosened his grip. “Calm down, Missy,” he said, taking care to keep his tone nonthreatening. Sabbath stopped struggling and stared back at him, her eyes filled with crocodile tears. She could tell it caught him off guard. “Where do you think you’re going with those fries?”
As he let go, she broke eye contact, instead choosing to stare at the ground. “I’m sorry,” she said, pushing her out her lip and feigning regret. “I’m hungry and I forgot my allowance at home.”
Joe frowned. This kid seemed honest enough, but he’d seen this act before. “Jesus kid,” he said, “why won’t you ask your parents to buy you a snack?”
“Dad’s in a meeting. He doesn’t like being bothered at work.”
Joe leaned down to try to look into her eyes. Something about her–maybe that pouting look–seemed unbelievably sweet. He could tell that she wasn’t a street kid–her fur was clean, her white shirt pristine and her jeans neatly ironed. She clearly didn’t dress herself. “So you take these soggy old things?” he asked.
“I think they smell good,” she said.
Of course you do, he thought. This kid probably grew up eating kale and caviar–not the kind of stuff you should be feeding a kid. Even those oily things had to be better than that. “They’re not really all that good,” he said. “No one buys them.”
She looked up at him with sad eyes and quivered her lip. That expression was too much–it seemed to tear a hole in his heart. “Aw Jeez, kid, take ’em. They’ll never sell anyway.”
Her eyes widened with gratitude. She thanked him repeatedly and enthusiastically, almost jumping with joy, before finally racing back down the alley while waving goodbye. At first he wondered why she didn’t go the other way, toward the office buildings down the street, but then he slapped his forehead and reminded himself, You’re one street over from the financial district, Joe. The kid probably smelled the fries from there.
He didn’t see Sabbath as she stepped out of the alley. As she headed up the street toward the hill, she tossed a fry back in her mouth and congratulated herself on her performance. Soon enough she came across the back fence, where Twitch was waiting. Sabbath tossed her the fries and smiled.
“Get caught?” Twitch asked.
“Don’t I always?”
“Oh yeah,” Sabbath said.” Forgot my wallet, daddy has no time for me, and the food smelled really good. Everybody knows we eat nothing but tiny steaks and caviar, and that’s just wrong.” She reached out to open the gate. “Daddy should be waiting for me,” she said. She paused to smirk at her sister. “I’ll see you at dinner. Enjoy your crappy fries.”