Chapter 1 (Welcome Home to Santa Carla)
“Thanks for shopping Video Max!” said a young pretty Hispanic girl, as she handed the video bag filled with games to her smiling pre-teenage customer. He grasped the bag with dirty fingers, and trotted out of the store after his mother. The young clerk smiled as he left, pulling her long, curly brunette hair into a lazy bun at the nape of her neck. She glanced down at her skin, noticing that her summer tan was already starting to fade, yet her coco colored skin continued to glow, despite the horrible florescent lighting of the video store.
“Excuse me, Maria,” a middle aged brunette in a business suit asked as he read her name tag. “Can you please tell me where I can find the new releases?”
“Sure, over at the far wall in the back.” Maria answered as she pointed to the back of the store. She sighed and glanced at her watch as the customer disappeared to the back of the store. Will the day ever end? It’s been a long day, long lines, and demanding customers. It would be hours before her boss Max arrives. He never starts until after 9pm. Maria assumed he had another day job that he attended to before arriving at his video store.
Maria began to relax as the rush hour lunch seemed to simmer down. Strumming her nails on the counter, she glanced around the empty store. She contemplated doing some extra work like putting up some of the return videos or filing away store receipts, because when Max comes in, he spends most of his time brown nosing up to his customers and that bit of extra work probably won’t be done. He takes extra time to socialize with them, making sure he is at their disposal for anything they need. Maria at first found his over friendly behavior to be quite odd, but now it seems that this is just part of Max’s personality. It also helps business, keeps people coming to his small shop. People tend to go where they are appreciated versus the larger chains where you are just another dollar sign.
Just as Maria started to head over to the return pile, a woman, possibly in her early twenties, walked through the door. “Can I help you?”
“Hmmmm… noooo….” The girl answered wistfully as she began to run her fingers over the front clearance table full of video games. Maria noted the dazed expression on her face and the slight glaze in her brown eyes. Her hair, a large mass of frizzy brown curls, adorned her shoulders, giving her pale thin frame a rather ghostly appearance. She wore a sequined scarf around her neck, a white tank, and a layered brown skirt, also adorned with sequins. Maria frowned as she noticed her bare feet. “Great. Looks like she came in from a free love tent, straight out of Woodstock.” Maria mumbled to herself.
“Miss, is there something maybe I can help you find?” Maria tried again. The girl continued to run her fingers over the sale table, seemingly not even really paying attention, as she gazed at the ceiling.
“Star.” The girl answered dreamily.
“My name is Star.” Star turned to look at Maria. Her brown eyes apparently taking focus. Maria wanted to ask her what she was on, but refrained.
“Ok, well what brings you to Video Max, Star?”
Star walked up to the counter where Maria stood, and lazily picked up a pencil and began to twirl it between her fingers. “Where is the cream filling?”
“I’m looking for the cream filling.”
Maria stared at the girl, baffled. What on earth? Star continued to gaze at her, as she twirled the pencil in her long slender fingers.
“Ok, I have no idea what you are talking about, Chicka.”
“You know. ‘Where’s the cream filling?”” Star stated.
“Ok, you want a Twinkie? Or a Hostess cupcake? Girl, I have no idea what the hell you want.”
“Yes, Hostess, please.”
Maria sighed and reached over the counter and grabbed one from the snack basket. “Here, just take it. On the house.” If you leave, she thought in the back of her mind.
Star took the cupcake from Maria and gave her a small smile. Her eyes then sparkled with new life as she asked her, “Do you want an earring? I know how to pierce them!”
“No, I do not want an earring. Please go now.” Maria hissed at her. New customers were starting to come in the store, and Maria was grateful for the distraction.
Star nodded, and walked her way out of the store, in her continued dream like haze. Maria watched her leave before putting her attention on her new customers, shaking her head in annoyance. Who let her out without a leash?
~ * ~
Trees flew past the window, and the gentle thumping of train caused Charity’s eyes to finally begin to close. She has been on edge since the moment she left Arkansas. Two days ago she had left her home while the others slept. She had been planning her escape for weeks, and finally found the courage to do so. Carrying only two outfits, a jacket, some cash, and a hair brush she caught the first train she could. She finally was on her last train transfer, from San Jose, to Santa Carla, California. Charity figured Santa Carla had to be far enough away from Arkansas. Hopefully they would not be able to find her.
As soon as the lack of sleep began to claim her, Charity jolted awake from the announcement blaring in her ears, “Good Afternoon ladies and Gentleman, we have now arrived in the beautiful Santa Carla. Enjoy your stay.”
Charity sighed, and collected her small suitcase, following the small line of people exiting the Amtrak. The blazing sun caused her eyes to burn slightly until they adjusted. She walked over to the nearest bench, sitting down quietly. The train station was certainly busy, families greeting relatives, and people in business attire rushing to work. No one paid any attention to the red headed girl who sat timidly clutching her luggage. Taking a deep breath, Charity searched in her bag to see how much money she had left. A few crumbled ten and one dollar bills totaled up to about $60.00. “Great,” she thought, “What the hell am I supposed to do with only $60.00?” Her stomach growled in answer. Food it was.
After seemingly walking for hours, Charity found a small coffee shop and quickly scarfed down a badly melted grilled cheese sandwich, a piece of apple pie, and a small chocolate latte. Feeling somewhat better, she paid her bill, and started her walk again. She shivered as she looked up at the setting sun. She pulled her black cotton walker out of her bag, and snuggled into it. November weather in Santa Carla apparently was a bit chilly. She was happy she decided to bring the jacket. Not that she had many choices, with her limited clothing supply.
“Might as well go do something interesting,” Charity mumbled. She turned subconsciously toward the direction of the boardwalk as the sun dipped farther into the horizon.
~ * ~
Inside a dimly lit cave, sat three men. The platinum blonde sprawled out on an old ripped leather love seat, his black combat boots dangling carelessly over the edge, as he read a book. The second long curly haired blonde sat cross legged, leaning against the love seat as he sewed some patches on his already patch clad jacket. The Native American, with the long black hair sat on a metal chair twirling an elastic pony tail holder in his hands, a bored glaze shining in his eyes. Suddenly, another blonde with long wild, uncombed hair, jumped over the love seat, his boots barely missing the platinum blondes head. The reclining man scowled at the new comer, and his eyes then switched immediately back to his book.
“Damnit, Paul, grow up.” Mumbled the one on the floor as he ripped the thread loose from the spool with his teeth.
“Awww Marko. It’s ok.” Paul promptly sat on Marko's lap, ignoring the fact that he towered over the smaller man.
“What’s the magic word?”
“Asshole.” mumbled the platinum blonde, his eyes never leaving the book as his hand smacked into Paul’s head, causing him to tumble off Marko’s lap.
“Dude, David. Chill.” Paul grinned mischievously. “Hey Dwayne, what’s with the bored face?”
The Native American answered only with a raise of his eyes and an angry glare towards the grinning blonde.
“Come on guys! Suns set. We need to go party!” cried Paul as he leapt to his feet. He ran behind the love seat, ripping the book out of David’s hands. David looked up and snarled at Paul, only finding himself having to chuckle as the blonde made fishy faces at him.
“Fine. Let’s go to the boardwalk boys.” said David, as he flung his feet over Marko, heading towards the caves exit without a backward glance.